Friday, July 31, 2009

Culture 101

Well, a lot has happened since my last post, so there is much to write about today. I'll start with the most recent events and go backwards.

Today was our last Thai culture training module. I am no expert, but we certainly learned quite a bit of information. Next week we will start "back to school" orientation with all of the current teachers of ICS. It will be nice to meet some new people and make some new friends. I am looking forward to finally meeting Kim, the teacher I was corresponding with a bit before coming here.

Yesterday we went to the doctor for a wellness check up. I think the MOE requires this before granting work permits. Anyway, on a rather humorous note, practically all of the ladies were told that they were too fat and needed to lose a kilo or two. The doctor didn't take into account muscle mass or anything, she just simply looked at height and weight. She pinched my side the other day and gently scolded me saying, "Watch out. Don't eat so much. Less sweets!" HA! Well, I certainly didn't listen to her and enjoyed pizza and game night with some new friends. :)

On Wednesday we took a field trip to a few different places. We first went to the Thakha floating market. We went on boats down the canal and learned a little bit about the process of making palm sugar, as well as visited a traditional Thai house that King Rama V had visited. Afterwards, we went to King Rama II Memorial Park. The sights and smells were impressive and striking; take a look for yourself...

On Tuesday after training, we went to Rama IX Park (are you noticing that everything is named after a King??) It is a beautiful park that has many trails for running, paddle boats, exercise classes, an outdoor gym, playgrounds, and I'm sure many other places to visit... it's quite large and we only saw a little chunk of it. We also saw a monitor lizard swimming around and fish jumping left and right when we went on the paddle boat.

Cheers to new adventures!

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Let's go fly a kite, up to the highest heights...

We are on our second day of new teacher orientation. Yesterday we became a little bit more familiar with the policies and procedures of the MOE in Thailand, as well as all that needs to be done yet for us to obtain our work visas.

Today was a tid bit more interesting in that we learned a little bit about Buddhism as well as Thai sports/games. This included making a kite!

Tomorrow we will be going on a field trip (woo-hoo!) to a park, pottery place, canal, and a floating market. We're looking forward to experiencing some new sights!

A few praises:
-Friendships have been forming! This has been an area that I have really been praying about lately. I found myself feeling a bit lonely with no female fellowship. It's hard to be away from our small group from church and have to start all over making friends again... but praise God for his faithfulness and how he shepherds his sheep!
-Our world is slowly expanding! Little by little we are becoming more and more comfortable with our surroundings and have slowly been exploring new areas.
-We are learning a few more Thai words here and there, and have been trying to confidently use them during outings.
-We experienced practically no jet-lag and are totally used to the 12 hour time difference now.

A few prayer requests:
-Finding a church home. We have visited two different churches so far, but will continue to keep looking. It's difficult to not compare everything to SGF.
-Grace in preparing for the school year that starts in less than 2 weeks!!
-Adapting to the heat/humidity... particularly for Mike as he won't be in air-con with his PE classes.
-Solid male friendships for Mike.
-Finding a gentle balance between working hard, but not over-working.
-Making it a consistent priority to set aside time to spend in the word each day... I've found this particularly hard as our whole world has been turned upside down.

More to come on some interesting outings/adventures that we've had as of late! God is good.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Long awaited pics...

Our apartments... and yes, they are connected by a middle door so we don't have to go outside first to get to the other apartment. We use one as a bedroom and use the other as a living/dining area.

It rained for a quite a long the other day, and when I say that it rained, I really mean that it poured like a banshee for about 30 minutes straight (which is longer than normal, apparently). This resulted in flooded streets, of course, but life went on as usual despite the deep water.

These are some of the fruits that we have enjoyed eating. The purple colored ones are called mangosteens, the colorful prickly looking ones are called rambutans, and the tan spheres are called longans. They are all delicious, but we particularly love the mangosteens and rambutans. Speaking of food, the other picture is of that interesting raw-looking meat that was wrapped in a banana leaf (the one we expected to find sticky rice in, but didn't...).

We'll post pics of the school later... it's a bit "under construction" with final preparations before school starts in about two and a half weeks. But the school itself is really nice and very large. We feel like we're always finding new passageways and bathrooms; it's quite the change from little TLO.

Some of the other new teachers arrived last night so we set our school stuff aside and went to the different malls/grocery stores with them today. There are a few young couples around our age, which is fun. Mike already has football/basketball "internet TV" watching buddies, and Karly has a few cute babies to play with to get her "baby-fix". We think it will be a great year!

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Small victories

We've learned that we provide a little comic relief to the Thai nationals that we encounter. Whether it's asking for something that we don't have the words for and we fight through gestures, terrible drawings, or dictionaries that really don't have the words that we want. Or perhaps it's having people approach me assuming that I speak Thai, and simply start up a conversation that abruptly comes to an end with me saying that I don't speak Thai (in Thai). Occasionally it's people assuming that I speak Thai and laughing when I make Mike ask for something in his broken Thai. After getting our cell phones, my phone would set off the security sensors at the door, so I gave the cell phone employees a good laugh when I went back to "explain" that when I walked through the sensors, they went "beep-beep-beep-beep." Needless to say, we've learned to laugh at ourselves a great deal.

However, despite our many mistakes and all the times where we have made fools of ourselves, we have also had many small victories to take into account. For example, down the street there are many little restaurants where you can get a plate of food for about $1.00. One of the first nights I asked for "kow pat gai" (chicken fried rice), but evidently my speaking wasn't very clear, as I got "pat tai" (pad thai) instead. However, since then, I have asked for "kow pat gai" again, and actually got it! Yesterday we saved ourselves 10 baht (33 cents) when we didn't take the taxi all the way to the grocery store, but got off across on the other side of the highway and walked across the bridge. I am still amazed that we were able to convey that in words and pictures. Also, Mike is like a human GPS. He can get us back to school from the major shopping areas nearby, which is great since most taxis don't know exactly where to go because the area where the school is located is very small. So Mike is able to point to get us back to the school. We have also learned how to take the sky train to downtown Bangkok.

So we are slowly acclimating ourselves and learning our way around, and we are reveling in the small victories that we have each day.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Learning curve

Oh, the things we are learning right now as we are experiencing a whole new culture. It certainly has been an adventure these last couple of days as we have dipped our feet in, made plenty of mistakes, and laughed a lot.

A quick overview of our first days:
7/15: toured the school, ate some delicious Thai food, went to the grocery store, got ripped off at the market, had an elderly Thai man instruct us on which toilet paper to buy (all in Thai), slept like there was no tomorrow.

7/16: looked at school curriculum, ate some more delicious Thai food, went to what could be considered "Walmart" in Thailand and had several store workers speak to me in Thai, got my finger slammed in the taxi car door, went to dinner at the headmaster's house with a family from Australia, learned a few differences between Aussie English and American English, bought what we thought was sweet rice wrapped in banana leaves only to find out it was raw looking meat with onions... and were thoroughly disappointed.

Things we have learned:
-Stick deodorant is basically non-existent
-Cereal and shaving cream are quite expensive
-There are several different types of mangoes, all of which are green so it's hard to really tell the difference between the sour ones and the sweet ones
-Apparently the way the banana leaves are wrapped (their shape) determines what is in it... so we need to find the shape that contains the sweet rice so as not to be disappointed again
-Carry a hanky with you at all times to wipe off sweat
-It pours like a banshee for short periods of time each day during the rainy season, which is now
-You have to weigh and label your fruit in the grocery store before checking out
-Rambutans (hairy pink/green looking fruits) and mangosteens are the best fruits ever
-Bright pink eggs=scary looking and probably fermented
-To get what you want without knowing the language you have to smile, exaggerate your hand motions and point... A LOT
-We are FAR from what is considered the "downtown" of Bangkok... the area that you would see on the travel channels/travel books

It's been an adventure, but we didn't anticipate anything different. Pictures to come...

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Safe and sound

We safely arrived in Thailand on Tuesday night (your morning) and were picked up by the high school principal and his wife. We are feeling well and aren't experiencing too much jet lag, as we tired to sleep and eat when it was the appropriate time to do so in Thailand. The most difficult thing so far to adjust to is the humidity-- the constant state of sweat will take a little getting used to, but thankfully the classrooms and our apartment(s) are air conditioned.

This morning we unpacked a little and have been checking out the school/meeting administrators. We are also picking up some curriculum and files to look through as well. Later today we plan on going to the store to buy some food and some items for our apartment as well. I'm sure it will be quite the adventure in itself, but that's one of the many reasons we are here; to experience different things and have some great adventures.

Thanks for your well wishes and prayers. We love you all.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

You are the weakest link, goodbye!

This morning I was contemplating how I am feeling. We've had people asking us if we're excited, sad, or nervous, but I don't think I feel those emotions as strongly as I feel weak. It has been a lesson of grace, learning how to depend more and more on Christ for my strength and joy as we venture into so many unknowns. As I sat outside this morning thinking and wondering how our departure date approached so quickly, I saw an ant walk by dragging a huge beetle. And I thought to myself, if God is gracious enough to allow an ant the strength to carry something that is 10X its size each day, He will sustain me and give me the strength to serve Him overseas. The strength to walk on that plane tomorrow morning with no regrets, to confidently teach AP Spanish, to disciple teenage girls, to speak freely about the amazing gift that Jesus is, to let go and learn to live life in Thailand.

So while I may be a weak link, I know that I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me, for it is in my weakness that I am made strong. Goodbye.

Party animals

Thanks to all of you who were able to make it to our goodbye open house last night. We had a great time with you and were grateful to be able to see you one more time before leaving. We truly are blessed.

Friday, July 10, 2009

New Address

Some of you have been asking for our new address. We will actually receive all of our mail at the school's address the entire time we are in Thailand.

Mike and Karly Aust
1225 The Parkland Road
Bangna, Bangkok
Thailand 10260

Thanks for your support and prayers!

Thursday, July 9, 2009

One hand

The countdown is officially on one hand now... five days. It's hard to believe that it's almost here!

We've been a little MIA as of late; here's what we've been up to:
-Moved out of our apartment mid-June
-AP Spanish training course in Northfield for a week
-Spent four days in Hackensack, MN with Mike's family at Camp Patmos
-Enjoyed our last Twins game on the 4th of July and they won, so even better!
-Packing, weighing and re-packing our bags to see how much we can bring within the 50 lb. weight limit
-Cleaning and getting ready for a our open house farewell party on the 13th
-Spending time with family and friends

On a funny note, I have to tell you about Mike's priorities. He has two suitcases and one carry-on. Suitcase #1: clothes, shoes and a few books. Suitcase #2: 9 games (card games/board games) 2 baseball mitts and baseballs, among other miscellaneous items. Carry-on: completely filled with books and his computer... weighs about 45-50 lbs. Needless to say, he found a good way to get around the 50 lb. weight restriction of the checked luggage. :)