Saturday, August 20, 2011

How has life been since I left the Maldives?

Now that I'm in Thailand, helping Friends For Asia start a new program in Surat Thani.....I've been about as busy as:

"A cat on a hot tin roof!" 

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Am I going crazy.... or just losing my mindfulness?

I did it again!  Today! 

I mixed my blogs.... not the worst thing in the world... but my Surat Thani stories were not meant to be part of my Maldives blog!

Time for me to refocus......

On living life as a human being....
rather than...

Living life as a human doing.

What's up with Surat Thani?

"Where is Surat Thani?"

This city of about 127,000 people is located south of Bangkok, close to the Gulf of Thailand.

Buddhadasa Bhikkhu, a highly respected  Buddhist monk lived in the Province of Surat Thani and established an international meditation center at Wat Suan Mukkh.  His most famous book is entitled The Handbook for Mankind, and can be downloaded from the internet.

The name Surat Thani, for many tourists, signifies the gateway to the islands. As such, most foreigners never even see the city of Surat Thani.  Instead, a port some 60  kilometers from Surat Thani city, takes tourists to the beautiful islands of Koh Samui, Koh Phangan, and Koh Tao.

A whole variety of ferry boats are available to take tourists to one of the three islands.  Within hours, they can be on a beach, enjoying their tropical holiday.

Koh Samui is known for its beautiful white sand beaches and blue waters.

Koh Tao is known for its marine life.

In addition to Koh Phangan having an international meditation center at Wat Kow Tahm, it is perhaps best known for its Full Moon Party!

Since I've never attended a Full Moon Party on Koh Phangan, I leave it to you to google web and google image search this crazy event!

Goodbye Chiang Mai and Hello Surat Thani

Goodbye Chiang Mai!  Loved my stay in the city, learned a lot about Friends For Asia, so now it is time to get down to the business of opening the new office in the south of Thailand!

Hello Surat Thani!  Now the Friends For Asia program development work can begin..... recruiting a project coordinator, finding an office, locating a possible volunteer house, meeting with potential partner organizations.....

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Juggling too many blogs!

I think I'm now juggling too many blogs!  Hence.... my Maldives Adventure blog suddenly became my Surat Thani blog too.

Okay.... so a little bit of Thailand was added to the Maldives.... that sort of thing can happen.... just not too often let's hope!

Monday, July 4, 2011

First day of volunteering in Chiang Mai! Friends For Asia Group # 80.

The medical interns, all dressed up and ready to meet the doctors at the hospitals.

Over the weekend, the volunteers participated in a two day orientation.  Now it is time for all of them to be taken to their volunteer sites, introduced, and given their schedule.  I was able to accompany about half of the volunteers to their sites, while shadowing the Friends For Asia staff to experience the day-to-day operations of the organization.

Time to jump into the truck English teachers, and we'll be off to the temple schools.

Ready to begin teaching the monks!

First stop, the temple school where I volunteered last fall.  Three volunteers will be at this temple school for a month.

Next, to drop off one volunteer at a temple school, located right next to a very famous temple in Chiang Mai. 

Reviewing the all important..... volunteer teaching schedule!

As in all things, volunteering in Chiang Mai being no exception, there are a certain amount of formalities to be followed when first bringing new volunteers to a site. 

This public school will be hosting three volunteers for a month.

The volunteers are always eager to see their teaching schedule.

Our last stop was with the publishing intern, who will be working at a very well known magazine in Chiang Mai.

Creativity seemed to be flowing in every direction at this publishing company...... three publications per month.... lots of deadlines.... so lots of demands!

End of the day, the Friends For Asia staff touches bases with the volunteers to talk with them about their first day experiences.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Goodbye Maldives - Hello Thailand

A very fond farewell to all my e-friends who followed my tales while I was in the Maldives!  I had a fantastic stay while on the island of Holhudhoo.  One day..... I do indeed hope that I will be able to visit the Maldives again!

Now.... I am in Thailand working with Friends For Asia to help them expand their volunteer program from Chiang Mai, in the north of Thailand, to Surat Thani in the south. This is a new, exciting challenge for me!

 You can follow my continued tales at....

Please stop by and visit!  I'd love to hear from you too!

Mr. T

Friday, June 24, 2011

If you could be a brick....

The Great Pyramid of Giza.

"If you could be a brick, what building would you want to be part of?"  I asked my class.

Thus began my very last class that I taught at Meyna School on Holhudhoo Island in the Maldives.
After posing the question to my class, I gave them some "think time" before going around the room and asking them what building they'd want to be part of.

"Meyna School" one student noted, another "A hospital" and yet another... "My parent's house."

"The sports complex," noted one boy.  "The mosque," another remarked.  "The national museum," but yet another.

All had excellent reasons for why they chose the building they did.
"I would want to be the top stone on the Great Pyramid of Giza.................."

I explained when it came my turn to tell the class what stone I would want to be.


"The Great Pyramid of Giza is one of the 8 Wonders of the World with millions of people visiting it every year!"

Thursday, June 23, 2011

My last Hurrah .... at Meyna School

My final classroom lesson, was based on a short story called, The Wall, from Chicken Soup for the Teenage Soul.

First I read the story..... students followed along listening for the fluency and reading comprehension.

We reviewed any new vocabulary words, before I read the story a second time.

When I passed out the paper with the story, I had deliberately removed the last two paragraphs of the story.

When I finished reading the story the second time, I asked the students to predict what they thought would happen next.  Very creative responses.  I was impressed.

Then I passed out the second to the last paragraph, and again asked the students to predict what they thought would happen.  Again.... a variety of creative responses.

"What's the morale of this story," asked Mr. T?

"Be happy with what you have," the students responded.

Since this was Aravindan's class, and he served as photographer during the lesson.... I found, upon examing the pictures on my camera that he'd taken.... this one.  A self protrait. 

 Thank you Aravindan, for allowing me to teach my final lesson at Meyna School, to your students!

Funny what catches my eye ..... on the island

Greeting the morning sun...

How could I have not noticed them?  How many weeks did I walk directly under these coconuts.... and not even see they were there?

I mean, compared to the green or brown coconuts, these guys darn near glow in the dark!

Soon these little baby yellow - orange coconuts will be showing off their brilliant colors too!

How many afternoons, did I sit under this massive tree, as I watched the sunset.....?  Never looking up at the elaborate geometric designs Mother Nature has created with these branches.....

Busy as.... well, busy as ants... I guess I have to say!

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

George's excellent lesson format....

George's lesson centered around a very touching story about a father's desire to instill the love of music in his son.

In the anticipatory set of the lesson, George drew upon his student's background knowledge of music.  "Do any of you play a musical instrument?"  George asked.  This brought out an animated discussion with the students.

After having the students read the title of the article, George asked a series of questions about the father, using the father's picture in the article.

As the students listened and followed along, George read the story to his students.  "What struck you about this story?"  George asked when he'd finished reading.

The students got the message of the story immediately.... and accurately too.  Great comprehension!

The students really got into this story as George read it to them. 

The story was read a second time, by students who moved to the front of the class.  It was during the second reading that George asked students to underline any vocabulary words they did not know.

The first reading, in other words, was for the students to listen to the fluency of the story as they also listened with comprehension in mind.

Any word the students found difficult or new, they were asked to underline.

With the reading done, George asked the students how many words they'd found per paragraph.

"Look for the clues in the sentence, for the meaning to the word."  George encouraged his students to look for context clues, in the sentences, so that the students themselves defined the new vocabulary words. 

George had a gentile style of asking probing and clarifying questions, so that the students had to dig for the meaning of the new words.

Nearing the end of the lesson, George had students come to the board to write summary sentences.  Once these were written, he reviewed each sentence with the whole class, to make sure they understood what was written and that they agreed with what was written too.

Throughout the lesson, George checked for understanding through a series of comprehension questions.  George is a bit of a master at not giving the students the answer.... rather.... asking those guiding questions that help students arrive at their own answers.

This is a fantastic way to teach!  George is a living example of my motto.... "Whoever talks, learns!"

George asks the questions..... the students talk.

Reflective Conversation

Following my observation of George's lesson, I held a reflective conversation with him.  As we talked, the conversation grew to include Aravindan, the English Department Head. 

I first had George review with me, his lesson, step-by-step.  As we moved into the grit of the lesson, the concern that was raised by George and Aravindan, was the student's writing skills.  This is a definately an area where the students could use help.

Since basic sentence structure and verb tense seems to be some of the problem, I suggested the English Department go back to the basics if need be.  By this I explained, after students have read an article, have them go sentence by sentence and underline the subject, verb and direct object. 

In other words.... make the sentence as basic as possible.  Help the students understand the most basic structure of the sentence, then slowly show them how to add all those flowery words, that make reading so enjoyable!