Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Momma's Boy

Bubble made the 8 hour drive home and back no problem. He spent most of the ride cuddled with mommy. He came over to visit on my lap while I drove, but we try to limit that as driving can be dangerous with in-car distractions.
Bubble in a Basket, Mommy at the Helm
Back home, just like here in Bangkok, Bubble would follow mommy around everywhere she went. Whenever we needed to go away from the house, we locked him in the air conditioned room and he whined and barked and waited.
Little Stalker would sit outside of the bathroom waiting for Mommy to finish showering or brushing teeth.
He went walking with the family when we went to the lake for exercise. He rode the bike with mommy when mommy went out to ride. He even got to sleep on the bed with us at night, which never happens in normal life ;)
He falls asleep sometimes while I am driving, resting his head on my elbow-crack, little goofball

Preparing for the Next Day's Cement Work

We visited the apartment construction site last week when we visited home. We went near the end of work hours, about 4:30pm, and there was just a small crew working still.

There were three or four workers on the third floor cementing walls and leveling cement on the window frames. There were also three or four women downstairs sifting sand. I went over and looked and they were separating small pebbles (sharp edge black stones) from the clay sand. Their method looked like a good arm workout ;) They were dipping their "sieves" in a bucket of water and the sand would just separate from the rocks as they pulled it back and forth.

Pretty sure this is what they are using for the cement. They use the finer sand for the walls and stuff and I think they use the stones for the cement that makes up the floors and walkways. Maybe from the video, you can see the orange sand on the left and the darker grey pebbles on the right, where the lady dumps her blue net-like sieve thingy.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Are pet photos really that hard to take?

Unless Bubble is just laying on the floor sleeping, it seems impossible to get good photos of him. It was the same with BunBun. Usually you end up with a white blur in the photo ;)
After our 4km walk in with mom and dad and the aunties at Huay Muang
Whenever they are doing something "cute" or something that you would want to capture on "film", photographing them is just really difficult. Either because they are moving so quickly and suddenly, or by the time you get the camera prepared, they have stopped doing what they were doing.
Trying to get a selfie with pajama boy
Here are a few photos that we have taken recently. They aren't the best quality photos, but that has a lot to do with the fact that we take all of our photos with an iPhone.
Road trip. Bubble doesn't travel as well as BunBun, but he is a trooper as long as he is in Mommy's arms

Monday, March 21, 2016

Running around Huay Wang Nong

Far end of the lake
It's called Huay Wang Nong. I've had my eye on this "lake" for a while now, meaning I thought that it would be a nice place to run. You have to mix things up sometimes or you can get bored with a route especially when running long.

The place is near the airport here in Pae's hometown. I had seen it on a map several times when looking at the area and trying to familiarize myself. I thought, "This looks like a great place to run!"
This is what I expected to see when I arrived at the lake. This littly system of bridges was built at the near end of the lake when the drought had dried the whole thing up (or they pumped the water?). This whole area is now a lotus flower garden and exhibit and is in the water. I did walking here between laps.

There is drought now in Thailand, so I was worried that it would be all dried up, but when I went, there was plenty of water. I have no photos (might put some from online though) as I was concentrating on running and not pooping my pants as I was going around the roughly 7km loop.

There are a lot of things that go through your mind on a three hour run. Running in an unfamiliar place helps keep those thoughts under control ;) Running can be a lonely sport even when you are with other people either running together or against each other. There is a point where, even if there are thirty people around you, you are still alone with your thoughts and pain.
This is what the near end of the lake looks like, built up for people to come and picnic, even swim in the water. Nearer to the other end of the lake it is undeveloped and natural.
I won't bore with pace or how I felt, but will tell a few stories from the three hours of running in the morning heat as they stuck in my mind. These are some of the things along the run that kept my mind engaged ;)

The first story is nothing new really, especially if you're a runner. Anytime you go run or tell somebody that you are going to run (or ran) and they ask for details, they are often taken aback when you tell them just how far or how long you ran. They look at you like you are mental or something. When I told Pae and family where I planned to run, they asked if I was driving there. I almost never drive anywhere for a training run, only races...so I told them that I planned on running the 6km to the lake and running the return 6km after I finished my loops.
WHAT!? RIDICULOUS! Haha. P'Guy isn't even from this city, he barely knows where 7-11 is ;) Not sure if they just thought I would get lost or if they worried a lot about me getting run over in traffic, but they seemed very surprised that I planned to run there and back.

As I was running around the lake, I only passed three other runners and some cyclists. What I passed a lot of were cows! Cattle farmers were walking their handful of cows to the water early in the morning. I saw the farmer, super dark skin, ragged clothes, wide brimmed sombrero-like hat with a stick in his hand pushing the larger, adult cows towards the road.

I looked ahead of me and saw three calves, walking towards me that had gone ahead of the adult cows by about 100 meters. The first two ignored me as I ran right in between them. The third one had such a soft looking nose that I slowed to a walk and tried to reach out and touch it. It was shocked and took off in a slow "gallop" to catch up with the first two calves. It must have seen the starved look in my eyes! At about 20km, my stomach had started to growl and I was feeling the need for some protein!! Well played calf, well played!

More cows. This lake is a little bipolar, if you will. The beginning of the loop around has small public parks, a gymnasium and what look like bars or late night watering holes. As you make your way counter clockwise around you start passing temples and other buildings, perhaps hotels. I started passing signage for a new neighborhood that was built and homes were for sale. As I got close, I could see some very modern homes, gated community, all shiny and new and ready to be occupied.

The funny thing that stuck out to me was that there was a plot of land literally connected to the neighborhood that was just mud and grass and had a farmer and his 6 or 7 cows. I imagined that the developer of the neighborhood had tried to purchase his plot of land but he refused as it was part of his livelihood. Such a contrast. The contrast was even more evident because of the super tall wall that separated the two plots of land. Night and day!

The lake was always on my left as I ran counter clockwise around it. There was no sidewalk and normally that would make it dangerous to run, but there was a well-traveled and worn foot path in the high grass on the shoulder of the road. This is where I spent most of the two loops around the lake.

Running along this path didn't come without its dangers or surprises though. This is where all of the trash and old beer bottles and rocks were which made for some obstacles. The bank of the lake was very steep and the water was low which made for around a 6-10 foot drop to the water. Every now and then I would run past a bush on my left and suddenly there would be sound which would startle me. Turns out that there are dozens of little paths or makeshift ladders leading down to the edge of the water and fishermen were there early in the morning catching the day's meals. Stowed in the bushes or tied to a bush was the occasional canoe or rickety old skiff that looked like they had absolutely no business floating on water.

Most of the fishermen looked the part; their dress, their physique, skin tone, wrinkled faces from squinting constantly squinting their eyes to fight the reflected sunlight from the water.  I even saw a younger couple knee deep in the water, gathering some plants, perhaps morning glory plant (we eat that a lot here) to sell or to cook.

The one fisherman that I remember the most was a 50+ aged woman with short, jet-black dyed hair. She was waist deep in the lake near some reeds, untangling her net. She was dressed in clothes that you would expect to see a Thai auntie wearing to a wedding or a graduation. She wasn't dressed all fancy, but at the same time she wasn't dressed for being where she was, doing what she was doing!

Lastly there was my moment(s) of bad luck, good luck, bad luck. For what I expected to be a four hour run/walk in a place I wasn't familiar with, I needed to bring my Camelbak hydration pack with me. As long as I had my 1.5 liters of water from the beginning, I should be safe for that length of a run. No problem there. But getting near 15 kilometers, nearly finished with my first lap of the lake, I pulled my drinking tube towards my mouth from where it was fastened between my body and a strap of the pack. I sucked and sucked and sucked, getting only air. I was like, what? I tried to suck harder, but was getting the same result every time (wasn't thinking too much at that point).

It was like I was trying to drink a fountain drink (Big Gulp) with a broken straw. Well, the little yellow valve had popped off of the end of my drinking tube so I was basically just sucking air. I had no idea where it had broken off, so I didn't stop to look for it. I just continued and every time I wanted some water, I just covered the hole where the valve used to be with my sweaty thumb and it worked perfectly.

I had only really planned one loop around the lake. I was going to hit a smaller lake closer to home for some laps but decided that I would do one more lap around Huay Wang Nong and try to find my dang valve!

As I started another 7km lap I just took it easy because I knew i had at least half way to go before I needed to start looking because I drinking from the pack had been fine on the outbound portion of the first lap. Long story longer, I was looking for a little yellow piece of plastic both on the asphalt as well as in the little dirt footpath that I had been running on. What I hadn't noticed the first lap was that there were yellow flowers fallen from the trees on the path and road! This made it very difficult as every three steps there was something small and yellow in front of me to look at and identify.

I got about 1.5km from the end of the loop and I saw my little yellow valve right in front of me on the dirt. I was pretty happy to have found it and carried it in my hand for the rest of the loop. I stopped for water and ended up putting the valve in my back pocket of my running shorts with my tissue, identification and money.  Yeah, I was pretty proud of myself at that point!

Earlier I said bad luck, good luck, bad luck...you remembered. Correct. I got home and started taking all of the junk out of my pocket and...you guessed it, the valve had fallen out of my pocket through a small hole in the mesh (running shorts have mesh pockets) somewhere along the way home from the lake!! Funny. I have a spare Camelbak at home, but still, I went from "That sucks" to "Yeah boyyyyyyy!" to "Gosh freaking dangit!!!" in a matter of 10 kilometers.

This was my run. I hope to hit up Huay Wang Nong again one day, perhaps for a long run or even better, maybe I'll see how fast I can do the loop during a shorter run. I'm glad I found a new place to run when I am here. I'm also glad my mind can still cope with the distance ;)

A peek at the bathroom and patio area

Here is a quick video taken by Dad again that is of the work going on in the rooms. You can see that the electric stuff is being installed. Eventually the ceiling will be installed once all of the electric and other pipes are finished.

The "patio" (not sure what to call this area) is the same size as the bathroom and has a sideways facing window rather than a window facing outwards. We did this (P'Neung designed it this way) to stay within building codes and regulations that require a building with outward facing balconies to be at least three meters away from the edge of the land. We opted for the minimum one meter distance meaning we couldn't have a normal looking patio.

The bathroom, in this video, can barely be seen but that will be the next update. Try to get it before there is too much work completed on it so we can watch the progress over the months.

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Bangkok City Run

I associate myself with the running group Bangkok Runners. I have, in the past, run with Banana Running and Japan Fun Runners, but as a guest, nothing serious. Eric and I, when we started out, named ourselves Cookies...When it comes down to it though, I don't run socially very much.

I am a part of Bangkok Runners because the runners share so much knowledge with each other during runs and online. I associate most closely with them perhaps because most of the members are expats from the west, although we do have a good number of Thai runners as well.

We always get a good combination of runners from different running clubs though when we are at races or events. We all either know each other or recognize each other and that's where the feeling of community is so strong. I could really care less if the guy or girl running next to me is a Bangkok Runner or a Crazy Runner or a member or Barefoot Running club...They are runners and I am a runner, enough!
Not sure what these white structures are. The Thai runners called it something, but I didn't understand.
This past week I was able to attend a 32 kilometer "city run" organized by a Thai guy who is a member or Bangkok Runners and often brings his employees to events. He has organized many runs around Bangkok, slow runs to cater to most ability levels. This was my first time having the time to attend one of his runs.
A bunch of new running friends!
It was a run across the river and into the "Bangkok Jungle" or the Bangkok's Green Lung. The Green Lung is an undeveloped area right on the river that still has some trees and marshes rather than hotels and skyscrapers.
Running under all of the freeway on and off ramps was col. This one looked like a whale's tail to me!
There were runners from several running clubs in attendance and surprisingly we had near 30 runners. The run ended up being a little too slow for me in the beginning, even though it was a long run which I usually do really slowly.
We had to stop by the "Leaving Bangkok" sign and take a photo as we entered Samut Sakon.
To make up for the lack of speed and frequent stops for water and to wait for runners, I went back to my Marine Corps days and played the part of traffic guard ;)
Urban running isn't always this beautiful
I would stay at the front of the pack that was strung out probably 200+ meters throughout and whenever there was an intersection I would block traffic until the last runners passed safely, then I would sprint back to the front and do it all over again! Now, that was a workout!! Not often that you can get a long run AND speed work in during the same run.
Last stop by the river before we headed to the Cafe for a cool drink
Eventually we got to a place where we could only run straight and nobody could get lost and had a famous coffee shop as a checkpoint where everyone would get drinks and regroup. After briefing all runners and taking orders we took off on the five kilometer run to the cafe.  P'Kitti (runner who runs with the leader often and knows the route) agreed to take up the rear and guide the stragglers to the checkpoint.
This is running in the city

The leader took advantage of this and just took off at the fastest pace of the run. A younger runner and I kept pace for about four kilometers then the younger guy fell back. I stayed on the leader's heels and tried to pressure him to go faster, but he had his solid pace and he just stuck with it. I was happy to run hard for twenty minutes or so and arrive at the cafe and order (and receive) my watermelon smoothie before the order of 17 iced coconut coffees and 10 other drinks were ordered. **It literally took 45 minutes to make all of the blended coffees and anyone who ordered fruit drinks were unlucky to have to wait until the end.
Pooped after only 22km but I have a watermelon smoothie to re-energize me
After our coffee break, we cruised the rest of the way back to the park where we had started like 4 hours before. It was a very long run and a very slow run. I had fun and met a lot of new people whom I enjoyed running with. I'll try to make as many of these city runs as possible in the future, just for the social aspect. It's so much funner running 30+kilometers with other people than running alone!!

The stifling heat of Thailand in the summer

I run. I am a runner. I enjoy running. I enjoy running in the rain. I run to take care of errands, just to get a couple kilometers in or just to stretch the legs out. I don't mind a stiff headwind and certainly never complain about a tailwind. I can run with blisters or severe, explosive diarrhea...or with one sock, as it were ;)

But this summer heat, combined with the 80% humidity, is just ridiculous! Heat! I know, it's not desert heat. But my sweat sweats!! The temperature may say 102 or 106, but it feels so much hotter, even in the shade.I remember our wedding was up near 110 degrees...ridiculous! The Europeans love it (especially the Scandinavians) but it seriously kicks my butt.
This is the forecast temperature for the next week, not factoring in humidity. I never thought I'd wish I was back in Bangkok's 95 degree temps.

I just went for a run this morning in 90+ degree temperatures, finishing up in the upper 90s...6:30 am and it's already 90 degrees out! I've been suffering with a pretty bad headache all day. I think running 30km in the heat really took a lot out of me.

I've been throwing water, coke, juice, chocolate milk, Gatorade, electrolytes...pretty much any liquid I can get my hands on...at my body and I'm still feeling quite uncomfortable.

I keep telling myself that running in this heat is training for the 10hr race in May which is during the hottest part of the day. I have been hoping to match my previous mark of 86km in those grueling 10 hours, but with this heat I'd be better off with a goal of staying hydrated and running according to the conditions and the known dangers that come along with those conditions.

So I guess I am actually training ;) because today's 30km consisted of 7km running at an easy pace and 1km walking and plenty of water breaks.

I am a runner. I complain. But...at the end of the day I'm still happy that I had the opportunity to run, hot, hotter or hottest.

Apartment Update 2016 March 11

Here are some of the latest photos from Dad of the apartment and the progress being made on it. Work seems to be going slowly as all of the walls outside and inside are being covered with cement by the masons.
This takes a long time and much of the progress can't be seen from the outside.
From photos I've looked closely at, the first floor bedrooms look to be finished. I can't be certain though as there are no photos of the bathrooms and other area at the back of the room.

Dad did send a video from inside of one of the rooms and in it you can see the amount of work to be done inside of the room. I'll post that a little later once I get a better connection to upload the video to youtube.
We just drove the eight or so hours home and will have a site visit tomorrow morning or afternoon or night ;) This place is so chill and laid back, I'm guessing it will be evening as it will be cooler then. **Cooler this time of year means less than 100 degrees but more than 90 degrees, haha.

Friday, March 11, 2016

Starting to Look Alive

The first through third floor walls are finished as far as the bricks are concerned. Next thing that is happening is the masons are slathering a coat of cement on the outsides and inside. Here are two videos of this being done.

Last update we got from Dad was that the first and second floor walls are done (outside) and the interior of one room is finished.

All around the city you run into buildings big and small that were started and never completed. Owners ran out of money or the economy tanked mid-construction. They sit here among the the malls and shiny new buildings looking like skeletons covered in graffiti. Now our apartment is no longer a skeleton. It's getting its meat and muscle. Eventually it will get its skin when we decide on a paint scheme and that part of the project arrives ;)

Hauling Cement Bucket by Bucket

Here is a quick video of the cement workers filling their buckets and loading them onto the pulley thingy (haha) for delivery up to the third floor.

Next I'll post a video of the completed walls for all three floors ;)

Thursday, March 10, 2016

"Level of Busy" Indicator?

I started keeping this blog years ago, 2008? I don't even remember. There have been times where I just didn't feel like there was anything worth writing about. There have been other times when I was just absolutely crushed with work or other things and didn't have time to sit in front of the computer. Other times I've just been lazy.

You might be able to tell that the volume of my posts increases around the school breaks as I have a little extra time to sit here and type.

I was looking at the layout of the blog (because I am thinking of keeping an informal one for our teachers) and noticed the list of blogs that I follow on the right hand side. Mostly family and a few friends.

The thing that sticks out to me is that the most recent post is listed with the name of the blog and it tells how long ago that entry was posted. WOW! Nearly all of the blogs I would call "inactive" as most of them have not been posted to in over a year. Some of them, you can tell, tried a few times then just never posted again.I do believe that my brother Jacob was one-and-done!! Must be a record ;)

I'm just going to copy and paste that list here. They are always available to be clicked on from the blog, over there on the right ----------------------->
so I'm assuming there are no privacy issues here ;)

Ours has been in the same crowd of dead blogs before and I've had to force myself to get less lazy and update the blog. That is not saying that anyone on my blog list is lazy, of course not. Life is full of stuff and stuff takes time. Some stuff takes priority over other stuff. I get it.

I do love to look back at the blog every now and then and am always glad that I've taken the time to record some of these things down. I can look back and see a little bit how I've changed even just a little bit, not just physically haha!

So, here they are, the most recent update was 8 months ago. Let's hope that I can stay motivated to continue posting to here. It is well worth it.

My Blog List

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

22kms/22lbs for the 22 Veterans Who Commit Suicide Daily

Eric and I haven't spent as much time running together lately. It used to be that one of us would see a race we wanted to run, we would convince the other to run it, we would sign up then we would train together and run the race.

This whole process became, to both of us I think, less about running and more about being friends and sharing time together.  I enjoy the friendship, the laughs and just having someone to talk to about things that both people have in common. I mean, we both run, we both are expats in Thailand, we both are veterans of the U.S. armed services, we both teach in the Thai education system, certain aspects of our childhood experience, etc. There is a lot that we have in common. Plus it's always good for the brain (mentally) to have a running buddy for some of the longer training runs ;)

There are also parts of our lives, personalities, past experiences, etc.,  that differ and I think these things also can bring people together.

Well, Eric contacted me a few weeks back and told me about an activity being held in Tampa, Florida by a group of veterans who were raising awareness for a certain cause. This event was a 22km hike carrying a 22kg pack. They call it a "Silkies Hike" 22 with 22 for the 22.

What's with all of the 22's? Why 22kg? Why 22km?

There are twenty-two U.S. veterans who commit suicide every day. That is twenty-two too many. Many of these are combat veterans who have been called on during battle to do things or who have seen things that they have a hard time dealing with after they get back into the civilian world.

Who understands? Who do you talk to about these things?

A psychiatrist who has never seen his best buddy's intestines leaking out of a 12 centimeter exit wound?

A girl who you are dating who has never sat silently and helplessly in a chopper, trying not to flinch at every "ping" of small arms fire pelting the helicopter, hoping and praying that the next sound isn't that of an RPG exploding?

Your parents who have likely never had to suffer the smell of the decaying bodies of the enemy, killed by airstrikes only days earlier? Some people are very unlucky to have seen (or contributed to) such horrid scenes of death.

Even a drone pilot who successfully kills his target from the comfort of a swivel chair but has to live with the knowledge that 27 other innocent lives were ended by the same 500 pound JDAM at the same wedding party, collateral damage, must suffer eventually. How does he deal with this conflict within his soul? What does he say when someone finds out that he was in Afghanistan and asks (I hate this question) "Did you ever kill anybody?"

Who do you talk to and how do you word it when you want to get the pictures out of your mind, when you want to erase the memory or at least make yourself feel better about shooting that sweet looking, innocent little girl in the light blue dress who was approaching your checkpoint wearing (unknowingly) a suicide vest?

Who do you talk to if you're being tormented day and night by these memories; pictures, sounds, smells that are burned into your brain, forever to haunt you? How do you get rid of the guilt? How do you justify your actions after the brainwashing of "kill or be killed" fades from who you are?

PTSD is real. PTSD can be debilitating. PTSD can be too much for some to handle.

We celebrate our veterans, as we should, but when you hear someone say "Freedom isn't free", although it sounds so catchy, there is the darker side that we don't visualize when we hear the catchphrase. We understand that "freedom isn't free" might mean that someone gave their life fighting for that freedom. We understand it to even mean that families (husbands, wives and their children) make huge sacrifices being separated from each for months at a time. This is also the price of freedom.

The price of the freedom that we enjoy and take for granted, the price of the freedom that we hope to help bring to others, is not only paid as a one time payment, a lump sum. It's often paid in installments like a mortgage, which to many may seem like they'll be paying for a lifetime. Payments in the form of a veteran not being able to find his/her place in society. Mental and emotional payments...as well as physical currency.

Some veterans are living with the physical wounds of war; burns, amputations, scarred and mangled body parts that either cause them never-ending, chronic physical pain or emotional pain when they look at themselves in the mirror or when a child or adult stares in disgust or simple curiosity at the checkout counter of the grocery store or when they can't do the things that a "normal" person their age should be able to do. These are young men and women, who's lives have been changed forever because of an IED exploding under their vehicle, a sniper's bullet that left them paralyzed, friendly fire, you get the point...

Some of these men and women are survivors of combat who lost friends in battle and have survivor guilt. Some of these perhaps had a rough transition back to the civilian world, in a tough economy, etc. I could never imagine why someone would choose suicide as a way to end whatever type of suffering they are experiencing. I could never understand as I have never experienced such suffering. 22 veterans per day is proof of this suffering.

What I do know is that there must be even more who consider suicide or even fail in their suicide attempt which makes it even worse than 22 families who are affected by this darkness, this sadness.

The more awareness there is, perhaps the more that will be done in the way of support for veterans who are vulnerable. As well as awareness, the hike also served as a way for vets to get together, like Eric and I often do when we train, to laugh or just share with people with similar life experiences, people who they know probably understand and can relate to their past and present much more than a coworker, a husband or wife or their local librarian might.

This past Saturday, Eric and I did our hike of 22 kilometers carrying 22 pounds (not kg) of weight in our backpacks. Our hike happened a little before the Tampa group did theirs, but Saturday morning was the best time for us.

Eric is recovering from a severe knee injury and me from laziness, but hiking for four hours together, taking it easy when we needed, stopping for water when we needed and just chatting away about this and that, we kept a decent pace. We slowed when we needed. We stretched when we needed. We thought about and talked about our country's veterans. We tried to ignore blisters building on the bottoms of our feet. We had a nice time together and I personally felt happy to be a part of an activity (even though it was technically just Eric and me in Bangkok) that had such great meaning to both of us.

We are both vets and both appreciate other vets, not only for their service, but because they understand us and we (for the most part) understand them. We have enough in common that we can be there for each other, not just when another vet is considering suicide, but way before that even.

So many people consider or commit suicide, not just our veterans, but the 22 veterans a day angle hits close to home for me as our warriors do and see a lot of things that nobody should have to see or do and it must hurt inside to keep it all bottled up.

Hopefully all of this pent up darkness can be released through sharing laughter, a fishing trip with buddies, a crazy hike in skimpy green exercise shorts, a phone call to a "brother" or a long run...rather than than a fatal gunshot wound to the head.

22 a day.

These 22 and many more need support.

Summer Break and My New Role at School

Summer break is finally here after a very, very long school year. I can't exactly pinpoint what made the past year such a tough one but I think the year just started off in April with Bunbun which put me in a place I've never been in before emotionally, mentally and even physically.

After that my buddy at school left back to his country and Eric and I started running together less and less due to 1) different running goals, 2) injury and 3) the prioritizing of "family time" over running. Also, the new school year brought new students into my daily life who were quite naughty. We spent a lot of time and energy trying to get them "where we wanted them" as far as expected classroom behavior, participation and effort was concerned (not to mention respect for the teachers and other classmates). Maybe those things had something to do with the stress of the past two semesters, haha!!

Even with it being a tough year, we all survived and summer is upon us! Summer to a student and summer to a teacher are two totally different beasts though.

For the students, it means two months of freedom, traveling with family perhaps, sleeping in and as we used to sing when I was a kid, "No more teachers' dirty looks" haha!! No homework, no cramming for tests, no spelling, no exams. They can sit and watch television all day, play games or chat with their friends online. If they're lucky, they'll spend more time outside, active, or spend quality time with their families.

When classes start again in May, I'll ask the students how they spent their summer vacations and sadly many of the responses will be, "Play games", "Watch TV" and "Play Internet". I find that sad, but I understand that 1) most of their parents still have to go to work and 2) Bangkok isn't a place where you go outside to play...Not many yards or places where parents will let you go and play with friends on your own. There is basically no, "Be home by dinner time" here for student types. It is a very urban area with dangers lurking around every corner (not to sound negative), but that's a story for another post some day.

For the teachers (at my school) summer is more like "School's out, school's out, teachers let the monkeys out." We don't have daily classes for two months, yay. The first week of break is filled with grading finals, assessments, writing report cards and tying a big bow around the school year as far as the students are concerned. After that there are usually two weeks of summer camp.

Following summer camp, teachers have holiday given by school and are also able to take personal leave according to their contracts. For me, all combined, that gives me exactly one month off. This means that I don't have to go to school. We'll be back several weeks before the students report back, for preparation, training and some shaking off of the cobwebs ;)

This year sees me changing roles at the school as well. I did eventually take the job as International Principal (IP) that was offered to me. I haven't signed a contract for it yet. The IP contract is separate from my teaching contract which allows me to walk back into my teaching role if either party, me or the school, decides that I shouldn't be the IP anymore following a six month probationary period. I have been told to expect the contract May 1st.

Luckily (I think), I will still be teaching science but my teaching hours will be cut from 18 hours to 8 hours. I'll only be teaching sixth graders this year as opposed to fifth and sixth graders like last year. I still don't know how much of my time the IP role will consume, so I can't say yet if 8 hours of teaching and the hours of planning and grading and reporting that goes along with the teaching will be easy or difficult. On the face of it, it just looks like I've had my schedule cut in half, but factoring in the IP job, it is a mystery.

Along with the IP role, I've been asked (asked=euphemism) to cover for our Head of the Primary Department (HOD) two days per week as she also occupies two roles of School HR manager and Primary HOD. From what I've seen over the past nine years, the HOD role is one to run from...I have no choice though, so I'll do what a good Marine always does and SUCK IT UP!!

Due to some pilot strikes at Pae's work, she is flying a cut down schedule this month. She's worked it out to where she will have nearly two weeks straight off which allows us to spend some time together.

So yeah, it's summer now and I'm looking forward to a few days at the beach with Pae and little Bubble boy. After a few days down south, we'll make the trek back to Pae's hometown to spend time with family and check out the progress of the apartment first hand. We should be able to spend a couple days at the beach and almost a whole week back home.

It is a much needed vacation and welcomed and treasured time together. Hopefully we'll come back recharged and ready to take on whatever 2016-2017 has in store for us!

Sunday, March 6, 2016

Final Exams at School

I'm sitting here at my desk trying to decide if I should dive into my last stack of final exams. I've jammed all day grading three classes already, but with a half hour before quitting time, I'd just rather sit here and take a breath!

As always, after grading 60ish exams of fifth and sixth graders, I have mixed feelings. I'm proud of some of the kids and happy with the effort that I can tell they put into their studies. There are also many kids that I am disappointed with, because I know just how smart they are and their exams reek of laziness. Take the good with the bad! Some of their answers for the writing questions make me laugh.

Seems like if the kids don't know the answer, there must be some competition to see who can put the most ridiculous answer...these all come from different students:

Q: Name the energy source that hydroelectric plants use to generate electricity?
A: Potato
 ***Yup, you neither studied for the exam nor did you pay attention in class for the past two weeks.

Q: Give the difference between a nova and a supernova.
A: A nova is just normal but a supernova is more super.

Q: There are four main shapes of galaxies. Give two.
A: Berry galaxy and Servent galaxy

Q: _____________ are exploration vehicles without human crews.
A: Neil Armstrong
***And..thanks for playing

Second and Third Floors Cement Work

New photos and videos from Dad. From what I'm seeing here, it looks like the front walls of the second floor are now complete and the third floor walls are half-way finished as well. By the next update, I'm guessing all of the cement work on the front walls of the apartment will be finished.
Next up I think they are laying out the electric and plumbing...not positive, but I think they have to do that soon before putting the ceilings and such in. We'll be going back home in a couple weeks and will be able to see more of the progress and work first hand. It's school break here and I should have a few days off soon ;)

Windows? Doors? Do they wait until after they tile floors and cover walls? Paint rooms first, then install the windows and doors? I'll have to find out the answers to these questions ;) We still haven't chosen the color scheme/paint colors for the exterior of the apartment. I'm also assuming that the interior will be white to make sure it is bright in the rooms, especially since there will be little to no light entering the rooms from the back. (No outward-facing windows and another building blocking out the sun)
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