Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Finally, a blog.

I (Amy) would like this blog to have glimpses of the daily, to give someone the ability to see just a little of what it is like to be here. Alas, doing small things (like updating a blog) are difficult to do faithfully. I have been putting off writing for about a month now because so much has happened that I don't know where to start and we have been so busy. This is my honest effort to start writing again, even if it is not much. Hopefully I will get better at this as the year goes on.

Sarah and I received our TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages) certification right before Christmas. This involved taking a 4 week intensive course that lasted 7 or 8 hours most days. Because we will be teaching conversational English classes to Thai students at Payap in the next few months, this course was particularly helpful. We were able to think about teaching techniques, like classroom management and methodology of teaching, as well as learn specific games or activities that we will be able to use with future classes. One of the teachers, a very humble man, was particularly inspiring to me. Everything he taught us or explained took his students into careful consideration; the lessons were for them only. Teaching English, even at the college level, cannot be lecture-based. It must be highly interactive, getting students to speak as much as possible. This is more difficult than it sounds because it is so natural to feel that, as a teacher, you must explain everything or they won't learn.

We finished teaching the poetry section of our Intro to Poetry and Drama class at Payap. I recently saw a professor who told me that in teaching you have to expect to make mistakes because it is the only way to learn how. Some days feel just like that: long strings of mistakes and seemingly unorganized activities that just don't go the way Sarah and I envision them at all. But other days are good; students seem to care about the material and we get to enjoy them as people. Poetry was difficult for me to teach sometimes. As it is one of the things I love most in this world (and probably always will be), I could feel my inability to communicate why it is essential, why it matters, why it . I would teach a poem and then feel I had not done it justice, sometimes wishing I had never tried at all, almost as if I had wrecked it. Sadly, loving a subject does not make you a good teacher. I think Sarah and I are probably learning in ways we don't see on a daily level. I still don't like being in front of people, but I am far more comfortable than I used to be. The drama section just started and we continue to try new things and laugh a lot.

My family came for about a week and a half for was wonderful to see them. Showing them this place that I have told them so much about and watching them experience Thai food and culture for themselves brought back memories from family vacations as a child. We did lots of touristy things like going on an elephant ride, to the zoo, to museums, on Flight of the Gibbon (a zipline through the jungle), and eating lots of Thai food. Probably my favorite part of their visit was getting to talk with each of them by themselves. I took each of them to a good spot in Chiang Mai, whether it be a little coffee shop with a strange name or a bar that overlooks the river. It is strange to think about the lives that continue in the West without me. Being here feels like stepping outside of time, but it keeps going and turning without me. I have never understood change well.

It doesn't feel much like a new year so far. There are no cold, silent afternoons to wait for snow to fall and we are in the middle of a semester, but I feel a determined excitement about the weeks and months to come. Watching Anna be at home in Chiang Mai and seeing the delight on her face and the sheer familiarity she felt encourages me. I have been blessed time and time again in ways I cannot hope (and should not try) to ever repay. I came to the conclusion one day recently that I often expect life to be easier than it is. I also often do not expect joy to be as rich as it is...there is a strange depth to being here that I have trouble even writing about in my journal these days.

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