Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Chiang Mai is.....

Before I leave on my two week exploritory  trekk into Laos, let me give you a glimps of Chiang Mai....

Once a walled city, Tha Phae Gate is the entrance to the old city of Chiang Mai.

The moat, the first line of defense, with the ancient wall being the second, continues to protect the old city and divides it from the new Chiang Mai.

Chiang Mai is a city filled with old stupas and Buddhist temples.

Enormous golden stupa, enshrining Buddhist relics (sacred figures, writings, bone fragments of highly respected monks) can be found at many of the Chiang Mai temples.

A city where the Phra Naga protects the entrance to the temples.

Elaborate Buddhist temples can be found nestled amoung the office and residential buildings throughout the city. 
Buddhist history enshined in temples.... the figure of Ajaan Mun, considered to be the most highly respected monk in recent Thai history.  Ajaan Mun practiced  Therevadan meditation throughout Thailand, Myanmar and Laos during the late 1800 and early 1900s.    

"105"  noted the monk as he looked at my right palm.  "You will live to be 105!"  This was said to me, at the end of the Buddhist blessing the monk performed.  Looping a long piece of cord around my neck and asking me to hold onto it and make a wish, as the monk held the other end of the cord.  For a couple of minutes, the monk chanted as he sprinkled water on my head, from a small reed type broom.

I found a garden restaurant, just a block from the Pagoda Inn where I'm staying.  Fresh coffee from Laos, and the best Thai food I've ever eaten!

Thursday, September 23, 2010

"Getting to know you.... getting to know all about you..."

Hello from Chiang Mai, Thailand!

"Feeling a bit jet lagged Mr T.?"  Well get over it!  You've got lots of work waiting for you in Thailand and Laos!

Since arriving in Chiang Mai, I've been as busy as a..... well.... bee! ... meeting and talking with people, and in the process, laying the foundation for my work in Chiang Mai and Laos.  Through ongoing communication,  I have been building relationships and developing trust......  critical elements for a strong and productive relationship.

Sustainable local institutional capacity building is an important part of this trip.  Friends For Asia has asked me to assist them expand their volunteer program to Laos.  This expansion holds great potential of bringing new skills to the people of Laos.

Gaining a solid understanding of the Friends For Asia's Thailand program and its plans to expand into Laos has been much of my focus.  Frequent discussions with the Friends For Asia staff, reviewing the proposed Laos program business plan, along with ongoing conversations on the obstacles and the opportunities related to the proposed expansion, have helped me understand how I can be of assistance to Friends For Asia.

Winter semester at the Buddhist University will start in mid October.  Working through Friends For Asia, the Buddist University in Chiang Mai has proposed the creation of special English classes for the monks, that will I teach.  The curriculum is up to me to develop, however the focus will be on conversational English.
"By George, me thinks we've got us a plan!"


Thursday, September 16, 2010

Next stop on the retirement train is....

 I have my new ticket and I'm ready to go!

Look out Asia..... here I come!

My first stop will be Chiang Mai, northern Thailand where I will teach English to Buddhist monks.  Often these schools are the best alternative for these young men to receive an education.
While in Chiang Mai, I will be assisting Friends For Asia, a local volunteer organization, explore the possibility of expanding their program into Laos.

Last summer, I volunteered with Friends For Asia and had one of the most awesome experiences of my entire life!  I lived in a jungle tree house, taught English to elementary students, and helped care for a herd of some 80 elephants.  What a fantastic experience!
I am very excited about assisting Friends For Asia as they look at sending volunteers to Laos.  Volunteers can provide the spark leading to long term sustainable development at the local level.  Laos is one of the poorest countries in Southeast Asia, and could greatly benefit from outside assistance.

December will find me in Malaysia.  This is a new country for me, and I would like to explore what volunteer opportunities might exist here.
The new year has me in the Republic of Maldives, an island nation in the Indian Ocean.  This will be my first trip to these islands.
Isn't this just the most beautiful blue you've ever seen.... one could settle into one of these islands for a long, long time!
Okay, okay ..... I can hear you saying to yourself.... with beaches like that, when will Mr. T find time to teach!  The place must be one never ending beach party!  Right?
Definitely No Beach Parties for Mr. T!  He has got lots to do!
What with classroom observations to conduct, demonstration lessons to deliver, reflective conversations to hold, to say nothing of  the potential of in service seminars to organize ..... who has time for the beach
Well, maybe there will be time to put a toe in the water on weekends!

So here's the travel schedule and a map to help you follow where I will be going over the next six months ....

Thailand:  September - November 2010
Laos:  couple weeks in October 2010
Malaysia: December 2010
Republic of Maldives:  January - February 2010
Thailand: March 2010
Home again, home again..... March 31, 2011