Thursday, July 29, 2010

...As of month 1

Last week I went to an amazing beach party in Kamala. There was a big BBQ, Sangrias, Fire dancing and a Miss Kamala Competition. I found out about this great party though Chickynet... a network for expat women living in Phuket, its helping me find friends and fun things to do. I met many wonderful new people, locals from Thailand and others from Scotland, Sweden, Australia and Indonesia.

The miss Kamala competition involved 4 women who had to prove their deserving of the title by surviving a water balloon toss and limbo. I took a photo with the winner- and added more fun photos of this.

Later in the evening we participated in a tradition for beach gatherings of lighting huge paper lanterns to let float away in the sky it was quite beautiful.

Fun Day was Saturday an event that I coordinated with Anampuri to come and host a festival at Coconut Club for the residential children over the weekend It was so much! Anampuri is a wonderful company that has a resort on the island and they sent staff from their food and beverage, spa and entertainment to come play with the children for the day. They played funny obstacle course games with the kids, did manicures, pedicures, hair play, coloring books, beading and brought crazy amounts of food like hot dogs, hamburgers, fish sticks, sandwiches, cake, ice cream and fruit skewers. You have never seen such little people eat so much. I've included some fun pictures:

Later that evening I went to hang at the beach and relax after a long work week. It's amazing to me, I've spent so much of my life in the woods and loving the woods. Now, I'm not going back on my words or anything, but seriously- having warm ocean water to swim in every day is pretty sweet. It's just as much of a naturally wonderful beautiful thing to soak in the sea as it is to hike in your backyard or visit a hot spring buried in the Cascades during december. I've decided its all great and I don't know what's better yet- maybe in a year I'll feel different. Heres some gorgeous sunset pix I have to share with you from hanging on the beach...

Yesterday I went surfing for the first time. The number one thing I can say to this is I'M GETTING A RASH GUARD before I go again. My belly and arms are totally red- I think two moles have been halfway detached from my skin! How would I know any different, all the local Thais get out there and ruff it in bikinis and shorts. I guess they have callouss' all over their body or something. Anyways, I think I went home with a brain full of salt - Lets just say I did the mega-netty pot. So yeah, didn't do so great. I rhode a wave and attempted to get up 3 times and actually stood up once until I looked down at my feet and saw they were square in the middle of my board (haha!)- Ker SPLASH! Whatever it doesn't matter... surfing is all about having fun. The locals are so nice, some laugh at you in a real friendly way like "oh man, you got nailed!" kinda way, or some will laugh and say, come on get that wave and encourage you to keep trying. It's really fun! When I was in Maui the locals definitely did not interact with the tourist or beginners. But don't misunderstand me, It's hard and the waves are big, its great surf and man I wish I knew what I was doing so I could ride those gorgeous waves, I'll get there...

Monday, July 19, 2010

Mingling as a local

These last couple weeks have been quite a whirlwind but I've made some pretty large strides in getting to know the island a bit better. For starters, I finally got my motorbike and therefore I'm able to explore all I want. The way to get around here is mostly by motorbike, less prevalent but still existent is cars, and every so often I pass them while driving here and there- an elephant. The island is super hilly, but the roads are modern and paved. Getting around on bicycle would be very difficult considering the intense humidity mixed with insane inclines and blind turns. It's difficult to drive this time of year with the unexpected rains and thunderstorms hailing overhead with no warning.

The other night I had rode into Patong when the air was still and sky clear. After having a joyous evening I hopped on my moto once it was dark to head home wearing my tank-top and cut-offs. Suddenly the sky opened up and huge rain drops began to beat against my body in what felt like giant hail stones. I got totally soaked and for the first time in my journey so far here, I was cold, it was so strange because it kind of felt good like a breath of fresh air from the heat. Never in my life, which has been spent predominately in the wet and cold having lived in the NW, have I ever felt rain be so harsh and painful. Simultaneously, huge bugs buzzed in the opposite direction smacking me in the neck, chest and face going about 30MPH when I was colliding at 60MPH. It was the most peculiar experience. But hey, next time I'll bring a rain coat and a visor for my helmet- I think this will vastly improve the experience!

Speaking of peculiar experiences, I went to Thai Aerobics for the first time last week. Its run by locals which is refreshing. Its on the beach 5 minutes from my flat which is beautiful to be working-out outside. I have to admit, it was kind-of funny but I did sweat harder than I can remember in along time, for a solid 90 minutes. The teacher is an over 50 bombshell who looks about 30 wearing 80's hot pink, leggings and a loose white t-shirt straight out of a Madonna video that reads "I'm happy" with a heart on it. The moves are a clash of Richard Simmons mixed with a modern hip-hop pop work-out that lady gaga would do in preparation for her next show. We rock out to the Thai versions of: Blonde, Paula Abdule and whacky world reggae. I think the main element throughout the workout is to KEEP MOVING for 90 minutes straight. Her feet are just juggling in all different directions like we are learning a line dance but then just when you start to understand which direction she's moving in, she completely changes the footwork on you. The girls, Thais and expats, are constantly bewildered trying to keep up with her all the while laughing. Every once and awhile you see an obvious tourist walk by with a deer in the headlights look trying to figure out for a good 20 minutes what on earth we could possibly be doing. You just know you must look absolutely absurd!

Oh well, tomorrow is Tai Chi... we'll see how that goes.

This weekend was my first larger tackle at hand of my coordinating. When I first arrived one of my tasks which was placed at high priority was to prepare for a birthday party (which was this past Saturday). Coordinating a birthday involves me, speaking to sponsors and local businesses and getting them to contribute games to play with the kids, cake, food, beverages and even a photographer. It also involves using a mass 190 sum student spreadsheet which has become my new-best-friend, listing all info on every child involved in our charity to establish whos birthday needs celebrating this time of year and therefore who gets to come to the party. Now, if the school has 600 students and we have 35 birthdays within that, it's quite chaotic to relay communication to these specific students (track them down so to speak), and put together gifts for these specific students to their desired tastes. As much work as it was to put together, it was a great successes and I received my first kudos. All the sponsors showed, we played Thai charades, 4 corners, obstacle courses, and musical chairs. Overall I'm quite pleased and I think I make a pretty descent event coordinator- next time I think it will be even better!

The children are so polite. When they are offered a bigger piece of cake they take the smaller one. When they win a game and receive a prize, the second time they win they pass their prize onto a peer who has not received one yet. They don't leave anyone out, you don't ever see "loners" or children sitting in corners left out or unable to participate. In one instance for example, a girl received a toy kangaroo that starts small but then expands when placed in water. Her friend once she grasped the concept of how the toy worked became ecstatic at how cool her friends gift was, so the girl just gave it to her. I was shocked at this. The girl who gave up her birthday present didn't seem to think it was that big of deal, as though "what goes around comes around". They seem to all be looking out for each other like brothers and sisters that have one anothers best interest at heart. I think these children have a lot to teach me.

Much love and all the best!

Wednesday, July 7, 2010


Thailand is so lovely and the people are so beautiful. Everywhere I go I get smiles, kind greetings and new friends. Everyone is welcoming and if someone speaks English they spend no time hiding it. I recall being around French students in school when learning the language, and being too timid to practice my French. Here in Thailand, it is the opposite- there is pride in speaking english and practice makes perfect. I can see why the Foundations mission is so important (to teach the children english). The economy completely depends on tourism and its extremely beneficial to the business if they speak english.

On my walk to the school everyday I pass many empty shops selling clothes, shoes, massage, restaurants and general mini marts. Currently this is low season and the owners are suffering badly with the decrease in tourism. They tell me how the ongoing alerts on traveling to Thailand over the past 2 years has really effected their business, causing many to go bankrupt. You see for rent signs and vacancies everywhere, its really too bad. They're all eager to see the bans on traveling to Thailand in many countries desists. Its unfortunate too, since whatever state society/politics may be at in Bangkok it does not play any affect on Phuket. In fact, the people of Phuket and Bangkok identify very differently. I hope for all my neighbors and their families that when high season comes around this November that tourism really picks-up for them.
I've now gone into some surrounding towns outside of Kamala and gotten to see more of the Island. Next to where I live is Surin, similar to Kamala it is a quaint beach town. The bigger town over is Bang-tao where many of our staff lives. In the opposite direction about 20 minutes is Patong. Patong is tourist capital in Phuket. Some locals call it an abomination while others call it a good night out on the town. In Patong westernization has a large presence. Suddenly white people are everywhere, the lady boys hang around every street corner, theres a Macdonalds, banks, a mall and even a giant supermarket. Patong is big and commercial with many back alleyways. I will need to get really comfortable on my motorbike before I can travel into Patong or else I could easily get lost.

I've gotten to begin to experience my work week these past few days and so far I'm really enjoying it. I get up, eat breakfast and go downstairs to the office around 8:00. I work at my desk until around 3:00, then off to Coconut Club which I'm coordinating. The hour each day I spend at coconut club, makes the stress of the office leave my mind instantaneously. Today in coconut club in light of the world cup we had the kids use pastels to create flags from each country, then we hung them around the coconut club room. This is a mere example of the millions of fun projects that are constantly rotated throughout the after school club. The kids are so amazing and so helpful. When I'm carrying activities, or equipment I'll have 5 kids run up to me motioning for me to hand them my load. At the end of the day today two children pulled me aside to a corner and handed me a special art piece they made saying "For teacher Ryanne" then asked me to take it home to keep in my house. I was very touched by this and wanted to hug the girls but of course that is not formal Thai culture, we all bowed to one another and I gave them many thanks.

Thai mannerisms are very different than American. People do not touch each other at free will like we do in America, you must be invited into a hug. The head is considered the most sacred part of the body so it is rude to touch another person's head. The feet are considered the dirtiest part of the body, so I have to be careful about my habit of bending my knees when sitting, overlapping one foot over my knee and playing with my feet when sitting on the ground. The women are more kept to themselves, polite and very conscientious of how much skin on their body is showing. Its socially acceptable for the men to be effeminate and often you find they're more sensitive, many love to play dress-up and are just as concerned about emotions as the women.

Off to the market I went after Coconut Club since it's Wednesday, yay! today I tried some fresh pad thai- at a street cart for 20 baht YUMMY! Its so easy to make fresh stir fry here because the ingredients are everywhere, I just love it! I cannot get over the fruit, it is so exotic and beautiful bright greens, reds, pinks, purples, yellows, check out my fruit bowl...

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Saturday Swimming

Today we took some girls from the school swimming. Due to the rainy season, it's not safe to swim in the ocean since there is a high risk of drowning. Therefore a local restaurant allows us to use there pool for the swimming activity we do on Saturday mornings. The girls were fantastic, we were trying to teach kick, swim and dive, it was a blast. On the way back from the pool, the overcast that frequents this time of year decided to take a break and we received a delightful visit from Ms. Sunshine. I got my first glorious photo op of island paradise in Kamala where I live...

Friday, July 2, 2010

My New Job

The last 48 hours have been a nice preview into my job and what exactly it will all entail. My office is downstairs which I'm really enjoying so far, making me constantly in the loop and accessible to new friends and co-workers. I have my own desk I sit at, and the room is shared with 3 other desks: Tina, who has more jobs than possible making her superwoman, Arati who is our secondary superwoman dealing with all accounting, and Graham who deals with our sponsors and many other networking connections. There sits the fourth desk, mine, who is in charge of volunteer coordinating, coconut club and filling in for sick teachers. I hear I might be picking up a class or two but maybe my job in the office will be too much for having a permanent class (we will see).

I visited Kalama school where I met the children for the first time and sat in on my first coconut club. The children are the greatest it's instant love! The school is a Kings school which means it is funded by the King providing the children a free education, schoolbooks, classroom supplies, lunches etc. (There are approximately 45 schools within the Kings program in Thailand). Kalama teaches around 600 children. approximately 120 of those 600 are orphaned and live on the school grounds permanently, like a boarding school. These are the children that the Foundation focuses their energy on. The school has given our foundation 4 classrooms where we employ 4 English teachers through our foundation to teach these 120 resident children English. After school the resident children hang around the grounds bored before the school provides dinner, which was how Coconut Club was founded.

Coconut Club, is a newer development of the Phuket Has Been Good To Us Foundation, which is a program for the kids to help foster English Learning while also providing fun after school activities. Yesterday the activity was Skateboarding (which is very popular here) and the kids who stay in the classroom played twister, where we focused on learning colors and body parts. Many volunteers who help with the foundation participate in Coconut Club, either running an activity or helping assist an activity. The foundation sees volunteers for 3-6 months, 9 months, 3 weeks or sometimes even passing through for the day. One of my tasks as a coordinator for this fabulous bunch, is to ensure that their time spent with us is beneficial to the children and the foundation.

Oh by the way, Burmese food is incredible, I've never had the real deal until last night. I think it might be the best food ever!

Okay more later, I must go now to see the man who has everything.... (thats what they say)

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Sawatdee kaa!

Greetings from Phuket, Thailand and sa-wat dee which means Hello! Thank you all for the last minute send offs, I made it safely after leaving Monday evening from Portland and I'm now writing to you Thursday morning Thai time.

My takeoff from Portland was an epic, long romantic goodbye, and no I'm not referring to Steve. I've never seen anything quite like it. As we climbed into flying altitude, I put my headphones on to relax after airport chaos only to find Portland had brewed up a special farewell for me. To my left among the empty seats on this tiny jet liner headed to Vancouver, was the most beautiful coral, pink and purpuled horizon sunset shinning in, to light up the plane. To my right out my window was Mt St. Helens so close I wanted to step out the window and sit on it. In the back of Helens sat Mt. Hood enormous both glowing from the pinks and golds in the sky from the west. Gig In The Sky roared in my ears selected at random by my ipod as if the moment couldn't have gotten any more glorious. Then the Giant Mt. Rainier came rolling in at what seemed like an arms length distance. Cheers to the North West in all her beauty she is truly Magnificent!!

It took a whole 27 hours between layovers and 4 flights to get here and although I lost both my bags along the way, I wouldn't trade it for the unforgettable scenery when I flew over Hong Kong, or my meeting with my final destination, which has already exceeded my expectations. Phuket is adorable, tropical, underdeveloped, friendly and relaxed. The people smile and greet you everywhere you go. My bosses Tina and Carl picked we up from the airport which is approximately an hour from my home and our office in Kamala (pronounced cam-a-la). Driving for my first hour on the island was hilly, winding and beautiful. Palm trees mixed in with giant tall shady pine looking trees and blooming flowers. The normal 3rd world unregulated road rage frenzy is well in place here although I must say they are quite more upscale having paved concrete, designated parking spots and sometimes even yellow lines. I think I saw a handful of people use their blinkers on my drive in.

On Wednesdays and Saturdays there is a local farmers market, lucky for me since I arrived on a Wednesday I could pick up some groceries before heading to my new home. The market is a ghetto structured layout of vendor booth after vendor booth clustered together in a zig-zag format. The smells are so aromatic it will make you hungry even if you just ate a feast. People passed me with coconuts split in half filled with the milk, some nuts, lime and some spices which they ate with a spoon. I followed Tina to her fruit man where mangos came in three varieties all for 1.75 per kilo. Tina said this was considered expensive and most often the varieties were different week to week. I saw about 4 different varieties of lychees, passion fruit watermelon, papaya, limes etc... Off to the Vegetable woman where I bought 2 carrots bigger than any carrots I've ever seen, fresh mint, coriander, scallions, ginger with the stalk still on in, fresh lettuce, cherry tomatoes, baby sweet cucumbers and large cucumbers, fresh broccoli rab, huge golden yukon potatoes, yellow onion, sugar snap peas and limes all for 120 baht (thats like 3.50). Then I went to the meat stand where I saw the freshest, cleanest looking chicken I've ever seen. You pick out your own meat from the different cuts lying out on on a huge table and put them in your tray which they then charge you like 50 baht for a couple kilos (1.50). There were shrimp, prawns, fish, pork, coconut milk, rice, eggs for 1 baht, egg noodles made the day of, and in case you get hungry from all the beautiful colors there's people frying the ingredients around you in huge woks making beautiful food everywhere you turn. It's a farmers market heaven out here- all they need is a bakery ; )

My apartment is quaint, and larger than I expected (so quite nice). So far I'm enjoying it very much. I have a big bed, basic kitchen amenities for cooking, two bedrooms, a shower, an air conditioner, a nice balcony and my wonderful neighbors downstairs of course (My office) : Phuket Has Been Good To Us.

Today I'll take some pix of work and apartment for you and try to find me a motorbike!
La gon!