Sunday, 22 October 2017

9th Week: Forestry Conservation

Sawadii ka, everyone!

This week's program was Forestry Conservation in Nakhon Ratchasima, where we stayed in the Greenway Forest View Resort, the same one we stayed at during the Buddhism Week.

This project was more of a gap-filler week, since I just didn't want to do other programs twice and wanted to try something new. Therefor my expectations weren't that high anyways so, I'm going to tell the truth right away, this week was definitely not my favourite and it wasn't crazy mind-blowing either.

Don't get me wrong; it's not a bad project but the amazing view is literally half the fun and I've obviously already seen that before. I also don't regret spending my week there, since it was actually quite rewarding, because we actually did some hard work and helped locals. Leeet me just tell you how it went!


Monday

Today the travel to Nakhon Ratchasima, for the second time for me, began. It was a bit different to the first time, since we had to stop at Singburi Immigration for some Visa work and then at the post office so I could send my letter for the election back to Austria.

We then drove to the Chet Sao Noi waterfall again and had a half an hour break there. This time we didn't go swimming, though, since the weather was quite cool and there were lots of locals at the waterfall, anyways. Instead we just walked around a bit and even found a Buddha tree. Those trees are often decorated with multicoloured strings, pieces of fabric and flowers. They are most of  the time really big and old trees and they are so important, because the first Buddha got to the enlightenment while sitting under one of those big and old trees.


After visiting the waterfall, we drove a few minutes and then got lunch at a small eating area. We stayed there for a few minutes and continued our drive to the resort. It rained a lot and I we wouldn't have been able to put down tarpolins on the sides of the car, we all would've been drenched.


We eventually arrived at the Forest View Resort and got dinner right away, since it was already 5 o'clock. Then we waited for the rain to stop and went to our rooms. 


I shared it with a girl from the Netherlands, who was going to be doing the Buddhism week this week. This time the room even had air-conditioning! The toilet wouldn't flush, though, and the shower wasn't working either so we moved from room 12 to room 13 and there everything was fine.

The whole evening I didn't really do anything besides writing in my travel diary, working on the blog and watching a few YouTube videos, before we all got ready for bed and went to sleep.


Tuesday

On Tuesday we went to eat breakfast at 8 o'clock.  Us people from the Forestry Conservation project (meaning the coordinator, a chinese couple and I) didn't leave until 9:30h, since it had rained during the night and the ground was still too wet to work with it. The project took place at the view point we went to the first day of Buddhism Week so we had beautiful surroundings.


At first, we all took a few pictures and then went to meet the master of the national park. He just asked us a few questions about ourselves and our thoughts on Thailand until a park ranger arrived.
Then the park ranger picked us up and showed us the place where we were going to be working this week. It was a green space with 15 young trees on it.


Our first duty was to dig up the earth around each tree and make a trench so that, when it rains, the water can get to the roots more easily. At first we had to cut the grass and weed with huge gardening spades and then, as I said, dig up the earth.




Doing so was really exhausting, even though the sun wasn't even shining and it was only around 25 degrees. I even got a few blisters on my hands because the spades were extremely heavy.


We did the whole transformation thingy with 7 trees before eating lunch, that we brought from the resort. It was just rice with some sort of vegetable-sauce-thingy. After a quite long lunch break we worked one more tree and then moved on to the next exercise.




Since October was the month Thailand's previous king passed away, last year, he gets honored the whole month. Thai people plant yellow flowers for him, so that's what we did as well.


At first we picked the dry flowers from the bushes, separated the seeds and then spread them around the trees that we've prepared before. While doing this, it started to rain so we quickly finished the task and went back to the resort.

In the afternoon we could've went to the market but, since I've already been there when doing the Buddhism Week and didn't need anything, I stayed at the resort and wrote down some financial stuff, wrote in my travel diary and also spend some time on my phone until dinner. After dinner I just continued doing the mentioned stuff.


Wednesday

Wednesday morning at around five o'clock, my roommate left to go to the temple, which meant, I had the room to myself until Friday. I fell asleep pretty quickly and woke up right before breakfast at eight.




At 9:30am we left again to go to the view point. There we continued digging up the earth around the trees and finished the whole line. My blisters from the day before were really sore but I obviously still worked as hard as I could.


It then started to rain so we just waited in the car until it stopped. After lunch we picked those yellow flowers again and this time I actually found a little snake in the bush! We separated the seeds from the stem and put them around the rest of the trees we've prepared.


The last task for the day was to tie together three sticks per tree to give it support when there's storms and rainfalls in that area. We had to tie them really tight and balance them the right way so that it actually would work. 

At first the park ranger had to help us a lot with the tieing pattern but after a few attempts we picked it up and we tied up the gallows frames for all 15 trees.

Back in the resort it started to rain like crazy so I just went to my room and stayed there the whole evening. I did go to get dinner, though. I spent the rest of the day videocalling friends before getting ready for bed and going to sleep.


Thursday

We left at 9:30am again to go to the view point. This time the car almost couldn't get up because it has been raining so much and the road was extremely muddy. We made it eventually and asked the park ranger what we would be doing that day.




We had to plant three baby trees around each prepared tree from the days before. It took us the whole morning to plant all 40 little trees.
Gao, the chinese guy digged the big holes, Christina, his wife, crushed the earth and I put the young trees in it and did the main part of planting them.




We then had to put thin bamboo sticks next to every young tree so that they would have support when they grow as well.




After a super long lunch break, we picked flowers again (this time without seeing a snake), separated them and distributed them in a flower bed, that one of the park rangers has prepared for us in the morning.

It wasn't even 3 o'clock yet, when our coordinator said it was "too hot" for more work so we had to go back to the resort, even though it wasn't even that hot. Back in the resort there was obviously nothing to do so I just sat in my room the rest of the day and read a book before and after dinner.


Friday

Friday was kind of an unfortunate day for me. We initially wanted to drive up the mountain to the view point again, finish our work and do a little tour to see what all the volunteers from the weeks before worked on but this time we really couldn't get up the hill with the car.

Our coordinator decided that it would be best to end the working/volunteering part here and end the week with a little bit of culture, so that the chinese couple, who was only staying for one week, could get to know it a little better.


We first went to the big temple, I spent a few days at in the Buddhism week. The coordinator showed the chinese people around a bit and I went to see if I could find either the two girls who were doing Buddhism week or the German monk.

First I found the german monk and talked with him for a while about my previous weeks, my next weeks, his hospital stay due to a injured foot and just stuff about meditation and Buddhism.


Eventually I met the two girls as well, shortly before we left the temple again. We then went to another temple I've been before. It was the one with the european master monk. There all we did was taking pictures and walking around a pond.
Maxime then called me and said that the group, who was doing the Buddhism week, had trouble with starting their car to go back to the resort so we had to drive there again and help them. We managed to get the car going again and went back to the resort to have lunch.



 
At 3pm we left for the afternoon Programm which was the same as the one from Buddhism week. First we went to a small street market where we got some iced coffee and smoothies.

Then we went to see the temple again and after that we visited the mushroom farm, where I actually bought some mushroom crisps this time.


The last destination was a view point where we enjoyed the mountain/forest view and took pictures before it started to rain. Back at the accommodation the rain became a really heavy thunderstorm and we even had a lighting struck into a lamp in the dining hall. After dinner we all just went back to our rooms and started packing since we were leaving the next morning.


Saturday 

This day was a travel day. We left the Forest View Resort after breakfast and started the drive back to Twinhouse. After about two hours we stopped at a gad station where we all got either iced coffee, chocolate or smoothies.

Then we had to drop off three people at Lopburi Busstation since they were going to go to Bangkok. For lunch we went to this one food stand hall again and after eating lunch we got some dessert at a little sweet shop.

We arrived at Twinhouse at about 2pm and I spent my afternoon doing laundry, writing in my diary and watching Netflix. After dinner I also skyped with a friend and then went to bed quite early.


Sunday

I didn't really do anything on Sunday. Breakfast was at 10 and during the day I just sat in the community area, talked with people who've just arrived, talked with the Greenway manager, wrote in my journal and worked on the blog. In the evening I skyped with some friends again and fled to my room right after dinner since the mosquitos were basically eating me alive.

Sunday, 8 October 2017

8th Week: Weekend in Bangkok

Sawadii ka, everyone!

My 8th weekend was spent in Bangkok. On our first weekend there we were staying near Khaosan Road, the great palace, the river and all those touristy places. This time we were staying near Lumphini park, since we wanted to see monitor lizards, go to a skybar and a pool party, which both were part of hotels near Lumphini park as well. We stayed at "The Cube Hostel" which was really really nice and I'd recommend it, if you ever plan on visiting that part of Bangkok as well. This weekend turned out to be one of the best experiences here, so far, since we had just so much fun the whole time. 


Friday 

We left at 1 o'clock on Friday, right after sports coaching. We took a minivan from Singburi bus station to Mo Chit, the main bus station in Bangkok. There we had to wait in a queue for a taxi and when it was finally our turn to get into one, we weren't that lucky. Our taxi driver knew no English at all and obviously didn't understand where we wanted to go, even though we showed him the address in Thai aswell.


Instead of trying to guide him directly to our hostel, we said he should just bring us to Lumphini park since that was near our hostel. Apparently he didn't know this major landmark of Bangkok and we had to find someone who could translate to him where we wanted to go. Thankfully a thai women could explain everything to him and we could finally start driving. 


I don't even know if you could call that driving since there was so much traffic again that we barely even drove. After one and a half hours (usually it wouldn't even take 30 minutes) we finally arrived near Lumphini park ,so we got out of the taxi and tried to find our hostel via Google maps.


It was about 5 minutes away from Lumphini park and, at first glance, looked amazing. It was really modern, had a great lobby and a nice receptionist. We checked in at about 5 o'clock and went to our rooms to relax a bit before going to Khaosan road.


At 6:30pm we decided to leave the hostel and look for a taxi or a tuk tuk which could bring us to the mentioned road. This turned out to be quite a difficult task since there were no tuk tuks at all and the taxis wouldn't take us due to traffic. We finally could get a tuk tuk to come to the side of the road and took it. The drive to Khaosan road was pretty fast, even though the traffic was so bad that day, but tuk tuks fit between the cars most of the time and could overtake them easily.



At Khaosan road we went straight to a little side road where there were lots of little shops. The main reason, why we went to Khaosan road again, was that I still needed to buy lots of souvenirs for my friends an family and remembered that this side road was the perfect place for that. 


In between all that shopping we also got some really cheap but really good spring rolls and I bought a box of sticky rice with mango for the first time. I promised a friend that I would try it in Thailand because he loves it so much and it, indeed, was delicious.


We went back to our  hostel at 9 o'clock and just changed and got ready before leaving to the Vertigo Moon Bar at the Banyan Tree Hotel. We really wanted to go to a skybar this weekend to see Bangkok from another perspective and since this one was quite near our hostel and, in addition to that, the second highest skybar in Bangkok (it's on the 61st floor), we decided to go there.


As expected, the view was simply amazing. We could see so many fancy hotels, massive buildings and simple streets, all lit up, from a birds eye view. We even got a table directly at the railing, after a few minutes, so that made the whole experience even better. 


Since it was a skybar and they don't charge entry, the drinks were extremely expensive. I paid 360B (9€) for a simple coke and that was the cheapest drink you could get there. The view made up for that price, though. If we would've had to pay entrance, that wouldn't have been a reasonable price, but, since we didn't, it was worth it.



We stayed at the skybar until midnight and then decided to go back to our hostels already, since we wanted to get up pretty early the next day to see Lumphini park.


Saturday 

Saturday morning we went to Lumphini park. I really wanted to see a monitor lizard there since this park was famous for being the habitat for lots and lots of monitors.
After a few minutes we finally spotted the first one, which was a quite large one, though. It let me come quite close actually and so I could take some nice pictures of it. We, of course, saw many other lizards after the first one and some of them were huge! 


The park itself was really beautiful as well. Especially with those little lakes and the skyscrapers in the background.
Here and there we also spotted some little egret birds which stood at the shore and waited for fish, they could eat. There was a good amount of people in the park, even though it was quite early in the morning, and most of them were running or cycling and a few were practicing Tai Chi. 

After going back to the hostel, where I changed and packed for the pool party, we went for lunch in a quite western restaurant.
Felicity, the girl I was spending the weekend with, and I both got mac'n'cheese, which was super delicious and finally something other than rice. We then went to seven eleven to buy some drinks and snacks since we were going to stay at the SO Sofitel the whole day.


When we arrived at the Hotel, we went straight to the hotel room of two fellow volunteers who booked it just for the pool party. We spent an hour or so playing card games and enjoying the beautiful view over Lumphini park and Bangkok in general. 


At about 3pm we decided to go down to the party. There we got a free drink and since the event was sponsored by Mo√ęt, the drink was a glass of champagne.
The ambience was so nice at the party and so was the pool and, of course, the view. We decided to go for a swim in the infinity pool and even managed to get sunbeds directly at it.


Since the weather wasn't that great for a pool party and the water wasn't warm either, we got cold quite quickly but it was worth the view. We were at the pool for a few hours before deciding to go back to the hotel room for a bit until the actual party was going to start.


We went down again at half past five and the party was already in progress. There were lots of people there who danced to the music, swam in the pool and simply had fun.
The party was only until 9pm but after 8 hours of drinking, dancing and having fun, we were pretty tired anyways. After the party has ended, we went up to the room one last time for a few minutes and let the evening come to an end. 


Felicity and I then went back to the hostel and were there at about eleven, which meant, we were going to get a good amount of sleep this night, I won't be tired at the way back to Singburi and Felicity had time to pack the next day, since she was going to go back home to England on Monday.


Sunday

On Sunday I had to go back to Singburi already. But before I left with two other girls, who were going to go back as well, I went for breakfast with Felicity.
We went to a bakery/self-service shop near our hostel, called Au Bon Pain, where we got some pastries. I got one chocolate and one strawberry crossaint pocket thingy and, let me tell you, they were delicious.



After breakfast we went back to the hostel and I packed my stuff since I had to check out before 12 o'clock. After checking out, me and the two other girls left the hostel (and Felicity) and started looking for a taxi.
We eventually found one and only paid 150B (3,70€) for a half an hour drive to Mo Chit bus station. There we had to wait an hour for the bus to Singburi. On the bus we met other volunteers who just arrived in Thailand for the Greenway projects.



Back at Twinhouse it was already dinner time so we obviously ate something. After dinner I talked a bit with some "new people" and went to my room quite early because of the mosquitos and because I still needed to pack for the next weeks program, which was Forestry Conservation in Nakhon Ratchasima.

Thursday, 5 October 2017

8th Week: Sports Coaching

Sawadii ka, everyone!

Believe it or not, this week I did sports coaching. Yes. Sports coaching. For that we went to the Anuban Promburi school everyday and played different games and sports with kids from grade kindergarten to six.
On Tuesday we even had a sports day, which my fellow volunteer, Felicity, has organised the weeks before as part of her internship. It sure as hell was hard sometimes, especially because the students (and most teachers) can't really understand English, so actually "coaching" them was nearly impossible. We still had a great time this week!


Monday 

Monday was my first day at the school where sports coaching takes place. We were four volunteers this week and I was the only "new" one since the other three did sports coaching as their main program here. 

I first had to change clothes after breakfast because I forgot that we had to cover our shoulders when teaching in a school. In the orphanages that was no problem. I don't know why, though, since there were schools at the property as well. 

When we got to the school, we first had to attend a little meeting about the sports day, which would take place the next day. Since Felicity was the only one who knew everything about it, the two other volunteers and I already went to the gymnasium to coach the first class.


It was kindergarten 1 and those kids were so little that we couldn't really play any sports with them. We did a warm up by just passing volleyballs to each other and then moved on to playing an easy game. 



Basically, everyone sits in a circle and one kid has to stand up, go around it and touch everybody on the head until they start to shake someone.
The chosen one, then, has to stand up quickly and try to catch the first kid, which has to run around the circle once and sit down at the place where the second child sat before. Then everything starts from the beginning again.


An hour later the next class came in which was kindergarten 2. Felicity joined us and did a little warm up and stretch with them. We then played the same game we played with Kindergarten 1 and also a game where we sat in the circle and made the kids roll the ball to each other.


After lunch at the school we got back to Twinhouse where I just took a shower. Then there was no afternoon program for us so we sat in the community area, talked and played cards until we had dinner and went to bed later.

Tuesday

Tuesday was sports day. We had to get up a little bit earlier to be at the school at 8:30am. There, all the kids were already standing in lines on the field and ready for a welcoming speech and the warm up.
At first we did the typical warm up; things like jumping jacks, running and stretching. Then one teacher connected her laptop to the speakers, turned on music and everybody danced for a bit.

After the whole sports day introduction, we divided the classes in 4 groups. Kindergarten 1 and 2, Grade 1 and 2, Grade 3 and 4, and grade 5 and 6. That day we were 6 volunteers because two of Thai Boxing joined us for the sports day. There were always 2 volunteers with one team consisting of two grades and two teachers helped as well.

I teamed up with Pauline, a french girl, and took care of the first and second graders. We first played chair ball with them which is basically basket-ball, but since they don't have a basket-ball hoop in their school, one child always has to stand on a chair with a laundry basket in its hands.
There's also no dribbling, just passing the ball and running. We counted all the baskets they've sunken in 30 minutes, and wrote down which team won. 

Next we did relay races with the kids. We placed them in pairs on the side of the field and gave the first pair each a filled water bottle, which they needed to pass on to the next one of their team.
After a few practise rounds, they finally understood how the game worked and did really good. This time the other team won so it was a tie after that.

Luckily we had a third game to see which team actually won the morning games. The game was "over and under". It was a really easy game, where each team stood in a row and every child had to pass a ball to the person behind it.
The first kid had to pass the ball over its head to the next one, the second kid had to pass the ball between its legs to the next one and so on and so forth. The last child in the row had to run in front of the row and the game started over again until the kid, which started the game, stood in front of the row again. The team, which completed that task first, won. 

The other volunteers played similar games with their group of children or added different kinds of sport like volleyball, soccer or badminton to their program.

In the afternoon, after lunch break, we all went to the gymnasium to sit down in two huge circles with all the students, except for the kindergarteners since they've already gone home.
The rest of the school day was spent playing games. We played games like "The wind blows", "Hot hot potato", "Musical statues", etcetera. During those games we went ahead and handed out candy to all students which they really appreciated.
What a surprise. Here and then, a few kids came up to me and started tickling me (I fought back, of course) and one girl even gave me a key chain as a present. 


Back at twinhouse there was no afternoon program so we played cards again before, and also after, dinner, until we went back to our rooms to escape the mosquitos.


Wednesday 

Today we went to the school at the usual time, 9am, again. The first students to be coached were the third graders.
After the warm up they split up into several groups and each one of us volunteers got one group to play one kind of sports with. I was lucky and got chosen by a group to play ping pong with them. So that's what we did for the whole lesson, while the others played volleyball, soccer or badminton. 

The next grade was fifth grade. With those kids we just played some "circle games". Mostly games where they had to catch each other and run around so that they could  work off their energy.


After lunch at the school, we went back to twin house and at 1pm we all went to the swimming pool. We were there until 4 o'clock and, obviously, swam, talked, played ball games and ate ice cream. Just like any other day at the pool.

When we got back to twin house we had a bit time to shower and relax a bit before going to the Thai BBQ. There we had dinner and afterwards went to the bar across the road and spent the rest of the evening there, having fun.


Thursday

On Thursday we only had to be at the school for one hour because only grade 6 had PE that day.
We did a quick warm up with them, where every student had to present one move that everyone else had to copy. Then they split up in groups to do different types of sport. I was with the kids, who wanted to play ping pong, again. 

Apparently there were some important people at the school that day so the kids had to wear their scouts uniform.
Those people also joined playing ping pong later on and we did a little tournament. At 11 o'clock our half-day was over and we ate lunch before going back to twin house where we had a break until 1pm. 





At 1pm we went to another school to teach English until 3pm. There the children were super cute and clingy. We taught them about body parts, conversations, week days, months, colours, objects and the alphabet.
They were really motivated to learn about all that and repeated everything we said very loudly.

At 5:30pm, after dinner, we went to the big tesco mall where I topped up my data, withdrew money and went to tesco to buy a new notebook and snacks.


I didn't stay outside very long that day because the mosquitos made me crazy so I went to my room quite early to pack for my second weekend in Bangkok, since we would leave right after sports coaching the next day.


Friday

Friday was a really short day at school for us. We got there at 9:30h and already left after an hour. Usually we would've gone to a high-school in the afternoon but since we were going to leave for Bangkok at 1pm already, we skipped that.


Today it was the 4th graders turn to be coached. The first part of the lesson I played badminton with a few girls and then they all insisted on playing some of those circle games again. 

Right before the lesson ended, their teacher picked them up from the gym and said they'd be right back.
When they got back after a few minutes they stood in front of us and thanked us for coaching them. One girl even prepared an English speech for us and we got lots of drawings and little presents, like necklaces, key chains and origami birds from them as a "thank you". It was really sweet and I was kind of sad to leave them, even though I've only spent one week at that school with them. 


We had lunch at twinhouse and, after we've finished packing, we left for Bangkok at 1pm to spend one of the best weekends of my trip there. But that story is for another blog post.