Monday, July 30, 2012

Rambling Thought Processes = Me

"Take me home country road, to the place where I belong West Virginia Mountain Mom-A take me home, country road", was blaring in the speakers of the 1997 Toyota Tacoma and I had just gotten back from Mr. and Mrs. Becton's wedding in the United States.  It made me think of just where exactly my "home" was.  I had returned from enjoying time with family and friends and nieces and nephews and now here I was back in Thailand where everything felt just as comfortable as when I left six days before, a weird contrast.  Then for the next week I wasn't sure whether I should believe that my life was the one I left behind in Arkansas a year and a half ago or the life I currently live here in Thailand because both of them seemed like a dream.  Then I came to the conclusion that there is no "real life", it is just "my life" and throughout "my life" I will develop and grow and experience new things whether those things are positive or negative.

I often think of Donnie Ray Crawford III when I think about my development and also many many others.  Donnie Ray affected who I was when I was just a child and continues to have an affect on who I am becoming as my thoughts are constantly surrounding the fact that he won't be here on Earth anymore (a big reason I stopped writing on the blogster).

All things aside I wanted to start up on the ol' blog again.  Honestly I just didn't know where to start.  I was so convinced that there were so many things in the world that were of more importance than sitting down typing on a computer about useless information so I stopped writing.  But then I realized how much I have learned and continue to learn from the stories of others and the goodness of other people (Donnie included) and reasoned to myself that my thoughts are useless to me because they are my own, I can think of them anytime I'd like, but maybe to another, someone I care about, someone I don't even know, my child that is not even born (mom sorry I haven't told you about that), or even myself somewhere down the road, my words and stories will be of some importance or use.

Soooo, whether you like it or not....this is a new start and a fresh beginning to my time in Thailand.  Still have 8 months of my time to give and at least 8 new blogs.  I know already, you are excited, but not everyone has to leave  comments at the bottom of the page saying so!

Go Hogs,


Monday, March 12, 2012

World Spins Madly On

I am not sure where or if to start but I suppose giving an effort is a good thing right?

So it has been over a year, in fact a year and a few months, since I arrived in Thailand.  A lot has changed in such a short while.  Marriages, births and unfortunately deaths.  If someone were to tell me fifteen months before this point in time that so much would have come to pass while I was gone I would have had to think long and hard about my decision before coming here.  That being said, I am glad I am here and have had the opportunity of a lifetime to experience and learn so much.  Still though, sometimes it feels like I am in Thailand, in a dream, and the world is spinning madly on.

Things have really picked up in the Peace Corps Experience.  I have been really busy lately which is a great alternative to not being busy.  I have enjoyed the pleasures of meeting many young people and teachers from all over the country through a couple of fantastic camps/conferences.  

The first camp I attended was held by the Thai Youth Theatre Committee here in Thailand.  I jumped at the chance to go and help in Pitsanulok, Thailand which is in one of the Northern Provinces.  It was a three day event focused on building self-esteem and confidence in Thai students through the arts.  The Committee planned and funded everything and the camp was a great success!  When the camp was over I was extremely proud of each and every student that camp to participate in the camp.  The students, teachers and volunteers were also able to share in an exceptional cultural experience as theatre groups from literally ALL over Thailand came to join.  The Southern, Northern, Northeastern and Central parts of Thailand were represented so not only did the students get to share in American culture but they also got to share their culture from their respective parts of the country with their peers.  Before heading home I was invited by a local high school that performed in the theatre if I would like to go home with them on their "song taew" which is like a truck with two rows of seats in the back.  I was hesitant at first and then I figured what a great opportunity to get to meet new people and students, especially ones from my community.  We were off and little did I know I was in for a visit to a beautiful waterfall amongst the company of the Hmong hill tribes (which hold a special place in my heart because of friends back home) and a one night camp-out in the national forest before heading back home to Yasothorn.  It was awesome and I hope to participate again next year.  

The second camp I attended took place in Nakhon Phanom, Thailand which is just north of my province, Yasothorn, about 200 kilometers.  The bus ride there takes about 7 hours which doesn't make much sense but unless you live here or come to visit I cannot not explain it to you on this blog (I am not sure if a 7 hour bus ride is an incentive to come visit).  I arrived, per usual, to a warm Thai welcome and smiling faces.  As a precursor to explaining why this camp was so awesome I would like to say that after the warm welcome sometimes volunteers are left to run the camp by themselves and the objective of the camp is defeated.  This camp was a "Love Your Body, Empower Your Mind" camp which had to do with healthy bodies and minds with stations dealing with Gender Empowerment, Self-Esteem, Sexual Health and Fitness.  The camp was to be done in only Thai language and although our Thai is steadily improving, the participation of the Thai teachers was critical.  The teachers were AMAZING, they stayed around the whole camp and really did their homework which helped to engage and encourage the students to really learn the material (I wish I could express how great the teachers and students were at this camp, they should be a model for schools all over rural Thailand).  A special guest, the Ambassador of the United States to Thailand also showed up for a couple of hours where she helped cook lunch with the students and addressed the importance of women in Thailand knowing they can achieve everything the men can and more.  I think it really made an impression on the female students.  The Ambassador is a very genuine person and I was glad to get the chance to talk with her for about an hour about anything and everything that we are doing here as Peace Corps Volunteers.  

On top of these two camps I have just joined the HIV/AIDS Global Initiative Group here in Thailand so I had a meeting in Bangkok as well.  "Work" life has been busy for sure and I am glad it is. 

In the upcoming four weeks I will be going with my secondary students from one of my schools to Chonburi for their end of the year vacation.  When I get back from that I will be heading to Bangkok for a meeting for a week or so and then to the South for vacation before meeting my brothers Pat and Joe back in Bangkok for the start their vacation and Thai New Year (Songkran).  Needless to say, I will have a lot to write about to cover the coming month.....I'm pumped......Oh and I dominated intramural volleyball this year we are taking home the 'ship!

Rest In Peace Donnie Ray my brother, your life was and always will be an inspiration to me and many many others.  I love you. I miss you.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

How Is This The Cheesiest?

Macaroni and Cheeses
New Years'
Picture Frames
Family Portraits
Beef Jerkeys
Draft Beers
Kentucky Bourbons
Sweet Belts
And other things and stuff with lots of many more things......

Just some of the things (and stuff) I was able to experience/have over the holidays thanks to the many people, family and friends, that have supported me throughout this last year.  Sometimes it is great to bask in that fact and that no matter where I go or what I do, the people I have met throughout the times have stuck with me this long.

I want to wish everyone whom I know and love a very belated yet Merry Christmas and Happy New Year with good health, good memories and great times for this sweet macaroni and cheesy New Year (at least mine will be thanks to a couple of great friends Belchheimer and Abernasty).

So I was able to live it up for a couple of weeks thanks in large part to three friends from the states: Smith, Belch and Way.  I would be lying if I said I didn't wish those guys were hanging out here with me now.  It has been quite an adjustment trying to get back to being the only native English speaking bro around these parts.

Smith came solo and was able to get to my village before heading to the beach.  I think being in the village with all of the new things and my small animal infested habitat was a challenge at first but after re-cooperating from the flight and getting some rest Smith eventually came around and we had a fantastic time at the beach with some snorkeling, deep sea fishing and some elephant riding.  Smith has been a great friend for a long time now and I deeply appreciated his efforts to make it to Thailand and work through some early challenges to pull through and have a great time.  Thanks Smith!

As for Way and Belch, I am not sure exactly what we did.  We hung out a lot, I am pretty sure that is what we are all best at.  We had Christmas on the beach and they brought presents of cheesy goodness, sorries, beef jerkies and the list goes on (I have to thank Becton, Pat, Joe, Mom, Dad, Belcher, Way and Smith for all the great gifts).  When I first left I didn't think I would have anything to converse about after a year or two without my good buddies but the fact that we did not miss a beat really made me happy.  It felt like we had just left a football game and went to Powerhouse for some gator.  Can't say we did a whole lot of touristy Thailand things but I can say that they allowed me to be a bro and that was a great Christmas gift in itself, even if they didn't know.  So I want to say thank you Belcher and Way for coming to visit me and SORRY (inside jokes and stuff)!

And me...Well now it is back to real life (or kind of).  I am back in Yasothorn eating some of my favorites:  Fermented fish, sticky rice and papaya salad.  I tried my first run at raw fish here in the village and it was pretty good stuff.  I have been pretty impressed with my raw meat eating abilities after just one year of being here hopefully I won't regret that later in life when the intestinal parasites continue to eat away at my insides (jokes).  First day of teaching since pretty much the end of November was today and I had a good one.  I also cleaned up the house and washed some clothes (washing machine still broke so I am going by hand style these days) which made me feel better about getting back in the groove.

All in all, I can't complain.  Great friends, great times and great country.

Keep on keepin on,


Monday, December 5, 2011


My time in Thailand is somewhat like popular song.  You hear it once and you are not sure what to think about it.  You talk to your friends and they let you know "yeah man, that song is pretty sweet bro".  You listen to it again and you begin to hope to hear it again on the radio (this was back when radio was still fairly cool).  You associate with the song and the lyrics and begin to somewhat understand what the songwriter is talking about and now rather than just a good melodic vibe, you begin to think, "why do I like this song?".  Then you find yourself hearing that song again somewhere out and about with buddies and now you have related this song to a particular event or point of time in your life.  Then the song gets really really old and rather than wanting to hear the song everywhere you go on every hit station, you quickly change the dial and maybe drop a few inappropriate slurs in the direction of the radio broadcasters. For that period of time you never want to hear the song again.  This is where things turn around.  The next time your hear that song, maybe a year later, you are taken back to that night out with the bros and that night out reminds you of a great time in your life.

By now you are wondering how this relates at all to anything about anything.  You are probably ready for the principal in the movie Billy Madison to come out and repeat his famous line "Mr. Fries, what you've just said is one of the most insanely idiotic things I have ever heard. At no point in your rambling, incoherent response were you even close to anything that could be considered a rational thought. Everyone in this room is now dumber for having listened to it. I award you no points, and may God have mercy on your soul", but just hear me out.

So I was not sure what to think about Thailand when I first arrived.  I got a pretty good vibe and the people surrounding me in the Peace Corps inner circles seemed like great support; even good friends after a couple days on a plane together. 

In the following days and months I was able to talk with my new found friends about what they thought about this new country and a new line of work.  They responded as I expected them.  No matter what they really thought the response was "yeah man, this is pretty sweet bro", it was new, it was popular.

When PST was over we were on our way into the great unknown where our new beginnings were going to start and where we were on our own.  This is where we really got to know whether or not we really liked Thailand.  We collectively listened to the melody but we were having to much fun to realize what the words were.  When I got to site I finally started listening and found out what Thailand was all about.  I learned the intricicies of the words in the song and I was like "Why do I like this song?".  As I went about the next few months and the newness of what the words meant to me wore off I began to "turn the dial" every time I heard the song (literally, like in the morning at 5am when the truck is blasting Maw Lam so you will come out of your "baan" and buy some "moo" from the back of their "rote truck").  I would drop a few inappropriate slurs at the broadcasters for forcing me to listen to that song day after day. 

Then things changed, I quickly blocked everything out, turned off my radio and started listening to my own music.  My own music consisted of songs that I had previously felt the same way about.  But no matter how old those songs used to be, I hadn't listened to them in a long time and they sounded new again. 

It took a little bit of time before I decided to play the song again.  I was weary of what the song might do to my overall morale.  When I played it again for the first time it was like I was taken back to that night out with the bros and made me realize that this is a great time in my life that I have started to learn to appreciate no matter what the hardships.  Even if you were to potentially break your computer and washing machine and accidently kill the two geckos that had been living in your house longer than you had all in one week....mind you this is just a no way should this give you the idea that I did all these things in one week.....I'm just giving an example.....You still are able to listen to that song and it reminds you of good times.

This is not to say that after you listen to the song for a little while longer it will become old again because trust me, it will.  But the good news is that song will always remind you of a point in time in your life.  You will look back, listen again someday and just as the song taught you to do before you knew it so well, you'll smile.

So anyway,   No I will not make out with you! You got Chlorophyll Man up there talking about God knows what and all she can talk about is making out with me. I'm here to learn, people, not to make out with you! Go on with the chlorophyll stuff!


Wednesday, November 9, 2011


Haven’t written in a while, feels like it has been a snap of the fingers, per usual.  As promised I had my parents write a little bit about what their experiences were like while in Thailand.  I think the most surprising things came about while staying in my village.  I am not sure if going there first was a good or a bad idea but I am sure it could have been a little overwhelming considering their first lunch meal consisted of the local cuisine “soke lek” or raw beef in blood with sticky rice.  The rents took everything in stride and I was very proud of them for opening their hearts and minds to a new culture and new customs.  Here are their respective opinions of the trip:


Our recent trip to visit Luke assured us that he is surrounded by people who care for him and are concerned for his well being.  Luke’s house has the comforts of home including hot water for showering and washing machine for his clothes. He even treated us to some home cooking of sticky rice, eggs and some fruits that we have never eaten before like dragon fruit and sawarot. We were also introduced to his 2 tokay geckos (Sr. and Jr.). I ventured over to see Sr. closer but he scooted behind the cabinet as I got closer.

Another pleasant surprise is all of the wonderful meals we have eaten; I am sure I have some extra pounds when I thought I might loose weight. For the last days of our visit, we have been on the island of Koh Chang which has beautiful white beaches and the weather has been heavenly.

Most of all, we are so proud of Luke and very impressed with his ability to move about Thailand and communicate with the people in a very proficient and engaging way. Although I really just want to take Luke home with us now, I know he is committed to his personal goals in Thailand and see that he is definitely an ambassador representing all of us and this is an experience of a lifetime. I pray God’s continued protection and guidance for Luke during this journey.


Our visit was to reconnect with our son Luke whom we missed a great deal.  But another aspect was to meet the host families who had taken such good care of him. Flooding prevented us from visiting one such family.  Often Luke expressed that he was overwhelmed by their generosity as well as the generosity of the members in the community.  We discovered first hand what he was trying to explain to us over an eight month period.  I can’t remember ever experiencing such hospitality.  Nor have I been treated to such meals with all their variety and exquisite seasonings.  Each dish exploded with flavor with the grasses, leaves and spices that gave them their great flavor.  Because our stay was short and I had a concern for globe trotting that has nothing to do with vacationing, I avoided some of the more interesting dishes and took Luke at his word that they too were awesome.  Hopefully, there was no offense taken when we did not partake.

The markets were stunning.  After visiting the third market, each getting progressively larger, my thoughts were, “How do all the fresh vegetables, fruit, fish, chicken, pork, beef and spices appear daily for all to purchase?”  The variety alone would keep the best New York City shopper mesmerized.  And after any purchase is made meals need to be prepared which gives me an even greater appreciation for those who hosted us because they also put in a long day at the farm or in the rice fields.  Thai people are very hard working people who, even if exhausted won’t show it and will give of themselves to serve others with a smile.  I am humbled and honored to have my son as part of such a community.  He has grown to know the language and culture (giving us a crash course the night before) and is respectful of the customs.  I am even prouder of him now as I see the gifts he possessed as a young boy become refined shaping him into the man God created him to be.  His decision to join the Peace Corps is indeed a good one.  We love him and miss him but he is in good hands.  For a parent that provides a great deal of peace and I thank you all for that.   God bless you!

I suppose each and every parent is partial to their own kids.  We had a blast, I have been greatly humbled by my experiences so far which, in turn, have made me appreciate how fortunate I am in every aspect of life. 


My Grandma Mary was a genuine, sarcastically funny, carefree, caring and behind what some believed to have been a scowl, one of the kindest people I have ever known.  I remember when I was little I would always ask my mom to ask Grandma questions for me, scared of what the answer might be.  That was before I knew better.  I am honored to have been able to have spent 24 years of my life getting to know her and I am deeply saddened that I am unable to join in the celebration of her life.  I thank you, I will always love you and I will miss you greatly (I’ll send some stoishee, not for you, but just in case the other folks want some). 



Snake I found living in my laundry basket when I got back home from vacation