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

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Ode to the 3 Rs: Rain, Razorbacks and Riskybussiness?

Here in amazing Thailand it rains nearly everyday.  In the states rainy days were great for sleeping, eating and watching a few movies.  Nothing is really accomplished and if something is accomplished, there is a high probability it is from a desk, possibly at the Tyson Discovery Center (Pat is always making discoveries I am sure of it).  In Thailand, there are no discoveries made on a rainy day, instead there are traditional practices. There are people hard at work, upwards of eight people riding in each vehicle (motorcycles included), all with something to do. Loud tractors filled with straw or logs to build structures conducted by tired farmers ride up and down the bumpy roads with purpose.  Every year in this beautiful country, rainy season means life and life in abundance.  Everything turns green as do the thumbs of Thai farmers.  Each meal consists of several dishes, organic vegetables, lizard, snake, fish, frogs and the list goes on.  Rainy season is not a dreary time in Thailand, instead it is the happiest time of the year.

 The change in seasons has brought me much happiness as well.  The rainy season in Thailand also accompanies my favorite season in Fayetteville; autumn.  As I type this blog entry I can almost feel the fall air enter my lungs, see the beautiful leaves in the Ozarks and hear the sound of the roaring Razorback crowd during a Saturday night football contest.  The red and white fills the stands like plump Petit Jean hot dogs fill their wrapper and victory tastes just as good as the crawfish boil that took place just hours before in the pit....ahh memories.

I have had the opportunity to do many things over the past few weeks and I feel very fortunate to have done so.  I went with the Ministry of Education in Yasothorn to "do ngaan" which translates to "watch work" in Pattaya, Thailand and Chonburi, Thailand.  We stayed a night in Pattaya and the second night stayed at a military base that was absolutely incredible.  Something about ocean water just seems to cleans the soul and the surrounding air provides a sense of wistfulness.  I was able to meet several principals from the surrounding schools in my communities, one of which happens to be a scratch golfer.  Many nights of talking, eating, singing karaoke and watching Issan traditional dance.  It was a healthy dose of Thai culture and man did I enjoy it.

On the way back on the bus from Chonburi, I took the liberty to get off the bus early and do some traveling on my own. Something about walking down the street in a place I am not familiar with and on the road to no where and with no plan in mind makes me feel free, a liberating and beautiful thing.  After about four hours of travel I landed in Khorat, Thailand.  I made a call and it came to be that a few Peace Corps friends were staying the night in Khorat as well. We met up and made the most of our time together.  Vacations are a great thing but sometimes they make me confused with where I am.  Just when I find a sense of comfortableness in where I live and what I am doing in the village the "big city" uproots me.  It is really inexplicable but  as one man from my village looked at me and said when walking down the street in Pattaya "wian hua" which means "spinning head".  Sometimes one just feels lost, overwhelmed with where they are because of cultural contrast or the seeing of new things, this is what the man was describing and I could not have agreed more.

Rode my bike back into the village as the sun was setting and my head was still somewhat "wian" from the week of travels and being outside "home".  A few days later I was beginning to find my niche again and just then I was invited to go to Mahasarakam with a fellow teacher from the school I work at who is currently studying a masters program for Education Administration.  So I was gone again and again "wian hua".  I had a lot of fun and it was neat to see how similar college courses are in Thailand to that of the United States and the University of Arkansas.  I would say the biggest difference is that all students must take off their shoes before entering the classroom and "wai" the professor to pay respect to their status.  Of course me being me, I forgot to take off my shoes and spent most of my time and brain power being REALLY self-conscious and trying to hide my feet from everyone, classic move.

Well, I suppose I should wrap things up.  Eight months in already and time has flown by.  I have learned a lot about myself throughout this journey so far, one of them being that I now know I can successfully use the squat toilet without completely disrobing (nice) and the other is that one CAN indeed "owl" a "plank".  I will get back to you next time but until then, special thanks to Papa Johns Pizza, Coca Cola, Petit Jean Meats and the Razorback Marching Band, I am Luke Fries, Go Hogs!

Rak Tuh,


Friday, August 26, 2011

Maybe A Mormon?

It is a typical day.  I am riding my bike through the bumpy, windy road on my way to work.  The road conditions are not optimal as it looks as though during the night someone decided to throw three hundred grenades on the road and then soak it with water in order to hinder my getting to work on time.  I spent some time last night preparing for my day, washed and ironed my clothes, even shined my shoes (what?).  Just as I am dodging the last pothole in a series of potholes an impatient driver splashes me and my laptop bag with water.  This isn't the kind of water that dries and is unnoticeable, this is the kind that stays there forever.  I laughed, and kept pedaling.  I then thought to myself as I looked down at my outfit which consisted of a button down shirt, tie, black dress pants (rolled up so the black bike chain grease couldn't stain them) , argyle socks (showing), with black dress shoes, I look like a Mormon missionary.  It wasn't a bad thought, just a thought, and I laughed.  Then a Thai lady yelled at me (it's just the way she talks).

I often find myself speaking a different kind of English these days, which could be a credit to my integration into culture, or it could just be me losing my mind.  For example, when someone asks me if I like living in Thailand it usually reads something like this "Uhh You-a like uh live in-a Thailand?"  and instead of answering in my usual voice with correct grammar my answer instinctively goes something like this "Yes I-uh like verry mush".  It honestly reminds me of an old children's story that my dad used to read me when I was a little kid about the boy would couldn't say please; the boy had lost his "please".  Well I have lost my English.  If I was at all socially awkward before, I have the full blown stuff now.

I don't really have a whole lot to write about today, I am averaging about a post a month on this thing which I believe is enough but here are some things that I am excited about/ are new with me (making lists is much easier).

1.  I now steam my own sticky rice at home (Thai people are impressed even if you're not!)
2.  My parent's are coming to visit in a couple months (maybe we can have a cooperative post as I know their experiences will be very interesting)
3.  It is my brother Joe's birthday in a few days (holla back)
4.  Hogs start football in a week or so (Can't wait to listen to Chuck Barrett and get his phenomenal description of those delicious Petit Jean meats)
5.  Last but not least, my niece Lynlee started Kindergarten and I heard she is a great student (Love you all)
6.  Next time I will be more awesome


Sunday, July 24, 2011

Like Sand Through An Hour Glass......So Are The DAYS OF OUR LIVES...dun dun

It has been longer than I expected since I have been able to update Thailikeshirt copyright, stamp, double stamp, triple stamp no taksies-backsies.  Over the past month I have been a fairly busy man.  I mentioned some of the things I would be up to in my last blog post and of course I promised to give updates and pictures from all events.  The truth is the beach was too much fun and way too beautiful to have time to take pictures.  I always get frustrated with myself when I sit around taking pictures and I forget to actually take it all, so this time I neglected take photographs.  But, I did take a few pictures of our Peace Corps Reconnect Conference and the First Annual (lets hope there is a second, third and fourth annual) Ban Non Yang English/Life Skills Camp which you will be able to view at the bottom of this wonderfully put together blog page!
            So when I left you last I was headed to Ko Samet, Thailand which is a beach near the Province Rayong, Thailand which is approximately 200 km from Bangkok (side note, I always hated when people who wrote in these blogs in kilometers because I felt like they were trying to be cool and prove that they now thought in kilometers this, in fact, is not true it is just what people tell me and then I am too lazy to try to convert it to miles even though throughout this rant I probably would have had time to plug it into my cell phone and give you the conversion but that is besides the point) and head there I did.  I stopped off at the Peace Corps Headquarters in Bangkok and dropped off my bag for Reconnect and headed to the beach with some of my good Peace Corps buddies Tanner, Kelly and Bobby, good group of guys.  We had a blast with days filled with throwing the Frisbee around and eating delicious Thai food right on the beach, Thai style, and nights watching fire dancers and eating more food.  Needless to say for those three days we did not feel much like Peace Corps Volunteers but it was a much needed vacation for all of us. 
            After heading to Ko Samet, we all went to PST Reconnect in a city near Bangkok where we invited our Thai counterparts from our sites.  Some of them had never traveled alone or ever stayed in a hotel so it was a very interesting three days.  By the time the counterpart portion of the conference was over most of our counterparts, especially mine, missed cao neow (sticky rice, most people in Issan eat cao neow rather than jasmine rice) and were ready to go home to their families and their own beds. I must admit I was beginning to feel the same way.  I missed my host family, my house, the teachers and students at my schools, the food and the peacefulness of a long bike ride or run. Fortunately or unfortunately I was stuck at the hotel in Suppanburi for another five days.  The rest of the conference was beneficial for us all and we all gained some great perspective from the stories that everyone had.  We had fresh ideas and we were all very anxious to get back to our sites.  One volunteer said during the final session said that it had been great seeing everyone and speaking our native language and being able to hang out in the hotel but the fact was we were excited and anxious to get back to the place where most of us now call “home”; I believe he hit the nail right on the head. 
            Of course before I had the chance to get back “home” I had to take a detour to my other, “home”, as Suppanburi was only one and a half hours from Ayuthaya, the place I did all of my Pre-Service Training and of course the home of my first Thai family.  So they drove to pick me up and I stayed with them one night before getting on the bus to go back and start planning my English/Life Skills Camp that was quickly approaching.  So one night of laughter and great food and I was on the bus back to Yasothorn. 
I was kind of scared that I was going to run out of time to plan when four other volunteers showed up a day early in order to help finish up the planning and make materials to conquer the Camp the next day, and the day after that.  It was a great time and the volunteers that came and stayed at my “baan” for a few days were extremely awesome and dedicated to making the camp be a success.  Without their great teamwork and their talent I am sure it wouldn’t have been as great, but they made it happen.  Two days of wonderful games and activities and lessons on topics like Hygiene, Teamwork, Self-Esteem and Food and Exercise.  The students learned a ton and they had a great time doing it….VICTORY!
After English Camp we headed as a group to Khon Kaen which is about three hours from Yasothorn during the long holiday “Wan Cao Pansa” in order to celebrate the success of our Camp.  We met some other volunteers there and relaxed again for three more days.  By the time that trip was over I was ready to head back and get back to my routine.  I was missing my site dearly and I hadn’t seen my host mom or family in over a month. 
When I returned home I went to my smaller school on Tuesday and one of the teachers informed me that he had killed a snake called “ngoo sing” (snake sing) and that he wanted me to come over to help him and the principal of the school eat it.  This was not my first rodeo with snake sing and man was it a good way to get back in the groove of village life.  We ate and ate and ate.  Unfortunately I stayed too late at the teacher’s house and was not able to see my host family again which I was ready to do.  So the next day at dinnertime I rode my bike to see them.  Nothing had changed.  “Bai nai maaa?” (where have you been?) my host mom asked me and then the next question “gin cao duay gaan mai?” (will you eat with us?)…..Home sweet home…..
Here I am now in the village, I was able to teach the volunteer health workers in my community some English the other day and it is rice planting season so I helped plant some rice with the students on the school farm.  
So here are the pictures for a wrap up:  Beach, Reconnect, Ayuthaya, English Camp, Khon Kaen, Health Workers, Rice Planting!  Enjoy!

Much Love,