So as of now, Teacha has left the building. If you had my phone number, forget it. If you are tired of me calling you anyway, rejoice.
Before I left I had the pleasure of rounding up my Fall 2015 Make Our Day staff for a little pre departure pow wow.
This was not a typical meeting as (like everything in my life) like to have everything going on at once. No powerpoints here. Just lots of ideas, lengthy side-notes, a hula hoop, booze, and oh wait, here. There is a method to the madness.
A glance at the table alone will tell you what a Type B can do lacking supervision and traditional workflow structure. The sprawling takeover of the table started innocently enough. Plates. We need plates right, didn’t you read item 1 on the agenda?
And since this meeting concerns Thailand, it would be downright disrespectful, Buddha no happy, to offer any fewer than 5 sauces.
So snacks. (Insert scene from The Jerk..”that’s all I need”)
Then headbands. (snacks and headbands, that’s all I need)
Then the Make Our Day Shop holiday goodies. (ok just these snacks, those headbands…and you get it)
Throw in an abundance of new and foreign (to Teacha) technology including a selfie stick and all bets are off. If you give a Moose a Muffin….you probably shouldn’t come back until she’s finished with it. I hope the person with (moderate…question mark) OCD who generously allowed us to use this room doesn’t see this.
For those of you who haven’t visited the staff page, Morgan and Brittany are actually joining me in Munchkinland starting January 2016, Laura is doing graphic design, and Megan knows stuff.
If you are digging this lucky elephant vibe and are in college, please apply to be a Campus Rep. It’s a pretty sweet gig. I send you free (and wary lucky) clothes made by my friends in Thailand. You wear said lucky clothes and #makeourday. Deal? Dee Mak!
The Make Our Day Shop is a pop up Instagram shop in which 100% of proceeds go towards opening the Make Our Day Tutoring Center in Phuket, Thailand.
Items will be available for online purchase starting Black Friday, but we need YOU, yes you, to start promoting on campus wan nee (today in Thai).
If you are interested in being a campus rep, follow our instagram makeourday_org and direct message a selfie with the following info in the comment:
School: Stephens College
Class: Senior….plus 6 years
Major: Fashion Marketing & Management
Clubs / Sorority: Mortar Board
Favorite late night food near campus: El Rancho…duh
Place you most want to travel to: Greek islands, Spain, Portugal
I’m in the process of re-doing my website and of course when I say “I” I mean Carlie is in the process of doing it. “I” maxed out my wordpress publishing for dummies skillset a long time ago.
Several people have suggested I throw up an FAQ section for people who are interested in teaching abroad. I’ll do that, but I’m warning you right now, if you’re looking for answers you’re going to like you need to skip right on over to the sunshine and rainbows world of Lonely Planet and Gap Year trips. They’re happy to take your money and you’ll have a great time, seriously you will.
However, if you are truly interested in living and serving God abroad here is the briefest and best advice I can offer you without directly answering any one question…helpful I know.
If you plan on staying past the honeymoon period of 5 or 6 weeks you will need to fall in love with everything that is unlovable about your new home. And while you are at it, try to give yourself and others the same respect. You’ll hate the smells and the noise the same way you can’t stand your friend (or mom) who asks too many questions during movies. You’ll scrunch your nose and throw a tilted glare in the direction of the offender but to change it wouldn’t please you as much as you may think in the moment.
You’ll feel alone and deflate a little when people tell you how lucky you are to travel. You’ll tell white lies to your family and friends as to not burst their bubbles or keep them up at night. You’ll experience some of the most beautiful moments of your life, but they won’t belong on postcards and it’s unlikely you’ll ever be able to share them.
It will be the lingering, curious stare of a person who has never seen a person like you. A cautionary breeze before a dangerous storm, and the moment in the day when you give up. Your unfamiliar surroundings and being the minority will beat you and yet you will wake up feeling at peace the next morning.
You’ll experience the paradox of not understanding a persons language or beliefs yet not shaking the feeling that you can read their eyes and their heart for the struggles and joys that are universal. Some will give you a gracious smile for a kind gesture and some will resent you without reason. You’ll need to be able to love them equally or you need to leave.
It will become clearer to you which masters people serve home and away. The status quo, money, pride, fear, vanity, bureaucracy. You’ll have to decide for yourself what roles these things are going to play in your own life. It will mean letting go of things you never thought you would; people, jobs, homes, personal goals. In letting go you may also lose the need or simply the ability to explain yourself. It’s ok, if you are letting your heart lead it is to be expected that it will take your head awhile to catch up.
Trading one life for another is transformational in the way that anything of significance in life is. Love, loss, abuse, grief, marriage, children, divorce, moving, will take you to a place, location or otherwise, that you won’t ever come back from. Not because you don’t want to but because to try and do so would be dishonest and a discredit to the good that God is trying to do through you.
So, to those of you who are seriously considering a life change, not just a change of scenery, I probably won’t answer your questions but I will pray for you. The same prayer I wrote for Teacha Megan when, with a heavy heart, I left her and the Munchkins for the summer.
Lord if she faces the choice between being happy and being useful, let her choose to be useful.
Give her company when she is lonely, your word when she is afraid, and rest when she is tired.
Let her follow you blindly, but give her glimpses of your glorious plans should she get discouraged.
Most of all Lord, let her be a vessel, going where you lead to bring your love to those who need it most, home or away.
So I’m dating a 16 year old ladyboy named Bob. A May December romance
that no one saw coming, except maybe Bob. See Bob’s parents needed a little
Bob break, so they sent him to stay with his uncle in Phuket for the
summer. His uncle promptly enrolled him in the nearest English
school with the longest hours….sensing a theme?
Bob’s real name is Nong but after about the 100th time of him correcting
my pronunciation of the impossible “ng” sound, I said, Ok you
know what, you’re Bob now. Post name change, his peer approval rating skyrocketed, you’re welcome Bob.
Bob’s class is from 10-12, but he gets to school at 7am
regardless of rain, locked doors, or subtle hints about operating
hours and says “I am ready.” He then harasses anyone in sight until
they are forced to also be “ready”. After one day of that I taught him how to make coffee and told him no one is in any way “ready” until you do this. He did it every day.
About a week into summer break, Bob started making some demands of his own. Fed up with people’s refusal to match his enthusiasm for morning selfie sessions and not getting to do much vacationing on his vacation, he took matters into his own hands.
“Teacha, I want come to your house for dinner.’
I said, Bob do I look like Kathryn Pfieffer** to you. Well Kathryn Pfieffer is exactly who I looked like to Bob. With sociopath like intensity he stared at me and said, “Yes, Kathryn’s house for dinner.” Dammit Bob, my name is Kathryn and Mamma P** would love you so I guess this one is out of my hands.
** Kathryn Pfieffer / Mamma P as we call her, despite having just the two feisty red headed twink a dinks is never lacking for
dinner guests…and brunch…and well you just never know when they (Kayla or I) are going to leave.
“Ok Bob, I’ll pick you up at 6.”
This was met with jumping, an ear drum shattering scream, and of course…..a selfie.
“Thank you Teacha, thank you Katy Perry, I go get ready now.” He immediatly left class and ran out the door. It was 11:30.
I picked Bob up for our first date at the pier just before sunset and
already it had the makings of an alternate universe Bachelor where the
contestants are less attractive, the premise socially unacceptable,
and the suspense lacking as neither of us has the prospect of getting
another dinner date.
He was wearing a straw fedora, faybans, and
shorty shorts waving anxiously at me with one hand and taking my
picture with the other. “Teacha I am heeeeeeeeere.”
As I feared, the afternoon had given Bob way to much time to scheme
and dinner was no longer the only thing on the menu.
He presented me with a 1/2 Thai, 1/2 English extensive list titled, Travel in Phuket with Teacha Katie
-Go to buy the sunglasses the same at Naka Market
-Ride motorcycle in mountains with boyfriend
-Eat romantic dinner seafood
-Go to every beach every day
-Yoga at rock
-Yoga at beach
-Yoga at park
-Travel to airport
-Take a bus
-Talk with tourists
-Be brave be beautiful
We did all these things and more minus the production quality and
wardrobe changes of a reality TV show and plus some minor compromises.
For example, number 2: Ride motorcycle in mountains with boyfriend in reality turned out to be Bob and I on a 250cc scooter along the beach road but he held on to my waist and screamed everytime we rounded a corner just the same. During our candlelit seafood dinner on the beach, he giggled repeating, “it’s so romantic” over and over. We did “Yoga” in the loosest sense of the word but we’ve got no less than 200 pictures of it. We spent hours making playlists for roadtrips and at the waterpark he took a GoPro video of us on every waterslide, enclosed slides included.
He cried when summer was over and called me 5 times on the way home,
each time sounding completely shocked to be speaking with me. The
Munchkins facetimed him from the orphanage and he cried again. After
being home and seeing his old friends he called in real crisis mode.
“Teacha my friend tell to me Nong is not same from Nong in the past.
Have thinner, and tanner and more polite. Some friend say, ok yes you
are different now is good but some friend not like says not ok…..want to have
Nong the same from the past. Everyone liking name Bob though, want to keep”
I said well Nong, you’re not Nong anymore, you’re Bob and you’re a man now…kind of. No more Old Nong, only New Bob.
After I talked him off the ledge, I broke up with him but it’s nothing New Bob can’t handle. He told me he wants to “focus on his studies” anyway.
In the hopes of keeping the shop alive for the rest of their summer break, the Minions were all to happy to send me off to BKK on a buying trip. But as we finished lunch, one Minion started to change her tune a little.
Bible: Teacha I think you cannot go Bangkok. Teacha Katie: Why Bible?
I think going alone you cannot. How do you go to the airport and hotel. I’ll drive my motorbike to the airport and walk to my hotel.
But very far and very much raining Yep, its not ideal
And then when you get to Bangkok, how going to Chinatown? Make taxi? Nope, I’ll take the bus.
Local Bus?! Oh no I think you cannot only Thai people and wary hot, smell bad. Well I would have to agree with you that it smells like a sun baked sushi buffet and I’m somewhat unwelcome, but its sitting right in our price range at .50 cents.
(Silent laughing, hand over mouth shaking head) I cannot imagine you ride local bus in Taylor Swift outfit to The Chinatown. Will you take a selfie? Only of someone else does it first.
Yesterday I am playing on the Twitter and I see One Direction make fighting. I am amazed when this happen……but now today I think I am more amazed about go to Bangkok.
There you have it folks, more amazing than One Direction. I’ll add that to my resume should I ever need one again.
Thanks to all of your support, the trip doubled our sales for the shop. The Minions are very anxious to see what you liked and get to invoicing but it will have to wait because tomorrow is Munchkin time and we need to prep, pray and (hopefully) sleep.
While I was at the airport bookstore I read JK Rowling’s book Very Good Lives (It’s her commencement speech from Harvard graduation 2008 can be read in about 15 minutes). Her themes were the importance of failure and imagination, which coincidently (or not) were also the takeaway points for our wacky half baked experiment of pursuing the shop.
She said that while failure is by far one of the most important of all human experiences, it’s also often and easily avoided through apathy, which is a failure in itself. And that imagination gives us the ability to empathize, which drives us to enact change on behalf of those who for whatever reason, are struggling to do so themselves.
She described literal nightmares about her own helplessness in combating injustices she witnessed through working with Amnesty International. And in a sentiment I share, says she would envy people who close themselves off from failure and imagination except that she doesn’t believe those people have any fewer nightmares than she does. Leaving your world small and self centric is a monster of a completely different kind.
So while I am not under any delusion that you Make Our Day Shop shoppers couldn’t have found similar clothes at the mall this week, I am grateful that you actively chose to exercise your uniquely human ability to empathize with someone you have never met (and likely never will) and imagine a better life for them. Profit or not, there is no failure in that.
You Made Our Day in more ways than one. Khap Khun Kaaaaa Shoppers.
While Munchkins wander about at their leisure eating candy and looking huggable, Minions help carry out plans for world domination. This week the Minions met the Munchkins and it was a match made in Happy Buddha Land.
It all started with makeup. I couldn’t get any takers to model my wares for the shop, so the first round of photos were taken of me, by me on a timer in my very hot kitchen slash living room slash my house is small…2 days before I had to move out.
This means I had to get out the makeup that’s been on hiatus since….well and literally go dig my hair straightener out of the trash can. I stayed up all night wrestling with chargers, websites, apps, and all things I hate. After being up for 40 hours straight, my original aesthetic vision for the Make Our Day Shop had been severely compromised, my house destroyed and I had to head off to teach the Minions.
I arrived with day old make-up melting off my face to a room full of happy high school students anxious to see me after 2 days apart. “Ohhhhhhhhh Teacha wary be yoooooo tee ful today.” I burst into tears. “Oh no teacha wary sorry is beautiful every day.”
I showed them what I was working on and they immediately offered up Bob, our resident ladyboy, as a model. He was ready to answer the call and I thought, Bob you may have the posture and poise of Grace Kelly but you have the BO and sweaty 5 o’clock shadow of the 16 year old boy you are and I need these clothes to sell. He was smiling at me and I said, “I wish you could Bob, but these clothes are for girls.”
After that idea was out the window, the Minions had a little pow wow. Teacha…why you want to make a shop? You not like to have your job as Teacha? You want be model? I assured them I wasn’t trading the chalk for the makeup bag anytime soon and that contrary to opinions of local shop owners, I hadn’t been missing a ton of calls from Maxim.
We talked about the Munchkins, their school, their family situations, and looked through pictures of all the holidays and birthdays we’ve spent together the past year. They asked questions and immediately wanted to learn Fear Not. After another pow wow they said, Ok…..we going to help you.
They gave up their last Saturday of summer break and showed up 3 hours before playdate time to do the prep that normally takes me hours to do alone every Friday night, photographed the rest of the inventory for the shop AND made the Instagram and Shopify ads.
After some Tom Yum and green tea, I took them to Munchkinland along with volunteers Megan and Chareese. They continued to impress me with their positive attitudes and willingness to get involved. The confidence and joy it brought them was unmatched by any other project we’ve done together. On the ride home they were talking a mile a minute about their new little sisters and brothers and asking if they could plan next week’s lesson. I wanted to cry again but I can’t imagine how much that would have confused them.
It has always been my goal to have my private students volunteer but because I am not fluent enough to communicate my plans with their parents, it’s never really panned out. After seeing the Minions meet the Munchkins, I know Big Brothers Big Sisters has to move to the top of the list.
So here is what my Minions have for you today. Next week I’ll teach them invoicing and balance sheets so they can see what we earned and decide how to best spend the money.
Like most people, I tend to get rather uncomfortable when a stranger assesses my body composition and become downright flustered….yes, flustered….when they feel the need to compliment it. Compliments in general turn me into a very awkward, mumbly human being.
There are only two compliments I will not immediately attempt to deflect. One, I’m a world class singer (Prestige Worldwide) and two, I’m a skilled scooter-ist. Saying I am the best teacher doesn’t count as a compliment because it falls in the category of (soon to be) universally accepted fact.
After today, I’m willing to make an exception for any compliment delivered in broken english by an elderly asian woman.
I found myself in the touristy part of town yesterday and thought I better take the opportunity to stock up on chopstix and elephant mating ceremony postcards. With encouragement from a particularly fun spirited shop owner, I veered off that original game plan quite a bit and came out with a new nickname and a plausible explanation for some of the daily struggles I encounter.
As I said, I just wanted a postcard but this lady was looking for big money from white laaaydeee and was willing to work for it. She talked me into kimonos and silk children’s dresses with relative ease but when she rounded the corner to grab some shorts, I put the brakes on.
Shorts and pants on any continent are not meant for me. In Asia in particular they’re a physical impossibility. As you may recall from my encounter with The Madam, most Thai shop owners agree that I shouldn’t have shorts and yell “not for you” before kicking me out of their store. I’m not alone in this struggle, almost every western female I know has been turned away from a store.
It matters very little what size you actually are, all foreigners are fat. To quote the sage advice of a guest speaker at the all Thai English Have Fun Diversity Day, “You cannot call your foreign teachers fat, even though they fat.” I would spend more time being angry about it wasn’t such priceless entertainment value. Kayla has had clothing ripped from her hands by a man in Bangkok who explained his actions by shouting, “Not for you King Kong!”
Not this lady though. Bless her canned sardine loving heart, she was blind to my non asian physique and ready to sell me some shorts. I tried dropping their own line on them and said, “I need big size, not have big size.” She grabbed my love handles (as is standard operating procedure) and said “nooooo not need, small size ok try on”.
I got small size about 4 inches past my knees and the smile dropped off her face.
“Oh…..I was confused about The Body. I think The Body look small…..but now not small. Ok I get big size.”
I knocked her down and she got right back up with a pair of size 34 used jean shorts that were left in a taxi years ago by a fellow fat, freckled farang. At first glance they were not looking like a slam dunk but I was willing to give them a shot because I liked her attitude.
This time the shorts made it almost to my butt before the wave of disappointment came back over her face.
“Oh….I think….The Body is…..too sexy.”
I laughed so hard, I bought 2 “free size” dresses I didn’t want. She’s right, why didn’t it occur to me before, I’m too sexy for this country. It’s unclear as to wether it was meant as a compliment or not but she got her big money and I got a great story.
Legally speaking, I believe Heidi Klum has trademarked The Body but this is Thailand, and we are nothing if not fast and loose with the copyright laws. (“real cucu chanel we not copy” in lowercase sharpie on yellowed paper….sprung for the real cucu but cut some corners on the sign)
Here it is folks, The Body. It recently replaced “selfies while driving” as the leading cause of traffic accidents among Phuket taxi drivers.
Sidenote. For fundraising purposes I am going to become a person who wears headbands while exercising and you should too provided you buy that headband from Make Our Day. #jazzercise
……..Jazzercise has nothing to do with this post but not a day goes by where someone from a random country doesn’t click on my blog post tagged jazzercise. It that’s you Im sorry for the bait and switch and I do not know where the nearest jazzercise location is.
In honor of my golden birthday this weekend (28 on the 28th) the Munchkins and I are partying all week. It kicked off after school on Monday with “Cupfake Wars” 4 teams, 30 minutes…..victory, defeat, camera crew, an annoying host, and glitter, just like TV.
Call me a monster, but my favorite part of any craft time is when a little one is dissatisfied with their work. They walk over to me holding their subpar creation away from their body like it’s going to bite them, and look up at me with the saddest eye, like “how did this happen?” Today was no exception. This cupcake business is tougher than it looks and Lek just did not have the masters’ hands.
Another facet of human behavior that amuses me is when one member of the group is way more into the subject matter than is normal or expected. Like when Jared and Jay put the movie RV on repeat days or Corey asks if anyone else is excited about Banana Republic’s hundreth sale of the year. I’ll never understand their fascination but I love to watch the obsession in action. Cupfake Wars delivered on this front and found a real friend in Teoy.
With his ill suited King Kong hands and questionable eye for aesthetics, he was the first to get a team together and dive into the competition. First cook in the kitchen, last one out he was not up for any distractions. He declined to join F and Fanta when they went for crabsticks, he isolated all other team members and actually imposed a quarantine on his workspace towards the end there.
While my translation skills still are still in infancy, the Munchkins’ body language comes through loud and clear. I love to watch them go on a roller coaster of emotions trying to figure out what we are doing and if they are going to get to play or not.
Gin mai? (Can you eat it?) No. Exaggerated shoulder shrug. Can I have it? Yes. Day made.
“Teacha mot lao? (is the clay all gone?) Tap into reserve stash and add a 5th team. Day made.
Reach into a pink bag that holds the worlds greatest treasure, glitter. (Gasp) There are no words for glitter, eyes just widen to five times their normal size and get stuck like that. Week made.
When outlining the birthday plans for our number one benefactor Aunt Kayla she said, “I think you might have more fun than the kids.” Dear, sweet Aunt Kayla is correct. If for slightly different reasons, I always have the most fun, no mights about it.
Thai people live in a perpetual state of party preparation. If it looks like they are going to go a week without a holiday, they’ll borrow one from the Chinese or, in a pinch, just make one up. This Saturday was wan Dek or “Children’s Day”.
I found out about it a little late in the game and asked my private students if they thought I needed to bring the kids anything special. They said, no their parents will get for them. Well that answers that question, so off to MUNCHKINLAND I went to get the 411 from the munchkins themselves.
I’m working with some big personalities over there who know exactly what they want and within a matter of seconds they laid out the whole plan for the weekend with specifics. They said on Friday they want me to come to their dance recital at school and bring Oreos and BBQ Lays. Saturday they want to “make a party” with balloons and gum. Done. As it just so happens this is the perfect outlet for a donation from my aunt who has been know to invent reasons to “make party” herself.
I walked the munchkins home and was about to leave to go get started on the party prep when they ran back out with one last request. “Teacha can you look beautiful tomorrow?” I laughed and asked what do you think is beautiful? Again, they knew the answer immediately. “Lip red color, shoe (hand motion for tall)”. Parents are invited to the dance recital and they want to make sure mom looks pretty. Can’t be embarrassing my babies on their fictitious holiday.
I was less than thrilled about this makeup request first of all because, as later pictures will prove, Joe wears makeup better than me and he’s a 9 year old boy. Second because I had to acquire this altogether unflattering cosmetic which meant a dreaded trip to the Korean Beauty Supply. Ever since I purchased some “big money” face cream for my mom last fall, I’ve been on the owners radar as a VIP customer and potential wife for her grandson in Chicago.
I arrived to the dance recital all ladyboy-ed out and the munchkins were thrilled. “Ohhhhh Teacha so beautiful!” Crybaby had been saving me a seat by the other parents for hours, which I may as well just call a booth because it ended up seating five of us. It also served as home base for storing the children’s day gifts they acquired, a “Fisney” princess doll named Elfa, and an “Interchangers” robot. Don’t worry, we not copy.
I wanted to take a picture of the packaging on the toys but Benz had run down the battery with her 17 minute video capturing everything except the dance performance. Which, to her credit, was much more interesting. Turns out children’s dance recitals are long, boring, and loud in every country.
Your eyes they shine so bright, I want to save their light