Half Munchkin Half Man

“Don’t waste your youth growing up”

Gop 2014
Thanks to “the mother” (whom the munchkins ask about every day) Christmas cards featuring my handsome boyfriend Gop are on their way.
Gop’s birthday is on Christmas day.  The day my christmas card photo was taken I had been at school asking him what he wanted to bring his classmates for his party this year.
As I carried on a logical discussion with my half munchkin half man about the pros and cons of donuts, my mind drifted back to the day of this picture.  When I got home I pulled it up on my instagram and sure enough it was exactly 52 weeks ago.
In this picture I wanted to check his worksheet but he kept folding into a heart and hiding it from me.  When I managed to wrestle it away from him I unfolded it to find he had covered the whole sheet in hearts that said “Gop LOVE K.T.”
He has grown up a lot this year and I’ve already mentally prepared myself for a polite thank you and firm handshake in place of a love letter this year…….but I bet if I show him this picture he’ll laugh.
If you would like to sponsor a playdate or birthday party in honor of a munchkin or minion in your life, you may do so here. Sponsor a Playdate
They will receive a card in the mail from munchkinland explaining your gift and why it matters to us.
Love from Munchkinland,
Teacha Katie
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Not About Elephants or Clothing

There are 3 things that I never get tired of looking at in Thailand. Don’t expect to see beaches, buddhas or shimmy shimmy coco-whaaaaaaats on this list.  That’s actually not what I do every day.

Speaking of coconuts though, I did have one today that was the size of my head; closer to literally than figuratively and if you’ve ever taken a precocious 5 year old to the KC aquarium you would know that a falling coconut poses a greater threat to the general public than a Daddy Shark.  Or in the words of Keagan “Coconut fall, people die”.  So thank goodness I was dealing with a domesticated coconut.  The aquarium didn’t include this variety in their statistics but I presume they have fewer homicidal tendencies than their rowdy relatives.

I digress. Coconuts did not make the list.

#1.  power lines

It’s insanity.  Forget texting / selfie-ing and driving.  If I fail to gun it at the light change its because I’m deep into a head back, mouth gaping contemplation of how..HOW is working.  If you are questioning why the internet sucks or why you can’t use the fan and the rice cooker at the same time…this should answer your question.

#2. scout days

They all hate scouts. Too bad:-)
They all hate scouts. Too bad:-)

Hawaiian shirt Friday is a close second, but Wednesdays are what get me through the week.  The hats are unnecessary and uncomfortable and there are four different options.  Bucket hats only for girls, but boys can have the burgundy felt beret, a very flimsy cowboy hat, or a beanie with piping. Tassle socks and bandanas mandatory.  I love it.

hat and twig sword. These are the actual ones the kids use. Cost me $1.75
hat and twig sword. These are the actual ones the kids use. Cost me $1.75

Every Wednesday I pretend I’ve never noticed this attire before and they’re happy to tell me what it’s for and how much they hate it as if we don’t have this conversation every week.  If I can keep them on the subject long enough they may go get a large, red painted stick or sword like twig with a plastic handle.  The tools of the trade are not pursued with the same intricacy the uniforms are.  I’ve seen zero evidence to support the notion that these items “prepare” them for anything.  When do we get to play with fire.

#3. traveling bamboo broom salesmen

Every town in Thailand has dozens of them, scurrying around tooting their bicycle horns (the clown kind, not the bells) and dodging traffic on freeways frogger style without losing a hair of bamboo.  I desperately want a ride along with one of these guys.  What’s their best seller?  Do they have regulars? What about rival broom hawkers.  Do I smell sabotage?  Never do I want to be fluent in Thai as much as when I see one of these guys stop to talk with a ladder or bolster pillow salesman.  I want in.

“Please not worry” the Tourism Authority of Thailand would like to clarify that Phuket still has the best beaches and (second) biggest buddha but these are the little things that make my day and serve as a little reminder that…oh yeah…I live in Thailand, and stuffs a little weird here.

Love from Munchkinland,

Teacha Katie

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Return to Munchkinland

When I pulled up on my moped, I saw no munchkin heads peaking over the fence, heard no yelling…and where is the cat?

As it turned out, the munchkins had social workers visiting to put on a meditation workshop.  My initial thought was it may be working because it was unusually quiet.  But, by the time I made the walk from the gate to the office, one had sprung loose.

“TEEEEEAAAAAACHA!!!!” It was JJ. She led me around the corner so we could hide and she could have me and my unbraided hair to herself before the rest of the crew caught on.

As the hosts of the activity attempted to lead an orderly procession from one room to another, JJ and I let a giggle slip and within seconds the herd spotted us and took me down. It was a massive munchkin pile up that left the social workers very confused and likely undid a lot of the effort they’d just put in to strike a tranquil dynamic.

While the munchkins were finishing their (not so silent at this point) meditation I got a chance to talk to the new Director. I’ve been worrying about this meeting since Megan told me about the turnover and want to give a big thanks to everyone who has been praying about this with me.  I left feeling very optimistic about the conversation.

We talked about continuing playdates, reinstating English class once school starts, and most importantly identifying a more consistent format for tutoring. She seemed aware and candid about the difficulties facing the school and the community as a whole, which is unusual in this saving face culture.

I was trying to be patient and let the social workers finish their session but I must have been perceivably anxious because a board member whom I’ve met before said “ok you want join them now.” and let me in the room. Understandably, the social workers were not happy about the interruption until something happened that changed their minds.
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This is Seven. He came to the orphanage only a few weeks before I left for the summer. He has a very with us but not with us aura about him so I worried about him heading into the classroom environment as I knew how slim the chances were of a teacher being able to engage a new student, particularly a quiet one.

Two of the social workers had clearly picked up on Seven’s vibe and had taken him aside to work with him individually.  He wasn’t looking at them and wouldn’t speak.  I continued to keep an eye on the three of them while I played with the rest of the kids.

When there was still no change after 20 minutes, I told the munchkins to be quiet. I whispered across the room, “Seven”. It immediatly got his attention and I’ll never forget the huge smile on his face as he sprung up singing H-E-L-L-O and crossed the room to hug me.

The munchkins made room for him in the circle and I said in Thai, Seven how old are you?
“7”
No not your name. How old are you?
“7”

But how old are you Seven?

I continued to fain misunderstanding until Seven and all the munchkins were rolling with laughter and yelling in unison “7!!!!” to try and get it through Teachas thick skull. Gop couldn’t take it anymore and dug deep into his english repertoire “Teacha, you are crazy, Seven is 7 YEARS OLD AHHHH!”  The social workers were laughing now too.

“Ohhhhhhh Seven is 7” dramatic head roll open palmed slap to forehead, “Why didn’t you guys just tell me that?” We all gave Seven high fives for being 7 and he participated the rest of the afternoon.

Though I feel a little uncomfortable writing specifics about individual kiddos in such a public forum, I find this small moment to be an important reminder that some of the problems Make Our Day is facing don’t need fixed as much as they just need lived through.

It is hard for any kid anywhere to be “the new kid” but its not a life experience you can seek to eliminate. Is every munchkin going to pass school this year, no. Are all the kids who are “best friends forever” now going to stay friends, no. Do we want them to go through it without a trusted adult noticing? No.

I’ve been talking non stop all summer about short term and long term goals for financing, reach, and sustainability. While making daily steps towards these goals is crucial, talking about them doesn’t tell the story nearly as well as he does and I’m thrilled to have an impact report that reads like this one:

Holy transformation Tuesday Instagrammers, This is the kind of ROI I like to see.
Holy transformation Tuesday Instagrammers, This is the kind of ROI I like to see.

The munchkins go back to school this Monday. The Director of the orphanage and I agree that we need to talk with the Thai teachers and get struggling students started in private tutoring right away before they slip into bad habits for the semester. If you would like to support a munchkin’s tutoring on a monthly basis you may set up a recurring donation in any amount using Paypal, text, or online registration.

Now the rest of the crew!

New kid on the block, and she's a keeper! Meet Pair
Another new kid on the block, and she’s a keeper! Meet Pair
Crankypants meets tankypants...and shes still cranky. Come on Kwang
Crankypants meets tankypants…and shes still cranky. Come on Kwang
Ummmm excuse me Peyton, could you please stay a munchkin? He's practically a minion, STOP.
Ummmm excuse me Peyton, could you please stay a munchkin? He’s practically a minion, STOP.
JJ made me wait until she finished my Elsa braid to get in the photos
JJ made me wait until she finished my Elsa braid to get in the photos
Gop and I changed the chorus of Let it Go to say
Gop and I changed the chorus of Let it Go to say “Wut is ting tong” you had to be there…but it was hilarious and upset Wut enough that he chased me around the table banging on his chest yelling “KING KONG!!!”…..my mom takes issue with Wuts rowdiness and constant sweating, but he’s my favorite.
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Everything in this picture is so business as usual for the end of a playdate, I can’t stop laughing. Benz is demanding more photos, Peyton is behind the camera being a perfectionist, my boyfriend Gop is doing exactly what I asked him to, Pair is nuzzling and squeezing me everywhere, cranky pants is…cranky and Ben is photobombing in the background wanting to know when the big kids are going to go away. But the wild card of the day…Fai. Fai is front and center and smiling, which made Teacha smile all day.

Backpackers Need Not Apply

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.

What's not to love.
What’s not to love.

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.

"The world is a monumental beast, frightening and discouraging but in small doses it is the most beautiful thing you will ever discover. Beautiful moments L to R:  My student helping a boy who does not speak her language The day I realized my babies spent the weekends lonely or afraid  The day my business students opened their coffee cart.
“The world is a monumental beast, frightening and discouraging but in small doses it is the most beautiful thing you will ever discover.
Beautiful moments L to R:
My student helping a boy who does not speak her language
The day I realized my babies spent the weekends lonely or afraid
The day my business students opened their coffee cart.

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.

L to R: The day they asked if just one..ok 2...ok just three of them could live with me; Easter morning; using Olaf to learn to give hugs because many of them raise their hands over their face when I try to high five.  they think I'm going to hit them.
L to R: The day they asked if just one..ok 2…ok just three of them could live with me; Easter morning; using Olaf to learn to give hugs because many of them raise their hands over their face when I try to high five. they think I’m going to hit them.

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.

Amen

Megan and Munchkins say HUUURRRRYYYY!!!!
Megan and Munchkins say HUUURRRRYYYY!!!!
Writing love letters upon departure to Bob, Koe, Jan, and Megan.  If I was better at Instagram I probably could have made this oceanfront writing session look super pretentious...something to aspire to, or not.
Writing love letters upon departure to Bob, Koe, Jan, and Megan. If I was better at Instagram I probably could have made this oceanfront writing session look super pretentious…something to aspire to, or not.

5 Days of Christmas

Twas the week before Christmas and all through the island,

not a munchkin was caroling, Why? Cause it’s Thailand.

Not a candy stuffed stocking or sweet cookie platter

With all of your help Teacha fix this sad matter

.

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Away to the workshop she flew like a flash

After 5 hours of wrapping, she had quite a stash.

Set off the next morning, presents in tow

You sent so much cheer, the sleigh wouldn’t go

When what to her wondering eyes did appear

But a grumpy-ish elf who will work for beer

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Teacha arrived, called the munchkins by name

This week with your help, Gods’ love overcame

The struggles of language and money and loss

Reminding us why Jesus died on the cross

To show us that love is worth any plight

Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night

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Day 3: Attack of the Angry Birds

Day 3: Attack of the Angry Birds It has been raining here in Phuket for almost 2 full weeks, and when I say raining , I mean all day, all night, violent winds, no sun. Yesterday the wind was so strong it ripped my poncho off my body Incredible Hulk style as I was driving. I was feeling pretty miserable for a few seconds until I got to a stoplight and spotted this bunch.

There are three adult women and a baby int hat sidecar and guaranteed a couple bags of raw fish....snuggle up!
There are three adult women and a baby in that sidecar and guaranteed a couple bags of raw fish….snuggle up!

Needless to say the weather is making everyone around here “wary cranky”, especially the munchkins. Its time to get out some aggression. I made this last night and wasn’t sure how they’d like it until I ran up and hit Ben over the head with it while he was cooking. It both terrified and enraged him, so I knew they were gonna love it.

Voice from that crocodile arcade game: NOW IM ANGRY!!!
Voice from that crocodile arcade game: NOW IM ANGRY!!!

I sat them down in a circle and ran around hitting them all with my angry bird so they could learn from my shining example that today would be all about violence. After I got some good hits in I let them make their own. We were going to color them….but they were way to anxious to get revenge on me to waste time with that.

Gift has been the angriest bird of all this week but we finally got a smile out of her today...turns out angry birds actually make people very happy.
Gift has been the angriest bird of all this week but we finally got a smile out of her today…turns out angry birds actually make people very happy.
What sound does an angry bird make......just about the worst sound ever.  I still have a headache from hours of angry bird sounds.
What sound does an angry bird make……just about the worst sound ever. I still have a headache from hours of angry bird sounds.
Show me your angry bird face....Gop (bottom left) cheated but it was clever so I'll give it to him.
Show me your angry bird face….Gop (bottom left) cheated but it was clever so I’ll give it to him.

After a couple of (somewhat organized) relay races and contests, it was time for all out war, every angry bird and chick for themselves.

Time for everyone to get Angry! Look out.
Time for everyone to get Angry! Look out.
There were casualties
There were casualties
Two hours later, we had the best day yet...but it almost cost me my life, those angry birds are dangerous!!!
Two hours later, we had the best day yet…but it almost cost me my life, those angry birds are dangerous!!!

But the best thing about today was…..IT FINALLY STOPPED RAINING!

Rain rain went away, YAYYYYYYY!!!!
Rain rain went away, YAYYYYYYY!!!!
Thank you guys again for supporting us is week. Love, Teacha Katie and the Munchkins (pictured Fluke 4th grade)
Thank you guys again for supporting us this week. Love, Teacha Katie and the Munchkins (pictured Fluke 4th grade)

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