Can I call you Ruffio?

And just like that, munchkins they weren’t.

These are my boyfriends Gop and Nex fighting over me at school. If it were December of 2014, Gop would be writing me love notes and Nex would sneak up to kiss me on the cheek then run away giggling. This year they’re both still trying to get a date for the weekend but the sweet, shy smiles have gone. Gop now wants to practice boxing and Nex wants me to watch him sail.

Teacha – Well boys, it’s almost 2016 and you are munchkins no more. You’re lost boys now. Can I call one of you Ruffio?
Gop – Teacha you are crazy and I do not understand you but Nex swim no good and he gay, have boyfriend!
Nex – Ayyyyy Teacha Mai Chai! Gop cheat at boxing (makes eye gouging motion) and Nex is most handsome, not gay.

More insults and a couple lies ensue before they turn back to me, hands on hips and ask again,
“So Teacha…Saturday.”

Leaving the school, I laughed and thought about Tee. I tutored Tee everyday last December to prepare him to get into a private high school in New Zealand. The tutoring sessions and the international school were both low on his list of priorities at the time and he put on plenty of “what’s the point” teenage melodramas.

I told him the point was I needed him to do better and if he wasn’t going to do it for himself, he was just going to have to do it for me. This really set him off.

What? Why I gonna do something so hard for you. I not even want to do for myself and you have messy hair! I said Tee, you love my messy hair so much it just might change the course of your whole life. Do better.

Back to 2015. In a poetic circle, Tee came to see me after finishing his first year abroad.

Tee – Hey, Girl with no friends. I not see you one year so why you look the same?

Teacha – Because I’m an adult Tee. I don’t have to change my look everytime a pop star has an identity crisis, that’s your department.
Tee – You are a mess. Do better man.
Teacha – Alright angsty, I hope you didn’t come to study because I don’t teach international students

Tee – ”No, not study. I come to tell you I gonna go to college USA for you.”

Teacha – Because you love my messy hair

Tee – Because I love your messy hair.

Again creeping on my own instagram, exactly 52 weeks ago. He was not exaggerating about the negative effects of heat, wind, rain, and bike helmets have on my hair.
Again creeping on my own instagram, exactly 52 weeks ago. He was not exaggerating about the negative effects of heat, wind, rain, and bike helmets have on my hair.

I look at these pictures of the boys and think of how much they have changed yet stayed the same and I can’t stop smiling. Though I feel a slight pang for their munchkin days, possibly the best thing about love is that it is never complacent. It changes always because it changes you for the better. And if there is one thing we can always be, it is better.

Please consider setting up a recurring monthly donation or purchasing a sponsorship to support hiring more teachers and adding a second classroom location in 2016.

Love from Munchkinland, Teacha Katie.

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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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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.
IMG_0038
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.
image
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.

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)

Donate and Make a Munchkins Day:
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Make a Munchkins Day

Mother’s Day is a big event in Thailand, so naturally, they take 4 days to celebrate it. For my kids in town, a long weekend means a shopping trip to Bangkok or a sleepover with junk food and new computer games, but its a long, lonely weekend for too many of my little munchkins in Koh Siray with no mommies or daddies.

As I was leaving last Friday (not to return until the following Wednesday) this little chunky monkey grabbed me around the waist and said, “Teacha sleep here? 4 day long time” By here, he meant the orphanage next to the school.  Over 100 munchkins from my school live there as a result of losing their families to the Tsunami or being removed from abusive homes.

I always have to make extra time for little man on the left.  He's the smallest boy in the class and is always getting strong armed out of the group hug.  As you can see he isn't quite as close as he'd like to be and he'd really prefer if Ball (chunky monkey) would back off a little.
I always have to make extra time for little man on the left. He’s the smallest boy in the class and is always getting strong armed out of the group hug. As you can see he isn’t quite as close as he’d like to be and he’d really prefer if Ball (chunky monkey) would back off a little.

I haven’t kept everyone updated on all the changes around here this summer, but I’ve left the high school in Phuket Town where I taught last year (Ben still teaches there) to work at a small school on the neighboring island of Koh Siray. It’s less than 10 minutes from my old school but worlds away in terms of socioeconomics. Those of you who have seen it can attest that it looks like The Elephant Graveyard from The Lion King and just like the Elephant Graveyard, you really don’t want to be there after dark.

Yes those are large aggressive (probably diseased) monkeys roaming around near the school, and yes that guy is wearing a KFC bucket on his head....don't ask, they do a lot of meth here
Yes those are large aggressive (probably diseased) monkeys roaming around near the school, and yes that guy is wearing a KFC bucket on his head….don’t ask, they do a lot of meth here
This is not common just five minutes up the road, but once you cross into the Ratsada neighborhoods, you see a dramatic change
This is not common just five minutes up the road, but once you cross into the Ratsada neighborhoods, you see a dramatic change

Koh Siray is home to the Sea Gypsies, a migrant community with its own language and religion who rarely use currency or integrate themselves into society. This means their children do not attend school. My school has encouraged these kiddos to join classes (something that would never be allowed in town due to extremely prejudice attitudes towards the migrant community) but its a steep learning curb as almost none of them can read or write and many parents prefer their children to work instead of learn.

The Sea Gypsy Village itself is a makeshift settlement with no running water or sanitation where families live 10 to a room. Domestic violence and sexual abuse are common. Not a day has gone by at school that a child doesn’t gasp and cower away from a high five for fear that I’m going to hit them. But once they’ve decided that I’m not going to hurt them, I can’t get those little snuggle bunnies off me, they want hugs and kisses so desperately.

Snuggling and photos, two things that never stop with these munchkins
Snuggling and photos, two things that never stop with these munchkins

The orphanage in Koh Siray is self sufficient in terms of funding. They can provide the kids with decent clothes, food and healthcare but the need for love and affection oozes out of their little puppy dog faces each day when its time to go home. At 4pm, they sprint towards me at the school gate screaming, ” TEACHA ONE PLEASE!!!!!” (Goodbye hug)

Hugs and play dates with Teacha are free but small gifts go a long way in communicating love to them as our verbal communication is somewhat limited. If you would like to donate and Make a Munchkins Day, I’ll buy them a book or toy and go play with them on your behalf, because let’s face it, their present is only fun if it comes with someone to play with.

 

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They don't have expensive taste, it's just a matter of being able to buy enough to go around....hugs are still free though
They don’t have expensive taste, it’s just a matter of being able to buy enough to go around….hugs are still free though

I am also saving and collecting donations locally to do a weekend activity each month. Today we did “Bracelets and Bubbles” which was a big hit. In true crasian form, they wore down the battery on both my camera and my ipad from “take photo” and I left with a broken shoe, 4 oddly placed “Elsa” braids, and no voice left.

I wish on Mothers Day that they had good mommies to buy them Frozen pajamas and tuck them into bed in their very own room, but at least tonight they will go to bed with bracelets on their wrists and bubbles around their neck, knowing that Teacha will be back tomorrow with more hugs.

I only allow them the use of one app in my ipad but boy do they take full advantage of it.  I have to hand it to them though, this one gets the theme across, I'm seeing both bubbles and bracelets featured. Good job munchkins!
I only allow them the use of one app in my ipad but boy do they take full advantage of it. I have to hand it to them though, this one gets the theme across, I’m seeing both bubbles and bracelets featured. Good job munchkins!

Happy Thai Mother’s Day Mom, I love you!