A Coffee Chat

So I mighta’ made a fool of myself this weekend. We had a group of students at SOLD who were all graduating from junior high and high school and all of them have plans to continue their education (this is amazing because in this community, roughly half never make it past middle school). So I had prepared a nice little speech to deliver to them about how they’ve overcome challenges that many children across the world can’t even imagine and that when the critics tell them in future how they can’t or they’re not worthy, they should remember this day and know that they can and they will succeed. I stood up and started giving my speech. I was doing fine until about 1/3 of the way through, I looked up at saw one of the older boys in the back getting all teary eyed. I’m PREGNANT, y’all. That’s just not fair to pull that on a pregnant lady. I started getting choked up. Then I started getting embarrassed for being choked up (because in Thai culture you don’t show your emotions). And then I cried through the entire rest of my speech.


On the plus side, I held a workshop on developing self-esteem, and I’m really pleased with how well it went. We started with a trust exercise – you know the one where people pair up and you have to let yourself fall backward and trust the other person will catch you? We did that one. The kids were giggling and having a ton of fun, but it was challenging too, and it was obvious who had a harder time trusting. I had them take note of what went through their heads: how it seemed hard or impossible at first, but they had to control their fear, and once they did, they could do it. I said that’s like any challenge in life: your brain might tell you that you can’t, but if you can control your thoughts, you’ll find all kinds of things you can do. But just like how you had to trust the person behind you, you have to create a relationship of trust with yourself, to know that you can do it.

I think they got the picture, and the trust exercise seemed to be a good way to show them viscerally what I was talking about. We made lists of things they liked about themselves (with some kids, this part seemed like I’d given them a tough exam they hadn’t prepared for, for all the hard thinking they were doing), and lists of things that made them happy. We  sang songs (Whitney Houston’s Greatest Love of All), and made a rubber band chain, with each link in the chain representing something that made them happy. I told them to add a link each time something happened to make them happy, and one day it could grow quite long, and if there comes a day when they don’t feel good about themselves, they can look back at their happy chain and remember all the things that made them happy.

Then we finished with a showing of the movie Brave. I popped popcorn for them, and it ended everything on a happy note.

Now I’m back home, and it’s really good to be home. Except for one thing: the SMOKE. Everyone here is complaining about it. All the expats are writing blog posts about it. It is BAD this year. Every year, we have a burning season where the rural farmers burn old crops to prepare for new ones. It also helps fertilize the soil for a rare kind of mushroom with which they can double their incomes by harvesting and selling. Good for the farmers. Bad for the rest of us who have to breathe the polluted air.

Looks like a cloudy, foggy day, right? That’s smoke.

It’s illegal to burn everything and there’s massive media campaigns to stop it, but it’s also nearly impossible to enforce without the government investing in helping the farmers develop alternative means of growing these crops or finding other income. Most of these farmers are barely scraping by on a subsistence level. They don’t have many options.

I’ve closed up all our windows and doors to try to keep the smoke out, but we can smell it the minute we poke our heads outside. Even indoors, my throat and nasal passages get parched – it’s nearly impossible to stay properly hydrated – and my eyes are itchy all the time. I would seriously consider moving down south for a month and hanging out in Bangkok or down on the beaches (yay beach vacation!)…but we have Dot and can’t really bring her with us. And I don’t feel really comfortable going quite so far away from my doctor in case anything happens with the pregnancy.

So we pray for rain.

And make banana creme desserts.

A pecan, oats & spice crust and alternating banana, creme, and whipped cream layers. I was in a mood, what can I say? I used this recipe for the creme part, except I used only about half the sugar (because WOW it does not need to be that sweet)…but the rest I kind of did by whim & intuition.

Anyway, that’s what’s going on in my neighborhood. What’s happening in yours?

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8 thoughts on “A Coffee Chat

  1. The banana creme dessert looks SO yummy! And I love your story about your tears and the kids. They probably love you all the more now after your vulnerability in front of them. That's my guess!

  2. Those kids will remember what you taught them for the rest of their lives. They're lucky to have you.
    I'm so glad you stopped by my blog today. If you hadn't left your comment I may have never found your site! I've really enjoyed browsing around, and I'll be back.

  3. I very distinctly remember being in Pai about this time two, no wait, three (yikes, was it that long ago?!) years ago and the smoke was completely insane. On the islands of Thailand foreigners seem to be making an impact in the amount of plastic being used (mostly I think it's the divemasters who are seeing it end up in the ocean who are making the most noise about it), so maybe foreigners in the north will be able to have some influence about the smoke in the north. We can hope, right?