Category Archives: Heads of schools in Africa and Asia

“Have You Consumed Rice Yet?”



Taking notes in a friend’s kitchen:

Her cook is preparing Pad Thai: fried rice noodles with shrimp, fish sauce, Thai chilies, tofu, bean sprouts, egg, ..


 It’s not uncommon for Thais to greet you with:

“Gin kow rey yang?” (Have you consumed rice yet?)

“To eat is to eat rice.”

Does this hint to the fact that Thai cooking is centered around rice? Can you imagine asking a Westerner if they have consumed a hamburger yet?

Flavor is important since rice is so bland.



The dishes are spicy, hot, pungent, sweet, sour, salty, exotic: Loaded with herbs and spices.

And if the meal is lacking in spices- four little condiment jars can be found on the table to add more flavor: sugar, vinegar with green chillies, red chili powder, and fish sauce. I never saw salt and pepper- too neutral.

Understanding the culinary specialties of a culture is one way I appreciate the lifestyle of the people. It’s more than just what they eat: Where , When, and How, are all factors I observe.

The Thais are notorious for eating out, not restaurant- style but in street stalls. (sometimes a little risky for foreigners).

Bag Food


For those on the go, food is served in these little bags– thin wooden sticks are included to stab the food while walking and sauces (of course, hot chilies) are packed for the customer.


My husband is a great wok chef, but I met his match in Chinatown!


Seafood from Amwapha (Floating Market)


Where are the chopsticks?

Thais eat with a fork and spoon: the fork scoots the food into the spoon and the spoon is used for actually eating.

I asked my students to share some of their favorite dishes:

Red Curries: (hot, hot with Thai red chilies!)

Pad Thai (fried noodles usually with shrimp)

 Papaya Salad

Hainan style chicken (marinated with rice)

Tubtim Krob (chestnuts in coconut milk)

Tom Yum soup ( see below): hot, spicy and sour soup with lemongrass, galangal (root), kaffir lime, and shrimp/chicken- with or without coconut milk

looks like something is going to crawl out, but DELICIOUS!


 Staying true to my blog,

I found student  food (school lunches), while teaching at the local government school,

I observed these food trays outside the classroom. After inquiring, I learned the government provides a free hot lunch to all students. The meals are delivered to each classroom.

Now, that’s service!



 A glimpse into the exotic world of tropical fruits:

mangosteen, rambutan, mangoes, durian, papaya, dragon fruit



My favorite fruit dessert: (my daughter fell for this too while in Cambodia)



Speaking of fruit,  I have a new health secret:

Coconut Water-hydrates, nourishes, and one friend said, “It’s similar to the plasma in our bodies.”  (I thought of plasma TVs???)


Flying to Vietnam tomorrow 


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Landing in Bangkok with a Splash!

IMG_1577I paid money for these piranha- like fish to nibble on my dead skin cells???  Once the shock factor passed, I was pleased with the results: baby-soft skin.

Summer 2013 Mission: Teaching in Thailand, the land of Wais and Wats

Mary, my sister, joined me this summer to teach in a Thai school. We will support students who want to learn English, and conduct teacher training classes for the Thai teachers. They are eager to learn effective teaching techniques for student engagement and academic success.

Chiang Mai

With a few free days before buckling down to our teaching schedule, we boarded a plane and flew north to Chiang Mai. This  ancient capital of the Lanna Empire was invaded by Burma; Burmese architecture, clothing and food is still visible today. In 1892, Siam (former name of central Thailand: e.g., The King and I ) annexed Lanna and the two regions became known as Thailand.


Riding elephants up a very steep jungle path; Wats in every corner (Buddhist temples); Tuk tuks ;and finally the shimmering, golden Doi Suthep temple perched on top of a mountain.


 Wat Prah Singh


Tuk Tuks: Thai transportation


The Lion Buddha

Doi Suthep

IMG_1714Lotus flower offering

Back to Bangkok : neighborhood market

Leaving you with a wai (Thai greeting) in front of my apartmentIMG_1838


Filed under Global Classroom, Heads of schools in Africa and Asia, Non-profits for teachers, Summer teaching overseas, Teaching

Teaching under a Bridge

“Build a bridge and get over it”

My daughter’s extraordinary second grade teacher had a collection of quips that she would use to teach lessons beyond the textbook.  When they whined, she replied, “Build a bridge and get over it!”

APTOPIX India Free School

The bridge quote resurfaced after reading an article about an Indian shopkeeper, Rajesh Kumar, who saw the value in supporting education in his poor community. In the slums of New Delhi, he organized a classroom under a bridge, creating an opportunity for his students to cross over from poverty to prosperity. The article goes on to say his students also attended a government school, but their classrooms were overcrowded with 60 or more students in one room, and the teacher would instruct by writing a problem on the board then leave the room.

In Rajesh’s makeshift classroom, A painted rectangle on a broken concrete wall serves as his blackboard. The students sweep the dirt to provide a surface to place their mats.

They attend this school to learn!


The shopkeeper is providing these students with one of the greatest gifts we can give a child: Access to a quality education!

I experienced the reality of government school while training teachers in Zimbabwe.  After visiting a rural, public school, I was disheartened by the school environment. The walls were blank; desks were in poor condition and the teachers were exhausted( up to 55 in a class). The school housed grades 8-12 with a morning  and evening session to accommodate the sheer numbers. I requested a meeting with the principal- careful, not to sound condescending…. I had some ideas to share. With a smile, The principal said his school was the best in the area, so everyone wanted to attend; he would add students to the attendance list just to give them the best opportunity. I thought, wow, I can’t even imagine what the other schools must look like if this is the BEST. He said the teachers’ salaries were so low that they would often not show up for class. I inquired,” What would the students do?” He said they would scrub the school. Hmmm, maybe I should try this with my American classes. I tried to convince him to hire more teachers. “No money from the government,” he responded. (That’s another story/post).

The principal working against all odds



As an  educational specialist with a wide range of classroom experience, I am crossing the “American bridge” to the developing world where I can train teachers who are often young, inexperienced, and overwhelmed; in return, they can make a difference in their communities,bridging their students from poverty to prosperity.

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Teaching is my profession and mission!

 Teaching is my profession.

As summer approaches, I close another chapter in my full time teaching profession with an energetic and memorable group of eighth graders. This class has been uniquely special since I taught about half of them as their sixth grade teacher- I will miss them ALL!

Teaching is my mission !

I am preparing for my third summer abroad as a global teacher trainer. This summer I will be in Bangkok, Thailand with a side trip to Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam.

Bangkok, Thailand

thai children  I will be working in Bangkok, teaching students English as a Foreign Language (TEFL). My intention is to gain some experience in this area since there is a high demand for instruction in English, especially in competitive schools where the goal is for the students to attend a top ranked high school.

Summer 2012


While training teachers in India, I noted the instructors would often revert to Hindi when they needed to convey a challenging concept. After the lesson they would look at me and ask,” What is the English translation?”  With a smile, I would respond, I don’t speak Hindi.” We would  work together to create a Hindi/English version. Then the students were really confused! However, I was highly motivated to learn Hindi; my school did offer Hindi classes, and I sat on the front row and just like a sponge absorbed the lessons gratefully( sponges are probably not grateful). No, I do not speak fluent Hindi, but I expect after a few more summers I may surprise myself. Saubhagya! Wow, I may be multi-semi-fluent in Hindi, Thai, Vietnamese, and Shana (summer 2011 in Zimbabwe) after this summer.

Stay tuned  for summer overseas reflections before I embark on my next venture, June 7th.

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Filed under Educating students in developing world, Global Classroom, Heads of schools in Africa and Asia, Non-profits for teachers, Summer teaching overseas, Teacher Development, Teaching, Teaching in Africa, Teaching in India, Training Teachers in Cambodia, Training Teachers in Thailand, Training Teachers in Vietnam, Training teachers overseas, Valuing Education for girls, Zimbabwe

The Monsoons Have Arrived!

The rains have brought cooler temperatures, but the trade off is sloshing through muddy water and dodging the piles of floating trash- The solution:  hire a RICKSHAW!
I’m now with my home stay family for a ten day experience . The first night I was horrified to find geckos plastered to the ceiling and big poisonous- looking  spiders peering down at me: I  guess this is what local life offers. On the other hand, my host family has been so gracious; I’m learning Hindi and eating traditional Indian food.
This week I traveled to the Village School, Betawar. What a contrast to the city school. We travel an hour by bus through the countryside, viewing lush farmland, village huts, women carrying all sorts of items on their heads, and stands filled with an abundance of colorful  fruits and vegetables. The school is more laid back, and a majority of the students are from agricultural families where education is not emphasized. However, math is a popular subject, and I found myself in the middle of a 9th grade algebra class trying to demonstrate math techniques – the students were teaching me while I was teaching the teacher-it was hilarious. Connecting to the local bird life, we made colorful  peacocks with our hands in the first grade class. I used  Hindi to emphasize the multi- colored feathers: “Add lal, nila, pilla, safed, and hara.” I’m not sure if they were laughing at my Southern accent or my Hindi!

Today Calcutta:

I heard Mother Theresa speak in Charleston, SC and will never forget her message of love and compassion. My next excursion is a four day trip to the place where this Saint gave hope to the poorest of the poor in their final days.   More on Calcutta…………..

First graders making peacock hands


Monsoon riders



Teaching at the Village School



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Who’s Watching the Children?

As I prepare for my Indian classroom, (leaving Atlanta, June 21) my thoughts drift back to Africa where I  entered  classrooms of  children ( grades 1-7) from the majority tribe, Shona, with the sole intention to make a difference in their classroom experience.

In the end, I  discovered my own classroom beyond reading, writing and arithmetic.. I learned that smart boards, computers, and other teaching supplies do not teach children or teachers. ( enhancement yes- I do appreciate my smart board!) Through the weeks, I evolved as a teacher in a foreign country. For instance, understanding the educational culture of the host country and adapting lessons to match their interest was a creative endeavor-I organized a staff workshop around the African Bush  or the African wilderness where the elephants, giraffes, lions …roam.

I never saw a stapler or a paper clip on a teacher’s desk; compare this to an American classroom. Due to cost, copy machines did not produce mass copies for students’ convenience, rather, students copied all their assignments in exercise books that were graded daily for immediate feedback. Even the busy headmistress, Gil Martin, left school with a stack of notebooks to read and make nightly comments.

Students wore red uniforms and lovely floppy hats. I appreciated the customary tipping of the hat when greeted in the hall, or the” Good Morning, Mrs. Paul” as I entered the classroom.

Every day at 10:30 the entire staff  congregated in the teacher’s faculty room for a civilized cup of tea while the students were out for recess. I was startled to find the entire faculty gathered around a table sipping on tea and eating biscuits. Thinking as an American, from a liability standpoint, I blurted,  “WHO’S WATCHING THE CHILDREN!”  A voice called out, “They watch themselves.”

My new mantra: ” Relax and enjoy a cup of tea!”

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