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News from Nong Khai



Sunset on the Mekong River Monk at the riverside garden Riverside aerobics class

Written: Friday, January 21, 2005

Bonnie and Carol’s Nongkhai adventures continued.

Week three has just finished and it seems the cool season has quickly come and gone. There were two or three days when Bonnie and I wore sweaters (mornings only), the students were shivering, and even the dogs were wearing coats! Now it’s just pleasantly warm, getting ready for the real heat that will start next month.

FGCC, the community college where we teach, is currently suffering from low enrollment. Still, we’re both teaching three classes of 8 to 14 students in each, so we’re busy doing lesson plans and trying to learn the nearly unpronounceable names of all our students. One of the Thais on the staff here is giving us language lessons a few days a week so maybe those Thai tones will eventually come back. Amazing how much you can forget in nearly 40 years!

Last week we discovered that every evening a group of women do aerobics on the walkway along the Mekhong River. They invited us to join them, so three or four times a week we bike out there and exercise to work off all the Thai food we’re eating. It’s a picture: the river on our right (with longboats slowly moving into the setting sun), a wat topped with a huge golden Buddha on our left, monks in their saffron robes walking alongside, and all to the accompaniment of really loud Thai-techno music!

We’re trying to see and do as much as possible for the four months we’re here. Last week the Chinese circus was in town so we joined hundreds of the locals sitting on the local soccer field watching a truly fantastic show of acrobats and jugglers and magicians—kind of a Cirque de Soleil only the price was much better: $2.50. Last weekend we took our new bikes for their first out-of-town road trip to nearby Wat Khaek, a sort of sculpture garden, full of huge fantastic statues of Shiva, Vishnu, Buddha and every other Hindu and Buddhist deity imaginable. A group of young students spotted us and shyly approached, asking if they could interview us, an assignment they had no doubt been given by their English teacher. They each had a list of questions and one after another they dutifully went through a dialogue with us. Then - pictures taken all around, lots of smiles, thank you’s, and invitations to come and visit their school. Sometimes it’s kind of fun to be so obviously foreign.

Bonnie eating at Wat Khaek Thai boys at Wat Khaek Carol being interviewed

In fact, we really like just about everything here in Nongkhai, with the possible exception of the nighttime doggie serenades. Does every dog in Nongkhai live just outside our house? Must they all howl in unison each night? And when we do get back to sleep, our neighboring rooster begins a loud flapping of wings, followed by continuous crowing from 3AM on. Mai pen rai – as the Thais would say – it doesn’t matter that much because our days are so full that a few sleepless nights are a small price to pay.

Cheers for now from Bonnie and Carol
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