Khoa Sok National Park and Our Jungle House – Day 2 3/9/15

Elephants! Today is Elephant Day. I know a lot of the students have been really excited for this.

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When we got to the location, everyone was assigned an elephant and we went on an hour ride. Some students stayed in the seat provided, but some of the students chose to ride on the elephant’s neck. It was a surprisingly smooth ride up on the chair and riding on the elephant’s neck was similar to riding a horse.

The jungle we rode through was beautiful. The students had a blast! (As did the teachers!)

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After the ride, we were able to feed and bathe the elephants. They were so much fun and playful!

If elephants didn’t exist, you couldn’t invent one. They belong to a small group of living things so unlikely they challenge credulity and common sense. – Lyall Watson

Khoa Sok National Park and Our Jungle House – Day 1 3/8/15

Today we transferred from the lake to our tree houses in the jungle. We will be staying at Our Jungle House for the last two nights of our adventure.

The first leg of our journey to Our Jungle House was a long tail boat ride back to the docks. It was about an hour long and we were able to stop and see the three islands that are the symbol of Cheow Lan Lake. Like all of the other landscapes here in Thailand, the islands were beautiful!

We eventually made it to Our Jungle House, and it is absolutely beautiful!

We also went on a great canoe ride and were able to enjoy a delicious drink out of bamboo cups. Luckily, we get to bring the cups home with us!

I also want to use this post to introduce the parents reading this blog to the chaperones who have been taking care of your children the last two weeks.

First up is Wes Howard. Wes joined Ross last year as an Associate and was rehired this year as a full time teacher. He currently teaches reading and writing in the ESOL (English for Speakers of Other Languages) department. He was the JV Boys Basketball coach this year and will be Ross’ Head Boys Varsity Basketball coach next year. Wes earned his bachelor’s degree from Notre Dame University. He is also our fearless leader on this trip!

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John Della-Pietra is a new employee at the Ross School. He teaches Mandarin and is a part of the ESOL department. He came to Ross after earning his bachelors degree at the Open University of Hong Kong, while also teaching ESOL. Before Hong Kong, John spent 6 years in the United States Navy.

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And I am Jessica Obiedzinski. I am also new to Ross this year. I am the school’s Athletic Trainer and work predominately with the sports teams making sure everyone is healthy. My training is in recognition and management of athletic injuries. I also teach in the Wellness department. I graduated from Hofstra University and will be completing my master’s degree from the University of Texas – Pan American this summer.

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I hope your children have enjoyed spending the last two weeks with us as much as we have enjoyed spending the time with them!

Tell me and I forget. Teach me and I remember. Involve me and I learn. – Benjamin Franklin

Cheow Lan Lake – Day 2 3/7/15

We were up bright and early this morning for our morning safari! The mist over the lake made the whole place seem serene and ethereal. Unfortunately, we did not spot any animals.

Our other activity for the day was a hike through the park. The jungle was beautiful and the hike was great exercise! We also learned about a few of the animals that make the park their home.

The rest of today has been dedicated to relaxing and enjoying the beautiful lake!

It’s ironic, but until you can free those final monsters within the jungle of yourself, your life, your soul is up for grabs. – Rona Barrett

 

Cheow Lan Lake – Day 1 3/6/15

The next stop on our adventure is Cheow Lan Lake. The lake is manmade and is a reservoir for a hydroelectric plant. The people who used to live in the villages that are now flooded, are the people who own and run the floating bungalows. The Lake is part of a larger national park system, called Khao Sok National Park. Thailand actually supports 77 separate national parks, all within a country the size of Wyoming. In comparison, the United States only has 59 national parks.

I may have gone a bit trigger-happy with the camera in regards to the scenery. It has been unbelievably gorgeous. Lindsey described the park as like the setting from the movie Jurassic Park and it is very true! The lake looks like dinosaurs should inhabit it. Instead, there are gibbons, Indian bison, elephants, and many more. On our evening safari, we were lucky enough to see Indian bison twice. The Indian bison are the number one most endangered animal in Thailand.

Over all, the lake is beautiful and the water is the perfect temperature.

We ourselves feel that what we are doing is just a drop in the ocean. But the ocean would be less because of that missing drop. – Mother Teresa

Ranong 3/5/15

Today, we had a day trip to Ranong and its hot springs to sooth our sore muscles from Muay Thai.

Our first stop in Ranong was to see the recreation of the palace that used to sit high on a hill in Ranong. The city has very strong Chinese ties, which can be seen in the architecture of the palace. When completed, it will be a museum dedicated to the tin mining industry in the area and other local events. The statue in front of the palace represents the traditional way of mining tin.

The next stop was the Ranong Lighthouse. The lighthouse was build for the King’s 80th birthday in 2007. Behind it is the Andaman Sea, and beyond that is Burma (Myanmar). The scenery was spectacular.

Everywhere we have gone, we have seen these three flags. The gold one is the King’s flag. The red, white, and blue one is the Thai flag. And the purple one is the Princess’ flag. We have also been seeing blue flags, which represent the Queen. The monarchy in Thailand is incredibly revered and respected.

Lunch was at a local seafood restaurant. Again, the food was delicious!

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We made it to the hot springs in the afternoon. It was very pretty, but definitely commercialized. The pools were around 40C. This was a little hot for most us, but the water did feel very good once you got used to it. Jason and Karsten were the only two that got completely in the pools, although, John did sit in one. The hot water really helped Jason after his fight yesterday.

Either you decide to stay in the shallow end of the pool or you go out in the ocean. – Christopher Reeve

Buddha Enlightenment Ceremony 3/4/15

We had the incredible fortune of being in Kuraburi when the local Buddhist Temple was celebrating the day Buddha reached Enlightenment. This is a very significant event in the Buddhist religion and the ceremony was a very pious experience. Our students were very respectful and greatly appreciated the opportunity to witness this annual ceremony.

The ceremony consisted of Buddhist prayers and chants. The Monks and the participants then walked around the temple three times while carrying candles, incense, and flowers. The procession ended at the front of the Temple, where you could place your bouquet and say a prayer. The bouquets were also placed around the trees surrounding the Temple. Then, there was more Buddhist chanting and prayers. It was truly beautiful.

One of our Muay Thai instructors was also at the ceremony. Her and her friends wanted a photo with the students, so we were able to get another quality group picture!

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Please forgive the blurriness of some photos. I turned the flash off in respect for the ceremony.

Do not dwell in the past, do not dream of the future, concentrate the mind on the present moment. – Buddha

Muay Thai – Day 3 3/4/15

Our last day with our friends at Ponsuriya. This has truly been an amazing experience for us from Ross. The students have really picked up a lot of new skills and some have even expressed interest in continuing with the sport when we get home.

We started the session off with drills again and then got right into the sparing. It was really impressive to watch how much the students had picked up over the course of only three days.

The first to be paired up in the ring, were Sarah and Shirley. They were both a bit shy to engage at first, but they did get a few shots in.

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Then, it was Zach’s turn to take on the gym’s owner and head instructor. After a few instructional rounds, Jason stepped in the ring to oppose Zach. That was a great sparing match! Both of the guys have really taken to the sport and picked up many new skills while here.

Next, was Katie and Shirley. Shirley got over her initial shyness and was a real wild card! She and Katie did really well! They both threw a few solid combinations and, while intense while in the ring, definitely enjoyed themselves.

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Next up in the sparing ring were Abby and Rachel. This match had a lot of potential, but it turned into a bit of a giggle-fest. The blows they did land were really good! I would love to watch these two spar when they are serious about it. I think it would be a really good match.

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Anil and Karsten were up next. They put up a solid showing. There is definitely a lot of potential in both of them.

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Michael has been showing his boxing skills as well. It might not be Muay Thai, but he has been doing some solid drills.

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The next team in the ring was Jason and Ray Jack. We have all been very impressed with how well Ray Jack has picked up the Muay Thai. He quietly watches, and then puts what he has learned into practice beautifully.

After Ray Jack, Jason thought it was a good idea to challenge the gym’s top student. While he held his own and was very impressive, Jason is going to be very sore tomorrow!

We ended the afternoon with Anil and Zach.

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After the sparing, we were taught Ponsuriya’s Wai Khru Ram Muay. This is a type of dance Muay Thai fighters do before fights to honor their ancestors, trainers, and stadium. It was beautiful and hopefully I can get these videos uploaded. Also, please forgive the 20-30 second clips. I’m still getting used to this camera and am not sure what happened here.

We ended the day with a plethora of group photos. The students were especially keen to get their picture taken with the Stadium’s top fighter. He didn’t seem to mind at all.

Also, in addition to the planned donation to Ponsuriya the students raised additional funds among themselves. Ponsuriya is now able to purchase all brand new equipment and will be able to train more safely! I am extremely proud of our students and what they did for our new friends.

There are no strangers here; Only friends you haven’t yet met. – William Butler Yeats

 

Analysis of a Muay Thai Photo

This was one of my favorite photos I have taken so far on this trip. Wes and I loved how it looked like a still from a 1990’s “woman trains in martial arts to avenge her family” film. We asked Ella is she would be willing to write a fictional backstory to go along with it and she was excited to do so! Below is her story. Enjoy!

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On the day of January 6th, 2005, I swore to myself that I would get my revenge. That day the Man in Blue came and took my parents. I knew of the Man in Blue, but all I knew was that he was bad. Supposedly we were safe, but someone who was being held captive snitched on us in return for his freedom. Since this horrible day, I have been plotting my revenge. My father was an important businessman who had many connections all over the world, not all of them were good people.

I had a nanny from Thailand while I was growing, but since that day, secrets have been unraveling. I learned that he was much more then a nanny. He was my protector. He was one of the best Muay Thai kick boxers there ever was. To get kicked by him was like getting rammed by a bull that was a thousand pounds. Ever since the day of my parents’ disappearance, I have been living and training with him. All in preparation for the day I would get my revenge. This photo captures the last day of my training and the last day I would see my nanny, protector, and trainer. He was wise and I felt as if he knew everything.

All these years, the Man in Blue was unaware my parents had a child. I watched him take my parents from under the bed, as I shivered with fear. Since then, I have been training in Muay Thai in secret at a rural village on the outskirts of Kuraburi. All in preparation for the day I would be ready to take revenge.

This morning, at 5am, an address was slipped under my door. Today I was not to appear to training, but to the Man in Blue. Mid day, I waited in an alleyway outside of a secluded bar, while the “Man” meet to discus business.

As the sun set, the man who took my parents on that fateful night emerged. I swiftly got an arm around the unpleasantly damp backside of his neck and held him tight. I rammed my knee with the strength of a bull into his torso. Soundless from the tight grip I help around his neck, he squirmed as his final moment of defeat came upon him.

I was gone instantly and the night remained still, as the crickets’ chirped goodbyes.

-Ella