Mekong Memories

The Mekong In Chiang Kong, Thailand, looking over to Laos

The Mekong In Chiang Kong, Thailand, looking over to Laos

I have always had a fascination for rivers. I always looked for them on maps tracking them across continents, through countries and comparing their physical features and statistics.

Growing up in the UK we always walked along rivers and I once had the misfortune (probably my own fault) to fall into the River Trent as a child! This didn’t put me off my fascination though and I enjoyed studying river systems and their morphology through school and into university. It is one of my favourite topics to teach bringing the river alive and helping students understand the interconnections that it plays in both our rural and urban landscapes.

Slow boats on the Mekong at Huay Xai In Laos

Slow boats on the Mekong at Huay Xai In Laos

To be able to visit and explore some of the worlds major rivers is a real treat – UK rivers are special but not the most majestic! I hope to tick a few more off my list in the near future. At present we are on a (slow) boat motoring down the Mekong River as it follows the Laos and Thai border and gradually takes us into northern Laos and towards our final destination, Luang Prabang.

On the slow boat

On the slow boat

The power is awesome, a snaking mass of brown water. A monster conveyor belt of muddy sediment that once formed the physical landscape of Central Asia. Like the ocean a river can humble you and make you realise the significance of your being – how many civilisations has the Mekong witnessed? How many more will it outlast? It brings life but also destruction.

Evening in Pak Beng, Laos, looking down at the Mekong

Evening in Pak Beng, Laos, looking down at the Mekong

I have had plenty of time to reflect the last two days on the slow boat and had challenged myself to be more creative and not just tot rely on photos. So Jonah and I wrote some poems and I even learnt from him what a haiku is. We dedicate the following to our inspiration – the River Mekong:

By Jonah:

Fast flowing river
Cold, freezing sometimes warm there
Starts from high mountains

Plants
Green, tall
Growing, drinking, eating
They give us oxygen
Animals

Water
Wet, cold
Raining, evaporating, drinking
Ones hot, ones cold
Steaming, killing, melting
Hot burns
Lava

By Paul:

Mother Mekong moves
Shifting sediment and land
Making its way home

Mekong
Asias greatest
Flows through time
Bringing people
Together

Many meandering miles
Emptying Eastern empires
King of all rivers
Onwards to the ocean
Never knowing, just
Growing and growing

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Mark’s gap year reflection at Regents International School Pattaya

Mark on the Baan Huay Sapad project in Mae Hong Son

Mark on the Baan Huay Sapad project in Mae Hong Son

Location of placement: Thailand
Dates of placement: 2013/14 academic year
Name of school: Regents School Pattaya

After graduating from high school in Kenya, I was appointed to represent my school in a gap program at the Regents International School Pattaya Thailand. The experience was unique, educative and adventurous.

I participated in several activities including sports, class, adventure trips and many others.
What I loved most was the service learning part. We visited many surrounding communities, played with children, worked with them and taught English as well.

Mark, centre, lining up for Team Gap Dodgeball

Mark, centre, lining up for Team Gap Dodgeball

A gap placement is quite important for young people. It gives an opportunity for one to improve and excel in different aspects of life. They improve their personal confidence, speech and other personal and social skills.

It’s also during such period that many young people learn to manage their personal resources as they lead their own lives.

The placement , in addition, gives an an opportunity to work with different communities, and in the process many people develop a heart of service to our society.  It’s also a chance for one to get out of their comfort zone, widen their mind and begin experiencing life in a bigger world, and grow to become knowledgeable global citizens.

Mark

Crouch Adventures – culturally aware and interactive

The planned itinerary on our kitchen blackboard prior to departure

The planned itinerary on our kitchen blackboard prior to departure

Today we are leaving Chiang Rai and heading as far north as we can within Thailand to the border with Laos.  We will stay overnight in Chiang Kong and tomorrow catch the slow boat for two days to Luang Prabang in Laos.  With three young children anything could happen –  we are hoping that the excitement of the boat experience has a pacifying effect but at present pizza in Chiang Mai has only really been a successful pacifier so far! Flying from Chiang Mai was an option but now it is time to really go out of our comfort zone…

I hope you enjoy these few photos of reflections collected along the way since we left Pattaya 10 days ago.

You may want to follow Jonah and his reflections on his learning blog.

Zoe learning the ukulele with Pom at the Bamboo School

Zoe learning the ukulele with Pom at the Bamboo School

On Doi Suthep - but also sometimes with us in the car!!

On Doi Suthep – but also sometimes with us in the car!!

At the Elephant Hospital just south of Chiang Mai

At the Elephant Hospital just south of Chiang Mai

Possibly the biggest milepost marker in Thailand?

Possibly the biggest milestone marker in Thailand?

A really big gong on Doi Suthep

A really big gong on Doi Suthep

We love Khow Soi, but think we'll stick to the mushrooms!

We love Khow Soi, but think we’ll stick to the mushrooms!

Brittany’s Ice Bucket Challenge for ALS

Getting ready...

Getting ready…

The Ice Bucket Challenge

Thank you Mr. Crouch for nominating me for the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge. Prior to actually partaking in the challenge I had seen many videos documenting the experiences of other nominees and I loved watching each one.

Here it comes...

Here it comes…

The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge is a wonderful way of raising awareness and funds for the ALS foundation. I can only hope that one day a cure will exist for all those with the neurodegenerative disease.

Brrrrrrrrr!

Brrrrrrrrr!

I received news of Mr. Crouch’s nomination the day before I was scheduled to move into the University of Michigan. My day was filled with last minute errands with my family.

Very brrrrrrrrrr!

Very brrrrrrrrrr!

It wasn’t until 9:30pm that evening, that I remembered I needed to partake in the Ice Bucket Challenge.

Ready for the first week of university now!

Ready for the first week of university now!

My mom was more than willing to fill a bucket with ice and water and, together, we recorded the event. I also donated $20 to the ALS Foundation!

Good luck starting university Brittany – let us know how you get on and how many amazing people you meet and inspire.

Sukothai – brings out the artist in you

One of many impressive Buddhas in Sukothai

One of many impressive Buddhas in Sukothai

We have just spent two wonderful days in Sukothai, the ancient capital city of what is now Thailand over 700 years ago.  This UNESCO World Heritage Site is situated towards the north of Thailand, about 3 hours south of Chiang Mai and is a beautifully well kept historical park.  It has taken me 15 years to finally get to Sukothai but it was well worth the wait, the long drive and the bucket of ice cold water.  A late convert to and now sponge of history (once arguing that geography was far more important than history) I found myself in my element walking among the temple ruins and imagining what life was like in this royal capital many centuries ago and what has happened over time for it to be in the varied states we now find it.  My oldest son asked me why the capital city was built here and not originally in Bangkok – a good question and a perfect way to bring geography and history together, as they should be.  We walked around together looking at the physical landscape and setting that we were in and discussed what made this particular place an effective site and situation for such an important city many years ago.

Reflections...

Reflections…

Photos are a great way of capturing what you see when visiting places like Sukothai.  Everyone has a different perspective and interprets the ancient designs and structures in different ways and a digital camera is perfect for capturing your own favourite observations and intricacies.  I also like watching other people and seeing what they are photographing and working out how they are interpreting the complex patterns and capturing their experience the best way they can on camera.  It is even better when a random monk appears and everyone tries to capture that perfect monk shot walking through the temple grounds as if nobody else is anywhere to be seen!  I bet you have all tried it…

Expressing the artist in you

Expressing the artist in you

Then there are those of us that are more traditional (or young and bold) and want to capture their experience and perspectives on paper.  I remember when I used to like to draw and use colour to bring out pictures that I had created.  When I made the time to sit still in one place and really take in the landscape and environment that I was observing.  It is so much easier to snap away with the digital device though and do it the saturation way – one of them will surely be good!  But am I cheating myself out of what is really important?  Should I be challenging myself to embrace this unique cultural and historical context and dig deeper into my hidden and forgotten abilities and develop an even more personal relationship with the moment and make a connection?  It is only now writing this blog and looking back at the photos, especially of Jonah sketching, that I wish that I had sat down and taken more time – a couple of sketches or even a poem – I know I have it in me (I could have posted them – target to oneself: I will next time!).

I want my children to embrace the artist in them as often as possible as they experience life, to draw on their feelings and emotions to produce work that has passion and is important and meaningful to them and will help them to remember and capture the importance of that particular moment.

Or you can always drive a tuk tuk!!

The only way to get around the temples

The only way to get around the temples

ALS Ice Bucket Challenge

After being nominated by Aina and Kru Meena to do the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge I found myself in Sukothai, the ancient capital of Thailand, being drenched in ice cold water by my three kids.  This is obviously a very worthy cause and as a family we were more than happy to donate to the ALS cause online (it is very easy) at their website: The ALS Association

To see the challenge and personal adventure endured for this nomination and cause please see the photos below (we have not mastered video on social media as a family yet!).

I also have the privilege to nominate the following three people for the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge:

Brittany Tang, Sarah Travis- Mulford and Jonah/Zoe/Sam Crouch

Good luck!

Getting ready

Getting ready

Brace...

Brace…

They can reach!!

They can reach!!

Very cold!!

Very cold!!

Very, very cold!!

Very, very cold!!

You'll be next!

You’ll be next!

 

 

 

The Transition into University

Brittany on graduation day

Brittany on graduation day

Contributed by Brittany Tang

After taking the IB exams and graduating from high school, I was left with a lot of valuable time on my hands. This past summer has really given me the opportunity to reflect on the past few years, on my accomplishments and my failures and has also given me the insight needed to create a trajectory for my future.

What a great idea for university - a quilt made of all your old t-shirts!

What a great idea for university – a quilt made of all your old t-shirts!

I will be attending the University of Michigan this fall and will be studying at the college of Literature, Arts and Sciences. To keep with my childhood dream of becoming a doctor, I applied to be part of the Health Science Scholars (HSSP) living and learning community. To me, attending the University of Michigan is a huge change from attending other smaller international schools in the past. I am prepared to be outgoing, confident and diligent in my studies. I will be participating in psychology research as part of the Undergraduate Research Opportunity Program (UROP). In addition to this, my classes consist of organic chemistry, calculus, 2nd year French and a health science seminar. I think that it is really important to get involved in extracurricular activities as well as seek out leadership positions during your first year of university. For me, keeping my mind busy with school work, service and intramural sports is integral in making a smooth transition into university.

I am very excited to start class, to be a part of open discussion sessions and to take detailed notes during lectures. Although the rigor of the school work is intimidating, I do believe that persistence and commitment can help one achieve ambitious goals!

Thanks for your post Brittany and good luck at university, we look forward to hearing all about it.  To see more posts by Brittany please click here.