Teaching and Learning

Hello, dear family and friends! We’ve been in Chiang Mai for 17 days and we will be here for 17 more until we leave for Phuket, Thailand, to visit the beautiful seaside and support Katie in her Freediving competition. Then we will be off to the jungle to teach.


Phuket, Thailand

The other thing we have started doing is teaching English at Thai Freedom House, a volunteer community center for Shan refugees in Chiang Mai. There is currently fighting going on in Shan State, Burma, which is right across the border from Chiang Mai. There are many Shan refugees in our city because of our proximity to Shan state. Chiang Mai is also very close to Laos and Yunnan Province, China, both places we hope to visit while we are here:

Shan state map


At Thai Freedom House, students can take classes for free: English in order to get a tourist industry job, Thai to live in Thailand, Shan in order to return home someday, Burmese in order to return to their home country for school or work, or Chinese which is also a large ethnic and tourist group in Northern Southeast Asia. The students can also choose to take art, music, or traditional Shan dance for cultural preservation and enrichment.


Students at Thai Freedom House

Thai Freedom House is very full– I teach 20 intermediate English speakers and Noel and Katie teach 25 beginning English speakers. The school didn’t take any new students this term because our space is quite full. We are developing a phonics curriculum for English as a second language. Our experiments seem to be working well so far! Our students struggle mostly with pronunciation and hearing the sounds made by native English speakers, which are quite different from their own.


The teachers at Thai Freedom House

There are so many refugees from Burma/Myanmar in Thailand. Many of them struggle quite profoundly from poverty, racism, and lack of rights. It is difficult to have access to education and basic legal rights in Thailand for a poor person who doesn’t have an ID card proving their Thai ethnicity. Non-Thais can’t go to college and usually have to work in either a construction camp– subjecting their family to poor living conditions and inflated food prices which cause them to go into debt to their employer– or work in the sex industry, making them susceptible to trafficking because they have no standing legally if they are kidnapped or moved to another province.

Please pray that we would find ways to be effective in helping these people set up a livelihood for themselves in a foreign land, and for the fighting to stop so they can go home.


Noel and I are students ourselves. We have a Thai tutor every day for about an hour and a half. So far we have been exposed to a lot of the language, but still have a hard time hearing and reproducing the sounds and tones.

Screen Shot 2014-09-07 at 3.07.54 PM

Noel gives our teacher Nok some laughs when he tries to copy what she says.

Noel is also getting pretty good at driving me around on the back of the motorbike. I don’t drive very much. I took it out yesterday and only got a little lost, but I’m gonna keep practicing.

Noel and me on the motorbike, coming back from shopping for our house.

Noel and me on the motorbike, coming back from shopping for our house.


We also went on a great hike last week from the city to the top of the mountain outside Chiang Mai. On the top of the mountain is the famous Doi Su Thep buddhist temple.

The view of the city while climbing the Doi Su Thep mountain, a third of the way up.



The temple steps


Doi Su Thep


On the way down with a new friend, Katie’s roommate Aimee.

We miss you all so much. Lots of love!


  1. Thank you so much for the updates! What a relief to know you can get a latte over there. :) When living among so much that is foreign, it’s sometimes those little things that can make a big difference. Looks like you are having fun getting adjusted to your new life! Sure do miss you guys here. Looking forward to reading more!

  2. Ella was very excited to see your blog post. Noel! Hannah! She yelled when she saw your pictures. I feel the same way. We miss you! We love to see and hear all the new things you are trying and seeing. Say HELLO! to Katie from us!

    Meanwhile, back on the ranch…Ella lined up her dolly and two owls on her bed this morning, pulled three books down from her bookshelf, sat down on her bed, put the dolly in her lap, and read her creatures books. She even made the monkey sounds for “Goodnight Gorilla.”

    She is currently playing with the braid in my hair and telling me it looks “very nice.” :) I’m raising my own fan club over here.

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