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A fishing boat at sunset on the coast of Manila.
A fishing boat at sunset on the coast of Manila.

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The view from my room after arrival.
The view from my room after arrival.

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Our home on the river for 48 hours.
Our home on the river for 48 hours.
More friendly faces.
More friendly faces.
Ayeyarwady River.
Ayeyarwady River.
Unspoiled natural beauty.
Unspoiled natural beauty.
Sunrise from my window.
Sunrise from my window.

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These locals kindly invited me into their home for a meal, showing me such hospitality.
These locals kindly invited me into their home for a meal, showing me such hospitality.
Some novice monks I met while exploring.
Some novice monks I met while exploring.
Lakeside villages.
Lakeside villages.
The view from my window.
The view from my window.
The trekking group and guides.
The trekking group and guides.
Views of the trek.
Views of the trek.
Tea plantations outside of a Paulong village.
Tea plantations outside of a Paulong village.
"Sunset hill."
“Sunset hill.”
Children of Hsipaw.
Children of Hsipaw.

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The view from above.
The view from above.
Kalaw.
Kalaw.
The father - an incredible man I had the privilege of briefly speaking with.
The father – an incredible man I had the privilege of briefly speaking with.
The Catholic Church.
The Catholic Church.
Sunset.
Sunset.

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Inside a pagoda.
Inside a pagoda.
The daily hot air balloons at sunrise.
The daily hot air balloons at sunrise.
Local scenery of the limestone mountain ranges.
Local scenery of the limestone mountain ranges.
Saddar cave.
Saddar cave.
From the top of Mt. Zwegabin.
From the top of Mt. Zwegabin.
A fascinating assembly of numerous Buddha statues at the foot of Mt. Zwegabin.
A fascinating assembly of numerous Buddha statues at the foot of Mt. Zwegabin.
From the top of Mt. Hpar Pu.
From the top of Mt. Hpar Pu.
I met these boys at the local beach and spent some time playing with them. Here, they pose on an abandoned ship.
I met these boys at the local beach and spent some time playing with them. Here, they pose on an abandoned ship.
The train ride, packed to the brim.
The train ride, packed to the brim.
Fishermen for company.
Fishermen for company.
No one in sight...
No one in sight…

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Nyi Nyi. We had a great time hanging out in Yangon.
Nyi Nyi. We had a great time hanging out in Yangon.
Children singing and worshiping at the local church I visited.
Children singing and worshiping at the local church I visited.
The massive Shwedagon Pagoda (or Paya), a very sacred site for Buddhists. It has a 325 ft zedi and is adorned with 27 metric tons of gold, and is said to enshrine eight hairs of the Buddha. According to legend, it's been erect for around 2600 years, although it was more likely built between the 6th and 10th centuries.
The massive Shwedagon Pagoda (or Paya), a very sacred site for Buddhists. It has a 325 ft zedi and is adorned with 27 metric tons of gold, and is said to enshrine eight hairs of the Buddha. According to legend, it’s been erect for around 2600 years, although it was more likely built between the 6th and 10th centuries.

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Adventuring.
Adventuring.

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Dok Kham Tai sunflower field.
Dok Kham Tai sunflower field.
Home.
Home.

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Koh Hong.
Koh Hong.

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Koh Lading.
Koh Lading.

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Floating lanterns on New Year's Eve.
Floating lanterns on New Year’s Eve.

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Koh (Island) Phi Phi.
Koh (Island) Phi Phi.

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Sunset on Ao Nang beach.
Sunset on Ao Nang beach.

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Railay beach.
Railay beach.

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Ao Nang beach in Krabi, for New Year's break.
Ao Nang beach in Krabi, for New Year’s break.
Bangkok.
Bangkok.
Chinatown in Bangkok.
Chinatown in Bangkok.
Kru Thanapat - head of the English Department and a fantastic man to work with.
Kru Thanapat – head of the English Department and a fantastic man to work with.
Kru Tu spent almost all day making me this beanie - one of the best gifts.
Kru Tu spent almost all day making me this beanie – one of the best gifts.

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A dance perfumed by some of the school's "lady boys".
A dance perfumed by some of the school’s “lady boys”.
The students "freaking out" for candy.
The students “freaking out” for candy.
A Christmas dance.
A Christmas dance.
One of the nicest Thai teachers - Kru (Teacher) Tu - with the students.
One of the nicest Thai teachers – Kru (Teacher) Tu – with the students.

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A monk sprinkles "holy water" over the students.
A monk sprinkles “holy water” over the students.

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During my school's "Christmas" or holiday event on the day after Christmas, students offered food to the Buddhist monks (Buddhist monks depend on the generosity of those who give). The monks then performed a "blessing" over the school, a form of reciprocity. It was fascinating to observe, especially as part of a "Christmas" or holiday event.
During my school’s “Christmas” or holiday event on the day after Christmas, students offered food to the Buddhist monks (Buddhist monks depend on the generosity of those who give). The monks then performed a “blessing” over the school, a form of reciprocity. It was fascinating to observe, especially as part of a “Christmas” or holiday event.

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The annual Phayao Flower Festival, over Christmas.
The annual Phayao Flower Festival, over Christmas.
Mae Yian waterfall - another short drive from home.
Mae Yian waterfall – another short drive from home.
The annual Winter and Red Cross Fair in Phayao.
The annual Winter and Red Cross Fair in Phayao.
The never ending beauty of Phayao. Sometimes I can't believe it's home.
The never ending beauty of Phayao. Sometimes I can’t believe it’s home.
Go explore - adventure awaits.
Go explore – adventure awaits.
Sports day.
Sports day.

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This parade preceding a "sports day" in which many or even all secondary schools from the Phayao province participated in.
This parade preceding a “sports day” in which many or even all secondary schools from the Phayao province participated in.
Reflections from exploration.
Reflections from exploration.
The small island.
The small island.
Back to Phayao from the wat.
Back to Phayao from the wat.

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This small wat is actually on a small island on the lake. You get there by boat.
This small wat is actually on a small island on the lake. You get there by boat.

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A young girl lighting incense before the Buddha statue.
A young girl lighting incense before the Buddha statue.
Kwan (Lake) Phayao.
Kwan (Lake) Phayao.

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There are many "wats"(temples) here in northern Thailand - at least one in every village, and often multiple in towns and cities.
There are many “wats”(temples) here in northern Thailand – at least one in every village, and often multiple in towns and cities.
A gory depiction of "Buddhist hell."
A gory depiction of “Buddhist hell.”
Petitioning.
Petitioning.
14 metros wide by 18 meters high, this Buddha statue took 33 years to complete - it's one of the biggest of its kind.
14 metros wide by 18 meters high, this Buddha statue took 33 years to complete – it’s one of the biggest of its kind.
The City Pillar Shrine, in the center of Phayao. It's dedicated to the many spirits of the area.  "A Lak Mueang or City Pillar Shrine (as it is known in English) is a Thai public shrine, which is or represents the tutelary diety of each province of the Kingdom. Essentially, the shrine represents 'good luck' and acts as a guardian for the good fortune of the region. The shrine consists of a central pillar, which is housed in a enclosing structure. This structure usually reflects the historical and cultural background of the province. Each Shrine has great religious, social, and political importance, and are held in high regard by the local inhabitants. Before each shrine is a 'prayer area', where locals and visitors can come by and make an offering to the shrine, ask for assistance, and ask for good fortune in their lives and the lives of their loved ones. Most Thai provinces have an official Shrine, and some districts within a province have their own, smaller shrine."
The City Pillar Shrine, in the center of Phayao. It’s dedicated to the many spirits of the area.
“A Lak Mueang or City Pillar Shrine (as it is known in English) is a Thai public shrine, which is or represents the tutelary diety of each province of the Kingdom. Essentially, the shrine represents ‘good luck’ and acts as a guardian for the good fortune of the region. The shrine consists of a central pillar, which is housed in a enclosing structure. This structure usually reflects the historical and cultural background of the province. Each Shrine has great religious, social, and political importance, and are held in high regard by the local inhabitants. Before each shrine is a ‘prayer area’, where locals and visitors can come by and make an offering to the shrine, ask for assistance, and ask for good fortune in their lives and the lives of their loved ones. Most Thai provinces have an official Shrine, and some districts within a province have their own, smaller shrine.”
One of the things I love about Thailand are the abundance of outdoor markets with all types of street vendors. This market is right in front of a Buddhist temple.
One of the things I love about Thailand are the abundance of outdoor markets with all types of street vendors. This market is right in front of a Buddhist temple.

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It's thanksgiving, and I'm far from home in a place where Thanksgiving is as foreign as I am. But despite missing home and the family and food the holiday brings to mind, I'm thankful to be here. After school I took a drive, this being the early day. I drove into seclusion, into the quiet and silence. I found a lake with the mountains rising behind. These moments, this beauty, they reassure me. Though I'm far from home, I'm still at home. There are still many gifts to be found, and much to be thankful for. But while experiences come and go, family doesn't - they remain. First and foremost, they are what I'm thankful for. So, be thankful for what passes quickly, and more so for what remains.
It’s thanksgiving, and I’m far from home in a place where Thanksgiving is as foreign as I am. But despite missing home and the family and food the holiday brings to mind, I’m thankful to be here. After school I took a drive, this being the early day. I drove into seclusion, into the quiet and silence. I found a lake with the mountains rising behind. These moments, this beauty, they reassure me. Though I’m far from home, I’m still at home. There are still many gifts to be found, and much to be thankful for. But while experiences come and go, family doesn’t – they remain. First and foremost, they are what I’m thankful for. So, be thankful for what passes quickly, and more so for what remains.
Some of my students - this group loves to break dance.
Some of my students – this group loves to break dance.
Doi Chang Coffee Farm - coffee beans drying in the sun.
Doi Chang Coffee Farm – coffee beans drying in the sun.
A view near our camping spot at Doi Chang.
A view near our camping spot at Doi Chang.
A beautiful setting for a coffee farm and cafe.
A beautiful setting for a coffee farm and cafe.
A breathtaking view on the way up the mountain to our camping spot this past weekend, Doi Chang in Chiang Rai province. We drove our motorbikes almost 3 hours to get there, and it was well worth it.
A breathtaking view on the way up the mountain to our camping spot this past weekend, Doi Chang in Chiang Rai province. We drove our motorbikes almost 3 hours to get there, and it was well worth it.
These beautiful lanterns are common in northern Thailand.
These beautiful lanterns are common in northern Thailand.
Sunset over Phayao Lake, only a few minutes from home.
Sunset over Phayao Lake, only a few minutes from home.
One day after school, I took a drive towards the mountains, and stumbled upon a group of men and women working the fields. I stopped to say hello and introduce myself, asking if I could take some photos. Some posed, and they all laughed; everyone was warm and friendly. Here, they harvest the "traditional" way - cutting the stalks with a sickle, and "beating" the grains off the stalks. They even let me have a go, and they got a good laugh out of watching me. It was a wonderful moment, observing a daily existence so different from mine, and I hope to go back again. These may be once in a lifetime moments.
One day after school, I took a drive towards the mountains, and stumbled upon a group of men and women working the fields. I stopped to say hello and introduce myself, asking if I could take some photos. Some posed, and they all laughed; everyone was warm and friendly. Here, they harvest the “traditional” way – cutting the stalks with a sickle, and “beating” the grains off the stalks. They even let me have a go, and they got a good laugh out of watching me. It was a wonderful moment, observing a daily existence so different from mine, and I hope to go back again. These may be once in a lifetime moments.

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A view from the school.
A view from the school.

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A Sunday morning service.
A Sunday morning service.
Thant (top left), along with his wife (3rd from top left) left a better paying job to begin working with the Burmese school. Basically, they receive little to no outside support, and Thant and his wife receive a very small salary (some of which goes towards expenses for the school). “We have enough,” him and his wife said with a smile (they also have a 3 1/2 year old son). Since the Burmese children are illegal immigrants (most of whom were born here from what I understand), they don’t receive education from the state, not being eligible for Thai public schools. So, out of the goodness of their hearts, they serve these families by giving them education. Otherwise, some of the children would not even know how to read their own language (Burmese).
Thant (top left), along with his wife (3rd from top left) left a better paying job to begin working with the Burmese school. Basically, they receive little to no outside support, and Thant and his wife receive a very small salary (some of which goes towards expenses for the school). “We have enough,” him and his wife said with a smile (they also have a 3 1/2 year old son). Since the Burmese children are illegal immigrants (most of whom were born here from what I understand), they don’t receive education from the state, not being eligible for Thai public schools. So, out of the goodness of their hearts, they serve these families by giving them education. Otherwise, some of the children would not even know how to read their own language (Burmese).
On this morning I had the privilege and honor of sharing at a Burmese church. Afterwards, when I offered to pray, this husband and wife came forward. After praying over an area of pain that the man pointed out, I asked the pastor to translate and ask the man if the pain was gone. From what I could understand, the man replied that it was. According to the pastor, this Burmese man had been a Buddhist monk for 7 years before becoming a Christian 2 years ago. Some Burmese travel around 1 1/2 hours to come to church, and today was pouring rain. Many have come to Thailand over the years from Burma/Myanmar to look for work; most men end up working at sea in the fishing industry. From what I understand, many are illegal immigrants, and therefore have few to no rights in Thailand.
On this morning I had the privilege and honor of sharing at a Burmese church. Afterwards, when I offered to pray, this husband and wife came forward. After praying over an area of pain that the man pointed out, I asked the pastor to translate and ask the man if the pain was gone. From what I could understand, the man replied that it was. According to the pastor, this Burmese man had been a Buddhist monk for 7 years before becoming a Christian 2 years ago. Some Burmese travel around 1 1/2 hours to come to church, and today was pouring rain. Many have come to Thailand over the years from Burma/Myanmar to look for work; most men end up working at sea in the fishing industry. From what I understand, many are illegal immigrants, and therefore have few to no rights in Thailand.

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One of the Burmese students working on schoolwork.
One of the Burmese students working on schoolwork.
The Burmese children at school. Since the Burmese children are illegal immigrants (most of whom were born here from what I understand), they don’t receive education from the state, not being eligible for Thai public schools. So, out of the goodness of their hearts, a Christian Burmese couple serve local Burmese families by giving the children education. Otherwise, some of the children would not even know how to read their own language (Burmese). Many of their parents, or fathers at least, find work in the fishing industry.
The Burmese children at school. Since the Burmese children are illegal immigrants (most of whom were born here from what I understand), they don’t receive education from the state, not being eligible for Thai public schools. So, out of the goodness of their hearts, a Christian Burmese couple serve local Burmese families by giving the children education. Otherwise, some of the children would not even know how to read their own language (Burmese). Many of their parents, or fathers at least, find work in the fishing industry.
Something I love about traveling is seeing how a meal is such a prominent aspect of fellowship. There is almost always food after a church service.
Something I love about traveling is seeing how a meal is such a prominent aspect of fellowship. There is almost always food after a church service.
One of the Burmese boys when we spent time at the beach.
One of the Burmese boys when we spent time at the beach.

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In Thailand, "spirit houses" are small shrines that can be seen at many homes, businesses, and establishments. It is prominently placed on the premise as a shelter for a spirit or spirits, and should be fitted with a small offering. Spirit houses are supposed to ensure that the Guardian or Protector of the House and/or Business (often in the same building) watches over and protects the property and people. It's believed that spirits may be good, evil, or just unpredictable and mischievous, being capable of causing disaster, harm or the failure of a business if neglected and not appeased.
In Thailand, “spirit houses” are small shrines that can be seen at many homes, businesses, and establishments. It is prominently placed on the premise as a shelter for a spirit or spirits, and should be fitted with a small offering. Spirit houses are supposed to ensure that the Guardian or Protector of the House and/or Business (often in the same building) watches over and protects the property and people. It’s believed that spirits may be good, evil, or just unpredictable and mischievous, being capable of causing disaster, harm or the failure of a business if neglected and not appeased.

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