peace corps thailand

Men play a popular sport called takraw at an annual competition near Nakhon Ratchasima Province, Thailand. Native to the Thai-Malay peninsula, the sport has spread throughout Southeast Asia and is traditionally played with a woven bamboo ball, three players per team, and operates like a foot-forward game of volleyball. Overhead kicks require remarkable agility and dexterity, abilities players are prided for demonstrating.

There are 91 volunteers in Thailand working with their communities on projects in education and youth development. More than 5,200 Peace Corps volunteers have served in Thailand since the program was established in 1962.

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“This photo of Nong (five years old) was taken in his hometown of Plong sub-district, Thoeng district, Chiang Rai province on Dec 7, 2009 at a community event near the Thai-Laos border. After both his parents died from AIDS, Nong, who is also living with HIV/AIDS, moved in with his grandfather. A few months before this photo was taken, a meeting was held concerning Nong entering kindergarten. Parents were afraid Nong would bite children and infect them with AIDS. The mayor intervened and allowed Nong to enter school, but he was shunned by teachers and students alike and was rarely seen playing with others. Nong inspired my community health station and I to put on educational workshops and public media letting people know about the dangers and myths about contracting HIV/AIDS.”

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Today, I “taught” fourth grade how to make ส้มตำ (papaya salad) a.k.a. I taught them the English vocabulary words and they taught me how to make it. This is my favorite food and I buy it almost every day from a food truck in front of my school. Here’s the recipe:

1. Using a mortar and pestle, crush 3 cloves garlic and Thai bird chilies. (I like 3 chilies, but the kids like TEN!)

2. Add two handful of shredded papaya and crush.

3. Add a sliced tomato, a couple broken-up green beans, juice from one lime, 2 tablespoons dried shrimp, 2 tablespoons fish sauce, and 2 tablespoons sugar (preferably palm sugar, but whatever). Crush well, taste, and adjust the seasoning.

4. Garnish with toasted peanuts. Serve with grilled chicken and sticky rice. YUM