Monday, September 27, 2010

Another Week Has Gone By

Can it really be that a week ago already we were celebrating Penny’s birthday?  I can’t even believe it!  This past week has been full of new experiences for our girl and interesting discussions and just general life.

Penny joined the choir at school as one of her elective classes.  She is very much enjoying it, although she says she cannot sing.  This is not deterring her, however, from at least auditioning for the special select choir, and I’m  proud of her for trying.  I’ll be doubly proud if she makes it!  However, the choir is a bit intense.  Not only does she have to sing, but she has entered the great American enterprise known as fundraising.  They sent her home last week with an order form for pies and flower bulbs.  I put a status on Facebook and called several family members, who agreed to buy pies, but we did feel Penny needed to sell some pies.  She all but begged us not to make her ask our neighbor, but when he came over to get some chairs, I called him into the house and told him Penny had a question for him.  She was ready to kill us, but just as sweet as she could be, she said to him, “I am looking for customers to buy my pies.”

I just about died.  I thought that was the most adorable way to put it.  And apparently so did he, because he bought a pie.  She has since sold several more pies, although she finds the whole thing quite strange and she hates doing it.  Still, I like the idea that in addition to all the other boundaries she’s pushed on her exchange, she also has to push this one, and it involves communication and persuasion of total strangers.  She tried that old “But I don’t know these people” routine with me, but I pointed out that she’s living in an entire country of people she doesn’t know, and what a great way to get to know them!

P1080448 The pie sales also sparked a personal interest in pie in Penny, who has never eaten a pie.  While we were shopping yesterday, she asked if we could make pie, so I agreed and headed for the produce department to pick up apples.  But she didn’t want apple pie, she wanted pecan pie. Mmmmm-kay.  Firstly, I have never made a pecan pie.  Secondly, neither the Chief nor I likes pecan pie.  But, if that’s what she wanted, that’s what she’d get (and I got apples anyway!).  We went to the baking aisle and I had to ponder what goes into a pecan pie.  For some reason, Karo syrup popped into my head, and thankfully, there was a recipe for pecan pie on the back of the Karo syrup container, so we were able to get everything we needed.  I did, however, tell Penny that we were using a frozen pie crust.  Love her though I do, I was not up for making a homemade crust!

Penny plunged in with both feet and took the lead in pie making.  I more or less read directions and held the bowl so she could scoop in the filling.  I agreed to try a bite of her pie and so did The Chief.  And she had good reason to be proud of it—it came out beautifully, even for a pecan pie!

P1080449P1080452Penny said she really liked it, although it was very different from anything she’d ever eaten before.  I’m happy to hear it, because she has a lot of pie to eat!  The Chief and I ate our obligatory pieces of pie and we are done :-) 

Penny also decided to help out making dinner yesterday.  She informed me that she hates me because I always make such good food and she wants to eat all of it, the entire pan.  Yesterday was no exception.  We made stuffed shells from a recipe a neighbor gave me.  Penny wanted to stuff the shells, as she had never seen jumbo shell pasta before and thought it was a lot of fun.  Again, she does not want to use more of anything than she absolutely has to, so I had to tell her to put the entire jar of tomato sauce over the shells, but other than that, she did just fine.  (what I was going to do with a quarter jar of tomato sauce, I don’t know!)

P1080455I told her that if nothing else, her training to be a housewife will be complete by the time she heads back to Thailand.  She says she doesn’t mind learning to be a housewife, so either she really hates school or else I am just a shining example of what a glamorous profession it can be. Either way, I expect she will follow her dream of becoming a psychologist, but she will be an excellent caretaker of her future family either way.

Saturday, Penny had AFS orientation all day.  She really enjoyed her time there.  There was one other Thai student in attendance, and she was excited for the chance to meet her and also to see all the other students.  Apparently, they are all in something of the same boat when it comes to their year so far—they all love their host families but are having a hard time making friends.  They got the same advice from their AFS chapter leaders as they do from their host parents: give it time.  But it’s hard to be patient.  Penny said to me the other day, “I love to talk to my parents, but I want to talk to people my own age.”

To that end, we have encouraged her to list her real name on her Facebook page and to start posting in English, both of which she has done now.  I explained that Facebook is an excellent tool for connecting with her peers but that they cannot connect with her if she is only writing in Thai.  She said she gives people her name at school to add to their Facebook, but no one ever does.  I told her that she should instead ask, “Would you write your name down for me, so I can look you up on Facebook and add you as my friend?”  This lets her take an active role in pursuing friendships and finding people to add as friends, rather than sitting back and waiting for things to happen.  She was invited in passing to the first home football game for her high school on Friday night this week, so I hope she pursues the invitation and tries to make a go of it.  I think she will.

School continues to be an on-and-off struggle.  She is in advanced placement English and they are reading Beowulf.  Consequently, I am now reading Beowulf and badgering my father with questions about it when Penny and I both get stumped.  I enjoy her history and government homework the most.  The other day, she came home with an extra credit question to ask her parents who was president when they were a senior in high school and what they remembered about him.  I’m sure I was in the minority when I answered the first George Bush, I would guess most of her classmates’ parents would have answered Reagan.  And what I remembered was that he hated broccoli and he barfed on the prime minister of Japan (I also remember Dana Carvey’s parody of him saying “No new taxes” and whatnot, but there was limited space!).  I hope I get to see her teacher’s comments on her worksheet about those responses after she gets her paper back!

The Chief and I got to spend a small amount of quality time with just Penny this weekend.  Saturday, I sent Leah off to my friend Melissa’s for the day and night, which somewhat outraged Penny who didn’t really understand how we could need a break from the “little angel”.  I explained that I am exhausted most of the time and that a little time away from us is good for Leah gaining some independence.  She was not happy that her “best friend” was gone for the night, but it was fun for me and The Chief to be able to spend time with Penny Saturday evening and not worry about being interrupted or having to keep quiet while we were playing Yahtzee.  (The fact that the Chief beat Penny twice in a row by only 3 points did not go down well with her!)  It’s strange, but we really do have to divide our time between the two girls, so it’s nice to have time with each one of them individually.  Friday, The Chief had taken off work for an appointment that fell through, so we took Leah down to the Children’s Museum of Richmond for the day and it was nice for the three of us to spend some quality time together as well, especially in safe place where Leah could go crazy and run around and make messes. 

So here we are another week into our exchange.  I hope to take Penny to the Virginia State Fair this week, but the weather is lousy, so I’m not sure we’ll be able to go.  Fingers crossed, though!  At the end of the week I will buy our plane tickets to Florida so that we are ready to roll to Disney World and my mom’s 60th birthday party at the end of October.  It’s hard to imagine that it’s only 3 weeks from now that we’ll be heading down there!!!  It’s hard to imagine that my mom is turning 60, that I’m 35, and that Leah is almost 18 months old.  Sheesh!  TIME FLIES!

Oh, and do you want to be a pie or flower customer?  Drop me an email, private message on Facebook, or leave a comment here! :-D  SHS Choir and Penny thank you!

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Penny’s 18!!

This Sunday was a big day in our household:  it marked our Penny’s 18th birthday.  She is now legally an adult—but don’t tell her that!  :-D


We decided to throw a party for her to celebrate.  She hadn’t met many people yet at school, but invited the kids she had met that she liked.  We made up the difference inviting a bunch of our friends whom she had met and all of whom she liked.  I have learned by now not to shop till the day of the party, but still, we had about 6 cancellations Sunday morning, and of course they all came after I ordered the pizzas!  AUGH!

Penny had never had a big party in her honor before and she was powerfully excited about the whole thing.  For her birthday, she is used to going to the Buddhist temple and giving food to the monks.  We don’t have a Thai temple near here, so Penny’s parents and sister continued the tradition in Thailand in her honor while we celebrated here the American way.

The inspiration for Penny’s party came from our first shopping trip together when she arrived in the US.  She went through the candy and chip aisles and happily proclaimed, “I love American junk food!”  So we decided on that as our theme.  When I was lamenting on Facebook that I didn’t know how to keep everyone happy and busy during a teen party, fellow AFS mom Nina suggested that we use her idea of a scavenger hunt.  Her AFS son, Gianluca, had a birthday shortly after arriving from Italy, so Nina organized a scavenger hunt all over Seattle (read about his hunt here).  I decided that sounded like an awesome idea, so she sent me her list and I amended it so it would work in Fredericksburg.  The plan was in place, the invitations went out, and then we could settle down into the nitty gritty details of what else we needed.

Negotiations were intense over what to feed everyone, but finally we decided on pizza because it is a) pretty inexpensive to feed a crowd; b) sort of junk food; c) something most everyone loves; and d) didn’t require me to do anything other than call Papa John’s and have them deliver.  On Football Sundays, Papa Johns offers free toppings and a bunch of other deals, so I ordered 6 pizzas and we were in business for meals!  I went over to the store and picked up lots of chips and candy to make “The Candy Bar” and then Penny and I began discussing her birthday cake. 

Penny loved the Carvel cake I had at my birthday party and said she wanted the same thing.  Of course, I am no idiot, so I agreed to get her that, since I love it too.  But then my buddy Amy Wells said she thought we should have a Hostess cake to go with the junk food theme.  I didn’t know what a Hostess cake was, so she sent me a picture of a tiered cake covered in Hostess snack cakes.  I was sold.  I Googled for more pictures and came across a picture of a Rice Krispies Treats wedding cake, and that sold it.  I would put the two together and we’d have a cake!

P1080307 Penny’s birthday weekend got off to a great start.  Saturday morning, we all went out onto the porch after breakfast to enjoy the beautiful sunny day.  We found a box out there, and it was addressed to Penny! She kept saying “no, no!” like it wasn’t for her, but I showed her the label and got her a knife to cut the tape to find out what was inside.  (One of the beauties of being from a foreign country is that you have no idea what FTD is, so it’s all a big surprise, despite the description being on the box.)  She was blown away to find a big, beautiful bouquet of orange roses (one of her favorite colors is orange) waiting for her inside.  We dug around for a card a little and found a note from Nana (my mom), and Penny was just thrilled.  We called Nana right up and she got on the phone to say thank you.  Leah was excited by the box and the wrappings, so it was a win-win!


Saturday evening, we returned from our neighbor’s 2-year-old’s birthday party, where Penny met a neighbor who is also in the senior class and they hit it off just great!  I was so happy when Courtney even agreed to come to Penny’s party the next day.  She floated home on a cloud so happy to have finally made a friend.  Then we decided to get down to business on the cake.  Penny hadn’t made RKT’s before, so it was kind of exciting to teach her a little something new.  She loved them hot and gooey from the pan.  I wish I had taken pictures, but by the time I thought about it, we were done.  She did all aspects of the job, including smushing the treats into the cake pans, melting butter and marshmallows, adding the cereal, the whole thing.  I kept feeling her arm muscles and telling her she was getting stronger and stronger.  She said her arms were killing her—no doubt:  the cake took 6 batches of treats to complete!

We set the pans aside till Sunday.  Afterwards, we sat down to our regular game of Skip-Bo and I asked Penny to teach me to write “Happy Birthday” in Thai so I could put it on her Carvel cake.  She happily agreed and then laughed her head off at my attempts, although there was one particular letter or symbol that she said I made much more nicely than she does.  It was entertaining!!!


The next day dawned clear and bright.  I was up at 4:30, unable to sleep, so I went out and decorated our driveway with Leah’s sidewalk chalk and then baked homemade scones for Penny’s birthday breakfast.  Penny got a nice surprise when the phone rang at 9:00AM and it was her best friend in Thailand, who asked if they could call Penny specially for the occasion, to which we agreed.  Then we popped the RKT’s out of the pan onto a platter and I was so happy at how great they looked.  I could really see the thing as a wedding cake if you like RKT’s that much.  It was cool!  The treats popped out of the pan pretty easily, courtesy of how well I’d greased them, no doubt, and by really getting them densely packed into the pan, there was no doubt that we would have them crumbling or falling apart.  It was great!

Around 11:30, my father arrived and Penny was just beside herself with excitement.  She’d been dying to meet “PopPop” and ever since he announced he’d be visiting that weekend, she was just thrilled he’d make it for her birthday.  She gave him a T-shirt as a gift, and he decided to wear it in honor of her birthday (the day I get my dad to wear a shirt with pink and purple decorations and gold glitter, well let’s just say “that’ll be the day!” and leave it at that, but Penny managed it after 5 minutes!), and then Michael decided to wear his, so I decided to wear mine for the first time too.  We visited for a while and then it was getting to be party time, so we all put our shirts on and went outside to greet the first guests to arrive and get a picture of our family together in our Thai T’s.


 P1080336 At about 1:15, we detailed the rules of the scavenger hunt for everyone who had made it.  There were 5 or 6 teenagers and a bunch of adults, so that was great—Penny was pleased with the turn out and so was I!  They all broke into teams and headed out to complete their tasks. They had 3 hours to get everything done.  Let me tell you, this is the way to have a party.  Have everyone over and then get rid of them for 3 hours!!!!  Plus, I didn’t have to cook anything, either!  AWESOME!  We decided to put the cake together while they were gone, and the spirit of the thing really captured my dad’s imagination.  He even went out to get an extra box of Ring Dings so that it was done right.  We were all tickled by the final result.

Then I wrote the Thai on the Carvel cake and screwed it up royally because I ran out of room and had to put the last letter on the cake border, but the same thing happened when I wrote on it in English, so what the heck!

Penny’s guests were super impressed that I’d even tried it, so I guess that’s all that matters.

Meanwhile, all the kids and adults participating in the hunt were having a blast.  No one team completed every task, so we had to calculate all the points for each team and then declare a winner, but they all had a great time doing it and it broke the ice for many of the kids, as none of them knew each other.  Here are some pictures from the hunt:

P1090665 2010-09-19 15 09 24_Fredericksburg_Virginia_US IMG_0066 P1090633

The top picture is Misty from the winning team, eating ketchup-covered fries without using her hands.  The second picture shows Juliana at the Fredericksburg Visitor’s Center learning about our town.  The third picture shows Penny’s entire team down on the city dock, with their team mummy, JB, who rides the bus with Penny.  The final picture shows Melissa eating a banana split with one of Leah’s baby spoons.  These were just some of the tasks, and every team did an amazing job sending back fun pictures that induced lots of laughs from our birthday girl.

After we calculated the points and handed out prizes (everyone got a prize ranging from DVD’s to Halloween flashlights to glow stick necklaces), Penny’s non-scavenging guests arrived and her AFS liaison, who had popped in for a few minutes, had to leave.  As the hub-bub of the party started to kick in, the pizzas arrived and we all ate well.  I also set out all the goodies on the Candy Bar and everyone was able to pick at that stuff.  We had made Penny treat bags for the bar that read “Look out World!  Penny’s 18!” and everyone was able to stuff lots of treats into the bags.  Penny likes fruity candies more than chocolate candies, so we got the traditional things like peanut butter cups, Hershey miniatures, etc. and supplemented them with Starbursts, Skittles, Sour Patch Kids, and the like.  There was definitely something for everyone.


After pizza, we had Penny open her gifts so that everyone’s meals could settle a bit.  Penny got some really nice gifts, ranging from practical (gloves for the winter, photo albums), fun (gift cards to the movies and a game for the Wii), glitzy (bracelets), and even cash. 

P1080351She was definitely touched by everyone’s generosity and excited about everything that she received.

Mike and I had decided to get her a charm bracelet.  Exchange students acquire lots of “stuff” while on their exchange years, and we thought a charm bracelet would allow us to constantly add small charms to her bracelet and not give her a bunch of things to try and lug back to Thailand.  Unfortunately, right after I started ordering charms, Penny told us that she had a charm bracelet already and didn’t much care for all that stuff on her wrist!!  So I made a trip over to Things Remembered and asked for their advice.  They had charm necklaces available, so I bought her one of those.  I added a charm for the US and one for Virginia, as well as a K so she could always remember that she is a Kosior, a school house with the date of her first day of school engraved on the back, and a charm with a big 18 on it so she could commemorate her 18th birthday. 


We still hope to give her charms throughout the year and I hope she likes it and wears it as a remembrance of her time here, which frankly, is just going by so darned quick!

After her gifts were opened, we got out the cakes, and of course, a wind kicked up just in time to light the candles!!!!!!!!  I finally got them lit and we took a bunch of pictures.  Penny held Leah tight as protection against all the attention we were lavishing on her, and we all sang to her and she happily accepted our good wishes before blowing out her candles.

P1080367She made quick work of cutting up the Carvel cake and serving everyone and we all picked at the Hostess cake.  By then, the party was more or less over.  Everyone started leaving, except my dad, Melissa, and Andy, so we all cleaned up the yard and then went inside for a Yahtzee contest.  Yahtzee is one of three games we’ve taught Penny so far and she LOVES it.  She was really excited to play against my dad, since he is the most down and dirty full contact yahtzee player the world has ever known.  We played 2 rounds, and then put Leah to bed and Melissa and Andy left and we all just finished cleaning and relaxed.


It was special to share Penny’s big day with her, and she gave me a huge hug afterwards and said, “I love you!”  Special moments, let me tell you, for all of us involved in this girl’s exchange year!!!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Another Week Down

It has been a bit of a crazy week and a half.  Can it really have been that long since Penny started school?  UGH!  The days are going by even quicker now that she is in her regular routine and Leah and I are back to our daily routine.  Seriously, Leah now naps for hours, she gets so exhausted from our daily ventures to Toddlin’ Time and the library and the park.  It’s pretty awesome.

Penny is doing fine.  School is everything she was afraid it would be and also everything she hoped it would be all at once.  She is having trouble with her creative writing class, and was going in today to see if she could drop it and add a different class instead.  Since this year is not going to count for her, I really didn’t care what she did. 

She is experiencing some challenges understanding spoken English.  She does just fine expressing herself verbally and in writing, but reading takes her forever as she attempts to translate each word and then form some sort of sense of it, and oral communication is tough.  She doesn’t always understand her teachers, and she is afraid to ask questions in class because she does not want the other kids to think she is stupid. 

Penny has met a few new friends.  I thought for a while that she was only talking to other exchange students at school, but in fact, when we sat down last night to make a list of who is coming to her birthday party on Sunday, she said, “Did you remember Brianna?”  I said, “Who the heck is Brianna?”  and she said, “The girl from my marketing class.”  I said, “Is she coming?” and got “OH YES!” and a big grin in return.  I was so excited, I thought I’d fall off my chair.  Then she said, “Did you remember the Korean girl?”  I said, “The Korean girl is coming too!?”  “OH YES!” and an even bigger grin.  I”m so happy some teens are going to be here.  I invited all our regular adult friends, but it’s good for Penny to have friends her own age.

This week has been busy.  Monday was my book club meeting, which was the first time I went out and left Penny, The Chief, and Leah alone together without my influence.  I only received 3 text messages, so that wasn’t too bad. Of course, I cooked them dinner before I left, so all they really had to do was get Leah to bed, Penny to do her homework, and The Chief to work on a job application.  Unfortunately, Penny wasn’t feeling well, so she took yesterday off.  I dragged her to the doctor, despite protestations—if you’re sick enough to stay home, you’re sick enough to go to the doctor!  Regardless, I was worried that she had had a headache for 2 days, plus the school requires a doctor’s note attached to all absences.  So she was diagnosed with migraines and given a prescription.  She says these happen to her frequently in Thailand.  I think she just let herself get way to stressed out about school and it caused the migraine to come on very suddenly.  Having a day off to think about everything hopefully gave her some perspective.  She spent almost the entire day up in her room in bed studying and sleeping, and we got to navigate the AFS health plan, which was fun. 

Yesterday I babysat for my neighbor while she went to the doctor, so I kept Leah and Daniel out of the house while Penny rested.  Last night she asked to go to the King’s Buffet here in town, which I think is her favorite restaurant.  :-)  She ate well and went back to school this morning.  Leah and I went and picked up supplies for Penny’s big birthday bash and then went to storytime and lunch at the mall with Leah’s little peeps.  She is now resting and I’ve gotten the house decluttered, so I’m taking a break.  Tomorrow will be heavy duty cleaning—vacuuming (ugh!), mopping (double ugh!), dusting, laundry (triple ugh!), etc.  Friday we will probably kick it into high gear with party preparations after Leah submits to what I can only imagine will be a heck of a nap after a 2 hour playschool session (her Tuesday session was cancelled, so she gets to make it up on Friday, plus go to her bonus class).  Saturday, we have Daniel’s 2nd birthday party and Sunday is Penny’s party, plus my dad is coming for the occasion.  Penny is literally beside herself that my dad is coming to her birthday party.  She cannot wait to meet him.  I’m kind of excited he’ll be here as well :-D  Of course, I will post lots of pictures of the party and fun after it’s over and I’ve recovered!  We are presently expecting about 25 people.

So that’s all for now.  Hope everyone else is doing great with their kids and month #2!!!

Wednesday, September 8, 2010


Penny started school yesterday at Stafford High School.  We took some pictures before she left to start the day, my favorite of which was of her and her favorite host father, The Chief:

P1080229She was really nervous, but she admitted she was very excited too.  After I walked her up the hill to the bus stop, I came back to the house and got Michael and Leah in the car to go to the train station so Michael could get to work.  As we went down the hill, we saw Penny’s bus just going up and around, so we decided to follow it and take a picture of her getting on the bus.  I was slightly overwhelmed at the bravery she displayed in getting on the bus and going off to a new school in a new country surrounded by new people and trying to learn in a new language.  So yeah, I cried.  She is an extraordinary young woman. 

I spent the day keeping us busy so I wouldn’t have time to sit around and fret about how she was doing.  Leah and I walk with our neighbor every morning and afterwards, I took Leah over to a local place called Toddlin’ Time for her first “class”, which I guess she enjoyed.  She was more interested in tearing the place apart than in playing games and singing songs with the other 17 month olds there.  (Yes, my baby is 17 months old today!!! YIKES!!!)  Afterwards, we went to the park for lunch with Cindy and Wendy, and on the way home, Leah passed out and I used the time partly to relax and partly to clean up some of the house.  Leah got up around 2:30 and we only had 45 minutes to wait until Penny got home, so I decided to let Leah play outside with her buckets of water.

I heard the bus arrive up at the top of the street and figured that Penny would be home in a couple minutes, but I turned around to see her flying down the hill, cutting across the neighbors’ lawn, heading straight for us.  She hurled herself into the lawn chair next to me and heaved such a sigh!!!  I thought, “Uh oh!  This can’t be good!”  But in fact, she said it wasn’t awful.  :-D

She met several people in her classes.  She has no idea of their names.  We talked a bit later about how to continue a conversation with someone and hopefully today she will put that into action.  Penny’s 18th birthday is coming up soon and so we’ve decided to use that as an “excuse” to meet new people.  We started making a list of people she could invite already and none of them have names.  They are people like “The boy across the corner” and “The Ukrainian girl who sits behind me” and “The girl who liked my drawing”. 

I had decided to pull out an old trick of my mom’s and I tucked a greeting card into Penny’s lunch bag so she would have a sweet surprise waiting for her at lunch time.  She said when she got it, she didn’t know whether to laugh or cry, so she did both.  The front of the card read “Life begins at the end of your comfort zone”.  She felt it was a message she needed to hear and it helped her through her afternoon. So, thanks, Mom!  Penny was happy to read our message and know we were thinking of her.

Last night, I helped her with her government homework.  We learned about constitutional law and the geography of the US.  She is a good student and prefers to work things out for herself rather than be told answers (she had to fill in the states’ names on a map of the US and decided to read an atlas instead of having me tell her the names of the states). 

Afterwards, she, Mike, and I had a lengthy chat about everything while sitting around the kitchen table.  It was one of the best chats we’ve had since she got here and just made me realize all over again how fortunate we are to have Penny spending her year with us.  It is great fun to hear all her hopes and dreams and plans, and what she thinks of school here and how it already differs from school in Thailand.  My friend, Donna, asked me to find out about the differences in the schools and post them to the blog, so I asked Penny a lot of questions last night.  Here’s what I learned:

In Thailand, Penny is at school from 8:00-4:30.  She wears a uniform identical to the other kids (girls wear skirts, boys wear pants).  She sits in one classroom all day and the teachers come to her to teach each subject.  There are no lockers, everything fits in her desk.  She takes 8 classes per day.  She gets a 30 minute break after her first 2 classes.  After 2 more classes, she gets 1 hour for lunch.  Then she has 2 more classes and another 30 minute break before her final 2 classes.  The students are not allowed to have food or drink in the classroom.  They must sit in the same seats every day.  Everyone takes the same classes, they cannot choose which classes they want to take.

The Thai school year starts in May and runs until September.  Then the students have the month of October and half of November free.  Mid-November, they start back up and go to school until March 1, 2, or 3, depending on the calendar.  Then they have off again until May.

At her school here, Penny has 8 classes, but only attends 4 classes per day.  The schedule runs on an X, Y schedule, so on X days she has one set of 4 classes, each lasting 90 minutes, on Y days, she has the other 4.  She has no breaks other than 5 minutes between each class to get to her next class.  She has a locker.  She may wear whatever she wants.  She has observed other students eating and drinking in class.  She may sit wherever she wants from one day to the next unless the teacher assigns seating.  She has only a 20 minute lunch break.  She had the freedom to select different electives for her class.  She sees a sea of different faces at each class, potentially making it harder to get to know people as she may connect with someone who shares only 1 class with her, and will not see them again for 2 days.  She noted that each ethnic group in the high school tends to stick together—all the Asian students in one spot, all the black students in another, all the Hispanic students over here, all the white students over there.  She was surprised by this, but she also admitted to actively seeking out other kids who were Asian to start with.  I don’t think there is a whole lot of ethnic diversity in Thailand, but when you hear of America as the great “melting pot”, you probably expect to see more intermingling.  It makes me pause and consider what Leah’s future holds.

It has been a bit of a shock to her system, I think, but overall, she has handled it incredibly well.  I’m excited to see what her “second first day” is, as today is the Y day in her schedule and she has both math and science on her Y days.  We have told her that we want her to participate in at least one club or activity this year, so she is pondering that one over.  I think it will give her a good opportunity to meet people in a fixed environment, so I hope she chooses well and gets things going.  She is interested in the drama club.  We’ll see!!!  We collectively decided that we would not participate in the Parent, Student, Teacher Association, so that one is out :0)  We’re leaving it up to her!

So that’s the latest from Penny’s participation in the educational system.  Tonight I’ll make up invitations to her birthday party for her to hand out when she meets interesting people.  Otherwise, she’ll just keep trucking.  We know she will meet people in time, and getting used to all the changes in the school day is a big challenge.  She’s doing great.  We are proud!