25 July, 2017

Like the Game of Jenga

Melissa Vang is Hmong American, 
a 2016-17 Fulbright – AMCHAM English Teaching Assistant (ETA). She teaches Mattayom 1 – 6 (grades 7-12) at Banphaipittayakom School in Khon Kaen province and volunteers at a nursery center teaching nursery kids ABCs (ages 2-5 years old) in Ban Phai. She was born in Eau Claire, Wisconsin and graduated from the College of Saint Benedict in Communication with a concentration in Art. In her free time, Melissa likes to do Zumba, watercolor paint, and DIY arts and crafts. After the Fulbright grant, Melissa hopes to share her teaching experiences back to her community and pursue higher education.

The classic game of Jenga consists of 54 pieces of rectangular wood blocks, stacked with three pieces of blocks on every level. Players each take turns removing a block and placing it at the top of the tower with the game ending when the tower falls. The game restarts after the tower is restacked. While watching my students destroy and reconstruct the Jenga tower during class, I was struck by how the game of Jenga mirrored my experiences in Thailand.

The game of Jenga

Sometimes during the last 5-10 minutes of English class, I give students who finished their work early free time. During free time, students can choose between coloring worksheets, doing word searches or playing board games. However, I have found students of all ages to enjoy playing or watching others play Jenga. Typically, a group of 5 or 6 students will sit in a circle with the Jenga tower placed in the center of the classroom. Many students who are not playing will watch intensely as each student player takes a block out one by one. With each passing moment, the students playing the game will feel the tension rising as each player tries their hardest not to be the one who makes the mistake of taking out the wrong block, which will cause the tower to fall. 

M2/2 students immersed in a game of Jenga

As the players take turns pulling out the wooden blocks, I noticed that the student who makes the tower fall often will get a light punishment from the other players. For instance, players will lightly slap the wrist or forehead of the loser. In every class I teach, I find it rather amusing watching students from my desk play together, and hearing them laugh hysterically as the tower comes crashing down. 

Oftentimes, when I watch students tear down the Jenga pieces, I am reminded how far I have come as a teacher who had the opportunity to teach in Thailand for almost a year. Just like the tower that falls, there were moments that challenged me and made me feel knocked down. 


Back in February, I found out I had to host an English camp at Banphaipittayakom School. It was something I did not expect as my predecessor did not have one, putting me under the notion that I would not be responsible for one either. The unexpected meeting about the English camp was brief and ended with instructions to invite other ETAs to participate. 

With the unforeseen meeting, came the pressure and struggle to plan my first English camp. I had no idea what I was in for. The camp was to happen on the last weekend of February, right before the end of the first semester. The timing was not ideal as many ETAs were planning to wrap-up their school year, settle into their internships, and find housing for the month of March. Ultimately, I did not think the timing would allow for the ETAs to come and volunteer. I started to worry that there would not be any ETAs to teach at the English camp. To add to my stress, many Mattayom 3’s and Mattayom 6’s were graduating that week, meaning that many students were likely not going to show up. 

As each passing week went by, I became more anxious since nothing was planned and there was no follow-up meetings from the teachers in the English Department. During this time, I had to hold onto the Thai phrase, sabai sabai. The phrase’s meanings vary but it generally means to go with the flow or what will be, will be. This phrase was something I relied on as the date to start English camp was approaching. In order to fulfill some of my planning responsibilities and to the bewilderment of the other Thai teachers, I went ahead and decided to make a rough schedule of how camp was going to be structured. I needed a rough sketch of how camp would be like and characteristic to an extremely punctual person, I made sure to allocate time slots for each event that was planned for the camp. 

The week before English camp, I got the news that four ETAs had volunteered to teach at the camp. To alleviate some of my stress, materials, snacks, and food were all prepared for by the school the day before camp. On the first day of English camp, I was a mixture of both nervousness and excitement. I was nervous because I was worried by the thought of nobody showing up, and the activities failing, but I was excited at the possibility of this camp becoming a great experience for my peers and me. 

ETAs mini photo-shoot during lunch break

Begin Camp

Time: 8:30 a.m.

Setting: Conference room

Situation: The morning started with the Director making a speech in English. Because I have never heard him speak English, the sight of him speaking English to me, my fellow ETAs, and the dozens of students that showed up, gave me a boost in confidence for the success of the camp. 

The camp had 80 students who all had on sticker nametags. The ETAs, Thai teachers and I began camp with introductions. After introducing ourselves to the students, we jumped right into The Cupid Shuffle, a song and line dance from the artist Cupid. 

Activities: Students were split into five groups and placed into stations. Every 15 to 20 minutes, students rotated from one station to the next. Each station had an activity attached to it like playing bingo, making origami hearts, having students write their names with their butts, taking part in a guessing nametag challenge, and engaging in ice breaker games. 

Closing: After the stations and lunch break, the ETAs and I played ‘Ship Across the Ocean’ with the students where the ETAs and I would call out letters from the alphabets, and if the students’ first letter of their names started with it, they would run across the basketball court trying to evade getting tagged from the staff. The camp ended with the students being put into groups for a scavenger hunt and making posters. 

Students reflecting on their English camp experience

Camp went by smoothly; however, throughout the entire day, I had to keep reminding myself to be sabai sabai. Not everything that I planned took place and we did not keep on schedule. For example, what was supposed to be a thirty-minute event turned into an hour and what was supposed to be a ten-minute break turned into a thirty minute one. Despite not going by my meticulously planned schedule, everything worked out in the end. 

After finishing camp on a high note and receiving positive reviews from students, I began to reevaluate my initial stress and anxieties about the last minute planning. I realized that what I initially thought to be a stress-inducing, hair-pulling, nail-biting English camp, turned out to be a fun-filled, enjoyable time with the students, as well as with the other ETAs that were gracious enough to come. I was extremely thankful to the ETAs for taking time out of their busy weekends to help me make an everlasting and memorable experience for all the participants.


The Director, teachers, ETAs, and students at Banphaipittayakom's English camp

It is tempting to avoid the times when things in life get hard. I often experience this temptation when I feel there is a roadblock or large stressor in my life. As my time teaching in Thailand is quickly coming to an end, I will hold onto the Thai phrase sabai sabai when traveling back to the United States. As a person who likes to have a set schedule, I always have to make a to-do list and will check off tasks as I complete them. Because of this tendency to meticulously plan out my days, I am never truly able to enjoy the present as my mind is always preoccupied with the next task that is to come. My experience planning the English camp showed me that finding a balance between being goal-oriented and just allowing life to take its course is a good way to live by. 

Like the game of Jenga, where there is a rebuilding of the tower after it falls, there will always be a rising from difficult times. In these difficult times, I have learned to make the best out of those moments and surround myself with positive people. Similar to the Jenga tower that is rebuilt among friends with laughter, I too was repeatedly brought back up and supported over the course of planning for the English camp by my ETA friends, teachers, and school. 

*English camp photo credits: the fabulous Yeng Her

19 July, 2017

What Is Unknown, What Is Known

Natasha King is a 2016-2017 Fulbright-AMCHAM ETA in Thailand. She teaches high school at Mae Moh Wittayah School in Lampang, Thailand. Natasha attended the College of William & Mary in Virginia and majored in marketing and environmental science. After her grant, she plans to return home, be a contributing member of society, work in an environmentally-focused sector of business, and learn the names of more birds and trees.

Bangkok was a glorious tangle of new things, a litany of the unknown and the unknowable. I raked through the banyan roots with my eyes, watched slim lizards go scurrying for cover at all hours of the day and night, opened my mouth wide in wonder. What were the names of the trees, the birds? What creatures made their soft sounds in the branches, hidden from view?    

A sacred tree of Bangkok, one of many we passed on our first day in Thailand. 

I leaned out over my dorm room balcony one night and a dark shape blurred past, through the velvet night air below me. As it passed over the light from the streetlamps, I saw the outline of its wings: jagged, outflung, spread for a moment in perfect saw-toothed symmetry. A bat. In America, I had not lived in areas with large bat populations, and so these animals were something of which I only ever caught occasional glimpses.


The dark side of the city slipped through eventually. The canals of Bangkok were clogged with plastic trash. The dominant non-human life forms appeared to be pigeons, street dogs, and cockroaches. In places I did not go, factories were spitting out waste. On the beach at the nearby town of Hua Hin, the massive tower of the Hilton dominated; the sea itself was warm, a dull olive. I stood just past the water's edge and a small dead fish rolled over my feet, tugged by the tide. 

One of the nine water falls in Erawan National Park in Kachanburi

After a month we were sent to our respective provinces, and I went north, to the mountains, traded the city skyline for the encircling green topography of Lampang. Here, the narrow corridors of jungle pressed up close to my front door and straggled in verdant ribbons along the roadside. Here, I had the sense that wilderness was just around the corner, but I didn't know how to reach it any more than I had in the city. The rough-edged asphalt roads were just as inscrutable as Bangkok's alleyways. The strangeness tugged at me, prickling at my eyes and ears. Everywhere I walked, things were unknown and fraught with possibility, and yet to my eyes they appeared empty. Empty! Absurd, that the teeming jungles should appear empty.

The view from the Mae Moh viewpoint park.

In truth, I understood that I simply didn't know how to look. In America, I had built a hobby out of sitting and watching. Paying attention: I had thought that was the secret. It was how I had caught ospreys diving for fish, voles crouching by the side of the road, herons brooding sleek and beautiful at the edges of lakes. I hadn't realized how much that ability relied upon my familiarity with the landscape. Here, the jungle was layer upon layer of unfathomed terrain, and I had no idea where to begin searching. The heat and the shrill chatter of insects sapped my will, sent me groping for the door. I spent my free afternoons stretched out in the bedroom, working or reading, side-eyeing the AC unit that rendered the room tolerable.

I missed the easy comfort of identifiable birdsong, of insects I could name and banish. The jungle trees were strange and enormous, their bark ragged, their leaves bigger than my face. I itched to learn names, grimaced in frustration when my clumsy attempts at identification or translation came up short. "How do you say leopard in Thai?" I asked my students. "How do you say cobra? How do you say kangaroo? How do you say seal?" Suea dao, ngu hao, jing joh[1], meo naam—the words soothed my curiosity but couldn't sate the hunger entirely.

Some of many students who patiently taught me Thai vocabulary.


Every Tuesday my host teacher and I made dinner together on the cement patio of her house. One afternoon a bird landed nearby while we were cooking. She told me its Thai name, a few unfamiliar syllables that slid, despite my best efforts, almost immediately from my brain. "There's a story," she said. "Once there was a boy and he would ask this bird to sing and wake him up early for school. And every morning the bird sings and wakes the boy up. Then another boy throws stones and kills the bird."

"And then what?" I said, interest flaring inside me.

She shrugged. "Nothing. The boy woke up late."

A little disappointed by the abrupt end to the story, I eyed the bird which flitted around the patio in a friendly manner for another ten minutes or so. Thailand has nearly one thousand recorded bird species; this one was jet black with white wing bars and a long tail. Later I looked it up. Oriental magpie-robin. One of several hundred species of Old World flycatchers, it is known for its boldness and for its beautiful song. So why does the second boy throw the stone?


Winter brought cool, misty mornings, shivering students who adamantly refused to tolerate an overhead fan, and afternoons as dry and ferocious as cracked bone. In the early evenings as I would run, as the light dimmed through shades of fuchsia and gold into the deeper purples of evening, the wind tasted of smoke and each breath cut my lungs. Fire on the hillsides: up in the mountains, forests were being burned.

"It's for mushrooms," the other foreign English teacher told me.

"For mushrooms?" I said, disbelieving.

Later I looked it up. Astraeus odoratus is a prized variety of fungus which grows partially submerged in soil and which can be blanched or cooked into various curry dishes. I had seen it laying in pungent heaps at street markets, without realizing what it was. In Thailand it is believed that fire increases the growth of this mushroom; in fairness, forest burning does clear the land of leaf litter and any sort of undergrowth, and therefore probably makes the earth-colored fruiting bodies of A. odoratus easier to find. Deforestation is of course a complex issue with varied causes, and mushroom-gathering is only one contributing factor, but burning is unfortunately a frequently used method due to ease and cost. Therefore each dry season heralds weeks of smoky, hazy air as acres of vegetation are burned away.                      

A lotus pond in Mae Moh, lotus in Thai is Dok Bua

Invariably my mouth went desert-dry a few minutes into each run; I gasped for breath those early January evenings, mouthing at nothing as I went. Bats hurtled through the twilight around me, smoke made solid. Southeast Asia is home to some of the greatest diversity of bat species in the world, and around ten percent of the more than 1300 currently known species can be found in Thailand.

Bat colonies across much of the U.S. are collapsing under the advent of white-nose syndrome, a disease for which there is no cure and for which the best current defense is to hope it does not spread. Fortunately, the culprit fungus, a variant of the Pseudogymnoascus strain, is still confined to North America. In Thailand, I never again saw the bats as clearly as I had that night in Bangkok, but I welcomed the dark, aerial smudges of their presence. They did not have to be identified or lit from below; it was enough, for the moment, simply to know they were there.


Winter winds on and I start to relax a little. I walk under the towering hardwoods; I listen to the swelling birdsong, the dry leaves knocking against each other like rosary beads. I put the urge to catalogue and collect away, just for a while, and indulge in a little ignorance. I content myself with glimpses. A Tokay gecko moves into the gap behind my kitchen sink; when I startle him at night he scrambles for cover, usually falling off the wall in his haste. I only ever catch sight of the edges of him.

An unidentified but beautiful butterfly I found in the river bed in Pai.

In the nearby province of Pai, I stand ankle deep in a streambed. A black and green butterfly with a neon pink thorax sops river water from my index finger with a delicately unrolled tongue and I marvel, even knowing that I'll never find out its name. In the library at Mae Moh Wittayah School, my post for the year, I pause in my lesson planning to look out the window, and I see that the school grounds are filled with hundreds and hundreds of white butterflies. They swirl around the decorative trees in clouds, like tiny snips of airborne paper. In the morning sunlight they glow, and I am transfixed; I push away the insistent whisper in my head, the part of me that wants to know the names of all things. I cannot track the butterflies; I cannot name them or chart them; nevertheless, they exist.


In Koh Chang, I secure a spot on a snorkeling outing; the boat takes us out to Koh Rang, the largest island of the Mu Koh Chang National Marine Park. On the way there, a couple from Germany asks if we will see any turtles. The boat captain looks at me for translation. When he hears the request, he smiles and shrugs.

"He doesn't know," I say in English. The German woman looks disappointed but takes it in stride. I, too, pretend I hadn't been hoping to see turtles. Tourists, eh? We want our miracles pinned to a card. 

Koh Rang, one of the islands in the gulf of Thailand.

At Koh Rang, face-down in bright blue water, I see a medley of fish whose names I do not know. No turtles or dolphins or barracuda, none of those charismatic megafauna of the sea. But I tread water and dip my head just below the surface, and a school of tiny silver fish parts around me in perfect symmetry. Their nameless bodies encircle mine for a moment, a ring of fragmented light, a chorus of unlabeled miracles.


Did I expect macaques to hang draped from the branches in Thailand—did I expect civets to be crouched in the undergrowth like four-legged ghosts? Did I expect there to be no consequences of industry, no signs of the pollution resulting from the material comforts I enjoyed while living there? No, maybe I did not, but perhaps I wanted the country to be sorted and named, lit up with taxonomic signage for my benefit. Perhaps I wanted it to be pristine. Perhaps I wanted to know things, but only good things, to find a Thailand as untouched and well-labeled as an expertly preserved lepidopterist's collection.

Wary of putting Thailand into any kind of close-minded, ethnocentric box, wary of dismissing it as inferior, I had in fact tipped all the way over to the other end of the spectrum and put it into a different box altogether—some sort of rose-colored case of environmental virtuosity. But Thailand is just a place, in the end. Full of people and animals and trees, all jockeying for position as the rest of us are. It wasn't some magical land, an enchanted forest, and it shouldn't have had to be.


I meet a biologist at a dinner party. Also a Fulbright grantee, she is here researching the spread of chytrid fungus, that wide-ranging disease which has decimated amphibian populations worldwide. Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis. I savor the name, the sweet polysyllabic tangle of it on my tongue.

Later I skim what the internet has to say about Batrochochytrium. A fungus of uncertain origins, it has been around for decades but has only recently spread throughout the world. Its effect on frog and salamander populations has been devastating. It is one of the many factors contributing to the massive amphibian die-off of the past three decades.

Batrochytrium: the name tastes more like ash, now. The fungus spreads throughout the outermost layers of the skin and the animal is eventually unable to properly breathe, hydrate, or regulate its body temperature. My initial spark of pleasure at learning the term for the thing faded in the wake of its terrible nature, dwindled in the face of what I came to know about it. Nevertheless, it had to be known. It is only in the knowing that we can push back.


All this time I have been reaching out and recoiling, simultaneously desperate to encounter the land I am living in, and afraid to know it in its most sincere form. Perhaps I wanted Thailand to be gorgeous, to be laid out at my feet, to be pinned to a card, Latin names and all. Perhaps I flinched back from the reality of it, told myself that it was enough to look without comprehending. I did not and still have not mastered walking that line between the urge to understand and the ability to see. But I am trying. Wake up, sings the magpie-robin; wake up, wake up. The stone is in my hand; it is the dead who are laid out at my feet, their bodies furred with Batrochytrium and Pseudogymnoascus. The remaining living swirl in perfect symmetry, in paths I cannot chart, along courses I must follow. I want to know Thailand not under the lepidopterist's glass but out there in the light as it flits like paper, as it goes up in smoke. The polluted and the pristine, intermingled but not yet out of reach. Under the water, off the shore of Koh Rang, I opened my eyes wide and wider; I looked at the coral and wondered about acidification and bleaching; I looked at the sputtering boat and wondered what I was costing the ocean, in my quest to encounter it; I looked at the eddying silver fish and thought what a miracle, this.

05 July, 2017

One Month at the Ministry

Paul Park is a Korean American, a 2016-2017 Fulbright-AMCHAM English Teaching Assistant (ETA). He teaches Mattayom 1 through 6 at Warinchamrap School in Ubon Ratchathani province and tutors throughout the week after school. He was born in Irving Texas and graduated from the Saint John’s University in Asian Studies with a focus on Political Science. In his free time, Paul enjoys going to the gym, playing basketball, and meeting with new people. After the grant, Paul hopes to enter into a graduate program at the University of Texas at Austin. 

When I first was told that being an English Teaching Assistant (ETA) required me to find an internship for the month of March, I was very worried and troubled. I didn’t know what field of work I wanted to pursue and had no clue where I wanted to live in Thailand for that month. However, my confusion quickly turned to clarity when my predecessor told me about her internship at the Ministry of Education (MOE) in Bangkok. I was under the impression that I would have quite a lot of free time to study for the GRE or just mosey around and browse YouTube or watch Netflix. My expectations were proven wrong on the first week of my internship and from then on, working at MOE proved to be one of the most rewarding experiences I have ever been a part of. 

Great meal with my P's

The first week of my internship, I expected to settle down on my desk, possibly work on some essays I needed to get done and most likely browse Netflix to catch up on my shows. But within the first couple of days, I was sent on a sort of excursion to escort teachers from Singapore around Bangkok and outside Bangkok to get them acclimated to the Thai lifestyle. Their mission was to understand the Thai education system as well as share their own teaching experiences with Thai schools inside and outside of Bangkok. I was on this excursion with them for a week. From visiting one of the most prestigious high schools in Bangkok, to visiting a school with far less funding outside of Bangkok. It was quite the journey as I ended up building a very close relationship with them. There were around 10 teachers who ranged from ages 28 to 57. They were all so kind to me and although they, for some reason, assumed I was 30 years old at first, I quickly forgave them and blamed their misguided guess by the growing facial hair that I let grow for around two days; that is what I decided to tell myself. 

At first I was very shy to talk and bond with these teachers from Singapore because they were older than me and much more experienced in teaching. However, traveling around Bangkok with these educators who were completely different from me in terms of professional experience, age, and hobbies, forced me to get out of my comfort zone and bond with them. During one of my excursions, one teacher in particular was very bored of the trip and took out a Nintendo 3DS. The moment I saw the 3DS, I pounced on the opportunity to make small talk with him. When I asked what game he was playing, he replied “Pokémon X”. I thought to myself, ‘this man is more experienced than me, has a Master’s degree, and we are thirteen years apart in terms of our age but we both love Pokémon’. I felt quite satisfied to see such a smart and sophisticated 35 years old educator from Singapore, playing Pokémon. Needless to say, we easily connected. 

In total, the teachers from Singapore and I visited two schools. The school that I visited in Bangkok, one of the most prestigious schools in Bangkok, has a full soccer field with beautiful grass and even a museum that is preserved by the government located on the school grounds. The school outside of Bangkok has a dirt soccer field with no air conditioning in their main hall with a total student population below 150. The differences are night and day between these two schools. However, one thing that remained a standard among all the schools is the sense of hospitality and kindness given to strangers. They put on different shows acted out by the students and even gave us tours around their classrooms. The school with little funding made all of the students perform a traditional Thai dance for the Singapore teachers as well as a song. The school made me and the teachers with whom I was accompanied, feel right at home.

After the Singapore teachers left Thailand, I expected my job to become duller and to fulfill my previous expectations, but that did not happen, either. Once I came back from the seminar the following week I attended several diplomatic meetings which involved countries such as Japan, Mexico, Australia, and Turkey. During these meetings I was able to observe diplomacy take place. Witnessing different ambassadors coming from all around the world come and speak to Thailand’s Minister of Education, gave me more of an appreciation for the people who worked so hard to set up these meetings.

Meeting with the representative from Japan!

Each person who was a part of the Ministry of Education was in charge of a different task to get these meetings going and to make sure they were successful. From taking notes, getting the itinerary set, creating talking points between the ambassadors and the Minister, to creating a hospitable environment for each person. Everything was carefully planned and executed to perfection. Each person was playing a pivotal role in creating a friendly and hospitable environment, including myself. I was in charge of taking notes of each of the meetings because each diplomat from every country communicated through English. While it was fun to witness the meetings, keeping track of what everyone says with a pen and paper was quite difficult—kudos to those people that do that on a daily basis.

Although I was there as an American intern and my job was to take notes in English, the staff at the Ministry of Education sometimes would mistake me for a Thai intern. This is somewhat understandable considering that I am Korean-American. At one point they would tell me to do something in Thai and in turn, I would smile at them and stare until they realized they were talking to someone who probably can’t speak Thai. This happened on a daily basis and at first, I was slightly frustrated. But I’ve learned that this confusion about my nationality is to be expected; the people who are questioning my nationality or are sometimes confused, don’t have malicious intentions towards me, they are all genuinely curious about me as a person. So being part of the Ministry of Education, in terms of people questioning my nationality, I learned to respond in a respectful and honest way. At the end of the day, these people who always question my cultural background are only doing so because they are curious.

However, better than the excursions and the ambassador meetings, one of the most memorable events I was a part of during my time at the Ministry of Education was Thailand’s national English speaking competition. This event stood out to me more than the tour with the Singapore teachers or the Ambassador meetings because I was able to see the top students from all around Thailand compete with each other. One of the competitors was from Roi Et. I teach in Issan and Roi Et is a part of Issan, so I was slightly biased on who I wanted to win the competition. The competition consisted of several speaking rounds as well as a final round which included a random prompt from the moderators for the competitors to speak about. During this event, I was amazed at how proficient these students were but at the same time, I could expect nothing less from Thailand’s finest English speaking students. At the event, every judge was greeted with kindness, the crowd was engaged, and ultimately the competitors were encouraged at every step of the competition. 

The competitors of the speech competition

The competition was fierce and it truly showed how much work these students put into their speeches as well as their preparation to speak in front of a crowd. Even when a student lost, they encouraged the other competitors to keep on going and to do their best. One particular student immediately caught my attention. While she was preparing, I remembered thinking, “wow this is like a Mattayom three student and she looks so shy”. I was proven wrong seconds within her speech. She was loud, strong, and confident in her speaking abilities and to be honest, I caught myself leaning in while she was speaking. She just drew the attention of every person in the crowd because of her confidence. Once the winner was announced, each competitor was gifted a prize. At the end, all of the competitors stood together with each other on stage and celebrated.

Almost all aspects of my internship were full of surprises and people whom I feel blessed to have met. Every person at the Ministry of Education made my experience amazing. Thanks to my co-workers at the Ministry, I was able to make lasting connections with experienced teachers from Singapore who I never would have thought had similarities with me. Even being a part of the note-taking process during ambassador meetings were fun. While I admit, it’s hard to keep up with what people say at times, it really gave me an appreciation for people who take notes on a daily basis. It isn’t an easy job and I will never take that for granted. The English completion gave me an inside look at how hard student’s in Thailand work to achieve their goals. Each student in that competition was highly motivated to learn and it showed in their performance.

With my Amazing co-workers!

As a teacher in Thailand, my one month internship gave me more motivation to do right by my students. It was truly a blessing to work at the Ministry of Education, a blessing I will never take for granted, and a blessing I will never forget.