Meals

I’ve settled into a regular weekday routine here at the school, having figured out (more or less) where, when and what to teach, when and where to eat, and how to use the small bathroom with no mirror as a toilet, shower, and laundry room. In this post, I’ll share my eating routine with you.

In the mornings, I eat what is a pretty standard USA breakfast: cereal with milk or toast with butter or jam and coffee. Jason consults us before stocking up on these breakfast foods. There aren’t too many choices of cereals but corn flakes works for me and Laurian likes some kind of chocolately cereal. We get up early every day to eat breakfast in the conference room before any teachers start arriving (except Jason, who sleeps in the principal’s office just off the conference room.)

Weekday lunches are in the school lunchroom. I don’t call it a cafeteria because it’s basically just a big room with tables and bench seats. At the back of the room is a small “kitchen” area that has no applicances except a large propane cyclinder and burner. The lady that serves as the school cook works very hard on many different school activities. She has also washed clothes and hemmed pants for me: we have compromised on fees: I pay her what she considers too much and I consider too little. She prepares the food for the 186 kids in what must be a 50-gallon pot. Teachers have a separate meal which is built on a substantial scoop of rice and always includes a delicious (sometimes very spicy) sauce, fresh vegetables from the school garden, and meat dishes including fish, pork, and chicken. A photo of one of my lunches is shown below (I have to admit I chose to photograph this particular lunch because the I knew you’d enjoy seeing the fish head :-).

A Typical School Lunch for a Teacher

A School Lunch for a Teacher


For cleanup, we each kneel in the corner of the “kitchen” to wash our metal trays and silverware under a water faucet hanging over a concrete slab that takes runoff water out to the back through a pipe in the wall.

A short video of the school lunchtime routine for kids is shown below…

Most weekday evenings, Laurian and I walk down the road to a small restaurant (more like a food stand with picnic tables covered by thatched roofs) which has a tasty but limited menu. There, I often have something called Pad Say Eu and I order it with a fried egg on top (“kai dao”.)

Our Nong Mak Fai Restaurant

Our Nong Mak Fai Restaurant


It’s really delicious. I think I’ve had more fried eggs in the past month than I’ve had in the previous 2 years. There is something about the way that they fry the egg here that leaves it crunchy, yet delicious and I really like them.

Last night, for some reason, our little restaurant was closed so Jason drove us down to the Nong Mak Fai Buddhist Temple, on whose grounds a market is set up every Thursday and Sunday evening. There we bought pork pad thai from a vendor and carried it back to the school to enjoy: it was excellent. A video of the vendor making the pad thai is shown below. I can’t tell you precisely what she put in it but I know it included noodles, scallions, pork, shrimp, fish sauce, egg, sugar, and ground peanuts. I found it interesting to watch as I had never seen it made before. She made it look easy.

I’m now over half-way through my volunteering stint. I leave here to go back to Bangkok and meet Michael two weeks from today. It’s been a really interesting experience but I’m happy I only signed up for 4 weeks because it’s very tiring. It’s been really hot and humid here which adds to the difficulty. I know most of you have been suffering through a particularly bad winter so I know I can’t get any sympathy for being where it’s WARM!

Retired software engineer from New Jersey, USA, happily married to Grace for 30 years, proud father of Michael for 29 years, I am enjoying traveling and teaching English as a second language in my retirement.

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15 comments on “Meals
  1. Sam says:

    So how did you eat the fish head? Suck the “meat” out?
    I donate to a charity named Kiva. They in turn lend (not give) the money to entrepreneurs such as food stands in underdeveloped countries. Unlike your teaching trips, that’s my arms length, uninvolved giving back to society. After seeing your videos on the food stands, at least I have a notion of what it means to be a third world entrepreneur. Have you experienced any gastrointestinal problems on your trips (exact details not required)? I do believe that the food must be tasty.

    • The day I took the fish head, I thought that’s all they had then I noticed Laurian had the other end – I would much prefer the back end, though the head does have some meat. Helping entrepreneurs through donations is at least as helpful as what I’m doing so you should be proud of it. Had a bout of “cramps” last week but caught it quickly with Immodium and seem to be fine now. Hope to get through the trip without taking the Cipro prescriptions I brought along (too soon to know how I’ll fare, still have 2 weeks here, then Cambodia, Vietnam and China left.

  2. Dennis Lynch says:

    This is one of the many reasons why I admire what you are doing. As a meat and potatoes Irishman … need I say no more? With all the eggs you are eating you don’t find yourself scratching in the dirt, do you?

    I’m sure you are looking forward to meeting up with Michael. Should be a fun time for both of you. Stay well.

  3. Bill says:

    Wow. The food looks marvelous … glad to see you’re learning how to prepare these meals John … I’m looking forward to some wonderful food when you get back!

  4. Jean Crichton says:

    I loved watching the cook making Pad Thai. Were the noodles dry before the process started or had they been pre-cooked?

    • You know, that’s a great question and I’m not sure – I thought she started with what looked like long, straight vegetables of some kind (e.g. mushrooms) but those may have been the dried noodles. I’ll check closer next time…

  5. Cathy says:

    Dear John! You’re having a veritable feast of delectable gourmet treats….except, of course, for the fish head luncheon! Wouldn’t be surprised if you were shedding a few pounds while dining at this school! Hope you’re bringing home the recipe for Pad Thai…it looks scrumptious! You are such a great ambassador for our country; I bet everyone is enjoying you and your adventurous spirit! Lots of love. It’s going to be hard saying good bye to all your new friends in two weeks. B4N

    • Thanks, Cathy. Yes, I must say that the food in the country is less varied than in the cities but it’s mostly delicious. Yes, I’m hoping to lose a few pounds on the trip but being careful to keep my strength up for teaching – two weeks left! Yes, it will be a little hard to say goodbye to many of the people I’ve met here but I think my experience in this vein helps me remember to not get too close to them: still, it will be a little sad. Jason’s program here in eastern Thailand is something I very much enjoy helping – he is a good man and is trying very hard to help the children by bringing in foreign volunteers without charging them a fee: most volunteer companies charge volunteers quite a bit. I was lucky to find this company.

  6. Charlotte says:

    I surely got a kick out of that school lunch: two pieces of string beans, two slices of cucumbers, and a dry and rather small staring fish head; made me wonder how many pounds you had lost so far. But then I saw that yummy looking pad thai…

    • Haha – yes, that photo makes it look like I’m at a diet boot camp or something – all lunches don’t look that sparse and there is always one or two items that I really enjoy. The vegetables come right from the school garden and are not cooked – I figure they must be good for me. I do hope I lose a few pounds 🙂

  7. Grace says:

    You must have developed a strong “constitution” to be eating raw fresh vegetables and generally maintaining your equilibrium. The pad thai does look delicious. I’ll start shopping for a big wok so you can make it for everybody here! We’ll be lined up with our plates ready :-).

    Do you know what the children recite before they eat lunch?

    • Yes, I’m a little surprised I can eat vegetables like this will little impact on my chronic gastro-reflux issues- perhaps because I’m not eating as much or because I’m getting very little dairy? I am sure we can figure out how to make pad thai – might have to get Charlotte’s advice on where to find some of the ingredients. I don’t really know what the children say during that chant – it goes on for a while so it could be a lot – I will try to find out.

  8. Janet says:

    This amazes me. The food does look very healthy but I would have a hard time eating THAT healthy. Thanks for sharing and please take care of yourself. I know you are looking forward to yours and Michael’s time together.
    Love you.

    • Haha – yes, I think by using that particular photograph, I made it look a bit more severe than it really is – I don’t like everything they serve but I like most things. And I don’t mind a little dietary austerity for a while – I need it. When I leave school, I’ll fall right back into bad habits like picking up ice cream or candy bars once in a while. Yes, I’m REALLY excited about Michael’s coming and the things we’ll do together. Only 5 more teaching days! Hooray!