New Video – Teaching at Buddhist temples

Check out our latest video which features the Wat Doi Saket project! The WDSP places volunteers to live and teach conversational English at Buddhist temples in Northern Thailand.  This video is a look into the experience!

Video shot and produced by: Antoine Gratian

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New video – Plekwiwek Dhamma center

Check out our new video, produced by on-site intern Antoine Gratian, about the Plekwiwek Dhamma Center! This is one of the locations that the Wat Doi Saket project is working with and placing volunteers!

Watch the video to learn more about this truly unique project and location!


ATMA SEVA team

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New video – Custom Travel

Check out our latest video!! It is about our most recent custom trip from Northern Thailand! Included in the trip were educational tours, English camps, and monk chats!!!

For more information about our custom travel options, click here.

*Video shot and edited by Antoine Gratian and Raghav Agarwal*

ATMA SEVA team

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Learning Muay Thai in Doi Saket

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Kim sparring in the ring

Muay Thai is a combat sport and is the National sport of Thailand. It is also called “the art of eight limbs” because it combines fists, elbows, knees, and feet. As an English volunteer teacher in Doi Saket district I spent my evenings in Doi Saket with Kim, another volunteer English teacher. We always introduced ourselves to all the shop owners we met around the market. The reason is that Thai people are very friendly, and we wanted to make as many friends as possible in Doi Saket. On one of these occasions we befriended two young women, Kwang, Gift, and their mother at their family’s grocery shop. Kim forgot his notebook in the shop, that is why he had to come back the following day. While chatting with them he learned that their father used to be a Muay Thai fighter and was now training a few young men for free. They offered us to be trained at their gym. In exchange Kim offered to teach English to the youngest sister Kwang, whose English was weaker than her sister’s.

That is how we started training three to four times a week in Doi Saket. Kwang and Gift’s family owns a huge house surrounded by a wide domain including several traditional guest houses, farming activities and a gym with bags, gloves, weights and even a boxing ring. Even though we were a bit shy at the beginning, our Muay Thai teacher and his family made us understand that we were now part of the family. We call our teacher “Pa”, which means “Father”, and his wife “May”, which means “Mother”. We are trained by our teacher, but also by his four students, all younger than us (they are aged from 15 to 19, while Kim and me are 21 and 23 years old). Pa’s friends are visiting him daily and, along with the employees of the domain, they usually stay around the gym to watch the training and give us very useful advice.

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Me having fun in the ring!

More than just learning Muay Thai, we truly feel that we belong in this big family. The daughters always make a small detour to chat with us while we train, and sometimes even bake cakes for us. Our teacher and his friends are always smiling and patient, debating about how to improve our boxing and then trying to guide us with simple Thai or English words. The other fighters we train with are very talented despite their young age. One of them has fought more than 70 times. It is a privilege to learn with them : they are always training very seriously and being very warm and respectful with us, even though I am a complete beginner.

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One of the fighters getting ready for practice

All our training sessions start jumping for several minutes on a tire laid on the ground. We punch the air in front of us while holding small weighs in our fists. After this warm up we usually do pull ups, push ups, sit ups and lift weights in order to build our strength, as physical strength and endurance are a very important part of Muay Thai.

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Me doing some chin ups

As a beginner I have spent most of the first trainings hitting bags in order to learn different moves : kicking with the shin, usually as high as possible, hitting with the knee while holding my opponent’s neck, punching with one hand while protecting my jaw with the other and relaxing my shoulders to hit with my elbows. I have also learnt how to stand with my legs straight, my upper body bent forward and my fists held high on the sides of my head. I have trained to protect myself by lifting one of my knee and up to my elbows. I can create a wall with my upper arm and my shin in order to protect my head, neck and ribs.

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Practicing on the bags

When I started mastering these moves I was invited to enter the ring and practice with the other fighters. After exchanging a few punches, we practice clinching, grabbing each others neck and trying to free our elbows and knees to hit the other (lightly of course). We can also try to tire our opponent or throw him off balance. During my last training I also tried my kicks on one of the fighters who was wearing heavy protective gear and tried to punch back every time I kicked, to teach me how to protect myself against counter-attacks.

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Practice in the ring

I am very happy to feel that I am improving day after day. But the thing I appreciate the most about Muay Thai is that it is a smiling boxing style. We learn to relax and ideally to smile while boxing. The family atmosphere of our gym makes this trait of Muay Thai even more enjoyable. We train, fight and have fun at the same time, trusting each other and laughing as we learn together.

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Group shot!

I will keep training and I hope to come back to Thailand next year to continue this great experience.

Stay posted to learn more about Thai culture and the experience of volunteers within the Wat Doi Saket project.

Antoine Gratian, on-site intern

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New video – Lawa Village

Check out the latest video about our unique Lawa Village program! This video was shot and produced by our talented on-site intern Antoine Gratian.  All details about this program can be found here.

Don’t forget to ‘Like’ ATMA SEVA on Facebook to follow along for all the adventures!




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New video – Buddhist monk ordination

This is an ordination ceremony that took place at Wat Doi Saket in June 2013.  Hope you enjoy the video and check out our Wat Doi Saket project if you are interested in volunteering at Buddhist temples!

*Video shot and edited by Antoine Gratian*

ATMA SEVA team

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Teaching in Thailand – Challenges and Rewards

Welcome Antoine

The ATMA SEVA team picking me up at the airport

My name is Antoine, I am 23, born and raised in France. I am a new on-site intern with ATMA SEVA, and this is my first contribution to the ATMA SEVA blog. I have always been very interested in Asia and South East Asia, and a single ten day trip to Indonesia two years ago was enough to have me obsessed with this region. While teaching French language for a year in Australia, I often thought about Thailand and the surrounding countries. I knew that I would find a way to go there, live there, and feel at home in one of these wonderful places. But I had to wait a full year (completing my 4th year at my university) before I could finally move to Thailand for three months. Now, even though I have only been in Thailand for two weeks, I already feel at home at Bangew in Doi Saket, where I live in a temple with ten young monks and teach English in two government schools.  I am very grateful to ATMA SEVA for offering me the opportunity to turn Thailand into one of my homes, making my dream come true.

Living with monks is a truly unique experience. I used to know nothing about Buddhism, and I feel very lucky to be allowed to witness the day-to-day life of these monks, ages 18 to 27. The monks are very friendly with me, always inquiring about my well-being, coming to chat about many different topics, and involving me in all their activities when possible. Since I do not have a motorcycle yet and must still learn how to drive one, for the moment I depend on others for food. The monks are very generous and always offer to share their meals with me.

The schools’ staff are also amazingly kind. They are preparing a new room for me, I eat breakfast and lunch at the school, and they drive me to other school, Bai Mai Dang, for my afternoon classes. Teachers from Bai Mai Dang drive me back to Bangew in the evening. All the teachers are always smiling, caring and happy to help me whenever I have a question about the students and teaching.

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Me teaching at Ba Mai Dang school.

Being educated in France, where children are not always respectful and often difficult to deal with, one of the best surprises for me about teaching in Thailand is how wonderful children are. Whenever I enter a classroom, they all stand up and join their hands in front of them to say: “Gooood mooorning teaaacher, how are you today?”. Seeing their smiles when I answer back is the best thing a teacher could wish for. During the classes Thai kids are very lively, talking to each other and sometimes moving from their seats, but when I ask for their attention they have a good capacity to focus and they repeat loudly every word that I say in English. Their ability to repeat English sentences all together gives me the feeling that they are also learning as a group, not only as individuals. When doing exercises or playing games they are always keen to help each other out. I usually encourage this behavior because the helped and the helpers both benefit from this solidarity. In a nutshell, Thai children are just amazing!

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Some of my students at Bangew school.

Of course, some classes can also be challenging. At Bai Mai Dang the classes are bigger and the students are more self-confident. The older and younger kids are not always easy to manage. The boys who are around 15 years old are trying to “look cool” in front of their peers, that is why they somewhat challenged my authority at the beginning of the first class. However they are actually softer and better educated than most of the French teenagers I was used to dealing with, and I quite easily managed to earn their respect. Furthermore, by making them feel that I believed in their ability to speak good English I got them to study very seriously during this class, and their energy became my strongest support to push the rest of the class forward. They are so dynamic that I really look forward to having our next class together!

Nevertheless I know that with teenagers nothing is ever won forever, that is why I decided to keep up my efforts to have a strong presence and make them feel confident about their English.

I have three other challenging classes : the youngest students of Bai Mai Dang (ages 5 to 7 years old). On Mondays, I am helped by a very nice teacher who can maintain a good discipline in the class while I teach. However in the two other classes there are more students and other teachers are busy. My first class alone with  twenty-six six year olds was complete chaos, and during the second class I managed to get their attention for approximately thirty minutes. Even teaching together with Kim did not change much (Kim is also an on-site intern with ATMA SEVA). These kids are just too happy to run wild in the classroom and play, and even though I have a lot of fun watching them and trying to handle them, I need to find a way to teach them English even though I do not speak Thai. While observing the teacher who helped me with my Monday class I have learned a few songs and activities that have helped me get their attention a little longer. Now I have decided to use a trick that I have learned while working as a summer camp counselor : get them tired! That is why next week we will do gymnastics in English!

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Gift from my students!

Teaching Thai children is highly gratifying. They are lovely and dynamic, and some of them even brought me presents, such as this beautiful watermelon from two sisters, both young but exemplary students. I was also lucky because there was a special event during my first week: teacher’s day. Children prepared beautiful bunches of flowers and candles and offered them to their teachers and me during a ceremony at the temple.

I am currently living a life-changing and highly positive experience, sharing my days between my classes with wonderful children and my evenings with friendly and caring Buddhist monks. I have also made a few friends in the village, who take me to local festivals and markets. I already know that I will always feel at home at Bangew and I plan to come back as often as possible to meet all my new friends. I will definitely recommend this experience to all my English speaking friends!

Don’t forget to ‘like’ ATMA SEVA on Facebook to follow along for my adventures!

Antoine Gratian, on-site intern

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New videos!

Below are two new videos produced by our on-site intern Antoine Gratian!  The first is a look into a typical day of an ATMA SEVA volunteer.  The second is about Antoine’s first day in Chiang Mai with our team. Hope you enjoy!

Volunteering with ATMA SEVA

My First Day in Thailand

 

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