A Successful Missionary

I know the internet is full of memes talking about how horrible the year 2017 was for everyone, and I don’t mean to add to the onslaught of negativity floating around, but, 2017 was rough.  Between finishing my master’s degree, navigating the nonsense that is Chiang Mai University and trying to maintain relationships, 2017 led me into depths of darkness and hopelessness that I had not visited in many years.

While taking up residence in these dark depths, it became increasingly difficult for me to wear the ‘missionary badge’ that I have worn the past five years.  Fiery darts of shame and guilt for not performing ‘well’ or producing the right kind of  ‘results’ shot into my psyche daily.  I believed I was failing Thailand, failing you, failing God.

In retrospect, what’s interesting about this, is that no one, not one single person, ever spoke this to me.  Not once did anyone tell me that I was ‘not living up to missionary standards’.  In fact, anytime I was brave enough to expose the shame I was carrying, my community and friends would do their best to contradict those toxic thoughts. However, I submitted to shame and chose to believe hopelessness.

I am proud to say that I have sought out help.  I have been seeing a counselor on a regular basis for the past couple months and have been taking measures to reduce the stress and anxiety that took over my being.  And, thankfully, I am doing much better.

One of the (many) assignments that has been given to me, is to redefine what a ‘good missionary’ is.  I am being asked to move away from the notion that my supporters and sending church are expecting thousands of salvations and reports of miracles in every newsletter, and towards a more healthy belief that I am in Thailand to share the love of God and that is where responsibilities as a missionary end.

So as an act of self love (and to complete an assignment), I am going to share some of the ways that I loved well in 2017.  Here are some of my successful ‘missionary’ moments from 2017.

1. The School of Promise.

I finished my third year as a teacher at the School of Promise and my first year of working with fourth grade students.  Fourth graders are much more emotionally aware than the first graders I had previously worked with, and the hurts and traumas of my students’ lives were much more pronounced.  While the advanced cognitive abilities of my students led to much more exciting class times, their age also brought a lot of emotional stress. This is not easy to navigate, but as we worked through conflicts and hurts, a safe and loving environment was created.  My students knew that I was a safe person for them and allowed me to love them amid their pain–all the while, teaching them how to speak English.  We had so much fun in that class and my students improved drastically in their English speaking skills (my thesis has data and statistics to affirm that statement).  Miss Samara’s class was a major success in 2017.

2. English Camp.

English Camp is a pretty fun part of the year for the students at School of Promise.  We do our best to give the students ample chance to run around and go wild in nature, as well as try to provide an environment where the students are able to encounter God outside of the classroom,  I was in charge of two devotional nights and decided to focus on the fact that God wants to talk to His children, regardless of how young, old, spiritually mature (whatever that means) or not you are.  Despite every logical cell in my body telling me that this is too hard of a task to try and facilitate, I led all 50 students (and 10 teachers) through a simple exercise in hearing God’s voice. God does not disappoint. I don’t have numbers to share with you, but I am not exaggerating when I say that many students encountered God that night.  The remainder of camp was full of students telling different teachers stories about how they (or a friend) heard God speak to them. Trusting my instincts and believing God would show up for these kids was a success in 2017.

3. Tonhom.

Tonhom is the one student that I have agreed to tutor English to as a side job.  Typically, when someone asks me to teach them English, I decline because most people do not want to put in the crazy amount of effort it takes to learn a new language.  Tonhom, however, is amazing.  Though she is only 12 years old, her English skills are far surpass most of the university students at CMU.

Tonhom is from a very well-off Thai family who, in believing it is the best thing for her, have filled every hour of her weekends with tutoring sessions.  Along with spending two hours with me on Saturdays, she also has Chinese, math, science, singing and swimming classes to attend. I have, therefore, vowed (to myself) to make our two hours together a time that Tonhom can have fun and be a kid.  We laugh so much. Through our laughter and silliness a bond has been formed and a level of trust established.  Tonhom has started sharing with me about hurts from her family, present disappointments and fears for her future, as well as the pain of her first broken heart.  The weekly two hour classes I had with Tonhom were a success in 2017.

4. Sunshine Studios

Sunshine Studios has been a consistent source of joy over the years and this year was no different.  Through, what I believe to be, your many prayers and my (maybe too) easy going nature, a very free environment has been created at Sunshine Studios.  The students come to art class, after a long day of learning, and all their walls of performance and perfection come down.  The students debrief their day, sharing their annoyances and disappoints, excitements and gossip.  I hear way more than I probably should, but it brings me such joy to know the students trust my confidence.  Of course, teaching this after school art class is not without it’s hiccups and 2017 was full of new challenges for me, but the consistency of art class remained.  The environment that has been created, and maintained, at Sunshine Studios was a success in 2017.

5. “Come See Our Art” Student Art Show

The fact that I have yet to write or share about the art show in November is a fail on my part… but I am supposed to be writing about successes rather than on failures, and the art show was a major success.  I was pretty proud of the first show in 2016, but this one blew it out of the water.  All but one of my students showed up and of the students who came, all but one of their families came with them.  Along with the students and families of students, many people from our neighborhood and community showed up.  We had five rooms with the students’ framed art on the walls, lots of treats and a live band.  It was a really awesome event and worth all the effort it took to make it happen.  The art show was a huge success in 2017.

This list was originally written for myself, rather than to be read by others. I was encouraged to reflect back on my year and list the ways that I loved people well.

It was really hard for me.

I had been so focused on the stress of the year, the ways that I felt out of control or that I was a complete failure, that I couldn’t see anything positive that was happening around me–and even because of me.  But once I shifted my focus, I was able to list at least 15 successes of the year.

So, as a new year has begun, I am going to try to focus on the positives.  I am going to try  to rejoice in successes, regardless of how seemingly insignificant they are.  AND I am going to try to write more about them.  I want to redefine what a ‘successful’ missionary is and to allow myself to be at peace knowing, that I am where I am supposed to be, doing what I am supposed to be doing: sharing the infinite love of God with those around me and creating safe environments.

Thank you to all of you who support me on this venture of love.  Thank you to all of you who have encouraged me to give myself a break and a little grace.  Thank you to all of you who (gently) pushed me to get help amid the depression that had taken over.  Your support, be it through prayers, emails, skypes or money, is what has kept me here and I am ever so grateful for it.


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The Drug Dealer’s Phone

In honor of my bffs temporarily leaving Thailand to galavant around the United States, I thought I would share a story.

But, as per my personality,  before I get to the actual story, I would like to give a bit a preface:

  1. Shortly before this story took place, my car (the same car that will be mentioned in the forthcoming story) had been stolen from outside of my place of residence.  Now, as far as car stealing stories go, mine was rather undramatic. My car was actually found before I even knew it was gone. Regardless, the thievery may have had a minor effect on the way I thought through scenarios.
  2. While I am (in my humble opinion) a highly intelligent person, I may sometimes, sometimes, allow emotions to dictate my thinking rather than rational thought. Sometimes.
  3. The Lorensens are gems of human beings.

The Story:

One night, after returning from an evening spent at the Lorensen household, I realized that there was strange cellphone in the cup holder of my car.

The cellphone was one of those old virgin mobile phones that you didn’t have to have a plan or a contract, you just bought a SIM card and paid for minutes–remember those? Knowing that this type of cellphone was only used by drug dealers and other not-so-innocent characters and considering that my car had been recently stolen by vandals of the same sort, I jumped to the completely logical conclusion that the strange phone in my cup holder belonged to a drug dealing thug who was clearly using my car as his office.


But, even though this was some crazy drama, it was late at night, I was tired and I didn’t feel like dealing with it right then. Instead I decided to leave the phone in the car for the night and resolve this situation the next day when either a) the drug dealer would return to his office and retrieve his phone, meaning there wouldn’t even be a situation to deal with, or b) I would call the police.

I had a plan. Everything was under control. I went to bed that night completely unfazed.

Meanwhile at the Lorensen household, Tracy couldn’t find her cellphone so Caleb called it a couple of times before they retired to bed, assuming that it was somewhere in their house and they would find it in the morning.

The next morning, as I was driving to work, the drug dealer’s cronies started calling the phone to make their drug orders and to plan their next heist.  The phone kept ringing and ringing and ringing. I didn’t dare answer the calls, or even touch the phone to see the name of the caller. I neither wanted my finger prints on the devise, nor did I want to be associated with these criminals.  Instead, I just let the phone ring. Each ring more thoroughly confirming my notion that this phone belonged to a no-good-sort of a person.

While at work, I called the police. With complete confidence, I told the police that a drug dealer involved in some majorly illegal activities had started using my car as their office and left their phone in my car. A few follow-up questions were asked and then they told me to bring the phone in.  I said I would come after my shift.

After talking to the police I called Tracy to tell her all about the exciting drama happening in my life.

She didn’t answer her phone.

At the end of my shift, sitting in my car getting ready to go to the police station, I decided to call Tracy again.  This was such a nutty situation, I wanted her to share it with me.  While I was waiting for Tracy to answer my call, the drug dealer’s phone rang again! The drama was continuing to mount!

Since I couldn’t get ahold of Tracy, I decided to stop by her house before I went to the police station.  I told her that I had tried to call her before I came over, but she didn’t answer her phone.  She told me that she hadn’t been able to find her phone since the night before.

me:  “Oh! Shoot! That sucks, I’m sure you’ll find it, it’s bound to be around here somewhere… now listen to this craziness… [I tell her all about the drug dealer’s phone…]


me: This is CRAZY! Don’t you think?!?


me: What?

tracy:  Can I see the phone?

And so, as I’m sure you guessed early on in the story, the drug dealer’s phone was actually Tracy’s phone. Apparently, even though my phone had already been in my purse, the night before, as I was leaving the Lorensen abode, I grabbed Tracy’s phone thinking it was my own. Because despite my prejudice towards minute-to-minute phones, I had one too and our phones looked incredibly similar.

And, of course, as I’m sure you also guessed, all the phone calls from the drug dealer’s cohorts, were actually from Caleb. Which I would have known, had I not been so scared of tampering with the evidence.

At this point, I would like to remind you all, that I had already called the cops and reported this phone, telling them that I was on my way with the evidence.  So I had to call them back and basically said, “um… never mind.”

So there you have it.

This is probably one of my more embarrassing moments, making it also one of my most favorite memories.  I still laugh to myself and blush when I think about how absolutely certain I was in my presumptions–when in reality, the only criminal in this story was myself.

Caleb and Tracy, bless you.

Thank you guys for still allowing my to be part of your team despite this story, despite my fondness towards jumping to worst-case-scenario conclusions and despite my overly active imagination.

Love you guys.


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The Traffic Ticket

This blog is the second installation of ‘How Samara Lost Her Cool’.  I hope you laugh and cry and laugh again.


It is a universally known fact that the police in Thailand are corrupt.   The Thais know it, the expats know it, the police know it.  There is no escaping this truth.

One of the most outward expressions of said corruption is the ‘traffic stops’ that liter the city when the government is short on cash.  Out of seemingly nowhere, these traffic stops will pop up in various, tourist-heavy locations. The police manning these stops target westerners, Chinese and Burmese–checking for proper helmet usage, appropriate driver’s licensing and updated motorbike registration.

These stops become a part of life in Thailand. I have been pulled over countless times (as non-helmet wearing Thais zoom by), my only infraction being that I am a foreigner.  Usually I don’t have a problem.  I’m an avid helmet wearer, I keep my registration up-to-date and I am the proud owner of a THAI driver’s license.  Because of this, when (not if) I get pulled over, regardless of how much of an injustice I believe the scenario to be, I pull out my documents and am on my way in a matter of a few minutes.


The day of our story, I had just left from a not-so-favorable doctor appointment.  I was driving to CMU, processing the health information, when I came upon a traffic stop (on the highway nonetheless).  I was not in the mood for this, but such is life, so I pulled over as directed and keeping my earbuds blaring, I handed over my driver’s license.

Now this happens All. The. Time. and is really not that big of a deal, but this day…thiiissss day, I noticed it was taking a bit longer than usual for my license to be returned.  Looking up at the officer for the first time, I realize that he had been talking to me, but due to Regina Spektor singing about lost wallets, I hadn’t noticed.

Whelp, it turns out my motorbike registration expired two days prior.  (shit.) While I knew the time to renew was approaching, I had completely blanked on the date and hadn’t realized that my sticker was expired.  Now typically there is a grace period for this kind of thing (at least there is in my head,) so I started entreating the officer for grace.

But, the fact that the curly-headed foreigner could speak Thai was just too astonishing for the officer, so instead of letting me go, he called over a second officer.

This didn’t look promising.

The second officer started serenading me with a series of very condescending, very childish Thai questions to test my ‘skills’ while the first officer held my license in his hands smiling on.

Well, as this series of blogs is called “How Samara Lost Her Cool,” one can only imagine that I do not sweetly answer the second officers’ questions like I (maybe) should have. No. I did not. Instead, I very clearly -in Thai- told the second officer “ห้ามคุยกับฉัน” (don’t talk to me!”) and demanded that the first officer write me my ticket and give me back my license so that I could be on my way.

Well that was just too freaking cute! The upstanding police officers just could not handle it and continued repeating “ห้ามคุยกับฉัน” “ห้ามคุยกับฉัน’ (“don’t talk to me” “don’t talk to me”) back and forth to each other.

I was shaking with pent up anger.

In the end, I found out that in Thailand, when you get a ticket, the police officers keep your license until you pay off your ticket. So, despite my demands my license was not returned, my ticket, however, was issued.

Myself fuming and the officers laughing uncontrollably, I finally drove off shouting “ฉันรักเมืองไทย” (“I LOVE THAILAND!”) as my tires squealed. This only made them laugh harder.

I got about 50 meters before I found myself crying so uncontrollably I was now in danger of getting yet another ticket for endangering myself and other drivers on the road, so I pulled over and cried on the side of the highway.

This was not a ‘pretty cry’ by any means.  Oh no. I had snot running out of my nose, down my face without anything to wipe it off and my mascara was decidedly not waterproof, so it was running down my eyes in the blur and black mess, intermingling with the snot.  I was a literal hot mess.

Thirty minutes passed and the tears kept coming. At this point I started to feel a little ridiculous and was actually laughing at myself while I was crying.  The tears, however, would not stop, so I did the only logical thing I could think of and started taking selfies.  This needed to be documented.


^^ this is for your benefit.

So I just sat there crying and laughing at myself as I waited the storm of my tears out.

And you know what, I did eventually pull myself together and go to work.  I was fine.  I paid my $7 fine, renewed my registration and got my license back.

This was all just one big episode of Samara losing her cool.



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The Library Card

This blog is the first in a series that I will call something along the lines of “How Samara Lost her Cool”… I don’t know.  That’s a working title. Don’t hold me to that. I’m sure I will think of something more pithy and creative as time goes on.

Regardless, I think that title clearly illustrates the kinds of stories you will be told in this series.

So with that, enjoy.

I was a mere four years old when I became the proud owner of my very own library card.  I was entering into kindergarten when a kindly librarian explained the rules and responsibilities included in owning this magic card.  She talked briefly about respecting the books and due dates and then handed me the key into a vast world of literature and imagination.

Of course, I lost that card. But, after a short lecture I was given a new card… which I evenutally lost as well. The cycle continued into adulthood.  (Though, I can proudly say I have not lost my most recent Omaha Public Library card and still use it to check-out digital books which I devour from my devices. Whoop whoop for maturity!)

But today I have a different story to tell.  While about a library card, yes, this story lacks the whimsy and delight that my former library card memories hold. No sweet Miss Honeys handing a starry-eyed kindergartener the key to the world… no forgiveness and second chances…  No, no, this my friends, is the devastatingly true story of getting my Chiang Mai University library card.

The tale begins January 2017.

I started my employment at Chiang Mai University (CMU) and quickly realized that in order to properly fulfill my job requirements, I would need access into the university’s library.  As a university employee, I thought this would be simple enough.

I thought wrong.

Apparently, my getting an employee library card was a ludicrous thought and would most likely not happen. And, at first, I resigned to this reality.  I just made students check out books for me or used my charms to sneak in and do my job.


This worked. The combination of my status and smile tended to work well enough when it came to manipulating students into doing what I asked them to. I’m not entirely proud of this, but… you know… street smarts.

-Flash Forward-

Four months later.  Still no library card.

The university tells my co-worker (Caleb) and I that our office is going to be renovated and we will be relocated to the library until the renovation is complete.

Ok, well, this is all fine and dandy… with one small problem… neither of us have access into the library.

We would literally not be able to get into our offices.

So, I re-started my university library card campaign. This time with a bit more zeal, thinking that this should no longer be looked at as a ludicrous request, but as a necessity.

Well, I should have known this but, my thoughts are not CMU’s thoughts and my ways of doing things… are not CMU’s ways.

Two months later… after lots juggling around where our office is/will be and how to get into the library without access, Caleb and I were given the appropriate documents, from the president of the university in order to get our employee library card.


This was a big deal and I was overjoyed.

With this magical piece of plastic, I would FINALLY have access to the university’s library–including the coffee shop tucked away inside.

Or, as should be expected, so I thought.

The day after receiving my beautifully official card (signed off by the president of the university) I waltzed into the library.


Apparently my card needed to be activated. And to be honest, I was pretty cool about it. Should be easy enough.

Once again, I thought wrong.

In order to activate my official employee card, I needed to fill out three more forms and have them signed by the dean of the international college. My argument that the PRESIDENT of the university already signed my papers held no weight as, clearly those were different forms and these forms need to be signed my the dean.

Deep breathe Samara, you are so close.

Miracle of miracles, as I exited the library I ran into the dean! I showed him the forms and without blinking an eye he signed them all!

Excitedly, I skipped back into the library thinking that I could fill out the *already signed* forms with the librarian .

And for the fifth time, I thought wrong.

A Quick Aside:

In the Thai language there is a word that adults use when talking to young children and young children will use when referring to themselves and talking to adults. The word is หนู (nuu) and translates, in this instance, as “little mouse”. Cute.

With my signed forms in hand I head confidently back to the main librarian.  Thinking that I would just fill the forms out with her, I truly believed that my card would be activated and I would, after six months of employment, have entrance into the University’s library.

Smiling and full of assurance, I was greeted with the icy smile of a disgruntled government employee.


She quickly informed me that, “You, little mouse, can not fill these forms out by yourself. No, little mouse, these forms cannot just be signed, but they need to be filled out by the appropriate person, little mouse. If you would just do things right, little mouse, you wouldn’t have all these problems, little mouse.”

Now, I’m not exactly proud of what happened next, but I had had enough. I was done. I could not handle the ridiculous crushing of my library card hopes any longer.  This, compounded by the abject disrespect from the librarian by repeatedly calling me ‘little mouse’, resulted in something… well… not so pretty.

When it was my turn to speak, I lost it. Employee card in my hand and pointing at my job title, I said, “I am not a little mouse; I am an expert!” I then continued to rant and rave about the obscurity and complete insanity of Chiang Mai University as an institution. I went on and on until I felt my Thai wasn’t strong enough to continue and as she opened her mouth to respond to my flip out, I stood up, pushed in my chair and walked away.

Fortunately, eight months into my employment at CMU, my forms have been filled out by the acceptable people and my card has officially been activated. AND, believe it or not, I have even had an ‘apology’ conversation with the librarian. So alls well.

The end.

At least until 30 September, when I have to renew my card.


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The Tinder Blog part 2

Prerequisite reading for this blog is this blog.

It’s been so long. How long…? God, I don’t even remember. Come on, when was my last date? I mean real date. Where we were both equally aware that it was a date. No ambiguity. Can I seriously not remember? This is pathetic. Come on, think. Two…three years ago? Goodness, that is pitiful. Let’s not say that aloud. Ever. Ok, how do I even do this? One step at a time, I guess. Just be myself. All the clichés Ok, I can do this. Step one: get dressed.

Check. Ok. Done. Adequate. See? I can do this. Make-up…hair…done. 

Step two: figure out where the hell this place is. How is it possible that some ‘newly arrived passer-by’ knows more about the local hot spots than I do? That probably has something to do with the no dates for the past three years. Moving on. 

Ok. Dropped a pin. I can do this. Breathe in. Breathe out.

You are pretty. You are smart. You are a cool girl. 

Oh god. Shut up. 

Of course I’m here 20 minutes early. That doesn’t seem eager at all. How did that even happen? How is it that I am consistently late to everything and yet manage to make it here 20 minutes early? This is exactly the kind of scenario where my notorious tardiness actually works. Is actually desirable. Naturally, I am early. Oh well. Thank God I have a book. Being early and reading makes me seem cultured, unaffected. Date? What date? Who knows anything about a date? I just came here to read. Well, I should check my phone first, then I will read.  Perfect. He’s running late. This is off to a great start. 

No worries. Play it cool. You are a cool girl. Read your book. 

That’s him. Not the same as his picture… but maybe for the better? Ok, here we go. Stand up. Game on. 

Oh… we greet strangers by hugging in 2017. That’s new. 

You handled that adequately. 

Breathe in. Breathe out. Smile. 

This isn’t so bad. Just conversation. You know how to have a conversation. He’s actually pretty cool you know… an artist?! Who would have thought? And he lives in San Francisco…  Peace Corp too? A teacher…? This is exciting. We have a lot we can talk about. Easy. 

Breathe in. Breathe out. Smile. 

I wonder when I will have to actually say something about myself? I mean, this is pretty low pressure, just listening, smiling, nodding. Agreeing.  And I’m not even faking my agreements or smiles, I mean… we are actually exceedingly compatible. But does he know that yet? 

Hi man! I’m cool too! I have interesting stories to add to this conversation! Oh well. Getting to know him… getting to know all about him…

Oh, ok. We are changing our seats. Alright. Sure. Why not sit on the same side of the booth? This makes perfect sense. And now I will delicately shimmy myself over closer to that wall. Smiling, smiling. Not awkward at all. 

Oh yea! You lived there for two years…? Great..! 

Oh yea! That’s what you think about Trump…? Ok! 

Oh yea! That’s an interesting art technique…! Sure is! 

Yes, you are an interesting man. 

Yes, you are. 


Don’t visibly roll your eyes. Smile. Smile. 

Oh. Hand holding. Well that is interesting. Interesting how he has just taken hold of my hand. He just took it. I wonder if he remembers my name! Haha! He hasn’t asked me a single question about myself, but he is holding my hand. He doesn’t know that I have an art studio, but he knows I can paint my fingernails. I actually kind of wish my hands were clammy right now. When does one ever wish for clammy hands? But that would be a good punishment for his just taking hold of my hand. This is hilarious. I will take my hand back now sir, thank you very much. 

Ok, getting the bill. This hasn’t been that bad. I mean, I could have contributed more to the conversation, but not contributing was much easier. Just sit, smile and look pretty. Pretty low pressure. Oh god, how non-feminist was that last thought?” Shoot. Erase that. Oh well, at least he was interesting. I mean, he was a cool guy. This was a good ‘first step’ into the whole dating world. Innocent enough. 

Oh wait. What’s happening? No. He couldn’t possibly… Oh. Yes. He could.  Well, ok. At least now I get to use my voice. Will these be the first words I say to him? Oh come on, you’re being dramatic. You said words… 

Well, fortunately I have no issue deflecting kisses. I am well versed in turning kisses down. What does this say about me? How many kisses have I turned down in my life? Four, five… six… Hey! No time to think about that. It’s deflecting time. Ready-set-deflect!

He took that well. Looks like he’s still in recovery, but that wasn’t too bad. Mr. Cool Guy probably isn’t too used to being shot down. Especially from such docile, agreeable girls. Haha! I am happy to be your first, kind sir. It’s an honor. 

To the motorbike! Over. Finished. I can officially say I have gone on a Tinder date and it wasn’t so bad. I didn’t—wait. What? What is he doing? Again, really? Ok, no problem… one, two… sorry man. 

Oh, don’t look so surprised. Did you think I would change my mind during our two minute walk? Apparently you did. 




Third times not the charm, man!

Not tonight, not with this girl. You probably would have realized that I’m not so easy if you would have let me talk.  Now I’m getting annoyed. I’m a pretty stubborn woman. The more you try, the more stubborn I am going to get. 

“Ok, seriously. This is not going to happen. I literally just met you.”

“Yes, but we met on Tinder.”


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Portrait of a Four

Over the past six months my team and I have gotten really into exploring the aspects of the Enneagram.

Don’t know it? Click here for a quick guide and to take the test.

Well, turns out… I’m a four.

The Romantic Individualist.

Fours are known for their highly creative minds and their need to be known as unique.  As well as being sensitive, dramatic and withdrawn.  …and maybe a bit temperamental and self absorbed….

At first, finding out I was a four really annoyed me.  I labelled fours as the ‘worst type’–and later found out was a very ‘four-like’ thing to do. But, the more I have (causally) studied the enneagram and the more I have learned about fours, the more I see the benefit of having my secret inner world exposed.

Because, as much as I think I’m an incredibly unique individual that can’t be put into any box, I am pretty much the poster child for ‘type fours’.

four .jpg 41.jpg 42.jpg

The more I learn, the more I am able to conquer my own inner demons and understand that I am pre-dispositioned to believe certain lies… but that that is what they are… LIES.

Anyway, I could go on and on and on about this.

I highly recommend finding out your ‘type’ and doing some reading or listening, (there are plenty of podcasts on the topic,) to learn about your type.  If you want input on what to read or what to listen to, let me know. I have suggestions.

ANYWAY… on to what inspired this blog.

Today, as I was I driving to campus, John Lennon’s song “Look at Me” came on my shuffle and I had to chuckle to myself. That song should be the ‘type four’ theme song.  It basically sums up our internal/eternal struggle of “pay attention to me!” and “am I special?”

So I wanted to share it with you all.

Enjoy hearing the heart-cry of a four.


Also, after a quick and very official google search, I have found that while Johnny boy wrote like a four, he was in fact more likely a six.



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So This Happened.

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I ended up having to ask some of my drunk college student neighbors to help me get her off the awning. This resulted in seven dudes climbing on each others shoulders to try to reach her while Dtula was having a literal panic attack and was trying to jump back into the window.

In the end, my neighbor dudes were able to rescue her and I took her back upstairs to our room and let her hide and calm down.

We haven’t experimented with drugs since.



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My cat has a gentleman caller. He’s obsessed with her.


It’s not hard to imagine. Look how pretty she is.

He waits outside our apartment door in hopes of catching a glimpse of his one, true love.


There he is…. waiting for me to come home and open the door.

And, his feelings for Dtula are reciprocated. She sits on the window sill staring longingly at him from the second floor as he serenades her from the ground. She too, is filled with intense passion hoping to be united with this tomcat.

IMG_0363   IMG_0362

Unfortunately, much like any relationship characterized by obsessive stalking, this seemingly beautiful romance has a dark side.

Dtula is in an abusive relationship.

While this tomcat sits, stares and calls for Dtula, as soon as his love has a chance to actualize, he attacks.

But Dtula is in love. And her love is patient and her love is kind. And her love wears blinders that makes her believe that ‘this time will be different’. Her love, immature as it is, causes her to sneak out and end up in the hospital on Christmas morning.


Was it worth is Dtula? Really?

All this to say, I keep Dtula locked inside. And while the tomcat serenades and stalks and sprays my shoes with his fragrant cologne, she is forced to to watch him from afar… and I, animal lover that I am, am seriously considering buying a gun.


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End of the Year Reflections

Another school year has come to an end. While this was my third year working as an EFL English teacher, this was my first experience working with the bigger kids. This seemingly small change came with a myriad of ups and downs. When reflecting back on the  beginning of the year I have to laugh at how stressed and overwhelmed I felt at times.

To be honest, I ended the school year still feeling stressed and maybe a bit overwhelmed, but no longer was my classroom the source.

My previous two years teaching experience was working with first graders. The first grade classroom is filled with its own unique struggles and the beginning of the school year with first graders is no walk in the park–but the kids are so freaking cute that I was always able to just push through. By the time the kids are in level 4 English their cuteness factor has decreased substantially and their emotional baggage has matured an equivalent amount.

The first three or so months of this school year left me feeling inadequate leading a classroom full of students carrying incredible amounts of emotional trauma. I was overwhelmed by the emotional burden of my students–feeling the need to not only teach them English, but to also fill the needs of their young hearts and maybe take one or two home.

My trying to ‘mother’ and ‘heal’ my students may have been sustainable if the majority of my class was made up well adjusted students from loving families. That, however, is not my teaching environment. Very quickly the burden became too much and super star Samara began having emotional breakdowns right alongside her students.

**Lets take a moment to remember that amid all this, I was also writing my research proposal, implementing my in class research and collecting data, writing my thesis and trying to get my advisor to meet with me.**

Breakthrough happened a couple months into the first semester when the Still Small Voice reminded me He loves the students in my classroom infinitely more than I could ever begin to and that while He has me in their lives for this year, I am only one of the many other people He will place in their paths throughout the rest of their lives. I am not their savior.

It amazes me thinking back to how quickly that simple reminder was able to lift such a huge burden off of me.

What also amazes me is that friends and family were telling me this all the time, but to no effect. It wasn’t until the truth came from the Still Small Voice Himself that the self-inflicted burden was lifted.

Now that the school year is finished, my research has been written and my thesis has been defended, I feel like it’s a good time to think back and reflect on a few of the successes and failures of the year. I’ve decided to share those reflections here.


1. Asking you to adopt students to pray for.

Once I realized I was not The Savior of my students I felt free to ask for help. So here is a hearty THANK YOU to those of you who adopted a student or two and committed to praying for them over the course of the year. There were dramatic changes in particular students and situations and no doubt some of that is due to your prayers.

2. Moving away from the Bible curriculum.

Pretty early on in the semester, I made the executive decision to not focus our Bible time on the weekly verses that the rest of the school was memorizing. Most of my students had been at the school for at least four years, meaning they have practiced the same Bible verses every year for those four years. Instead we did class declarations. We would talk about characteristics of God and the implications of being His child; then we would stand on our chairs and shout those truths out. My class would fail Bible memorization test, but they will be able to talk about God’s faithfulness in their lives.

3. Creating a safe environment.

The bulk of my research rests on the assumption that the teacher has taken certain measures to create a safe atmosphere. Alls good in theory, but when actually putting theory to practice, things get interesting. Because I was deliberately setting out to do things differently than what happens in a ‘traditional’ classroom, I had a lot of groundwork to build, but by the end of the year the fruit of my labor was apparent. Our classroom became a stress-free zone, even when stressful things were happening. We worked together to problem solve and help each other out. The students were free to share their opinions and give suggestions in the class.

4. Promoting speaking skills.

The research I was doing was specifically about enhancing my class’s speaking skills. So, instead of spending the year working on vocabulary, spelling and grammar, we worked on speaking. This again, was not easy. Thai students are trained to memorize and recite, therefore, I had to re-wire their malleable brains. For the first weeks of our time together my students moaned and groaned about all the presentations and speaking I was requiring them to do. Flash forward to the last week of class… unexpected things interrupted our schedule and their final presentations were cancelled and you know what–they complained. My students were unanimously disappointed that they didn’t have to stand up in front of their peers and talk about their States.. in a foreign language. My research had been long done by this point, but I was astounded at how far they had come. My prayer now is that this confidence in speaking English sticks with them throughout the rest of their English learning career, regardless of their teachers and method of instruction.

5. Using authentic materials.

Again, my research made the claim that real materials should be used in the classroom. If we are learning about fruits, we should have real fruit in the classroom. Over the course of the year we made cakes and frosting, smoothies and ugali; we packed bags to go camping and set up a tent, we took pictures of each other using real, fancy cameras (not just a smart phone), we learned how to make a pour over cup of coffee and drank too many cups of it; we built paper maché states and created our own, fully playable board games. I probably spent too much money, but our classes were memorable.

6. Building the classroom around my students.

My research had to be done according to the very particular timeline and specifications that had been proposed to my advisor, so I didn’t have much flexibly there, but once that was completed, I let the students decide what we learned about. The result was that the English language classroom turned into a world geography classroom. Students voted on regions, countries and what we would research about those countries. I gave up an amount of control but gained a class full of interested students.


1. Teaching the other communication skills.

While I ended the year with a group of students that are able to speak better than many of the college-aged students I come across, I really didn’t focus on reading, writing or grammar. I can clamor on and on about the theories backing up my speaking skills focus, but that doesn’t negate the fact that all four communication skills are important and that in Thailand…grammar is king. I probably could have been a bit more well rounded in my approach, maybe especially after my research was complete.

2. Building my units once my research was complete.

Well, after my research was finished I had the **astonishing** realization that I still had a semester and a half to teach. I had spent a year writing the curriculum for my seven-week research period and didn’t give any time or brain power to thinking about what I would do when I was finished. Once this dawned on me, I kind of had to scramble. While interviewing my students I found out that they were interested in learning about the rest of the world… this is how our class turned into a geography class. And all in all, it was a success. HOWEVER, it could have been so much better. If I would have spent the amount of time planning the geography units that I spent planning my research, those units would have been amazing. As it was, they were very surface level. I could have done better.

3. Lesson plans.

This kind of falls in line with point number two. The lesson plans that I wrote for my research are impeccable. They are pristine. I don’t think I’ve ever seen more detailed lesson plans…ever. Well. Those amazing lesson plans, that anyone could follow, were short lived and replaced with bullet point lists of activities and mysterious phrases that only I can decipher. At the end of the year, when I had to turn in all my lesson plans for the year…I just kind of slipped the ‘sticky note’ lesson plans underneath the beautiful crafted ones that earned me a masters’ degree.

4. Consequences/Follow Through

At the beginning of the school year I had the class create a ‘consequence jar’. Each student wrote consequences on slips of paper and put them in the jar. The consequences could be as lenient or severe as the students wanted and as a result, most were quite severe: run around the field ten times, do fifty push-ups, stand facing the back wall all class. All way worse than I would have given out. Well, while I thought this was an amazing idea…what ended up happening was that the kids were so excited about the element of surprise within the consequence jar that they WANTED to get in trouble. I even had a student–who never got in trouble–ask me if she could have a consequence. Fail. From that point on I had to revamp my discipline policy and it changed multiple times over they year. In the end, I landed on a ticket system. The power of tickets over little children’s behavior will continuously amaze me.

I’m sure there are WAY more highlights (and lowlights) that I could add to this list. It seems like every year spent as a teacher offers its own areas of challenge and room for improvement. The end of each year makes me excited to start the next year, to try again and do better.

However, instead of doing it again next year and perfecting my practice, I am taking a year off of the School of Promise and will be giving my time and expertise to Chiang Mai University.

Working at the university puts me with yet another new demographic of students and a whole other learning curve to conquer.

Wish me luck.


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A Fourth Valentines Day Treat: Tinder.

After nearly four year of living single in Thailand–where the only visible bachelors around were either socially challenged or self-proclaimed eunuchs–I got on Tinder.

A lot of thought went into this decision and I wasn’t quick to make it. I mean I have been one of the noisiest ‘Tinder is the hook-up app’ shouters that I know. I was not a fan and up until this very recent point I hadn’t even given thought to online dating–let alone Tinder. Plus there was the added hurdle of needing Facebook to be on Tinder.

Would I really be willing to break my ‘no Facebook’ vow in order to find my one-true-love on Tinder?

Yes. I would.

[PSA: I have a Facebook account. I dare you to find me.]

The beloved Jaem, whom I trust as a 21st century dating guru, very clearly expressed to me that getting on Tinder would increase my likelihood of meeting single men in Chiang Mai 100 times more effectively than  constant sulking and lamenting. However, during the same ‘dating advice’ session, he also suggested that ‘Christian Mingle‘ or ‘Celibate Passions‘ [it’s a thing] would maybe better suit my unorthodox ideas about sex. (A truer statement has never been.)

After much deliberation I made a profile.

I came to the conclusion that an app is what you make of it, Tinder can only be a hook-up app if I am using it to hook-up, I wouldn’t be… so I’m good.

The thrill of scrolling through the endless ocean of pictures lasted all night. Millions of attractive, age appropriate men–all in Chiang Mai–suddenly at my fingertips! Being the Tinder virgin I was, I literally swiped right on every. single. scruffy faced man bun I found.


I was matching with with men left and right. The line ‘it’s raining men’ had never been a more true statement in my life. By the end of my first night on Tinder I had two dates scheduled for later that week.

Oh poor, naive soul.

After my first Tinder rendezvous (about which I am in the process of writing a hyperbolic account of) I learned that in order for Tinder to indeed not be a hook-up app, certain modifications to my approach needed to be made.

These modifications were as follows:

  1. My profile needs to include more than a picture of my hot self.

a. specifically my devotion to Jesus needs to be made known.

b. my profile needs to explicitly say that I am not interested in meeting men that are in Thailand on holiday.

c. ‘not looking for hook-ups’ should also be stated.

2. I need to look at the guys’ profiles before swiping right.

a. don’t judge a book by its cover. duh Samara.

b. no travelers.

c. no information in profile = no date with Samara

d. profiles including photos with high quantities of alcohol and/or shirtless photos will not receive a right swipe.

3. First dates will not consist of ‘getting drinks’–unless, of course, said drink is coffee or water or non-alcoholic smoothies.

The changes were made. If I were to switch now to academic writing and consider my whole Tinder dating experience a social experiment, the implementations of the treatment resulted in the following:

a. A decreased number of matches.

-As I was being much more selective about the men I swiped right to, the endless ocean of eligible dudes was transformed into a murky puddle of potentially ok dates.

-Likewise, as I was no longer just a pretty face to be swiped, but suddenly had standards and criteria, the dudes were no longer swiping me.

b. Sudden out breaks of anger.

-The inclusion of the statement “I love Jesus” seemed to press some sort of religious non-acceptence button within my few matches. Whether or not these matches swiped my picture without looking at my profile or swiped right solely to have the opportunity to let me know how much I offended them, I will never know. But suddenly, instead of offers for drinks I was receiving messages full of angry anti-christian rants and rude comments about my mention of Jesus.

-Someone did send me a message asking me if “Jesus was my dog” to which I responded with “Yea man, we’re real tight.” Not sure if that’s what he was going for. We ‘unmatched’ shortly thereafter.

c. The guys *lucky* enough to actually meet me in person still had some sort of strange expectation of me.

-Despite my efforts, I still had to deflect unwanted kisses from total strangers.

-One person went so far to text me weeks after our one 30 minute lunch and tell me he was ‘disappointed in me as a person’ (direct quote) for not contacting him again. He told me that he expected more from me. …??  I did not respond.

Needless to say, after two weeks of really trying to ‘give it a go’ and putting my pre-conccieved notions aside, I deleted the app.

Jaem was right. Tinder is not for me. Celibate Passions, here I come.


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