A Brief Update

I’m going to do my best to update you on my life the past 6 months in as brief a post as possible. Since I moved to Perth, Western Australia, I’ve had to get used to and reintroduced to a few things:

flushing toilets, public toilets, toilets with toilet paper, water you can drink straight from the tap, public water fountains, overly priced bottled water, ridiculously expensive Thai food (that doesn’t taste very good), ridiculously expensive food in general, keeping your shoes on when you enter into someone’s house, understanding everyone (mostly, I’m still getting used to the accent), public transportation that is set to a timetable (and sticks to it!), driving a manual car on the left side of the road, massages that cost $50 (which I cannot bring myself to pay for), haircuts that cost $50 (which I might have to force myself to pay for), Domino’s pizza, cheese, fresh milk and not UHT milk, expensive coffees (I’ve since gone back to instant, Thai style), expensive drinks in general, etc. 

You get the picture. It’s taken a bit of an adjustment to get back to the “first world.” Not as much as I would have thought, but I’m still getting used to being paid $38/hr washing dishes on a Sunday or paying $12 for a pint.

I’ll admit… part of the reason why I’ve found it so hard to update this blog is because I was constantly doing something new and it didn’t cost a whole lot to do it. All I’ve really been doing here is working and trying to save money (except for my 3-week trip to Thailand… I’m really All Thai’d Up! NOTE: See what I did there?). I don’t really feel like there’s a whole lot to update about. Perth is beautiful, but everything is so expensive. Mostly it’s because it’s just coming out of winter/raining a lot and you can only really do things that are indoors and you pay to do. That said, summer is just around the corner. So to the beach I’ll go! I’ll be sure to put some pictures up of the beaches here when I do. 

That’s all for now!

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From Australia back to Thailand

Well, I have to apologize first for not posting since I left Thailand. I’ve honestly been trying to just get used to western, first world life again. I’ve only just got a heater/air conditioning unit and cable TV for the first time in nearly two years! It’s taking a lot of adjustments, and I am missing Thailand incredibly.

THAT SAID

I am going back to Thailand.

Tomorrow.

It’s only for three weeks, but that’s long enough to get my Thai fix…. I hope.

When I get back, I will give a full report on my time in Australia thus far, as well as my trip to Thailand. I’ll also have to rename my blog, so I’m currently brainstorming witty puns.

Sorry for the short post, but I’ve got bags to pack!!

Six months and going…

Today is March 15, which marks six months since I’ve begun my adventures in Thailand.

I’d like to say I will be using the return ticket I’ve got booked for March 31, because I know it would make my family happy. Unfortunately, that’s a wasted $500. Instead, I’ve decided to stay and look for a teaching job in Chiang Mai.

On the 29th of this month, I will leave to go to Singapore. My friend Matthew lives there and we’ve got a couple adventures planned during the two weeks I’ll be there. Then the 12th of April, I’ll fly to meet my friend Tim in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. We are going to backpack through southern Vietnam, Cambodia and make our way back into Thailand. It’s after this that I’ll make my way up to Chiang Mai, in northern Thailand, to find a job.

Thanks for all the support since I’ve been here!

Family Visit and Koh Chang

Well, it’s been a good bit since I last posted an update. I suppose I’ll start off by saying HAPPY LEAP DAY! I hope you all played a round of Leap Frog in celebration… I myself walked home from school playing the ukelele shouting “HAPPY LEAP DAY!” to unfortunate Thai bystanders.

This past week, I had visitors! My mom and Dave came for a week. We spent the first weekend in Bangkok staying at the Hyatt Grand Erawan. My absolute favorite part of the weekend (besides seeing them!) was the wonderful free food we got to eat on the club floor. Since my mom had loaded me up on homemade loaves of Sundried Tomato and Basil bread, we snuck cheese from the club floor back so I could take it home. I’ve had quite a few delicious grilled cheese sandwiches since. Since we really only had Sunday to spend together, I took them to JJ Market. JJ Market is a weekend market that is simply massive. Anything you’re looking for you are sure to find there. After a full day of shopping, I had to get to the van stop. They were headed to Koh Chang the next morning and I had to get back to the ol’ grindmill to make some baht.

Fresh off our dive with BB Divers

The original plan was only to be seeing them during the weekends because I had to work, but I managed to get Tuesday through Friday off! SURPRISE! So on Tuesday, I hopped on a 5:30am van headed to Bangkok, changed to a 7:00am van to Trat Province, and then caught the one hour ferry to Koh Chang to join up with them. A total price of 430 Baht (about $14). Koh Chang was beautiful. We spent the days lounging on the beach or by the pool confused by the swarm of fat men in Speedos, I indulged in delicacies like hamburgers and pizza, and we did a bit of shopping (what little there was) in the evenings. On Wednesday, we went diving with BB Divers. I’d been diving in Thailand before, a few times, down south in the Andaman Sea. The diving in Koh Chang was great, though if you’re planning on diving in Thailand I’d still recommend going down south if you can make it. The crew was very friendly (as most divers are) and the lunch they gave us was delicious! I’d definitely go diving with them again.

On Friday morning, I left early to take the van back so that I’d be in Bangkok by the time their plane landed. We made plans to take a van to my city, Krathumban, so I could show them around. Unfortunately, traffic was not on our side, so it was a bit too late for a tour. Though, they did get to meet Devon and see the Friday night market. We also ate my favorite meal here, a grilled fish that’s served just downstairs. After our meal and visiting the market, we flagged down a taxi and headed back to Bangkok.

The Marble Palace

On Saturday, we decided to go visit the Grand Palace, a very famous tourist site in Bangkok. When we arrived outside, about 10am, several (Thai) people kept telling us that it was “Special Buddha Day” and the palace was not open until the afternoon…. Thus ensued Dave’s Death March. We went to the Marble Temple and then proceeded to walk about an hour headed to some destination in the deadly heat. That was not a pleasant experience at all. Finally, exhausted by the trek and near heat stroke, we gave up and hailed a taxi to take us back to the Grand Palace. Turns out, the Grand Palace is open ALL DAY everyday. We had just been misled by tuk-tuk drivers disguised as helpful natives wanting to take us to other sites. Regardless, we finally made it. Here are some pictures:

The Emerald Buddha sits in that.. unfortunately I wasn't able to get a picture inside.

 

We thought we'd help those little gold men out.

After touring the Grand Palace, I decided to take my mom and Dave to Khao San Road, the site of many enjoyable experiences and shopping excursions. Turns out, it was one of their favorite markets to go to! I introduced Dave to my favorite (and coincidentally the cheapest) Mango and Sticky Rice cart. We ate two servings. Then we headed back to the hotel for dinner and packing.

On Sunday, we had to say our goodbyes. I’m so happy they were able to visit. It was so much fun to see them and quite a nice surprise to be able to travel to Koh Chang with them. I miss them already, but look forward to the next time they visit!

Sun shady family... I love and miss you!

Scout Camp

Sawadee kha!

A drawing by one of my students... How he knows Spanish, I've no clue. I promise I'm teaching English....

Last week was very busy. I had to give my students midterms, grade them, and then tutor Fay (the girl who lives downstairs) in English everyday. That was quite fun, considering I have 700 students. Now I have a nice weighty pile of papers on my desk. Fortunately, having not seen my students very much this semester, I didn’t make the test too difficult (though you’d have thought so with how poorly some of them did). It was multiple choice which make it a lot easier for me to grade. On the back of their answer sheet, I had each class draw something different…. Example: Draw Teacher Lindsey running away from an erupting volcano. The prompts for these varied, as I made them up spur of the moment. I did receive some very clever drawing which made me smile.  I think I’ll make it a regular task on their exams, because I think creativity is a good thing to support. Besides, art has no language.

Just one of the many graffitied buses we took to camp... I don't recall ever having these when I was in school.

On Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday of this week, Devon and I went with the school to Saraburi (about three hours off) for camping with the scouts. I had heard of Thai’s being nice to your face and not so nice behind your back… Well, in our case it was nice to your face and not so nice to your face, just speaking in Thai so you can’t understand. For the most part, everyone was happy we had come except for this one lady at the school. We aren’t quite sure what got her in such a fuss, but she was not too pleased. We did have a really nice time, though! It was very similar to camps back home, except they’re what America would deem a bit “inappropriate” in some areas. Devon and I got quite a kick out of it. Here’s a video of said situation…. (NOTE: This was just one documented instance, there were plenty more):

Let’s just throw in a picture of another instance for good measure:

Scout leaders dressing up as women.... clearly...

Tree, Starfish and Flower walk the line.

Devon and I were talking it over, and we think that, since we work for a government school, the concept of “scouts” is military based… With exception of the evenings, they spent much of the days doing very structured and disciplined activities. Students were to stand at attention, salute, at ease and whatever else they were yelling for them to do in Thai. They did have a “mountain” which was for “hiking”… Someone didn’t do a very good job distinguishing between “mountain” and “hill”, though, because there definitely was no mountain. On this hill were various obstacles, none of which would meet the safety standards of America–especially when students are tightroping and teachers come up and shake the ropes for them to fall (about 2 metres) to the ground. Devon and I, along with another Thai teacher (Tree- pronounced “d-ree”), decided we wanted to do a ropes course… Sans harness…. with only spiderweb-like ropes and what looks like fish netting between us and the ground. It was quite fun, though I’d be hesitant to do it with the boyscouts.. They’ve learned from their Thai teachers and like to shake each other off the line.

Here are a couple more pictures taken at the camp:

Thai Treehouse

Nurses climbing on TOP of the monkey bars.

Boyscouts and Nurses waiting.

Nurses (left) and Girlscouts (right) at assembly.

The camp was very nice, and there was certainly no shortage of food. I have decided I prefer when people just give me food, rather than me deciding what I want to eat (lately, I’ve succumbed to a life of grilled cheese and sliced apples with peanut butter…. how elementary of me, but oh so delicious). They had these delicious puff pastries filled with either fruit, peanuts or chicken for only 5 Baht. We took advantage of this deal quite often.

Since Devon and I went with the M3 students, they took a detour to visit Ayutthaya on the way back to school. Ayutthaya used to be the capital of Thailand before they moved it to Bangkok. On the way there, the bus pulled over for a short 15 minutes so students could buy “souvenirs”. And by this I of course mean they were buying food, beer and wine coolers. Yep, you read that right… My 15 year old students were stocking up on alcohol. So, of course, Devon and I had no reservations about buying a bottle of Thai wine to try. What’s a couple 22 year olds buying one bottle to share vs. 400 15 year olds buying 4 or 5 bottles each. And I know some of them were cracking them open on the bus. Oh, Thailand. I’m always entertained.

Once we got to Ayutthaya, we stopped for lunch and a visit at Wat Yai Chai Mongkol. Since Devon and I were wearing normal clothes, and everyone else from our school was wearing their scout uniforms, we did not look like we went along with them at all. To every other falang there, we just looked like your average tourists… until the inevitable “TEACHAAAA!” was screamed from afar. At one point, we were taking pictures of our students, and a lady came up beside us and started taking pictures of them with her camera. You can’t blame her, for all she knew she was doing the same thing as we were… just taking pictures of the random group of boyscouts.

At Wat Yai Chai Mongkol with my M3 boyscouts... Picture posing Fonzy style.

Wat Yai Chai Mongkol in Ayutthaya

So that was our trip–in a nutshell, of course.

This next week, I’ll be doing more testing with my students. Unfortunately, they don’t know they’re having their final this coming week. They don’t know, because I didn’t know until Friday that I would have to give it to them. That’s how it works here… Nobody really knows anything until last minute. So, hopefully they will do well… We shall see.

My mom and Dave get here in exactly one week! I’m very excited… I wish I could travel around with them, but unfortunately I’m only going to be able to see them on the weekends with my work schedule. No worries, though! We will make the most of every minute.

And just in case you were wondering… This is how you spell my Thai nickname, Leelawadee:

"Leelawadee"

Thanks for reading… I miss you all! ‘Til next time! xx

An Island To Myself

I’d like to say I truly had an entire island to myself, but really, I just went on a trip by myself. There are many people who can’t or don’t like to travel alone, and six months ago I was one of them. Now, I rather like it. At times, I even crave it.

This week is midterms week. All the students have been testing with their Thai teachers, so I’ve “not had class” to attend. I’ll get to why that’s in quotations in a bit. So I decided last weekend to go to Koh Samet, an island just off the coast in the gulf. Koh Samet happens to be a National Park, so you have to pay an entrance fee which is only 200 baht ($6), but with my work permit, it was knocked down to only 40 baht ($1.30)! Round trip, I spent 447 baht to get there which calculates to just under $15 USD. The bungalow I stayed at, Jep’s, was really nice… I’ll post a write up under the “Hotel Reviews” section in the next couple days. Enough about the cost of things, that’s just for curiosities sake… Let’s get to the interesting stuff.

Morning View with James Franco

I spent Saturday, Sunday and Monday relaxing on the beach, reading, and stuffing myself with delicious non-thai dishes. It was quite a treat. Since I cut myself off from the outside world (i.e. no electronics, internet access, phone, etc.) I was finally able to finish reading An Idiot Abroad by Karl Pilkington, a book I started a couple months back but have been too distracted to finish. Then I started reading Palo Alto by James Franco. Haven’t finished it yet, but I’ve made some good headway. I’ve got a good stack of books I’m hoping to get through in the next few months, so hopefully with the help of a couple trips I’ll knock ’em out.

About 15 minutes into my beach time on Saturday (when I arrived) I decided I would get into the water for a nice “cool down,” as it was midday and quite hot out. Not five minutes in, I felt a sharp stinging across my legs so I got out of the water. My legs continued to burn, and I’d still not a clue what had gone on. I looked at my legs, and there were two lines going across my shins on both my legs…. Are you catching on to what happened? Yep, jellyfish. That was the last bit of water time for Saturday, and I only got in the water one other time (on Sunday) because the salt and sand didn’t feel too good on my legs. Turns out, tiger balm (which is a bit similar to Vicks vaporub… maybe? Or could just smell similar. Either way, it’s got some sort of menthol in it.) doesn’t make your jelly stings feel better. It actually hurts, quite a lot.

Like most trips when I travel alone, I met a few people. The first day, I helped some backpackers from Sweden (Frieda and Jonas) find a bungalow… They were lost and on the more crowded side of the beach. We chatted for a bit and then went our separate ways, as many encounters go. Then, on Sunday evening, I had dinner with a girl from Australia, Katherine. She had just come from a two week Mahout trip and told me many stories from her adventures and about her life in Oz. I’ve definitely noticed that you meet more people when you travel alone than when you travel in large groups, but you have to be open to it!

Other than that, nothing is new! I came back to teach my M6 students because they didn’t have testing this week, but none of them have showed up to class… I should have just stayed on the beach. I know for next time! I will just skip classes all week.

Testing the waters... Deciding my legs don't like salt and sand, but I needed a picture.

A Reflection and Solicitation

In light of the new year, I thought I would reflect on this year past….

Really, I feel like a new year began in September, as there was a significant shift in not only my life but my outlook on life as well. This, as you know, is when I came to Thailand. I cannot stress to you how amazing this experience has been for me, only that it is something that I recommend every person do. Traveling has been the best thing that has ever happened to me. I was so fortunate to have the opportunity to be able to visit many different countries growing up, but never had I ever dreamed of moving to another country–let alone a third world country. Honestly, the decision to move to Thailand was rash and without thought: I had a void in my life that I needed to fill. I wasn’t wanting to fill that space with people or things, I wanted to fill it with myself, knowledge and experiences. Nevertheless, I ended up in Thailand and my life has been incredible ever since. I’ve learned so much about who I am since coming here, and I’m much more independent than I ever thought I would or could be. The possibilities are endless, and I can finally see that. Before this adventure, I was unsure of my identity and what I wanted to do with my life. Now, I know who I am, and while I still have no clue what I want to do with my life, I find it freeing and exciting! I can finally wait until last minute to go on trips and not be stressed out in not planning things. My life is the most lax it has ever been. It’s great.

This post really focused on September 2011-Now, but what happened in that time frame would not have occurred without January 2011-August 2011. Everything in life happens for a reason. That said, life doesn’t just come to you. You have to go out and get it. If you have the opportunity, go somewhere. For a month, a year, an unknown length of time…. If you want to study, backpack, teach English, or live abroad, you should! I highly recommend it. You don’t have to go to a third world country if you like all the comforts of home, but I will say I do have most western amenities in my apartment…. Just do it for yourself. Believe me, you will thank yourself later.

——

Dear 2012 (aka 2555),
On average, 2011 set the bar extremely high. I hope you’re up to the challenge!
Love,
Lindsey in Thailand from the future year of the almost past 2554

 

 

One year ago today (12/29/10)

Today (12/29/11)

The Long and Winding Road

Well, I made it! To Texas, that is…

The last 36 hours of my life are somewhat a blur. Remember those old racing video games? The ones with poor graphics and the repetitive scenery? That’s what driving I-20 is like once you hit Louisiana. You just have road in front of you…. Straight, long road. And the view doesn’t change. You get the occasional jerk tailing someone, might see some roadkill, quite possibly an unfortunate soul who has been pulled over… But, mostly, it’s the same five-mile stretch on repeat. Boring.

There were, though, a couple interesting things I saw. Like the 18-wheeler next to me having his front tire blow out, thus causing the front of his truck to be shredded by the asphalt… Or the 18-wheeler that was upside down on the side of the road. These two incidents, along with my potent hatred for long car rides by myself, can be added to my list: “Why I Never Want To Be A Truck Driver.”

Once I crossed the Texas State Line, I noticed the air was dark and ominous. I’m not kidding, nor am I exaggerating. For the first 90 minutes of my drive, it was like God had left a smoke machine on. Because of the numerous wildfires, it was impossible to see more than a mile ahead, and many miles of land had been burned and black. Pictures and video don’t even begin to describe it. I only hope people made it to safety.

Now, I have a full week ahead of me. Between unpacking my car, packing for my trip, and spending quality time with family, I know this week will fly by.

 

In one week, I’ll be leaving! Once I begin my journey, I expect to update much more frequently. I will actually have interesting stuff to talk about! So,  KEEP IN TOUCH and thanks for reading!