Saturday, December 24, 2011

Merry Christmas from Thailand!

It's Christmas morning here in Thailand.  From my friends apartment I can here the cars rush by, the pigeons cooing, and some dogs fight down the street.  The weather outside is a cool 87 with a slight breeze and sunny.  I'm sure that later when I make a trip to the Big C (the big grocery store) I will not have to wait in any ridiculous lines of frantic people buying last minute cans of cranberry sauce, nor will I have to worry that any stores are closed down for the day.    There's a few areas that hold beautiful decorations and attempt to celebrate the Christian holiday, but here in Thailand, it's pretty much just another day. 

On Christmas Eve I made my way from the tiny town of Wang Chan to the big city of Chachoengsao.  My trip was more like an adventure.  First I board the bus to Chon Buri.  I think "I can relax, the bus won't stop until it gets to the bus station! I'll know when it's my stop!" Oh - I know better than to think transportation in Thailand is easy.  First we stop at a gas station.  I don't need food, a drink, or to go to the bathroom - so I decide to stay put and read my book. But then the bus man comes over and says "You - 20 minutes" and motions for me to leave the bus.  So I leave the bus.  Next, we're back on our way to Chon Buri.  I see a few signs saying its near.  We pull over on one of the main busy streets.  The bus man yells something in Thai that sounds like Chon Buri but only 1 person exited the bus - so I thought "this can't be the main stop".  I stay on the bus.  A minute later bus man comes up to me "You - Chon Buri" - "Me, Yes" - "You, get off" - "WHAT?" - Apparently that side of the street was the bus station and I was no longer welcome on this bus.  So I was shoved off a bit late on a strange street. So I began to walk back.  After a few minutes I ran into a man next to a bus.  He said "I help you." It was a statement, not a question.  I looked lost.  I say "Bai  Chachoengsao".  He points at bus - "You get on" - "Nee tao rai?" (how much) - He looks at another girl, looks back at me "You get on bus".  Don't have to tell me three times! So I got on the ghetto bus, no other farangs here.  There was however a comedian tv program playing.  With my limited Thai knowledge, I was able to decipher that the comedian liked to make fun of farangs - and the people on the bus found him hilarious.  This bus ride started out pleasant enough, until the elderly man started to sleep, his head started to bob dangerously close to my shoulder, and his knees kept bumping into me.  The bus would turn and he'd jerk awake, smile, and then return to sleeping, bobbing, and bumping into me.  It was a tense ride.

But then I arrived in wonderful Chachoengsao where I met up with my friend Hayley.  She took my to her friends Christmas party where we ate pasta and mashed potatoes, drank Christmas punch, and listening to Christmas music whilst wearing Santa hats.  It wasn't too shabby of a day.  :)

But today is Christmas.  Today I will help tutor a Thai student, make an adventure run to the Big C, eat some peanut butter (it's been 2 months since I've had it!), and enjoy the wonderful company of friends this year.  MERRY CHRISTMAS EVERYBODY!

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Video of my mad Santa moves at school for the Christmas program!

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Birthday in Kanchanaburi - Tigers, Waterfalls, and Caves!

Today I am 23 years old.  Before I turned 23 this is what I accomplished with my life:

1. Moved to a different country.
2. Pet a Tiger.
3. Rode an Elephant.
4. Became a bartender at a bar in Thailand.
5. Learned how to drive a moped - and drove it around an island.
6. Became a teacher in a foreign country.
7. Graduated college Cum Laude.
8. Became the President of Sigma Iota Rho and International Studies Club.
9. Graduated High School.
10. Went to Europe with the Spirit of America National Honor Band.
11. Worked as a waitress, Personal Assistant, tanning front desk person, Textbook salesperson, Supplemental Instructor, Customer Sales Support Representative, Dog sitter, House sitter, Intern at the Department of State, Bartender/Winery worker, and ESL teacher in Thailand.
12. Started a Young Democrats Society at Granbury High School.
13. Volunteered at Freeman-Fritts Animal shelter petting kitties.

Those seem to sum up the major points.

This past weekend in Kanchanaburi I celebrated turning 23 by exploring Thailand like never before.  The adventure started with a visit to the controversial Tiger Temple.  Some say that the tigers are drugged in order to keep them so tame - yet one employee gave us the whole schpeal on why this was incorrect.  What matters most? I PET A TIGER! And I have proof!

After the Tiger Temple we visited a market and the Death Railway.  By the railway there's a small cave with a Buddha statue.  Next was the Bridge over the River Kwai (Pronounced River Kway unless you feel like saying something offensive). At sunset, the view of the river leaves quite the impression.

Saturday night Hayley, Angela, and Callie graciously helped my celebrate my birthday and even bought me a birthday cake! About 5 seconds after cutting the cake, we devoured the entire thing.  We didn't feel guilty.  Then we proceeded to do what everyone should do on a birthday - we went out on the the only cool bar known as 'Sugar Member'.  It was the only bar playing legitimate dance music and its sign beheld a giant pot leaf.  A classy bar in Thailand if I ever saw one!

Sunday was a day of exploration, adventure, and exhaustion.  Waking at 8am, we were determined to reach Erawan Falls before the rush came in.  This amazing 7 tiered waterfall was quite the jungle trek.  Each level gave way to something truly spectacular and beautiful.  The incredibly long journey was well worth it when we finally arrive at tier 7 to see the first waterfall crashing down on the rocks below.

Even though we were well exhausted from the waterfall trek, we continued on to Pratat cave, where we were able to get a personal last minute tour of the cave.  When told that the climb was 600 meters - I thought nothing of it.  600 meters is nothing! - Until its all one staircase to the top of the mountain.  I used up every last inch of strength in me to reach the top in one piece.  Also, I instantly regretted having a "Cheeseburger" for lunch.  However, once inside, I forgot all about the climb.  After going through a miniscule entry hole that I didn't even realize was there at first, the cave opened up into several large rooms filled with stalactites and stalagmites.  It was truly awe inspiring.  There was even a swarm of bats resting at the top of the cave.  Near the end we found something that was less cool and more freaky - a bug.  Cave bugs are scary - and that's all I have to say about it.  Once back in our hotel (Sam's River Rafthouse on the River Kwai), I could have collapsed and slept for hours - but where's the fun in that.  We went out for our last night in Kanchanaburi.

Sunday we packed our bags and were ready to go home.  However, there was one museum that we had missed:  The History of the Death Railway.  I learned so much more about WWII and the atrocities that happened in the Thai borders.  English, Australian, Burmese, and even some Americans suffered to build the Death Railway that would aid Japan in getting supplies across their conquered Asian lands.  The stories and pictures were enough to make your skin crawl.  It makes me believe that our public school systems are letting our students down.  I've studies WWII many times - and yet I had never heard of the Death Railway or most of the happenings in Asia.  Had I not been an International Relations major in college, I would have never known that WWII was more than just a European event.  We need to educate our students with the stories from all around the world.  Outside the museum was a graveyard for all the POWs that slaved over the Death Railway.

And now, today it is my birthday and I'm back to teaching.  One year older, one year wiser.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Koh Chang in December!

Koh Chang - the island of elephants.  It's a beautiful, mostly quite place with steep crooked roads, beach bungalows, and of course elephants.  This past weekend I managed to write a number of things from my so called "Bucket List".

1. I rode an elephant.
2. I worked in a bar in Thailand.
3. I slept in a hammock.
4. I rode a motorbike around the island.

Let's start with number 1. As the group gathered at the elephant riding tour business, I took a glance at the monstrous beasts that would soon be towing us around the jungle.  To board your transportation, you must climb up a large tower thing and then crawl over the elephant into the passenger seat that sits atop its back.  My riding partner Hayley and I were the first aboard.  Then the giant began to move.  This is the single most awkward creature I have sat upon.  I've ridden a horse, I've perched upon a longhorn, but the elephant takes the cake.  The group all sat upon their elephant thrones and we marched into the jungle.  Our elephant, the wondrous Som-O, age 14, often took it upon herself to take an alternate route.  This is slightly terrifying yet highly enjoyable.  Next we made our way down to a river area where we took a swim with elephants.  Wait - that sounds way less exciting than it is - let me rephrase.  WE SWAM WITH GIANT AMAZING FANTASTICALLY AWESOME ELEPHANTS!!!!! Even that's not efficient, but it will have to do.  The pictures will say more than the words for this part of my story.

Som-O the delightful 14 year old elephant. 

Going Under!!! 

After an amazing swim with all the elephants. 

Part 2. Sunday night we went down to the Lonely Beach area.  We were dropped next to a nice looking bar that played some delightful tunes and had hammocks scattered about.  You can't go wrong with a bar that has hammocks readily available.  There was a Swedish owner who was either too crazy or too drunk to keep up with his own bar and the mass amounts of Farangs that just entered were a little much for the non-English speaking staff.  Therefore I took it upon myself to go behind the bar and take a job as a bartender for the night.  Apparently the best way to find a job is just to take it.  I would highly consider going back and bartending when my teaching gig is up.  After about 3 hours of this and having a sufficient amount of free drinks, I then decided to quit my new found job and make my way to the beach.

Part 3.  Arriving back at the bungalow Sunday night after an amazing day of elephant riding and night of bartending, I decided I has had enough to drink that I would sleep outside in a hammock with no hesitation.  After applying a large dose of 100% deet to myself and finding a nice wooden hammock to lie in, I quickly fell asleep.  I woke up with the sunrise on an island. However, the wooden hammock was rather uncomfortable so I went for a small walk to find a bathroom (and no I don't mean a tree).  On my way to the toilet I discovered another hammock - but this one had a SWEET pillow in I rested there until a decent hour to waken.  And that's how I spent the night in a hammock.

The view by our bungalows. 

Part 4.  After waking up feeling awesome about being in a hammock, I decided I wanted to be even more awesome. So I hopped on my rented motorbike and took a drive around the island.  At 8am you can smell the fresh air that is often non-existent in Thailand.  The peace of driving along alone and having the wind in my face was one of the most amazing feelings I've had since arriving in Thailand.  Also, I now MUST get a moped when I move back home.  I can't live without one.

And that was my amazing weekend.  I accomplished more in 48 hours than many people do in a year.  May every weekend be as wonderful as this weekend.  I'll be 23 in merely 1 week.  Let's see what else I can mark off the list before then!

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Living My Life

Most people are constantly thinking “Man, I wish I had their life”.  I’ve been guilty of it in the past.  Every time I heard someone say they were going abroad and seeing the world I would say “One day I’ll get there”.  This year is that “One day”.  Back in the early spring time I was completely discontent with life.  Constantly daydreaming and working a meaningless job that just barely paid any bills; I finally decided that now was the time to make my move.  The timing wasn’t perfect.  I didn’t even have the money, yet I was determined that I had to do this now or never.  One day I just looked online, found a program to teach abroad, and sent in my application before I could reason myself out of it.  I’ve tried to do the sensible, responsible thing for so many years, but I felt like this was my year to do something crazy, spontaneous, and for me. 

This is the beginning of my second month in Thailand.  I’m sitting in my office, looking out the window of my non-air conditioned office and making a lesson plan for next week.  I teach 11,12, 13, and 14 year olds English.  Sometimes I get frustrated because things are simply lost in translation here – but I’ve yet to be angry or cynical a single day here.  I’m so incredibly happy that I’m able to let go of things that would normally drive me up the wall back in the states.  My perspective of life itself is dramatically changed. 

It’s not Thailand.  It’s not my job.  It’s not the people I’m around here.  It’s the fact that I finally did it.  Just sitting here in this office I’m not thinking about where I’d rather be – because right now, this is exactly where I want to be.  I’m not envious, and I’m not jealous.  Right now I want my job, my office, my life.  For years all I could talk about was the jobs I wanted, the places I wanted to go, and the things I wanted to see and do.  For once, I finally feel like I’ve taken a gigantic step forward in the right direction. 

Each time I get online and see what everyone else’s weekend was like.  They’re all baking for the holidays, visiting friends in other cities, having movie nights at home with their significant other – and they’re happy.  Before I would have been jealous of this happiness, but now I’ve found what makes me happy.  I love my family and my friends, and I do miss them, but this is what I’ve needed to do for so long.  Yesterday I sat at the back of a train going to Bangkok with no rails or doors holding me inside.  The entire time I was in such awe of everything I saw.  All I could think was “how could anyone not want to be exactly where I am right now – how could you not want to be me?”.   I live in a shack; I make about 600 US dollars a month; I travel by cramped trucks, buses, and trains without a safety feature in sight.  America always claims to be the land of the free – but I’ve never felt freer than right now. 

I know that many people would not like Thailand.  They would look at the dirty streets and be disgusted.  They would be aggravated that the people are not able to speak English.  They would be sick at the sight and smell of many of the foods and markets.  Each person has their own kind of happy place.  I’m just happy that I finally found mine. 

So here I am, living in Thailand, living my life the way I always wanted. 

The 'Scenic' Route

Scenic: Of relating to natural scenery; representing an action, event, or episode.

Scenic is exactly what this weekend was.

Our first leg of the journey began in Wang Chan and to Bangkok.  Arriving approximately one hour late (on time in Thailand), we boarded the bus where the movie collection of Fast and Furious 5 and X-Men 4 were offered for our viewing pleasure - in Thai of course.  Next we took the Skytrain and a taxi to Samut Prakan where we met up with other OEG teachers.  Then we proceeded to a lovely bar called 4X4 off road.  The details are fuzzy - let's proceed to the good part of the weekend.

For our second day of traveling, we found ourselves at the Bangkok train station attempting to get to Lopburi for the yearly Monkey Banquet. However, the trains seemed to be working against us and we instead took an incredibly long trip up to Lopburi by van.  Good company - terrible traffic.  Eventually we made our way up the Lopburi Inn Hotel.  Monkey statues everywhere!

Our first night in Lopburi was like a reunion.  It's been one month since we've left the OEG orientation safety net of friends - and this weekend we were able to recreate the scene.  Outside of the Noom hostel bar the street was covered in Farang teachers eagerly chatting off each others ears and buying another round.  After one month of teaching, you definitely have some stories saved up for telling!

Now here's the best part of the weekend: Sunday.  I know I normally hate Sunday with all the bus stations and hours spent leaving behind good friends - but this weekend was quite the surprise. First, we were bombarded with monkeys.  The old city of ruins called Lopburi is known for its insane monkey population.  Each year they hold a banquet and provide tables of food (everything from fruit to candy) for the monkeys to indulge in.  As if looking at ancient ruins isn't cool enough (because I do love a good history lesson) we were able to get up close and personal with the creatures that inhabit them.  It's hard to even describe exactly how exciting this experience is.  If you get fairly brave (or you're just mental) you can get closer and have a few jump up on your shoulders for a light snack.  Here's a few pictures of our experience that might better summarize the intensity of this monkey buffet.

Last came the part that normally I hate - the departure.  We bought our train tickets back to Bangkok and boarded around 3:30 - again, about an hour late, yet somehow on time.    As the train took off, I couldn't help but admire the countryside of Thailand.  As someone who is not used to the city life, I have to appreciate the moments I get where there's nothing in sight but fields and mountains in the backdrop.  As we proceeded back south, however, the water levels began rising in the fields.  For the past month I've seen news reports continuously discussing the flooding around the Bangkok area but until this weekend it never truly set in.  Without seeing the destruction up close and personal, I never really saw it as a problem.  Sometimes when you're not directly affected, you tend to overlook just how awful a situation really is.  This changed for me today.  I saw family boarding a boat to paddle down to the market and children playing on small floaties in the deadly waters.  Shacks were halfway submerged and yet the people continued their lives.  As the train passed by they still smiled and waved at the silly Farangs hanging off the back of a train. Once again, a picture says a thousand words.  Unfortunately, I was unable to capture any real moments in the flood.  The mental pictures I took will definitely last me a life time.  Looking at the devastation not even a foot away can make you thinking about just how good you have it in life sometimes.  I often find it funny when people complain that the shower doesn't have hot water, and there are people living so close to them that no longer even have a home.  I thought by now the flood situation would be under control and mostly distinguished, but I guess when it comes to nature, you really have little to no control.

Sitting on the back of the train steps looking out at Thailand reminded me of why I came here.  I'm not here to party, I'm not here to waste time until the economy gets better back in the states and find a real job - I'm here because I want to be here.  I'm here because I want to find out exactly what kind of a person I am, and what kind of a person I have the potential to be.  There are thousands of opportunities here in Thailand to do something worthwhile.  I'll take the cold showers.  I'll take living in a shack.  I'm happy now even though I have much less.  Thailand - you've taught me so much already, and I can't wait to spend the next 5 (maybe longer!) months with you.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

A Thailand Thanksgiving

Sports Day, Massage, Karaoke in the football field.

This year's Thanksgiving was something to be thankful for indeed.  At a cool 30 degrees Celsius  the school had "Sports Day".  It is much like the Field Day that schools back in the states put on.  There's Sepak Takraw, Volleyball, Track, Football (Soccer), and Dance offs. It's a perfect excuse not to have school for two days at the end of the week!

Each team - Red, Yellow, Pink, and Blue - created there own design for stands.

The yellow team begins their race! 

And of course, team RED is the best! 

After Sports Day 1, I was able to go to my first ever Thai massage at the local hospital.  Thanks to our wonderful after school tutoring group, I just now discovered that they do give massages in Wang Chan.  Let's just say - This made my month. I've been searching frantically in each city for a massage and each time some terrible excuse came up not to get one!  But not today! 

The Thai massage is both painful and relaxing.  The masseuse prodded and pushed down on every pressure point - and every time I winced in pain I swear she pushed harder and longer! Sometimes I thought I would have to move or cry out in pain, but when she let go I would feel a thousand times better.  My advice is to NOT go when you're still incredibly sore from a kickboxing work out.  It felt like the woman grabbed a handful of thigh muscle and would tear it straight out at any second.  After the massage, my mood improved, I felt energetic, and I wanted more.  I'm thinking for 150 baht an hour, this will be a weekly occurrence one I start getting paid (which is next week!!!). 

The last part of the evening involved a giant buffet for all the teachers out on the football field.  Here we enjoyed whiskey and soda water....and karaoke.  Thankfully I didn't feel the courage to sing until after the principal and coordinator had left the area.  Sometimes learning the lyrics while on stage isn't a good thing.  However, with the sound system they had set up, I'm pretty sure you still hear me across town singing about bitches, ho's, and getting wasted.  Thank you popular music selections of 2012. 

The karaoke after party group!

Monday, November 21, 2011

My Mai Pen Rai Kryptonite: Bus Stations

After many blogs discussing how amazing Thailand is, I have finally found its one fault. Bus Stations.  I can be completely care free from a wonderful weekend filled with friends and Chang - and then I arrive at the bus station to make my way home and I lose all of my calm.  Maybe its because I'm just angry to have to leave the good times - I mean, who wants to wait an entire 5 days before I get to go do something else amazing?! Geez!

But to sum up the weekend I:

1. Went to an English competition in Klaeng, Rayong with my school.  This morning Wangchanwittaya had an amazing amount of trophies. Go students - I knew you were learning something!

2. Hopped on the bus to Chanthaburi.

3. Went to an amazing waterfall and swam with some creepy fish.  Thai locals found it hysterical to throw beans in the water and watch the white kids scream in terror as the fish flopped frantically about.

4. Went out on the town in Chanthaburi - we went to Night Club. Not a night club - a night club called Night Club! It's legit. Went somewhere else. Hopped on a moped to get back.

5. Woke up. Got Pizza. Yum, cheese.

6. Had to leave :(

7: Got to bus station. Did not have time to get my first Thai massage that I've been promising myself. Extra frowny face. :( :( :(

8. Lost my Mai Pen Rai flew out the bus window.

9. Paid 500 Baht to get a taxi back to Wang Chan so I could teach in the morning. :( :( :(

10. Calmed down. I'm in Thailand. Everything will be okay.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Loi Krathong via the International Station Wagon

Tonight was the magical night of Loi Krathong in Thailand.  All day students were working on creating their Krathong to set free in some nearby body of water.  These Krathongs are made from a banana branch thing (yes very technical terms) and covered in intricately folded leaves and flowers.  Some girls even brought out a sowing kit for precision.  Although the boys often put in less effort, they also made quite beautiful Krathongs.

Around 7pm we started our way to the festival in little Wang Chan.  However, it wasn't long before we were en-route to another destination where the bigger festival could be found.  And yes, this is where the International Station Wagon comes in.  Pe-Oh drove this antique (awesome) vehicle and piled us about 11 people deep.  Two us were English speaking Americans, a few of us where Chinese speaking Chinese, and the rest were Thai speaking Thais.  We may not have known what was going on exactly, but we were able to gladly share each others company on such a special occasion in Thailand.

When someone releases their Krathong into the waters, they make a prayer and release their past grievances, anger and other bad parts of yourself.  I used this time to remind myself that I just need to chill out sometimes.  Instead of constantly thinking about my next move in life, and what I'm going to do 6 months from now, I need to think in the present.  My bad part is that I can dwell on something so insignificant and let it bog me down in the long run.  So in honor of Loi Krathong, I promise I will try to just chill for the next 6 months and not worry about my next big move and where I'll be a year from now.  I will live for today and still maintain full responsibility and dedication to the students who need me now - even if I'm sometimes just there for them to get a good laugh at me :)

Happy Loi Krathong, Thailand!

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Oh, Koh Samet

This week's adventure took us down to the small island of Koh Samet, just off the coast of Rayong, Thailand. Previous to this I had a few assumptions about Thailand:

1. That old men come here for young women.
2. It's full of piles of filth but for some reason you accept it gladly.
3. People like to party.

Without any hesitation, I can say that all these things still remain to be true. Koh Samet is no exception to the rule.  The only addition is, even the "Farang" women go after a nice muscular Thai man!

Koh Samet (or Samed) is gorgeous.  It's full of energy, delicious food, and dingy bars/clubs that fit every partiers need.  If things get a little out of hand and you're not able to walk up the mountain of stairs to your room at 3am, crawl on the nearest pool table (I'm sure no one would mind too much). The one road that travels from one end of the island to another is complete shit - but makes an amazing ATV trip.  Just be careful when you hit a ditch at the bottom of a large hill going full speed.  The person on the back of your ATV may have a few choice words for you (and lose their sunglasses).  The sand squeaks because its so fine. The fire shows are awe inspiring (even if the little 8 year old boys handling the fire think they're the bees knees).

If you need a cheap weekend you can find a crummy hotel for about 400 baht a night.  Just find the mermaid on the rock and you're headed in the right direction.  I just hope you don't mind walking up a mountain and using communal bathrooms and showers. It may not be glamorous - but it's a damn good time, and I highly recommend it to anyone who doesn't mind stepping out of their fancy pants.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Sepak Takraw: The Ultimate Sport

Many 'Westerners' love sports - simple sports such as American football, real football, soccer, volleyball, baseball, tennis, etc.  Today, however, I found a whole new sport.  It's called Sepak Takraw, and it's amazing.

A combination of the western sports of football/soccer, volleyball, hacky sack, and karate! These high school athletes were kicking well over their heads, leaping feet in the air, and knocking the ball around using only their feet and heads.  Needless to say, I was impressed.

This Thai sport of Sepak Takraw seems entirely too dangerous.  Sure, many sports have their dangers - mostly the danger of just getting crushed by some other giant athlete or twisting an ankle - but on many occasions you could hear the flock of students ooo-ing and aww-ing in surprise by the game.  About every 30 seconds the ball would come flying into the crowd due to a kick with just a tad bit too much power.  And as the picture below describes, the players themselves came close to impact.  

Thai students.  I commend you on an excellent game of Sepak Takraw - and thank you for not hitting me with the ball.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

ABC - I hope it's as easy as 123

Little by little, I'm finding out more and more about what to expect in the classroom (which still doesn't add up to much.

Today my fellow teacher Angela and I stood in front of all the students, their parents, and the teachers of Wangchanwittaya and introduced ourselves.  Luckily no major embarrassments occurred! After the announcing of the FARANG to Wang Chan, we followed our coordinator PeeMam to the office where we received the teaching schedule for the next two weeks.  I have 18 classes a week! Also, I'd like to mention that I was placed with the Mattium 1-3.  Angela has MAttium 4-6.  What does this mean for me?  I'm teaching the younger students...who probably don't know much English.  Therefore, I quickly walked home and started back at square one on lesson plans.  I guess I'll find out in the morning what level of English we're looking at here.

The school has been very welcoming - many teachers have passed by to say hello, and everyone smiles (of course).  Our town is literally about 2 streets.  One with 7-11 and the market, the other with restaurants and laundry.  It appears that most places close early.  On my way to eat dinner last night (about 6pm) many of the shop keepers I had seen earlier were packing up and going home.  However, I did happen to find an amazing restaurant where I had spaghetti with pork and 8 fried shrimp for only 120 Baht (which is only about 4 dollars!) During dinner the owner came out and asked if we were the new English teachers.  I guess news does get around fast in a small town.

For now, though, I'm taking a break.  I'm going to go stroll through the beautiful campus and find my classrooms for tomorrow.  Then I'm going to go buy some markers to add some color to the very childish drawings I've been working on for lesson plans.  And THEN I may go have a beer and relax for the rest of the evening.  Also, there's a group of cats at the next house - we named momma cat Minerva.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Farang, Farang!

It's been 6 days and 22 hours since I arrived in Thailand and I already feel like I've been here forever (in a good way).  A few hours ago I finally departed from my orientation family and moved onward to the school I will be teaching English at - Wangchanwittaya.  After many months of mispronouncing it, I think I finally have it down.

Now that I'm away from the big cities of Bangkok and Pattaya, the word "Farang" is getting passed around quickly and frequently.  "Farang" means 'Westerner'.  The other teacher, Angela, and myself took a quick tour of the campus and met the principal of our school.  After which I had the most delicious cashew chicken and "omelet".  It appears getting an elephant guest during your dinner is not the most unheard of occurrence - although it is annoying and makes you feel bad for the elephant that's being led around town by men.  I'll wait to visit the elephant sanctuaries up north before I hop on that ride.

During my few days in Bangkok I was able to see the Grand Palace, ChaoSahn (spelling?), and hang out with some fellow amazing human beings.  I still think the local bar hangout was my favorite take away from Bangkok.  I heard that the street it was on is now under flood waters, and I hope that everyone stayed safe and dry in that area - especially the pork-on-a-stick-man!

Going to Pattaya was also quite an adventure.  There I got to see the Gulf of Thailand for the very first time.  It's much like other Gulfs, a bit murky but still fun to be at. It appears that elderly men frequent the Pattaya area for cheap sex. Yes, that is correct.  In fact one Irish 'gentleman' hopped on the back of our truck ride and explained that he hates Thailand.  "It's filthy, full of garbage everywhere, the women sell themselves for money - I hate Thailand" but then quickly explained that he "just can't leave the women!". One of many dirty old men you'll find in the sex capital of Thailand.

But now I'm in beautiful Wang Chan, Rayong.  The people are welcoming and the campus is gorgeous.  There's a rather large ancient tropical looking tree with a picnic table below it - I think it has my name on it during any lunch hours.  I have internet, a bicycle, and a cold shower.  Life is pretty amazing in Thailand.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Airplanes, Pollution, Jet Lag

And finally, I'm in Bangkok, Thailand. 

Although the 26 hour flight was the longest hours of my life, it was well worth the wait. Upon arrival, due to massive jet lag and being in a country that is exactly 12 hours ahead of my hometown, we decided the bar would be a good place to be.  6am and quite a few beers late, we finally slept...for 4 hours. Then it was off to the Market where shoes are 10 dollars, watches are 3 dollars, and food is...even cheaper. The smells - not very good.  The tastes - nothing like American Thai food. I call myself a non-picky eater, however, a few dishes rendered me no longer hungry. 

Pollution - apparently my immune system has never been accustomed to such a thing.  After living in the middle of nowhere Texas for so long with nothing but clean air, the epic amounts of pollution have caused my throat to slowly, but surely start closing up. Thankfully, in Thailand, people hand out antibiotics like candy. Soon, this sour throat will be behind me and I can enjoy eating and drinking again. 

This might all sound quite miserable, but I'm sincerely having an amazing time in Bangkok.  Today we went to the Royal Grand Palace.  It shines with brilliant golds and color tiles everywhere. The Temple of the Emerald Buddha located within is amazing. 

The pictures are coming soon, today I finally had enough internet to write this message.  Later I will post again when I am on my way to my school, ready to start the semester.  Can't wait to be out in the rural area where I belong! :) 

Friday, October 21, 2011


Although I'm not yet done with the plane rides to Thailand - I have a couple hours to spare before I board the final leg of my trip to Bangkok.  Word to the wise - if you have a flight halfway around the world, spend the money on the better seat class. When they say aisle seat, they really mean the middle of the row.  When they say there's in flight movies, they really mean only some passengers get to view them.  13 hours just hurts the mind and body. Hurts.

HOWEVER! The fact that I am not in Tokyo, Japan after going since 4am yesterday morning (nearly 24 hours now), I'm getting excited. Just one more 6 1/2 hour flight and I'll be landing, and running as quickly as possible to my hotel bed. No shower, no teeth brushing, just passing out in what I can only hope to be a 12 hour coma.

Also - having amazing company on flights helps.  Otherwise, I may be in a Japanese mental hospital at this time. :/

One more to go! :)

(P.S. I already miss my cat Tuesday :( ...and my family :))

Monday, October 17, 2011

Packing Day!

The clothes are in the laundry, the soaps, medications and bug spray are in plastic baggies, and the nerves are setting in.  Today is packing day! 3 days until I'm ouuuuutttaa here!

Today is that pivital moment where I decide what gets to go to Thailand - and what gets left behind.  When I arrive at my hotel and start thinking "WHY DID I LEAVE THAT!?" - I will reflect back upon today.

Also, I found out I will be staying at the Ebina House my first week of orientation!

So wish me luck on my travel abroad - I'll try my best to stay out of trouble.  I'll work with the stuff that fits in my suitcase and not worry about what's left behind! :)

Friday, October 7, 2011

12 Days Until Take-Off

In 12 more days I will be on my way to Thailand. I will be spending my first week at Louis' Tavern Hotel.

I've been compiling checklists before I go.  Here's my condensed version:

1. Bug Spray
2. 20 pairs of undies in case I can't find a proper laundry facility quickly
3. School/Work papers
4. Passport and Visa
5. Reminders of Texas
6. Thailand travel guide
7. Music for my incredibly long plane ride
8. Umbrella
9. Camera!
10. Sleeping pills. Because I'm pretty sure I'll be too excited to sleep for the entire first week I'm there :)

Anything I'm missing?!

Thursday, September 22, 2011

4 weeks and counting!

As of today, I will officially be leaving the United States in 4 weeks - and I'll be back in 6 months!

Now that the 'hard part' of getting a placement, applying for a visa, etc. is over, it's time to start thinking about really matters - What shall I pack?! But seriously, there is an art form to packing lightly for a 6 month journey.  I'm almost certain that someone could make a career helping people pack.

On a different note, I recently reached out to the experts who can help me make these important decisions.  I have heard back by e-mail from two previous teachers of Wang Chan Wittaya and they have nothing but high praises for the school and its staff.

With any luck, I may follow in their shoes and see as much of Southeast Asia as possible.  My favorite tidbits of advice form the previous teachers:

"Travel everywhere you can!! I went to Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam, Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, Australia and New Zealand while I was still on that side of the world.   Some people also went to China, Nepal, India, the Philippines.  You definitely have to make it Cambodia and Laos at the very least, and you don't have to fly there!" - Stephanie

"And they let you leave early on Friday if you've no class (you can be in a pool in Bangkok by 3pm and your friends are still stuck in their schools!).  Bring your umbrella for the evening showers and to keep the dogs at bay! The accomodation is a bit bare, but it'll feel like home pretty fast! The beauty of Wangchan is how simple everything is." - David

From my school contact, I recieved the following e-mail:

"Dear Liane Nichols
 I am glad that I get your e-mail.  We welcome you to our School.  If this time is the first that you come to Thailand I think you will love our country, because there are many interesting places to see.
I will meet you and take you to our school when you arrive Thailand.  If you want to know other informations, please mail to me.
P Took" 

I am officially getting excited for this adventure! 

Monday, September 12, 2011

Visa: Check

I officially have my visa to move into Thailand.  No longer can they reject my entry and send me back to the States. Now my passport doesn't look quite so empty!

Now I just need to pack, minimize, and pack again. 

Thursday, September 1, 2011


Today's big event: Vaccinations!

When travelling to Thailand there are only recommended vaccinations.  These include Malaria, Typhoid, Hepatitis A and B, Tetanus, and H1N1 (more commonly known as the flu).

Today I received my more pain free tetanus shot ever. Thank you my new favorite nurse!

For the Malaria and Typhoid you get pills! And since I will be living in a rural area, I get the Malaria pill that you must take everyday instead of once a week. Hooray for insurance or else this trip would be ridiculous! Flu shot also to come.

Although this all seems a bit much, I'd rather come back with all my limbs and not in a coma. (Thank you Mom for watching terrible shows about what happens when you get Malaria).

And now I will check vaccinations off of my 'To Do' list that is slowly winding down. Less than 2 months now!

Monday, August 29, 2011

VISA (Not The Credit Card(Although That Will Also Be Very Useful))

Today I over-nighted my visa application to the Thai embassy.  In less than 2 months I will be jetsetting to the opposite side of the universe to teach English in Thailand!

I'm nervous and excited all at once. My future is now in the hands of the UPS mailing system and an embassy that is all the way in Washington D.C. Please let me have turned in every document and filled them all out correctly!

So here's to turning everything in correctly, getting a visa, and beginning the career of a lifetime! Cheers!

Sunday, August 21, 2011

The Assignment

Finally - I've been given my teaching assignment in Thailand. After months of holding my breath and trying not to get overly excited, I get let it all out. Now my little impatient anxious heart can plan all it wants!

So here's the assignment:

I will be moving into the Wangchan, Rayong area near the Gulf of Thailand. It's about 2-3 hours by bus out of Bangkok.  I will be living in a single dormitory and teaching at a secondary school. The classrooms are coed and about 40 students per room.

My living arrangements will look a little like this:

I will have air conditioning! And I will be eating lots of pineapple.

Luckily, it seems as if things are relatively close and within walking distance.  This includes the bus station and a local market. However, if I wish to see a real "Shopping Center", I will have a 40 minute bus ride.

SKYPE: There is an internet cafe at the school - so if you wish to see me in the months of October-March, I suggest you add me on skype :)

Monday, June 20, 2011

Payments and Time

I realize I haven't been updating - but you can't really update something that has no updates to be given.

Today I sent in my second check for my trip to Thailand!  I've almost paid for half of my trip so far (which means that I can soon get my placement and tell everyone exactly where I'll be and which school I'll be working at).

I've also started a small memoir that contains my journey of how I got to Thailand. It's very good - I promise.

So for now I'm still slaving away over phones all day getting yelled at the Grandma's and Grandpa's of America who feel like when they are not approved for a scooter - it is me being evil and unwilling to help - rather than it having to be the fault of their crappy insurance.

Anyway - almost there! I'll be leaving San Marcos on July 31st to move back in with my parents.  I'll be saving my money and working a minimum wage job to pay for the rest of Thailand. I can't wait! Which means, if anyone wants to let me borrow a couch on weekends in San Marcos, that would be amazing!

Friday, May 27, 2011

Step Three

The Interview: 

This past Wednesday I had my phone interview that made sure I'm not some psychopath who wants to go off to Thailand and corrupt the little children learning English.  I feel that it went relatively well. Today I received my confirmation e-mail saying I'm set to proceed and a statement of my balance left for the trip. As long as I can pay for my trip by August - I'm set.

In my application I asked to be in the Phuket region - but in a rural/small city area for the teaching.  I think being close to the tropical beach can really set things in perspective for me - and quite possibly make me never want to leave...ever.

My old friend is sending me a book written by a lady who taught English in Thailand many times and is very rehearsed in teaching abroad.  I'm waiting for the book in the mail and hoping for some good pointers!

Right now life is rather bumming when I think about how I have my degree and I work in a call center.  However, whenever I think about my Thailand plans and my leaving in October - I can't help but be happy. My situation now is just temporary in the path to a greater good. Now if that greater good would like to hurry up and get here - I would very much appreciate it! :)

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Step Two

So after many weeks of trying to gather details and figure out what to do, I've finally begun my application. Now I just need the following items:

1. Application
2. Photos
3. Background Check
4. Clean bill of health note
5. 3 letters of recommendation
6. Passport Copy
7. Signed teaching agreement
8. Money - $250 to be exact for the application fee.

I've now completed everything but the background check and the letters of recommendation.  I'm on my way.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Step One

Step one is finally figuring out what you want to do.  Well folks, I've found it.  After recently graduating from college with a Bachelor's in International Relations, I find myself working in a call center (not that I'm complaining - because work is work in this world).  And now, I'm trying to regain the momentum I felt about traveling the world when I first began college.  Four years of research papers and textbook reading can make you lose focus.  BUT NOW - I'm ready for the real deal, real world, real work that I was looking for.

That is why I am convinced that with my ambitious attitude and determination - I will make it to Thailand this fall to teach one semester of English at a small school in the wondrous Thailand.  

And while some may be thinking that I'm wanting to run away to a gorgeous tropical country on selfish grounds - I have to object.  I truly want to make way my into the teaching world.  If I was able to combine two of my favorite things (discovering new cultures abroad and helping others increase their knowledge), I would feel accomplished and that my college career wasn't wasted!

So there it is - my plan! I figured it out!

Step 1 complete - now on to step two. Getting there!