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5 posts categorized "Haley Crosgrove"

Suksan Wan Pii Mai Ka || Happy New Year!

December: what a month!

The excitement kicked off with a visitor from home! Joey got to Thailand on a Wednesday, and by Saturday afternoon we were walking down the shop-lined main street of Ko Lanta, an island south of Krabi, caught in an island downpour. Like the true Oregonians we are, we weren’t going to let a little rain stop the fun, and we continued on our walk. 2 kilometers later, drenched, we decided this downpour might actually be better described as a tropical storm that showed no signs of letting up, so we swallowed our pride and hailed a tuktuk.

We arrived, clothes dripping but spirits undampened, at our beach bungalow and waited out the storm on what I have decided is an essential part of any beach hut: a front porch, complete with a hammock and an ocean view. Each day, after swimming in the Andaman Sea and exploring the white sand beaches (some of us getting more sunburnt than others in the process), we would retire to our porch to enjoy the serene calmness of Ko Lanta. Cozy in my hammock, relaxing with my favorite guy, listening to the waves and enjoying the simple happiness that comes with being together in a beautiful place, I truly felt like we were embracing the sabai sabai mindset.

In Thai, sabai literally means “happy,” but it is also used in a variety of other contexts to describe the Thai lifestyle; it means relax, everything is chill, not a care in the world— it is like the Thai hakuna matata (it means no worries..)! When you embrace the sabai culture, your stress levels decrease, you don’t sweat the small things, and you embrace all of the good that surrounds you. Under the sun and, later, under the stars on our porch, I had no complaints. 

9648FC23-C993-4004-A750-8019AEA36801Our beach bungalow at Lanta Marina Resort.

60DBF561-788C-4C14-9EB5-B71B9DA2AA11 Ko Lanta, Thailand - My favorite spot. 

 582E71FE-BA5C-4FE7-957E-1A833897C882Ko Lanta, Thailand - December 2017 


582E71FE-BA5C-4FE7-957E-1A833897C882Surin, Thailand - December, 2017

 

After the world’s fastest 10 days, Joey left. And my homesickness from saying goodbye combined with the reality of spending my first Christmas away from home, and the last week of December was a rough one. Thai Christmas is a confusing time, at least in Surin. No one outside of our English Program acknowledged Christmas on Christmas Day, which was on Monday—a school day; however, I came to school on Friday, December 29th, to find Christmas on steroids. Just when I was ready to hang up my Santa hat, I was hit with a belated dose of costumes, dancing, Christmas songs, and gift-giving. I guess better late than never. 

Despite the surprise Christmas cheer, after a mildly sad week I was looking forward to a spirited New Year’s weekend—and it didn’t disappoint. We left Friday night, and after a bus ride, another much longer bus ride, a songthaew (look it up), a minibus, another minibus, another songthaew, a ferry, and a third songthaew, we landed at our hostel on Ko Chang by mid-morning on Saturday. If you were keeping track, it took a grand total of 8 modes of transportation to get to this island—but man, was it worth it. 

I spent New Year’s with Melissa and 6 other English teachers all connected loosely by someone who knew someone who knew someone.  Instantly, it felt easy and natural to connect with people who, although strangers at the start of the weekend, were so relatable because of the mindsets we share and the journeys we are all on. We laughed an incredible amount, comparing stories—victories, losses, sources of confusion, sources of frustration, and humorous anecdotes—of our first few months in the classroom, and marveled at just how different each of our experiences in our respective towns and schools have been. Also, a sidenote: this was my first hostel experience. As it turns out, when you put 8 Americans in a 10-person dorm on a Thai island, it feels alarmingly similar to a sleeping porch nestled in the jungle. This taste of familiarity was comforting.

However, we didn’t spend much time in our little hostel-turned-sleeping-porch. Rather, we spent our days on the beach and in the water, one day taking a boat trip out island hopping and snorkeling. The waters in the Gulf of Thailand are so unbelievably clear and blue; it’s impossible to tire of its natural  brilliance. Ko Chang is the most beautiful place that I have been in Thailand thus far. We rang in 2018 on a beach, surrounded by good company and an impossible number of fireworks.


37CEBAD0-8D12-463F-9A99-21CE4FFFB644 Ko Chang - December 2017

5B318E9F-0DCB-4E99-B556-E3081F786C48 Gulf of Thailand - December 2017


37CEBAD0-8D12-463F-9A99-21CE4FFFB644 Ko Chang - 6/8 of the squad. 


As I traveled back to Surin on Tuesday, I reflected on my year. In 2017 I had many lasts—my last college days, and all the lasts that came with them, specifically—and I graduated from college, ending a huge chapter in my life. But I also had quite a few firsts: I worked at a restaurant for the first time, where I developed my work ethic and met some amazing people—including one very special individual who traveled to Thailand to visit me; I broke out of my comfort zone and moved across the world, where I have been able to meet even more awesome and likeminded people; I started experimenting with teaching, developing my own teaching style, and becoming more confident in myself and my abilities; I have continued my quest to discover what my future might hold for me. 

Last year at this time, if you would have told me that I would be teaching English in Thailand, I wouldn’t have believed you. I was stressed; I was trying to fit myself into a mold and figure out the proper “next step,” equipped with my Business degree and zero idea of what I wanted to do with it. Moving to Thailand wasn’t my plan, so for me—a huge planner—making this life-altering decision based only on a feeling was terrifying. But now that I’m living it, I am so thankful for my selfish choice to do what felt right for me, rather than what felt right for everybody else. I’m excited, but in no hurry, to see where 2018 will take me.

71180B6C-D233-4810-B9DA-39F2F09A073B Ko Lanta, Thailand - December 2017

 

We’re Doing It: Krabi Weekend Getaway

This weekend was a weekend of, “We’re doing it.”

At the beginning of last week we learned that the following Tuesday was a holiday; as it was the late king’s birthday, it is now celebrated as Thai Father’s Day and school would be cancelled in observance of it. This sounded like the perfect time to take Monday off and go on my first Thai getaway weekend. I texted Melissa, a teacher from Wisconsin who works at the primary school next to mine whom I had met by chance and hit it off with. She had, hours before, come to the same conclusion as I had: let’s do it!

After a handful of Google searches, we landed on Krabi as our destination of choice; three days before we fled Surin, we booked our bus and train tickets. Uncharacteristic of both Melissa and myself, the rest of our trip remained unplanned. We adopted an “it will all work out” attitude: things have a way of just working out in Thailand.

We debated different housing options, and ultimately faced the decision of hostel or hut (isn’t that always the question?). We had found a hostel that looked like it would suffice for what we needed: reasonably priced; reasonably clean; reasonably well-located. Meh. We had also found an alternative housing option on Airbnb—a collection of beachfront huts called Dawn of Happiness. The pictures made it look pretty neat, but we grappled with the overthought questions of American tourists: were the pictures doing it justice? When they said “bungalow” did they really mean “shanty?” Might this place resemble the set of a horror movie featuring two girls alone in the jungle? Ultimately, the risk was enticing enough. “We’re doing it,” we said, unbeknownst to us at the time that this would soon become our motto. So we booked the hut and jumped on our night bus.

And, like I said, things in Thailand have a way of working out! Dawn of Happiness was a quiet and authentic little Thai paradise. We had the best hut on the beach (and it was, quite literally, on the beach). Besides one mild calamity on the first night that started with a cockroach spotting, escalated with the discovery that cockroaches can fly, and ended with a smashed cockroach under my running shoe and Melissa and I nearly in tears from equal parts laughter and fear huddled under our mosquito net for safety, our stay went off without a hitch!


AA75F906-5307-42AE-9F82-E3FC76FDC178Our perfect hut!! 

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AA75F906-5307-42AE-9F82-E3FC76FDC178The view from our front door. 


With three days in Krabi and no plan, we looked to others for suggestions. After talking to friends who had traveled to Krabi before, some backpackers staying in another hut, and a few locals running the place, we decided we wanted to take a trip 30 minutes north to the Tiger Cave Temple. That is when Melissa proposed the next crazy idea: let’s rent a motorbike. 

I was initially against the idea, mostly out of fear for my life. Motorbikes are commonplace here; it’s a daily occurrence to see one laden with with 2, 3, 4 members of a family—small toddlers and/or family dogs included—zooming down the road. However, we had been warned by many that motorbikes can be quite dangerous. In time, the risky option won again: “We’re doing it,” we said.

And we did it! Or, more accurately, Melissa did it while I held on behind her, backseat driving and cheering her on. The apprehension subsided and was slowly replaced with heart pumping adrenaline and the sweet taste of freedom as we cruised through the streets of Krabi towards Tiger Temple. The wondrous thing about having no plans is that you also have no expectations. We had read only enough about the Tiger Cave Temple to know we would need to dress modestly and be prepared to climb a lot of steps to earn our view. And oh man, did we earn our view. 1,237 crudely built steps later—we did it!!—we reached the top and shrank in awe at the breathtaking beauty that surrounded us. Perching ourselves on a ledge, we settled in to enjoy the peaceful calm that comes with being on top of the world (both literally and figuratively; we were feeling pretty hyped on life at this point).

062B0B84-70EF-4E0F-851D-88710437A5AF
062B0B84-70EF-4E0F-851D-88710437A5AFTaking in the view from the top. 

FD10AC1F-0C27-467D-9E92-4CDD00D4F176
FD10AC1F-0C27-467D-9E92-4CDD00D4F176

69ECA386-9A81-4192-9786-03722B4DEC2EA couple of very happy travelers.  

After some more fun on the motorbike, a night market where we practiced our Thai with a few locals, a meal we cooked entirely at our own table, and time spent relaxing on the beach, we enjoyed our last night watching the sunset, devouring mango sticky rice, and reflecting on our trip and our lives. How lucky we are to be able to call this fascinating country home. I returned to Surin with a slightly more broadened mindset. Living here, it is easy to classify the things I encounter daily as generalizable across Thailand; however, this one quick trip gave me a taste of the diverse richness I have yet to experience. I guess I’ll have to do some more exploring.
4C0CC285-263E-44BC-8E74-EB0928DF5EF2 Ao Nang, Krabi

 

Rivers & Roads (in this case, mostly roads)

One month living in Thailand, and the biggest lesson I've learned thus far? There is no right way to do any of this stuff. This lesson isn't specific to living abroad; arguably, it is a principle of life in general. We are all on our own journey, picking the path we are going to take, and hoping the road is beautiful and whatever we find at the end of it is fulfilling.

I am sure that everyone who knew I was moving to Asia had a different vision in their head of what life was going to look like for me. Some probably imagined me spending every weekend on a different beach; other, less optimistic, individuals likely saw me living in a hut with no running water. I'm happy to report that my reality is somewhere in between these two extremes; I have plans to travel some weekends, but many I will spend getting to know my town and myself in the comfort of my 7th floor apartment (complete with both running water and air conditioning).

I don't know exactly what I was expecting my Thai life to look like, but I do know that I wasn't expecting to have as much time as I do to simply be. I have time to think, to explore, and to do the things that I never had the time to back when I was constantly worrying about what was next, or what I should be doing. For much of my senior year, even when I was caught up on my workload, my down time was still spent stressing about what my future was going to hold. What was I going to be doing after graduation? What could I be doing now to make finding a job easier? What kind of job did I even want? What resources should I be utilizing to figure out what kind of job I wanted? This anxiety was usually coupled with the worry of what everyone else was doing that night. What was I missing out on? How should I be spending my last months/weeks/days of college?

The thing I didn't realize then was that the answer to that question is this: I should be doing whatever it is that I want to be doing. Duh. That answer is easy to conclude in theory, and more challenging in practice, when external forces are battling to convince you of what is right. However, this is the reality: to shape the choices you make, to do or not to do, based on what you think others perceive the "right" move to be is, quite frankly, silly. Living here, away from the pressures of a lifestyle that tells you to continually be going and doing more, I am consciously making the choice to do the things I want to do, and refrain from doing the things that I do not. I pick the path that feels right in that moment.

It's cheesy, and admittedly pretty cliché, but I've been thinking about the different paths everyone is on and, quite literally, comparing these paths to the streets of Thailand. Nearly every day, when walking the streets, I choose to take a new road. More often than not, I end up somewhere I wasn't expecting. At first glance, the roads here give off the illusion of being grid-like; after wandering the streets for a short time you find that the roads are, in fact, not grid-like. Rather, you head down one street you think is parallel to another known street, and you eventually end up at a bend winding elsewhere, on a new road, in an alley, or somewhere that you recognize, but have no idea how you just got there. My freedom and curiosity allow me to pick roads based on nothing more than the fact that I am compelled to do so. 

When it comes to life, we each have the choice to pick the road we want to travel down. We can tag along on the paths of our friends, or go where our family tells us to go, or follow the path society has laid for us, but if the paved road that some external force is telling you to follow is not actually the path that you have an inexplicable urge to go down, then why take it? And, if that path isn't working out, why not turn down a random alley and see where it takes you?

So some days I pick the safe road, the known road; other days I pick the adventurous path. There is no right way to do it. I am really just being guided by what feels right, both literally, when walking the streets, and figuratively, when designing my life. Similar to life, you are never really lost on the streets of Thailand; you can always turn around, backtrack, go back to where you started and take the same old road you know. You just miss out on finding out what lies elsewhere.

Below are some of the roads I have found myself on that influenced my writing. 

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Small Victories

 

As I settled in last night for my first night alone since I got to Thailand, I was feeling uneasy. I had anticipated that sitting by myself in my empty apartment would elicit feelings of insecurity and doubt, and boy was I right. I went to sleep feeling anxious.


I set an alarm for the morning, although it is Saturday, with the intention of starting my day early and accomplishing a lot. Rather than milestone accomplishments (like moving across the world), my plan was to accomplish small goals that I hadn't been able to do living out of a suitcase in a hotel.


I woke up this morning and immediately tackled the laundry that had been piling up in my backpack. Although there is a washing machine on the first floor of my building, I decided I wasn't yet up for the task of bringing my things down from the 7th floor and figuring out how to work a Thai washing machine. I'll save that excitement for another day. Instead, I used my bathroom sink; the clothes are hanging out on my balcony now, and they smell delightful; perhaps it is because the detergent here is great! Although it is just as likely because I couldn't read the bag to determine the correct soap to water ratio for hand-washing, and used way too much soap. Either way, I have clean clothes.


Next task: go for a run. One of my goals while in Thailand is to get back into running. Especially in an unfamiliar place, it is a good excuse to explore, whilst simultaneously plugging into a familiar and meditative zone. I ran in the direction of a park that my coordinator had pointed out and, after a few dead ends and some close calls crossing the street amongst motorbikes, I came across the jogging trail - much larger than anticipated, and surrounding a beautiful reservoir. I counted this as a win. Side note: I have never been stared at more in my life than while I was on this run. Being an American is reason enough for people to stare, but add to that the fact that I was the only jogger anywhere in sight (during my 1.5 hour adventure I only came across one other runner), and people gawked.


As I headed for home, I had one more thing I couldn't return to my apartment without: coffee. Again, I headed in the direction of a spot my coordinator had pointed out, and thanked God, Buddha, everyone, when I stepped inside and found that some menu items were in English. The "iced cappuccino" I got tastes nothing like it would in the States, but it's delicious and, upon taking the first sip, I could feel my coffee deprived self instantly becoming a better, nicer, more motivated person. Another win.


These small victories are what I needed to come into my first week of teaching with a positive attitude. I am about to sit down and figure out how to write some lesson plans. Like most of the things I have done so far in this trip, I have no idea how to do it. However, I have somehow managed to get this far. Here's hoping that I can add "Lesson Planning" and "Teaching English" to that list of previously impossibles.

 

Pre-Departure: Nervous Typing

In a few short days, with my one-way ticket and single-entry, non-immigrant visa in hand, I will begin my journey to the other side of the world -- more specifically, Thailand. Months of preparation and excitement have, this week, culminated in a jumble of nerves. So here I am, nervously typing out my thoughts on my impending departure. 


What inspires a person to get up and leave her comfortable lifestyle? Uproot, and move half a world away from the places and the people that have, up until this point, always defined her? I see these questions in the eyes of the people I tell about my trip. They don't usually say it, at least not directly: "Thailand, huh? Wooow." You're nuts, is what they're thinking. They smile, but the shadow of skepticism inches across their face; they ask polite questions until they can escape the conversation and revert quietly back to their comfortable routine.


That, exactly that. That's why I'm moving to Thailand. To escape the routine and the entitlement and instead challenge my mindset and learn to live with less. And by less I do not simply mean fewer possessions, although that is inevitable when packing five months' worth of possessions in a single backpack, but rather less security, structure, mundaneness, and habit. I am on a quest to discover what resides beyond the outer limits of my comfort zone. Oh, and I'm also terrified of what lies beyond, so I'm expecting to be uncomfortable.


Note to self: remember this feeling on the first day of class when 30+ students are staring up at me expectantly and I'm too nervous to speak; remember this feeling when the language barrier seems impossible to overcome, the culture shock shakes me, and things don't go as planned.


I had a professor in college who firmly believed that unless you were uncomfortable, you were not growing. "The minute you start to feel comfortable," he advised, "is the minute you need to change something. Strive to always be growing." In sum: strive to always be uncomfortable. I'm comfortable now: I'm living back with my parents; I have an income; I have healthy relationships. And I'm restless. I'm hungry to see more, to feel more, to do more. It's time for a little self discovery; let's see what I can do.


Each week, the planner I use offers a quotation -- some words of wisdom, if you will. Next week (otherwise known as the week that I fly out of the States to jump into the unknown) the quotation, taken from the words of Thomas Edison, reads, "If we did all things we were capable of, we would literally astound ourselves."


I'm trying to astound myself.

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