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Free Thoughts on the Proceeding of the Upcoming Election

As we brace and prepare, and prepare to embrace, as we must, for the inauguration of our new president I have some thoughts, or really a story from across the sea and land and oceans that divide me from my home right now. 

To begin with, I want to go back to the spring of 2013, when I landed on the tarmac of the Denpasar International airport in Bali, just as Obama was being inaugurated for his second election.Traveling abroad is an interesting thing, as many people know, and as this blog shows. But it is most startling when, without warning or consent, you become a symbol of every American in America. As Zadie Smith so aptly describes in her novel White Teeth, “ …hold your judgment. If you are told ‘they are this’ or ‘they are that’ or ‘their opinions are this’ or ‘they do that,’ withhold your judgment until all facts have been upon you because that land…goes by a thousand names and is populated by millions and if you think you have found two men the same among that multitude then you are mistaken. It is merely a trick of the moonlight” I wish I could translate this to the Thai people who see me on the street, or my co-workers, or my students or the farmers who watch me drive by their rice paddies. Sometimes I think people don’t understand that I’ve never met the president; that I actually don’t know of that small obscure town in the mid-west where your sister’s, friend’s son lived for 5 months; I am not all of America, and this could not be more true then right now.

When I landed in Bali when people saw me they would always bring up Obama’s name – literally – that is all they would say, “Obama.” The same holds true in Thailand, except now they say “Trump.” Now it's all well meaning, in both Bali and Thailand, their intentions are good; they just want to connect to you, to say something that you will understand. But that's the problem, that's the only America they know, the only English word they cling to. As many have taken some English classes in school, they know a few words, most likely not enough to make coherent sense (i.e. good morning, hello, tomato, book, Sunday, etc.) they choose to call out the one thing that defies a need for sentence structure, a name that carries meaning and thus a potential conversation and connection.

If we step back from 2017, from my teaching position, from my day-to-day life, and look at the larger picture or teaching abroad, the question becomes what am I doing here? Or what is the purpose of teachers abroad? What is my impact? Am I a cultural ambassador? Am I a babysitter? Am I inspiring young people to come to America? To speak English? The answer is foggy and maybe a little bit of all that, maybe none.

I would say my hope is to inspire interest in the English language and bring America into a three-dimensional, real place but what If what they see is no good, nothing to emulate. If all they do is connect me to the one word they know, “Trump.” When Obama’s name was whispered and shouted in Bali it was in reverence, in respect to the power one man can have to create change. The same feelings hold true in Thailand for Trump but they don’t speak with respect, they don't wish that upon themselves and their country. So what is my role now? They don’t want to come to America; therefore there is no need for English, so there is no need for me. I have become obsolete in a matter of seconds by my own hand. Great.

Except I have learned one of my most powerful lessons in fear this trip, and it takes us once more back to Bali. One day while I was walking in Bali a dog put its mouth on my leg. I phrase it like this because while its teeth never broke skin, its saliva hung on my leg and I cried out. Not in pain but in shock, one minute ago I was walking thinking about work and the next a loud, mean dog had put its mouth on my leg! Whoa! I called my friend shaking, who insisted I come back to school but I shook him off. I needed to hear a re-assuring voice and then I was fine, no biggie, literally no skin off my leg, no harm, no foul – all good. Time travel with me again to 2017 and me taking a walk after school along the river. Wild dogs are everywhere in Thailand and Bali, most are harmless, flea ridden and dirty, but harmless. And yet, as I was walking a dog came out of the bush and began walking towards me, and my palms started to sweat. My heart raced a little faster. I began to think what I was going to do if this dog started attacking me. And I was scared because 1. I had never had an issue with dogs since Bali and 2. The answer was nothing; turn around and run maybe, push the dog off, sure. But really, if this dog was going to attack me there was nothing I could do to stop it short of turning around that instant. And I had no idea what the outcome would be unless I kept walking. Dogs can become vicious, they are malnourished, tired, scared, trained, broken, and you are in their way, you are something to punish for all of that and there is no owner to inflict any sort of punishment. It’s terrifying walking around thinking something could hurt you at any minute. But it was also a strange feeling to be afraid of something so many people were not, of something so many people loved, of something so many people didn’t understand.

And I thought of Trump, and I thought of Trump supporters and I thought of the people I have met in Thailand and I thought of my students and I thought of my friends and family back home. And the way fear guides us, and defines us, makes us make choices that reverberate around the world to 7-eleven’s in gas station towns, to clubs, to classrooms, to the rooms where it all happens, to parks, to homes and into our hearts and minds.

I don’t know if I can go as far to say that my role has become to teach these children my fear, but it’s changed my perspective on what they need to know moving forward about America. On what we all need to know, that not every American preaches hate, or encourages bullying, or voted for a celebrity, or voted for a celebrity and encourages bullying (the two are not mutually exclusive), that there are no two American’s in the world that are the same or feel the same right now. That English is a language that can come in handy whether you live in America, Europe, and The Outback or just in your backyard. And most importantly living in fear is not the same as living with fear. I don’t live in fear of dogs anymore I live with it. In that moment I breathed through it, I looked that dog in the eye and screamed at the top of my lungs, “I am afraid of you but there is not enough space in this world for it. I will win. Grrr” And he shrugged and we both walked past each other, each going our own separate ways.

A Night on the Grass

A Review of Keep on the Grass Folk Music Festival

On January 14th of this year (2017), The World May Never Know, an organization that coordinates local Thai music conferences and festivals, hosted their fourth annual Keep on the Grass Folk Music Festival at the Phu Uthai Resort in Muak Lek, Thailand.

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The festival is nestled in the rolling hills of the mountains near Khao Yai national park, in the province of Saraburi. The scenic drive, which can be challenging to navigate even for the locals, leads to a parking area at the Phu Uthai Resort in Muak Lek. At the top of the hill is a restaurant, restrooms and a few small huts that can be rented for the night through the resort. After checking in, or buying a ticket, if not bought online, the staff ask that the attendees not bring their own food or beverage into the festival location.

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There is food and drink to buy about half way down a hill leading to the stage and camping area. A variety of options are provided including Thai food, noodles, kebabs, beer, alcohol buckets, and the choice of beef or pork burgers from local restaurant owners out of Bangkok, as seen in the picture below.

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The sole festival stage is located at the base of the hill, with the backdrop of the surrounding mountains. The stage is made out of a pick-up truck with its rear half opened and a constructed wooden platform as the performing area. Speakers are hung from metal poles on either sides of the platform and lights strung outlining the scaffold and the observing areas. Tents are pitched behind the stage, on the hills surrounding the stage and further up the hill in front of the viewing section. There is a space left in the center for the crowd to lay blankets out and watch the performances.

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Music begins around two o’clock in the afternoon and is scheduled to run until two a.m. The bands start off slow and melodic, gently picking up speed and tempo as the night goes on and the moon comes out. Band members can be seen coming to play on the stage from the audience, enjoying the festival as a viewer and player. The performers play an array of instruments, ranging from violins, guitars, and Thai wind apparatus. Although given the name of folk festival, the event celebrated music of many genres including folk, indie, soft rock, instrumental and some pop. Around 10 p.m. many people are seen lying on their mats and blankets, bundled up, eyes closed, enjoying the sense of sound.

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During this fourth annual festival, music was played until about five o’clock in the morning. The crowd was a mix of many young local Thai people, as well as some foreigners who heard about the festival via social media and friends. The festival staff has a very active Facebook page, with a high responsive rating. The discussion listed special ticket deals, directions to the location, the restaurants that would be serving food, the band line up and pictures during and after the festival.

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As posted on the Keep on the Grass Music Festival page, the event is “a laid back afternoon under the cloud, a night on the grass.”

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Around seven a.m. the attendees began slowly wrapping up their tents and making their way towards their cars. Those who came by public transportation proceed to find a songthaew back to the Muak Lek Talad (market) where they can then catch either songthaew, van or bus back to their destination of Bangkok or Saraburi center.

10 Reasons to Explore Thailand in 2017

If you’re like me, traveling is at the top of your list of New Years Resolutions. Obviously, there are so many reasons that Thailand is arguably the most magical place on earth, but in case you need more convincing, here are my top 10 reasons to get yourself on a plane to Thailand this year:

  1. To hop from place to place without needing more than the contents of your backpack. The year-round mild weather makes packing for spontaneous trips super easy. Whether you’re headed north to the mountains, or south to the beaches, deciding what you need is a breeze. Check out my go-to packing list for ThailandImage
  2. To get the most for your money. This is the most practical reason on my list. Simply put, your money can go incredibly far. I typically spend 30 -50 Baht on a full (delicious) Thai meal. That’s around $1 USD! The hostels that my friends and I stay at range from $4-8 USD per night, and the train from my city to Bangkok costs 12-20 Baht (around 50 cents) each way. If you want to travel to a new place, and you’re worried about money, know that you will be able to see and do much more here in Thailand than anywhere in Europe, for example.  Image
  3. To venture beyond the tourist spots and find the hidden gems. It’s easy to get sucked into tourist traps like Khao San Road and Patong Beach. Those are great places to start, but if you look hard enough (and get to know the locals), your efforts will be rewarded in hidden Thai tea houses, breathtaking views, forgotten temples, and instagram-worthy train rides. Image
  4. To feel the magic of a Thai music festival. This weekend, my friends and I went to a semi-obscure indie music festival in Saraburi. It was unlike any festival I’ve been to in the US. Think Christmas lights, camping, and chilled out Thai acoustic bands… all in a green valley surrounded by mountains! Image
  5. To savor the sunsets. As you can probably tell, I’m a sucker for sunsets (and sunrises, for that matter). In true Thai “mai pen rai” style, pressing pause for an hour, sitting down, and taking the time appreciate a sunset will never disappoint you here in Thailand.​ IMG_0514
  6. To experience the pure kindness of the Thai people. This one goes out tco the many locals who have flagged down buses for us, the amazing family who helped us push our motorbikes up a steep hill, and the countless people who have pointed me in the right direction. These type of stories are not rare in Thailand! The kindness of the Thai people cannot be overstated. Image

  7. To witness every type of landscape you can imagine, all in one country. I live for the views, and the more variety the better. In Thailand you’ll find city life, chilly mountainous terrain, sprawling rice fields, ancient temples, sandy beaches, and literally everything in between. The sheer variety of landscapes was one of the main reasons I decided to move here… And everything is only a train ride away! ​ IMG_2218
  8. To taste the food. Everybody goes on and on about authentic Thai food, and for good reason. I’m not going to try to explain the deliciousness… you’ll have to come try it yourself! Image

  9. To make a difference. I came here to teach, and I have never felt so valued in a job position. My coworkers and students are incredibly determined to learn English, and their energy is contagious. My job has turned into so much more just a job! English is becoming an increasingly important skill for Thai students. You have the skills they need. So why not come here and change lives for a semester? Image
  10. For the friends you make along the way. Nothing brings people together like sweating side by side on a crowded train, enduring smelly hostel roommates together, or getting lost following each other on motorbikes (especially when you have no motorbike experience). Whether you’re coming here with your best friend, your partner, or diving in solo like I did, prepare to meet your soul sisters (or brothers) and create lasting friendships. ​ IMG_0831

So that’s my list… and believe me, I could go on forever. A bunch of people have contacted me since I’ve moved here, asking how I did it and if it’s something they could do. The answer is YES. Once you make the decision to do it, it’s easier than you think.

Next stop: Lopburi!

The Highs (and Lows) About Travel and Teaching

            Without a doubt, Krabi falls somewhere between 1-5 on my own personal list of “most beautiful places I’ve seen in my life.” I spent the weekend there, and it didn’t feel a bit like the Thailand I’ve come to know. Instead, it felt every bit like the Thailand I’d imagined before coming here; the Thailand I’d envisioned when I’d found this Teach Abroad program in the first place. For the first time, Thailand surpassed all my expectations.

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            It also couldn’t have come at a better time. When I write these posts, I try not to include too much of the “bad,” because I don’t want to spend my time focusing on the negative, and plus, being here for such a short period of time, it feels a little silly for me to have any complaints (Like, “you’re complaining? Try being a local here—watching you jet off every weekend to places we’ll never be able to afford to visit; making a higher salary than all of us, because you’re not from here; leaving at the end of this trip to return to a country we’ll most likely never see, because the conversion from baht to U.S. dollar will swallow our savings whole, whereas your savings have quadrupled here in worth.”)  

            At the same time, I think I should at least mention the “bad,” partially for my own memory, and partially because if I don’t, all my high moments will just seem ordinary against the backdrop of other equally-high moments. If anything, everything I say will begin to sound false and fabricated, if all I ever do is cover my sunset/pina-colada moments and fail to record all the many ways this is the hardest thing I’ve ever done.

            So here it is, a quick run-down: three days before Krabi, I wanted to quit this whole journey. Really. First of all, I’d been sick following my New Years adventures, and there is no lonelier feeling in the world than waking up in a small apartment feeling dizzy and nauseous and realizing, wait a minute, if I want a banana and a piece of toast, I will need to get on my own motorbike and travel to 7-11 in 100 degrees and hope I don’t faint on the ride over, because I have no one here to help me.

            In itself, that isn’t true at all. I could have called my co-workers or the owner of my apartment building and I’m sure they would have been more than happy to help. But I didn’t want to inconvenience someone I didn’t know well, and besides, that wasn’t the part that was making me so sad. It was more that it hit me, all at once, how very on my own I am. When else in my life have I been this alone? I grew up with my family to take care of me, and when I went to college, I was surrounded by people who very quickly became my best friends. I’ve also never lived alone, and that’s a different thing entirely. So it wasn’t until I woke up sick that I realized the gravity of my situation in one panicked-filled instant: I have to take care of myself and figure out how to make myself feel better, because no one else is here to lessen the burden.

            And then, besides being sick (or maybe because of it), I just felt ready to be done. I kept having these thoughts like, “Okay, so I did the whole ‘Eat-Pray-Love,’ thing, and let’s face it… I’m not a 28-year-old divorcee looking to find herself, and this was a silly and way-too-extreme idea to begin with, because I really didn’t need to rip myself away from all my family and all my friends to come explore a foreign country for this amount of time and live in this grungy apartment by myself with one spoon and one cup to my name; I probably should’ve just booked a 10-day vacation instead, and then I should have found a job in Boston or D.C. with friends and family, at the most, only a few hours away.”

            Plus, the time difference is hard, because it means I haven’t talked to some of my family and friends since October 20th when I came here; I’m just on the opposite schedule of everyone else I’ve ever known. Every time I wake up, all of you are going to bed (unless you’re reading this from Thailand, in which case—thank god we wake up at the same time!), and every time I go to sleep, all of you are just beginning your days. So it’s hard not to feel even more isolated, given that I am literally living by a different sun and different moon (I mean, technically I know it’s still the same sun and same moon, but it doesn’t feel the same, when I see them at such drastically different times).

            So that’s the “bad.”

            And then I arrived, Friday night, in Ao Nang in Krabi.

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            My friend Devon and I went to Krabi with her brother, who was here visiting, and his girlfriend and their friend. This, in itself, was a blessing. It was so nice, for a weekend, to travel with three people who were seeing Thailand as I would see it, if I also only had ten days here: they had endless enthusiasm for the novelty of it all, and when they pointed out the oddity of this culture after I’ve learned to ignore or accept it, I could see it for it’s uniqueness all over again. Plus, they had a stricter time-table than I have, so our trip was anything but laid-back (in the best way possible): we fit in bar-hopping, clubbing, snorkeling, speed-boating, sunbathing, eating, socializing, dancing, shopping, and a million other highly-rewarding experiences, while limiting our sleep and down-time because who has time for that?

            As I look back on the weekend, I still think, It has to be one of the best weekends of my life. First, Saturday morning at 9 o’clock, we were picked up at our hostel for a full-day speedboat ride to lagoons, various islands, and snorkeling spots around Krabi. This cost us roughly $90.

            We took a speedboat to our first location, a low-key spot with only a few other boats, where we could jump into the warm light-blue water to snorkel. The fish were outrageously colorful—I mean, even just one fish might be purple and neon green and pink and blue spotted, at all once.

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            Then our tour guide, a guy named Sunny (who spoke English incredibly well), and his boat crew (who could not speak English at all), took us to Maya bay. He offered to take us to the beach where The Beach movie, with Leonardo Dicaprio, was filmed, but since it was 400 baht and literally crawling with tourists with no more than a foot or two free-space in between them, we declined. We stayed in Maya bay (I think), but he took us to a quieter beach he knew of, a small strip of sand maybe 30 feet long with only a few other boats and maybe 20 other tourists, a big improvement. The boat beside us, actually, had three Russian men and 15 Russian models (we assumed the men were paying, since they were older and fatter and the girls were young and stick-thin and spent their time taking hundreds of Victoria Secret Swimsuit-Edition-inspired pictures in the water and on the sand). And then the other boat carried three Americans from Chicago (all average looking, so I’m assuming no one was paying).

            We lay on the sand for an hour and walked around our small secluded/Photo-shoot beach, taking pictures (not quite as impressively as the models) and swimming in the warm, salty Andaman Sea. I did not forget my luck that I was floating in this warm water with the sun beating down while most of my family and friends are freezing back home in Massachusetts. Isolation has its perks.

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            Then Sunny brought out some fruit, rice, vegetable stir-fry, chicken wings, and curry that he’d prepared personally for us. He kept us well fed and well hydrated during the day with a cooler in the back of the boat. He even risked his life cutting the fruit with a very large knife while our boat slammed up and down at high speed on the waves.

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            After we ate, Sunny began telling me a little bit about his life here. Krabi, he explained, wasn’t always this tourist hot-spot. When he was younger he went out on the ocean every day with his father, a fisherman, to catch fish which they could trade in their village for other things they needed, like rice and clothing. “It’s not like that anymore,” he said, smiling, “I can’t trade my fish for anything anymore. Everything is too expensive now to do that.”

            I asked him if he still fishes, and he said, “Only if the tourists want to, but most of them don’t. Sometimes people from China or Japan want to fish, and then I fish with them.”

            Hearing that most of his day was crafted for the whim of a tourist, I said, “When you were younger, was Krabi like this? Filled with tourists, I mean?”

            “No,” he shook his head, smiling. “When I was younger it wasn’t like this. I used to go out on the boat with my dad. We would sometimes come to these beaches together. He doesn’t come out here much anymore—he’s weaker now. A couple years ago I stopped being a fisherman, and now I do this, because this is where the money is. In the last twenty years, I’ve had to learn a lot of English… I try to learn one word a day. My English isn’t that good. But I need to know it.”

            Doing my own research, I’ve read that there were 336,000 foreigners and 54,000 GIs here in Thailand during the peak of U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War, around the late 1960s. In 2015 alone, there were over 29 million international guests. Assuming Sunny is in his 50s, this makes sense. He most likely grew up during the initial tourism boom in the 1960s, when Thailand became a destination for R & R visits of American GIs:

These visits were significant not only in terms of the increase in numbers of foreign visitors, but also as a principal factor of change of the touristic image of Thailand, and of the kinds of tourists which began to be attracted to the country from the mid-1960s onward. 
In the past, the image of Thailand in the eyes of Western visitors was that of an exotic, enchanted kingdom in the Orient. The arrival of American servicemen on R & R visits, compounded by the stationing of about 40,000 U.S. military personnel in bases in Thailand, shifted the emphasis in the tourist sector from sightseeing of cultural attractions, reflecting the earlier image, to more mundane pursuits, primarily sex and recreational activities. (http://thaiworld.50webs.com/travel.html).

            Although the Vietnam War is a big factor, tourism also boomed in Thailand during the 1960s and 70s due to the “rising standard of living, more people acquiring more free time, and improvements in technology, making it possible to travel further, faster, cheaper and in greater numbers… Thailand was one of the first players in Asia to capitalize on this then-new trend”(https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tourism_in_Thailand).

            Today, tourism accounts for 10% of Thailand’s GDP and supports 2.2 million jobs, with around 30 million people visiting each year. I assume, on the basis of my own guess for Sunny’s age, that this is why things looked so different for him when he was young; but this is my own assumption.

            After lunch, Sunny cleaned up our dishes and trash and said, “Okay, now I will take you to Phi Phi Don. You can stay for an hour there.” Phi Phi Don is one of the more popular tourist-destinations in Krabi. I hadn’t done much research prior to visiting Krabi, so I only knew this from Devon’s brother, who was surprised upon arriving that the beach was “less packed” than he’d expected, although it was still well populated with people sunbathing and drinking and swimming, as well as shops and restaurants and resorts which are, apparently, at least $100 per night and out of our price range (to put this in perspective, we paid $60 for an entire weekend in our hostel).

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            My group agreed that they were slightly unimpressed with this beach, after all the hype. We preferred the more private beach we’d been taken to earlier. We also greatly preferred the lagoon Sunny took us to after Phi Phi Don. The lagoon was light blue and surrounded on three sides by high limestone rock and dark green trees; a few other boats were anchored in the lagoon, and people were casually jumping off the sides of their boats, like we were, and floating in the lagoon. There was a light mist coming off of the water (I still can’t believe how blue the water was). Floating in the water and looking up at these limestone “walls” had to be one of my favorite highlights of the weekend.

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            Then Sunny took us to another area, Bamboo island, although we never stepped foot on the island. We jumped off the side of the boat and then snorkeled for another hour. He came with us and pointed to little reefs filled with Nemo look-a-likes, all identical to Nemo and coming out of the coral and going back into hiding just like Nemo does in the movie (I didn’t know they do that in real life!). There were so many different kinds of fish here, so I just spent the hour with my head underwater, watching them all in their quiet little paradise.

            Afterwards, Sunny drove us past a cave called Viking cave with egg nests that are apparently sold to eat in places around Thailand and Asia (side note: bird saliva is also sold and eaten in Asia, because it has health/spiritual benefits). Then he took us near Chicken Head Island so we could take some pictures. We drove back to dock the boat around 4 p.m. We showered quickly and ate dinner on Ao Nang beach, only 100 feet or so from our hostel, to watch the sunset. Then we walked around and went to some low-key bars before falling asleep around midnight.

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            The next morning, we got breakfast at Café 8.98 (I googled “Breakfast in Krabi” and it was the first result with 5 stars. The website said, “New York in Thailand.” It was delicious. I had an avocado and blueberry smoothie—I didn’t know they had avocado in Thailand!—and an omelet with real cheese and real tomatoes and no rice).

            Then we took a long-tail boat to Railay beach. The boat gets its name from the engine-design—a long wooden stick hanging off the back with a motor attached to the end, which the boat driver has to navigate by pushing the motor to one side or the other depending on which direction he wants to turn us, all the while carefully balancing on the opposite side so as not to fall into the water. It cost us about 200 baht, or $6, round-trip.

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            In the airport on the way to Krabi we met a fellow American backpacker named Brenden who told us, “Don’t just go to Railay… there’s a cooler beach called Ton Sai right on the other side. Walk all the way to the end of Railay and find a path through the jungle to the other side. It’s much less populated and so beautiful; plus, you can rock-climb there.”

            “Oh! Can anyone rock climb? Like, could I?” I asked him, picturing Dick’s Sporting Goods’ man-made 10-foot rock-climbing wall.

            He shrugged, putting way too much faith in my athletic abilities, and said, “You might be able to. It’s tough, but maybe.”

            So as soon as we set foot on Railay, Devon and I led the group to the left side of the beach to find this hidden path. We finally located it—around the corner of a cliff, just a short path through the waist-high ocean. A few shirtless rock-climbers with ropes tied around their waists verified for me that, if we walked the path, we’d find a beach on the other side.

            The path in itself is a great deterrence for less-motivated tourists. It was difficult and steep and sometimes terrifying, especially in my Jack Roger sandals. There was a rope we needed to hold onto just to keep from falling, and by the time we reached the other side, we were dripping in sweat.

            Once we touched foot on the other side, I saw immediately that my friend Brenden had generously overestimated my previous rock-climbing experience (which consists of a few experiences tackling the man-made wall in Dicks Sporting Goods and struggling, with my limited arm strength, to pull myself up the 10-feet to the top, at which point you hit a bell for succeeding in the ‘feat’).

            Apparently, rock climbing at Railay beach is a very popular activity for well-seasoned rock climbers around the world who don’t mind risking their lives. The people who were rock-climbing had “Rock-Climbing in Thailand” travel books on their towels and were climbing hundreds of feet in the area, looking for places to put their hands and feet on real rock—there were no red and green plastic “rocks” sticking out of the limestone for them, like what I’d expected—these people weren’t messing around.

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            We spent the day on the beach here. Right behind us we had a jungle with palm trees and wild monkeys with white-rimmed eyes and slightly crazed expressions. A little to the left, we had two limestone rocks with a wild green mess of trees and bushes in between. As the tide went out, many of the old boats became locked on shore, sunken into the sand.

I can’t think of a more beautiful view, in all my time in Thailand; it’s hard to think of many more beautiful views, actually, in all my life.

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            The tide was out around 5 p.m., so we were able to wade back over the rocks and through the ocean to Railay beach (the tide was so low, actually, that I said to Devon nervously—“is this low tide or the beginning of a tsunami?”)

            I took hundreds of pictures over the weekend (the views were too beautiful to resist), but I put my phone away for an hour so I could enjoy the sunset with Devon as we sat on the sand in the water, which was up to our necks and still not cooling us off enough. I could’ve sat there for longer, but the last boat back was at 6.

            When we docked back at Ao Nang, we ran to 7-11 and grabbed bottles of wine (300 baht for a full bottle--$9; or less than $1 for two mini bottles, which I bought), which we carried with us back to Ao Nang beach to watch the end of the sunset. Then we got Mexican food for dinner and asked our waitress if there were any clubs in the area or, at the very least, places open past midnight.

            “Go to the Burger King down the street and take a right,” she instructed. “Chang bar.” We’d already heard about this bar, because it was really the only place open past midnight. So we ventured there and had an incredibly fun last night, playing pool with boys from Switzerland and dancing with Argentinians to American music and watching Lady Boys parade around the street and boys in wheelchairs spinning sticks on fire in the air. We had so much fun that we didn’t leave Chang until 4 in the morning.

            The next morning we shopped around and returned to Café 8.98 before leaving this little piece of heaven. I boarded a plane to return to Sakon Nakhon, which was hard to do. Part of me wished I was travelling like Devon’s brother, his girlfriend, and their friend—short-term and filling my days with only the best parts of Thailand, the parts that look like the travel brochures and the Google images. But I know my time will come soon enough, and I will have more of it, courtesy of the money I’m saving up working here first. Beginning in March, I can travel to see only the best places.

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            Plus, there’s something to be said for this kind of “travel.” Some days, when I'm feeling especially homesick and wishing I was home, and even (at my lowest points), regretting my decision to come here, I think of the alternative: imagine if, all my life, I’d never lived in Sakon Nakhon and had never met students like Oom and Fluke and Folk, their eyes bright every Monday morning when I walk into the classroom, always eager to offer me half of their morning breakfast and intensely interested in my weekend travels because they want to learn about the places in their country they might never see; imagine if I’d never met my travel friends, who are sharing all of these highs and lows with me; and imagine if, all my life, I’d never felt this kind of loneliness, this kind of sadness, that, by contrast, make weekend trips to Krabi feel like a unique kind of euphoria, because I’d gone a little while without it.

        Never in my life will I regret giving myself the opportunity to live alone in a foreign country; but I know, without a doubt, that I would have had plenty of regrets if I'd chosen not to teach in Thailand because I was afraid. 

17 Again

There are a lot of perks that come with teaching in Thailand: bonding with students over shared pop culture interests; living here long enough to become skilled at using public transportation; applying knowledge of the Thai language in order to have a conversation… even if it is only a 3 sentence exchange. Yet, living in Thailand can be just as challenging as it is rewarding. I came into this semester doing my best to expect the unexpected. Easier said than done. Dealing with education reform, overcoming the language barrier and adjusting to Thai food preferences (not spicy usually still means at least a little spicy) have all pushed me to grow in more ways than I could have predicted. Instead of dwelling on the things that frustrate me, I am focusing on 17 things that are bringing me joy so far in 2017.

1. Live musicGoing to college in Austin, Texas made me quite the live music enthusiast. I’ve been on the lookout for a fun concert since I arrived in Thailand and I finally found it! On a recent trip to Bangkok, a friend spontaneously brought me to a showcase of different Thai bands. It was the perfect night: new friends, great jams and even the chance to meet the lead singer from one of the performances!

1The lead singer of my new favorite band Summer Stop! During the performance, he even gave a shout out to the "farang" (foreigners) in the crowd and sang a couple of pop songs in English! Click photo to enlarge. 

2. Cliff jumping: Talk about an adrenaline rush. During my New Years trip to Chiang Mai, I visited the “Grand Canyon.” After some coaxing from friends, I decided to take the plunge and jumped off the 24-foot cliff! Following a solid couple of seconds of free fall (an eternity when you’re in the air) I hit the water. Once the initial shock wore off, I swam to safety and lived to tell the tale… to my parents… after the fact.
 
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The Thai Grand Canyon runs the U.S. some serious competition! Click photo to enlarge.
 
3. Wat Chedi Luang: While in the Old City of Chiang Mai, I walked to a nearby Buddhist temple. Wat Chedi Luang is a remarkable 600 years old. Thanks in part to a restoration project, the base of the stupa (a mound-like structure that holds sacred Buddhist relics) displays 5 elephants made of brick and stucco. I was awestruck by these structures, and they certainly made Wat Chedi Luang one of the most stunning temples I’ve seen so far.
 

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The 5 elephants surrounding the temple were the highlight of my visit! Click photo to enlarge.
 
4. Tex-Mex: But maybe “Thai-Mex” is a more accurate description. Regardless, finding Mexican food in Chiang Mai was a great way to kick off the New Year… although it still can’t compete with Qdoba. (Sorry Chipotle fans!)
 
5. Dragon fruit smoothies: Especially when they are 25 baht (about 70 cents)!!!
 
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Smoothies are now my preferred after school snack and sipping them in the park make them taste even better! Click photo to enlarge.
 
6. Doi Suthep: The view from the temple atop of the Suthep Mountain was spectacular, and well earned after the 300 stairs it took to get there!

4A bird's eye view of Chiang Mai. Click photo to enlarge.

7. Friendship bracelets: Purchased shortly after the hike up Doi Suthep, they’re still special even if they fell off most of our wrists soon after buying them.
 
8. Rainbow unicorn party: My favorite after-school English class for 4-year-olds had a belated-New Years party equipped with an inflatable unicorn, balloons and temporary tattoos. Everything was rainbow, even down to the food (red and green apples, orange slices, corn, blueberries and of course multi-colored M&M’s). Still up for debate who had more fun at the party – the kids or me!

5Just a few of the many rainbow-colored decorations. Click photo to enlarge.

9. Gift exchanges: The pure joy that radiates through a classroom full of 6th graders trading New Years gifts is indescribable. It made my heart so happy to witness all of it!

6My sweet students Gong and Tonkla took a lot of pride in receiving the same Eeyore stuffed animal during the gift exchange. Their happiness was contagious! Click photo to enlarge.

10. Muay Thai: I have a newfound respect for boxers after witnessing my first Muay Thai fight earlier this month. The rounds passed quickly (before it got too graphic!) and I learned that men and women come from all around the world to compete.

7Moments before the fight began! Click photo to enlarge.

11. Three-day weekends: I’m really looking forward to the upcoming break in honor of Teachers Day, during which I plan to travel to a province in west Thailand and explore a seven-tiered waterfall! Fingers crossed no face plants are in my future.

12. Birthday bash in Bangkok: I have less than 2 weeks to continue “feelin’ 22” as Taylor Swift would say. While this will be my first birthday outside of Texas, I’m so excited to ring in my 23rdyear surrounded by my friends in Bangkok at the end of January.

13. Tutoring time: Every Wednesday I tutor two adorable sisters. Together we laugh through the lessons as we talk about the highlights of our days and play games in English.

8A selfie with the sweetest sisters, and no - they aren't twins! Click photo to enlarge.

14. Sports Day: This week at school there’s been less teaching and more playing as the students take part in Sports Day (which is actually 3 days long… don’t ask, I can’t explain it). Volleyball, basketball, soccer and badminton tournaments have been taking place all across campus in place of regularly scheduled classes. Though it is throwing a wrench in my lesson plans, it’s been entertaining to watch my students excel as cheerleaders, athletes and coaches.

15. Cotton candy clouds: The sunsets in Thailand really never get old.

10The view from my apartment is surreal! Click photo to enlarge.

16. Sundays at the movies: I mentioned in my last blog post that I spent Christmas Day at the movies. Lo and behold my friends and I found ourselves back there again last weekend. There’s something comforting about sprawling out in a recliner on a Sunday afternoon in a theatre. It truly makes me feel not so far from home!

17. To be determined…As cheesy as it may sound, I’m looking forward to recounting all of the wonderful reasons I have to be happy that haven’t even happened yet! 2017 is just getting started and a lot of exciting events are on the horizon. This year my goals include globetrotting, learning everyday and connecting with people from around the world. Only time will tell what adventures are in store. I can only hope they will bring me as much joy as everything I’ve experienced already!

Bryna also blogs about her Teach Abroad journey at http://lifeofbryna.blogspot.com

A Bangkok Christmas

Like Thanksgiving, this was my first Christmas away from home and my family. Once again it definitely did not feel like Christmas here in Thailand. I worked on Christmas which was a first for me, I didn’t mind it though because as I said it really just didn’t feel like the holidays so it wasn’t like we were missing out on anything here (until I watched all my Snapchat stories the next morning which was when the FOMO hit yet again). The other American teachers here at my school and I set up a Secret Santa gift exchange to get in the spirit of Christmas. On the Thursday before Christmas, we all got together, ate some popcorn, played some Christmas music, drank some Chang’s, and swapped gifts. That was a lot of fun and definitely made the holiday feel a bit merrier. Christmas was on a Sunday this year and we had work that Monday so that meant our celebrations had to be on Christmas Eve, or that Saturday. Our friends here found a Christmas rooftop pool party at a hotel in Bangkok that was going on all day and night on Christmas Eve so we decided to go to that. A pool party on Christmas Eve was the complete opposite of how I typically spend my Christmas Eve. Usually, the family and I go down to my cousin’s house in MA to see all of our extended family on my Dad’s side. It’s typically freezing cold at home with a foot of snow and I’m nowhere psychologically or physically ready to put a bathing suit on, but when in Bangkok! Anyways, the party was great; we arrived around 3pm; we drank (heavily), danced, and swam until we all were in desperate need of some food around midnight. I was severely hungover on Christmas day and the only major thing I had planned was Facetiming my family later that night which was about the only thing I could physically handle due to my hangover. It was definitely tough missing out on Christmas at home, but Christmas in Bangkok will be a hard one to top.

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Krappy Krabi

For our first long weekend we booked a trip down south to Krabi. In order to do this, we had the option of taking an overnight bus/train or flying. Considering both the bus and train options meant sleeping in the upright position for nine hours, we opted for the quick and easy hour long flight to Krabi. Flights here are very cheap compared to home-most domestic flights you can find for $60 or cheaper for a round trip. When I say quick- it was literally like as soon as we took off and reached the proper altitude, we began descending because at that point we were only about twenty minutes from the Krabi airport. I wish, however, that our trip to the airport went this smoothly. It started out great, took my first motorbike taxi from our townhouse to the BTS sky train in order to beat after school traffic. This worked wonders, got there in fifteen minutes compared to a possible forty. From there we rode the sky train all the way to the last stop and then caught another motorbike taxi from there for the home stretch to the airport due to the once again inescapable Thailand traffic. This was a bit of a struggle considering there were four of us trying to get to the same place. Since there was dead stop traffic at the time, the motorbike taxis wouldn't take us unless we payed 300 baht each (typically the motorbike taxi is a flat rate of 100 baht). On a time crunch, we said fuck it and paid the extra money to avoid missing our six o'clock flight. At this point it was almost five o'clock and our check-in for our flight was at 5:25pm so we were really pushing it. Abby and I shared a motorbike taxi (still each paying 300 baht -__-) which got us to the airport in less than thirty minutes. However, this meant we had to separate from Jill. Although the motorbike taxis are amazing at getting places quickly, their downfall is that we all have to separate from the group and hope we all make it to the same place. I thought that Jill and the other girl we traveled to Krabi with would share the next motorbike taxi, which gave me some relief, however this did not happen. As Abby and I arrived at the airport past our check in time, we were unable to use the self-service machines to print our tickets so we had to wait in line and get them. Meanwhile, the other girl we were traveling with zoomed past us because she checked in online already so she just had to go straight to security (I tried to do this earlier but I struggled with my stupid apple ID). Freaking out, I called Jill about a hundred times on every app I could think of. It just so happened that her phone was low on data and she wasn't receiving any of my calls or messages. Stressed about missing our flight I decided to run down to international gates to see if she was on the wrong end of the airport. I couldn't find her anywhere so I decided to run back and check if she showed up while I was gone. Luckily, she was there when I got back (thank god) but I didn't have time to slow down as we ran to security and then ran to our gate. I must have ran two miles through that airport and we only barely made our flight. It was like a scene out of a movie, as we turned the corner they were about to close the doors to the plane but let us on anyway. So that was all a nightmare but at least we got a workout out of it before we drank our health away for the long weekend :)

I wish I could say that making it to the plane on time was the end of our panic, but when we got to the Krabi airport, we met more American's on the ride to our hostel. They were from a different program than us so we all shared stories. They were staying in the same hostel as us. Or so we thought...our reservations didn't book due to the website we used and of course that hostel was all booked up for the weekend so we were forced to find another hostel (in the pouring rain). This was easy though considering 80% of Krabi is hostels. Unfortunately for us, it was raining all weekend in the south which was a total bummer but we still managed to make the best of our trip. The rain meant more drinking and more massages so we really couldn't complain about that. The massages there were unreal, right on the beach and super cheap. I got a full body hour long oil massage and a free manicure for 250 baht, or $7 and I added on a half hour facial for another $6. This was by far the highlight of my trip to Krabi. During the nights, we would start drinking at this little makeshift bar called, Fin. I loved this bar- it made us feel like we were in Hawaii with the band singing American classics behind us and the margaritas flowing. After that we would go to the hostel we were supposed to stay at called Slumber Party, which is famous for being one of the biggest party hostels around and then from there we would go down towards the beach more where some more bars and clubs were. On our last day there, the sun came out for a little while so Abby and I decided to take advantage of it and rent a kayak for a half hour and explore the caves. We chickened out on actually going into the one cave we did find but it was still beautiful. The limestone rocks that bulge straight up from the crystal blue water are so much more beautiful up close. Thinking back now, this trip had a lot of unexpected bumps in the road, but I think that’s what makes traveling here with my best friends so worth it. This is all still very new to me, so being able to problem solve on the go in a foreign country has been a great learning experience and I now look at these complications as accomplishments because we all still managed to make the most of our first long weekend in the South of Thailand despite the bumps.

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How To Survive (and Enjoy) the Holidays Abroad

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        It definitely wasn’t easy, being away from friends and family this time of year as Christmas and New Years came around, and it definitely reminded me of exactly why the holidays are important. I didn’t really miss getting gifts, and of course I missed the food, but I am always missing the food, so that is nothing new. Mostly, I just missed the people. When I heard Christmas music playing in Robinson (my “mall”) as I sat eating a salad two days before Christmas, I felt extra lonely.

            On December 12, I received some gingerbread cookies and Christmas decorations, including a tree ornament, from my grandma. I hung these in my small apartment. On January 2, I opened some Christmas gifts on my bed as my mom watched, via Facetime. Other than this, and a few phone calls and texts, my communication back home was limited.

            And yet, in between those two dates, I did a lot with the people I’ve met here in Thailand. I was kept busy and happy and well-fed, just as I am every year around this time. Here are a few of my tips, post-holidays, for how to enjoy the holidays abroad.

1. Let Your Students Surprise You With Their Effort.

            December 27, I planned a small gift-exchange with my advisory class, M5. I told them, “I’ll provide the ice cream… you, just provide some small snacks.” I imagined the whole thing might take 20 minutes.

            This “gift swap” became a 4-hour ordeal. First, from noon to 1 p.m., the students needed to prepare. Their “small snacks,” became grills and hot plates to cook hot dogs and meat; blenders to create mocktails with soda water and grenadine and ice and soda; and cups with different layers of jelly desserts, stacked on top of one another, as well as two cakes and rice and a huge pot filled with curry.

            At 1 o’clock, I asked one student if they had class, and they said, “Oh, teachers gave us the afternoon off, so we could party.” Of course they did. And rather than lamenting the fact that these students couldn’t go home during this unexpected free time, they were thrilled to be at school; playing music and hanging out with 29 of their closest friends—what would they do at home? The students kept delaying everything because they wanted to stay at school and party forever, until finally close to 3 p.m. I said, “Can we do the gift swap now?”

            Then, of course, we had to take pictures: pictures of me handing one gift off to the person who pulled my number, and then a picture of the two of us together, and then a picture of that other person handing my gift to me, when my name was called; we needed group pictures and solo shots and candids and video footage of us all, both before we opened the gifts, and then after we opened the gifts, and also while we were opening the gifts. Finally, around 3:30, I slipped out the door and returned to my desk.

           This was probably the sweetest “Christmas” party I’d been to, here in Thailand. Despite how drawn-out it was, it was so sweet, watching all of these 17-year-old students enjoy creating an atmosphere that they probably would not find at home later that afternoon simply because these families do not celebrate Christmas (or any of their holidays) quite the same way we celebrate ours. It made me thankful that next year, I will be surrounded by my family on December 27, but that this year, my students, with the mocktails and cakes and gift-wrapped toys, had created an incredibly appropriate substitute.

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2. Let Christmas Look Different This Year.

            This year, I spent Christmas on top of Phu Kradueng mountain in Loie with my Thai co-teacher and her best friend. This meant, at 4:30 a.m. as I brushed my teeth in a crowded public bathroom in preparation for an early morning trip to see the sunrise on top of the mountain, it only vaguely occurred to me just what day it was: “Oh. Merry Christmas, by the way, Teacher Ying.”

            Any other morning of my life, I’d awakened just about as early for a completely different kind of experience. But as I watched, for the first time in my life, the sunrise over the Thai landscape, I nonetheless felt I’d been given all the gifts I needed. Last year, the most exercise I got on Christmas was my walk from the couch to the table to grab another piece of pie; this year, I walked 17 miles at the top of a mountain on Christmas. As I walked, I reminded myself to be thankful for this opportunity, and I also knew all the Christmases in my future will look different, thanks to this one—I didn’t want anything except my family by my side, and rather than make me sad, this made me happy… for the first time, I wasn’t envious of my friend’s gifts or anxious to get to the mall, to use my gift cards in order to collect more, more, more.

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3. Let Yourself Eliminate Certain New Years Resolutions.

            This time last year, I’m pretty sure I was making the same New Years resolutions everyone in America makes every year: lose weight; be healthier (skinnier); be more successful, make more money; fall in love.

            This year, being here in Thailand, all I can really hope for is that I find ways to always adventure as I am adventuring now, and to feel as fulfilled in whatever I do post-Thailand as I feel teaching here in Thailand. Teaching is not easy; it is probably the hardest thing I’ve ever done. But it is also overwhelmingly fulfilling. There isn’t a day that I ask myself, “Wait, why is this important?” I can see it, all the time.

            I see it when a student, who has received an A on a test, has written object + verb + subject next to “passive tense,” and then erased his own memorized reminder… this is a reminder that I taught him, even though I was unsure, at the time, if any of my students were listening.

            I see it when another student corrects herself midsentence as she’s saying, “Do… does, I mean, he go there often?”

            I hear it when I hear my students actually laugh at a joke Matt Damon says in Good Will Hunting; despite how little they understand, they still surprise me by understanding that.

            And I hear it when I am teaching a passage from Looking for Alaska and my students shout out, in unison: “OH! The narrator means Alaska is not dead, doesn’t he? He means she’s in heaven, right? Right?”

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4. Let Yourself Feel Happy and Blessed at Midnight on New Years, No Matter Who Surrounds You.

            I was so grateful to be surrounded by some of my best friends here in Thailand this New Year’s as the clock struck midnight, and as we jumped up and down at a Full Moon Party in Koh Phangan, their faces were the first ones I looked for. But then, as the clock struck 12:01, I looked further. All around me, 30,000 people were jumping up and down for the very same reason I was. Lights flashing, music blaring, people cheering… we were all celebrating the same moment. I mean, here we were, on a beach in Thailand, hundreds of foreigners from all different corners of the globe, each equally hopeful that beginning 2017 like this meant that 2017 would turn out to be a pretty exciting year. And this was the energy I fed off of this New Years as 2016 became 2017. And I promised myself, if I could not find a way to hold onto this overwhelmingly optimistic feeling for all of ’17, at the very least, I’d hold onto it for the night.

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Thai High Schoolers and Life Update

I'm walking through morning assembly at school. The students are sitting in long rows looking bored and lazy. One boy, stick thin and all limbs, sits behind his chubby friend. They're maybe 16 years old. In a casual moment, the skinny one slides his hands along the sides of his friend's gut, reaches to grab the biggest part of his belly, and shakes it for all its worth. The thin boy's hands cross around his friend and he leans his head against his back.

I don't know how to describe Thai teenagers. I can only give examples because they are the strangest, cutest people I've ever met. I've never seen people of any age interact the way they do. They love each other so deeply, but its also very casual. My 17 year-old boys are wrestling in the back of my classroom one minute and sitting on each others' laps the next minute. They're so innocent and respectful, lighthearted and sincere. (Ok, it's not all rainbows: They're also the laziest SOB's I know).

But being around them makes me so happy. They ask me how much I weigh, if I had a nose job, why I don't have a boyfriend. They die laughing when I try to speak Thai. They grab my arms when I'm in reaching distance. They want to take a selfie. "Teacher, free time? 5 minutes, ok?"

When I signed up for this job, I thought the job was a way to travel while still working and making money. Now, I think teaching these kids is the best part of the whole adventure. And it's why I've decided to stay more than one semester. I haven't been this happy in a long time, and its because of my job, my coworkers, my school, and my students.

I'm far from being an expert at adulthood, but I think if I've found a job I love that allows me financial security and the proximity to travel in one of the most beautiful places, I should keep it for more than 4 and a half months. I'm finally an ok driver on my motorbike. I'm becoming friends with Thai people, learning to travel solo, and trying to speak a new language.

It's exhausting and emotional. I miss my sisters like crazy, but I have to find what makes me happy on my own. For now at least, I think I've found it 8500 miles away from home in a town called Phetchabun.

 

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A typical morning assembly. I'm sweating, and the students are wearing jackets.

 

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Lop Buri, Thailand

 

 

 

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My fellow farang teachers with our boss, P'Noi.

 

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My boss and coteacher, P'Ti

 

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Big Buddha statue in Phetchabun

 

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Noodles and pork balls...its actually pretty good

 

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He doesn't like to play with baby dolls, ok?!

 

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Dinner cruise on the river in Bangkok

 

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My favorite class of 12th graders

 

 

 

A Solo New Year's Trip

"One never reaches home, but wherever friendly paths intersect the whole world looks like home for a time."

During this New Year's holiday, I decided to travel alone. The school in Thailand where I am currently teaching English is a government school, thus we were only given Monday (January 2nd) and Tuesday (January 3rd) off from school. I had been invited to travel to different places all over the country with friends including up north to Pai, down south to the Koh Phanagan full moon party, and to another beach called Hua Hin. These locations seemed too far for me to travel in just a four day weekend, and I had already been to Hua Hin. After much consideration, my intuition was telling me to just take a chance and book a place where I wanted to go regardless of if others wanted to join me.

So I did it! I booked a bed in an 8-bed female dorm in the only hostel still available on Thailand's second largest island, Koh Chang.

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Koh Chang beach near Bang Bao

After living in Thailand for over 2 months, this was the first solo trip I would be taking, and during such precious moments of the changing new year. I booked my bus tickets with a little help from a coworker at my school, and was lucky enough to be able to begin the trip Friday morning. After a motorbike ride, songthaew ride to the bus station, van to Bangkok, van to Trat, songthaew to the pier, ferry to the island and an hour songthaew to the opposite side of the island, I had arrived at the Asia Backpackers hostel on Koh Chang in about 10 hours. Needless to say, I was exhausted from sitting on my ass all day.

With this trip being my first solo excursion, I was unsure of what to expect. For some reason I had assumed isolation and thought about taking this silent time alone on an island to read, write and personally reflect during the moments leading up to and beginning the new year. What I didn't expect or predict were the incredible people I would meet, memories I would make and feelings of attachment I would have after falling in love with the island life.

    Traveling alone gives you the freedom to do exactly what you want and not settle for others.

I booked a 5 island tour in Koh Chang for my first day on the island. Although it felt like an excursion that may have been more enjoyable with friends, I was able to spend my trip how I wanted. I snorkeled and swam when I felt like doing so. I went on an island and walked around the area as long as I wanted to. I made friends with other people and kayaked with them.

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Kayaking around the islands

        Traveling alone is the easiest way to meet new people.

During my trip, I met and had conversations with more than 20 people, from van rides, excursions, my hostel, being on the beach, going to eat and getting a massage. On the van from Bangkok, I met 2 guys from Thailand also traveling to Koh Chang. One of them told me that his brother was living in Boston, which closes the across the world gap immensely. I traveled with these two until we got to the island.

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New friends on the ferry

On the night of New Year's Eve, I met a group of people from my hostel, who were from all over the world (South Korea, Belgium, England, USA and Hungary). We were mostly solo travelers, and a few pairs. The ten of us got a songthaew to Lonely Beach, where there were bars and New Year's parties on the beach. Traveling alone is just traveling beside other individual or groups of people, so speak up and be friendly.

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New Year's Eve

    Trust instinct, your soul picks up energy for a reason.

I had an instant connection with one of the girls I met at my hostel, Tessy, from Belgium. Speaking with her felt so easy and open, like we had known each other for years and were catching up. I feel in my soul that we will be connected again in the future.

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Me and Tessy at out favorite restaurant

On the morning before I met the group of people from my hostel, I picked up a book from the hostel, called Maya, by Jostein Gaarder. During my time alone, I read this quotation that couldn't be more perfectly suiting to the relationships and memories I have created on this island. 

It said, “That I would indeed meet the Norwegian again, almost a year later, was one of those extraordinary coincidences that add spice to life, and periodically foster the hope that secret power really do watch over our lives, and occasionally tweak the strings of destiny.”

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The Chill House was my favorite restaurant I ate at during my time on the island. The staff was charming, the setting beautiful and the food delicious.
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Traveling alone has made me feel stronger and have a deeper trust and appreciation for myself and my will.

Traveling alone to this island during a time usually spent at home with friends and family, in cozy clothing, is the first time during my stay in this country that I have felt totally and completely at peace, content, and unsure about moving home so near in the future.

"Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover." -Mark Twain

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