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4 posts categorized "Sierra Murdoch"

The Half Way Point

      Six months already. Before I left, people continued to tell me how fast it would go, but I never thought it would feel this short. A year seems like a long time, but in this life of ours, a year such a quick span of time. Though it's gone fast, I have done many things and seen many places. Not every moment has been perfect, but every moment has been a learning experience and has taught me more about myself than I learned in all of high school and college.

    I realize I was going to continue my last blog with all the places I have gone, and it took me this long to get to it. Life gets busy! But outside of Phrae and Lampang here are some more places throughout Thailand that I have gone to and highly recommend!


Chiang Rai:
       I have now been to Chiang Rai twice, both of which were entirely different experiences. The first time was full of rain and exhaustion from jumping from temple to temple and attempting Phu Chi Fa for sunrise. The attempt was somewhat disheartening when the rain and clouds covered our views of the mountains and sunrise. We went back to town still damp from the rain and went straight to the white temple from there. The next day we also saw the Nine Story Pagoda, the big Buddah, the Blue Temple, and the monkey caves. I used the word "exhausting" earlier, but that was actually quite the understatement.
      The next time in Chiang Rai was mainly meant for the International Hot Air Balloon Festival, which was a fun experience mainly for awing over the balloons and hanging out with good friends. It was also in Singha Park, which is a beautiful park full of animals, flowers, and a green tea plantation. Two of my other friends and I decided we wanted to have a second chance at the sunrise on Phu Chi Fa. We did the short hike in the pitch black of the early morning with no rain this time! We got there early enough to get a good spot and star gaze before the sky lightened. It was a beautiful view and was worth trying for a second time!

 

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Chiang Mai:
      A long weekend in Chiang Mai spent doing all things touristy. I met a few friends I got close with at orientation and we did a Thai cooking class, went and hung out with the elephants, zip lined through the mountains, and lit off some Chinese Lanterns for New Years. On the last day I had the day to myself and just took a walk around the city with my Nikon, I found a couple of temples that were decorated full of lights and ribbons for the holiday. I plan to go back and get to know the city a little better.

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Khon Kaen:
         This was a 7 hour bus trip to meet a friend on a regular weekend, so it was pretty quick. But the city (yes, I was surprised to see an actual city after living in Phrae for 4 months) was full of dinosaurs, coffee shops, and temples. I have a pretty fun story about my trip back from Khon Kaen that I will write about in my next blog.



Petchabun:
Of all of the places I have been, Petchabun, surprisingly, rises to the top. It is a small town, with not a ton to do. Many people don't visit this town because it isn't known for anything very famous. The main attraction we went to see was the Mosaic Temple, aka Wat Prathat Phasornkaew. A friend had planned the trip and I went along for the ride not knowing why or really where we were going. And it was well worth it. The mosaic temple was one of the more unique temples I have found in Thailand, where the outside is more lavish and hand crafted with beautiful artwork, while the inside was a simple temple for worship. The rest of the trip was easy going with a random trip to one of the many strawberry fields that overlooked a river and the mountains. It was a trip full of great company and relaxation.

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Udon Thani:

       This town was on my list to visit before even leaving for Thailand. I saw amazing pictures of a lake filled to the brim with bright pink lotuses. Two friends and I decided to seek out the lake one weekend and took the 7 hour journey to Udon Thani from Phrae. The bus system only had certain times to get to and from this city though, so we had to decide whether we only wanted to go for one day and take two over night buses in a row, or stay there for a night and get back at 5 am on Monday morning before we all had work. We decided on a hurricane trip for convenience of time, and it was exhausting but worked out pretty perfectly. We got to the lake around 7 am which made for some amazing photos. It was gorgeous and I would highly recommend making the trip for this lake. The rest of our time there was spent wandering around town finding temples, the park with giant rubber ducks, and the luxury of a mall that we don't have in Phrae. Though it was short, this was one of my favorite trips and well worth the 7 hour ride.

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Pai:
         On my most recent trip, I made the trek out to Pai, Thailand. This trek for me was a 4 hour bus ride from Phrae to Chiang Mai, and then another 3 hour van ride full of twists and turns through the mountains to Pai. Pai is well-known by many foreign tourists, and though it's a fairly small town it caters well to it's Western company. It is known for being a very relaxed and simple town, which I definitely found it to be. I went there for about 5 days to meet 2 friends at different times. My favorite spot in Pai was Lod Cave, it was enormous and beautiful with a river filled with massive fish that you could take a bamboo boat through. Keep in mind, the trip to the cave was 45 minutes on a motorbike (I believe there are also songtow tours if this is something you are interested in), but both friends wanted to go to this cave, so I did the trip twice. The first one was a success, and it was my first time driving with someone else on the bike. The second time I was not so fortunate. I think I got a bit too cocky about my driving abilities and didn't make one of the pin-needle turns while on an incline. Luckily it was a slow and harmless fall. I walked away pretty scratched and bruised (but fine) and my friend only had one small cut. Besides going to the cave, I also went to Mae Yen Waterfalls, but the river was so low that the falls were more of a trickle. We also took a yoga course in Pai, which we would consider ourselves far from being "yogies", so it was a challenging and sweaty vinyasa class to say the least (but a great experience!). And I ended my trip at Pai Canyon, and maybe I am a bit of a canyon snob, having lived a lot of my life in Arizona, but Pai canyon wasn't quite what I expected. But, it still had beautiful views of the Thai mountains that surround it.

 

 

A Blur

    Here I am two months later. It has finally set in that this country is now my home. That this school is where I work. And that this is my life. It was hard to grasp at first but it is finally setting in. Now my life is just as it was before with a fairly normal schedule.  Although, it is in a new place and I am definitely a lot more busy than I was in the states! It has been a blur of constant travels, teaching, and time spent with so many people. So here is a basic summary of my last two months, since I haven't been too great about updating this blog!

Phrae: 

The first full weekend in Phrae I met several other foreign teachers here that work both at my school and other schools in the area. They told us about a lot of cool places surrounding us that were just a motorbike ride away. So we decided to take the weekend to explore where we live. The gist of the day was a lot of driving, walking, sweating, and bonding with new friends. 

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The steps up to the Doi Lang Temple, sweating my butt off. 


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The Phrae Farang Gang: there are a few friends missing from the photo though!

Lampang: 

All of the foreign teachers and I took a trip to Lampang (which is about 1.5 hours from Phrae) in a mini van. There were quite a few of us, but the driver was willing to fill his van to the brim with people. We had two more people than there were seats, so he pulled out two child-sized plastic seats and put them in the gaps that were meant to be an aisle way! We were in Lampang for two days and spent an entire day exploring. We found a cliff side temple that was quite the trek, but completely worth it! And we found Chaeson Waterfall and some hot springs. The cliff side temple was definitely the highlight of the trip and would recommend going!

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When I said cliff-side temple; I promise you it was no understatement. 


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Chaeson waterfall was beautiful but we unfortunately couldn't swim in it. Still a wonderful view though!


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The hot springs were cool. We found out that it's a big thing to boil baskets of eggs in the springs. So they were pretty, but they smelt of sulfer and boiled eggs!


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And so the blur of events continues....

 

 

A Lifestyle Worth Getting Use To

    I would love to tell you how absolutely perfect and easy this trip has been so far, but I am not trying to glorify anything. So, instead I plan to share both the stresses and the joys in the process of teaching and travelling here. 

Loy Krathong: 

    A festival I was more than thrilled for, but with some hiccups in our travels to Phrae, was told we wouldn't make it back in time. I was a little bummed, but definitely nothing to get upset over. As we traveled on we only had about a half an hour to get to our town when the sun was setting. My hopes were raised within a matter of seconds! Travelling with our two coordinators they told us that we were going to be dropped off at our apartment with half an hour to settle in, and then one coordinator and her husband would pick us up on their mopeds to take us to the festival, but before all of this we would need to stop by the police station "quick".  To give you a fast explanation and understanding of the police station visit it was basically an exact replica of the sloth scene from the movie Zootopia; no exaggeration! It pained me to watch. But after that, I was overwhelmingly ready to see the lanterns but had to wait for our coordinator after being dropped off. They then picked us up and took us to a nice Welcome Dinner before the festival. We did end up making it, with every event still going strong. This was my first real experience with needing to accept the "Mai pen rai" mentality (everything will be alright).

    Loy Krathong is a festival celebrated to thank the god of waters, so the main event is floating a Krathong (lantern), generally made of banana leaves and flowers, on any body of water; in Phrae they float in the canal and river. Mostly in the northern region of Thailand, it is also custom to float a Chinese lantern in the sky. All-in-all it was a wonderful first evening in my adorable town of Phrae. 

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Teaching: 

    I came with a bit more experience in education than a large amount of people at orientation. As great as this may sound, the downfalls were that I came in with a lot more expectations and honestly I got a little too confident with my teaching ability before stepping into a classroom here. I would say that I was far more nervous about the actual act of getting to Thailand than about anything I had to accomplish once I got here.     

    Reality hit me like a truck when I stepped into the classroom on my first day. I was filled with all of these ideas that I would have resources (not a ton, but some) and that Thai students would be overwhelmingly respectful. I walked in to find a white board and a marker, that was the extent of the resources I had. Even getting copies made, I have to make 100 or more at a time and they could take 2 or more days to get back. If you want it sooner than that you have to use a different machine and pay to use it with your own money. As far as student respect, it does exist, but mostly towards the Thai teachers. They see a foreign teacher walk in and believe they can do whatever they want. Though fortunately, this was not the case with all of my classes, any advanced classes I have had have been extremely well-mannered from the start. 

    In Thailand they have Thai teachers they call co-teachers. Whenever I heard the term co-teacher I assumed that it was someone I had to split the classroom with 50/50, which I honestly wasn't all that thrilled about. What they actually mean is someone who stays in your class, knows Thai, and is able to discipline and give your students exact directions. The first two weeks I didn't have any co-teachers and trying to control and direct my students was a pain and a half. I just started having co-teachers two days ago, and they are my saving grace! 

    All-in-all the experience has been challenging, but I know that there will never be a dull moment!

WhatsApp Image 2017-11-15 at 1.35.44 PMOne of my students carries around a beta fish in his backpack. The first time I saw it I thought it might be for observation or experiment for another class, but turns out it's just his pet that he brings to school. 

Organized Chaos

    Organized chaos is the best way to describe all of orientation week, and maybe this entire year. Where things are planned but are hectic and there is so much going on that you're unsure of what to do or where to go. That was this entire last week. I am the type of person who likes to know what's happening and what to expect, this trip has been and will continue to be so far beyond my comfort zone. Thai people have a "mai pen rai" lifestyle, which basically states that everything is going to be alright and it will all work out, this is one of the biggest things that I am learning to do here, just go with it. 

    Luckily I found some friends from the program at a layover in the states that were on the same flight and we got to work our way through foreign airports and customs in Bangkok together. I'm not sure I would have known where to go if we hadn't been together. After 20 hours of flying, we got to the airport having no idea where we were and only the address of the hotel to get there. When you're not sure where you are, with a taxi driver who doesn't know any English and seemed a bit confused by the address, you would hope that your hotel isn't 45 minutes from the airport. We did get there safely though!

    After a day of much needed rest the orientation fun began, it was basically just class after class about Thailand and what to expect when teaching. A lot of it was very useful. The best parts of orientation though were the excursions. The day of the Grand Palace tour I woke up with a fever and chills (only 5 days into being here). Before the tour though a select few had to go to the US embassy for paperwork, lucky me got to be one of them! So I had to suck up my feeling sick and get through it. Then after terrible Bangkok traffic there and back, we had to go to our course training, then straight from there to lunch and the Grand Palace.

    Pictures truly do not capture the beauty of the buildings. Made with real gold and jewels, it is the most impeccable building I have ever seen. After the tour, our nice buses were stuck in traffic that was at a dead stop on the opposite side of the road. Finally, after waiting for an hour and a half the leaders said we could find our own way back. We definitely over-payed for a tuk tuk to the hotel (I have to get better at haggling) but it was worth it after sitting around feeling disgusting and dripping sweat for the last hour. We had about 20 mins. to get ready for the dinner cruise, luckily I was feeling better by now and am pretty sure I was just dehydrated. Then we boarded the boat and enjoyed dinner, karaoke, and dancing and gorgeous views of Bangkok from the river. 

    The next day we met our first Thai students for a mock lesson, which was interesting to see the differences in their mannerisms compared to American students. For one, they are extremely competitive so much so that if they saw someone else was going to win they just gave up. They also have the most energy I have seen from a group of students, especially the boys who were constantly jumping and running and being silly. I also found out that when Thai students learn to shake hands (they normally wai where they put their hands together and bow) they think it is the funniest thing in the whole world. They did it to everyone of us while laughing really hard. 

    Anyways, after that we left for an excursion to Kanchanaburi to walk a bridge that was built by hundreds of thousands of prisoners of war. The experience and views were breathtaking. Then we had a nice and relaxing dinner on a boat with great sights of the mountains, I will definitely be going back to this province to find some waterfalls. And the next day we were whisked away by our coordinators and brought to all different areas of the country. It still hasn't really set in that I am here for an entire year.

**I also went into this placement thinking I will only be teaching 3rd and 4th graders, and found out when I met my coordinators that I will now be teaching 3rd, kindergarten, and advanced (MEP) 4th, 5th, and 6th graders. Mai pen rai!**

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The Grand Palace


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My first tuk tuk ride, and even though we over payed he got us there super fast. Worth it. 


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Bridge in Kanchanaburi

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Our group for the Grand Palace tour (disregard my awkardness).

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