One year later…

I feel bad. I sort of just left this blog hanging. I’ve done that with previous blogs as well. I think blogging for me is a means to document a segment in my life, and when that segment comes to a close, or I make a big change, my blogs sort of fizzle and fade. But I feel like I owe it to the experience, one which I know I didn’t document as well as I should have, and to readers to close this chapter, even a year later. These thoughts might seem sort of random, for which I apologize, but I hope they offer some insight into what Thailand meant to me.

At the last post, I was about to embark on a solo month-long journey to all the places I wanted to see in-country. And I didn’t die, if you thought that’s what happened because I stopped posting. My month of travel involved staying in cinder block huts at a meditation retreat in Koh Phangan (for free!), to staying in 5-star luxury hotels in BKK (thanks hotwire.com), hostels in BKK (where the drinking games and close quarters make new friends), and almost having no place to stay at all in Chiang Mai (booking.com, you suck, I ended up here). I partied at the Uber Thailand launch party at one of the most popular clubs in BKK one night, and drank cheap Thai beer around a plastic table another. I found myself having a “pillow bar” and the comfiest bed at the Dusit Thani to hoping the sheets were at least semi-clean at dodgy establishments. These are the extremes you will experience in Thailand if you live here. Nothing is off limits…you might find yourself among Bangkok elite one moment, and live a life of poverty the next. You’ll also experience both emotional ends of the spectrum. Thailand has a way of knocking you down one moment, but picking you back up the next. But as they say, nothing worthwhile ever comes easy. And Thailand was SO INCREDIBLY worthwhile.

So, it’s coming upon the year mark where I returned home from the land of organized chaos, happy and ready for some stability, feeling as though I had “done that thing” that I “needed to do” in order to figure out who I was and who I wanted to become. But I learned along the way, in the past year I guess, that, for me, life is life – we continue living once we experience blissfully happy moments and life-changing circumstances. And we never really know who we want to become, we’re constantly reinventing ourselves and THAT IS OKAY. We continue living, sometimes confused, sometimes questioning, but other times confident and proud…it’s part of life and if you think you’re the only one going through these phases, you aren’t. But what’s important is that you live life in the moment, seeing frustration as a good sign that you’re living, experiencing, growing.

Going abroad (and more specifically, to Thailand) is life-changing in the sense that you will learn things about yourself, others and obtain a variety of skills you can carry with you along your path in life. You’ll learn to observe and become a better listener, to be patient, to control your emotions, to be more grateful, and most importantly, see beauty in ordinary circumstances (like the one time I communicated I needed a pair of pants hemmed without any verbal communication…so beautiful!).

So here I am, still growing, still taking on this lovely thing called life! I have a job, it pays the bills, and that is enough to be proud of. I live in the heart of DC, and there’s so much to do and experience…I love it. My job, is a desk job, and yes I long and dream of adventures, but for now I feel this is where I’m supposed to be. Our jobs don’t define us (although, to a lot of people they do); I really believe how we approach and appreciate life and treat others is so much more important, if we are to be defined. When we say “I still haven’t found out what I want to do with my life…” in regards to a career, we’re demeaning ourselves. At least that’s how I see it. We are so much more than our careers.

I miss Thailand everyday, although I know we tend to see past experiences through a rose colored lens. I wasn’t always happy there, in fact, I had a lot of moments where I seriously questioned my sanity. But I also had blissfully happy moments – feelings I can only compare to falling in love. I joke with one of my friends, who also went to Thailand, that it’s a country where in order to survive you’ve got to form a relationship with it. It might be rough, and it might suck, but if you really give it your all, you’ll learn a lot. And a year later, I’m ready for another adventure, but I always believe adventures are better experienced when you have funds to do the experiencing. So maybe in another year or two, I’ll be headed off again! Who knows. We get one life. So I want to make the most of it.

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Frustratingly Beautiful

It’s hard to believe that I’ve been in Thailand for a little over 3 months already. Some days, it feels like I just got here, and that there’s still so much to see and do still.  And other days, I feel as though I’ve been here for eons, and it’s time to go back to the normalcy of home.  The later feeling is usually after working with Thai kindergarteners for 9 hours and playing charades with my co-teacher.  Reinforced by the perpetual feeling that I’m always being silently judged at work.  And walking the twenty minutes home past tepid sewage and having sweat drip from places you didn’t know you could sweat.  Things like that get to you.

You might have noticed, I don’t really blog about my time teaching.  That is mostly because I feel like some days are rewarding, and other days, I want to leave school and never come back.  I think I have had a different experience teaching than most other English teachers in Thailand.  There are high expectations for me at my school and the program is a lot more intense than basic “conversational English” teaching.

This frustration is also mixed with the fact that all of the foreign Anuban (Kindergarten) teachers are Filipino (except me and a girl from Africa) and are basically treated like workhorses and underpaid.  They rarely complain because this “is the better option” than working in their country, however, the Thai school system seems to take advantage of it.  It’s pretty disgusting, if you ask me.  Some of the stories I hear about how the Filipinos who have been at the school a long time are treated are horrible.  They work 12 hour days and are paid like 10,000 baht less than someone like me, who has never taught a day in her life.  It’s hard to relate with my non-Western coworkers because teaching in Thailand is their life.  Many have been here for years and have started families.  It’s not some adventure.  It’s a better option for them, and many are glad to be making $600-$700/mo (if that!).

The teacher in my position before me was Filipino, so I was initially expected to work like her.  And I don’t.  I can’t.  I’d be spending my entire time here working 12 hour days and miserable.  But you come to a moral dilemma when you see them staying until 5 pm or 6 pm and you leave at 4:30 pm because, well, that’s what your contract says.  It’s challenging.

So, I’m going to blog more about teaching after I finish with the teaching experience in March.  I want to look at it as an overall experience and not “my day sucked because of (insert sucky event here)” or “today the kids did (insert activity here) and I am happy”.  For now, I’ll say I actually enjoy the teaching aspect.  I am thrilled when the students learn or want to practice their English with me.  I do not like the program I’m in or the unrealistic expectations of the parents and the school.  I keep trying to tell myself this is an adventure.  This isn’t a career-move or a permanent venture.  I just need to ride this wave and accept that I’m going to be judged because a) I still don’t really know how to teach and b) I still don’t really know what’s going on at school about 70% of the time and c) I don’t work as hard as the Thai teachers or the Filipinos.

And with that said, everything here is eye-opening…mind-opening. It’s fascinating, and sad, and frustrating, and beautiful.  Frustratingly beautiful.  I like the sound of that.  Most people will not experience the things I have been fortunate enough to bear witness to.  When people say, “I want to be a world traveler like you!”, I have to roll my eyes because I’m not really a traveler right now.  I am actually living part of my twenties in Thailand.  There’s a huge different between, “I went to Ko Phi Phi for a two week holiday” and “I worked 50 hour weeks in a Thai kindergarten for 5 months, had a lease on an apartment, met expats who have been here for years, made friends with the neighborhood fruit vendor, had my heart broken by the soi animals, etc.”  I’m not on holiday here!  And that distinction is important; one will leave you with a very skewed impression of a “place” and the other will leave you with a million impressions of a “place” that all conflict and are impossible to make complete sense of.

Being abroad changes a person.  I believe it has changed me for the better.  People ask me to explain how my time here (thus far) has changed me, and I can’t put it all into words.  Maybe I can explain with a story, or an incident that occurred during my time here.  Or even simple daily occurrences.  But I can’t sum up life-changing experiences in one sentence or paragraph.  I just have to say, I see things differently now.  I’ve opened up my heart and mind to a foreign land, and well, my heart and mind are forever changed…and are still changing.

Anyways, this was more of a rant post, mostly for my own enjoyment, but to also get out some of the “real” feelings I’ve had here and to tell you why there haven’t been any posts on teaching.  My time here really has been amazing and I am so incredibly grateful for every moment; sometimes, not in the moment, but when I look back on it, you know, I’m grateful for it 🙂

24 Hours in Vientiane, Laos

When I signed up to come teach in Thailand, I was under the impression that my employer would be providing me with a work permit that would allow me to stay in Thailand during my employment and come and go as I pleased.  That everything would be easy and smooth.

Well, that was false.

The road to getting a work permit through your school means that you must have documentation that you are employed by the school, not the agency you came over with.  So, if you have a non-B (working visa) through your placement agency, most likely, this can’t be converted to a work permit because once you’re placed, you are technically working for someone else.  Does anyone tell you this? No. I don’t get told details for about 80% of the things that happen here.  I just figure them out as I go along.  Sometimes, I don’t even think the Thais know what’s going on.

After three months in the Kingdom, it was time to renew my 3 month Non-Immigrant B visa (supported by XploreAsia, my placement agency) that I paid $80 for back in the States before I left.  With a packet of documentation from my school saying they were, indeed, my new employer, I boarded a visa run company van in Bangkok bound for the boarder of Thailand and Laos. (Side note: Every placement and every teaching situation is different.  I have friends from XploreAsia who weren’t provided with visa paperwork – meaning they had to exit the Kingdom and come back in on a 30 day tourist visa, or that are paid by their agent – I’m paid by my school.  No two situations in Thailand are alike, that’s why it’s best not to assume too much from blogs and what you read, and just, as some put it “ride the wave.”)

Anyways, I had been dreading this visa run for the past few weeks; 9 hours on a van with strangers did not sound like a ‘good time’.  But in the end, I was glad to have this experience to go to Vientiane, the Laos capital!

Basically, the visa run company meets you in a Tesco parking lot in Bangkok.  No reservations, just show up with passport, documents and money.  Board a van.  And go.  While the overnight van ride wasn’t ideal, it did stop every two hours for a bathroom break.  If you know me, my small bladder and said bladder’s ‘travel anxiety’ (seriously, every time I get in a moving vehicle, I have to pee), this was good.  And I arranged to travel with two Greenheart/XploreAsia girls, Aankita (my orientation week roommate) and her friend, Gina, which made the trip less stressful.  We ended up meeting Maria, a teacher in Bangkok (from Chicago!) and we sort of formed a little group that ended up touring Laos together during our free day.

The visa company did an exceptional job organizing all of our documents and taking care of the visa process for our entire group.  They did drop us off at the boarder at 5 am, sleep deprived and freezing (it was in the low 50s and we weren’t dressed appropriately) where we had to wait almost an hour and a half outside at Immigration to be stamped out of Thailand and admitted into Vientiane, Laos.  Did I mention it was cold?  Cold I haven’t experienced since I left home.  It wasn’t the most ideal situation, but we all just sucked it up and went along with the process.  We arrived at the embassy to submit our new visa paperwork as the sun was making its mid-day mark and took a nap on the embassy lawn.  I kid you not.  People waiting to submit their visa paperwork all spread out, napping on the Thai Embassy’s lawn.

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At Immigration: Waiting to get stamped “out of” Thailand

As a side note, the cost of an entry visa into Laos (for our less than 24 hour stay) is around 1,550 Baht (ouch!), a new Thai Non-B was 2,000 Baht ($60…Why is it cheaper coming from Laos than America? I don’t know…), and the company fees for transport, most meals (the food was quite good), lodging and submitting all our documents was 2,850 Baht.  A total of 6,400 Baht.  A cost I wasn’t expecting I’d have to incur while in Thailand (I only make about 28,000 Baht/month), but mai pen rai, I guess.  Obviously, if you travel without the aid of a visa run company, you’ll probably save 1,500 baht, but I liked having a company do all the thinking for me.  Also, for those going on visa runs, most merchants will take Baht as payment, but will give you change in Kip.  So take small Baht bills and you won’t have to exchange money, nor will you be left with Kip at the end of the trip (hey that rhymes!).

A big negative was that the hotel we stayed in was horrid.  Gum and writing on the walls, bugs, stained sheets, cobwebs…I’ve never stayed somewhere so grimy.  One of my friends slept with the lights on to deter roaches.  Fun times.  Maybe I’m just a spoiled America, because some people acted like this place was the Ritz.  I promise to never, ever complain about a Holiday Inn or a Travel Lodge again (and that’s a fact!).  The food in the hotel restaurant was good though.  I’ll give it that.  And Laos proved to be a pleasant surprise.  The air seemed cleaner, the sky a beautiful blue, not marked with the haze I see in Rayong.  I was only there for a day, so I can’t be a good judge, but it seemed less hectic and influenced by the West.

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The power company leaves the electricity bill on the street corner in Laos.

Vientiane doesn’t have a lot to see, but Victory Gate was a big highlight, as well as the Mekong River, and of course, the bread.  French baguettes, pain au chocolate (almost better than in France!)…French colonialism, I don’t hate you.  Oh, and they drive on the RIGHT side of the road.  Almost felt like home…almost.

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Victory Gate!

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Built mid-20th century. Does it remind you of a certain arc in Paris?

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French colonialism at the Presidential Palace…all the streets are named “Rue…”

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This would be the Mekong Rivah (see what I did there Virginians?)

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Sort of scary!

And I did try Beer Lao, which, no offense Thailand, is so much better than Chang.

Before we got our visas back, we did some duty free shopping at the boarder, which was also connected to a “knock off, fake everything” store.  It’s illegal to take counterfeit products out of Thailand, but you can buy them at the boarder.  Oh, Asian logic!  I understand you so much! One of the most amusing items in the store was the “knock off iPhone 5s” that you could buy for around $100.  I asked to see it, and while the outside looked like a legitimate iPhone, it was heavy and the screen was a badly replicated version of the home screen on the real iPhone.  I found it hilarious for some reason…they actually exist.

Anyways, I obviously made it back safely.  With my, as I like to call them, ‘certificates of achievement’ for my travels (my Laos visa and my new Thai Non-B visa)!  My passport is getting full, and I love it!

Being in Laos showed me just how normal my life in Thailand is getting to be.  And ‘normal’ maybe isn’t the best word to use because nothing is really normal to me here, but it’s life now and I accept it. But in Laos, I had that traveler’s anxiety when I didn’t know how to ask “How much?” or when the vendors replied in Lao Kip instead of Thai Baht.  It reinforced the idea that the honeymoon phase in Thailand is over; I’m not just a traveler anymore.

My blog updates are on Thai time…unpredictable.

Life in Thailand is increasingly becoming more normal as I settle into a routine here. My weekdays are pretty busy with full schedules at school, and recently, I’ve been staying in Rayong and sleeping in on the weekends, running errands, and cleaning. And I don’t really feel bad about it! Sometimes I think there’s this mentality that “Oh you’re in Thailand…you should be visiting temples, and taking 8 hour bus rides to islands, and staying in hostels…”, but I’ve discovered here that I’m not really of the “backpacker” mentality. I get more out of an experience when I’m well-rested and it’s well-planned. I feel as though I’d get more out of this country taking a trip somewhere new once a month rather than trying to “see it all” in a flash. If you’ve ever traveled with me, you know that. I like to think and observe, take in a moment or a place for a few hours, rather than thirty minutes.

Anyways, since I last wrote, a lot has happened!

I celebrated Christmas away from home for the first time. But, thanks to technology, was able to FaceTime with my family at our annual Christmas Eve dinner/party (where almost everyone was three sheets to the wind…typical family!) and watch my parents and sister open the presents I left for them on Christmas morning. I think I’ve discovered that I don’t want to be so far away from family during the holidays again. Family traditions (like our annual Christmas Eve dinner/party) are really important to me and I hate to miss out. However, I had an amazing Christmas Eve dinner at a really nice resort in Rayong called Kantary Bay. It was expensive at 900 baht ($30), but well worth it for the spread of western fare, cheese, salads, desserts, bread…plus a performance that included ‘Santa’ repelling from the roof of the resort, high schoolers dancing, and middle schoolers singing Christmas carols.

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Group picture of “The Ultimate Gang” (minus a few) at the Kantary Bay

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This little dot would be Santa.

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Student performances…Asian Santa!

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So good. Om nom nom.

I’ve been to Bangkok twice, once in December and once for New Years (and I love this busy city!). Trip 1: A quick, less than 24-hour trip to Bangkok in December to meet up with a friend turned into what I can only describe as, “The Hangover: Part IV”. After befriending some guys from the UK (who were visiting from Hanoi, where they are teachers) on Khao San Road (the backpacker district), they were nice enough to share the hilarious and memorable occasion of one of the guys getting a tattoo…on his butt, after drinking all night, with a beer in his hand. Because that’s legal here. Oh, Thailand! I also had my first (and possibly last) hostel experience. It was a decent, semi-clean establishment, but I prefer a private restroom and wearing my shoes in public areas (they had a ‘check your shoes at the door’ policy).

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Drinks and a Wat with new friends!

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New friends? Check. Tattoos? Check.

Trip 2: Christmas isn’t a public holiday here, but the days surrounding the New Year are and we got a few days off of school. I headed to Bangkok by myself for a change of scenery and pace. And it was wonderful. I got a three day free trial pass to a gym that offered Les Mills classes. I actually enjoyed the gym (Fitness First) but they require a 5 month minimum membership, and well, I don’t live in Bangkok, so that wouldn’t work too well! It was so good to take Pump again! I also saw two movies (in English!) with free vouchers. Movies are relatively cheap in Thailand (around $3 to $5 a ticket), but free movies are even better! I also met up with a sorority sister, Joy, who grew up in Bangkok and was visiting home for the holidays. She was kind enough to let me tag along with her and her Crossfit friends for NYE, and we went to a really neat club called Narz where the Thais go to party on NYE. It was glamorous and so much fun.

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NYE Venue

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Joy and me on NYE…DGs obviously

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There’s just so much to do here!

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“The Corner” in BKK. A little oasis with amazing food!

I hailed a cab in Thai. On New Year’s Day, I prided myself on using my limited Thai, at 3 am, with a McDonald’s value meal in hand, to get a taxi to turn the meter on and take me from Sukumvit to Sathorn (two different areas of the city, like going from “the Bottom” to the far east part of the “Fan” in Richmond, maybe even further…for like $2. This was after I was rejected by 3 taxis who all wanted like $10 for the trip (which is nothing back home, but so expensive here!)…persistence is key!

I’ve had three colds and a handful of stomach “abnormalities”. I have frequently been sick with colds/allergies and stomach ailments while in Thailand. There’s something about moving to another country where their sanitation practices are completely different that what you are used to…your immune system is used to your country’s germs, and well, the States have always fostered a big hand-washing, don’t let your child crawl on the floor, strict food-prep standards type culture. I’ve come to realize there are no food safety standards if you eat street food (even if you eat mall food…I saw a food worker use the toilet and not wash their hands…or what about the time the coffee girl tasted the coffee she made me, then put the same spoon back in the coffee to stir it more…) I’m was told by a non-American friend, “I’m pretty sure you’re the most ‘germaphobic’ person I’ve met.” But to be honest, it’s not just me. It’s American culture. We like our antibacterial soap and hand sanitizer. Most everyone I know that came here to teach has been ill at one point or another; I guess it’s just a rite of passage!

Anyways, if you know me, I get pretty down on myself when I get ill. Like, stay in bed with a box of tissues and nurse my wounds. And here, well, I’ve had to suck it up because I’d be in bed everyday if that was the case. I do feel like my experience here would be ten times better if I wasn’t so sick all the time.

I paid an arm and a leg to join a gym in Rayong. Since this blog started as an ode to fitness while living abroad, I should let you know I joined a gym in Rayong! It’s called Star Fitness, and is basically the only gym in this town. Which is good, because most Thai towns don’t have gyms! I ended up biting the bullet and paying for a 3-month membership, which ended up costing about 7,000 baht, which I think comes to something like $70-ish a month. The one month membership was 3,500 baht, so you basically get the third month free. Gym facilities are at a premium in Thailand. The land of cheap almost everything else is 3 times more expensive when it comes to one of my passions, fitness. Anyways, I digress. I do love it and it’s worth the price…to me. There are fitness classes (which I have missed so much!), albeit, taught in Thai. However the instructors are so friendly and do their best to use their limited English for the foreigners (which are…basically, just me).

The equipment is pretty good…the treadmills are fairly new, which I like since I’ve decided to train for another Half. Running outdoors in urban Thailand is, well, not possible unless it’s at a park. And every time I run at the park track (which I really do like!) I end up with sinus issues, which I’m sure are due to the pollution, since there’s a pretty big industrial/factory area just a few miles away. I am looking forward to the day when I go home and can run outside and breathe in fresh Virginia air! It’s also so funny to lift there because my arm muscles are bigger than a lot of the Thai guys. One of the cons at the gym is that I rarely see them cleaning the equipment, so I’m constantly washing my hands and trying not to touch my face with my hands. Just another Thai-ism… Anyways, I try to go three to four times a week; it’s not super close to my apartment, but I take the songteaw from my school after work for around 10 baht, and if it’s after 8 pm (when the songteaw stops running), I’ll either walk the mile back, or take a motorbike taxi (about 30 baht). I used to be scared to death of the motorbike taxis, but now, they are just a part of normal life.

I’ll try and update more often, but can’t give any promises! I hope you all are well and the invitation still stands to anyone that wants to come visit in April; just get yourself here!!

Adventures on Koh Chang

The last time I wrote, I promised a post on my trip to Koh Chang, so here it is!

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An idea of the location

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Postcard picture!

A few weekends ago, I went with the friends I’ve made here in Rayong (which I’ll come to call the “Ultimate Gang” based on our shared characteristic of we all live in The Ultimate Condo) to Koh Chang, an island about 3 hours east of Rayong.  Koh Chang, or “elephant island” is one of the less touristy islands, with smaller, more secluded islands dotting around the coastline.  It’s located in the northeastern part of the Gulf of Thailand and close to the Cambodian border.  The trip to Koh Chang involves taking a van to Trat, a songteaw to the ferry, and a ferry to the island.  Or, for a few baht more, you can hire a van to take you all the way there, which we found out about when we left.  I think our total transport costs to get to and from the island were around $30 round-trip.  So incredibly cheap! (for the States, but sort of expensive for Thailand)

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View from the ferry in Trat

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Joanna and Staci on the ferry

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Big old welcome sign

There was a Thai holiday on December 10th (a Tuesday), so we decided to call in sick the Monday before so we could have a long weekend in Koh Chang.  And it’s kind of “just my luck”…I was actually sick with laryngitis the entire weekend, so could barely use my voice.  There was no way I was about to handle 30 5 year olds without a voice.  The best way to get over laryngitis is rest, for sure.  I’ve been having bouts of it here though, which I think are from some annoying allergies I’ve developed.  With all the walking I do, the dirt and grime I inhale, combined with the many factories that pollute the air in my city, I’m sure there are a variety of factors to cause them.  It doesn’t help that the weather is constantly changing.  Think mid-July in Virginia one day and a cool spring day the next.  I’ve started taking some allergy meds, but I don’t think they work well.  Oh, and my go-to drug, Sudafed, is banned here.  Sadness.  Oh well, I guess I’ll just have to suck it up.

Anyways, back to Koh Chang.  It was beautiful and I didn’t want to leave.  There are a handful of beaches on the island, and we stayed on White Sands Beach, which is very pretty, but more touristy.  There’s not much of a “beach” as little beach bars dot the shoreline, and take up most of the sand.  They provide beach chairs if you eat/drink there.  You get a real, laid back, chill feeling in White Sands.  The hotel we stayed at was, well, buggy and old.  Mosquitos the size of my hand in my room!  Lizards and spiders too.  But we were on a budget, so that’s life when you’re a school teacher in Thailand.

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What “the strip” looks like in White Sands

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White Sands Beach

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Beach and a beer

We ended up spending a lot of time at a little shack restaurant on the beach that served drinks and pretty decent food.  Our group made friends with the staff, who were also fire dancers.  Obviously.  They told us to come back that first night to watch them perform, and it was one of those experiences you have once in a lifetime.  So neat.

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Fire dancing friend

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Curry…om nom nom.

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Playing with fire

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Grand finale

The next day was filled with pampering…my friend and I ended up getting pedicures, which are really different than the pedicures we get in the States.  You basically pay for each service…you want your feet massaged, you pay extra.  You want the dead skin exfoliated off…extra Baht.  They used some crazy chemical on our feet that basically peeled off the top layer of rough, dead skin.  Yay?  I also got a 1.5 hour Thai massage for about $12.  You don’t know pain until you have had a Thai massage, however, you will probably feel like a new person afterwards.

That night we went to Lonely Beach, which is known as the backpacker’s beach at the south end of the island.  It’s about 15 minutes on a curvy road in the back of a Songteaw.  It’s a bit less touristy but has a lot more party-vibes and prices are cheaper…we ended up staying until 4 am.  I honestly felt the greatest vibes from Lonely Beach!  Nobody was judgy and you don’t feel like there’s an air of “I’m better than you”, which you sometimes get at bars in the States.

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New friends! One of them even played basketball at AU. It’s a small world!

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The “Ultimate” ladies at dinner

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Cute guesthouse where we ate dinner

A side note, the Songteaw taxis in Koh Chang have a monopoly on the industry, so to go from one beach to another will cost you around $5 – $10 a person.  A PERSON.  This is the only form of transportation for tourists, so you just have to bite the bullet.  This is crazy expensive for Thailand, but there’s no competition against them.  Apparently, if someone were to compete, the Songteaw taxi company would threaten them…physically.

Anyway, on our final day, me and one of the girls in my group decided to book a day trip on a catamaran that would take us around some of the islands off the coast to snorkel.  I wanted to do something “different” and even though this day-trip was a bit pricey (about $55 US – yikes!), I felt thought would be a really neat experience.  I’m only on an island every…never.  I also had a huge debacle with my bank accounts getting hacked and learning of this the first day on the island, with no voice, having to call all my banks to be like “What the heck!?” (while sounding like a raspy smoker and damaging my vocal chords further), calling my parents (at 3 am their time) overly frustrated, and so I wanted to do something nice that would get my mind off that incident.

Since I was up until 4 am the night before, I mostly napped and tanned.  I snorkeled once, but didn’t have my contacts in, so it’s kind of a lost cause since everything is blurry.  When I snorkeled, I swam to the beach on one of the islands, and it was crazy how crystal clear the water was.  So pretty.  Being in Thailand, you sometimes get the feeling that if you aren’t learning about the culture or seeing amazing temples or trekking up a mountain then you’re wasting time.  But to be completely honest, sometimes, time is meant to be spent relaxing.  Even the greatest adventurers need a little downtime.

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Thai fishing boat

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Not much wind that day, but we opened the sail for a bit

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Our captain caught a giant squid

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Stunning

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Boats and ropes

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One more…

And speaking of downtime, and completely unrelated, it’s been nice to decompress after work with a good movie downloaded off iTunes.  I never watched movies at home, but here, they’ve become my connection to home, a way to keep my sanity.  I absolutely love being in Thailand and value this experience so much, but the States will always be home and I need a little connection to westernization every now and then!

Anyways, until the next post, happy adventures!

December in Thailand

It’s strange to think it’s Christmas time back home.  In Thailand, there’s none of that Christmasy-cheer, warm-fuzzy-feeling that I’m so used to feeling at this time of the year.  Perhaps it’s the constant heat and humidity that leaves me in an “oh it must be summer” state of mind.  Sometimes, I have to look at the date just to remember that it isn’t the middle of July, it is, in fact, December.  Or maybe it’s the fact that Christmas isn’t a really big holiday here; it’s more commercial than anything.  I’ll actually be working on Christmas day, believe it or not.  In a way, the endless summer mentality has been good in combating the fact that I’m really sad I can’t be home during the holidays.

But more on Christmas, like the whole “baby Jesus” thing…it doesn’t exist over here.  Like, who is this Jesus person?  Buddhism is the main religion here, but it’s not just a religion, it’s a way of life.  And  I respect it, and there’s no changing it, and who is to say it’s wrong?  It makes you realize that the world we live in is huge, and our culture is just this little microcosm.  It also makes you think, if there’s an entire culture, millions of people that aren’t Christian, well, really, is an entire culture wrong?  We all know my answer: nope.  I respect everyone’s beliefs.  (Well, maybe not the Muslim extremist who blow things up…but that’s another issue.) It’s kind of mind-blowing.  But it’s interesting to not just see a religion as something practiced, but something that is lived on a daily basis.  My kids say prayers before they eat, before they nap, they have Buddhism class once a week…in a government school.

Anyways, not trying to start a religious debate.  It’s just an observation.  It’s inspiration to keep an open mind when so many of our minds are closed.

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A little tree I got from Tesco for my apartment 🙂 Merry Christmas!

I’ve been in Thailand for about a month and a half now, and I feel like I’ve started settling in.  It’s hard to blog everyday because everyday things that would have once put me in awe are normal now.  Cheap street food: normal.  Dogs and cats everywhere: normal.  Defying death on a motorbike taxi: so normal.

My condo feels like home; I’ve started cooking more and doing things like laundry, grocery shopping and all the little errands that we as humans take care of on a daily basis.  I still find this country and culture so interesting, and I’m excited to explore more of it in the coming weekends, but being here has left me wondering, “What more is out there?” “What can I learn from 4 months in another country of my picking?” “Should I go back to Europe?” “Should I try Korea where I can make more money?” or “Should I be content with going back home and settling there after this semester is over?”  Definitely don’t go abroad thinking you’re going to find all the answer to life; you’ll be left with a thousand more.

Anyways, an update on the teaching gig.  I’ve been getting more used to my schedule, although I still feel inadequate and underprepared, but whatever, I’ve decided to stop worrying about that.  I actually really enjoy teaching.  I had a moment where I showed a little girl a picture of what a “snowman” is and she got so excited to see a picture of real snow!  The lightbulb moments and the times the kids are smiling and having fun are the best!  Even if they only last for 5 minutes…they are still enough to keep you going.

Unfortunately, this past week, I’ve had to take a good amount of sick days because I’ve come down with laryngitis from the nasty allergies I’ve developed in Rayong.  As in like, no voice.  There are a lot of factories here, which means pollution, combined with the grit and grime that’s a daily part of life in Thailand, so I’m sure my sinuses are just loving it all!  I’m worried about how my school will see this, but honestly, I’m not trying to cause permanent damage to my vocal chords while trying to teach thirty Kindergarteners.  Luckily, I’m feeling better and will be headed back tomorrow.

And on a side note, even with the inability to talk without exerting a ton of effort, I made it to Koh Chang this past weekend with a group of people from Rayong.  Since there was a holiday on the 10th, we decided to take a long weekend and call in sick on Monday (the 9th)…I was legitimately ill with laryngitis anyways, so I guess it all worked out.  I’ll try and do a detailed post tomorrow about Koh Chang, but it was absolutely beautiful and trips like this remind me to take a moment to focus on the positives, rather than the negatives.

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I’ll just leave you with this pretty picture to keep you guessing!

Life in Pictures – Hua Hin and Rayong

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Party on the beach with XploreAsia

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Party time in Hua Hin

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Pigs roasting at the beach party

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Resort life for a day – definitely needed!

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Wish I could afford to stay at such a pretty resort!

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Muay Thai – Fight Night in Hua Hin

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Crashing a wedding’s lantern moment

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Getting my hair Japanese Straightened…it has been a life saver in this humid, hot country! Cost $100 (in the US it would be $400)

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Night market in Hua Hin

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Thai flag on the bridge near my school

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Super cute Thai neighborhood in Rayong

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My wall of “home” in the condo- are you on it?

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The “Ultimate” Condo Gang…helping the Philippines

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In Rayong

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Fun day in Ban Phe – a beach about 30 minutes east of Rayong

These are a few pictures from my time in Hua Hin for my orientation week with XploreAsia, and some from Rayong, the city I’m teaching and living in.  Hope you enjoy!  Life is busy and I’m constantly on the move right now, but will try and post more later!

Stop Worrying. Have Fun.

I really need to stop thinking about my teaching job with the mentality of “Well, I hope I don’t get fired today.”

If you read my last post, you already know how overwhelmed I am by the placement I was given.  And I go into this next week of school with anxiety because last Thursday, I was told by a Filipino English teacher that I needed to be more strict with the children and pick up equal duties with my “partner” Thai co-teacher.  Apparently, the 45 hours I spend at the school each week and the lessons I spend hours outside of work preparing aren’t enough.   And the icing on the cake was when my co-teacher hinted at me coming in on Sunday to work on a bulletin board I’m supposed to make to go with the week’s topic.  I politely declined.  I’ll do that during the, oh wait, break that I don’t get.

I spend a lot of time at school thinking, “I’m sorry, but I’ve never done this before.  I just came to this country two weeks ago, and not only am I adjusting to a different way of life, but experiencing the classroom for the first time.  You all have been teaching at this school for years.  You can’t expect me to be super teacher after one week.  I am trying my best.”  The Thais have this way of not telling you what you are doing wrong to your face, and maybe I’m just overreacting, but I’m getting a vibe that I’m just not good enough.  And I always want to be good enough at everything I do.

And then on Friday, just a week into teaching, I woke up with horrible stomach cramps that left me on the bathroom floor in tears and resulted in having to take a sick day.  For all you worriers, I’m okay.  And I get sick days.  But I feel like that’s just another reason for my school to think I’m inadequate.  And I feel bad because I had an awesome lesson planned for the kids.

Last week was one heck of a ride.  I had a yucky cold (seriously, how can someone as small as me produce so much snot? And really, powers that be, two colds less than 3 weeks apart? Not cool.) And then, with frustrations of teaching, and waking up ill on Friday, let’s just say, I hope this is a better week.  I’m not 100% over the cold, but I feel like I’ll have more energy and am also more prepared with typed up lessons.

So that’s my feeling on the whole teaching thing right now.  But I got some good advice from my dad and some other friends this week – don’t worry about the job and the expectations, do your best and have fun.  So that’s what I intend to do.

But enough on teaching.  That’s only half of the Thai experience.

This past weekend was pretty relaxed.  I went along with some friends who had plans to go see a teacher from the high school in Rayong play the banjo at a local ex-pat bar, Wizards.  It seems that Rayong closes up pretty early, even on the weekends, but there are a few places to go for drinks and good times with friends.  On Friday, we mostly talked about future trip plans.  It’s pretty exciting because we’ve set a date in December to go to Ko Samet, an island in Rayong province that’s about an hour’s trip.  We still need to book lodging, but it will definitely be something to look forward too!

Saturday and Sunday mostly consisted of running errands.  We went to TESCO Lotus, the Thai version of Wal-Mart, and I picked up a few things for the apartment.  The big purchase was an electric cooker, which I hope to be able to make dinner with some nights.  The food options around the apartment are pretty limited and as delicious as street food can be, a lot of it is processed, fried, or greasy.  I think that’s a big reason my stomach got all weird on me last week.  I got some chicken, pork and veggies to cook and am excited to have a way of cooking things…I really miss cooking.  I tried the cooker on Saturday, and I can tell it’s going to be a bit of a trial and error device.  I think it’s more of a hot pot or fryer, and has three temp settings, hot, hotter, and hottest.  The hot setting boils water extremely fast, so I guess I’m going to be eating a bunch of boiled meats and veggies.  Maybe I’ll splurge on a $12 rice cooker on my next trip to TESCO.

I’ve spent about $150 on things for the apartment, which I feel is a lot, but, in comparison, everything I bought would have probably cost double at Wal-Mart or Target back home.  Getting “set up” in a new place is kind of expensive, no matter how low the cost of living may be.

Anyways, as frustrated as I sound with all the teaching stuff, I am actually enjoying my time here in Thailand.  I feel like I’m settling in and there are definitely pangs of homesickness with the holidays coming up (all you people posting Christmas pictures, just stop!), but even with being sick in a foreign country, and feeling lonely at times, there haven’t been any meltdowns (except for the teaching meltdowns) where I’ve been looking at plane tickets home…yet.  But I think that’s a good sign.

I think there are lots of things to like and dislike about Thailand.  You have expectations before you go places, and I thought it was going to be a lot like Vietnam because it’s SE Asia, but I was so wrong.   It’s got it’s own things going on, both good and bad, and you have to treat every place you visit independently of every other place you’ve been.  If you find yourself saying, “Well I like XYZ better because it had 123”, then you’ll never appreciate where you are.  Am I right?

So with all this said, I’m excited for the next week(s), so I’ll leave on a positive note with all the things I’m looking forward to!

  • Getting over this cold
  • Going to see Hunger Games: Catching Fire this week (I kind of freaked out when I found the cinema in Rayong is playing it in English!!!! Most of the movies are in Thai.)
  • Trying out the place in Laemtong (the big mall here) that has cheapish ($3) glasses of wine…oh how I miss wine.
  • Exercising more – I’m going to a 6 pm aerobics class in the park next to me with a girl from my building tomorrow!
  • Planning a trip with Rayong peeps for Ko Samet
  • Planning a New Years trip with the orientation group people – I’ve miss you all already!
  • Cooking with my trial and error electric cooker/eating healthier
  • Being more prepared at school
  • Hopefully a FaceTime session with the cats…maybe Mom and Dad too
  • The 4th anniversary of my 21st Birthday…hopefully in Bangkok.  Seriously, who gets to say they celebrated a birthday in Bangkok?!

Anyways, miss you all and wish you were here!  Thanks for following all my ups and downs on this little journey of mine! XO.

PS. Oh, I guess you were highly disappointed there weren’t any pictures here either! It takes a long time to upload, and there are lots of pictures I want to share that don’t really correspond with “ugh…my life…” type posts, but I promise I’ll try and upload a post of pictures (not necessarily in chronological order) for all you visual learners out there 🙂  You can also follow my travel photos through Instagram online, or through the mobile app (search username: plhuyoung)

Dropped on Another Planet: The First Week

Just a warning:

This isn’t going to be a happy sunshine, puppies and unicorns post about how much I love teaching already and how amazing and welcoming all my coworkers.  Nope.  It’s going to be about my utter frustration with not knowing what is going on, and the expectations my school has of me that I never signed up for.  If you’re looking for sunshine, puppies and unicorns then this is not the place, my friend.

Also, there are no pictures.

My first day of teaching in Rayong proved to be stressful and frustrating, like a lot of teacher’s first days, I presume! The English Department director, who picked me up at the mall the previous day, introduced me to a bunch of people in the head office that I probably will not ever see again, and their names are all just a blur now.  I think that because I arrived during Sports Week, and about two weeks into the school semester, there was some urgency to pass me along to my Thai co-teacher.

The morning of my first day, I was dragged onto the schools main field, with loud dance music blaring in the background and quickly introduced to a Thai teacher and a Filipino teacher.  It was so loud with the kids practicing their Sports Week dance, that I honestly couldn’t understand a word of what was quickly said to me about teaching.  The Thais sometimes lack in their ability to be descriptive.  So, there I was, standing in the hot sun, basically following this co-teacher around…not really knowing at this point if I would be teaching one class or rotating around to classes to teach English (like I expected).  I was so confused and frustrated because I felt like I was basically dropped on a different planet, where I’d be working for the next 6 months, having no idea what the heck was going on.

After the Sports Week practice was over, we made our way to the Kindergarten/Primary campus, and at some point in the day, I realized that this was not going to be the teach abroad experience I thought I was going to have.  Instead of being a rotating teacher, I was handed the job of team-teaching a class of 30 6 year olds.  In addition to teaching English for about half of the class period, I would stay with these kids all day, discipline them, serve them lunch, teach PE, watch them while they napped, and play with them.  A full-time Kindergarten teacher, only, the kids all speak Thai and the teachers don’t speak English.  So you can understand why someone who doesn’t really know how to handle small kids started to freak out.  I’m not a hand-holder, a coddler, I can’t hold a smile all the time, I hate germs and runny noses…these are the exact reasons I didn’t want to teach Kindergarten.  And now, it’s not just going to be teaching; I’ll have to be a caregiver.  The Thai teacher told the Filipino teacher that I needed to discipline the kids more, but I simply don’t know how to do that.  I am not here to mold them into perfect citizens, I’m just here to teach English.  I’m not going to have my own office like so many of my teacher friends had, nor am I going to get break/planning periods.

I also learned that these kids are in a special program where they have both Thai and English lessons everyday.  They’ve been in this program for over a year and a half now, and I’ve learned that their teachers are all hardcore, career teachers.   Just looking at some of the lesson plans that were left from the previous teacher made me nervous.  The Filipino teacher who holds my exact position in the classroom next to me has been teaching at the school for 9 years.  These are career teachers…they probably hate that some American with no teaching degree can come in and work their exact job…I mean, I’d be upset too.

To top it all off, I had no idea what the class schedule was going to be like. When was I supposed to teach?  What was I supposed to teach?  When does the Thai teacher teach?  What is this “special class” that happens every afternoon?  Do I have to stay with the kids during their music/computer/dance classes?  All simple questions, but in Thailand, impossible to get answers too.

So it took about 3 days to figure out when I would be teaching.  And I’m still not completely sure because Sports Week activities messed threw off the normal schedule.  I guess I’ll make lesson plans and when my Thai co-teacher says “teacher teach”, then I’ll get up and teach.  Also, about a week into teaching, I learned that the 2:30 pm – 3:30 pm “special class” that I teach is actually a block where I help the students with their “homework” and conversation, and in return, the parents pay tuition.  It’s not much, but it’s extra income in addition to my monthly salary.

This first week of teaching has also been rough because I’ve come down with a nasty cold/sinus infection/Thailand plague that has left me drained.  I literally go home at the end of the day and nap for an hour.  If you know me, I don’t deal well with getting sick.  And I just got over a two week long sinus infection before coming here.  I guess it was inevitable with the lack of hand-washing here; for reals, I haven’t seem a soap dispenser anywhere on the school campus.  Kids and teachers just rinse their hands in water and I’m over here like, drenching my hands in hand sanitizer.  Maybe I’ll start a hand-washing campaign.  Almost all the kids in my class have runny noses and croupy coughs.  I do get sick days, but wanted to tough it out because I just got here.  And apparently there’s a bug going around too that causes flu-like symptoms too…two of the teachers in my apartment complex have caught it.  Welcome to real world Thailand, people.

So here’s where the bit of positivity and happiness comes in: It’s been a week into teaching, and to be honest, I have actually started to get the hang of it and enjoy the teaching part of the day.  Even though the kids give me blank stares a lot of the time, I feel like I’m sharing something, however small it may be with them.  Even when they turn into wild banshees about twenty minutes into the lesson, and run around the room yelling and I can’t, for the life of me, get them to quiet down or even sit down, I am semi-content because at least we got through half of the lesson.  I’m not thrilled with the other duties like serving lunch or lining the kids up.  I also don’t like the corporal punishment that the Thai teachers give out.  I will never put my hands on a student, I refuse to be more disciplinarian than I already am…that not me and it’s not the way I was brought up.  Thailand, you wanted an American, and you got her.

But I hear these experiences are very typical for your first week in a Thai school.  And as much as I wanted to run to the bathroom crying, I didn’t.  The tears welled up a few times, but I didn’t let them out.  It’s really faux pas to cry in Thailand, by the way.  I teach 6 year olds and they never whine or cry.  It’s insane.  That is just a value they teach their children.   But, I’ve got to look at the positives too.  I’m kind of fortunate to be in a school with air conditioning, in a decent-sized town, friends with other Westerners, and in an amazing apartment.  I know one girl from my group who got to her placement and was told she would be teaching completely different subjects that English.  At least I’m teaching English.

Anyways, once I kick this nasty virus I think I’ll be ready to show these kids what I’m made of.  I’m going to respond to this adversity by going with the flow a little more and take things as they come my way.  Not expecting things to be a certain way, but adjusting to the way that they are.  I’ve learned to be prepared for the unexpected when it comes to school; for example, creating lesson plans that you might never use, just in case you have to teach on a day you didn’t think you would.  Or, instead of thinking about how frustrated you are, joke around with the kids, because when they look at you like you’re “so cool” it will make you feel like a million bucks.  I’ve also come to discover that you really can’t take things too personally or be too hard on yourself.  Life is a learning experience.  We don’t always know what to do in certain situations, and often times, the best solution is to take a deep breath and stay calm.

New Places. New Faces.

Finally, I’ve got a minute to sit down and update!  Things have pretty much been non-stop since I’ve arrived, and it’s hard to believe that I’ve already been here for almost three weeks.  I last posted when I was in Bangkok, and since then I’ve spent a week in Hua Hin for my placement agency’s orientation week, and am now in Rayong where I have been placed to teach Kindergarten.

I met some amazing people at the orientation week in Hua Hin; we quickly formed a little group that pretty much did everything together from foot massages to eating meals.  I really miss them!  Now we are all scattered across the country; some have begun teaching, others are taking a TESOL course, and I think it’s finally setting in that I’m going to be here for a while.  And that it’s going to get a little lonely.  But I am grateful for the orientation week because I had the opportunity to meet people who I will hopefully visit in other parts of Thailand.

Orientation Week

A little on Hua Hin.  It’s a mid-sized coastal city about 3 hours south of Bangkok.  It’s called “The King’s City” and he lives there now in his old age.  There are also a lot of expats living and vacationing in Hua Hin.  A lot of old, ugly white guys with Thai wives.  That’s just…weird to me.

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Songthaew – Our normal mode of transportation in Hua Hin

During the orientation, we had classroom sessions  and daily activities where we learned about Thai culture, language and teaching.  We went to Khao Tao temple in Hua Hin and learned a little about Buddhism and received a blessing from a monk.  For me, it was one of the highlights of the week.

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Buddha

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On top of the hill

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Blessing by the Monk

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Peace. Love. Hua Hin.

There were also a lot of dogs and cats at the temple, and we know I just loved seeing all the kitties!

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Temple Cats

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Temple Dogs

After that, we went to the Hutsadin Elephant Foundation.  Hutsadin is a rescue foundation that has bought elephants from owners who haven’t taken good care of them, and also cares for a baby elephant “Songkran” who was abandoned by its mother.  We got to feed the elephants pineapples we got from a pineapple farm in Hua Hin.

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Cutting some fresh pineapples

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Pineapples for Elephants

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Who needs a boyfriend when you’ve got elephant love?

We also had the opportunity to learn a little Muay Thai at a local gym.  For an hour, the Muay Thai trainers taught us proper technique and then coached us one on one.  A note about Muay Thai gyms – none are air conditioned, so you get a really good workout!  Later that night we went to see a Muay Thai fight with fighters ranging in age from 6 to 20.  At first I didn’t want to go because it was 500 baht, about $16. But since everyone else was going, I decided to join in, and it ended up being a really good time!  I probably won’t go again, but I’m glad I went.

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Intense!

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Your worst nightmare!

Placement

So after a few stressful days of not knowing where I’d be working, I learned that I would be in Rayong, which is a small/mid-sized coastal town in the eastern part of Thailand.  It’s known for being close to Ko Samet, which is supposed to be stunning.  It’s about a 45 minute ferry ride to Ko Samet, which I’m sure I will be visiting at some point.

I had initially turned down a placement about an hour north of Bangkok because it was working with kindergarteners.  I wasn’t prepared to teach this age group, and honestly, don’t really know how to approach young kids who have no attention span.  After turning down the initial placement, I was told it would only be a few days to find me another one, and well, it ended up being 4 and costing me an extra $100 in lodging.  When the Rayong position came up, I took it, thinking I’d be working with primary (first grade – fifth grade) kids.  When the final e-mail came through, it said I would be working in kindergarten. Ugh. Fail.  I didn’t want to cause a fuss, nor did I want to stick around waiting and spending more money on overpriced lodging.

Getting There

Getting to Rayong was quite the adventure!  I took a private car at 6:30 am to Bangkok, which cost me $60.  So expensive.  I could have taken a van, but that would have required being dropped off with all my luggage in an area of Bangkok far from where I was meeting the “agent” and then taking a taxi to the meeting place.  (Side note: The agent is the person who works for the school to find teachers.  The placement agency connects you with the agent.  The recruiting company connects you to the placement agency.  It’s very complicated, I know.  I’ve gone through about 4 different organizations just to get to where I am right now.)

So, $60 later, I’m in Bangkok at a random mall, waiting for the agent to show up.  When she finally shows up, we put my luggage in her car, and I have no idea if she is driving me to Rayong, or, if she is driving me to a bus.  It was kind of a pointless meeting, except for getting me to sign a “contract”, and it would have been much more efficient if I just paid for the car to take me all the way to Rayong.  We finally arrive at a van station, in the pouring rain.  The streets are flooding.  I get out of the car and am soaked within seconds.  The friendly van driver pulls my huge suitcase out of the agent’s car and puts it in the van.  He gets soaked.  I am now sitting in a van – I’m soaked and my shoes are soaked with the filthy street water.  And I’m not even sure when the van will leave because there’s no schedule, they just wait until they are filled up.

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Just a normal rainy day in Bangkok – this is no big deal…

So as I’m waiting for the van to leave, I have to use the restroom and know I will not make the 2 hour trip if I don’t.  These vans don’t stop for bathroom breaks.  I get out of the van, in the pouring rain, and basically act out having to use the toilet because nobody speaks English.  One of the guys runs me to a squat toilet about two blocks away…I use it…we run back to the van.  I am more soaked than before.  And miserable.  We finally leave.  Two hours later, I’m dropped off at yet another mall in Rayong to meet the head of the English department for my school.  She picks me up and we head off to find housing.

Thankfully, I had already connected with one of the English teachers at the primary school here because he went through the same placement agency as me, and he suggested I check out his condo building.  The rooms are a little pricey at $220/month, especially for a city as small as Rayong, but they are new, have kitchenettes, wifi, and are cleaned twice a month.  There’s also a mini gym.  A few English speakers live here too, which is nice!  And I did not feel like looking at other places after 8 hours of traveling.

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New place – cleaned twice a month and free WiFi! Yay!

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This bed is hard as a rock…

Rayong, Thailand

Before I got here, the other teacher from my placement agency befriended a Thai guy who speaks English and lives in the condo.  He’s really nice and has been showing us around his town.  There’s an outdoor bar/restaurant near our condo that has live music almost every night, which will probably be our “go to” hang out spot.  Also, the Loi Krathong festival has also been going on too – it’s a festival to honor the water goddess and Thai people release these little boats into the rivers.

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Pretty bridge at the festival

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Loi Krathongs

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Right before I burned my hand…

Anyways, I am still getting used to everything.  I feel like I’m never going to be 100% sure of what is going on during my time here.  I am so clueless half the time.  I have to just go with the flow and hope I’m doing things right!  Oh, and I know I haven’t said anything about my school yet because that’s a whole different blog post.

If you’ve made it to the end of this post, thanks for reading!  I’ll try and post more often as to avoid these really long updates on my life!  Miss all you people back home!