Sunday, August 31, 2014

Day 119 // Sights at the Sunday Walking Street

Most of the cities in Thailand will have a Night Market or a Walking Street where you can spend way too much of your paycheck on beautiful trinkets, delicious food, and watch some traditional Thai performances. Last night, Rachael and I finally took the time to watch a beautiful Thai dance done by a group of younger children and captured some beautiful moments. 

A rhinoceros beetle

Thursday, August 28, 2014

What it ACTUALLY costs to be a teacher abroad / A month of logging purchases

After writing my post about what it costs to be a teacher in Thailand, I was dubious of my math and where my money actually went. So for the past month I've logged every single purchase, a interesting and insightful habit I no doubt got from my father, from the 1st of August to payday (which was early this month). It's quite fascinating to see where all your money goes, especially in a foreign country.

Looks like my estimation of about 11,000 for the absolute necessities was offset by my overwhelming desire to buy beautiful trinkets (including some expensive boots, a scarf, and a purse) and a bottle of Campari for myself. I took out the previously mentioned items on a side bar showing the expenses of the month without them to show a more realistic amount of money spent (because they totaled to about 7000 baht...oof).

August 9 - 12 I spent in Pai and there was no mercy to my spending... I figured it would be my last time in the beautiful artsy city, so bought everything I wished to bring home and remember.

So as you can see, my estimation was a tad off. I will explain though that this month I was quite frivolous with my spending as I have developed more of a mindset of buying things that I can bring home that will remind me of this trip. A lot of teachers may spread that over their 6 months, or years here...and I did most of it in August (hence the frighteningly high shopping category).
Also, some teachers may try and save money while they are here... which is totally doable. Even putting a couple thousand baht away every month can definitely add up at the end of your trip.

While there is a canteen that gives me my meals for free (and I theoretically shouldn't have spent 4000+ baht on dining out...), some of my best experiences are trying new restaurants and exotic dishes in town.  I also missed a few laundry trips in this chart. Oops. 

Hope this helps people to see where most of your money will go when you are in this beautiful country!

Any questions ? --->

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Day 101 // Long Weekend in Pai

I found myself drawn back to this paradisal town every day after my first visit back in July, and was looking forward to the long weekend in August to come back one more time. For the 4 day weekend, I met up with some friends from my orientation group that I hadn't seen since May, including my roommate for the first week, Josie. The bond you make with these people in one short week in Bangkok is truly special, and you are guaranteed to have a hell of a time with them no matter where you adventure.

We heard of a waterfall that would take about 4 hours round trip from our bungalow and all set out in the forest. The walk was nothing short of spectacular. The forests of Pai are filled with lush trees in every shade of green your eyes can savor, a continuous murmur of the waterfall's run off, and a symphonic buzzing of giant insects.

Despite the photo that makes him look fairly average in size, this spider was easily as big a dinner plate.

My nausea from seeing the biggest spider I've ever seen in my life was overwhelmed by wonder as I watched him wrap up his prey in his web and start to eat it. One of the many times in the hike I felt lucky enough to be experiencing the things I've only dreamt of when I would watch Planet Earth or read National Geographic. It reminded me to always marvel at how beautiful our world is.

My Birkenstocks took quite the beating and didn't survive the hike. You will be missed.

Pai Canyon gave a beautiful view of the valley and even allowed a brave few to trek down the orange dirt pathway for a better look.

Our waterfall endeavor wound up successful! Just at another waterfall that didn't require hours of searching. We cooled off in the chilly water and sat on the rocks enjoying each others company.

Silly group. Thanks for a great weekend guys.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Day 100 // FAQ's about Teaching English Abroad (Round III)

More emails = more questions and answers! Thanks for all the questions guys, it makes my heart so happy that people are reading this blog and getting some use out of it :)

Any more questions send them my way -

FAQ's Round III

What is one thing you really wish you had packed and didn't? 
There is not much in Thailand that you can't buy if you leave at home. I do wish I brought more comfortable work clothes, I barely packed anything and wound up buying a lot of my clothes at the mall because what I actually did bring was so friggin hot or not "polite" enough for work. If you can find button up linen shirts I definitely recommend those for the hotter months. I know it cools off significantly for October - January so it's not as bad.

I also wish I brought a smaller backpack, I have a large purse I use at school and a traveling backpack for long trips, but nothing in between. And you can buy backpacks here, but the quality is just a tad less than a nice North Face back pack or Jansport from the states. Just me thinking out loud.

What did you bring that has turned out to be totally useless?  
My hair appliances and too much makeup. I used to spend a good 30 minutes on my hair every day back in America before I left the house, either straightening it, curling it or this and that. I have maybe done my hair once in Thailand, and within minutes  sweated it out. It's so humid and you sweat so much it really doesn't matter, and vanity isn't the same thing in this culture as it is in America. That might me just me though, but this place can really help you become very low-matienence. I also would recommend packing small amounts of toiletries to get you through the first weeks, because they have giant shopping malls that have everything you will need.

Whatever your hair looks like in 5000% humidity, just work it. 
I also was FREAKING out before this trip thinking I needed to bring a gazillion teaching resources with me so I would be better prepared for my first week. So I went to kinkos and had them print out all the sample teaching material CIEE gave us…which turned out to be nearly 900 pages. The binder sits on my desk and I haven't touched it in my time here. Everything you really need can be found online or ask other teachers.

I actually printed all million pages and brought them to Thailand, yea don't do that. 

How difficult is it, really, to learn and use Thai?  
Thai is confusing, but not impossible. You will learn that tones are very important, so you can say the same word in different ways and it will change the meaning. So "maa" said with no real change in pitch means "come here." But "maa" said with a rising tone, kind of like how we would read maa? means "dog". It's things like that that get challenging because our language changes tone to imply meaning and change sentence tone…sooooo that's fun to work on with your students. I've learned the basics fairly quickly because you kind of have to to get around the market and use public transportation. CIEE does a great intro to Thai lesson that helped me immensely.

Get your maa's straight.

Where have you traveled that I absolutely should visit?  
I am up in Chiang Rai (one of the northern most cities), so most of my travels have been up north. I love Pai (i've been there twice), it's like a westerners paradise in the hills of Thailand, all very hippie and artsy. Chiang Mai is great too, a lot more relaxed but still super busy (though nothing like Bangkok). There is pretty much everything in Chiang Mai, shopping, temples, zoos, museums, hill tribes, food, etc. The beaches are calling my name and I will be headed down south in October. But Chiang Rai as a city is awesome too, we have the amazing White Temple which is definitely worth a visit.

Any advice you wish someone had given you when you first arrived?  
That the few first weeks are going to be hard. Homesickness and anxiety are real when you make a huge change like this. Just knowing my drastic emotions at the beginning of this experience were not unwarranted made me feel better. It's a hard transition for some. I would have liked to know that culture shock and all that is very real but is totally manageable with the right resources (like a hospital visit and some medicine for me).

What are the best and worst dishes you have eaten?  
Ooooh Kao Soy, it is my favorite dish I've had in Thailand for sure. It's only up north because it's a traditional Burmese dish. It's a sort of sweet and savory coconut curry with noodles, chicken, onions, lime, and crispy fried noodles. Seriously the most incredible dish ever. Also Pat Thai, som tom (papaya salad), sticky rice with anything, pad see ew, pad pack boong (Stir friend morning glory), and mango sticky rice are all delicious plates. As for fruit, mangosteens are amazing. I've never had anything like them, and have a hard time comparing them to anything back home.

I haven't had too many awful plates, but I did try sheep's brain the other day and wasn't really into that. It was very creamy… And durian fruit isn't my favorite. It's a SUPER stinky and pungent fruit that smells like gas,  but tastes somehow different. Another creamy consistency that I didn't enjoy much.

Kao Soy, the most glorious of all the foods

The main thing I've learned on this experience is that you will be thrown a lot of curve balls, and you take them all as they come. It will be nothing totally out of your ability, but it will challenge you and you roll with it. I wanted to know about absolutely everything before I left, but it's so hard to get all the answers you want because every school, every city, every experience is so drastically different. The great thing about Thailand though is they are very good about "saving face" and not shaming each other or embarrassing each other, so even if shit goes south, it's okay. The Thais just laugh it off. This can be very frustrating, but sometimes just what you need when you have a total shit show of a class, or day, it's all good.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Day 95 // Over Half Way Done

If you haven't noticed yet, I like to count the days here. I seem to be constantly obsessing how many days/weeks I've been here, and how much more I have to go. But it doesn't come from a place of wanting this to be over. Perhaps it becomes a constant reminder to cherish every brief moment I have here while simultaneously coping with my ever present homesickness.

I only have 6 weeks left of teaching. It seems like just yesterday I was dropped off at the airport crying so hard I made my nose bleed. But strangely those first nights in Chiang Rai I spent in my room having panic attacks and seriously contemplating if I had the guts to do this trip feel a life time away. I have made a new home out of this crazy place and while things are still new and exciting, I am much more at ease and embracing it all.

In my 14 weeks here, I've already experienced a significant amount of personal growth. I've learned that in America, I would let stress and my anxiety get the best of me and prevent me from trying new things so I didn't feel uncomfortable. Well each day teaching, I still get butterflies in my stomach 5 minutes before class worrying if my lesson plan is stupid, or doesn't make sense, or if the class will be a total wreck.

Yup. And that's okay.
Having 16 classes a week makes that nervousness slowly diminish by the end of the week, but it's still there nonetheless. I also manage to deal with my stress in the only way possible when standing up in front of 24 students 16 hours a week, sweating more than humanly possible.

30 minutes left of class?! Uhhhhh
Before this trip I would have avoided any situation that would make me feel like this... but once you have to because it's...well... your job, it makes that feeling a little less uncomfortable. Without this experience I wouldn't have had the guts to start singing at the open mic every Friday in town. I wouldn't have started pursuing art the way I have been since I am often times so critical of my capabilities I stop before I even start.

As awkward as I get when I fail miserably at this whole teaching gig somedays, it's quite empowering at the end of the day. I just have to remind myself of this incredible opportunity and how proud I am of myself.

Anyone who says teaching in a foreign country is easy is either lying or is much better at controlling their emotions than I am. It's hard. Uprooting your life and making a new home in a place where pretty much everything is new and different and you don't speak the language is bound to be a challenge. But a challenge that will provide you with valuable life skills and perseverance. So any of you out there stressing about this, your emotions are totally valid, and it will be all worth it.