Monthly Archives: December 2013

Earth to Kristen, don’t be lazy and keep up with your blog. kthx

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^^ Currently jamming.

“How vain it is to sit down to write when you have not stood up to live.” ― Henry David Thoreau

It appears that the last few posts have been empty promises of updating my blog. Part of me feels like I’ll kick myself in the ass later for not keeping up with it, so here we go again:

First things first, in reference to my last post, I experienced much sadness after noticing that the memos I’ve been keeping of the good/the bad/the interesting/the crazy events that have been occurring over the last 2 months have mysteriously disappeared. Well, cheers to those lost memories!

I’ll try and re-cap the key points of the last few months, but I’m sure I am forgetting some important things..

Month of October: After spending time with my family traveling around Singapore, Malaysia, and the South of Thailand, I said my goodbyes to my mom who was heading back to Texas, and to my dad, who currently lives in Bangkok (he’s saved my ass a couple times). I am so thankful to have had an entire month exploring bits of Asia before the course began, because it was an insanely busy first few weeks, and if I were to be jet-lagged AND cuture-shocked (can I use that phrase? whatever), it would have been a whole lot different. I already felt as ease with most Asian customs, etc. The first few days in Bangkok, I explored the city with the few people who also arrived early. We had a blast — getting a “little” wasted on Khaosan Road, exploring the floating market, seeing famous temples, convincing the hotel staff to open the rooftop pool at 5am so we could skinny-dip and drink whiskey until sunrise, yadda yadda, it was all fun and games — well, for the most part. I will never forget being so hungover and sick to my stomach the day we went as a small group to visit the famous Reclining Buddha. We had to take a few mini ferry boats to get there, and I don’t know what it was but I was on the verge of vomiting the entire time (sorry, TMI). Shout out to whoever was with me for dealing with the many “I need a water, I’m gonna vom, fuck my life” moments that day. I finally convinced myself to enter the temple despite feeling like death. “You’re in Bangkok, dammit! GROW SOME BALLS” I kept thinking to myself. I sat on a bench outside contemplating going inside the temple for a good 30 minutes, and decided I was willing to risk vomiting all over Buddha just so I wouldn’t miss out on the experience. Yes, I legit thought I was going to be “that girl”. I ended up going on right before closing time, so I was the only one in the room with the Reclining Buddha (see picture).

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For those few minutes, I felt at peace. It was the first beautiful golden Buddha I’d seen in Thailand. In retrospect, I’m glad I took the risk. Didn’t end up vomming all over Buddha, so it was a happy ending.

In the days leading up to the TESOL course, more and more people arrived, which meant more and more names and faces. At one point, a small group of us arrived back at the hotel, and there were a good 20+ people chillin’ outside. When did this happen?! Well it ended up being awesome and a huge group of us went out that night. Little did we know, this was just the beginning to an amazing month of partying, 7/11 trips, whack conversations, stripper poles, hookahs, and adventures that were to come in Hua Hin (the beach town where we did our TESOL course).

The TESOL Course: Sometime in early October, after spending a few days in Bangkok, a group of about 90 people from the US, UK, Canada, South Africa, etc. were transported to Hua Hin, our destination for the course in which we would “learn” to teach English. One of my favorite parts of the course was during the beginning week, when our class took trips to a beautiful temple, elephant sanctuary, and had a badass welcome BBQ at the beach. Our TESOL instructor, Jaco (who once quoted “I love laminating — I wish I could laminate myself!”), pushed us to step outside our comfort zones. Part of our introduction was volunteering to tell the rest of the class why they came to Thailand.

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Our level of comfort with each other was awesome, and looking back on it, I couldn’t ask for a better group of people to be with for that month. Everyone radiated so much positivity. Drama was non-existent.  Also noteworthy, the beach BBQ was when many of us first discovered Sangsom, the cheapest rum (a staple in Thailand, they call it whiskey for some reason) and best/worst thing to ever happen to your liver. Sangsom, particularly when mixed with Sprite/Coke and Red Bull, can cause one to say things they otherwise wouldn’t and dance to Miley Cyrus’ “We Can’t Stop” and Calvin Harris’ “Wake Me Up” several times throughout the night. “Bohemian Rhapsody” was another favorite drunken sing-along. So, besides the course being quite fun and useful for the most part, I became really close with many of the people in the course. We all lived in the same accommodation for that entire month, so it was kind of like living in the dorm again, except better because we were all there doing the same thing, which means most of us had similar interests and besides that, it was nice to have such a great support system during the transition to living and soon-to-be working in Thailand. After a long day at “school”, our favorite thing to do was walk to the nearest 7/11, grab a twin pack of Chang beer, a ham and cheese toastie (details later), and hit the pool or the beach nearby. Ah, good times. One of my favorite memories during that month was when one weekend, a group of us decided to assemble our “farang gang” and motorbike to an unknown destination (a random beach we found on a map, basically) around 4:30pm. Thing is, it gets dark around 6, and while most of us KNEW it was a bad idea, after contemplating it for awhile, our inner adventurous, spontaneous selves, decided to say fuck it on go on with it. Of course, it did get dark about halfway through the ride. OH, and it was also raining hard the day — I’m talking flooding status. This was my first time ever on the back of someone’s motorbike, and I was anxious, no lie, after hearing some horror stories of motorbike accidents, but it turned out to be a fun ride, even though my driver preferred to live life in the fast lane. At one point, we lost a member of our motorbike gang. SHIT, where did they go? Turns out they got a flat tire. That’s when we had no other choice but to stop on some random street in the middle of BFN and have a mini anxiety filled dance party for a good 30 minutes. We even contemplated going back to Hua Hin, but other farang friends were already on their way to meet us, so we kept going. I can’t recall the name of the place we ended up a few hours later, but it was badass. It was dark when we got there, and we pulled up to the first hotel we saw and luckily they were able to accommodate all of our crazy asses. We had to tell them we were all couples in order to get the best rate. That night, we ate some good food, drank Changs and Sangsom galore, went for a night swim (clothing optional), and hung out with some Thais. It was a good time. At the hotel, we continued drinking and stayed up until sunrise. The next day, some of us hiked up this mini mountain thing where there was an awesome temple. The stairs were broke, so it was sort of a rough hike, but the views were superb. We didn’t make it all the way to the temple due to a massive family of wild monkeys stopping us. That day, I also got attacked by at least 4829482947248 mosquitoes, and I for sure thought I was going to catch some disease and die. Such a worry wort sometimes.

IMG_4898 <—— The view from the hike.

Ok, I’m sure there’s more to tell but I can’t remember. I feel like I’m not even halfway done and this is already becoming a novel. Yawn.

Mina, our first Thai friend: There is a huge night market in Hua Hin every night. A lot of us would go there to shop around, but mostly to eat and drink beer (duh). One night, we all ordered beers from a random stand in the back of the market, and the owner noticed one of the ladies wasn’t drinking, so she brought her a mixed drink (which was rather strong). Sounds a little sketchy, but it really wasn’t. We ended up conversing with her, and she turned out to be the nicest lady I’ve met in Thailand this far. Her name is Mina. We were also introduced to Nat, who is equally as badass. That night, Mina offered us a ride home in her truck, and invited us back to the market many times. There were a few nights where she made excellent wings, and even went out with us to the bar a few times. I miss her! Sure, there’s plenty of nice people in Thailand, but I could tell she was genuine. The last night most of us were in Hua Hin, we made her a personal, DIY thank you card. Although we could have done more, I know she appreciated the gesture.

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^^ That’s Mina. She’s a badass.

So, that brings me to finish blabbering about the end of the TESOL course experience. The last days in Hua Hin, we all participated in an English camp at the local school. Sure, we had all planned and presented many lessons, but this was our first time to actually test out our skills with Thai kids. It was a mess. During our first break, many of were running around like chickens with their heads cut off, chain smoking and chugging red bulls, venting about our first real experience teaching. I had kindergarteners, and one thing I quickly learned, was that in less than 30 seconds, your entire lesson “plan” becomes useless, and you must be quick on your feet to think of a plan B, C, and so on. Although it wasn’t exactly “teaching English”, we found that running around the classroom and making monster faces was a good time filler. Whatever works, ya know.

OKAY now I know why it’s important to be consistent with blogging, because my hands hurt and I feel like I’ve written a novel. The worst part is that I still haven’t even gotten to the important part — you know, the reason why I came here and all, the teaching English part. But for now, I’m bored with this and surely you are too. If anyone in Thailand is actually reading this, you deserve a beer and a toastie. What are you waiting for? There’s a 7 Eleven right down the block. If you’re not in Thailand, what the hell are you doing with your life? Get over here.

This part is boring you to read, save yourself the trouble, it’s more of a mental note to myself on what I still need to cover (which is a lot of shit, especially the most important part — my experience teaching so far), so excuse the lack of organization. It’s also a way to ensure that my memos don’t disappear again.  My next post will consist of more important things, such as….

IMG_5189 IMG_5504 IMG_5553 <— The next chapter and my new home, Surat Thani.

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^^ My first solo trip (to Krabi) was dope

Apologizes for the typos from now on. Here’s the deal — the delete/backspace key on my laptop is broken, and it takes too much time and effort to correct everything.

  • Overview of the TESOL course, saying goodbye to Hua Hin and new friends, and traveling by train on my own to start the next chapter of my life teaching English in the South of Thailand.
  • I’m regretting not writing about my experience doing the TESOL course in October earlier, because it feels like it was forever ago, honestly. It’s been a little over 3 months since the happy days in Hua Hin. Overall, the TESOL course was better than what I had expected it to be. Not only was Hua Hin a beautiful town, the people I met there and the instructors were fantastic. We worked our asses off during the week (kinda) and partied as soon as the work was done. Actually, I tend to make good decisions (yeah right) and definitely went out on “school nights” all the time and did many of my lessons in class the day they were due. I’ll mature at some point. It was worth it. Those four weeks in Hua Hin were indescribable. Unfortuantely, all good things must come to an end. As the last week of October came upon us, people started trickling out to head to their placements. I remember our last night in Hua Hin with the “farang gang” was a sad one. We were all in strange moods and it really showed. Half of the group had already left and things felt strange. It’s a weird feeling when you meet so many people you get along real well with and then you have to say “goodbye”. The good news is that most of us were able to reunite in Bangkok just a few weeks later. I guess the moral of the story is that the worst part of meeting people you really like while you’re traveling is the fact that you might not ever see that person again. Before I knew it, I was packing up my room in Suchaya house, trying to stuff a million things in my tiny bag, and boom – just like that – I was gone. I took a taxi by myself to the train station, where I was to take a 7 hour train ride to the South of Thailand, to my new home/placement – Surat Thani. I didn’t know anyone else going to Surat Thani, so I was pretty anxious. The only thing I knew about this place was that it was close to some islands (Samui) and that I would be teaching kindergarten. Oh, and my first day of teaching would be the day after I arrived! Talk about nervewracking.. So anyways, as I know all too well now, trains in Thailand are just about the most unreliable things ever. The train was late to the station so I made friends with the luggage-watcher-guy and  chilled with him and watched some strange thai television. Then I hopped on the train and dozed off to some inspirational music. Just out of curiousity I decided to check the map on my phone to see how close we were to the destination. Shit, not even half way and the trains supposed to be there in a couple hours? Not happening. So, I messaged the Thai director/teacher who would be picking me up from the train station and told her that I wasn’t sure that the train would be arriving on time. Blahblahblh long story short, the train took about 12-13 hours instead of 7, and I didn’t arrive at the train station until almost 10 at night. By that point I was tired and miserable, all I wanted was a bed! However, just my luck, I got to introduce myself to the director of the English program at my school! YAY! Turns out she had been waiting at the train station for hours, too, which made me feel awkward and like shit. Even better, she insisted that we eat together. I wasn’t hungry and the place that we stopped at was pretty disgusting, so I pretended to like the soup concoction thingy. Now it was super late and she took me to the place where I would be living, apparently only a 5 minute walk from the school. At that point I didn’t care, sleep was the only thing on my mind. We got to the place and I introduced myself to yet another person, my landlord. She was really kind. I finally got to unpacking around midnight and it kept entering my mind that in less than  6 hours I’d be waking up to teach children. That thought made me anxious AF and I think I maybe got 3 or 4 hours of sleep that night. The alarm clock was buzzing. I quickly got ready and walked out the door, didn’t want to be late to my first day of school. I remembered the directions given to me on how to get to school, thank god. I wish I could remember the details of the first day of school, but it’s been a few months since then and honestly it feels like an eternity! I’m pretty sure I had no idea what was going on that day anyways. All I know is that it was overwhelming to say the least.
  • Just say “Yes”
  • The instructors of the TESOL course told us that during our time in Thailand, if we are asked to do things we might not normally do our to step outside our comfort zones, just say yes. This piece of advice has proved itself to be truly helpful. I remember on a Sunday, I was going to be hungover AND responsible and clean my room, finish my lessons, yadda yadda, then a friend from the course knocked on my door and asked if I wanted to join her and some others on a motorbike trip to a national park just outside the city. At first, I contemplated, but then I made the decision to go, and what do you know? It turned out to be one of the best trips. Good music, a beautiful bike ride, and an even more amazing hike where we reached a massive cave. And guess what? Everything turned out fine. I got my lesson done, my uncleaned room wasn’t going to harm anybody, and while it’s important to be responsible, it’s just as important to make memories.
  • “Religious beliefs: 7/11” (a narrative on the importance of 7 Elevens in Thailand)
  • Screw writing a narrative — All that needs to be stated is that 7/11’s are your life saver in Thailand. They are literally EVERYWHERE, and if you can’t find one, you’re screwed. Sometimes there are even TWO 7/11’s on the same block. I know for a fact that I spend most of my money at this place. As awful as it may be, they make some damn good toasties for just 27 baht a pop.
  • The first week of teaching kindergarteners at a government school / teaching English in general and my experience thus far:
  • Kindergarteners, oh kindergarteners! Where do I begin? They are just so cute, and they are at the age where they still love their teacher. I am lucky to have a great group of kids, I really am. BUT, as with all things, with the good must come the bad. The bad: I have come to realize after months of being here that I struggle with classroom management. I should have listened when they said “make sure you lay down the law the first day of class”. Well, I was so overwhelmed with this new experience that I didn’t exactly create any sort of reward system or rules for my class. There have been days where I have to just stand in the middle of class, stay silent, and wait for them to notice. There have been days where I don’t do an entire lesson because there’s just no way it’s going to happen. Without the Thai teachers in the classroom, well, I don’t even know what would happen. The Thai teachers are discipline queens. If a kid acts up, out comes the stick and some scary stuff in Thai. This is verrrrrrry different how things work in the West, and it’s one of those things that has been difficult to get used to. I’ll touch more on this later.
  • An overview of the town I’m living in, Surat Thani
  • At first I hated Surat Thani. What I realized, was I hated the fact that I was alone. I pictured myself making tons of friends, both Thais and foreigners, and that didn’t happen. The first month was the worst. I actually spent one day completely alone inside my apartment, not even leaving to go outside. I think that the first month of teaching was when culture shock hit in full effect. I moved into a new apartment closer to the city center and civilization, and this was definitely a game changer. Walking around, breathing fresh air, soaking in new sights and smells, made me happier in general and I finally felt comfortable exploring. As time went on, I grew to not not necessarily “like” the city (not really the city itself but being a foreigner in this city isn’t the greatest), but I adapted enough to tolerate it as my home for the next 4-5 months.
  • Expectations vs. realities / Living in Thailand vs. being a tourist
  • Being a tourist in Thailand must be the best thing ever. Working here? Eh, different story. talk more.
  • Adaptation
  • When you live abroad, you HAVE to adapt or else you will be miserable the entire time. It’s good to have expectations, but Western expectations in a foreign land aren’t always helpful. As strange as it sounds, one of my goals for this year is to let go of expectations. This doesn’t apply to everything, of course, but to most things. talk more.
  • Language barrier gets intense
  • By now, I’ve gotten used to the fact that I can’t really communicate with anyone. However, it is still a daily struggle and one of the biggest annoyances. I actually think it’ll be a huge deal when I return home and everyone is speaking English. I’m used to walking down the street and having absolutely no idea what any sign says. I’ve adapted. Since my kids are so young, they always speak to me in Thai. I just have to shake my head.
  • Walking down the street as a Westerner (and female)
  • Everyone stares. You’ll get plenty of “hellos” (not creepy ones, friendly ones), but it becomes pretty awkward after that, because you can’t exactly have a conversation, even a basic one. One day as I was walking to the mall in town, I was stopped on two different occassions by groups of teenage girls who wanted their picture taken with me.
  • Swimming with bioluminescent plankton
  • One of the coolest things ever. A check off the bucket list, for sure.
  • British phrases
  • Tonight, I’m getting off my fucking trolley.
  • No breakfast tacos?!
  • Yes, I think about breakfast tacos, chips & salsa, and margaritas at least several times a day.
  • Motor taxi burns, guns pulled, and finding glass in my foot
  • I have what is called a “Thailand tattoo”. The first month, I injured myself on several occassions, got sick as a dog, walked around with glass in my foot for at least a week, lost my eyeglasses, I was a total mess.
  • Songtows or however it’s spelled. Aka stuff as many people as you can onto this pickup truck thing.
  • Thai TV & soap operas are strangely addicting.
  • The guy I met at the bar who was in the Russian mafia and growled at me
  • Running out of phone credits is a real issue. Goes to show how much our generation relies on phones and technology
  • The random locals who ask “Where you go?”, have you hop on the back of their motorbike, and make your day
  • Lizards, frogs, snakes, and chickens are my neighbors. Also, beware of flying snakes?!
  • The kids who say “Hello”
  • KFC and McDonalds
  • Walking down the street and hearing “Teacher, teacher!”
  • My first solo trip to Krabi, and the most perfect beach I’ve ever seen. Also noteworthy is the monkey who stole and began to attempt to eat my hand sanitizer
  • The little huts that locals have outside their homes/businesses are so chill
  • Dealing with loneliness and learning to be comfortable with it
  • My students’ nicknames are hilarious
  • Adjusting to the “Mai pen rai” attitude
  • Non-confrontation in Thai culture
  • Asians and selfies. Asians and hiding from the Sun.
  • Witnessing the protests in Bangkok
  • Obsession with green tea until I found out that an entire can of condensed milk goes into this delicious beverage.
  • Cheesy kareoke on the bus from Krabi to Surat
  • Thanksgiving in Thailand and my first extreme case of homesickness
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Lost all my memos, tis a sad day

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Just incase anyone even reads this anymore (after my lack of updating), I’m currently freaking out because I’ve been keeping an extensive list of things that have been happening on my phone, in hopes of blogging about them in more detail at a later time when I’m not lazy as fuck. Well, for whatever reason, all my memos are gone!! Where did they go?!! I have no idea. So, I guess that’s karma being a bitch. I guess some of those memories will be gone forever, but I’m dedicated to keeping this blog updated more frequently from now on.

Cheers,

Kristen