“Just open your eyes, no don’t be scared at all. “

One of the joys of traveling is learning not only about one Culture, but surrounding cultures as well. This year I was able to take part in celebrating the Chinese New Year! To be honest, I did not know anything about it. At school the Foreign Language Depatment put on a half day event and the show was pretty spectacular. Manow, the Chinese Teacher put so much time and energy into the whole day, and it showed. She taught the kids: Tae Chi, Kung Fu, traditional dances from around the country, songs in Chinese, as well as a rendition of Cinderella, in Chinese.

Some of my Matayom101 students who danced! Love love them.

Some of my Matayom101 students who danced! Love love them.

NamFon won 1st place in a Chinese Speech contest in the city!

NamFon won 1st place in a Chinese Speech contest in the city!

Mickey! So silly.

Mickey! So silly.

Beautiful

Beautiful

Tai Chi

Tai Chi

My favorite picture. haha!

My favorite picture. haha!

I was able to partake by teaching a group of students a traditional Chinese dance (that I taught myself off of Youtube). I really enjoyed being able to spend time with the girls outside of class. It was also nice to be dancing again, and just goes to show you dance is a universal language. Who needs words?!  Additionally, I got to know one student in particular, Fai. When she learned I had to perform alone, she stayed with me for hours after her group was done practicing. She would run the music for me, and practice with me so I did not have to dance alone.คนใจดี

Meet Fai!

Meet Fai!

My girls.

My girls.

And teach wasn’t all I did. I had agreed to perform a dance with the other foreign language teachers. However, life happens, and it ended up seeming like it was not happening. Two days before the show Manow asked me if I would still do it. And by ask, I mean told me I would. haha. So I learned a 2 min ( negotiated down from 4 min.) dance that I had to perform alone. Learning it, I really enjoyed, but performing alone has never been my favorite thing. I wonder why my professional dance career only went so far…  Anyway, the show was a blast and I learned a good amount about Chinese culture, which was wonderful. I also got another opportunity to be amazed at what these students are capable of.

The whole Crew!

The whole Crew!

Foreign Language Department Teachers.

Foreign Language Department Teachers.

Dance party!

Dance party!

And that my friends wraps up the school year. The semesters in Thailand run May-October and then November-March. I will still be working until April 1st, but the students are gone. It’s a weird feeling to go to school and not see all my M1 students. They are such great fun.  Which is why I decided to extend my stay in Thailand. One semester is enough to get the swing of things, learn very basic language, and start to make friends. I wanted to improve all of those things, so Thailand, we are not through yet. In many ways it was not easy to decide. I miss my family, and friends more than words can express. Additionally this means a summer without Mayhew, and if you know me…well…yeah. Sad.  HOWEVER! this gives you more time to come visit me friends, okay? COOL!

I would like to take a little blog time to talk about some classes and students that really made this semester special. I adore my Matayaom 101 class. These kids are so smart, funny, fun, and really took the time to speak English with me. A group of the girls also taught me Thai every morning! Which I encouraged of course, even though we were at morning assembly…and I am sure we were meant to be listening to the announcements…but…it’s okay… This class never failed to put a smile on my face.

Hooray!

Hooray!

Matayom 101, last day of the semester!

Matayom 101, last day of the semester!

My Mataypm 104 class was really special as well. Just a polite, respectful, interested group of kids. One girl in particular, Flame, stands out. She was really respectful yet confident, eager to learn, and kind. Whenever the class would get a bit unruly she would definitely tell everyone whats up ( in Thai) , and it made my life so much easier. And it seemed she did so because she wanted to listen and learn. She loves playing soccer and running. And it’s not as common for the girls here. So basically, she’s bad ass.

Flame is third from the left in the front. It's a blurry picture. Apologies!

Flame is third from the left in the front. It’s a blurry picture. Apologies!

My Matayom 108 class was a favorite. I had two students in it who pulled at my heart strings every class.  Fridays with M108  started with a group of 5 kids running to me when they saw me in the hall, to carry my books, markers, and whatever else I had. And then there was Pai. Pai is everything sweet in the world. She really enjoys learning English and is so diligent with it. One day we were talking about food, and she asked me how to spell “om nom nom nom.” Point and case already. But on the last day of class, while walking down the hall she linked arms with me, put her head on my shoulder and said, “Colleen, I love you.”  So sweet.  Here she is in the picture below, holding my hand.

So sweet!

So sweet!

Adore M108.

Adore M108.

Also in M108 was Oak. Thai students are taught at an early age the answer, “How are you?” i with “I’m fine thank you, and you?” So you very rarely hear deviation from it. But Oak  would always say to me, “Today I am so happy!”  And it never failed to make me so happy as well. On the last day of class, Oak came to my office and read a note he had practiced to speak in English. He also gave me a sweet card and doll.

Oak!

Oak!

I would be lying if I said teaching in Thailand is easy. Many days it is difficult, frustrating, and exhausting. You are teaching a foreign language to some kids who do not understand most of what you say, some who don’t care, and some who see the farang teacher as a joke. I would say pretty standard to American students. I can imagine being in 7th grade and having a foreign language teacher who didn’t speak English. So I understand.But then you have kids like the ones from above,…that’s all it takes. It’s fighting the good fight for the kids who try, the kids who want to learn, the kids who will use English and hopefully travel and use it.

Additionally teaching in a foreign language is difficult because the cultural norms that are so engrained into our everyday life is just not the same. Class sizes here are large, they break up the students by tracking test scores, teachers should not learn on desks, don’t step on papers …or anything… ( even to demonstrate the preposition ‘under’) , female teachers must wear skirts, there is no higher up discipline (beyond what you establish in class), reading attendance ( very difficult in Thai)…etc. etc.

So as much as the students are learning, so am I.

And what school doesn’t end with a party? Here is a couple photos from the “Family Night” end of the year party. Where all the students perform, there is food, giant blow up slides and bounce houses, carnival games and everyone’s families of course!  I just realized I took pictures of none of this…but use that imagination!

M101 always taking care of me!

M101 girls always taking care of me!

Cute.

Cute.

We grow, grow, steady as the morning. We grow, grow, older still.

Hot sand on toes, cold sand in sleeping bags, I’ve come to know that memories Were the best things you ever had.

Thailand has no shortage of beauty. Between the landscape, traditional clothing, and festivals, there is always something to leave one in awe. Undoubtedly, some days are difficult, although I think that goes with anyone, anywhere. On those days, I try to take a deep breathe and take a look around. To remember how beautiful the world is, and how much opportunity I have been given. I am reminded daily of kindness from people who barely know me. I was talking with a friend who is also living abroad currently, in Australia, about the highs and lows of living abroad. We started talking about the feeling of living in a place where nobody really cares about you. I don’t mean that in a sad way. I mean the way people care for you that can not be created in a day, a week, or a month. Caring as your family does, and people who have known you for your entire life . So when you find that people do care for you, it presents a remarkable kindness. By the age I am now, most people have established lives ( and I just a restless heart, but I digress). So the fact that many people in Thailand have given me their time and shown me such kindness, I am grateful. It makes me want to be better, more kind,more observant, and more generous. Okay, moving on, Here is what I have been up to lately.

Fun time all the time in Thailand.

Fun time all the time in Thailand.

Freedom.

Freedom.

The students go on a 3 day 2 night camping trip with the boy scouts/girl scouts. It is not an after school activity like in the States. It is mandatory for Matayom 1-3 ( which is roughly 7th- 9th graders). The teachers go as well! And if you know me…I love camping, so I was all about it. While at camp the kindness of my coworkers was really felt in a huge way. I am trying to learn Thai, but trying is the key word. Over the three days my coworkers really made an effort to include me in what was going on, and took the time to try to communicate with me. One of the teachers took the time to explain to me in English the plot of a skit that they were performing, and a group took me to get dinner because there was no vegetarian food. And when I tried to buy oranges and it was just a struggle session, a teacher came and helped me out. They let me borrow hair dryers, taught me me more about their culture, shared food, fun, and laughs. They did all of this without me asking. It was an overwhelming kindness that I can hope I can find ways to repay throughout my time in Thailand.

Friends.

Friends.

Sharing a meal together.

Sharing a meal together.

Ammy!

Ammy!

I can put myself in the opposite position. Being an employee in the states with international coworkers. Perhaps it is a challenge to communicate with them. What happens? Often and unintentionally, I think,  people exclude this person because it is difficult to communicate and cultural differences are confusing and vast. Misunderstandings are common. Here are some things I learned this weekend: When you “cheers” you put your glass lower if the person is older than you, people shower two or three times a day in Thailand, stepping on door frames is rude, and when to wear shoes/flip flops/ bare feet  (confusing to me still). It is easy to think our own cultural norms are everyones,( as they are so ingrained in our upbringing)  but that is just absolutely not the case. I have no idea how many times I have likely, and completely unintentionally, did something incredibly rude. Or if not rude, just unusual.  My students laughed at me for about 5 min. straight because I had my tennis shoes in the side compartments of my backpack (maybe where water would normally go). But that is probably not as funny to my students as how much time I spend chasing the stray animals around the school campus because I want to pet them…and feed them….and love them… anyway, I digress.

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Honestly, for the camp I was expecting Mayhew. Lots of outdoorsy hard work to be done. But there were employees at the camp that handled everything with the students. I was able to watch some experiential education tasks that reminded me of Mayhew, so that made my heart happy. Additionally, they put on group skits. Which is great! I couldn’t understand them….but still entertaining. They also gave a group of children huge torches to light the bonfire…#ThingsthatdonothappeninAmerica

Since most was taken care of,  I was left to explore and spend time with my coworkers, which as I mentioned, was great fun as well as a learning experience. “Fuck” was explained to me very clearly, I should mention that “fuck”  means “pumpkin” in thailand. “Colleen, there are many types of ‘Fuck'”. Additionally, when in Thailand, try to refrain from saying the word “koi” as in “koi fish.” And if you do say it, don’t start to explain what it is by saying, “it is very big” you know….as in a very big goldfish.  “Koi” in Thailand is slang for a male body part. Oh, and it turn’s out I still get carsick…very very carsick.

Some very nice teacher’s wanted to take me to a place that basically sounds like my dream come true…a treehouse coffee shop. Ohh-Emmm- Geeee. However, it was about 30 km up the most horrific mountainous roads imaginable ( if you get motion sickness) and I do, oh I do. I thought it was something of the past, but no. I thought I was going to die, but I am typing this blog, so no. However, I did throw up as soon as I got there, and as soon as we got back to the camp…in the kid’s bathroom…a squat toilet. Not my finest moments.  I then laid in bed, in a little ball shape for a while. One of my work friends gave me some excellent and adorable advice with, “Sleep for an hour, and then….sunshine!”

If only I could have drank coffee....

If only I could have drank coffee….

Ultimate Treehouse.

Ultimate Treehouse.

We also went with the students to hot springs. It was great! We spent the afternoon relaxing with putting our feet in the hot springs (until they were bright red) , boiling eggs in the hot springs for a nice snack and chatting.

Boiling eggs in the hot springs!

Boiling eggs in the hot springs!

Hellllo!

Hellllo!

Hot springs!

Hot springs!

One more thing I learned while on my way home from camp was for people 30 or older today, it was still legal for teachers to hit students during their education. This is true for public or private education. Students would be hit on the palm of their hand or on their butt. Today it is no longer legal in Thailand.

That brings me to a conversation with my Thai teacher, Kru Nok, who is also one of my favorite people in Thailand. She is so kind, patient, and smart. I told her what I learned about teacher’s hitting students in the past. She explained to me that it was common, and it was common for parents to do it as well. And if you would go home and tell your parents, they would laugh at you and agree the teacher was in the right. She also told me a story that really moved me. Thai children take a “handicraft” class. Kru Nok’s Grandfather always helped her with these projects and he had recently passed away. She felt she was not good at handicrafts and brought her project home, her parents were also not good at them. Regardless, they stayed up until late in the night finishing her project for school. The next day, Kru Nok brought her project in to her teacher. Her teacher looked at it, took it from her, and threw it in the trashcan. She told her it was no good, and not beautiful. Kru Nok explained she was not sad because the teacher said it was not beautiful, she was upset because her parents stayed up all night helping her. My eyes welled up with tears, but out of embarrassment, I managed to hold it together.

Okay, I will end on a solid note here. The previous weekend I went to the Flower Festival in Chiang Mai. This post has already become quite long, so I will share through pictures, enjoy!

Sanpatong

Sanpatong

My favorite float....Fern Gully anyone?!

My favorite float….Fern Gully anyone?!

Beautiful.

Beautiful.

Sanpatong District float.

Sanpatong District float.

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Katae and Ken!

Katae and Ken!

Flowers throwing up flowers.

Flowers throwing up flowers.

So many orchids.

So many orchids.

I will leave you with something a friend recently said to me this week,

 “I want to be free.”

I am curious as to what that means to people, freedom.

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Everyday’s a holiday in Thailand.

“What does it feel like to be present? To be here in the now and fully experiencing this moment. Free from any weight of the past or any anticipation of the future. Just free. Free to realize that only you can control how you feel. About anything. Free to see things for what they are and free to give your time and energy to what really matters.”

There is always something to celebrate in Thailand. It’s another aspect of life that plays into the idea that everything should be fun! My Thai teacher was explaining to me that in Thai you say “to play” things a lot instead of to do them. For example, the literal translation of “relax” it to “play sleep.”  There is always something to celebrate here and it does seem to make  it easier to take the time to remember the little things and really appreciate them.

Two weeks ago I went to the Umbrella festival. It was quite beautiful. Bo sang village is well known for their handmade crafts. There were beautiful umbrellas everywhere, parades, and you could watch people hand make and paint the umbrellas.

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The following weekend was a trip up to Khun Chang Kian. It was about an hour motorbike drive  from downtown Chiang Mai up Doi Pui. The last 10 kilometers were especially fun as there was only a one lane road but two way traffic. It was a beautiful Hmong village with beautiful cherry blossoms and fresh coffee. Love.

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Also at school this week we celebrated a new building opening. Morning classes were canceled and we celebrated with dancing, music, and Buddhist blessings. The new building will be used for students to work on fruit carving, cooking, and making flower arrangements (from leaves). It is beautiful, super impressive, and must take a lot of patience.

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Other than that life is becoming more commonplace and I am getting into my day to day routines. It is amazing how quickly we adapt to new surroundings and what becomes everyday life. I remember being so nervous about things that don’t even phase me anymore such as: …talking….,  driving on the opposite side of the road, being lost, ordering food, appropriate dress, figuring out how to do laundry, finding….. anywhere really, and finding appropriate quotes via youtube (that I have added to this post). Oh wait…spending ridiculous amounts of time on youtube is easy no matter where I live. 😉

“What do you want to do in your life? What makes you tick? What makes you feel in awe? Don’t be misled into thinking that you’re supposed to do anything. You are supposed to do only what you choose to do. The world is vast and full of possibilities. Follow your bliss. Get out of your comfort zone. Stop looking for reasons why you can’t and look for reasons why you can.”

Things they are a changing….

Part of my experience in Thailand taught me to laugh and accept changing plans.  I had plans to go to Auyuttha and Lop Buri for my New Year vacation. However, I ended up staying in Chiang Mai for NYE which was totally magical, so I am glad.  Despite the massive monetary loss of $20 I used on agoda to book hotels it was mai pen rai.  After NYE Kelsey And I joined Kru Manow in Sukhothai. Which was absolutely beautiful. It is an ancient city that was the capital for some years. Plus I got to see Manow’s sweet bike riding skills, she just learned how a couple months earlier in Thailand.

Sukhothai! Helllllo!

Sukhothai! Helllllo!

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Following that we did make it to Lop Buri, which I am glad about for the sake of all the sunflowers. They only bloom December- February, and since it is quite a ways from Chiang Mai, this was my opportunity. It was just as magical as I imagined and what my childhood dreams were made of. In Lop Buri monkeys live everywhere in the city. I thought I would enjoy this aspect more, especially for how much I love animals. But I was not overly fond of getting close to the monkey’s. They are wild animals and these ones had no fear of people. So I admired… while keeping my distance.

Q: How many sunflower pictures can one take?  A: Never enough.

Q: How many sunflower pictures can one take?
A: Never enough.

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Jumanji.

Jumanji.

Momma/baby duo

Momma/baby duo

Manow and her monkey friends.

Manow and her monkey friends.

Manow hates drinking water.

Manow hates drinking water.

Successful finish!

Successful finish!

The lowlights of the trip are part of it as well. My least favorite experience thus far occurred in Phitlosanluk, where the train station was. Walking to get food, we saw a man on the street covered in blood. His arms, his legs, his clothes and his head. He had his head wrapped like he had been to the hospital….but he was stumbling all over, and could not get to his feet. Even worse, people were onlooking and (uncomfortably?)  laughing. So, we went back to find a police officer at the train station to help him. We got him to follow us, but he just told us the man was drunk, and did not help him. It was disheartening to say the least to walk past the man slumped on the side of the road as we finished dinner. But we were at a loss of what else we could do.

Other hiccups, that pale in comparison, was the train situation. The train from Phitlosanluk to Lop buri left at 10pm and got in at 3am. I mean…maybe not the safest way to travel. But there was 3 of us, so it seemed okay. It was bench seating on the train with windows that did not roll up….freezing. And since it was a holiday weekend there was only one overnight train left from Lop Buri to Chiang Mai. The 8pm, 10pm, and 11pm trains were full, so we were stuck with the 12:30am train. We watched the other trains roll away, but were excited to see they were all sleeper trains! A bed, a blanket? Oh-emm-geee. Luxury. But as our train finally arrives we are in no such luck. Our 14 hour train ride would be in up right seating with windows that do not go up. Sigh. I unpacked all the clothes I had and put them on accordingly. I put two t-shirts on my feet as socks, and pulled my sweatshirt up over my head to combat the fluorescent lighting that does not turn off in the train and put Lewis Watson on my headphones. Non- surprisingly I did manage to sleep the majority of the ride.

The cherry on top-which is actually just pretty silly is that the ATM machine at the train station ate my debit card. My american debit card. And I get paid in cash from school, and do not have a Thai bank yet, as I had to wait for my work permit to come to me.  But I just watched it take my card and inform me it was not giving it back. I slowly backed away from the ATM, hoping it would change it’s mind, but no such luck.

Making it back to Chiang Mai, we were all exhausted. I enjoyed sleeping to the utmost in my little home in Sanpatong.

Even after all this time, the sun never said to the earth “you owe me.” Look what happens with a love like that, it lights the whole sky.

The week before Christmas, I had a 5 day break from school. So I headed on a 3 hour bus ride north to Chiang Rai.

Wat Rong Khon

Wat Rong Khon

Wat Rong Khon, or ‘The White Temple” has always been on my to see list. And it did not disappoint. It is absolutely breathtaking.

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My favorite part of the temple was this fountain. I also loved  writing a  prayer and hanging it with the hundreds of thousands that were several places at the temple. It’s a nice thought to think of it hanging there with everyone else’s prayers in many different languages and from so many different people.

Inside the wishing well.

Inside the wishing well.

 

My prayer.

My prayer.

And then you hang it with so many others.

And then you hang it with so many others.

After Wat Rong Khon Kelsey and I headed to the other side of town to see Baan Daam,  The Black house.  It was very interesting and extensive. It reminded me of something out of a Dali painting.

Baan Daam

Baan Daam

Wowza.

Wowza.

Just trying to fit in.

Just trying to fit in.

Always time for dance.

Always time for a dance pose.

There is an amazing clock tower in Chiang Rai. It is like a show. Kelsey and I sat and ate dinner while watching it. This picture is no way can do it justice. We also went to Singha Park. It is full of beautiful gardens and also giraffes. I wanted to take them home and care for them. Manow says I should start a zoo with all the animals I want to care for in Thailand. I recently learned I have the qualifications to do so from watching ( part of) ” We bought a Zoo”! Which sounds reasonable to me.

Clock Tower

Clock Tower

Too excited.

Too excited.

Besties.

Besties.

After Chiang Rai, Kelsey and I headed a couple hours north to Hike PuhChiFah which means ” Touch the Sky.” We were lucky to be in a van full of extremly nice people who helped us out all weekend. We ended up staying in the tourism facility and sleeping on the floor. I wore every long sleeve shirt I had, and my newly purchased hat and gloves and was still freezing. We made a fire with our new friends and grilled sweet potatoes. The next morning at 5am we headed to the mountain for the (very short) hike to the top to watch the sunrise. And it did not disappoint, it was incredible.

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  On the final days, Kesley and I met up with some other OEGers that work in Chiang Rai. We headed up to the “Golden Triangle.” The name comes from it’s location because it is where Laos, Myanmar and Thailand meet. It used to be an opium hot spot, but now it just has a cool opium museum where you can learn the history in a pretty cool way.

Yay!

Yay!

Representing the Triangle.

Representing the Triangle.

And while taking so many pictures in all of these interesting places I decided to have a contest with myself of how ridiculous my pictures can get. Enjoy.

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“This is a special Christmas”

Sawadee bee mai kha!

I am so far behind on this blog, it is painful. The longer the distance between entries the more difficult it seems to catch up, as it goes, right? But it is a new year and I can catch up!

Christmas away from home was a challenge to say the least. It is strange…since it is not widely celebrated, one would think it would not be too hard to forget it is happening. Or at least that’s what I told myself. And I think until the 24th I managed to do that, but then it hit me hard. Looking at pictures of my family and friends enjoying their holidays, and I was going to school.However, as we drove home for Christmas Eve Dinner, my friend Manow said, “This is a very special Christmas.” And she was right. It was not traditional but it was special, unique, and one of a kind.

Christmas Tree decorating competition!

Christmas Tree decorating competition!

Ho Ho Ho from your Sanpatong Farangs!

Ho Ho Ho from your Sanpatong Farangs!

I was given the opportunity to be reminded of how kind people are. Going out to Christmas Eve dinner being joined by coworkers who do not celebrate Christmas. And then being included by my parents with a sneaky Christmas present snuck into my luggage! And a very special present at that. If you know me, you probably know I wear one ring every day. It is a ring my parents gave me for my birthday when I was in 3rd grade. Well now I have a new ring to wear everyday! And it is just a nice visual reminder of them at all times. Following this great start to my morning was a Christmas assembly at school that was unreal. It was incredibly beautiful and impressive. The students sang Jingle Bells in 5 languages and did the best rendition of “A Christmas Carol” I have ever seen. It was a wonderful day. I felt so lucky to be at such a kind school. To do such an awesome day for Christmas.Plus the farang teacher’s got to dress up like Santa Claus and throw candy to the children, while almost getting mauled down from excited children.  The rest of the day the students prepared for Sport Day. That night I went out to dinner with friends.

I love them!

I love them!

Christmas present from my parents aka Santa Claus!

Christmas present from my parents aka Santa Claus!

 

On the way to dinner, I got a flat tire on my motorbike. That doesn’t sound like a big deal in America..but I am in Thailand. Things could have gone very differently. However, I got a flat tire right in front of a mechanic. Yes, real life. I asked a gentleman standing there if he spoke English and he said a little bit. Between my Thai and his English we managed to get my tire fixed and have me on my way in no time. That is amazing. People are so kind. That scenario could have been a disaster.

The stage for the Christmas assembly.

The stage for the Christmas assembly.

The next day at school was Sport Day. It literally blew my mind. It is similar to a field day in The states. But the kids do EVERYTHING. See pictures below….I mean everything. How? I have no idea, they are amazing.

 

They made all of this?! How?!?!?

They made all of this?! Pink Team!

Emerald Team

Emerald Team

Yellow!

Yellow!

Team Orange!

Team Orange!

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No shoes?

No shoes?!

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The weekend was equally as lovely. Some of my favorites from the OEG group were in Chiang Mai for the holiday. I spent a lazy Sunday at Huay Tong Tao with amazing people longing in a hut at the bottom of Doi Suthep staring at the beautiful lake combined with good conversation. The next day at school we had a NYE Party with the students and at night, the staff. During the morning, Monks came to school and we got to pray and offer food to the monks for their blessing for the new year.. At the staff New Year party I won a George Foreman-esque grill and got to do some traditional Thai dancing on stage. Despite how scared I was. haha. I was encouraged by a coworker to just ” drink faster.” There you have it folks, a little liquid courage.

Student's NYE party!

Student’s NYE party!

Matayom 1 students performing!

Matayom 1 students performing!

Kru Manow and I practicing our dance!

Kru Manow and I practicing our dance!

My New Years Eve was a special day. There was a huge group of us in town. I met up with my Michigan friends and then headed back with the OEG crew. We were drinking and chatting on the hostel patio and watching lanterns. At one point my friend Lauren and I decided to get this group moving would be impossible. So Lauren, Sam, and I went down the the city center. Here, we got our own lanterns to send off. It was my favorite part of the night. I sat down and wrote about each of my loved ones from back home. It was such a nice feeling to feel connected to everyone from back home and spend time with new friends in Thailand. At one point Sam and I had a moment of being okay with feeling sad about missing our loved ones but then remembering how lucky we are to have this experience. It is a little bit of both.

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Later in the evening Lauren and I found the most delicious street food ever. I was really craving some noodles but we ended up with Indian vegetarian food that was so delicious! After that we went and counted down in the city center and watched fireworks. Then headed to “Zoes” for some dancing. I tried to run away because there were so many people there….but once I found a little open air area we were good to go.

 

 

I decorated Manow for Christmas!

I decorated Manow for Christmas!

It was a wonderful holiday and a special experience. Happy New Year and welcome to 2015!

 

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

 

“We are the sum of all people we have ever met; you change the tribe and the tribe changes you.”

First off, I dedicate this blog post to my best friend, Laura! Thanks to her I had a magical weekend in Chiang Dao, Thailand. She was extremely generous before I left, giving me some money to “spend on myself.” So, with a three day weekend on my hands, I headed an hour and a half north to Chiang Dao for a weekend to relax, and find myself…or lose myself…or something along those lines. So Laura, thank you for being you and helping me out, as always. Love you!

Friday was the King’s birthday, leaving me without school. Friday morning I woke up and drove two hours (via motorbike) North to Chiang Dao. The drive was beautiful, and I managed not to get lost, which is always some sort of accomplishment for me.

 

Malee's Bungalows

Malee’s Bungalows

I stayed at an adorable hotel called, Malee’s.  This was a big splurge for me, usually I go for a 120 baht single at a guest house. But here, I stayed in a little bungalow at the bottom of a mountain, surrounded by beautiful gardens.

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My cute little home!

My cute little home!

My new best friends.

My new best friends.

Shoes are yumyum.

Shoes are yumyum.

 

On Friday, I went to Lunch at The Nest. I had the best iced coffee I have ever had, in my life.  This deserves more than one sentence, so again, best coffee, in. my. life.

Om NomNomNom

Om NomNomNom

Next I walked to the Chiang Dao Caves.

Oooooow, ahhhhhh.

Oooooow, ahhhhhh.

Following I walked up 500 stairs to Wat Tham Pha Plong. It was beautiful, and I personally enjoyed the messages on the walk up.

Shout out to the Thanksgiving what I am thankful for girl who said "I am thankful for dead people, because at least they tried."

Shout out to the Thanksgiving “what I am thankful for” kid who said, “I am thankful for dead people, because at least they tried.”

500 steps later!

500 steps later!

The next day I woke up very early to go hike to the third highest peak in Thailand, Doi Chiang Dao (Doi Luang). It is meant to be a two day hike, but I read several blogs saying it was very doable in one, even for the slow hikers of the world. And if you know me, I am probably on the slowest of people who would do this hike. On several blogs it literally said “impossible to get lost”. So I was not worried. Anyway, it started out magically.  Everybody I passed was super friendly and encouraging. Most were very surprised I was hiking alone. So the conversations outside of ‘Hello!’ tended to be:

“alone?”

“yep!”

“Wow, very goooood!”

At the top!

At the top!

Well I will make a long story short, I managed to get lost. I got to a peak, but it was not what I imagined. I turned around and two very friendly guys happen to be at the top, and they ask me if I already hiked “that” mountain and pointed to Doi Chiang Dao.  I turned and saw the mountain I was meant to be at the top of. I don’t really know how to put into words, but I sighed and gave a very slow blink at my new found situation.

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At this point, I was frustrated at myself, but I had to get to that peak, while trying to make it quick so I was not hiking in the jungle, alone, in the dark. By the time I got to the peak, while beautiful, I had 10 minutes to  take in the beauty and then head back down.  I tried to smile, and this is what happened. I hope you enjoy this shirt. I forgot to pack any short sleeves, and found this at a 7-11. It was 20 baht and meant for a tiny boy. It was not comfortable, and I wonder what it says.

So happy. Jk, I will not lie to the people.

So happy. Jk, I will not lie to the people.

On my way down I was beginning to get very tired. And I started contemplating life (natuarally). It started by thinking about hiking itself. I wouldn’t say I “like” hiking. So why was I doing it? Why was I so excited to do this trip? And I guess I realized I love hiking because it is challenging. And it puts things into perspective. The world seems simple when your biggest concerns are so basic. Needing to make it out of the jungle. To keep walking. To not stop and give up.

After that I began to think about all the cultural differences I am learning about in Thailand. I think sometimes in America we can get so consumed in individuality and being so unique. But there is also so much of us that is influenced by our society and culture. Which lead me to , we are just a sum of people we have met and experiences we have had. I like that thought. We are still us. But…we are also connected to every person and every experience we have had in a much greater way that I ever realized before.

So I did make it out of the jungle, just before it got dark. And I realized, although a good physical test for me, the Thai people were doing it right. Camping at the top to watch the sunset and sunrise on the top of that mountain? Such a better life choice.  Enjoying the mountain and what it has to offer, instead of being a crazy farang and just trying to race up and down that thing. Chiang Dao, I will be back for you.

Following this, I went back to the Nest, and ate more delicious food. It was on a patio outdoors, with a full moon, and candle light. I did not have much to complain about at this point. I know many people would think this was quite lonely. And although I would love to have shared it with people I love. It was not lonely at all.

The next morning, I woke up slowly, ate breakfast, drove around admiring the mountains and headed back to the city. I got a massage, at my favorite place with the nicest people (Daracha Massage). I highly recommend it. I had only been there one time, and the woman that works there remembered me, and that I was a teacher. With all the farang’s she must see, I thought it was very kind of her to remember me.

So another week down in the lovely country of Thailand. Here are some highlights from school:

 

And on Friday's we wear traditional Clothing.

And on Friday’s we wear traditional Clothing.

 

Sassy

Sassy

Manow!

Manow!

 

Welcome...to awesomeness.

Welcome…to awesomeness.

How do you not buy a banana treat from a student dressed up as a banana referee ?

How do you not buy a banana treat from a student dressed up as a banana referee ?

 

 

These kids know how to get down!

 

 

Listeing to: Vance Joy- Red Eye

“Scope eludes my grasp, there is no finality of vision,…tomorrow a new walk is a new walk. “

“Beauty and grace are performed whether or not we sense them. The least we can do is try to be there.”

Sawadee kha!

My apologies for the lack of updates recently. Life moves quickly, everywhere. I am going to throw it back to 3 weekends ago. The highlights were meeting a new friend, May. She is wonderful. We visited some temples and just walked around Chiang Mai and chatted. My favorite part of the day was engaging in “Monk Chat.” Which is, just as it sounds, talking to a monk. It is an opportunity for Westerners to learn about Buddhism, and the monks to practice their English skills. As previously stated I get nervous around monks, but they were super nice and informative, of course.  I really enjoyed learning about their way of life. It is quite a beautiful and peaceful one and takes a lot of discipline, thats for sure. Here is an excerpt from a Q and A about Buddhism that I loved:

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“So Buddhism doesn’t threaten unbelievers with eternal punishment in hell?

Certainly not!  Such threats may have been necessary in ancient times to keep people in line, and were used in conjunction with the promise of rewards in heaven.  This kind of approach was also used to get people to join particular religious groups, with threats of eternal punishments and assurances of rewards.

Buddhists do not accept the concept of a jealous god who punishes his creations just because they choose a different religion.  Practically all civilized nations respect and guarantee the freedom of religious thought and practice, as enshrined in the U.N Charter (Article 18).  Torture furthermore, is banned by all civilized nations on earth.  So how can any god that supposedly created all of us be any less civilized?  Thus, Buddhists find such Threats of eternal torture in hell quite hard to believe.

For example, what kind of being will send or allow another being to burn in a fiery hell for ever and ever?  Take a simple lighted match for example.  Just hold it under your palm.  Can you tolerate the pain for just a few seconds?  Can you hold that match under someone”s palm for just one minute watching them scream in agony?  Can you do that to anyone for all of eternity?  Such viciousness is beyond imagination.

Furthermore, if it is in your power to stop such intense and endless suffering, would you not do so?  Would any sane and rational being not do so?  There can never be any justification for such merciless cruelty for any possible reasons and under any conceivable circumstances.

The Buddha never used any threats, or tried to force anyone to accept His Teachings.  He believed in freedom of thought.  He recognized that not everyone will accept His Teachings, and that people progress differently and will choose different paths for themselves.  He preferred to explain His Teachings in a logical and reasonable manner, and wanted people to understand and realize the Teachings for themselves without fear of any punishments from Him.

Buddhism is not about threats or rewards, but about Knowledge and understanding.”

Also that weekend Kelsey and I found where are the cool kids hang out. A bar called ” Warm-Up Cafe” down on Nimon road by Chiang Mai University.  Kelsey and I met some very drunk pilots and hung out with them. They were pretty hilarious. One of them kept apologizing to me about being drunk and then laughing when I tried to speak Thai with him. We found a bunch of silly farang to share a song taew back to the hostels with and that was quite silly, in the best way. Walking into a 7-11 at 3am we met a bunch more travelers and I briefly chatted with a woman from England. I instantly liked her. She was doing some solo travel for the next 6-10 months. She said, “I decided to quit my job and travel….to find myself, to figure it out. And here I am at 3:30 in the morning, drunk at a 7-11, eating a sammie.” I thought it was quite brilliant. John Lennon got it right, I’ve quoted it once on this blog, and I will do it again, “Life is what happens when you’re busy making plans.”

The next weekend was quite spectacular. It started on Friday with a field trip to the tallest mountain in Thailand, Doi Inthanon. It was an absolutely spectacular day. I got to spend it with the Matayom 501 students. We took song taews ( mini buses) to the mountain, where I unfortunately got a little car sick, but from there it was all rainbows and butterflies. We got off at the highest peak in thailand. It was beautiful, and very cold! The kids had hats and gloves. It was pretty fun to hear their reaction to the weather. Although, many of you know how I deal with the cold, so I did have on about 4 shirts. A lot of the kids told me how much they look forward to touching snow. Which made me think about how beautiful and magical it can be, and how it felt as a child.

Highest point in Thailand!

Highest point in Thailand!

Next we went on a hike. It was a good one. For those of you who know my hiking ability, you know it happens at a very. very. very slow pace. Luckily the kids and I were on the same page here. It was not a long hike, but there was 900 steps. So it was a good one. And the view was just amazing. The clouds rolled over the mountain top and it was magical. One of the students, took the time to translate what the guide was saying. She would also stop and take pictures of nature and talked to me the whole time. It was very lovely. Plus there were a lot of selfies with other students, which was fun.I also learned the meaning of 555. Which I have not stopped using since. 5 in Thai is pronounced “ha” so instead of lol, 555. I love it so much.

Magic.

Magic. Can you tell which one is me? 555

Wave and I taking in the view.

Wave and I taking in the view.

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The worm in the tree. So adorable!

The worm in the tree. So adorable!

We then stopped at a mountain top market and I just about lost it. Best strawberries and avocados I have ever tasted. I spent every baht I had. We then went and had a picnic by a waterfall. After walking around this area, we headed back. I think everyone in my song taew took a nap on the way back.

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Over the weekend , I continued to spend a good amount of time outside. It started with a quick stop to the Sanpatong Market. It was awesome, but at first overwhelming.  Anything you could possibly want was there. Food, frogs, hammocks, clothes, machetes. I got some new work clothes, pictures coming for you Angela! From here Kelsey and I went to the Chiang Mai rock quarry. It is incredibly beautiful. Here I did some cliff jumping. At first I was quite nervous, but with some encouragement from some nice French gentleman and some new friends that live in Chiang Mai I did it, here is a little video:

(I did have to edit a minute off the beginning…no shame!…and also delete about 4 other videos of me not being ready to jump. Mai Pen Rai!)

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The following day Kelsey and I went to Bua Tong Waterfall, nicknamed “Sticky waterfall.” It is called this because of the calcium carbonate that has formed on the rocks and makes them not slippery. So you literally walk down to the bottom of the waterfall and climb up it! It is fantastic. And worth the sore butt from the two hour motorbike trek to get there.  Which reminds me, I got a motorbike! It was a little intimidating at first (driving on the opposite side of the road, knowing how to drive one, park one, turning one on….etc), but I started to enjoy it pretty quickly! Have no fear. I wear a lovely read helmet to protect my life.

Bua Tong Waterfall. I slacked on the photo taking, so I had to borrow this and the Crazy Horse photos from the internet!

Bua Tong Waterfall. I slacked on the photo taking, so I had to borrow this and the Crazy Horse photos from the internet!

I googled the type of motorbike I got and this is what came up...clearly this is the brand new special version. Mine is a vintage.

I googled the type of motorbike I got and this is what came up…clearly this is the brand new special version. Mine is a bit “vintage”.

Check out the rock quarry, Bua Tong, and some motorbiking in Kelsey’s go-pro video:

That bring us to the present weekend. On Friday, I met up for dinner with friends of friends. I honestly feel so lucky to have people that will go out of their way to help me out. Thank you Kristen! I met a lovely couple and there little guy. We had a nice dinner at a magical place. It is essentially my childhood dreams in a nutshell.  You get to eat and play on an epic outdoor play land.  Like tree houses and stuff…. no McDonalds land .  After that I took a nap…..for 2 hours. Then I talked to my parents and went to bed!

On Saturday I volunteered with CMRCA (Chiang Mai Rock Climbing). It was great. I went on a cold motorbike ride into the city at 6:45 am. I wore 6 shirts, no joke. I arrived and rented climbing gear. I rode with all the other volunteers to the mountain. We spent the morning clearing paths, and picking up trash.  I got to meet a lot of really great and friendly people. The people who worked for CMRCA were awesome. One of the staff members, Katie, took me into one of the caves and then to the top of the mountain for an incredible view. After cleaning we had a delicious lunch and then were allowed to run wild and climb.

Crazy Horse

Crazy Horse

I met a bunch of cool kids from Michigan. They are doing the most epic study abroad program right now. Basically they get to travel around Thailand doing awesome outdoor activities such as hiking, kayaking, rock climbing, snorkeling etc. They were also cool enough to let some of us without rope and ATC’s climb with them. Although I have loved climbing and belaying for awhile now, this was my first time climbing on a real mountain ( Dad, don’t tell them about the time I was too scared as a 10 year old to even try).  It was absolutely incredible and beautiful. Way better then indoors…because, the view. Yep.

The crew.

The crew.

Team Anthill/Aircon!

Team Anthill/Aircon!

Cheeeeeeseeeeey :)

So excited !

After returning to downtown Chiang Mai, I stayed in a hostel/guesthouse. It is called ” Be Beez.” I really liked it there. It was super clean, the people who owned it were really nice, and it had a beautiful garden patio. An added bonus was how well the water heater worked. The warmest shower I have been able to take in a while. Swoon.  Although, other than showering, I was too tired to do much but lay down and stare off into space. I gathered myself enough to wonder to Aum, a vegetarian restaurant I have been dying to try. I got lost, natually. I pulled out my map and a very nice Thai man came and helped me out. With his help I made it there rather effortlessly. I had Khao Soi and a lemon/pineapple smoothie for dinner. It was delicious, but I had pretty amazing vegetarian food earlier in the week at Anchan, so I was not quite as impressed.

As I wondered back to my hostel, I came to the same intersection and was confused once again. But the same nice gentleman was there, I think he was working nearby. He smiled at me and asked if I was heading home. I said yes, and he asked where. I hesitated while weighing the risk of telling a stranger where I was staying. (I have seen the movie Taken, and although I believe my Dad could save me in the same way, I do not want that to have to be a scenario.) But I needed to take into consideration I was wondering around in the dark, by myself, so I went ahead and told him. He gave me great directions, and I was happy to make it back. People are awesome.

Sunday morning I woke up early. Another night of a 9:30pm bedtime will do that. I went down and had a hearty American breakfast of two fried eggs , toast, coffee, and O.J. And then headed off to yoga at Wild Rose Yoga. It was a really nice class, and it definitely challenged me. I have taken a variety of Yoga classes, but I enojoyed this style a lot. It was called “Dynamic Flow” and the class description was, “A more classical style yoga class, infused with western vinyasa sequencing.”  After, I met up with a new friend from the rock quarry, Jerome, and went to Akha Ama coffee. It was delicious. The man that owns it, has his own coffee plantation in Northern Thailand and uses his own beans. The location was really awesome too. Although I think I may prefer Ristr80. I need to spend more time at both to make a fair decision. Such delicious coffee. Following we got some vegetarian food, and then went to a waterfall by Doi Sutep called Huay Kaew.

Beautiful view of Chiang Mai

Beautiful view of Chiang Mai

Walk in the woods at Huay Kaew Waterfall!

Walk in the woods at Huay Kaew Waterfall!

Huay Kaew

Huay Kaew

As for school, I still have been really enjoying it. As I get to know my coworkers and the students better, it just makes it so much better. All of the people who work at Sanpatong wittayakom are so kind. They really go out of their way to help. One of the teacher’s has brought Kelsey and I Thai desserts at least once a week, so delicious! Another classic moment was sitting in a staff meeting and having no idea what was going on. One of the other teachers looked at me and asked if I understood anything, I smiled and shook my head no. And then, the teacher sitting next to me translated what was going on. So cool.

There are always challenging aspects, but that is with every life situation. One challenging aspect was not being able to be home for Thanksgiving with my family and friends. However, it was fun to teach the students about it. Some of my kids loved making hand turkeys, and when I gobbled. Which I did to the point that most of you would probably think I am crazy. But charades, right Lauren?  We also do a radio broadcast once a week. Thanksgiving happened to me my day to pick a song and prepare a speech.  So two students, Ken and Ying, read about the holiday in English and Thai. And then we played the song “I’ve Got Plenty to be Thankful For” by Bing Crosby.  They did fantastic and I thought it was a lot of fun.

Even though I was not in America for Thanksgiving, I am incredibly thankful for my Mom packing a surprise Thanksgiving and Christmas gift in my luggage! It’s wonderful to be so far away and still feel like part of the day. It really made my day. In addition I got a pretty awesome postcard for my pen-pal, Brett. He sent it 3 weeks earlier…but the point is it got to me on Thanksgiving, Which was pretty great! Last but not least, I want to say congratulations to Caitlin and Steve on getting engaged! I have said it through various ways in social media, and perhaps I am just trying to make up for the part of me that is sad I cannot be there to celebrate with you right now, but one more time, yayyyyyyyyy!

Listening to: Lewis Watson- Outgrown 

Lower your defense, run away with me and it’ll all make sense.

My first week in Chiang Mai is complete. It is hard to believe it has only  been one week, with all that has occurred. After arriving in Chiang Mai, and spending the first night in a hotel, Kelsey and I were greeted by Waree. From the hotel we went to pick up our luggage, to lunch, then to school. Once we arrived at school, I was immediately excited. It felt massive in size  compared to my school growing up, and there were children everywhere. Friday is traditional dress at school, so the students had beautiful, colorful clothing on. We met so many nice people right away. After school we went to our apartment building which is down the street ( about a half mile) right above a place called “Bubble Boy.” It was so nice to put my bags down, and have a place to call home.

Sweet Students.

Sweet Students.

Bikes!

Bikes!

Proud of ourselves for finding the mysterious lake!

Proud of ourselves for finding the mysterious lake!

Our weekend was already jam packed with activities. On Saturday we were invited to a house warming party with many of the teachers we work with. It was very nice of them to invite Kelsey and I. It was a great time, full of delicious food ( of course).  Afterwards Waree took us to Big C to get what we needed for our apartment. On Sunday we went to “The Airport Plaza” which is basically a huge mall. We needed to get work apparel, and it was a nice afternoon. There were so many cute little shops. I got a first day of school outfit ( yes, for real), and a couple pairs of work shoes. That evening Waree took us to “Walking Street” which is a street in Chiang Mai that is closed down for a huge night market. It is so much fun. And again…also delicious. Mangos and sticky rice with coconut milk. Always. I also picked up a couple things like handmade notebooks, essential oils, and spring rolls.😉

At the house warming party. In the backyard is a rice field!

At the house warming party. In the backyard is a rice field!

SO excited about walking street!

SO excited about walking street!

My first day of school was Monday, and it was so much fun. The educational system is very different in Thailand. It is very relaxed. In Thailand they believe that life should be “Sanuk”, or fun, even when it comes to work. I would definitely agree this is true. I am teaching Matayom-1. This is equivalent to our 6th grade, so most of my students are around 12-13 years old. I love this age group, it is similar to the boys I work with at Mayhew. I teach 10 levels, and then I also co-teach 10 classes of Matayom-6 (12th grade).  I am already falling in love with the kids. They are SO much fun.

Personal first day of school selfie.

Personal first day of school selfie.

First class selfie!

First class selfie!

So this week the director of the school ( comparable to a principal)  was leaving to go to another school. On Wednesday morning we had a farewell ceremony for him, and that evening the faculty had a going away party. It was Cowboy themed, as the director likes it. I have to say the Americans were the lamest dressed there. They had cowboy’s down! It was a lot of fun, food, drinks, dancing, and selfies.

Yee Haw!

Yee Haw!

On Thursday the school celebrated Loy Kratong. The students decorated different entrances around the school and we got to walk around and look at them for the first two periods of school. They were all beautiful and gave us a sneak preview of what was to come. My favorite part of the school day was lighting off fire crackers with some of the M-5 students. It felt so wrong, but then…so right.

The students let us put the Kratongs in!

The students let us put the Kratongs in!

These students performed traditional Thai dancing !

These students performed traditional Thai dancing !

After school Kelsey, Mannow ( Lemon), and I headed to downtown Chiang Mai to celebrate. We found an amazingly cheap hotel room for the evening ($300 Baht). So that is about $10 USD. It was pretty much what you would think for 10 USD. AKA Amazing. In fact, it was the oldest hotel in Chiang Mai! Woot. Win. We went to eat at a restaurant called ” The Corner.” It was delicious. They had an entire vegetarian menu. I had Kao Soi ( a traditional Northern Thai dish, it is a coconut milk based curry/soup ) and a Chang beer.  Note: ‘beer’ in Thai is ‘beer’. After dinner, we walked around downtown and watched people light off lanterns. We then bought some Kratongs to float down the Ping River.  Apparently, if you float them down with your significant other , you will be together forever!

So excited with our Kratongs!

So excited with our Kratongs!

Khao Soi and Chang.

Kao Soi and Chang.

On Friday we went to our directors new school, where they had a ceremony for him. They really go all out for these ceremonies. There was treats, marching bands, student skits and dances, and lunch. After this Kelsey and I went to find a new guest house to stay at closer to where her friends wedding would be.  After we set our stuff down, I went for a Thai massage. It was ah-mazing. It was 200 Baht ( $6 USD). They give you pants and a shirt to put on, and I put the pants on backwards…so the woman giving the massage came in, pulled them down, and corrected it for me. haha.  After my massage, life felt great, and I finished off the lovely afternoon by taking a nap.

That evening I went to a wedding of Kelsey’s friends, Mike and King.  We took a Tuk Tuk to get there and I enjoyed this experience very much. He tried to rip us off, being farangs, but we worked out a happy medium on the price. It was a lovely reception and we ate Italian food, drank wine, and let off lanterns. We met a very nice couple from the US that live in Malaysia.

Sending off a lantern with this guy!

Sending off a lantern with this stranger!

After the reception I decided to walk down to the Ping River and check out Loy Kratong part 2. It was just as amazing. I let another kratong float down the river…and it fell over again…but I hold to it not being bad luck, just an independent kratong. I watched people let off lanterns and fireworks and walked around. The streets were packed with people. But none of the roads were closed per say…so people were still driving around the masses. Thai traffic is crazy, everyone who drives here is impressive.

They look like stars, but they are lanterns!

On Sunday I spent the morning talking to my parents on Facetime, which was amazing! My internet chooses when it likes to work, so it was a wonderful way to start to the day. The rest of the  day was spent in Chiang Mai.  The song- tow ride down started interestingly. Upon entering I saw  monks on the bus and I got nervous as to where I could sit, as there are quite a few rules about monks and women. So as I ( slowly) tried to make a decision, the bus driver drove off and I quite literally fell on top of a women. So, whoops. Silly farang.

Chiang Mai Uni!

Chiang Mai Uni!

We got off the bus near Chiang Mai University. The first stop was a coffee shop called “Local Cafe”. It drew me in immediately because it had a gigantic cat statue out front, sporting a mustache. So good. After a couple hours here,  we ventured to find a vegetarian restaurant I have been really wanting to try called Pun Pun. My eyes were bigger than my stomach but I did finish everything. I had a wing bean salad and a sweet and sour version of Pad Thai.

MOW

MOW

SO excited to eat! And so sweaty! All the time!!

SO excited to eat! And so sweaty! All the time!!

After this, I walked around Walking Street looking at all the amazing things. I did splurge 15 Baht on a Beetroot and pomegranate freshly squeezed juice and then some postcards for my Mayhew boys. Let me know if you (yes, you) would like one as well!  After walking around I got on a Song Tow and headed back to San Patong. As I was exiting the bus, my skirt got stuck on some metal and ripped it, right on the butt. So, Mai pen rai!

Chiang Mai Gate in the evening.

Chiang Mai Gate in the evening.

Listening to : Time to Run- Lord Huron

P.S I got my Japanese Encephalitis vaccine, so no brain swelling for me!

“I live my life for experiences.”

” I live my life for experiences.”

My week is Bangkok was a blur. It started with running(literally)  into orientation an hour late. But the exhaustion put me on a legit sleep cycle pretty quickly. So there is a positive for every negative. The first night their we had a traditional welcoming ceremony, which made things  special, right from the start.

Welcome Ceremony

Welcome Ceremony

The next couple days were occupied by a lot of class. We had Teaching English as a Foreign Language classes, Thai Language and Culture classes, as well as classes about the Thai Educational system and the visa process. It was a lot of information. I especially loved the Thai language classes. Our teacher’s name was Title. He was hilarious. It was really useful information, but just a lot in general. I learned some key phrases to help me get around such as: Hello, How are you?, Thank you, Can I buy…, Where is the bathroom?, Do you Understand? , I do not understand, I am a vegetarian, What is your name, and how much does it cost? I am very excited to learn more of the language and be able to communicate with people properly.

While in Bangkok I learned from experience as well. I learned I can get ridiculously delicious food for 30 Baht. Which is about a dollar. Seriously, whole meals. Also iced coffee (gaffee yen) is about 20 Baht. I also realized I should have not brought any clothes from home and purchased an entirely new wardrobe here. Such cute clothes, for awesome prices. I also learned Thai people are probably the kindest people there are ( jai dee) and they will never, EVER, EVER let you go hungry. I have been non-stop eating since I arrived and I am not mad about it. Dad, I know this makes you happy!  I also never take offense to the ” You are going to get fat while you are in Thailand!” comment. Because it is very likely, and food is too delicious to worry about that fact. I would like to go into more detail about what I ate but I just tell them I am a vegetarian ( Chan gin jeh) , and whatever they offer I say yes (chai, chai!!). At that point I am more impressed I communicated then anything else. All the food is delicious, you cannot lose.

One night I ventured with some new friends down to Khao San Road. This is more of a tourist experience and it was pretty crazy. It was a lot of drunk tourists and high prices for drinks and food. I am glad I experienced it, but I wouldn’t be sad if I  never go back. It was the grimy Bangkok street experience though and for that I liked it. However, to give you an example of my experience there I will tell you about my adventure of finding a bathroom. It took awhile but when I finally got there I got charged 5 Baht ( only me…perhaps I was the only one who looked sober enough to understand.) But when I walked in there was blood on a lot of the bathroom stall. When I walked out of the stall there was a girl puking in the sink, who looked scarily out of it. Not my favorite scenario.But highlights were cheap/delicious Pad Thai, Hannah and Andrea’s dance in the middle of a break dance circle, and this:

During orientation we also did some field trippin’. We went to the Grand Palace, and it was incredible. It was a very hot day and a very crowded area, but ridiculous beauty. Here are a couple pictures:

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We also had a really amazing Welcome Dinner put on by the lovely OEG staff. It had traditional Thai dancers (which I loved of course), amazing food and desserts, music, and dancing. It was a lovely night. Please enjoy the video …although I also learned I am not very good at holding my camera steady, so bear with me!

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We also traveled to Kanchanaburi; here I really fell in love with Thailand. It was what I was hoping for. It was a small town, with incredible mountains, and I started to feel more at home. While we were in Kanchanaburi we stayed at a beautiful resort like hotel. And we went on some sweet field trips. The first night we went to the Bridge over the River Kwai. It was beautiful to see but very sad. It is dubbed “Death Railway” and has some difficult history.

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After, we went to dinner on a floating resturaunt. Yep. So cool!

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We also went to an elephant camp. I cannot say I felt morally sound about it, and I would not go back to any that were not conservation centers. But I did enjoy seeing elephants up close, they are so beautiful, smart, and gentle.

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We also went rafting down the Kwai River. It is so much fun! We got to jump off the raft and float down. That was my favorite part of the day.After we finished, we went back to the hotel to prepare for the ride back to Bangkok and to meet our coordinators and be on our way to our schools!

Upon arrival to the hotel Kelsey and I met our school coordinator, Waree. She is so nice and friendly.She goes above and beyond for us from the start. She tells us we will be flying to Chiang Mai that night. But we have way to much luggage to do so. So we head to the bus station. At the bus station we send our luggage to meet us in Chiang Mai. Then we head to the airport where we eat a very American dinner of Subway. We arrive in Chiang Mai around 11pm. Chiang Mai is everything I hoped, and I fall in love with the city immediately. It feels right.