See you Again!

As I sit here typing this final blog post, I can’t seem to find the right words to sum up this experience. I could tell you it’s been challenging, rewarding, hot, crazy, unpredictable, frustrating, lonely, humbling—the list goes on and on. However, none of these words seem to do Thailand justice. None of these words can fully describe the feeling you get when you’re laughing with your students over the simplest mistranslation. Or how it feels to get a flat tire when you’re in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by nothing but rice fields. Or to be constantly stared at everywhere you go because you’re white. Or having a complete stranger go out of their way to help you, even if they can’t speak a word of English. Basically, what I’m saying is that Thailand can’t be described in one nice, neat little blog post. You have to live it, experience it, struggle through it, laugh at it, and ultimately, appreciate it for everything that it is.

When I was researching teaching abroad in Thailand, all the blogs I read talked about how amazing and life changing this experience was. So after graduating college with no real idea of what to do with my life, I figured why not go to Thailand and have this wonderful, life changing experience. I expected to come here and find that happiness that everyone else found. I expected to come here and instantly fall in love with this country. I expected to come here and change the way I viewed the world. I refused to let go of these expectations because they were what gave me the courage to get on a plane and fly to other side of the world on my own.

Then, in my first placement, I broke. I fell apart and so did all of my expectations. I couldn’t stand constantly being stared at and having no one understand me. Honestly, I hated Thailand and I wanted nothing more than to fly home and curl up on my couch with my dog. I was so mad that I didn’t instantly fall in love with my life here. I couldn’t help but feel like I had been cheated out of what was supposed to be an amazing experience. But I quickly realized that my problem wasn’t Thailand at all. My problem was in my perspective. I wasn’t being cheated out of anything because Thailand didn’t owe me anything. So I stopped comparing my experience to what I thought this experience was supposed to be, I stopped expecting things to fall into my lap, and I stopped throwing lame pity parties. And when I stopped doing all of these things, I found myself finally starting to love Thailand.

I am so thankful that I gave Thailand a second chance, and even more thankful that Thailand gave me a second chance. Looking back on the last 5 months, there are so many things I’m going to miss about this place. I will miss my students constantly making me

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Me and P. Amy 🙂

laugh. I will miss the no-stress atmosphere. I will miss the banter in the foreign teacher office. I will miss strangers smiling at me wherever I go. I will miss playing pick up. I will miss the somtam and sticky rice. I will miss watching highlights of the Barcelona games with my students. I will miss the monks from the temple across the street always waving to me when I drive by. I will miss my motorbike. I will miss watching the sunset over the lake. I will miss meeting up with my friends in random cities on the weekend. I will miss the craziness and unpredictability of working at Chaiyaphumpaddeechumpon. I could go on for days with the things I will miss. Yes, there were lots of not so great things too—bugs, motorbike mishaps, squat toilets, and terrible wifi to name a few—but there were too many good things happening around me to dwell on the negatives.

When I get home I will have to remember that there are traffic laws and police officers that actually enforce those laws—aka I can’t just drive down the wrong side of the road because it’s more convenient. My body will probably go into shock (a good shock) when I go more than a day without rice. I will be converting dollars to baht and crying at how expensive everything is. I will have to get back into the habit of saying “God bless you” when people sneeze and fall out of the habit of waiing when greeting people. But out of all the things that I will bring home with me, I hope that I also bring home the curiosity, humility, and independence that I have gained here. Most importantly, I hope I bring home the kindness that I have constantly been shown by the Thai people.

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Gonna miss these guys 😦

So, I want to thank you Thailand. Thank you for not always giving me what I wanted, but instead giving me exactly what I needed. I will miss you! I don’t know where my next adventure will take me, but I’m sure I will see you again 🙂

Oh, the places you’ll g0…

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Embracing the Craziness

First off, I would like to say that Sarah, Steve, and myself successfully finished the Khon Kaen Half Marathon! At the starting line they announced that the Princess was running in the race and told us that if we passed her we were not to take any selfies. I guess I can cross running a half marathon with the Princess of Thailand off my bucket list?

Anyways, every week at Chaiyaphumpakdeechumpon School is unpredictable, which makes for some great stories. Here are a few funny/embarrassing/ridiculous stories from this past week:

Monday morning it was freezing in Chaiyaphum. By freezing I mean low 50s, but when you have no warm clothes with you and your apartment and school have no heating or insulation, it’s seriously cold. So all the foreign teachers showed up to school wearing any warm clothing we had, not even thinking twice about how ridiculous we looked in our

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Winter hats for the winter weather. 

hoodie/skirt combo. Luckily for us, today happened to be the Chinese New Year… meaning our school was going to celebrate at assembly… meaning the foreign teachers would be put on stage for some reason or another… meaning we were going to be completely embarrassed in front of the entire school. We hid out in our office for as long as we could, but eventually a student was sent to get us. Knowing we couldn’t avoid this any longer, we headed to the assembly teasing one another about who looked the most ridiculous. Well, the joke was on all of us because when we got to the assembly all of the other teachers were done up beautifully, wearing traditional Chinese dresses. It turns out just being present at the assembly wasn’t enough. We had to go on stage… twice. The first time, we just stood there smiling while they said some stuff in Thai. There was a good bit of laughter from the crowd so for all I know they were talking about how we looked like a bunch of homeless people they found on the side of the road. The second time on stage was the real kicker. We had to go back on stage one by one to receive a gift from the Director and pose for a picture with him. I don’t know where these photos go and I hope I never see them, but I’ll give you an idea of what it looked like: Me standing on stage in front of 3,5000 students, awkwardly accepting this gift from the Director, all while wearing a long skirt and a zip up sweater I bought from the secondhand market in town. Happy Monday!

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Foreign teachers missed the memo on the dresscode… oops.

Monday morning set the tone for the rest of the week—crazy. My M1 MEPs are always a challenge. This week they took their antics to a whole new level. I had a double period with them, meaning an hour and 40 minutes of me trying to teach these kids science amidst absolute mayhem. The lesson started out great, but quickly turned into a disaster. For starters, two of my students made this fishing rod-like thing that they were throwing over the side of the building. When I went over to ask them what they were doing they said, “teacha fishing” and looked at me as if that was such a dumb question. These fishermen; however, were outdone by their friends who thought it would be funny to try and light Eake’s hair on fire. Yes, a couple boys actually thought it would be funny to try light their friend’s hair on fire in the middle of science class.

My M1 MEP students and I all made it out of class alive, which is genuinely how I measure a successful class. Then I headed to my most difficult class of the week. This is my M1 ECD class that knows zero English. As usual, about 45 of them come and go throughout the class period. They will literally swing in and out of class on the doors. Once they’re in class, I try my best to get them all to sit at their desks, but that’s been a losing battle since day 1. They’ll sit on the desks, carry the desks around over their heads, use broken pieces of the desks to fight one another, and even lay across my desk, but they just can’t sit in their own seats. And that’s not even taking into account the boys that play soccer in the back of the class. After asking them for the ball a couple times they thought it would be funny to start a game of keep away from me. Luckily, I can hold my own against a couple thirteen-year-old boys. Needless to say, my Tuesdays are never boring.

Wednesday started out great. Not only did all 49 of my M6 student show up to class, but they also showed up on time. I’ve been in Thailand long enough now to know that thing’s never go smoothly…. Ever. So what do you know, my students and I walked into the classroom only to be swarmed by hundreds of mosquitos. I kept swatting them away from my face, but they were everywhere. So me and about 40 of my students waited outside the classroom while the rest of them ran around the room swatting mosquitos with their notebooks. Another successful class.

The rest of the week continued to be just as crazy, with students stuffing each other in garbage cans, writing weirdly inappropriate but hilarious valentine’s day cards, and just being their typical funny, reckless selves. I don’t know how I’ll ever find a job that makes me laugh as much as this one does.

On a completely unrelated note, I had an awesome opportunity to shadow some physical therapists in a Thai hospital over the last 2 weeks. It’s a long story, but essentially I messed up my PT school application and needed 15 more hours of shadowing before my top choice school would look at my application. Up for an adventure and not wanting to leave my application incomplete, I wandered into the hospital in town looking for a physical therapist to ask if I could shadow. The English proficiency of the staff in the hospital was minimal at best so you can imagine the struggle of trying to explain to them what exactly I wanted to do. I was bounced from receptionist to nurse to doctor, etc. until one nurse spoke enough English to understand that I wanted to talk to a physical therapist. Mind you, while I’m being bounced from person to person, the entire waiting room is staring at me like I’m an alien because it’s not often they see a white person in the Chaiyaphum government hospital. It took me re-visiting the hospital 3 times for them to understand what it is that I wanted, but it was totally worth it. I went to the hospital for 2 hours everyday after school to observe. I got to see a good few patients, but mostly the PTs wanted to practice their English with me. In broken English they explained to me how physical therapy school works in Thailand and I told them about how it works in America. While the heart of physical therapy is the same in both Thailand and America, it was amazing to hear the differences in schooling, salaries, technology, and equipment. When I first got the email that my PT application was on-hold until I got 15 more hours of observation, I was so frustrated. However, this shadowing experience turned out to be one of the best experiences I’ve had so far here in Thailand. Getting my hours was great, but the best part of this experience was meeting such kind and happy people. I was just some random westerner that showed up in their office one day and they treated me like one of their best friends. I can’t thank them enough for giving me such an awesome experience!

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My wonderful PT friends. 

I only have a couple weeks left of this craziness, so I’m embracing every second 🙂

 

New Year, New Look, New Stories

It’s been awhile since I’ve posted on here, so here’s a rundown of some of the good and not so good things that have happened over the last few weeks!

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Sunset on Kata Beach:)

For New Year’s I was lucky enough to spend a few days down in Phuket with Julissa. We took a cooking class, went on a day cruise to 5 different islands, lifted lanterns into the sky on New Year’s Eve, snorkeled (kind of), met some creepy Italian guys and some nice looking German guys, rented a motorbike to go see the ‘Big Buddha,’ and watched the sunset on the beach. We were so busy I almost missed my flight back to Bangkok… mai bpen rai. What’s a better way to end a vacation than running through an airport bypassing all the lines by smiling and saying the right things. I guess after being Graham’s sister for 22 years, something finally rubbed off on me haha! Spending 4 days in a beautiful beach town was great, but spending it with a friend from home was the best part!

While it was nice to get away from school for a little, I did miss the crazy antics of my students. Luckily, I got to go on a 3-day field trip with my science kids. It was really nice getting to hangout with my students outside of the classroom. After the field trip, all my classes for the rest of the week were cancelled because of random festivals, field trips, and camps. So after quiteDCIM100GOPROGOPR1389. a bit of time off teaching, I got hit full force my first week back. In my M1 English class, I had to break up a fight that left both boys in tears. I couldn’t even mediate the fight because obviously this is my one class that speaks zero English. Then, 5 minutes before one of my M6 English classes, 2 students come into the foreign teacher office and ask who the teacher is for their class. It was me, but they didn’

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Goofballs

t know that because they have yet to show up to a class this semester. So the boys come over to my desk and tell me that they are very busy on Tuesdays (this class is on Thursdays, but they missed the lesson on days of the week) and no one will be coming to class next period. Knowing that I have zero points for all of them, they asked for an assignment they could do outside of class to make up the points. All I could do was laugh because no matter what, these kids are all still going to pass my class… only in Thailand haha.

I had a bit of a rough week last week for a couple different reasons. One of those reasons being my decision to get my hair cut here in Thailand. Anyone who knows me knows I’m not at all fussy about my hair. However, when the Thai woman chopped about 6 inches more than I wanted off of my hair I could’ve cried. She spoke no English, but apparently knew the words “oops,” “too much,” and “I’m sorry.” Long story short (no pun intended), I now weigh about 2 pounds lighter and can barely get my hair into a pony tail… yikes.

With my new haircut, I was a little nervous I was going to look like a boy, but no worries, I still look like a girl. This was made clear as day to me when I turned up to play in the soccer tournament that was being hosted in town, but couldn’t olay… because I was a girl. The guys I play pickup with every week put together a team with a bunch of the farangs and a couple Thai guys. I was so excited to actually play in a competitive game. Unfortunately, when I turned up to play the Thai guys said I wasn’t allowed to play because I was a girl. When they told me this, I laughed because I genuinely thought they were kidding. After a small feminist rant that the Thais definitely didn’t understand, I had them call the Director of the tournament to ask if I could participate. The Director said no, girls cannot play with the guys. So I sat on the sideline and watched my team play a “man” down. It sucked. I was obviously upset that I couldn’t play, but the reason why I couldn’t play was what really got to me. It honestly made me sad for the Thai women. It’s 2016 and yet there are still people out there who think men and women aren’t equal. I could go on and on, but you get the point—girls rule, boys drool. Living here I’ve had the chance to experience parts of the Thai culture that I absolutely love and unfortunately, some parts of the culture that I can’t stand. I told one of the Thai teachers at my school about what happened and she wasn’t at all surprised, but she was upset for me. She is going to call the Director and find out why he won’t let women play in the tournament. I know he won’t change his mind about letting me play, but maybe he’ll realize what President Obama said not too long ago is true…“playing like a girl means you’re a badass.”

Finally, this weekend 2 friends and me are running in the Khon Kaen half-marathon. I’m not sure why I signed up for this, but I’m hoping since I lost a couple pounds courtesy of my haircut, I’ll run a little faster. If you don’t hear from me for a while, just look within a 13 mile radius of Khon Kaen University.

Until next time!

Not Your Traditional Christmas List

This will be my first Christmas spent away from home and away from my family. While this bummed me out at first, I think this will turn out to be one of my best Christmas holidays yet. From the Christmas scavenger hunt I did with my students to the school being decorated with snowmen and Christmas trees, there is no shortage of Christmas spirit at Chaiyaphumpakdeechumpon. On Christmas day there are no classes. Instead we have Christmas activities all day. One of those activities will include the foreign teachers getting dressed up like Santa Claus and Mrs. Claus and singing “Santa Claus is Coming to Town” with the MEP students. We’ve been practicing the past few days after school and I think it’s safe to say this will be a train wreck, but a hilarious and fun train wreck. And quite honestly, I wouldn’t expect anything less. After all, it’s Thailand.

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Random photoshoot in our christmas outfits

I’ll miss waking up and having an Irish breakfast with my family on Christmas morning, but I’m excited to try something new and maybe even make some new traditions. One of the Thai women that owns a restaurant in town is having a Christmas eve dinner for the foreign teachers and we are having a secret santa gift exchange. Then Christmas night we have another dinner at a local foreigner bar. And to top all of this off, my TESOL friends and I are meeting up this weekend to have our own little Christmas celebration 🙂

This Christmas will be anything but traditional, so I decided to make a Christmas list that followed suit. Instead of a list of things I want or need, I made a list of little Christmas ‘miracles’ that have happened to me over the past few weeks.

  • Making it back from Laos alive- A few weeks ago, I had to cross the border to Laos in order to extend my visa. The visa situations here can be quite confusing, but essentially, I just had to step foot in Laos and then come back to Thailand and my visa would be all set for 90 more days. Sounds simple enough, right? Well, it turns out that that one step into Laos was a bit more complicated than it sounded. Here’s a quick run-down of the day: 6am bus from Chaiyaphum–> 6 hours later I got to the Thai border–> I was swarmed by Thai men trying to rip me off–> my tuk-tuk driver told me he was bringing me to immigration, but instead brought me to some sketchy shop where they tried to overcharge me for my a different visa–> I said heck no to him and had him bring me to the proper immigration office–> I didn’t have my departure card, so I had to beg the Thai man at customs to give me one–> I left Thailand–> I piled into a bus that took us through limbo land to the Laos immigration office–> they were at lunch (obviously)–> I applied for my Laos visa–> I went through Laos arrival customs–> I turned around and came back out through Laos departure customs–> I got back onto the sketchy bus to the Thai immigration office–> I went through Thai arrival customs–> I took a taxi to the bus station (got a compliment on my Thai from the taxi driver when I was bartering with him.. woo!)–> I made the last bus back to Chiayaphum with 30 minutes to spare… a Christmas miracle.
  • Making it down from Doi Inthanon alive- Last week our school had sports week, which is exactly what it sounds like—a week full of sports instead of class. The students spent the week competing against other schools from the area in different sporting events.
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    Photobombed by a monk

    So I took advantage of the long weekend and headed to Chiang Mai on my own. There, I rented a motorbike and rode up to Doi Inthanon, Thailand’s highest peak. It was about an hour outside of town and then another hour up the mountain. It was an awesome ride until about halfway up the mountain when I started to freeze. I assumed it would be a little chilly since I was going to be up in the mountains, but I was not prepared for just how cold it was. As I’m driving I saw Thai people riding their motorbikes in winter coats, hats, scarves, and gloves. Meanwhile I was in a long sleeve t-shirt and capri leggings…awesome. I kept telling myself that the view would be worth it at the top and I was right, it was beautiful. There were 2 temples at the top, surrounded by a lovely garden (not like my dad’s work, but nice enough =p). However, the best part was being up in the clouds and looking out over the mountains. IMG_0970There was only 1 problem with this situation… the fact that I had to get back down the mountain on my motorbike. I had two options: freeze my butt off on the hour ride down on my bike, or find someone with a pickup truck and get them to give me and my bike a ride down. I saw a pickup truck in the parking lot so I decided to go with option b—hitch a ride. I sat in the parking lot until I saw someone go into the truck. Turns out it was a police officer’s truck. I walked over to him and asked if he spoke English, but he didn’t so he called his friend over to help translate. His friend didn’t know much English either, but good old Google translate helped them understand that I wanted a ride down the mountain because it was too cold to ride down on my bike. To my surprise, the guys said ok and told me to come back to them in an hour when they were finished their work shift.

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    My new friends loading my bike into their truck haha!

    An hour later turned into 2 hours later, but the police officers eventually loaded my bike into the back of their truck and then put me in a different car with their friend. I was pretty confused as to what was happening, but at this point nothing really surprises me in Thailand so I just went with it. Me and my new friend Keet followed the truck down the mountain with me speaking as much Thai as I could and him trying to speak as much English as he could. It was a simple, but great conversation. When we made it to the bottom I tried to pay them and they refused to take any money. Instead they sent me off by saying “no more cold!” Making it down the mountain in a warm car and making some new friends was definitely a Christmas miracle!

  • My M6s coming to class- My M6 students never come to class… ever. Just this week, I met some of them for the first time. However, 2 weeks ago a couple boys showed up to my one class and asked me to play soccer with them on Sunday nights. More pickup? Absolutely, count me in! So Sunday night I went to the turf field and played with my students. I had one of the best nights I’ve had so far in Chaiyaphum. When I scored a goal, they all went nuts. It was one of the best celebrations I think I’ve ever had after a goal haha! I joked with them that they had to start coming to class if I was coming to soccer. Some laughed so I made a deal that if they don’t come to class they have to speak to me in English at soccer. To my surprise, a bunch of them came to class this week… a Christmas miracle! I don’t know if they’ll keep coming to class, but either way I will have Sunday night pick-up with them every week 🙂
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Post soccer selfie with my M6s… Love these guys!

Wishing everyone a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year from Thailand! 🙂

The Real World

When I started telling people that I was going to Thailand to teach English, I got a variety of responses. Some people were genuinely excited to see me do something so different. Some were confused as to why I wasn’t going to grad school or getting a “real job.” Some questioned what I would do with my bio degree in Thailand. Looking back on it, I gave pretty naive answers. They were honest answers at the time, but fast forward 2 and a half months and I have much better answers for everyone, including myself.

One question I got a lot was why I chose Thailand. In all of the research I had done, I kept seeing over and over how Thailand was known as the “Land of Smiles.” How could I not want to live in the land of smiles for a while, right?

Fast forward 2 and a half months and I have the same answer for you, but this time I can answer with a true understanding of what this means.

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My M1s love taking selfies

Everyday without fail, my students make me smile. Whether it’s Stamp chasing me around my class with a gecko, Soccer getting up and dancing in class every time I look away, my M1s hiding under my desk or even on the ledge of the building during free time, or my M2 boys that never pay attention but ask me every Monday if I watched the Barcelona and Man U games from the weekend, I can only be annoyed for a second before I start laughing. It would be easy to get upset over certain things that happen in a Thai classroom, but when you start to understand and accept that their education system and cultural values are so vastly different than in America, you start to learn from the way things are done here. It’s the polar opposite from any academic setting I have ever been in at home, but there’s something to be said for how content and happy the Thai people are with how things work here. In addition to my students, I have great Thai teachers at my school that continuously make me laugh. Whether they are bringing in homemade Thai dishes for us or practicing their Christmas carols in the office, its safe to say we have a good time.

Another question I got a lot was if I was going to use my Biology degree after college. My honest response to this was that I had no idea.

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Notice the soccer ball I had to confiscate from the 3 v. 3 game that was happening in the back of the class..

Fast forward to now and not much has changed on this front, but I do use my bio degree everyday when I teach science. So mai bpen rai, my 4 years of college weren’t for nothing. On a more serious note though, I used to really stress about what would happen if I didn’t end up using the degree I had worked so hard to get. Teaching in Thailand has basically eliminated this worry. While an education and a degree are definitely important, I’m realizing that what it says on the degree is much less important. If you are adaptable, can relate to people, can communicate well, and enjoy what you do every day, then that’s really all that matters. So maybe I will use my degree, and maybe I won’t, but either way I know I’ll be just fine.

The question I probably got the most was why would I even want to go teach English in Thailand. To this I remember always saying that I was buying myself some time to figure out what I want to do with my life and avoid the real world for a little longer.

Fast forward 2 and a half months and I have a much different answer. I read another blog recently that talked about how we define the real world. In college, a lot of alumni would come back and tell us to stay in college and avoid the real world, aka a routine 9-5 job that paid the bills. Hearing this constantly, I wanted nothing more than to avoid falling into this trap. Now that I think about it, by coming to Thailand I actually threw myself head first into the real world. Not the real world that everyone had previously defined, but the real world. What’s more real than up and moving to a foreign country on your own and immersing yourself into a culture that is so different than what you have been surrounded by your whole life? Thailand has redefined what the real world means to me. Now I understand that the real world means constantly being pushed out of your comfort zone, travelling to random cities just to explore, trying new foods, learning new languages, riding a motorbike through rice paddy fields at sunset, the list could go on and on. My point is, with a new perspective on what it means to be in the real world, I’m no longer afraid of it. Quite frankly, I can’t get enough of it 🙂

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Sarah, myself, and Lauren being celebs.

 

 

 

My new home… Chaiyaphum!

Since my last blog post, I have moved to a new town and started a new teaching job. It has been a crazy week, but I can honestly say that I am so much happier in my new location. Here are some of the details of my new placement:

I am now living in Muang, Chaiayaphum, which is in the northeast region of Thailand. I’m teaching English to M1s (7th graders) and M6s (high school seniors). I am also teaching science to M1, M2, and M3s (7th, 8th, and 9th graders). It’s quite the variety and also quite the challenge. However, I’m really enjoying it. I have plenty of other foreign teachers at my school, which has been a huge help. My apartment is pretty nice. I have a single room with a bathroom attached. I also have a mattress, so it’s a big improvement from my last accommodation!

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View from the front of my apartment building

Having been in Thailand for over 2 months now, I can start to see differences in myself. Every day I’m learning new things about myself and about the world around me. Here are just a few of the things I have learned so far in Thailand:

1.) How to ride a motorbike- The only way to get around Chaiyaphum is by riding a motorbike. I was pretty intimidated at first, but I’m starting to get the hang of it. It’s definitely quite different from the fish van I drive at home! If you have ever been to Thailand, you know that there are

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My motorbike

essentially no traffic laws. The lines on the road are more for decoration and I don’t think speed limits are a thing here. I had to pass a rigorous driving test to get my license for the motorbike… just kidding! I paid the guy for my bike, was shown how to start it, and I was cruisin’. Getting gas for the first time was pretty entertaining; I didn’t even know where the tank was. Luckily, the guy at the gas station was able to help me. To fill the tank it costs 80 baht, which is about $2.25!!! Oh and don’t worry, I wear a helmet!

2.) How to go with the flow- I can’t even begin to describe how adaptable you have to be to work in a Thai school. My schedule changed 3 times in the first week, and I’m sure it’ll change again this week. After one of my science classes I was told that for the next few weeks instead of science, I would be teaching the students English Christmas carols for the upcoming Christmas concert. I also just found out that this Wednesday the foreign teachers would be doing a Thai dance during morning assembly. And it gets better… we will be dancing in our traditional Thai skirts (google image it) and since we don’t have little Thai waistlines, they don’t fit at all. So if you’re having a tough day on Wednesday just picture what I’ll be doing.

I have 6 M6s classes a week and there are about 50 students in each of those classes. I’m going on day 2 of week 2, and I’ve met a total of 20 of my M6 students. When my first few classes didn’t show up, I asked my director what to do and she said I should go find them. Unfortunately, I didn’t have much luck locating 50 Thai students I had never met before in a school of 3,500… shocker. Since these kids can’t fail and I need to turn in grades for them, I was told the kids could get points for decorating the halls for Christmas. These are just a few examples of going with the flow here in Thailand.

3.) How to be creative- You can probably imagine how difficult it is to teach science to kids who’s second language is English. To add to the difficulty, my curriculum is full of chemistry and physics experiments. While these are awesome experiments, I have absolutely no equipment in

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Some of my crazy, but awesome students

the classroom—no projector, no beakers, no Bunsen burners, no test tubes, etc.—just me and a whiteboard. Each lesson forces me to think outside the box. First I have to figure out how to explain the topic in the simplest English terms I can think of. Then I have to think of how I can demonstrate this concept or how I can turn it into a game for the students. Thailand is definitely keeping me on my toes!

4.) Humility- In Thailand, no one knows who you are. No one here cares about how much money you have, what your GPA is, or how many likes you got on an Instagram post. Life is so simple here and the people are so happy. You can get by in Thailand simply by smiling and showing kindness to everyone you meet.

5.) Soccer is a universal language- I found an awesome group of guys to play pick up with here in Chaiyaphum. A couple English guys and myself make up the foreigner team and play against the Thai guys. In each town I’ve been, soccer has been the quickest and easiest way for me to make Thai friends. I don’t know where I would be without it!

6.) Beauty isn’t just in the beaches- Everyone always comments on how beautiful Thailand is. Most of these people were probably referring to the pictures of the beaches and islands. Those are extremely beautiful; however, I am living nowhere near the beaches or touristy areas. In fact, Lonely Planet describes Chaiyaphum by saying, “Travelling through Chaiyaphum Province, you’re almost as likely to run into a tiger as a foreign tourist – and this is not a province with lots of tigers.” So after dropping all of those expectations, I started to open my eyes to a different kind of beauty—beauty in the people. For example, often times when you run into a Thai parent with their child, they will ask you to speak to their child in English. They don’t know much English themselves, but they just want their children to be around the language. Or, when I practice my Thai at the market and the food vendor sees my effort, they put on a huge smile and will teach me some new Thai words. It’s the little exchanges like these that are beautiful. Thailand has given me a new definition of beauty.

7.) I have an amazing family back home- I knew I had a great family before coming to Thailand, but Thailand definitely reminded me of just how lucky I am. During my rough spell in Sinakhon, my parents had their phones on them 24/7 despite the time difference. It was one of the only things that really helped me through that time and I’m so thankful for it!

I came to Thailand to teach, but I think Thailand is going to be the one teaching me 🙂

“Oh! The Places You’ll Go…”

“Oh, the Places You’ll Go…

This is one of my favorite quotes, but until recently I hadn’t actually read the whole Dr. Seuss story that this quote comes from. It starts like this:

“Congratulations! Today is your day. You’re off to great places!  You’re off and away!

You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself any direction you choose.You’re on your own. And you know what you know. And you are the guy who’ll decide where to go.”

Coming to Thailand on my own was a huge risk. I did my research, but there’s no way to completely prepare yourself for what you will encounter here; and that’s what makes it so exciting. There are many things that motivated me to come here and the main one being to make a difference. I wanted to make a difference in someone else’s life and hopefully, in turn, make a difference in my own life. When I heard all of the negative things about my placement in Sinakhon, I was really nervous. However, I wanted to give it a fair shot myself. I came to Thailand for a reason and I believed that I was placed in this town and at this school for a reason.

Here are some of my favorite things about this town/school… The best part of every day was playing soccer and basketball with the kids after school. I also met people in the community that took such great care of me. From my housemate, Stephanie, to our neighbors that bring us breakfast and dinner every once in awhile, to the Thai friends that invite us over for food and drinks, I am so grateful!

“I’m sorry to say so but, sadly, it’s true that Bang-ups and Hang-ups can happen to you.

You can get all hung up In a prickle-ly perch. And your gang will fly on. You’ll be left in a lurch.

You’ll come down from the Lurch with an unpleasant bump. And the chances are, then, that you’ll be in a Slump.

And when you’re in a Slump, you’re not in for much fun. Un-slumping yourself is not easily done.

You will come to a place where the streets are not marked. Some windows are lighted. But mostly they’re darked. A place you could sprain both your elbow and chin! Do you dare to stay out? Do you dare to go in? How much can you lose? How much can you win?”

As with any adventure, there are some not so great things that have happened here as well. I’ve been here a week now and to say that this week was tough would be an understatement. Obviously, I was feeling quite homesick. It was my first week living in a town in the middle of nowhere. It was also my first week ever teaching. Being the only native English speaker at my school didn’t help either. The list could go on and on, but I’m not going to dwell on the negatives. Long story short, I decided not to return to Sinakhon School. There are many things that factored into this decision, but essentially this school was not equipped for a foreign teacher. It wasn’t an easy decision, but I need to do what’s best for me.

“I’m afraid that some times you’ll play lonely games too. Games you can’t win ‘cause you’ll play against you.

All Alone! Whether you like it or not, alone will be something you’ll be quite a lot.

And when you’re alone, there’s a very good chance you’ll meet things that scare you right out of your pants. There are some, down the road between hither and you, that can scare you so much you won’t want to go on.”

I hit a low point on Friday. During one of my classes, I came back from lunch to find 5 or 6 M6 students (the equivalent of high school seniors) sleeping on the floor of my class with the lights off and AC cranked. This was the quietest and most well-behaved I’d ever seen this classroom, so I let them sleep while I looked up flights home. My mind had been made up; I couldn’t do this anymore. I have been homesick before and I know that this feeling was different; this feeling just wasn’t right.

Later that night I met up with some Thai friends to try and get my mind off of everything. The minute my one friend saw me she asked what was wrong. I told them I didn’t think I could go back to Sinakhon on Monday. Since this is such a small town, they know about the school and its history with foreign teachers. These people owed me nothing, but apologized to me for things turning out the way they did. They were so unbelievably kind and after having one of the toughest weeks of my life, they gave me a weekend that I will never forget. In just 2 days, we saw a beautiful elephant sanctuary, toured a small gold factory, got our fortunes from a temple, went to a Thai disco, attended a Thai version of a potluck, ate more mystery food than I could ever imagine, visited Sukhothai Historical Park, and rode my first motorbike. Woah! While I was only here a week, I now know the reason I was sent to Sinakhon. If I hadn’t come here, I never would’ve met these amazing people. I can barely speak their language and they can barely speak mine. So instead of using words, they communicated with kindness. Their kindness and reassurance are the reason I’m not on a flight home right now. I don’t think they’ll ever know how much that meant to me.

So thankful for these people!

So thankful for these people!

“But on you will go though the weather be foul. On you will go though your enemies prowl. On you will go though the Hakken-Kraks howl. Onward up many A frightening creek, though your arms may get sore and your sneakers may leak.

On and on you will hike, and I know you’ll hike far and face up to our problems whatever they are.

You’ll get mixed up, of course, as you already know. You’ll get mixed up with many strange birds as you go. So be sure when you step. Step with great care and great tact and remember that Life’s a Great Balancing Act.Just never forget to be dexterous and deft. And never mix up your right foot with your left.”

I have grown up so much in the last 6 weeks and I’m so proud of myself for what I’ve accomplished. Just being able to post something this personal on a blog is an example of how far I’ve come. I could easily pretend that this experience has been a breeze, but that’s not the reality. I came here to learn about myself and by gosh, I’m learning haha! After speaking with my agency and thinking about what’s best for me, I’ve decided to move to another town and try teaching at another school. I don’t know all the details yet, and this is Thailand, so the details will probably change 5 times before I actually get there, but this new school/town sounds like it might be a better fit for me. This is just another curve ball that Thailand has thrown my way. I might hit it out of the park, or I might strike out. Either way, I’ll still be swinging!

Oh, the places you’ll go…”

Mai Bpen Rai

“Mai bpen rai…” it means no worries. This is a phrase you hear all the time in Thailand. Life is very unpredictable here so when something comes up or changes in a split second, Thai people will say “mai bpen rai” and smile. As a Westerner, this has been one of the toughest things to get used to, but it definitely keeps life exciting.

White Group!

Last Thursday, we graduated from our TESOL course. Apparently I’m a certified teacher now haha! On Tuesday of that week some of us found out we would be leaving for another orientation with our school’s agency right after graduation on Thursday. So in less than 48 hours we had to pack, study for our final, finish our final projects, and say our goodbyes. We were a little stressed to say the least, but mai bpen rai, right?

After graduation we celebrated with some beers in the pool and then a couple of us headed off to Bangkok for our orientation. Saying goodbye to the people we’d spent

White group!

every day with for the past 4 weeks wasn’t easy. In Thai culture it’s important that you don’t lose face, or show any emotions. In typical Western form, we were all crying while the Thai guy driving our van looked at us like we had lost our minds.

At orientation I met my agent Faith, who would be the communicator between my school and me. She was able to give me more details about my placement. She told me I would be living in a house with an American girl named Stephanie who was going to be there for her second semester. This was great news considering I was initially told I was the only westerner in town. I am still the only western teacher at my school, but I am so lucky to have someone I can communicate with in English. I found out I would be teaching all 900 students in the highschool, not just one or two grades like I previously thought. She also told me that the kids are “very naughty” and apparently the last American teacher at the school left after a few weeks. This was very intimidating, but again, mai bpen rai, right?

After our 3 days of orientation, a few of us decided to go to the island of Koh Samed for a few days before heading off to our towns in the middle of nowhere. Getting there was quite the adventure. There were 6 of us, but we had to split off into 3 cabs to the bus station because we had all of our luggage with us. After calling 3 cabs, 4 of our friends had gotten into theirs and were on their way. Me and Sarah’s cab got snagged by someone else, so we had to wait about 20 minutes for another one. Long story short, we then missed the first bus, which made us miss the first ferry, etc. As if that wasn’t stressful enough, getting onto the ferry we had to carry our big suitcases across this

Koh Samed

Koh Samed

little wooden plank that wasn’t secured to anything. Everyone who witnessed our struggle had a nice laugh. Anyways, mai bpen rai. We made it to the island a few hours later and made our way to our hostel, which had a room of 12 pods to sleep in. The hostel didn’t have room keys or a receptionist or anything like that, just some pods in a room behind the bar. It was definitely an experience I won’t forget.

Our sleeping pods

Our sleeping pods

We mostly hung out on the beautiful beaches and relaxed. One night we went to a fireshow on the beach, which was incredible, but also frightening. One of the guys in the show actually dropped his torch right next to my friends and I. We all jumped out of the way, knocking over our drinks. After the performance we met some of the guys from the show and asked how long they train for and when he told us it’s only a 3 week training period, we weren’t surprised that we had almost been lit on fire.

Koh Samed

Koh Samed

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Koh Samed

After our 3 days in paradise, we couldn’t drag out the goodbyes any longer. We all had to start heading to our placements. This was the first time in the last 5 weeks that I was truly on my own. As I sat in the Bangkok bus station by myself, surrounded by hundreds of Thai people, I was overwhelmed to say the least. I was sad, excited, nervous, anxious, and basically every other emotion you can think of. Wiped from a long day of traveling, I slept for most of the 7 hour bus ride to Sinakhon. When I arrived at about 5am, it was pouring rain and pitch black out. I got off the bus with all of my luggage and waited on the side of the road for my landlord to pick me up. After about 20 minutes of no one coming to get me, I called my landlord and he showed up a few minutes later. He spoke very little English, but was able to tell me that the rain meant good luck. This was nice to hear, but I didn’t believe it much when I got to my house and saw my room. My bed is a wooden frame with a mattress pad about an inch thick on it. Then my “duvet” is tiny blanket that doesn’t even cover me entirely. I won’t even get started on the bugs, but I will tell you that there was a scorpion in our bathroom last night. I don’t think culture shock has ever hit me as hard as it did as I laid down to sleep that first night. Mai bpen rai did not apply here… I was worried.

My house for the next 4 months

My house

The next morning, the roosters outside our house woke me up bright and early. I still felt uneasy, but was excited to see the town. My housemate and I rode our bikes (the brakes don’t work on mine… classic) around town, which is essentially rice patty fields and back roads. It’s beautiful though. She showed me my school, which has an awesome soccer field out front! She also introduced me to some new Thai friends. They fed Stephanie and I so much food, it was delicious. Later that night we went back to her Thai friend’s shop and drank with some of the town’s police officers haha! Most of the people here speak broken English if any, so I’m really working on learning Thai. Just in the 2 days that I’ve been here my Thai has already improved.

My backyard

My backyard

Despite the initial shock of my housing situation, I am really excited to settle in here. The people I have met have been so welcoming; Thai hospitality is truly like no other. Tomorrow our neighbors are taking Stephanie and I to a temple in the next city over. Then on Monday I begin teaching! I haven’t really heard anything positive about the students at my school, so I’m not sure what I’m about to get myself into. So I’m going to take it one day at a time and give it my all. If I can’t get through to them in the classroom, maybe I can get them speaking English out on the soccer field!

If you stuck with me to the end of this long post, thank you! Wish me luck!

Here Goes Nothing!

My biggest fear coming to Thailand was that I would get placed in a small Thai village without any other westerners. While I knew this was a possibility, I pushed the thought out of my head because I didn’t want something like that to stop me from coming here. Last week I found out I will be moving to a small town called Sinakhon in the Sukhothai province to begin teaching. Not only will I be the only western teacher at my school, but I will also be the only westerner in my town. When I heard this, I freaked out. The closest western teacher is about 40 minutes away in the next town over. The thought of being the only native English speaker within a 40-mile radius scares me, even as I sit here writing this. In this blog, I don’t want to paint this amazing, perfect picture of my experiences because that wouldn’t give an accurate description of what life in Thailand is like. I want this to be honest. And honestly, I was probably the most intimidated I have ever been in my life when I found out where I would be moving. I googled my town and it didn’t even come up on the map. And then when I was finally able to find it on google images, there was at least 2 pictures of rice patty fields aka I’m in the middle of nowhere. Luckily, I have an awesome family at home that helped remind me of why I’m here and put my mind at ease (as at ease at I can get about this).

So the rest of my placement details… I will be teaching at a government high school of about 900 students. My semester goes from Nov.2 –Feb. 29. The school doesn’t have air conditioning, which means I will continue to sweat 24/7. But to make up for that, the school has wifi. I’m not getting my hopes up on it actually working because this is Thailand and technology just doesn’t work over here, but maybe I’ll get lucky. There are 7 other Thai teachers in the English department. In the north and northeast regions of Thailand, the English proficiency is pretty poor so even those 7 Thai English teachers might not speak English very well. I may have to tutor the Thai teachers once a week. Every week I also have to give some sort of speech in English to the entire school LOL. I have no idea what I’m supposed to say or if anyone will even understand me, but I’m sure it’ll be a laugh. I don’t know what kind of accommodation I’ll be living in, but as long as there is wifi and a Western toilet I’ll be happy.

Monday night was my last night playing pick up with my new Thai soccer friends 😦 I found a player who spoke English really well and told him that I would be moving and this would be my last night. He relayed the message to the team and they were so nice to me. They friended me on facebook and told me to message them if I have any problems, even though some can’t even speak a word of English. They even invited me to come back and play in march when my semester in Sukhothai is over. To top it off, the coach called me tonight (Tuesday night) to wish me goodluck. Noppadon, the coach, can barely speak English, but called me and did his best to have a conversation with me. Eventually, he put a friend on the phone for him and the friend told me that he wanted to talk to me, but doesn’t know much English and that he wanted to wish me luck in Sukhothai. It was such a nice gesture and made me feel confident about moving off on my own. If these guys who only knew me for 3 weeks could be so hospitable and kind, I can only imagine what it will be like to spend 4 months with the Thai people in my town.

Fortunately, I’ve met an amazing group of friends here that are getting sent all over Thailand to teach. It’s a bummer that we’re all split up after spending such a crazy/exciting month together, but we’re already planning meet-ups in all of our different towns. While I’m still nervous about what’s to come in the next 4 months, I’m even more excited. I’m ready for the challenge. The beautiful beaches and fruity drinks are a nice part of Thailand, but I want to actually experience living like a Thai person. What better way to do that than to live and work in a town where you are the only westerner?? Wish me luck!

No matter where I go, I can’t stay away from soccer. Through word of mouth, I found out that some locals played pickup a few times a week at a little turf field not far from my hotel. Monday night I decided to go try it out. I’m not gonna lie, it was pretty awkward when I first showed up. What can you expect when you’re the only girl and the only Westerner in the group and you just show up at their field one night.

My new Thai soccer friends

My new Thai soccer friends

Despite my fear that they would think I was crazy, I asked “Can I play?” and one of the guys just passed me a ball. I was in! The guys spoke little to no English, (they called me “cowreen”, close enough) but honestly it didn’t even matter—soccer is the same everywhere you go. Not only were these guys nice enough to let me play, but the coach, Noppadon, even gave me a ride home on his motorcycle. He took down my number and called me 2 days later to tell me they were playing again. I thought it was so funny that he called me considering he barely speaks English. Whenever he calls he says “Hello, my name is Noppadon” and then puts a woman on the phone who translates for him. When I went back to play again, he insisted on giving me a ride home so I wouldn’t have to take a taxi. This is just a glimpse into how nice the Thai people are.

This week was also the official start of our TESOL course. Sunday through Wednesday we were in class learning how to make lesson plans and basically how to teach students who don’t speak much English. We also learned a lot about the education system in Thailand. For instance, we learned that there’s a “no fail” policy, so essentially these kids have no incentive to do well.

My first class!

My first class!

Our goal is to make our lessons so much fun that they want to learn, which isn’t always easy. On Thursday and Friday we got to see what it was actually like working in a Thai school. It was absolute chaos, but an awesome 2 days. Here’s a rundown of our two days of teaching… As we pulled into the school on Thursday morning a bunch of the kids were outside getting ice cream and other sugar-filled foods so that was concerning. On top of that, it was their last 2 days of school before their “winter” break. The first class my partner and I had was only about 10 kids who were very well behaved, so we got off to a good start. The rest of our classes weren’t so easy. These kids were adorable and so much fun, but because of their education system, its tough to get them focused for an hour class. My partner and I showed up to one of our classes and as we walked in, about 15 of them just got up and walked out. We had no idea what was going on and couldn’t ask the students that were still in the class because they don’t know English. I think they all took a bathroom break, but to be completely honest I have no idea. So my partner and I sat there signing autographs while we waited for the other kids to come back. Every class, the kids would call you over and ask for your autograph… it was exhausting.

Phraya Nakhon Cave

Teaching the kids how to say “selfie”

We taught some classes and then observed other English teachers during our off periods. Between our own teaching experiences and observing our friends/classmates, we had enough stories to keep us laughing all weekend. In one of my classes, a kid took my partners white board marker and stuck it down his pants, refusing to participate. There was also a lot of muay thai fighting between the kids in the back of the class. Probably one of the funniest stories was the little boy cut his own hair in a class I was observing. My partner and I were crying laughing in the back of the class as my friend Meghan had to take the scissors away from the student and try to explain to these kids that you can’t do that sort of thing during class. Sidenote: the program randomly assigned lesson plan topics to each class and in this class they had to teach these 8 year olds about surviving the apocalypse. Just imagine teaching a class of 8-year-old children who don’t speak English about surviving an apocalypse… lol. Despite all of these stories, it was a blast teaching these kids. We have 2 more weeks of our TESOL course before we are sent off to our placements, so this was great practice.

Phraya Nakhon Cave

Phraya Nakhon Cave

After class on Friday, our group celebrated surviving such an exhausting week. Then Saturday morning we visited the Phraya Nakhon Cave. We had to hike about 45 minutes to get to the cave. By the time we got there, were covered in sweat, bug spray, and sunscreen, but it was completely worth it. The pictures don’t do it justice, but it was probably the coolest thing I’ve seen so far in Thailand. This place never ceases to amaze me!

Khao Sam Roi Yot National Park

Khao Sam Roi Yot National Park

The crew

The crew