Gravity

With the exception of completely wrecking my body, these past few weeks have been incredible and filled with little adventures beyond my city’s limits. The last time I had left Surat, I spent a long weekend in Malaysia, and only four days after returning home, I was on a ferryboat to Koh Phangan. I have heard about this island from everyone I work with, and from stories of the infamous full moon parties, but I had never been there before. We took a coworkers advice and booked a room on a secluded part of the island, where you had to take a smaller boat from the ferry dock, just to reach this particular beach. My friend booked us a room at a bungalow style hotel, called Ocean Rocks, which was appropriately named, and we took off to spend a long weekend under the sun and on the sand.

We excitedly left Surat at 5 am by minivan, were on a ferry before 7 am, and on the island before lunch. Arriving at the ferry early in the morning meant that we were just catching the sun rise. As the sun started to climb from above the waters horizon and up into the sky, from the boats balcony we watched the rings of fog burn off that surrounded the rock formations sticking out of the water. The air temperature was perfect and the wind felt good against my face, as I greeted the day. When the sun finally found its place in the sky, it looked as if it had dropped gold all over the surface of the water. It was a magical morning, and it set the mood for the rest of the weekend.

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We got our own little bungalow on the rocks, over looking the most beautiful beach. The beach was free of any large hotels or anything too touristy, and so everything had a somewhat authentic feeling to it. Our bungalow was juts a giant room with a double bed and a bathroom. We shared the bed and over the weekend filled it with a fair amount of sand, but it was all we needed. It had a large patio out front and chairs to sit in, and we had a view that I will never forget.

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The water was the color of the oceans you see in pictures, and all the scenery was breathtaking. The bungalow that we split for the weekend only ended up costing us each $6 a night, and as I stood there and took in my surroundings, I wondered how that was even possible. In the States I pay more for a drink at a bar, than I do for a night in Koh Phagnan. When you put it into perspective, it makes not traveling abroad to places like this, in South East Asia, inexcusable. People don’t understand what they are missing out on.

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We spent the entire weekend at dance parties with DJs that literally never stopped, and in the water or lying out. I spent hours upon hours jumping off of rocks into the ocean, convincing everyone I could to go swimming with me before night fell. When night finally did arrive the day dance party grew bigger, and everyone was a beautiful blur of color and emotion. Everything was glowing, everyone was enjoying themselves, and the whole night was the most beautiful one I have had since arriving in Thailand. I remember sitting on one of the floor mats, and just watching people dance, and noticing that everyone was smiling. The entire weekend I was surrounded by beautiful, interesting people, who all got along perfectly, and it instantly felt like we had all known each other much longer than a day or two.

After the first night a little group formed of people who had all met the night before at Eden, and we spent the rest of the weekend together. We laid under the sun, swam in the sea, played on rope swings, had amazing meals and drank rum fruit smoothies.  At one point there was a giant group of us lying about on the beach, and everyone was from a different country, with a different mother language, yet English was what allowed us to all connect. I listened to people switch into their native language when they would meet someone else from their own country, and had the privilege of speaking in the language that comes most naturally to them. As an American, we often take for granted that everyone else speaks our language, and we are never asked to communicate in a second language. At one point I closed my eyes and listened to two people speak to each other in Dutch, and their conversation floated through the air like music. The ease with which they switched from one language into the next, and the beauty with which they spoke both, made me realize how badly I want to be fluent in a second language. Now that I am more involved in the global village, and I am meeting more citizens of other countries, I am finding that rarely is anyone NOT bilingual. Many people can more fluidly from one language to another, and there is no excuse for why I should only know English.

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Three days were over before I knew it, and I did everything in my power to postpone leaving. Because the island had some type of Yoga/meditation/Thai boxing retreat, many of the people we spent the weekend with were there for extended stays of time, most for about a month. As much as I love my job and living where I do, a part of me was desperately trying to figure out how I could stay as well. I was cursing myself for not having money saved, so that I could be in areas like this for more than just a weekend. Traveling while living abroad is tricky, because most people you meet are on vacation, while you are living in their paradise, except with responsibilities. It is a bitter sweet existence that I am stuck in.

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I returned home from the island on Monday night and within two days I had two handsome visitors from America. The boys who came to visit me have always somewhat been friends through a mutual friend, but they have been traveling Southeast Asia for the past few months and before we all left for this part of the world from San Diego, I extended an invitation to them to stay with me if they found themselves in my area. With a week to go before they departed for Australia, I was leaving work on my lunch break to pick them up from the corner and take them back to my house.

I have only been living in Thailand for about four months, give or take, but I cannot explain the feeling that rushed through my body when I saw a familiar face. I immediately had a tiny hole of the homesickness I had been feeling, filled.

The next few days with them were mellow, but wonderful. We went out to dinner on the river with some of my friends and were seated under twinkling lights as riverboats passed us by. It was a much nicer dinner than I normally go to, and being able to sufficiently order in Thai for multiple people, made me feel like I have at least learned something during my time spent here.

We mostly spent the next few days just hanging about, doing a bit of exploring, a bit of drinking, a bit more drinking, and just catching up and trading stories.

So I started this post with the statement that I have wrecked my body. It sounds a bit drastic, but after what I have gone through in less than seven days, I think it’s pretty accurate. It started in Koh Phangan, when I fell down a giant hole between rocks on the first night. I was walking home around 2 am and couldn’t see a thing, and my foot slipped between two giant boulders, and my left leg went straight down, shredding up the skin from my foot to my hip. My foot then hit the rocks below so hard that the bottom got bruised and split open. Then, not even fifteen minutes later, I was walking along the beach, in the shallowest of water, when a rope that was tied to a boat wrapped around my feet like a lasso and pulled me straight down into the water. I woke up the next morning, my leg aching, my foot cut open, and scratches on my ankle from rope burn. That next day I somehow managed to step on glass and further cut open my other foot. Both bottoms of my feet were covered in deep cuts, which then filled with sand over the weekend, as I spent the three days mostly barefoot.

I came back home exhausted and sore, but with a nice tan, and was hoping to have the week to recuperate. Only four days later I was in my first motorbike accident, which was not my fault. I need to state that because I told myself that I wasn’t going to get in one, and if I did it wouldn’t be me who caused it. And I was right, except that still doesn’t change the fact that late Friday night I was laying on the pavement, trying to gather together what had just happened. The bike smashed down on its right side, and my body broke my fall with my rib cage, but somehow both of my knees lost a good amount of skin as well as other parts of my leg and ankle. As I stood up and assessed the damage, blood ran down my legs and kept going and going. I went home, my skin burning, not wanting to put water on it, for fear of how badly it would hurt. Because I was too much of a baby to clean it out, I had an infection in both legs within days.

After a few days of watching the skin around the wounds grow more and more red, and my knees and certain parts of my legs grow swollen, I made the choice to go to the hospital. It was probably a good call, since the sores had been open and blood and puss had literally been running down my legs non stop. To add to the damage from the crash, the cuts that I got when I fell down the rock became infected as well, and my skin started to tighten in certain spots, got really red, and I felt the pressure building with liquid under my skin. I spent the last week limping around school, and I can only imagine what the Thai staff thinks I do in my personal time.

Two of my kindergarten teachers pulled me to the back of the class one morning, made me sit down, and had me put my leg up on a chair. They pulled out their medical supplies and completely cleaned out my knees and tried to help me. I’ve never taken care of cuts like these, and because the weather here is so humid it makes it impossible for a scab to form. They could probably tell how clueless I was, and took it upon themselves to play doctor for me. It was by far the nicest, sweetest and most caring I have been treated by a staff member since living in Thailand. I am currently brainstorming for a way to say thank you, or something that I could do for them.

When I went to the hospital after school I was seen in the emergency room, where I was awkwardly stared at by most of the patients. I’m positive that they were all looking at me, thinking that I am a dumb foreigner who can’t ride a motor bike. The nurses peeled off the dirty scabs I had, popped all the swollen puss bubbles that had developed on my leg and foot, and cleaned out everything and wrapped me up and slapped bandages on everything. I walked out of the emergency room a step away from being a mummy, but they told me I had bad infections and that I needed to keep my skin covered from bacteria or moisture. They also told me to return everyday for the next five days, which seems excessive, but I also am terrified of the infection getting worse.

Oh yeah, and did I mention I fell down a flight of wet stairs the night after the motorbike accident? Yeah.

My body hates me, but after all my tumbles and falls, I have walked away more or less fine. I have all my limbs, my head and face are ok, and what I am dealing with will heal eventually.

I am really fortunate to have good friends and a great family, who have been there for me as soon as I’ve needed to ask for help. You guys are the best.

Release Me

It’s official. If I move anywhere in South East Asia it will be to Georgetown, Penang, in Malaysia. I have only seen a tiny part of the world in my twenty-five years of life, but from what I have seen and where I have been, Georgetown was my favorite place. It is truly a global city, and I am still glowing from the weekend I spent there. I met really interesting people, I ate some of the best food I have ever had, I spent half the weekend at the beach, and the other half exploring a gorgeous city.

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I followed Anthony Bourdain’s advice and tried a few different dishes that were featured on “No Reservations.”  Of everything he recommended, my favorite was Wan Tan Mee, an amazing meal that cost less than two dollars. It was a noodle dish that I bought on the side of the road and was made within minutes right before me. The contents of my bowl included ramen, pork dumplings, thinly sliced barbequed pork, a mix of vegetables and wan tans, all swimming together in a delicious broth.  As much as I wanted to try all the different foods that Penang had to offer, I have to admit that I had this multiple times.

The second dish that I tried was Penang Laksa, which ranked 7th in a 2011 list of the world’s 50 most delicious foods. I had been at the beach all day, and was walking back to the bus stop to catch a ride back to my hostel, when I saw a sign for Penang’s world famous Laksa. It said the food stand/outdoor restaurant was rated number one in the city, and I remembered that Bourdain had eaten it and loved it, so I followed the arrows, found the place, ordered a bowl and had a seat. While I am glad I gave it a try and broadened my horizons, I can say with certainty that it was the first and last time I will eat Laksa. I wasn’t too sure of what to expect, but what arrived was a soup in a clay pot, that was a combination of noodles, onions, cucumbers, mint, ginger and lettuce.

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It looked amazing until I took my first bite, and was instantly taken back by how fishy it was. The thick broth was a murky brown and got its flavor from mackerel that had  been stewed with lemon grass and chilies. Aside from the fish taste, I enjoyed the blend of spices, but not enough to eat it again.

Another must was Indian food. My first night in Penanag I had the banana leaf Indian dinner, and over the weekend I went for Indian again with a friend that I met. I had tandoori chicken that was roasted from a street vendor and served with garlic nan and multiple dipping sauces, my favorite being the mint cilantro chutney that had a spicier kick to it than I expected. For breakfast one morning I also went to Little India and ordered roti canai, an Indian-Muslim style flatbread that you dip in sauce or curry. I watched the man at the food cart knead the dough, toss it around in the air, and then throw it on a hot flat skillet where it was brushed with butter before being flipped over, folded up and wrapped up in paper for me to take away.

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And last but not least, I had a bagel for breakfast; A sesame seed, fresh bagel, stuffed with cucumber and bacon in the middle. Bagels were part of my every day diet during college, and I haven’t even seen one since arriving in Thailand. The bagel was quite possibly the most expense meal I ate while in Georgetown, but I cannot convey the bliss it brought to my morning, when paired with a coffee and a side of fresh fruit from a street vendor.

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World renown cuisine may be what Georgetown is well known for, but I did more than just eat while I was there. I spent the first day on my own, exploring the city by foot, and didn’t return to my hostel for six hours. It was never intended to be such a long adventure, but apparently my ability to read a map isn’t as good as I thought it was. I started on Love Lane, the area my hostel was located, and headed to the waterfront, which was about a ten-minute walk.

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Once I got to the water front I just followed it all around the edge of the city. After six hours of weaving though side streets, turning the map around again and again trying to figure out where I was, cutting down little alley ways with unmarked signs, I had completely circled the city and found myself right where I had left from that late morning.

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(The side of the city where I started)

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(When I got to the very end of it and looked back and how far I’d walked)

Although I was exhausted and had considered taking a taxi multiple times, I am pleased that I didn’t, because the only way to truly get to know a place is to explore it on foot. My Tom’s were a little more worn down, my skin flushed from the sun, but during my afternoon adventure I had randomly stumbled across creative street art by a famous Malaysia artist, as well as passed some of the best architecture I have ever seen.

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Georgetown first began as a British colony, so much of the architecture that still remains is left from the colonial era. Giant white mansions rest on street corners, with wrap around gardens bursting with tropical plants and towering palms.

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These colonial buildings sit across the street from Buddhist temples, with sloping Asian style roofs, on properties that boast statues of dragons with multiple heads. The streets are lined with row houses that the British built, but are now occupied by Chinese, who hang red lanterns and birdcages outside their front doors and over their patios. If you turn the corner you will enter Little India, where you are instantly transported to an entirely different world. The smell of Indian spices and incense drifts through the streets, Indian music blares from open shops, mannequins dressed in traditional Indian fashion stand guard outside of clothing stores, and jewelry shops filled with sparkling brackets beckon you inside. There is also the modernization of Georgetown, and all the new architecture that wealth has brought with it. But there is no such thing as wealth, without poverty to compare it to.

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Beautiful high rises framed in glass raced toward the sky and were surrounded by manicured lawns and modern art sculptures that sometimes served as fountains and sometimes simply as art. Each street that I walked down became a representation of a different part of the world, and I saw more flags blowing in the warm winter air, than I was able to identify. My favorite part of the day was when I found the Chinese jetties. These jetties were first established over a hundred years ago, when Chinese families settled in Georgetown. Each jetty was built to act as a mini neighborhood for a family or clan of people. Over the years they have become homes to generations of Chinese families, and the inhabitants all live in wooden houses built over the water. The reason for building their neighbors over the water was to originally evade paying land property taxes. I wandered down the jetties, and stumbled across more art by the same famous artist.

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The most astonishing thing about Georgetown was how many people call it home. I have never been in a city that was comprised of people with every skin color, from every country, dressed in all different styles of traditional clothing, heard so many different languages around me, and tasted such a wide variety of foods. It was a collision of culture, yet all the pieces seemed to fit seamlessly together. There was harmony and cohesion and everyone was friendly and it seemed that people were accepting of all the differences around them. It seemed natural for such a global community to exist as it was doing in Georgetown, and it made it seem odd that in many places of the world we live in areas that are segregated into one type of culture or people. I left Penang hopeful that this is what the future will be like. Cultures will all learn to coexist in the same space, and rather than feeling like our neighbors are stepping on our toes with their differences, they are actually teaching and inviting us to dance.

The second day on my own I decided to explore one of the beaches I had over heard other travelers talking about. I jumped on a bus out front my hostel, which cost me around eighty cents, and took a half-hour ride along the edge of the city. From my window seat I watched as the winding snake-like coastline changed, and I finally buzzed the button that signaled the bus to stop when I saw a beach that looked like a good place to spend the day. The sun beat down on my shoulders that early December afternoon, as I threw my towel down in the sand. The weather was hotter than most San Diego summer days, and sunscreen was a must. The fact that I hadn’t brought a bathing suit with me on my trip did not stop me from swimming. The beach was almost deserted except for a few people, so when a family was near by I swam in a tank top, and when there was no one else in sign I swam in shorts and a bra. About twenty feet to my right were giant boulders that started at the sand and were scattered throughout the water, I climbed on some and swam out to others, and spent the afternoon jumping off of them, into the salty sea.

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The most surprising thing about the coastline in Georgetown was how similar it looked to certain parts of Lake Tahoe. As I rode the bus, a flood of memories washed over me as I looked at scenery that was too familiar. I was reminded of the time I spent with him, and the afternoons we spent climbing on giant rocks and admiring the frigid lake water, surrounded by a ring of snowy mountains. Its been a year since we lived together in Tahoe, and it was depressing to realize that he should have been here by my side, spending this weekend with me. At the same time, I found beauty in the fact that I was alone, comfort in my own company, and the security of knowing that I had come so far in a year, and I had taken a giant step to completely change my life, and I was doing it on my own. In Tahoe there were days that I was truly unhappy and wanted to change my situation, but couldn’t bring myself to leave his side, despite how badly I had wanted to. Now a year later, there was nothing that could make me sacrifice my own happiness for another person, and riding on the bus, I realized how much stronger I have become in taking control of my life.

I had an unforgettable weekend away, and the entire time I was in the city I was dreading the Monday afternoon when I would be forced back onto a minivan to return to Thailand. But as I rode back to the country I am temporarily calling home, I watched the city behind me growing smaller as Caribou pulsed through my head from the headphones wedged in my ears, and I knew even though I was leaving, I was so fortunate to have spent the last four days there. Georgetown was like a cup of perfectly brewed tea that included spices that had been traded all over the world and shared between many people. After generations and generations of trying different blends, the perfect cup was produced, and everyone was enjoying and sharing it. And all I wanted was a sip, a taste of something my own country has never been able to offer me.

No Reservations

Yesterday morning I awoke at the exact time that a motorcycle taxi was supposed to arrive at the hotel I live at. It was a few minutes past 6:30 am, and I rushed to put on a T-shirt, leggings, and throw the rest of my clothes into my duffle bag. At 6:40 I rushed down stairs, only to find that he hadn’t arrived. My first thought was that he had grown impatient, waiting on a late foreigner, but I it occurred to me that at the cost I was being paid to be picked up and taken to the Malaysia border, he would most likely wait.

My reason for going to Malaysia is that I need to get my visa stamped so that I can remain in Thailand. This is the second time this month I have been on a “visa run” and each trip in transportation costs me 1,500 baht. It sounds like alot, but in USD it’s really only about $45. My last visa run turned out to be unsuccessful, when I arrived at the border after a seven hour minivan ride, only to have my visa extended for fifteen days. When I pushed my passport back through the immigration window, shaking my head as I said, “No, no, no, thirty days.” It was pushed back at me with the reply, “No, fifteen,” followed by a nice smile.

This time I am going to the embassy in Malaysia, which requires at least a two day trip. Somehow for me it has turned into a four day getaway, and I am in Georgetown until late Monday.

Once my mototrcycle taxi did arrive to pick me up, it was almost 7:00, and he took me straight to the minivan station. I was loaded on a minivan, that to my surprise, was filled with foreigners. This NEVER happens. The last few times I have been on a minivan, which is one of Thailand’s main forms of public transportation, I have been the only “farang,” a word coined for foriegners. I have ridden for fourteen hours without speaking or hearing a single word of English. While the minivan was packed to capacity, with overstuffed traveler’s backpacks falling over on passnegers, and legs cramped against seats to small for western bodies, I was happy to know that I would have conversation on this trip. When you spend ten plus hours in a van cramped next to other people, you underestimate how imporatnt conversation is to passing the time.

Along the way we stopped multiple times, sometimes for gas, food, or bathroom breaks, but mostly we stopped to switch transportation into another minivan or for immigration/border issues. Our seating arrangement changed a few times, and I was able to have different conversations with other travelers. From what I gathered, some people were at the end of their journeys, having traveled for the past eight months, while others were just beginning what would be a half year of traveling. I spent the most time talking to a gentleman from Germany, who had won his traveling funds from a recent win on a German television game show. We talked about travel, literature, and the secrets to finding happiness in life.

This being my first time traveling with a group of other foreigners, I also quickly realized the behavior in a farang that I don’t want to model. Yes, the trip is long, and the van is uncomfortable, but no one wants to hear about how miserable you are, or how hungry, hot, or tired you are. Yes, traveling can be frustrating and there are often unexpected hurdles along the way, but making generalizations about a country’s people, based on a few negative experiences is ignorant. Discussing how ineffective a country’s education system is and the relationship between farang teacher and Thai teacher is uncalled for, especially when you are only a tourist, and have not taught in the Thai school systems. If I have my criticisms of Thai education, it is because I work in a school everyday and I see first hand the pros and cons of their educational practices. I also try not to make judgements or jump to conclusions about their education system, because I am not a certified teacher, nor have I been here long enough to even begin to think I understand Thailand or its culture.

At around 5 pm our minivan finally arrived in Georgetown, Malaysia, which is the capital of the island state Penang. The city is the second largest metropolitan area of Malaysia, and is more modern than anything I have seen since arriving in Thailand.  Crossing a giant bridge to reach Penang, I gazed out my window at a city skyline with high-rise after high-rise. This is my first time traveling by myself and I was excited to get into the city and see what it had to offer.

The first hostel the group from the minivan went to only had a few empty beds, so I split ways with the rest of the group and joined my german friend and his best friend in finding another hostel. We ended up getting a room at the nicest place we found, a guesthouse by the name of Banana. We all split a room to keep costs down, and found one with a double bed and a single. They insisted they didn’t mind sharing a bed, so they gave me the single bed, we threw our luggage down, and went out to find a much needed dinner.

In the minivan the German and I had shared our love of Indian food, after he told me about his travels in India earlier this Fall, so we made our way to Little India in Georgetown. We stopped in the first restaurant we got to, and when we asked for a menu they replied that they did not have any. Instead they placed giant banana leafs in front of us, and came around with different pots of curries, rice, and meats, and spooned helpings of it onto our leaves. I looked around and saw everyone eating with their hands, and realized no one was using silverware. I felt silly eating with my hands, in front of two people I had just met, but we all dug in and had a great dinner. They were super friendly, really funny, and we all swapped stories of home as well as from abroad. They shared their stories of adventures in San Diego; how they’re never had a better hamburger and how they surfed in Ocean Beach.

After dinner we went back to Banana, where we sat in the common area, chatted some more, and I had a Guinness. My Guinness was the equivalent of $3 USD, and was the most expensive beer in 711, but I decided to indulge, this being my vacation as well as the first time I have had a western beer since leaving the states.

The boys both left early this morning to catch a boat to their next destination, so once again I am on my own to explore and hangout with myself. Before coming here I watched an episode of Anthony Bourdain’s “No Reservations,” so I have a slight idea of where I want to go, what I want to see, and what I want to try eating. There are farang everywhere, so maybe I will be lucky enough to meet more people tonight, who were as genuinely nice as the Germans from last night.

I am a newly turned 25 year old, living in Thailand, visiting Malaysia, with a whole weekend to myself, and two days off of work.

Yep, life is good.

I Just Want You To Remember…

After a month of disappearing into my Thai world, I am back and have more than enough to catch up on. But where to start? At the beginning and work my way toward the present, or start with the present and back track until I have finished where I left off?

I’m thinking the best place will be Boobay and Kao-Hom. They entered my life, as randomly and unplanned as everything else seems to. It was my first night in Surat Thani, and I was at some type of Thai fair with booths, vendors, games and rides.

I was walking through an extremely crowded and hot, covered-market when I laid eyes on them, well, Kao-Hom.

She was the tiniest bunny in the entire bunny-cage-exhibit, and she was bright white with electric red eyes. She was the most adorably possessed looking creature and I knew at that moment I had to have her.

After much begging and pleading I was able to convince my friend Michael that he needed one as well, because everyone knows you cannot just buy one baby bunny. That night we took our new little loves back to the hotel, snuck them in, and they have been with me since.

They instantly became best friends, and they are always cuddling with one another, or grooming each other. Sometimes I will glance over, and see Boobay licking Kao-Hom’s ears, while she closes her eyes and relaxes. They are addicted to throwing their bedding out of their cage and nibbling on anything and everything. They will eat for hours if allowed, and are able to nom on more cucumber than even seems physically possible, given their size. The first night I got them, Kao-Hom weighed less than a Snickers bar and barely took up my entire palm.

In the past few weeks she has doubled in size, and it won’t be long until shes no longer my ittybittybabybunny. I guess it’s true what people say, they really do grow up in the blink of an eye.

Next topic to address, what is this place Surat Thani that I speak of? Surat Thani is the newest place I am calling home, and hopefully one that will remain that way for the next year or so. I moved from Nakhon Sawan based on a decision that was made over night, with no real thought put into it. I liked Nakhon Sawan, and although it was starting to feel like home, it wasn’t the place that felt that way, but the people who were making it feel that way. Long story short, I was offered a job in Surat, the location looked amazing, and the transition was going to be into almost the exact same job I was going to be doing in Nakhon Sawan, so I took the offer. I accepted the job on a Thursday, and by Friday I was on a bus to the most southern parts of Thailand. I arrived in Surat after a full night ride and was instantly amazed at how beautiful it was. I know it sounds silly, but I really started to feel like I was finally in Thailand, the Thailand you see in pictures.

There were trees everywhere, tall ones, short ones, one with bananas, ones with coconuts, huge palms, ferns, vines, and flowers. Surat is extremely rural, while still remaining a decent sized city. It is the perfect combination and balance and I knew instantly that I was in love.

Surat is also located less than an hour from the beach, and is one of the closest cities to all of the southern islands. A trip to the beach went from being something I could only do during an extended holiday, to something I could do after work on a Friday. I impulsively went to Surat hoping I wouldn’t regret my decision, and despite the ups and downs, I couldn’t be happier here.

I am currently living in a hotel, called Thong Thong mansion, until I move into a house in December with two of my guy friends. I am working at one of the most desirable schools in the city, and I spend my days teaching preschool children and kindergarten. For someone who has no desire in having children, I keep finding myself surrounded by more and more little children. I love the kids I work with, but after spending all day with 2 ½- 6 year olds, I go home exhausted and drained of any energy I could hope to have. It is physically and mentally exhausting, and I have no idea how parents do it, especially young single parents. Taking care of a child has to be one of the hardest jobs, and having to take care of one full time seems unimaginable. I love walking in the door in the morning and being rushed and hugged by little tiny kids, but by the time 3:30 rolls around, elated doesn’t even begin to describe the feeling I get when I am hugging them goodbye.

My nursery classroom has about eighteen children in it, and the youngest are just under three and the oldest are about four. Their English level is low, but I know that I will see it rocket during the year that I spend with them. They absorb everything, and are constantly repeating me, even when I didn’t know they were listening. One student, see below, continues to refer to me as “Honey” which I think she probably picked up at home.

The first time she started calling me Honey I thought it was funny and kind of weird, and that it would pass. It’s been about a month now, and I am still her Honey. She will come up to me with her coloring sheet and get my attention by repeating “Hon-neeey” over and over again. Her tone of voice is the sweetest thing, and I love that that has become her nickname for me. To the rest of the kids I am teacher “All-leee, Ar-reee, Armeee, Aawee” or some other odd combination of letters with the long E sound.

The students all each have weird little quirks with me, and as everyday passes, I am getting to know them more and more, despite the language barrier. The thing is, with little children, it almost doesn’t matter that we don’t speak a common language. Yes, they know the alphabet, simple commands, and basic concepts, but they can’t really talk to me, and most of their verbal interaction with me is a mixture of Thai and English. I spend so much time doing interactive lessons that require them to express themselves through physical movement or art, that a common language almost isn’t necessary. By spending my week with them, I am learning their behavior, their personalities, and their likes and dislikes. Perhaps it is because I can’t verbally communicate with them, that I feel as if I am closer to these students than I have been in a very long time, with any other children I have worked with. There are times that they will sit in my lap, wrap their arms around me, stare at me and smile and laugh (while talking in Thai), and I start to understand the joy of having your own child, and what it must be like to have someone that you love so much, and that you helped bring into this world. But then I hear a scream from the other side of the room, and I see a child pulling something down off a shelf onto another kids head, and I am instantly ripped from this fantasy. Children are hard work, and the best part about my job is that at the end of the day, they go home to their real parents and I go home to my life of being single, unattached, and twenty-four. My responsibilities are minimal and I have literally no commitments to anything or anyone other than this job. Simplicity is bliss.

When I am not working, I am hanging out with the people I have gotten to know in town, and I am loving my new environment. While Michael was here, we spent our afternoons exploring the city on our motorbike, and spending the nights down by the night market.


We went to the beach one weekend, and it was the first time I had seen the coast in over three months. The water was warm like a bath, and when it started to rain, we stayed in the ocean just to keep warm. That night it started to pour on us- just dumped from above and everything we owned, including ourselves, was drenched. We stopped at a thrift shop to buy clothes to change into once we got rain jackets, but the thrift store only sold women’s clothes. We settled and picked out two girls shirts, one that happened to be pink, and was never meant for the size of Michael’s body. We went to 711 to buy our rain jackets and change into our new clothes, and watching him struggle to pull a tiny pink long sleeve over his wet head and shoulders was the funniest thing I have ever seen. Thai people actually stopped what they were doing and started staring at him. One lady’s jaw literally dropped as Michael struggled for far too long. The finished product was a tiny shirt that hardly reached his belly button with sleeves that had about six inches to go until they met his wrists. We put on our pink and purple plastic bag rain jackets and rode off into the dark stormy night.

Everyday I miss having him here, and I miss silly stupid little adventures with him, but I still am lucky enough to have a wonderful group of people to spend time with. My days are spent in the company of two South Africans and one American, and whomever else we end up seeing. The best thing about being in a traveler community is that you have a group of friends, so different than the people you would normally know at home. Everyone is from a different side of the globe, and everyone has a story that has landed him or her in this same weird place you are in. It’s a lot like college, minus the stress of academia.

As always, I am beyond thankful for the life I am living and wouldn’t trade it for anything. For some crazy reason I have been given this beautiful opportunity, that so many others will never experience. Everyday is an adventure, everyday is a rebirth, and everyday is greater than the last. Traveling abroad has been the best choice I have made for myself, and if you are even considering it, take my advice, and go for the plunge. Whatever fears or reservations you have should not prevent you from living your life in such a new and drastic way. You will see yourself as you never have before and you will test your mind body and soul in ways that every human should be.

Leave everything behind and just… go.

Take What You See, and Leave All the Rest

I allowed myself to slip out of time with him this past month, and let the rest of the world fade into the background. It’s a tendency I have always had, when it comes to him, and I have a hard time from stopping myself from behaving this way.

But, as quickly as he arrived, he left.

This time our parting was on a good note. The seeds for a friendship are deeply planted and the roots are beginning to spread.

The house we got is no longer our home, but mine.

The baby bunnies are no longer his and mine, but solely my responsibility.

And the city we moved to together is no longer our adventure, but the beginning of another life started for me.

I changed everything when he got here, because I was thinking about the needs of two.

But I came here to live for myself, and that is what I have come to re-realize. This is about me. My happiness. My future. My passions, goals and life.

 

And I don’t have any regrets.

I wouldn’t change a thing.

Having his presence here for the past month was wonderful. I loved every minute of it. He added something to my year abroad that I could not have experienced, had he not visited.

He taught me how to open bottles using household objects.

He taught me how to ride my first motorbike.

 

And he reminded me how important it is to love someone with all of your heart, because life is short and we only get so much time with one another.

Figuring Out Edible Products

The pictures below feature items that I encounter when grocery shopping or around town. Many of them I just wanted to capture on film because they are so different than what they have in the states, while some are packaged in the cutest way, for being just food. Some items I simply could not figure out.

 

McDonalds in Thailand.

Wasabi dip for your french fries

Squid

Hot dog/pizza bread treats of some sort

My favorite favorite tea to go

These were the contents of my fridge until I figured out what to buy and what things were.

Obsession

Sexiest add for coffee I have ever seen

Meat

SuperKawaii

How meat is sold in Thailand. Instead of being wrapped and pre packaged, it’s all self serve.

Green Seaweed cheetos

Panda birth control?

Yummy

Could not figure out if this was dish detergent than gets rid of the fish smell, or detergent that smells like sea creatures

SuperSuperCute

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Ten Step Program

I saw this posted on Pintrest, and immediately fell in love with it, because I am lucky enough to be doing all ten things on it ….

1. Moved to Thailand just because…. why not?

2. Everyday I eat the most amazing food, and I am trying things I never thought I would.

 

3. I moved to a city and instantly met some of the coolest people that have entered my life. Everyone is unique, have come from different places, have their own passions, dreams and goals, but yet, here we all are, connected by this one place in a foreign country for this time only.

 

 

4. Capturing the beauty around me in pictures…

 

5. Listen to nice music….

Crosy Stills Nash and Young- Our House

“Our house is a very very very fine house,

with two cats in the yard, life used to be so hard,

now everything is easy cause of you.”

 

6. I bought this at a night market in Laos…

 

7. The stack of books I am making my way through

 

8. One of my many projects. I like to start multiple pieces at once so I don’t feel overly commited to any project.

 

9. Breath

10. Repeat.

Life is good. It is still shocking how quickly it all changed.

 

Escape to Bangkok and Laos

Last week I left Nakhon Sawan and headed for Bangkok and Laos. Danni and I left as soon as we got out of work, Saturday evening. We went to the local bus station and took a huge mega bus to Bangkok, which is about three hours south of where I live. By the time we arrived it was almost midnight, and, of course, raining. After much communication confusion, we found a taxi and took it to  Khaosan Road, an area where all the foreigners go.

After being in Nakhon Sawan, where there are only about 50 other foreigners in the city, it was almost shocking to see so many people who were my same size, had similar appearances, and who could speak with me. Of course, not all foreigners are English speakers, but for the most part everyone I met the first night could hold a conversation and understand what I was saying. Until you are isolated from your own language, you don’t realize how much you take for granted the ability to freely communicate. We quickly found a room, got changed, had a few beers, and headed out for the night. The best way I can describe Bangkok/Khaosan is that they are like Las Vegas on crack, acid and ecstasy. It was everything your senses could imagine or ever want, all at once. There were people everywhere; travelers, foreigners, locals, and we were just two among a sea of new faces. People party in the bars, the clubs, the streets, dance parties on top of tables, whatever, you name it. We took our coworkers advice and got “buckets of joy” and enjoyed the music and the random people we ended up hanging out with. We spent the night consuming more than our fair share of alcohol, while wandering the area we were staying in, eating the most amazing street food, and having conversations with people whose names we never even learned.  We made it back to our room just before the sun rose, and slipped into sleep.

Sawasdee House was the name of the hotel we stayed in, and this was the restaurant that was on the bottom floor.

By the time the bottom reached the bucket I gave up and didn’t bother finishing it. Bucket-1 Allie-0

When we awoke the next day the first thing we had to do was to buy a trainticket for that night, so we could take the overnight train to Laos. After we got our tickets we had all day to kill, so we walked around Khaosan more, exploring what it had to offer during the day time, and ate the most amazing brunch. My favorite Thai dish is Panag Curry, and the one I had in Bangkok was the best I have ever had. I may have just been beyond starving, but it tasted so yummy I never wanted it to end.

Kitty that was creeping around my table




Passing by these IQ lamps in the tree was the first time I have felt the smallest bit of homesickness. My brother got me this same lamp years ago as a gift for when I was accepted into college. It was, and still is, one of my favorite possession and this was the first time I have ever seen them hung other than in a store before.

We spent the whole day wandering down different streets and alleys and eventually we found ourselves by the river where the water had risen so high that it began to flood the park.

By the time we made it to the train station that evening we were so exhausted that we spread our luggage out and just laid on the floor, giving our bodies a much needed rest.

I laid on my back and looked up at the ceiling, which was made of all glass. There was a huge storm going on outside and the lightening kept flashing in the dark purple sky. The people in Thailand are so used to the extreme storms that they don’t seem to take any notice, but I have never heard thunder as powerful as I have since living here. it shakes the world around you, and quickly afterwards there is an electric shock that lights up the sky. Laying in the train station, watching the storm above me, was something i will never forget. It was one of the most beautiful moments I have lived. It reminded me of utterly powerless i am to the emotions of nature and the natural world around me.

Because I am a new traveler everything is really fresh and exciting for me, and what to many is a long and tiring train ride, was novel for me. The area you pay for turns into a bed and you get this little private area closed of by curtains, but which has a huge window in it to see the country as you pass through it. The train ride was about 14 hours, but it travels during the night, so that when you wake up in the morning you are at your destination.

After a full night’s journey, we arrived in Vientiene, Laos. Crossing the border and going through immigration was exhausting and irratating and cost a rediculous amont of money. I quickly realized that anything havig to do with border crossing was going to be an unpleasant experience, and not being able to speak the language makes it even more complicated. After about an hour or so of complications, standing in line, hualing aroud heavy luggae and taking muitple buses and taxis, we finally made it down to the river, where we were told to find a place to stay. I found us a Laos youth hostel and we crashed there the first night.

That evening we went down to the river market and then went out to dinner at an Indian restuarant. Danni had only eaten Indian food once before so I inststed she try it again and I ordered us an incredible dinner.

Afterwards we went to a rooftop bar and had a few drinks and watched a live band perform. Live music in Thailand is really popular and it seems that this is true also for Laos. More often than not I have been at places with bands before they have a DJ. The performers will play many American songs, but they always have a really heavy Thai accent, which turns songs like “West Virginia” into “Wess Va Jin Jhaa.” Classic.

Monks taking a morning walk around town, collecting donations.

The river bank that was once, not long ago, under water.


The next morning we went to the Thai Embassy to get our Visas, and then went to brunch with a friend we had met at the embassy. He was staying right down the street from us, so we checked into his hotel for our remaining stay in Laos. He introcued us to a bunch of other travelers, from all over the world, and we all decied to spend the day together and go to a place with running water, that had flowed down from a waterfall upstream.

A van was rented that we could all fit it, and we embarked onto what was going to be a very bumping and rough trip. Most of Laos is undeveloped, and many of the roads are dirt with huge wholes, deep puddles of mud, or giant rocks that block the path. Because of flooding they have to close down even more roads which makes rerouting at the last minute inevitable. The ride to the river was crazy, but the view outside was incredible. It was so lush and green for as far as the eye could see. There were giant ox grazing in the rice fields and some even crossing the road. The area we passed through was the most impoverished I have seen since arriving in Southeast Asia. Outside my window I passed makeshift structures which they consider buildings and people living in conditions I can’t even imagine being in. No matter what your purpose is for traveling or living in another country, you are quickly reminded of the amazing opportunities you own life has presented you with, and the struggles you have not had to face.

After a bumpy ride we had reached our destination. We spent all day in the river, playing on a rope swing, drinking beer, and getting to know one another.


and then there were elephants….


After spending all day at the river we packed up and headed back into town. We got back to the hotel everyone was staying in, freshened up, and headed out for a huge group dinner and night out together. It was an absolute blast, and I am really lucky to have met such amazing people to enjoy the trip with.

After spending a few days in Vientiane, it was time for Danni and I to head back to Nakhon Sawan. On our last day we went to the station to buy another another sleeper train ticket, which would get us back to Bangkok.  In Laos we had about four hours to kill before the train departed and we were in a very remote area, so we hung out at a restaurant across the street, playing “fuck/marry/kill, would you rather?” and laughing about the absurd encounters and adventures we had had over the week. We  were also entertained by the owner’s children, who were the most adorable kids ever.

That night on the train we met another traveler who I invited to play cards with us. We played round after round of bullshit and then he taught us the German game “Mau.”