Welcome to the Baht Life- Day Three/Four/Five

Day Three

I started my morning off the way I do almost everyday, with a peanut butter sandwich and some fruit. I had all of the above, so I didn’t need to spend any money on breakfast. On the way to work I stopped and grabbed two Redbulls (20 baht/ $.67), to prepare for the energy drain that tiny children are. Also, please note that Redbull is $.33 in Thailand. I do not know how it is possible that it is actually cheaper than a bottle of water.

Work on Tuesday was really easy because my three hour-long preschool class was cancelled. That left me with two teaching hours with kindergarten, in a seven-hour work day (turns out I didn’t need to drink both energy drinks). I used some of the free time to lesson plan, but mostly messed around on the internet and skyped with friends and family. Unfortunately, lunch was fried rice with eggs and another dish I didn’t like, so I went and picked up lunch from a curry woman down the street from my school. The lunch I picked up ended up not being so great either and so a lot of it got wasted (40 baht/ $1.34). The biggest difference between meat dishes in Thailand and meat dishes in America is that in Thailand, everything gets thrown in the pot. After I saw what seemed to be like some large vein or vessel in my curry I was pretty turned off. It was a friend’s birthday at work, so I left during my break and picked her up a birthday cake from Nick and I (80 baht/ $2.68).

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After work at the elementary school, I went to meet up with a friend that I study with a couple days a week until evening hours. On the days I meet with her, I dont return home for eleven hours, and I’m pretty burned out by the time I do. After stopping to pick up dinner for Boobay and Kao-Home, my rabbits (60 baht/$2), I came home exhausted. I was debating what to do for dinner for myself, when Kay invited me out with her friends. I told her it wasn’t in my budget but she insisted on paying for me, so I ended up going to mookata with Nick, Kay and another couple.

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A mookata style dinner involves a hot bucket of coals in the middle of the table, that burn under a pot and griddle. There is a giant buffet line where you choose the vegetables, meats, noodles, spices and herbs that will go into the pot. The dinner I cooked consisted of pork, chicken, baby corn, noodles, morning glory, cabbage, and various types of mushrooms, all in a delicious broth that I poured over a bed of green noodles. We also had a beer tower, which is exactly what it sounds like. It stands at about 2 1/2 feet tall and the core is an ice cube surrounded by beer. We had an amazing dinner, which I could not have afforded to attend, were it not for Kay’s generosity.  A dinner style meal like this normally runs about 140 baht ($4.70), beer not included. It’s a good deal if you are looking for a wide arrangement of food, and more importantly want to eat dinner in a way that is different from the normal routine.

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After dinner we went back to the house to drink some more, and finish my preschool project, and I picked up a small bottle of whisky to share. The whisky I find myself most commonly drinking is Hong Tong, which runs 110 baht ($3.68) for a fifth sized bottle. It’s not too bad, but I don’t know if I will ever drink whisky again after my year in Thailand. It’s all I have had since leaving America.

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(Using peanut butter jars for drinking cups, and alcohol bottles for water painting glasses.)

Total- 310 baht ($10.37)

Day Four

On Wednesday morning as Nick and I were pulling out the garage, I challenged him to a race. We took separate courses to work and raced one another through the back streets and alleyways of Surat Thani. Although I lost and probably wasted gas, it woke me up with a little adrenaline rush, and got me ready to start my day.  I arrived at work and went through the regular motions of the day. Preschool-kindergarten-kindergarten-and more preschool after the lunch break. I brought in my cat piano that I finished, and introduced it to the preschoolers, who seemed to like it.

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When work got out I went to study with my friend and was with her until almost seven. Afterwards, I went to meet a girlfriend for dinner at a restaurant she wanted to take me to, and I had a nice dinner with a beer. I should have explained my budget to her, because I realized once I saw the menu, that most of the dishes were not within my price range. Even with a beer and appetizer, the meal itself was under $10, but hardly. On my way home I stopped for a bit of gas, which would last me until the weekend (50 baht/$1.67), and then arrived home at an empty house. Hanging on my doorknob was a dinner that Nick and Kay brought home for me from the market, and so I put it in the fridge for breakfast the next day. I worked on some student plans and then slipped away into a much needed sleep.

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Total- 270 baht ($9.04)

Day Five

Upon arrival at work on Thursday, I learned that it was Sports Day. It was a day where most classes were cancelled, so that students could watch sports competitions taking place on the fields outside. Often I arrive at work to discover I will not be teaching or classes will be cancelled, due to some event that the foreign teachers were unaware of.

The first half of my morning consisted of taking my nursery class for a half hour walk around the school to practice standing in a line and walking with your hands on someone’s shoulders. This was a total disaster. After the nursery I went to my next class, which is grade 4 in the government school. My school is divided into two parts, the private English program and the government side. The EP is for students who pay an extremely high tuition to be in a setting where native English speakers teach the majority of your teachers. They have nice facilities, newer resources, and get a better education because they’re paying a high price for it. The government side is a normal Thai school. The class size is twice as big, and the classrooms are filled with only desks and notebooks that are stacked along the wall on the floor. Often the air conditioner is not working and the classrooms are in pretty bad shape. I have three government classes, second grade, fourth grade and sixth grade, and I see them each for an hour every week. Their English level is very low and some of them are at a similar level as my kindergarten students in the English program.

When I arrived at my P4 class, only a few students were in the room, and the rest were out at Sports Day. I figured since this was their only hour of English each week I would hang around and spend some time with them. I let them teach me the card game they were playing, Circus, which turned out to be exactly like Uno. I was still like an English lesson, because they had to explain the game and rules to me, which required them to speak as we played. It was perfect because I got to know a few students more than I normally would, and since it was a relaxed atmosphere, they weren’t as nervous as they normally are about speaking with me. After spending the hour with those students, I returned to my office, and had the rest of the day free.

That evening we had a couch surfer from Russia come to stay with us, and we took her out to Koh Lampoh to watch the sunset and then to the night market. She was only in Thailand for a few days, and wanted to try a lot of different Thai foods, so we took turns buying and trying different things (50 baht/$1.67). After that we went for dinner and drinks with a group of friends at the pier, and had a really nice night (140 baht/$4.69). The whole town is decorated for Chinese New Year, and we walked around checking out all of the lanterns and food stalls with Chinese treats (30 baht/$1).

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Total- 210 Baht ($7.03)

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Welcome to the Baht Life

Last night, I was inspired by a friend’s blog post, in which he declared he was going to live for ten days in Washington DC on one hundred dollars. It may sound like a good chunk of money, but after living in the city last fall, I know that a hundred dollars hardly gets you half way through the week.

A year after leaving DC, I have relocated to Southern Thailand, where money goes a lot further (which is great, since you make a lot less). With a week until pay day, and less than a hundred dollars to my name, I decided to copy his idea.

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I am starting with 2,365 baht, which is the equivalent to 79.38 USD. I will track my week, from Sunday to Monday (eight days), and document the ways that I spend money and live my life on less than eighty dollars. I chose eight days because his goal is to show how you can live on ten dollars a day, and I would like to offer the same, except from the life of someone living abroad.

To be fair, my fridge has a loaf of bread, some sandwich meat, and a drawer full of fresh fruit and a few vegetables. My motorbike has a half tank of gas, and my water jug is empty. Living in a country where the water is not safe to drink means that I must constantly be either filling up water containers or buying water bottles. While water is still cheap, it adds up quickly when you’re doing it daily, and consume as much as I do.

Rent is the only expense that will not be included in this week’s budget. Just to give you an estimate of what life costs here, I rent the master in a two bedroom/ two bathroom/ fully furnished house, and pay 4,500 baht ($151) a month.

This week I will find productive and creative ways to spend my time, that allow me to avoid spending as much money as I normally would. I will avoid nicer restaurants, going out for drinks, and buying items I don’t need. To save gas I will also be making a conscious effort to walk to places I would normally use my bike to get to.

The house that I have been living in was under construction since late November, and it was only just completed in the last few days. Now that it is finished, Nick, who is wonderful  housemate, and I can make it our home. Decorating with the limited supplies we have, will provide me with a way to fill time. I will also post pictures of before and after, so you can see my Thailand home.

There is an Olympic sized pool up the street from me that I can swim in for a little more than a dollar a day, and a park down by the river, where I can lay out and spend my day reading and writing.

I am also taking inspiration from my friend’s idea to track his progress on a painting he is working on. In order to save money, he will fill some of his free time with the canvas, and hopefully complete it by the end of the week. I too will start some type of picture, whether it is a drawing or painting, and dedicate my evenings to it. I will also share the activities I plan for my students and any art projects I prepare for them.

As life so often has a funny way of working, living on a budget this week comes at an ideal time. I recently found out that the school I work for is closed the second week of February. However, my agency has mandatory on call office hours, and if we choose to be unavailable, we will be penalized a day of pay for each time. I was planning on using this week to meet up with a friend who is in Thailand, and spend the week in the islands with her. A normal weekly budget for me is around $100-$150, depending on how often I go out, or what unexpected costs arise. Saving money this week, so that I will be able to afford to take a few days off, will work out perfectly. As I mentioned earlier, I also don’t have much of a choice, since this is what I have until the 9th.

I hope you enjoy the photos of my daily life, and more so, that this inspires some of you to leave your jobs at home, and come live a life style where you can afford to live on such a small amount of money, while not living without any of the normal comforts of life as you know it.

Feel free to check out The Dandygram, and see how Trevor does this week!

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http://thedandygram.blogspot.com/2013/02/living-on-100-for-10-days.html

It will also offer an insight to how one lives in one of America’s most expensive cities, compared to life in an emerging country.

Random Acts of Kindness

Although I have only been in Nakhon Sawan for three weeks, I have already experienced a sense of community that does not exist back home in the States. I don’t know if it is based on cultural differences, but people in Thailand go out of their way to help one another. At least every few days I have either heard a story about someone helping another person, or had someone offer to help me in some way.

For example…

Last year this city experienced one of the worst floods in its history. Many of the teachers who I work with had just started their first year, and had to leave the city for a month until the eight feet of water dried up. When they came back, most of the architecture in Nakhon Sawan had been damaged, and had to be either repainted or parts rebuilt. The other teachers, who had just come here to teach, ended up volunteering in their free time to help store owners fix their places up, so they could reopen for business. Unlike America, there are not relief programs that come in and deal with the aftermath of disasters, so the responsibility is on the community. Hearing how my coworkers and friends reached out to the people who live around them made me really happy to know that the people I will be spending my time here with are genuine and sincere.

Not having a motorbike in the city means that everywhere I go, unless a friend picks me up, I walk. On a hike last week, Danni and I were hiking up a steep road to a temple, which most people drive up. It was an extremly hot afternoon, but we wanted the exercise, and as we walked further up the hill the view got more and more amazing. On our way up the hill a car pulled over and offered us a ride, probably thinking we were nuts for walking to the temple. We refused, but thanked them for their offer. We have also been told that if you walk in the rain people will pull over and offer you a ride so you don’t get sick. Violence and crime are really low in this area, so the dangers of hitching in America are not really here. People are truly just offering you a ride because they want to help.

The bar that we always go to, Container, is owned by God, and he and Max, who is my age, are only two people working there that I know of.  Max is, hands down, the nicest person on earth, and has the sweetest heart of all the people I’ve ever met. He is always in the best mood, and is always smiling and hugging you. He constantly offers to take me home so I don’t have to walk, or because it’s raining, and he has also showed me how to order in Thai from street vendors. Earlier this week I was at Container and I didn’t see Max, and God pointed to the back of the bar and told me Max was really sick. Max lives at Container, and I saw him lying on a mat and he looked really unwell. I knew that if I was that sick, I would not want to be in those conditions, so I had him come back to my place, where he could shower, stay in a bed, and have the air conditioning. But for me to offer my place to him, required that Danni share her room with me for the night. So I want to thank Danielle for letting me crash in her room and keep her up super late with drunk talk about things that never make sense the next day.

The next day I woke up feeling like I had drank a bit too much the night before, so I went back to my room to sleep for a little before work that afternoon. As the day progressed I got sicker and sicker, until my temperature broke 1o2 and I was sweating and shaking. It occurred to me that sleeping in the bed that Max had been in the night before, probably exposed me to the flu that he had, and because my body does have the same immunities from living in Thailand, it hit me really quickly. I spent almost the whole day sleeping, and had a hard time keeping even water down. I woke up yesterday and had to work a full day, so I took a bunch of medicine for my head and stomach. I was feeling better than the day before, so I worked a full day and then went out to dinner with some of the girls, and then went to Container, but planned on keeping it an early night. While I was at Container I started feeling sick again, and could feel my body getting hotter on the inside. I told God I wasn’t feeling well, and asked for some painkillers, but he didn’t have any. He offered to go to the store and buy some but I told him it was necessary, and that I would grab them on my way home. He then introduced me to one of his friends- this incredibly sweet Thai woman. She talked with us for a bit, offered me a ride home, and I told her not to worry about it and that I would walk in a bit. About a half hour later, as I was leaving Container, a car pulls up and it was her, and she told me to get in so she could take me home. When I got in the car she handed me a handful of things she had gone to get, that would help me feel better. This was someone I had briefly met, and really only spoken with for a few minutes.

I’ve never experienced this type of kindness back in the States. People really want to help you here. They want you to be happy; For your time to be as enjoyable as possible, and if it isn’t they find a way to help you with what you’re dealing with. This is a community where people take care of one another, and you don’t need to ask for something in return.

This is refreshing.

It’s nice to have a total stranger, through their actions, remind me of the type of person I want to be. The type of behavior I want to exhibit. I wanted the place I would be living in this year to leave its finger prints on me and shape me into becoming a better person, and I am thankful that this is where life has taken me.

And, I want to say thank you to my wonderful co-worker Arno, who traveled out of town for a few days this past week, and brought back jewelry for Danni and I. :]

Snapshots of My Life


A 115 pounds of personal belongings.

Entertainment for a 27 hour journey.

Thai Pizza- DO NOT EAT

A dog in a clothing store that would not get away from my feet.

The sweetest lady who I buy fruit from each morning.

Too hot for dog sweaters.

Thailand’s version of a gym.

Retired play structure.

Exposed bone structure.

Makeover for Buddha.

Public trans.

Japanese restaurant we went to for dinner.

Japanese noodle soup with mushrooms.

Thank you Ashley.

Little details.

What happens when you remain in one place for too long.

On my walk to work.

The house I stare at when I sit on my balcony.

Focusing on my surroundings.

No idea what is going on here, but the wreath on the right is made of soup spoons.


Thai Fashion.

Bothering Danni at work.

Took Took Time….

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Promises

To harbor so much resentment and anger towards an individual just shows how incapable a person is of admitting how much someone meant to them, and how badly they have been hurt.

Forgiveness can set you free.

The Sun The Moon The Stars, You Are

During a car ride this morning one of my best friends and I discussed the L word. You know the one. We discussed falling in and out of it, and the pain and joy it brings. The way it can collide two worlds, only to one day be replaced by a necessary distance.

The most difficult thing I’ve had to come to terms with recently is letting the one I loved go. More than that, I have had to  find it in my own heart to know that someone else makes him happy now, and thats ok. That if I really ever loved him then his happiness is also mine. To actually feel this way, rather than just telling myself I feel this way, has been a challenge for my own heart.

Being in love and making a relationship work is tricky, because we all define it differently. For me, loving someone has always meant unconditional forgiveness. There is nothing that I can’t look past or work through when I love someone. My friend described her idea of love as unconditional selflessness. That she always puts the other before her, even if it means huge compromises on her behalf, where she struggles and he gains. I’m discovering that maybe the only way a relationship can work long term, is when both people have a similar idea of what love is, and how you treat the person you love.

Finally being single and having my life back to myself is a breath of fresh air. There is a rediscovering to be done, and a lot of time for self improvement. It’s nice to feel my identity apart from him reemerging, and to find myself thinking differently than I have in years. The gears are turning to a different rhythm. My heart is beating in a new pattern. For the first time in a very very long time my happiness is completely dependent upon myself and that is the most liberating feeling. I am living for me, and pursing what I want in life, with no restraints.

Recently, I’ve also had to come to terms with the fact that words will fail me. That I won’t always be able to tell someone how my heart feels. That sometimes the unobtainable is just that. An acceptance of missed timing in crossed paths. A letting go of imagined what ifs. But even then, there is beauty in missed opportunities. There is a space for a different type of relationship to blossom.

Saturday Afternoon

 

 

Since first moving out of my house three years ago to start college at the University of California Santa Cruz, I have spent countless hours packing up numerous rooms and then unpacking hundreds of boxes.

Although the sun is shining and there is literally not a cloud in the sky, today I have dedicated the afternoon to clearing out my room. Wait- rephrase. Beginning to clear out my room. In a month I will be moving out of my childhood bedroom in a different way than I ever have before. I will be leaving for at least a year to live in Thailand, and then I plan to apply for a program to work in Japan that will start in the fall of 2013. If accepted, it will be over two years until I return home.

A room is our own personal place, full of all the objects we have accumulated over the years- Many of which have sentimental meaning, and many which had it at one point and have now lost the meaning they once held. Where do you begin? Sitting here today, starring at the project that stands before me, how do I know what I will still want to hold onto in a year from now? Two years?

When I finally return home I will be far different from the person I am today.

I have to start clearing out this room full of possessions I won’t need anymore. A closet full of clothes that won’t be worn again. Material objects that are currently part of my everyday life, that I will no longer live with. Minimizing is incredibly refreshing. I own too much.

 

For anyone who has traveled and left behind the room they grew up in, full of the possessions they have come to own over a life time, any advice on where to start?

Free Flow

Life has a way of pulling us back to certain places. Pushing us in certain directions. This is how I found myself in Santa Cruz last month, for almost three weeks. It was how I found myself northbound on a California freeway, on the afternoon of June 5th.

I sat in the backseat of a car, cramped against the window, surrounded by my multiple bags of luggage as well as everyone else’s. My feet had been stuffed in the same position for at least three hours, with no where else to reposition them. Seeing as it was a ride share from craigslist that I had arranged, and I only knew one of the three other people in the car, I opted out of joining the conversation that revolved around medicinal marijuana, and chose rather to look out the window.

I couldn’t help thinking about the first time I had ever made the drive from San Diego to Santa Cruz on an impulsive afternoon in February of 2009. I had just met the guy who was to become my boyfriend that summer, and for the next few to follow. We had both recently applied to multiple UC campuses and were now waiting until Spring to receive our acceptance letters. We had decided that afternoon to drive to the UC Santa Barbara campus to check out one of the schools we had both applied to. After being slightly let down I suggested we continue driving north until we reached Santa Cruz, and spend the weekend there. My brother was in his freshman year at UCSC, and although I had never seen the campus it was on my list of schools I had applied to. I

We called my brother, got the ok, and were on our way.

Looking out the window on June 5th, I remembered how different the first drive had been from this one. The freeways, roads, and side streets you take to get there had all been untraveled land. The geography was foreign and unlike Southern California. The names on the freeway exits were new to me as were the many small agricultural towns we passed during the seven hour journey. These were names that my vocabulary didnt recognize, but would soon be ingrained in my mind for the rest of my life.

Three years later, I can safely say that I have done this drive somewhere around twenty times. Now when I look out the window I recognize places that I have memories attached to. There are the pit stops that we always stop at, the towns we drive through and know to keep our windows up (cow country), and the towns that are worth stopping at to get out, stretch our legs, and grab a burrito.  It feels odd to have such a familiarity with what is just a long stretch of road. And then to realize that I really only know half the state of that which I belong to.

The weekend I first spent in Santa Cruz was all it took for me to fall in love. It only took two days for me to develop such a strong bond with a town that has the ability to pull me back three years later- a year after my own graduation and departure.

In heading to Santa Cruz this June I was also being pulled back to the person I had first experienced the town with. I was coming to find some type of answer in what had become a lingering relationship. I was being pulled back by him, and pulled back by the town.

This town and my ex had both become magnets in my life. There had been a connection I could not deny and I had to experience it one last time – as I knew my life in Santa Cruz had ended, as had my relationship.

The town and this man have had the same effect on me. In them I have found a different part of my soul. In them I had discovered a level of comfort that I had never felt before. In Santa Cruz I had felt at home, and with him I had never felt more like myself. I have lived in multiple places and have met many guys, but no location or person was ever able to grab me and hold on the way that the two of them had.

But the truth I had to face even before making this last trip to Santa Cruz is that I had outgrown them both. Santa Cruz is by far the most amazing place I have ever had the pleasure of living, and it was the best choice I could have made for college, but it will always be just that- A town that allowed me to grow during my college years. It had its time and place in my life that was necessary for my personal growth. And, although I hadn’t wanted to admit it, that was the same in respect to him. I was meant to meet him, to grow close to him, and then grow apart. He helped me find a part of myself that I hadn’t known. He influenced me in the choices I will pursue in my career. He got me to think about issues globally, and to put my problems into perspective. With him I saw a compassion for humanity that I had never seen in anyone I had ever dated. But our time together had passed, and all the growing I could do with him was done.

I made the trip up to Santa Cruz because in a way I had been fighting what I knew was true. I knew that neither town nor man had any significant place in my life anymore and I would never move forward if I stayed with either. Yet I loved both so much I wanted to see them one last time. I knew that the only way for me to move forward was to leave them both in my past, and I think a part of me wanted to leave my last memories of him in the place that we had fallen in love in and with.

These were all thoughts that raced through my head as I leaned against the window, watching as we raced past varying landscapes, all disappearing behind us.

Rows, and rows, and rows of crops.

Of trees planted in perfect lines, separated by exact amouts of space.

Fields filled with plants that produce food that is shipped all over America to feed the nation.

Miles upon miles that stretch for hours.

“Where are we?” I ask.

Driver answers, “The middle of nowhere.”

I think that surely these crops are taken care of by someone. Farming is someones livlihood. These small isolated towns that smell funny are homes to someone. There must be someone who harvests these crops year round so that each night these fruits and vegetables can make it to my dinner table. The food that feeds me came from somebody’s middle of nowhere.

I dwell on this for a bit and then go back to letting my mind wander. I allow my mind to take control of my road trip as the conversation in the car rolls on about merits between growing marijuana inside and outside.

The landscape doesn’t change much if you’re taking the 5 freeway up the state. For many hours you pass by a variation of the same thing. Expanses of flat land, in every direction. Often a range of mountains off in the distance that make you feel as if you are driving through one great big giant valley. Everything that lies ahead of me soon disappears into my past.

Fields, plots of dirt, farms composed of trees, and ground growing crops. Every so often the tiny house smack dab in the middle. Or the old wooden barn. The farm eqiptment that is sprawled out around a stranger’s property in the middle of nowhere. A reminder that other people exist who are not just passers by on the freeway.

Traveling any amount of distance is good for the soul. It reminds us of our own lives, and by seeing the lives of others, it reminds us of all that we have. The lifestyles that we are fortunate enough to live. I thought to myself how traveling takes us out of our own elements, those which we are familiar with, and moves us in a way that activates our minds. Stimulates something new in the brain.

Imagination gives birth to what could be.

To what is and isn’t.

To all other possibilities.

Alternatives.

Choices.

A small farm house catches my eye and I wonder where these people send their children to school, since we have not passed any other sign of civilization in over a half hour. Do these California farmers even have children, and if so, what is Halloween like when you have no neighbors? Questions like these fill my head and go unanswered, as I do not want to interrupt the conversation which has shifted to the driver’s pet duck and his potty training method.

I wonder if it is just fate that today I am only a passer by? Staring at small houses out in the distance that looked as if they were plopped down from above, I realize that these are more than houses. They are homes. They are occupied by people who live lives that I could never dream of. Lives I would never desire to lead. Why them and not me? These towns are just places on my road trip to the final destination of where I want to be. This middle of nowhere will never be my reality. Has never been.

Hours have gone by and now we pass an artificial river that stretches over a hundred miles. It is how we are able to steal our water from the Hoover dam. I’ve been told the Colorado river doesn’t even make it to the ocean anymore, it’s been so over exhausted. Humanity as a whole, we are in big trouble.

Law of Attraction

What is determination?

To me, it apparently is 47 copies of my resume emailed to different jobs in one city.

It is the frusteration of trying to navagate the sites of 36 other possible jobs, except that the site is in a different language.

This has been the last four days of my life.

I have gotten a few replies, a few job offers, but none that can sponser my visa, and none that can give me full time work.

 

I am determined and I will be in Japan.

The only thing I’m starting to wonder is where you draw the line between determination and obsession?