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)

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.

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.”

A Glimpse of the Randomness I Call Life

Kawaii

Their mustache obsession

Jo giving Holly her going away cake. Jo is the most incredible cook and baker, and she is always bringing in treats for everyone. So sweet.

The girls at dinner

Practicing for myspace

Me- “Why do you have this in your purse?” Christine- “Oh, I was teaching a lesson on American stereotypes.” Brilliant

No doing… aerobics? High kicks?
I am going to own this.

Group dinner. Love love love these people..



K idnapping little animals and kissing them. Nothing new for me….

Van Racing Team… seriously?

Cook it yourself style dinner
Ashley and Max- Container

Restaurant Kitty

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….

Dannigirl

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.

Coffee House Observations- From the Pages of June 8, 2012.

 

It’s been a week since I’ve been back in Santa Cruz- the place that I loved to once call home. I’ve spent the last few days passing afternoon hours on the porch of a local coffee shop, basking under the beautiful sun that is so generous with California.

It’s good to be back in a place that I was never ready to leave, but had no reason to stay.

My life here is simple. I am spending my afternoons people watching.

I lean back in a chair that is too warm beneath my bare legs. My cut off jeans too short. A day for details, for recording single moments with too many words.

The table I sit at is all mine. It is pushed up against the red wooden railing that is slowly rotting in selected places. If I rub my arm against the grain the wood is sure to send little splinters lodging their way under my skin. Even though my back is to the Bagelry and it is over a block away I can not help noticing that the smell of fresh bread has drifted down to my spot at Pergolesi.

The people that are pulled here are always different, yet I am bound to see the same faces. The consistency of individuals who oppose the constant. The Regular.

From my spot that I alone occupy I watch those around me and separate them into the groups which I believe they belong in. It’s odd how our brains are always wanting to categorize. To label. To simplify.

The majority of the people filling the coffee house today are the students. The UCSC kids. With a week to go until finals, everyone is making a mad attempt at filling their heads with the information of a quarter in a weeks time. They lumber up the front patio steps, back packs and book bags thrown over their shoulders, the weight of the knowledge inside tugging against them with the force of gravity. Their arms are full of books, of overpriced readers, and they all have computers. Apple has successfully colonized the Slug population. Every single person that passes me has a MacBook. No other brand dares to infiltrate. Unlike the other guests here, they sit with their heads down, buried in their work, papers covering the table tops.

Leading up to finals week everyone enters a similar existence that I now find myself removed from. As I have left the bubble of academia last year, I am no longer part of this group experience. The experience of stress. Of knowing that everyone is running out of time to accomplish everything they have to do, just as quickly as you are. That your neighbor is most likely also sleep deprived from all the adderall they have been taking these past few days. Coffee binges, Pop Tart dinners, and pulling all nighters with friends and roommates. The weight of academia is closing in and everyone is gasping for air. For the first time in my life, I am just an observer.

Then there are the locals. The Punks. The Hipsters. The chains, patches and leather jackets. Tight jeans with stitching up the side. Holes in the back and on the knees. Combat boots and poka-dot mismatching socks. Outgrown hair that dangles in dreads. The resistance to look like a groomed member of society. The girls with the shaved heads and countless facial piercings. Tattoss documenting a wide varity of art styles, black and white/color, evidence of drunk impulsive nights, lyrics from favorite songs, skin that was used as a pracitice canvas for beginning artists. Hair in every color- more artificial than natuarl. Countless heads with beanies sagging off the back. Bags covered in pins sporting their favorite musicians or the faces of cats. Hole in ears, holes in lips, and just about every body altering look you can imagine. This is why I love this town. I am living in a book full of beautiful characters and they are better than any of the stupid people who occupy mainstream socity, which has become nothing more than reality TV.

A man a few feet from me laughs loud enough that he gets my attention. I look up and just at that moment catch eyes with the one I love. He is meeting me here. He is part of this academic bubble and is also under the weight of impending finals doom.

He grabs an iced coffee from inside and pulls up a chair across from me. We exchange a few words, then he opens his book on the politics of Brazil and begins to read, occasionally glancing around at those we share this space with. He and I know eachother well enough that silences are always comfortable. I don’t need to make small talk with him in order to pass the time. We are sharing one another’s company and today I enjoy it without words. I watch him and take in his face, his body. His feet are kicked up on the extra chair and he is leaning back just far enough from under the tree that half of his face is in the sun, while the rest is painted with a shadow.

He catches me looking at him. He stares at me and smiles, leans forward and  comments on my Ray Bans, “The reflectivity of someone looking into your soul, only to be shown their own.”