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).

DSCN3105

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.

DSCN3160

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.

DSCN3155

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.

DSCN3126

DSCN3128

 

(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.

DSCN3131

 

563240_541938455857888_647921301_n

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.

DSCN3232

DSCN3227

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).

DSC_7879
DSC_7894

Total- 210 Baht ($7.03)

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.”

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. :]