Tammy’s Asia Tour: Part Three

Travels

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Preface: At this point I was tired of dragging my camera around, so I apologize for the low quality images, but there are high quality memories behind them!

After a few fun-filled days in Kanchanaburi, I was ready to show Tammy more of what my weekends at home look like in the hustle and bustle of Bangkok. Just to give you a glimpse at the size, Bangkok has slightly more people than Los Angeles, and slightly less than New York City so it is a huge place. Filled with markets, street food, temples and incredible malls.

On our cab ride, she was able to see our descend from the “burbs” into the high rises of the city. We checked into our hotel before walking straight to my guilty pleasure in Bangkok, Charley Brown’s. Mexican food is first and foremost my go to meal. I thought I wouldn’t eat chips and salsa for six months, but I was proved wrong. *I strategically picked the hotel location, so that I had easy access to queso.*

After lunch, we purchased our BTS day passes and explored Sukhumvit. Sukhumvit is the area filled with the most insane malls and roof top bars you’ve ever seen. We did a little shopping, but most looking in awe that places like this exist. We didn’t really have any big plans, but came across an aquarium at the bottom of one of these said malls. IMG_7290We both looked at each other and thought “Why not, we have nothing else to do.” Yall, I’ve been to the Atlanta and Charleston Aquarium, but this tops them both. We couldn’t believe how incredibly nice it was. Our faces of excitement blended right in with the kids we were surrounded by. There was a huge tank with stadium seating the reminded me of all the times my grandparents would take us to Riverbanks Zoo where we would sit and carefully follow the swim patterns of the fish for what seemed like hours. After, we went to the mall next door and ran into a Bangkok Fashion Week show. There must’ve been someone famous near because there was tons of screaming girls crowded around flashing lights.

The next day, I took her to my absolute FAVORITE place in Bangkok, Chatuchak Market. It is a weekend market composed of a maze of over 13,000 vendors. They sell everything from vintage tees and denim, Thai street food, art, jewelry, hidden bars, the list goes on. You name it, they got it. We spent hours here, but it gets HOT and overwhelming. We were ready to sit down and enjoy some lunch and A/C. We settled on a food court in the Emporium Mall. By food court, I mean anything and everything you could ever want. High-end western to Thai Street food, acai bowls, burgers, ramen, anything you could want.

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We were pooped and ready for some R&R back at the hotel. This included watching a real TV with English movies and some time enjoying our roof top pool. We ended our trip on the best possible note, dinner and drinks at Above 11.

Above 11 has the best rooftop view of anywhere in the city (32 stories high) and luckily we were staying right around the corner. We got dressed up sporting new clothes and jewelry from our shopping escapades and headed out to enjoy our last big moment together. This was my first time here and I am glad I experienced it with Mama Bear. She is probably still laughing at how scared I was. In my defense they have bar stools taller than me right up next to the glass wall that hit right below the shoulders. You KNOW I scooted my chair as far as possible away from the ledge to where I could still reach the table. I feel like this would not pass U.S. building codes. One girl was even standing on the ledge with her phone high in the sky for a selfie. I couldn’t look, I just knew I’d have to watch her tumble to her death.

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We enjoyed fine cocktails and appetizers while reminiscing over the last ten days together. WE MADE IT! After many flights, taxis, trains, songtaos, tuk-tuks, buses and cities later our time together had come to an end. I am so thankful for our time we were able to spend together. I will cherish it forever.

I know it wasn’t easy for her to leave my dad for so long let alone while my Papa was sick. She stayed so strong for me when our family was delivered such heartbreaking news. I know as a manager, it isn’t easy for her to leave her colleagues and patients at work. This is the longest she has ever been away from her husband or her job. She is selfless, kind and everything I hope to be. I know this trip was out of her comfort zone and not easy for her to pull of logistically or financially, but she pulled it off without a hitch. Thank you, Mom! I am happy I was able to help you add some stamps in that passport of yours and memories in your heart. I love you to the moon, girl!

My last big trip before I leave Asia is Bali! Stay tuned, I’ve found heaven and you’ll want to read about it.

***

Still on a bender of 70’s music, I thought I’d end this one with a nod to one our favorites, Elton John. This song always reminds of my traveling and those pivotal, life changing moments the occur.

Tammy’s Asia Tour: Part Two

Travels

We knew after our time in Cambodia, it would be hard for the rest of the trip to live up to that experience. Since I choose Cambodia, I let her pick something she would like to do and promised to make it happen. Our next stop was to Kanchanaburi, Thailand where the Bridge Over the River Kwai is located.

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The next morning after arriving back to Bang Yai, we changed out our bags with new clothes keeping the necessities and set out for the bus station. Once we arrive at Sai Tai Mai, we immediately got on a mini-bus and were on our way. I forgot to mention to her that Thai drivers have a led foot and that these rides are not friendly to those who get carsick. Without Dramaine, we arrived in under two hours and feeling good. But, we both forget to save the name and address of our new hotel *Whoops*.

We are standing in the new bus station being bombarded by taxi drivers with no direction to give them. I quickly sprinted across the traffic to pay my phone bill so that we could attempt to look it up on my phone. We couldn’t access Tammy’s email and I had no bit of this info that I could find in my texts, Facebook messages or email.  hotelkanFinally, we figured it out and moments later we were in a songtao on the way to our hotel. Just a little bump in the road that was easily forgotten once we arrived to our new room in the middle of a Thai fairy garden. It had a very authentic feel with amazing flora all throughout the grounds. We quickly put on our suits to enjoy the last moments of sun by the pool.

We found a great place for dinner that was a few miles from our humble abode. We thought we could walk to the main road and quickly hop onto some form of transportation. After walking down an alley (that freaked Mom out) and making it to the main road, we realized this was a lost cause. Making our way back to the hotel, the front desk easily arranged a tuk-tuk for us. Our tuk-tuk driver, Mr. Dueng, was so precious! I kept saying “skrt-skrt” and laughing over bumps. He really got a tickle out of that. He even gave us his card so that we were insured we’d have a ride back.

It was just us and a long table of middle-aged men in the restaurant. It was so cute, because they were celebrating a birthday! Tammy was shocked the new the song in English, and we decided to cheer and sing along with them. They loved it. We headed home early time, as we had a BIG DAY the following morning.

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Ok, I just want to start by saying this is one of the most amazing, life-changing experiences I have ever had. That sounds corny and cliche, but, my day at the Elephant Haven Thailand will go with me in my heart forever. They are such gentle giants. Basically, like GIGANTIC dogs, and yall know how I feel about dogs. There is just something about the feelings animals bring. They are just so pure, and true.

IMG_2917We started out the day by preparing their meal. Cutting baby watermelons and rolling balls of rice, meal and bananas. It is incredible how much these boo-boos eat! We started out feeding them bamboo and one just wacked me in the head with it while trying to situate the stem in her trunk in the most perfect position.

The best part of Elephant Haven Thailand is that all of their Elephants were former show Elephants or part of riding. Now they just roam-freely and do not have the torture of being chained up, caged and carrying uneducated tourist around a loop. When we were walking them through the forest, if Mali wanted to go off and do her own thing, they’d let her. Mali is the smallest, shy elephant who is weary of her fellow sisters.

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We had our main guide, then a crazy, Elephant whisper. You could tell how much love he had for these animals. He reminded me of Rafiki from Lion King, wise but a kooky. Rafiki actually means friend in Sawhili and they is exactly what he was to these animals. He carried a bag of fruits and wandered the forest barefoot, fearless of the inevitable poop stepping. He’d always yell (rather sing), “isss okay, issss okay. No wooooorry, no worry, Mali.” At first we thought he was talking to us because we were moving out of their way, but he was soothing the elephants and guiding them through the forest and down to the river.

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Some people swim with dolphins, psh, screw Atlantis. We swim with Elephants in the Noi Kwai. It was crazy how much they LOVED the water. They would roll over and dive all the way down until only the tips of their ears and trunks were visible.

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It was so incredible, my mom will agree. We just talked about our photos for the rest of the trip and how much we missed them. It was incredible to be able to spend so much time with them in such a close up way in their own environment.

I once again experienced another, woah how small is the world moment. I heard a guy talking with a thick southern draw and thought he’s from where I’m from. Next time I turn my head I see him with a woman wearing a Carolina Gamecocks hat. IMG_3075 You don’t see that in Thailand everyday. I gave her a quick Go Cocks! Soon after, we realized we both are College of Charleston Alumnus. She is living in Bangkok with her husband who is in the military. So wild! There was another mother daughter couple with us who were sweet as can be that we enjoyed conversating with.

musuemThe next day, was a little rainy on and off, but we made it work. We trekked around the museum before making our way to the bridge itself. It was weird most to me that people walked a little ways, took their selfie then went back. *Ugh, travel isn’t ALWAYS about the photo. Live a little* Tammy and I had a different philosophy and walked all the way to the end. When we made it, we saw something off in the distance IMG_3158that intrigued us, so we figured we’d check it out. It ended up being so cool. It was like a Chinese Cultural Center along the river, similar to the one I visited in Udon Thani. Bright and bold. We met the cutest dog along the way name Takatin or something. Her owner gladly let me stop to give her a quick belly rub.

 

As we made our way back over the bridge, we stopped and had a traditional Thai lunch along the river. We got stuck their for a little long than we wanted because of the storm, but better than sitting in a hotel room! On the stride back to our place, we walked through some shops, where Mom found the perfect beaded necklace for her next USC game outfit. I got coconut ice cream (of course) as my treat to myself. That evening we enjoyed a quiet dinner, strolls through the night market and an early night to sleep.

Back to Bangkok we go!

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I just finished reading Greg Allman’s autobiography, as well as Joe Perry and now I’m getting started on Eric Clapton. I cannot stop listen to those told tunes. Here is a playlist that will take you back in time, I place I like to dream of.

So Long, Farewell K 2/1

Travels

I didn’t think I would be this sad when the day came, but I truly am. Before I departed for Thailand, I didn’t think I loved kids or that they loved me. I never wanted to be a teacher, but I will be leaving with a whole new perspective. I started out reluctant to leave my easy subject teacher position to move to a bigger challenge that completely shaped the way my entire Thailand experience turned out.

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Also, my girl Cam leaves this weekend too, so it is a sad time. We have been together almost every day, since I landed and it will be sad to see her go. I wish her nothing but the best for her future! It feels like college all over again, where everything you know slowly starts to trickle away. Even though I have a good bit of time left, it feels like it is all over just because so much is changing. I know I will be in for some shock and a struggle when finally landing back in the states.

While they were absolute little shits at times, they were angels most of the time. They were so mature and poised, way more than I ever thought possible for 4 and 5-year olds. Of course, there are certain things they struggled with, but I am truly amazed by their intelligence in two languages. I can’t imagine how difficult it is for them to have a complete foreigner standing in front of them 50% of their day.. I mean I constantly get stares at the mall from adults imagine how a child feels.

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My poor class has been through the ringer with teachers. Since they started English Program and Kindergarten, they have had three teachers, including me. They embraced me from day one, hanging onto my skirt and calling my over to show me their drawing or their correct answers. I remember my third day with them Ms. Nong said “Oh, student, students like you, Teacha.” That’s when I was sold.

I leave today knowing 30 names and 30 separate personalities. I will never forget this experience or these sweet little faces. I wish I could thank them for giving me an extra bit of youthfulness I thought I had lost. Also, they have pride in even the smallest accomplishments, a trait I hope to gain in myself.

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We ended the school year by celebrating little Punch’s birthday, playing games, watching movies and eating snacks. All the students brought cookies, toys, seaweed you know name it to give to their classmates. The kids were so excited and had so much loot that they had to carry around little 7/11 shopping bags just to keep up with it all. They kept saying “Teacha, Teacha, I go shopping. Look, Teacha.” *Heart instantly melts* We sweet lump of sugar ,Elf, of course brought donuts.

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It has not been 100% easy, breezy, but my frustrating moments have never been about the kids. They are who made it all worthwhile. So here I leave you with a few short words some of my students. I know they will continue to shine bright in K3! Also, hugeeee thank you to my Thai Teacher Ms. Nong and my assistant. Yall took care of all the dirty work and were always there to lend a hand or help me when I needed. I look forward to more time with them in summer course.

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I know, I probably say this about all of them, but Jayda is so sweet and a little genius. She stays curious always wandering up to me, making conversation asking about what am doing or reading. She’s also a string bean who is taller than all the boys. Just like me as a nug.

 

Pluemsiri, a quiet Einstein. He is so quiet, to the point where you think he is an airhead. It takes a lot to get him to crack a smile, but when he is running and playing with his friends and I see that pure childhood joy, it makes it all worth it. IMG_2471.JPGHe aced every workbook and exam. When he is spelling words he’ll even say “m double o n, moon.” I’m like dang, where did you even learn that? Most kids don’t even know the letter O most of the time.

View, she’s like head b*tch of the class. Definitely an Aries, if I had to guess. She is in control and in charge. Kind of a bully, but kind of smarter than everyone. I can always tell when she is gossiping or telling her friends off in Thai. She is a little sassy pants.

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Punch, absolute beauty. She has the highest pitch voice, so friggin’ cute. She always helps her friends who are struggling with their work. IMG_2429Not give them the answer, but actually explain and teach them. See what I’m saying, my kids are like baby grown ups. I will never forget her smile most of all.

 

Mavin, pronounced “Mawin”. First of all, his dad is babe. I know this from our “Parent Meeting” where I had to present to a class full of people who didn’t comprehend most of what I’m saying. He looooves dinosaurs and always walks around impersonating them. He was the most excited about our Dino Field Trip, but was such a scared boy I had to carry him the entire trip. I didn’t mind though.

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Then theres, Cheetah. She says “My name Cheetah, like a tiiiigerrr. Rawr!” She, as Phon-Phon says is very naughty. I must agree. She is always scheming up something. She stays shaking her booty, sexy dancing like she’s Brittney Spears. She cries when she doesn’t get her way or win a game. Hmmm…. This sounds all too familiar to a former 5 year old I used to know.

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Last, but not least brings me to Manta. My little curly top boy. He is so precious. He knows all the teachers names and doesn’t fail to say “Hi, Teacha” when one walks past. He loves to dance and practice his English. IMG_2416He is always looking out for me like when its time to potty he goes, “Teacha, class go to tha toilet.” Or “Teacha, wata on desk. Your wata.” Telling me I left my bottle because he didn’t want me to go to lunch without it. He may be 5, but I can tell he will live his life spreading smiles and being genuine to everyone he meets.

 

Here is my class (and all of Thailand’s) favorite song at the moment. They know all the words and dance moves.

Tien Outta Tien: Would Do Again

Travels

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So weird to think I have just short of two months left in Thailand! I have been going a litttttle coco bananas lately. I have major (un-diagnosed) ADD and am going stir crazy as all hell. With the school year wrapping up and impending exams, there has been a lot of down time for me at work, and by a lot I mean, I stand with the students at morning assembly, teach for about 30 minutes to an hour throughout the day ….. then I sit. There is only so much reading, writing, and music a gal can indulge in to fill the day!

Therefore, I decided to join in with my best girls in taking a Monday off of work and heading to Koh Lan, an Island right off the coast of Pattaya for a long weekend. I’ve been to Pattaya twice before, and it is so cheap and easy to access from Bangkok. $4 and a less than three hour bus ride later, you’re there. We woke up early on Saturday morning to make our way to Sai Tai Mai bus station. There was the cutest little boy a few rows in front of us, that we played peek-a-boo with until we started cruising down the road. I’m sure his mom appreciated the free entertainment. I was also #blessed to have a row all to myself.

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Once, we arrived to the bus station we hoped on a songthaew (truck bed cab) and made our way to the pier. We haggled for a 200 baht speed boat. It was a weird vibe from the started. They kept on piling people on this boat. The current that day was pretty strong. There were times where I won’t lie, I was scared as all hell. The two little boys riding along with us were calm as can be, while one European woman was one crushing wave away from tossing her cookies on the Asian man next to her. They pulled the boat right up to the shore, so we had to take off our shoes and jump in the water to officially be on shore.

Our hotel wasn’t on the beach, but had a (mostly) free shuttle. We dropped off our things, slipped into our suits and headed to what we thought was the “best” beach, Tawaen Beach.

***Side note about what I’ve learned from traveling Thailand. Never go to the “best”, always go to the second best. Less touristy and normally way better vibes***

As we arrived, it was flooded with people. We were trying to negotiate chair rentals, but they wouldn’t let us put the umbrella down or move them 5 inches into the sun, so we were like screw it. We decided to find a dry patch of sand and post up.

As soon as we settled in, we were swarmed. By what or who you ask?  Old, fat Indian men. Some just had their phones and others were carrying around selfie sticks with Facebook Live running. Not even trying to conceal what they were doing. It was beyond annoying, but we yelled, then ignored and soon enough the creeps fizzled away. The tide started rolling in diminishing our sand space, and we decided trek back to our pad. We were so tired and sun-dried, so we mostly napped and hung around the room the rest of the evening.

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The next day was when we really got the full Koh Lan experience. We looked up a couple more beaches as we did NOT want to make our way back to sex traffic central. We went to Tien Beach. As soon as we pulled up, we were like, “Ya, this is the place.” The color of the water was a piercing blue, it was as though my vision had been doctored by PhotoShop. I could write a novel about how impeccable the water was. I mean the temperature was so perfect, you would’ve thought God had choosen it himself. We finally found some guys who at least let us put the umbrella down and claimed our space for the day. Chair rentals were, I think $3 for the entire day. Good luck finding those prices stateside. There was a group of too young for us Russian boys next to our chairs trying to flirt. They pulled the classic “Can Iz borrow ze sunzscreen?” move.

We later made our way to the best place on any vacation, the beach bar. After maybe 15 minutes of back and forth trying to explain what it is we wanted, we ended up with strong daiquiris. Did I mention the beach was flooded with dogs and puppies.

IMG_2294Needless, to say we got a little lit. Hannah and I weaseled our into a 100 baht Banana Boat ride.  For me, this was highlight of the weekend. It brought me back to the days of tubing on Lake Murray.

To end our day, we settled into a table at a restaurant by the water where you could see the entire Pattaya Skyline sprinkled over the star sprinkled waves. I enjoyed a few White Russians to top off the night. After a long day of sand, sun, sea and alcohol, we were ready to shower off and snuggle into the sheets. One issue arose, our hot water was suddenly non-existent. We went down stairs for help, to see the front desk closed at 9:30 PM. I barely shampooed my hair before I jumped out.

Yall, I don’t even want to tell you what the issue ended up being. The next morning when they came by the “fix” it, there was a light switch essentially, outside the bathroom door that controlled the heater. Maybe that was common sense, maybe it wasn’t either way…. one simple flip and it was back on.

We headed out early to catch the 9:30am ferry back to Pattaya. While it took a little longer, it was a calmer journey than the trashing speed boat. Before heading back to Bangkok, we stopped by our fav little food spot, Sand Bar by the Sea. Unfortunately, our buddy, Guy, wasn’t working that morning.

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Stay tuned as Momma Tam is Asia bound in a week! We are going exploring Central Thailand and hoping the border over to Cambodia. You won’t want to miss these stories, I can assure you.

Here is a lowkey, chill playlist I put together recently. I like to give it a listen when I am winding down for the night. Enjoy!

Thrown for a Loop

Travels

After two EP kindergarten teachers decided to jump ship, that meant they needed to be replaced. I KNEW they were going to ask me. As you know from my previous post, my work life is chillax. One of the reasons they left, or so they claim, is because of the amount of work. For me this is hard to wrap my head around, after sitting at a desk 7am-4pm with little flexibility and a list of tasks that must be accomplished while also dealing with the social media blow up that can occur at any moment. Not sure how they can’t handle it or saw it as overwhelming.
The reason I was opposed to making the switch was why would I have all my freedom taken away for the same pay? It didn’t make sense to me. So of course I was asked, and of course I said absolutely hell no. Then we were asked would if we wouldn’t mind helping out if needed. I was extremely reluctant and said no because I figured it meant they would put me over there and I would get stuck. Also, my kinder-babies were in the middle of exams. I knew how I was grading and their levels and I didn’t trust someone else to handle them the same way that I had. I had finally got the swing of things and my classes were just started to learn my name. It was ready for everything to change.
A few hours later we were called back into the office to be told we would be “helping” until Christmas Break started. Not going to lie, I was being extra dramatic about this response. I was so mad, mainly because I was asked, gave my answer then told you’re doing it anyways. Just tell me from the start, I don’t like being given false options. My other worry was the fact that we were going to be gone to Pattaya all weekend and I wasn’t sure when I would have the chance to prepare a song and lesson before Tuesday morning.

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The English Program is very, very different from the IEP program. It almost feels like you are in a different school. The classrooms are nicer and my Thai teacher speaks a little bit of English, which is not the case in IEP. I am thankful for this. Ms. Nong has been such a huge help to me. The morning starts at 8am with a morning assembly. One student stands on the the stage and guides the rest of the classes through the program. The kids start by reciting the national anthem, in Thai obviously. Then they say a prayer blessing their teachers, parents and benefactors (such a big word for kinder-babies!). First in Thai then in English. The classes then sit down for meditation with a sweet, little song playing in the background. It is absolutely the cutest thing ever.

***US Schools take note!!!****

Next, we rally the troops to go to the “toilet”. This happens about 1000 times in a day. The boys and girls use the same bathroom where the stalls have no doors. One girl was even using the restroom while a boy student was standing there talking to her. It isn’t weird to them at all because they don’t know any different. That would NEVER fly in the states.
Next, all the sweet babies take off their shoes and head into class to chug their warm chocolate milk.

For my first day, I was thrown right in because they had an assembly upstairs with the other classes. And going upstairs meant, 29 Thai babies, the Thai teacher and me all in an elevator. Not like a big industry elevator, I’m talking your below average hotel elevator. All I could imagine during our ascend to the 6th floor was I hope we don’t get stuck and run out of oxygen.

Wednesday is when I finally had to my first real teaching, outside of worksheets. We rallied into a BIG circle and I began my lesson, starting with the song of the week. I had planned to just play one off my phone. Unfortunately, I was having technical difficulties and had to come up with a song about a tree on the FLY. I wasn’t told they had to perform it on Friday in front of the parents until the kids were being put on stage that Friday morning. The Thai teacher even made me sing it alone, so she could video me and practice with the kids. I can assure you my rendition of “I am a Big Tree”, is not the next nursery rhyme hit.
It was so refreshing to be able to communicate with my class. Even though they aren’t fluent, it makes all the difference. The class I was helping with was so well-behaved. They stole my heart. After thinking it through and talking with another kindergarten teacher, I decided to take up the offer and switch classes. I am able to make a connection with them because of their ability to communicate with them and the fact that we are together all day and not just once a week.

The lesson I learn from this is don’t knock something until you try it. The school also offered me a pay raise, which solidified my decision even more. I do not think my Thailand experience would be what it is if I wouldn’t have taken this step. I can now say I look forward to work a lot more. Ironically enough, I actually do less in front of the class teaching than in my other position, and still enjoy my two hour lunch.

I now am able to do arts and crafts and cooking snacks with them twice a week. This is the part I was dreading the most, but has actually become my favorite. I love seeing them smile and have a moment of fun during the day. I enjoy feeling as though I am a real teacher. I know feel very appreciated. They give me such a big reaction every time I walk into the door.

I now know all my students names, but it is difficult having a Pun, Poon, Pan-Pan and Phoon when you don’t speak with the same Thai inflection. I don’t have favorites because they are literally all sweet angels. I got so lucky, but there are definitely some that interact with me more than others. I am going to introduce you to a few now!

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Elf, is a big belly, toothless cutie. He loves snack time and constantly talking to his two best friends Pee and Shiryu. They can be my problem boys sometimes. He seems like a tough guy, but he got a little scared and grabbed onto me and Pan-Pan’s hands during the Dinosaur field trip.

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Next brings me to Pan-Pan! Also toothless, but with a heart of gold. She is my little mini me, and always fights her way to sit next to my during circle time. She pays attention intently during the song of the week as she wants to be the first to know it out of the girls. We do singing competitions between boys and girls.
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The boy vocal leader goes to the Teacher’s Pet, Phon or Phon-Phon as everyone calls him. He is giving us his most fierce model face in the pic above with Pan-Pan. His English is really, really good. He definitely prefers to be right by my side. I typically have to encourage him to have snack time with his friends instead of sitting in my lap. He wants to talk to me so bad, that when he runs out of English words to use, he will start speaking in Thai. He knows good and well I have no clue what he’s saying.

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Then brings me to my sweet little Month, pronounced like Munt. If you say Month, she won’t respond. Once again, that Thai inflection is everything. She has great English skills as well. She is always at the front of the line on the walk to lunch and she has to yell “Wait for me Teacherrrr” because I tend to walk too fast for her little legs. She also likes for me to sit next to her while the watch movies, so she can attempt to narrate for me. She says she wants to help me because she knows “I can’t hear Thai.” She doesn’t speak with much of an accent, so she is very easy to understand.

There is so many more students and so much more about my day, but I will save it for another post! I am already getting incredibly sad thinking about leaving my little class that I love so much.

 

****Sorry for my horrible quality photos. Most were taken on my iPhone****

Music for this post provided by the one and only, Buckley Willis. I am blessed to call him an ex-roommate, friend and the boyfriend of my best friend. *Speaking of Codie, how awesome of a job did she do on the album artwork?** He has been working hard on his latest tunes and put together a little home produced album titled Fools Gold. My favorite track is “Just Right”. If you like Neil Young or Bob Dylan, these vibes will not disappoint.

 

You’re on Your Own Kid

Travels

We all see those “Must Love Travel” posts flood our Facebook feed. Then, you proceed to tag your friends in it with the caption that reads, “Omg! Lets go.” We typically reply with, “We totally have to!”, but you never actual follow through. That is what this trip was for me, following through. I saw one of these said posts about the Red Lotus Sea in Thailand. I clicked through the comment feed to figure out where exactly this place was, because I hadn’t ever heard anything about it. It was in a town called Udon Thani, close to the border of Laos in the northern part of Thailand. About 30 minutes later, I looked up flights, found one for less than $50. Finally, I scoured HostelWorld for a place to stay and it was all set.

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I may be loud and out going at times, but I do love my alone time. I wouldn’t say I’m selfish, but more a personality trait. Being overly independent comes along with being an Aries, I think. Sometimes, in groups I have more fun than I could imagine. Other times, it is a let down because I missed things I wanted to do.

After school on Friday, I immediately grabbed my bookbag and made my way to the airport. The first cab I hauled denied me, which ended up being a blessing. I was placed in a clean cab, that still had the new car smell. The driver looked like the Thai Version of a Sublime band member, with his blacked out Von Zipper glasses, sleeve tattoos, stud earrings and a big-faced plastic watch bigger than his wrist. While he spoke little English, he kept talking to Siri and having her translate in order to conversate with me, which was totally nice. There was tons of traffic, as there always is in Bangkok, so he wanted to make sure I wasn’t going to miss my flight.

Going somewhere by yourself in a foreign country to a town that speaks little English would make anyone slightly nervous. While my struggle with anxiety has dramatically decreased, it will never disappear. Anxiety doesn’t stop me from doing anything, but that doesn’t mean I’m not comfortable while I’m doing it.

I am currently reading a book by Ace Man, former Widespread Panic Roadie. As I am waiting to board, I read a line that says, “The fear and sense of adventure I felt while traveling alone was astounding.” This line struck a chord in me and my nerves started to float away. I was one of two westerns waiting on this full flight. One guy even came up to me and said “Is the next plane out of the gate to Phuket?” When I politely, told him I wasn’t sure because I was on this flight, he looked utterly confused.

The airport was super tiny and as I walked outside, I saw no taxis, which is a given at most airports. I finally went to the desk and they were able to put me right in a car. Cabs can be difficult here trying to find an obscure random place on the map with the language barrier and most drivers aren’t too keen on GPS. The guy seemed to recognize the name of the place, and when I walked up to the car and saw it was a Nissan which put me at ease. The little glimpse of something familiar gave me a sign that it was going to be all good!

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Right when I walked into the hostel, I immediately felt at home by the sounds of Bon Iver and Hozier playing through the speakers. The bar was lined with craft beers against a backdrop of pale yellow paint and art covered walls. I settled in with my book and a beer, where I met a young German guy who was also making way to the Red Lotus Sea bright and early in the morning. With the attraction being about an hour outside of town, this was going to make my trip much cheaper having a companion. We met at 5:30am to make our way to the bus station. I walked down the stairs at 5:32am and he was already leaving! Maybe he didn’t actually want to go with someone or he was really on a schedule. But unfortunately for him, I saw him and he was stuck with me as his baggage.

We didn’t say a word to each other the entire walk to the bus stop (awkward), but it was still dark out so okay, I get it. An Italian couple approached us on the bus, when we came to find out we were going to the same place, we join together for the rest of the trip. Which was awesome making the 14km tuk-tuk ride and the boat trip even cheaper!

I absolutely froze my butt off the entire tuk-tuk ride. Up north the mornings can be pretty chilly. I looked at my jacket before leaving my room, but decided to leave it behind. Not the smartest move. Later, my new friends said they can’t believe I endured that entire ride without one complaint on the temperature. (**People back home take note. Y’all know I’m the first the grip about anything below 70 degrees.**)

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The lotus blooms only occur between the months of November and February with the best time to go being January. You have to go early early in the morning, because has the heat of the day rolls in the blooms retreat to hide from the rays. The mass amount of flowers cannot be seen from the shore. As the boat ride progresses, the pink begins to take over more and more until that is all that you see. The little birds, swiftly fly across the vibrant green and pink hues like a scene from an old Disney Princess movie.

This place is still relatively unknown to international travelers. It can be popular among Thais, but is still considered a hidden gem. I only saw one other couple of westerns besides us in all the boats. The boat in front of us with a group of ladyboys and the boat behind us was filled with monks, quintessential Thailand.

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Our tuk-tuk driver was the bomb! He waited for us the entire time we were at the lake. He then asked us “Where you come from?”. When we told him we were from three different countries, he was so impressed and made is bundle together so he could have his own personal photo.

On the way back, we dropped the Italians at the train station, and we proceeded to figure out our way back to Udon Thani. Where the bus dropped us off wasn’t actually a bus stop at all. Our trusty guide told us to cross the street and wait there. We sprinted our way across 4 lanes of highway traffic, and after waving down two buses who did not want to take us on as passengers, we were kind of worried. Minutes later a van pulled over and took us where we needed to go. One thing I’ve learned about Thailand, is public transportation is almost always on your side.

When I got back to the hostel, I said goodbye to my German friend whose name I never got, and went to lay down for a moment. Even though I was exhausted, I realized a nap wasn’t going to happen for me, so I got up to seize the day. On my walk to my first site, I stopped at the cutest outdoor mall for lunch. Mmm, ramen. So yummy!

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First place I stopped was the Thai Chinese Cultural Center. The guy at the hostel recommended it and I saw there was a park nearby, so it was perfect. Although, all the information was only in Chinese and Thai, it was still a beautiful place filled with little gardens and koi ponds. It was a little oasis away from the busy streets and malls. They even had these bottle you could purchased to feed the fish. I saw several people doing it and these huge koi fish would jump right out of the water at you. I mean some of this fish, were bigger than my parents Yorkie Poo, Reesie.

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Next, I strolled around the adjacent park. I was pretty much the only person there. It was really pretty with tons of trees and blooms lined up along the water. After swinging on the swings, I found this tree with huge yellow flowers. Some had began to fall off the branches. When you pick them up they were huge and engulfed your entire hand with their soft, fluffy petals.

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After grabbing a snack at the mall, I hoped in a tuk-tuk to go to the main park in the town, Nong Prajak. Everyone was walking their dogs on leashes (that’s a first) and running around the water or biking. I was so jealous of the bikes! I miss my four bikes from Charleston. **Shoutout to my Dad who always made sure, I got a new bike when that last one was stolen** I found a little shop that rented them for 20 baht an hour, so basically 75 cents. She let me pick whichever one I pleased, so I picked out a blue one with a basket which reminded me of my favorite two-wheeled machine from college that took me on many cruises around The Battery. As I started to peddle, I past this group of fit, young males with shirts that read “CADET” in bold letters on the back. This reminded me of all the Citadel boys running around Chucktown in their navy shirts and orange belts. It really was just like Charleston, lined with palm trees and all! I was able to ride next to the water as the sun began to set.

After a full day, I was ready for a shower and my pjs! There was the cutest little reading knock up stairs at the hostel, so I plopped down on the pillow with my journal and my book. I wrote and read until I couldn’t keep my eyes open any longer. I normally don’t sleep past 6:30-7am most mornings, so I figured I wouldn’t set an alarm. I ended up waking up at 8:30! After facetiming with some of my favorite people over some exciting news I received, that didn’t leave me much time before my flight.

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One of my most proud moments, was navigating back to Nonthaburi without paying for a taxi because that can be expensive. I was able to take to the bus to Chatuchak Park which is right by the MRT and enjoy some shopping and lunch. This saved me about 300 baht.

All in all it was an amazing weekend. Probably one of my favorites since I have been in Thailand. I feel strong and courageous. If I can share any bit of wisdom with you, it is if there is something you want to do, whatever it may be, don’t let tackling it alone stop you!

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My music for this week is a tune from one of my favorite bands, Greensky Bluegrass. As I was listening to it on the bus to Chatuchak from the airport, it truly resonated with me and the place I am at in my life. I have included the lyrics below as well!

Started fleeing comfort for something closer to the edge for the view in contempt of my conscience.

thoughts abandoning my shoes but I turn to walk towards home instead

though I am not without weakness I will define what lies ahead

Not out of control

Now I’m swerving in and out to feel the force of the curve unchecked

I’m fond of danger

Nothings really out of line everyone should make the time to find it

Will you ride beside me now or have I frightened all the words away

Not out of control x 3

If we could focus now, I’m certain this would all be clear.

Couldn’t we last for a while? What if we can?

Everything around me now will be reduced to the ground at the cost of a foolish nature consequence and conditioning all weighing on me to slow my pacing

It could all be worth it though, How the hell are we to know? we try x2

Not out of control I’m not out of control Not out of control we’re not out of control

Authentic Ayutthaya

Travels

I tend to get a little ADD and stir crazy. I wonder who I get that from…. *cough cough Mike Smoak*. I had only been back from my crazy two week break for a few days and I was ready to explore some more. At about 10 PM on Friday night, we made last minute plans for an overnight trip to Ayutthaya.

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Ayutthaya is about an hour and a half van ride from Bangkok. It is the old capital of the Kingdom of Siam, a rich, ancient trading post. It was destroyed in the 1700s by the Burmese. It is bursting with temples and ruins. I knew it was a SEA backpacker stop, so I figured it would be flooded with tourists and westernized. Honestly, it was the total opposite, which made me happy. Most signs were written only in Thai. The night market was flooded with tons of local foods and no translations. You truly felt like you were immersed in the Thai culture. It was a very calm, lowkey place kind of like Vientiane. The town has a river that runs all the way around creating an island.

We woke up early the next morning to take the MRT to the bus station. We bought our 60 baht van tickets and we were on our bus less than 20 minutes later. (For those who aren’t up to date on the currency exchange, 60 baht is about $2!).

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Once, we arrived to our hostel, I fell in love. The Early Bird Hostel was tucked away off the main street and was so cute! Little cacti and plants were cascaded all over the patio with plenty of space to sit. The staff was so friendly and helpful. We were able to get in early to put our stuff down and begin our day. This cost $6 USD with free breakfast. Once again, the luxury of cheap travel will truly hurt going back to the states. We were able to walk from our hostel everywhere we went. If I ever go back though, I will definitely be renting a bicycle.

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Even though it is winter, it is hot as hell! So through some research I read that since these are “ruins” and not functioning temples, the same dress code did not apply. At the first temple, Wat Ratchaburana, my shorts and tie-dye top were all good to go. This temple was really neat because you were able to climb up the sides and into the main structure, or prang. Now these places are old, like really old. They date back to the fourteen to fifteen hundreds.

 

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Next, we went to probably the most famous, Wat Mahathat. This is where the Buddha Head intertwined in the roots of a tree lives. There are several theories as to how the statue became embedded, some even stating the body of the head is still connected. Once, I went to walk into the entrance, I was denied due to my attire. What! Ugh, it is okay, I shouldn’t believe everything I read on Yelp. Luckily, there is plenty of vendors right outside with wrap skirts and elephant pants. Once inside, I was puzzled by all the other women in their shorts and even tank tops, all of which were accompanied by men. So either, the guard just didn’t like me, or it was because I wasn’t with a man. While, in the US we really struggle with gender roles and equality, we are still many steps ahead the rest of the word.

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After we spent all day walking through amongst the ancient brick remains, we took an afternoon siesta. The heat really wears you out! Luckily, the structures created some shade throughout our strolls. We went to the main backpackers street, also known as Farang Street (fitting) for dinner and drinks. The best part of the meal was the cutest, little dog that sat right by my side the entire time. I may or may not have been bribing her with table scraps. The rest of the evening, I took advantage of our hostels adorable patio. I enjoyed reading the last few pages of The Alchemist while sipping on an ice-cold Chang.

**Side note: I could write post on this how much this book meant to me after reading it. Should I start doing book reviews as well? Lol. Either way, get you a copy and start flipping the pages. It is a short, quick easy read.****

The next morning, we woke up early to cash in on our hostels free breakfast and some last minute sightseeing before heading back to Bangkok. This is when we saw my most favorite ruin of the weekend, Wat Phra Si Sanphet. Some of the main structures, were built out of stucco, not bricks. It had a different look and vibe than the others. You could also see the glittering top of the Wat Phanan Choeng in the background. It is cool to see the old and new side by side. Something about the color of the richness in the color of the bricks and the way they were overgrown with weeds gave me a very Charleston vibe. Another reason it was my fav.

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(Offerings left for the Buddha. You see people stringing these together and selling them on the streets all over Thailand)

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The van dropped us back off at the Mo Chit BTS stop, which made for an easy final train ride back home. But before I landed back in Nonthaburi, I couldn’t resist pork skewers, sticky rice and a fresh coconut shake from Chatuchak Market to end the weekend!

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So I have been extra obsessed with John Mayer lately. Even more than normal. Like the old stuff, before he dated as those loser famous girls and wore ill fitting light wash jeans. Here is a #TBT for your listening pleasure.

A Day in the Life

Travels

After being here for almost two months, I’ve yet to write about the reason why I’m here which is to teach. I always knew I couldn’t be a teacher, but I wanted to be able to see the world, so here I am. Overall, 10/10, would recommend. When my brother would be telling stories about his class, my mom would say, “Yea, Kara would go off on a kid.” Which is probably true. Since, I teach kindergarteners who don’t speak english, it is pretty hard for them to talk back, and if they do, I wouldn’t even know it. The worst I’ve had is telling a kid to fix his answers and he spit on my hand.

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I teach K-2 Math in the IEP or Intensive English program, which basically means “Thai program”. It is super confusing, I know. The kids have minimal understanding of the language, other than few vocabulary words and numbers. This program cost almost half what the full English immersion program costs. I am a subject teacher, so I have 10 classes that I see for two lessons a week. The students also take two classes of English and Science a week. It can be frustrating to come up with fun, quick activities or games, such as arranging number flash cards in order. Not because they couldn’t do it, but because they cannot understand the directions.

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I almost have it too good. We have a van pick us up every morning around 7:40am at our apartment. Our school is about a five minute ride down the road in the Bang Bua Thong Village. My first class starts at 8:30, so I have class until 11am, then starts my two, yes TWO hour lunch break. Class starts up again from 1pm-3pm. Then I am done for the day until we clock out at 4:37pm. Lots of free time. It can get boring, but it allows me free time to read, write, listen to music, etc. my favorite things.
Almost all of my materials are already available from teachers in our office, so there is little preparation that goes into my lessons. The main responsibility I have during my “planning periods” is to grade, stamp and return the worksheets.

heartmilkThe canteen food is very hit or miss. Sometimes it isn’t bad, but I also like to get off campus for a bit. Also, it smells in there. I’m not sure what it is, but the food most certainly does match the smell of the room. I typically eat or hang at this little place around the corner from school called “Heartmilk” where you can get fried rice or noodle dishes for 35baht, which is slightly over $1. It is worth it to me for the free Wi-Fi and change of scenery. Also, our office can get really loud. As many of you know, I complain because people listen to music in there constantly without headphones. #Annoying
Ok, so the kids are freaking adorable! Crazy, but cute. They have a tough time pronouncing the “R” in my name so it comes out as “Teacha Kale-a”. Lokkedw probably thinks the same thing when I try to say his name. With over 300 students, it is impossible to know everyone’s name. But I do know the names of my favorites like Khongpawn and Gunz. (See below). The students all have Thai names that are like 15 letter first names and 30 letter last names, then they pick a “nickname”. That’s how I have students with names like Porn, Fourwheel, Poo and Ping-Ping.

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We have a uniform which i love. I hated waking up every morning staring at my closest attempting to make myself appear “business casual”. I’m a holes in the jeans, crochet crop top kind of gal. Wearing a uniform is mindless and since it is a requirement, I don’t feel like I am trying to look the part of something that I’m not. Second best part, is never having to wear shoes. It is Asian cultural to take off shoes before entering most places. Temples, classrooms, even some businesses – shoeless. Awesome, love it!

 

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All of my classes have a Thai teacher and Assistant, who also don’t speak english. There is at least one of them in the class at all times, which makes it easy for me because I don’t have to be in charge of bathroom or discipline. (Like I said before, I have it made. Sorry to my teacher friends back in the states who are reading this.) It is also difficult because if I need to communicate something to them, like class has to end early, it is almost impossible.
Every class starts and ends with the students prayer hands together while they sing a song. In the morning, the students chant “Goodmorning, Teacha” then at the end of class it switches to “Thank you teacha”. They say it in Thai, English then Chinese. It is so sweet. They are definitely taught to honor authority, which there is a lack of in Western schools.
Each class is an hour long. We begin with easy songs I grew up with, such as “Old McDonald” or “If Your Happy and You know It”. Frog is their favorite phrase in “Old McDonald” because they like being able to hop around. They get so excited about anything that allows them move and be silly.

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After Christmas break my day to day will be a little different as I am switching to the English program, with my very own group of kinder-babies. Stay-tuned!

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So Thai people and allllll my kids are obsessed with this song. I mean OBSESSED! The entire song basically plays on a loop across Bangkok. Come to find out, the song isn’t even in Thai! Enjoy a little piece of what I listen to on the daily.

The Gang Goes to Pattaya

Travels

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Anytime we have even one extra day off from school, the first thought is “where to?”. This is a mindset I want to adopt when I go back to the US. Imagine living as though you have to squeeze your entire existence in a space into a six month span. Living in Thailand puts you on a timeline. You have a certain block to experience everything possible. As we were making plans for our upcoming long weekend, we stumbled upon a music festival in Pattaya. You did not have to ask me twice if I was down. I didn’t even think much about where the festival itself was.

We rushed after school to grab our things in order to make it in time for our 6:30 PM bus. We were debating between taking a cab or the MRT. We opted for the cab because we figured it would cheaper. We thought we still had enough time even with the holiday traffic. We largely miscalculated as our 45 minute ride turned into almost three hours. Arriving to the bus station almost an hour late, we had our fingers crossed there would be another option. Luckily, we were all able to get tickets right on the 8PM bus. This actually worked out in our favor because now we had time to grab some dinner before our 2 and 1/2 hour ride. The bus ride was a breeze, except for a similar story to the last time. More “Facetimers” behind me with big mouths and no headphones.

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I had low hopes for Pattaya, but wasn’t too concerned since I was meeting up with some pretty great people for an awesome event. I wasn’t going there because it was on my bucket list of weekend trips. We were told it was super gross and just plain sucked. I don’t know if we just ended up in a good spot or what, but I loved it! *Moral of the story: don’t believe everything you hear. Form your own opinions.* The place is basically Panama City, Florida. A bunch of old retired white men. Some with their wives, others with young, beautiful Thai women.

By the time we landed at our hostel, we were beat. We took a moment to admire the view through the darkness, then curled up in bed. The next morning, we were stoked to checked out our rooftop pool and see the ‘scape through the lens of daylight. We were all starving and wanted a good a$$ brunch. We found this adorable little restaurant on the water called “Sand Bar by the Sea”. I had the “American Breakfast” and probably fluffiest pancake of my life. (Don’t worry Papa, yours are still better <3). White Russians are my winter time drink. As we walked up and heard Christmas Music playing, my eyes met this item on the menu. I just had to order one. In this moment, I felt a slight bit of holiday cheer for the first time.

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When we were finished up our meal, a cute, little older Thai man came and started chatting us up. Hi name is “Guy”. He turned out to be the owner of the place. So genuine and kind. He convinced us to come back that evening for dinner to see their live band. We promised to bring our friends.

We headed back to our AirBnB to soak up the sun at our breathtaking pool with floaties in tow. My old roommate, Sydney, and her crew met up with us. The best part about moving to Thailand is being able to reconnect with old friends while making new ones in the process. The pool was delicately placed on the 31 floor situated between the city and sea. The view had it all.

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There aren’t many cabs or motor-taxis in Pattaya. It is mostly these communal trucks with covered beds. You just hop on and ride. So there we go, back on our way to “Sand Bar by the Sea”. While the rides are a little bumpy, the weather couldn’t have been more perfect. Nothing like riding in a truck bed with the sea breeze whipping through your hair. Once, we arrive we were able to catch the final moments of sunsetting over the water. They already had our table set up in the lounge area, as requested. Guy, said he gave us his best server for the evening. He was telling everyone how we were the teachers from America. He was so pleased that we followed through on our promise and returned.

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Once the band started he assured us, second set is when they really “rock out”. He said, “They may even play a little ‘Purple Rain’ for the young people.” Emphasis on the young. Someone else said, “You guys are a breathe of fresh air. These people are all over 60.” We spent almost four hours there. Eating, drinking, dancing. Not a single worry in the world. I was sad to leave. We had turned that place into a bangin’ party.

Next, we went to Hooters, but I’m going to leave this part out of the story.
Our final stop was “Walking Street”. A road lined with bars and strip clubs. It reminded me of a mix between Fremont Street in Vegas, the party strip in Playa Del Carmen, and Two Notch Rd. Everyone said it was the “Red Light” district, so I was thinking women standing in windows with the bed in the back waiting for a man to waltz in and shut the curtain like in Amsterdam, but it wasn’t close. We headed back around midnight to make sure we were well-rest for the most important part of the weekend, Maya Music Festival.

Now, I haven’t been to a 100% EDM lineup festival since EDC Orlando my junior year of college. The thought of going back and being in a place I often found myself, made me feel the warmth of youthfulness. So I put on my glitter, jorts and dancing shoes, ready to boogie. It was a refreshing feeling to be at a show where I didn’t care what they were playing or waiting to hear what came next. There wasn’t big expectations set like at a jam show.

We headed to my friend from Irmo/Chucktown, Sydney’s AirBnB. I am lucky/bless/elated to see my two Squids on almost back to back weekends. She had an entire house with a pool near the festival. It was awesome to reconnect and meet other young teachers. Everytime, I meet new people I find some sort of connection. I am reminded daily how small the world truly is. (This sentence will continue to grace every one of my blog posts).

Looking around at the number of people and realizing the house was not in a populated area, I had no idea how we were going to make it to the festival. As we walked out there was a guy with a huge van. We haggled with him into taking us. We crammed 17 people in this van. He only charged us 400 baht total which is a little less than 50 cents a person.

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The festival started at 1PM, but we arrived around 3:30ish. The place was deserted. When I say there was 30 people there max, that isn’t an exaggeration. More people came as the night fell, but still not many. The lineup had HUGE names too. We didn’t care though, because we had so much space to play and dance. Also, it made it easy to never lose eachother. We were able to stand right up front at the rail the entire night. The photographers put cameras in our face the entire festival. We all have cameos on the live stream which is pretty hilarious.

Best set of the evening goes to ……….. Deadmau5. I started listening to Joel in about tenth grade. I had been waiting for this moment since I was 16 years old. I have seen a lot of music over the years. I don’t even want to know the number of shows or the price tag that is currently on this addiction. I have seen pretty much anyone and everyone, but never Deadmau5. The second he came on, Hannah and I turned to each other and screamed like 13 year old girls who just walked past Nick Jonas in 2008.

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He has two songs that really resonated with me, “I Remember” a collab he did with Kaskade and “The Veldt”. “The Veldt” is based on a short story Ray Bradbury. I have a very special memory that relates to the story and it deserves a read. Especially, if you like shows like Black Mirror or the book 1984 by George Orwell.

Here is the link if you’d like to check it out: The Veldt By Ray Bradbury

Robin Shulz and Madeon were my next two favorites. My biggest let down was Flume. Don’t get me wrong I definitely enjoyed it, but it was “Flumey” enough like past sets I’ve seen. He would mix like random Kanye songs in and out of his own jams and it just wasn’t cohesive to me.

When you go to festivals you ALWAYS make festie friends. And if you don’t you aren’t doing it right. We met this dope girl and her friends who live in Bangkok. Literally the cutest human ever. We ended up dancing and chatting the entire night. Overall, 11/10 festival. I wish more people would have showed up because they really missed out on amazing music and world class production.

The following morning, we slept in, soaking in the last bits of our cozy room in the sky. Once, we were ready, we made our way back to “Sand Bar by the Sea” for, yes, a third and final time. Sadly, we parted ways back to the bus station to buy a ticket home. We ended up being on the same bus with our friends we spent the weekend with. It was an ordinary ride that (almost) ended in heartache.

An amazing weekend ended with me losing two of my most prized possessions. The second I got on the BTS I realized they weren’t with me. My The Celestine Prophecy book and travel journal. I didn’t blog during my last trip across three continents, so I have nothing to fall back on. My journal is filled with poetry and words that cannot be replicated or replaced. It is filled with remnants of plane tickets, subway cards and luggage tags. It was from a time in my life where I was dealing with so much and yet I still found a way to shine positivity onto those pages and it is all gone. The other is a book that I have read over and over again for the last few years, filled with highlights and underlines and tid-bits of thoughts in the margins. I live by the philosophies outlined in the text. Each time I read it, I learn more and more about the universe and receive so much clarity. I can see different parts of me as a grow through what strikes me as relevant each time I read it. I immediately emailed the address on my ticket. Continuously refreshing my account longing for a response. Nothing.

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By lunchtime the next day I had given up hope. I thought I wouldn’t be able to write this post or even start a new journal. I was defeated because my carelessness. I decided to try another email address. THEY GOT BACK TO ME IN MINUTES. My stuff had landed back in Pattaya. They said they would put it on the next bus to Bangkok and I could pick it that afternoon. Immediately after school, I made my way to the station which is over an hour from my house. I stopped, got a burger and strawberry shortcake then trained back home. All worth it. Lesson learned, always double triple check you have what’s most important with you.

***Sorry for the photo quality. I left my memory card in my computer at home :'(***

I created a Spotify Playlist of all the artists who were at MAYA Festival. Hope you enjoy!

 

Laos in Translation

Travels

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So no one understands it, but it is a thing. To receive my Non-B immigrant blah blah blah 90 day visa, we have to cross the border into Laos and go to the Thai Embassy. Two days paid off of school and a weekend getaway. I’m down.

At first I was being pissy because we had to take an overnight, 12 hour bus to and from Vientiane. Poor teacha probs.

Our first bus was not going to lie, kindddd of terrible. It had these weird like Winnie the Pooh baby blankets that looked at though they hadn’t been washed since 1997. Also, there was mini cockroaches everywhere. Once again, I’m dramatic, I know but I killed five on my own. We got “upgraded” to “VIP” aka the lower dungeon layer. Which was totally fine because it was only us and one other Asian girl, who decided to talk on Facetime almost the entire first four hours with no headphones. We were getting, in lack of better terms, PISSED. We kept shhhhhs-ing her and tell her to lower the volume. To me it seems like common courtesy when everyone is lights out trying to snooze, but the cultural norms are just different in Asia.

After watching a movie on Netflix, I passed out the whole ride until light rose again that morning. We had to get off the bus to stamp out of Thailand, then we had to get off the bus to get a Visa for Laos, then back on the bus and back off again. It was a process. No long lines or anything, pretty simple and quick.

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All the other teachers at school kept telling us you literally have to “run”. When we got to the Thai Embassy, it took a maximum of 30 minutes to get through the line and on our way to the hostel. No craziness, no “running”. We were lucky. We craziest part was trying to get off the bus once we arrived. Tuk-tuk drivers were literally storming our bus. Some even walked on the bus trying to get us to come with them. Absolute insanity. We had to be back the next day between 1-4 to pick up our passports. We hoped in a tuk-tuk, joined by a random, lost (and pissed) Brit backpacker attempting to find his embassy. I call that free entertainment.

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Our hostel was bare bones, but for $5 a night with warm breakfast in the morning, it was good for me. This is a luxury I will truly hate not having back in the US. The neat thing about this place was all the walls were covered in art and quotes from people who had stayed there from all over the world. I could’ve spent the entire weekend reading it all. It ranged everywhere from true inspiration to drunken thoughts, quick doodles to sharpie murals. The lady at the front desk was really nice and helped us to set up our van to go explore Buddha Park the next day.

The A/C in the dorm room didn’t cut on until night, but when it did it almost froze me out of the room. They had free vodka every night from 8pm-10pm and we coerced them into giving us the entire bottle instead of just filling up our cup. You could tell the place was owned by one family as they would all be hanging out throughout the night and day. It was super funny because each night they’d change into their “pjs” right around the time the booze started.

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Since we figured we’d be sitting at immigration all day exhausted from our “sprint” that didn’t happen, we didn’t have any set plans for the day. There was several temples right out our doorstep, so we grabbed a quick lunch at this cute mediterranean restaurant. Here I finally found a dark beer. Beer Lao Dark Lager, I truly miss you already. Can Dark Chang become a thing here in Thailand? I could go to a million temples and never get tired of it. The colors, the art, it is like sensory overload. You can stare at the same wall for 30 minutes and not get tired of it because there is so much intricacy.

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We left for Buddha Park around 10am the next morning. The first time I didn’t have to be up early as hell! But yall know me, I still was up at 7am. The bus was comfy and the driver played Top 40 pop hits the entire ride. And yes, I did enjoy the music choice. ****Disclaimer: if you really know me, you know I someone can sing every word to most mainstream radio hits and I love it. I mean whatever, they’re popular for a reason. I indulge in enough great music, I think this one flaw is excusable.*** The final stretch got pretttttty bumpy because there wasn’t a road… at all. I remember we all looked ahead and said to each other “Oh shit, we’re driving through this?”.

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It is basically just a plot of land filled with with Hindu and Buddhist sculptures. Unlike most tourist attractions in Southeast Asia that are really old, the park wasn’t started until the 1950s. As you stroll through the park and admire the various installations, you can tell each piece relates to a religious story or god. What the stories actually were, I have no idea. The two largest are the Buddha Head and Reclining Buddha. The Buddha Head is crazy. You can climb all inside until you reach the top where you have a 180 view of the park. The entire place felt like an adult playground and the Buddha Head was the jungle gym. There was a monk that sat in the stand at the park. To everyone who walked by he’d say, “Hello. I love you. I miss you.”

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It was so hot and sunny, that we were quickly wore out, but we had to be dropped back off at the embassy to get our passports. When we arrived, we were surprised to see they were calling the numbers in order. We were in the 400s and they were only in the hundreds. They failed to mention to us the day before that while you can come during these hours that the tickets would be called in order. Not the best process, but we only ended up waiting a little over an hour.

After we arrived back to the hostel, I grabbed by book and headed to the coffee shop nearby for an cold, iced green tea. The shop played a steady stream of 90s angst music including Nirvana and The Cranberries. No complaints in that department. This wasn’t surprising since Vientiane is essentially just a stopping point for backpackers or expats on a visa run, so it is very much geared toward western culture.

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The next day we went to the COPE Museum. COPE stands for Cooperative Orthotic & Prosthetic Enterprise. I’m not going to lie, at first I was super not into it. I don’t want to go hear about all the pain we caused a country. I won’t harp on this too much, but here are the biggest takeaway I received from my visit.

  • There were more bombs dropped in Laos than people living there.
  • Unlike with Vietnam, the United States explicitly stated they weren’t bombing Laos, therefore the same rules weren’t in place. For example, in Vietnam you couldn’t bomb within a certain distance of a temple. This allowed Laos to be a free for all. (I saw a video where word for word JFK and Nixon said we have no one in Laos. Hmm…)

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  • People are still constantly dying and being affected by cluster bombs all over the country which leads me to a powerful statement I heard that will stick with me forever. “There is still a war going on without a reason and without a resolution.”

It is moments such as this that remind me how important it is to travel. I grew up with a one-sided view on the Vietnam War. Now I have an added perspective. Traveling makes for a well-rounded human being.

Finally, the journey home. One thing about Asian culture there is a fine line between business/job and personal life. Teachers at our school give medicine to the kids and treat them in more of a “family” way than teachers in the US ever would be able to.

Same goes with our journey home. We were part of a family operation. We waited at a restaurant for a guy. He came and said he would be back at 5 PM to pick us up. We forgot what he looked like other than that he was really sweaty. So he picked us up in a van to take us to the Laos/Thailand Friendship bridge. On the way, we picked up his wife and kid. We then got on a bus to the next immigration stop. At this stop, he placed orange stickers on us and said “Do not lose”. From there we got on another bus, where we met a woman. We got in this woman’s personal pick up truck with a man, who took us to the bus station about 20 minutes down the road. From here we got on our actual bus. Like what the hell? Strange, but everyone was nice and helpful. Not to mention our bus home was SO NICE. Hannah and I had the best seats and were able to lean on the way back. They gave us a good, clean blanket. I was freaking out because I was so happy to spend 12 hours on this ride.

All in all Laos was a good time. A few days off of school with some peace away from the craziness of Nonthaburi was much needed. Downfalls, lost my travel pillow and my sandals magically disappeared from the hostel, but these are things that can be replaced.

In honor of the nostalgic vibes the Laos coffee shop gave me, here is some 90s tunes to cure that “holy shit it is almost 2018, I’m old and miss the 90s” feeling.