Sunday, April 3, 2011

To India we go!

We're heading down to Bangkok in less than 5 hours to catch our flight to New Dehli, and I just now decided to do some Wikipedia/Lonely Planeting online in preparation.

Normally I would have done this weeks ago, but I am travelling with a group of 7 people, two of which are 'Type A' planners, so I was content to kick back and let them do all the dirty work. But I thought I should at least brush up on a few facts before I go, and also share them with you.

Straight from Wikipedia:

India is the 7th largest country by geographical area, the second most populous country in the world with a population of over 1.2 billion (The U.S. is at 308 million for a basis of comparison)

Four of the world's major religions originated in India; Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, & Sikhism

It is one of the fastest growing major economies, but still faces challenges of poverty, illiteracy, corruption and inadequate public health.

Straight from Lonely

"Love it or hate it, and most visitors see-saw between the two, India promises to jostle your entire being."

I was mentally prepared to have my being jostled, and was really looking forward to the trip, until I had a wee bike accident on Saturday morning, where I tipped my bike turning too fast, flew off of it superman style, scraped a fair amount of skin off my left hand and acquired a gash in my knee that required 4-5 stitches. Normally this would just be a minor setback, making things like showering and opening jars difficult (I sprained the heck out of my right thumb) but I'm going to India for 10 days. I'm supposed to keep my bandaged wounds clean and dry, and India is hot, dirty, and lacks adequate public health. I also need to redress the wounds every day with sterile equipment.

Not really a great start to the trip, but my friends have been great with helping me out. In fact, I owe them a shout out for all they've done so far. Jenny for taking me to the hospital and holding my hand while they doused my raw, exposed skin with betadine (one of the most intensely painful things ever; it feels like your hand is one fire) and distracting me while they stiched up my knee gash.

I also want to thank Nicole and Corinne for bringing my bike back to my house, and doing my dishes after I whined how difficult it was with my bandages/sprained thumb, and also for changing my bandages.

I don't know what I would do without these girls. Honestly, from the moment I arrived in Thailand they have been there for me. Cooking me dinner when I didn't have food, lending me money when I didn't make it to payday...twice; I could go on and on. Ladies, I really appreciate all you have done for me, and will do for me in India... because I need help changing the bandages ;)

Alright, I'm off to go finish packing and attempt another shower without getting the bandages wet. That's the other thing; April is the hottest month in India and I can't take real showers yet... sorry in advance, travel companions.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Update - for Uncle Moe ;)

I haven't posted much on the blog in the past few months because for one, I don't have nearly as much downtime to ponder life as I did in Korea. Along with school, I've been pretty busy as of late with visitors and holidays. (life is rough) Secondly, practically my entire family has Facebook now, including my Grandma, so I haven't felt the need to update this as much.

However there are a few souls left in the world that don't have Facebook (and I commend them for not getting sucked in to what can become a life-consuming addiction) and for them I felt compelled to update. Especially my Uncle Moe in Michigan; the location-reader at the lower right hand of this page has shown a regular visitor from Sault Saint Marie, which is most likely him. This one's for you Uncle Moe ;)

The Facebook world will know that after weighing the pros and cons for months, I decided to take a position at Colegio Americano de Torreon, an American International school in Torreon, Mexico. When I went home for Christmas, I was gutted hearing about all the weddings and such I was missing this spring and summer, and I decided I wanted to be closer to home. Torreon is about a 5 hour flight from Minneapolis, verses a 25 hour flight from Bangkok, so that was what ulitimately tipped the scales.

I felt pretty good about my decsion for about a week, but after that, have been questioning it ever since. Since I decided to leave, Thailand continues to grow on me.

Just now I was sitting next to the river here in Pai, a beautiful little mountain town in Northern Thailand, enjoying the sunshine and the scenery and a Diet Coke, thinking, why am I leaving this?

I'm still not sure I made the right decision, but it's a little late now. I've already told family, friends, and my present and future employers that I am moving to Mexico in August, but I am very sad about what I'm leaving behind. As of now I have a little over 4 months left in Thailand, and I'm going to try and make the best of them.

Cocktails by the pool at our resort in Pai. Life is good :)

Friday, December 3, 2010

It's that time again...

The time has come yet again to make the age-old decision; stay abroad another year, or go home? I'm actually split three ways right now between moving home to Minnesota, moving to South America to teach (I've been fantasizing about living in a Spanish or Portuguese-speaking country for a while now) and staying at my current school.

The factors to consider are pretty much the same as they always have been: I love traveling, trying new things, pushing myself to live outside of my comfort zone...and not paying rent :) At the same time, I miss my family and friends. I miss feeling like I belong, and the sense of security I feel living near my family. And I HATE missing out on important events, such as one of my best friend's weddings this April, and my little brother's theatrical debut in his high school play this fall, just to name a few. Ever since I made the decision to leave Minnesota 3 years ago, this has been a constant internal dilemma. (Ok, maybe not so internal considering I blog about and talk to everyone I know about it...)

3 months ago it would have been a no-brainer. There was definitely an adjustment period where I thought I must have been insane for voluntarily choosing my current position. But my school has grown on me, my kids have grown on me, Pak Chong, the podunk town I live in, has grown on me.

I have moments where I think, 'wow, this is so cool, I'm definitely staying.' 5 minutes later a wave of homesickness will wash over me and I'll change my tune.

Yesterday was a prime example; During 7th period, I had only one student in class, so we joined up with Year 9 students going on their weekly visit to the elephant conservation center just 15 minutes down the road. The year 9 kiddos worked on their community service projects, my year 13 student took photos, while my year 12 student interviewed the director of the center for the newsletter we are putting together to market the school. Spending my Friday afternoon at work hanging out with elephants in the gorgeous December sunshine (the weather is magnificent right now) while my students are actually learning something... how cool is that?

Because I work where I do and our school is so small there are endless opportunities to extend learning beyond the classroom, something that I think is really important. I've always thought that part of my role as a high school teacher is to help students see that there is a great big world out there beyond the confines of the school walls.

Then I went home to my hut and watched a few sappy, family-oriented episodes of Gossip Girl (shameful, I know) and I started thinking that maybe I'm over this 'living on the other side of the world from the people I love' thing.

My friend/neighbor/coworker Nicole gave me some solid advice that I think I will follow. This year I am fortunate enough to be able to spend 2 weeks at home for Christmas. (First time in two years!) She said when I'm coming back to Thailand, if it's hard to leave, then I'll know. I'm hoping that going home and getting my friend/family fix will put things into perspective. Until then, I'm just as torn as ever.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Today's Screenshot

"Pak Chong is not a valid city"

Like I needed Gmail to tell me that...

Good riddance, rainy season!

(Written October 30th)

Upon our return from Bali, the rain stopped and "cold season" was upon us. As a Minnesotan, I've experienced blistering cold, sub-zero winters and was a bit skeptical, but it actually is cold right now. Granted I live in a poorly insulated bamboo hut, but as I'm writing this, I'm sitting at my computer wearing long sleeves, long pants, and fuzzy socks with a fleece blanket wrapped around me.

Let it be known, I am not complaining in the least; merely observing. Pretty much any weather is better than the miserable, incessant rain that causes clothes to grow mold spots and my allergies to go berserk.

Life in Pak Chong from here on out will drastically improve. Plus, only 7 more weeks until my next vacation ;)

October Break Part I: Bangkok Music Marathon

On our first day of vacation, we headed down to Bangkok for Bangkok Music Marathon. Like I said before, I hadn't really gotten into Thai rock yet. What I had heard, I found really repetitive and borderline cheesy at times. However, this is how I initially felt about K-pop, a genre which is now very near and dear to my heart :)

The concert was a blast, and although it's still cheesy and repetitive, I'm developing more of an appreciation for Thai rock. It's much better live, for one thing, and we also got to hang out with a few of the musicians milling about near the stage, which always helps. Also, did I mention that Thai rock bands have awesomely ridiculous names, like "Body Slam," "Sweet Mullet," Big Ass," and "Potato"?

Here are my favorite acts of the night:

"Da" of Da Endorphine

This chick rocks. While a lot of Da Endorphine's songs are of the cheesy, sappy persuasion, 'Da' has an amazing voice and great stage presence. She was very fun to watch.


Thaitanium, a Thai-American hip hop group, was hands down the best act of the night. One of the members was born in New York City, so they have a lot more street cred. than some of the other "rappers" here in Asia (Big Bang, I love you, but you are SO not gangster!)

Da + Thaitanium - even better!

Hanging out with a Thai rock star:

(Me & the guitarist from 'Jetseter')

A good time was had by all :)

Saturday, October 30, 2010


(Written October 14, 2010)

So I've survived the first eight weeks of my teaching contract here in Thailand. It's been rough... I've had many "moments," but things should be a lot more smooth from here on out. This weekend the gang (a small group of teachers I work with) and I are heading to Bangkok to a Thai Rock Music Festival. They are huge fans, and while I haven't quite jumped on the bandwagon yet, I'm hoping after this weekend I'll be more keen* on Thai rock. (*I've picked up a lot of British slang working at a British school)

Sunday we are going to see Eat, Pray Love in preparation for Bali, and Sunday evening we fly to Kuala Lumpur. I could have skipped KL, honestly, and gone straight to Bali, but over the past few days I've been doing research and the shopping is supposed to be fantastic. I am going to allow myself to splurge a bit since I haven't bought ANY new clothes in the last 8 weeks, which is very very good for me. They also have Forever 21, which I developed a fondness for while living in Seoul because it's cheap and they actually had foreigner sizes.

After a few days exploring Kuala Lumpur, we're flying to Bali and spending the first 4 days in Kuta, which is on the coast. After that, we'll head up to Ubud for a few days, which is up in the mountains and supposed to be the cultural heart of Bali. I liken it to Thailand's Chiang Mai, and Kuta to Phuket.

The thought of this vacation is what's been getting me through the hours and hours of lesson planning and miserable rainy weekends in the hut. I cannot wait.