10 Reasons Thailand is The Place For Me

I have only been in Thailand for six weeks now, so I am sure that this list will evolve and definitely grow, but off the top of my head here are 10 reasons why Thailand is the perfect place for me right now.

1. Thai Time – Here, for the most part, schedules and appointments are more like general guidelines. It can be frustrating when your boss tells you “meeting this afternoon at 2pm” and the meeting is actually at 3, or the next day, or forget it, everyone forgot that they wanted to meet at all. But mostly, its keeps things interesting. And Thai time really works for a person like me. My classes generally 10-20 minutes late, and I’m okay with that. And I have a very generous window for when  I actually have to be at school in the morning. If you know me, you know that I am often running late, and I like to sleep in. Life in Thailand is perfect for that. Sometimes you get caught up and you’re late and I get that. Here, people get me for that too and it’s no stress and no worries.

2. Cucumbers – Cucumbers are my favorite. And here, I have them all the time – for free! They are served with so many dishes, it is always a pleasant treat. And they come on sandwiches and hamburgers (the burger in particular that I referring to was actually pretty gross, but the cucumbers, mmmmm). I don’t know how I hadn’t thought of putting cucumbers on burgers before, but now I always will – so refreshing!

3. Holidays and School Activities – I have had maybe two full, 5 day weeks of work since I’ve been here. People in Thailand love to celebrate! One day there was Sports Day (think field day x100), so no classes. For two days instead of teaching my normal classes I did an English Camp with the kindergartners full of fun, English activities. I had two days off because of the Asian Beach Games 2014, which were hosted in Phuket. One day I had a field trip to an amazing beach resort and had a wonderful time while hotel staff did my job for the day. I had a three day weekend for the King’s Birthday, also Father’s Day in Thailand. And I also have Wednesday off for Constitution Day! And don’t forget about the Loy Krathong festival from last month as well. Plus, I already booked my New Year’s trip! I can’t even believe it sometimes!

4. Land of Smiles – Here everybody is always happy to offer a smile. Thai people are so friendly, helpful and polite. Nobody is moving too fast, is too stressed or just too wrapped up in their own life. Thai people are like little kids sometimes and they love to laugh at everything. They are always being silly and cracking silly jokes, all work-day long. Keeps things light and I love it. Just walking down the streets too, everybody smiles and offers a nod and it’s really nice. I love for a brief second sharing  a moment of complete contentedness and joy with someone else. This is just perfect for me, because I just don’t usually get into bad moods and I just love when everyone around me is also happy-go-lucky.

5. Perks of Being a “Regular” – Now I only have two restaurants where I think they consider me a regular, so I’m not sure if this is a premature mention, but we’ll see. One place is Markinny Mate’s which is owned by the most adorable couple ever. The husband trained in Australia to be a chef so his food is a combination of Thai and/or Aussie-style. Anyways, we go there a lot, because the food is awesome and still similar to Thai food prices, plus it’s Sharon’s go-to always when we can’t decide where to go, because their burgers are just that good. Once we’d been there enough times that they really knew us, and had determined that we were not travelers they started giving us free water when we ate – SCORE. You have to pay for water at almost every other restaurant so this is a nice perk for us, and we feel like they have welcomed us as family. And today one of my favorite little places where they have just started to get to know me better gave me free pineapple with my meal just because I mentioned last time I was there that I love pineapple! Sweet! I’m hoping this trend continues, because it’s a really great feeling.

6. Acceptance – Everyone knows that I have many gay friends, and sometimes it really bums me out how they are treated in our own country. In Thailand, I have only seen ladyboys (very effeminate gay men or most trans* boys appearing as ladies), toms (lesbian girls who dress as boys) and gay/lesbian couples, treated with respect and love. One of the other teachers I know told me how at her high school the lady boys are loved and hugged (they are a very touchy culture) often by the other boy students, which is what I love to hear. Especially contrasted with the bullying of gay students all around Texas especially, that many of my friends endured I love to see that here, everyone is a person who deserves respect. Currently though, same sex marriage still is not legal in Thailand. I read that there was a bill in front of Parliment earlier this year with strong bi-partisan support, but with the political turmoil coming to a head earlier this year, this issue has been currently set on the back-burner.

7. Barefoot Workday – In Thailand  people take of their shoes to go inside places (from what I’ve heard it is because of the Buddhist culture though as I write this I want to find out more about the “why”),. This includes many shops, restaurants and luckily for me classrooms and offices at my school. I never wear my shoes at school. I walk to school with shoes on and am barefoot and free all day until I put them on to go have lunch, and again when I leave for the day. It’s pretty great. It makes the classroom feel really casual and relaxed and I just personally love being barefoot.

8. The ADORABLE Kids – I mean kids anywhere are cute. But these little Thai babies are exceptionally precious. You know how sometimes you see a baby and you’re like, eh… I’m sure (/I hope) they’ll grow into their looks? Well, I haven’t once thought that here, and all of the babies, toddlers, and little kids I have come across are just so dang cute! And of course since I’m teaching Kindergarten here, that is a definite plus!

9. The Obvious Natural Beauty –  I have not seen nearly as much of this beautiful country as I plan to see, but of course I love the fact that I am in constant awe of how picturesque the landscapes here are. The beaches have been amazing, the mountains, the jungles, the sunrises and sunsets – it really makes me stop, be present and just think “holy crap, I’m really here.” It’s awesome.

10. The Imperfections – Thailand is not actually perfect, and I like that. I can see that life here is not all white sandy beaches and ornate Buddhist temples. It is still a developing country and you can see this daily, even in Phuket Town where I live (this statement is not implying that developed countries are anywhere near perfect, but simply to state that I can see the struggle for people here more obviously). But I’m not perfect, and life is boring when it’s perfect so I’m embracing the challenges and trying to understand the country for what it is beyond the surface from a tourists perspective the best I can.

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Quick Updates

Okay, so as I have heard from many people (s/o to Gabriel) my blog has been slacking pretty bad recently. I really want to keep everyone informed, and I will pledge to write an interesting, topical post within the next week that will satisfy everyone. But that isn’t happening tonight. For right now, it’s late and I spent my potential blog-writing hours cruising the streets tonight with Becca and Sharon on our motorbikes. Which brings me to my quick update #1.

1) I got a motorbike! I originally didn’t want to have to get one because believe me, I know the dangers, but it is honestly a must. I cannot afford to pay farang-priced taxis on my salary and my two feet can only get me so far. I have since embraced the reality and pretty much love it. I love my bike, my helmet and my new-found freedom to explore with the wind in my face. I think we all took to riding pretty quickly, and so far it has been a smooth journey to mobility.

I haven’t gotten a cool action-shot on my motorbike yet, but here is my lame “hey Mom, I bought a helmet!” selfie.

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2) My job is finally starting to settle down and become somewhere I love to be. You read about day one, and I’ll just say that weeks one, two and even a little bit three were hot and cold. Some lessons were great, but some were shaky and it would stress me out. Additionally I was still feeling like an outsider in my office (there are 5 Filipino teachers, 3 Thai teachers and me in my office). But week 4 was fantastic and English Camp really helped me bond with everyone. I am making good friends in the office and am figuring out what works with the kiddos. And also, I’ve realized that not every hour I am with them will be a five-star performance and I have learned to accept that I am doing my best and that they are still learning even if they are too hyper or sleepy to actually do what I had planned.

Here are some cuties planting their flowers (Got, Kan and Grace) and then some photos of Ai-Tim (popsicle) making and a bunch of random English Camp photos!

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3) I went to the beach for the first time! It was so good, y’all. So good. It was also the Asean Beach Games that weekend, which made for a really awesome atmosphere and gave us plenty to do! Here are some photos from Karon Beach, Jenga 2.0, a Thai banana pancake (LIFESOURCE), beach basketball and beach handball, and Sharon and my adventure on the famous Bangla Road – we were very popular with the Russian’s that night…

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4) Thanksgiving happened. And it was weird to be away from home, yes, but obviously nothing like Christmas will be. Becca and I were able to find a really good American Thanksgiving dinner here though, and for that I am thankful. And of course, I have plenty to be grateful for this year as I am in a beautiful, wonderful country with one of my best friends having the adventure of a lifetime.

Below: Thanksgiving dinner and fun times on Becca’s birthday!

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5) This weekend is a 3DAY WEEKEND and we are going to the island Koh Phangan for the FULL MOON PARTY!

I promise that I have more insightful things to share, but I hope this was a good update as to what the heck I’ve been up to for the past month. Love and miss!

Condo and Karaoke – Turn the Volume Up

The day (last week) I arrived in Phuket I was so excited to get to my new home, unpack and settle. But my school coordinators soon informed me that this would not be happening right away, because they had assumed that Becca and I would want to share a room – which, we did not. So that first night I shared a room and bed with Sharon and for the following week I shared Becca’s room until mine was ready. And on Friday, it finally was! Here is a video of when I first was let into my new home for the next 6 months:

These kind of living accommodations are beyond anything I ever could have hoped for and I am so grateful. Varying by area, everyone in my program has a different living arrangement. Some people have no a/c, no sinks, squat toilets, no furniture provided, etc. And that is what I was preparing myself for before I got the job I have in Phuket Town. My place is so comfortable and my school is paying for it – again, I am so thankful!

Also, on Friday night I went out with a group of other foreign teachers to celebrate my friend Lyndsay’s 25th birthday. The highlight of the night is that our final stop was at a karaoke bar. With plenty of drinks running through our systems, we were all very eager to sing every song that played. And now for your viewing pleasure, a fantastically bad rendition of “I Want it That Way” by the Backstreet Boys and possibly the worst (but also best) version of “My Heart Will Go On” ever performed.

I think I will do a little post on Phuket Town itself soon. I think people who are familiar with Thailand think of the entire Island of Phuket as party beaches and resorts, but where I am is actually a cute little town with a lot of culture and authenticity.

Until next time, I love you all and thank you for reading (watching)!

Loy Krathong

Two nights ago I was able to participate in my first traditional Thai festival, Loy Krathong – Thailand’s festival of Lights. Loy Krathong takes place on the full moon of the 12th lunar month on the traditional Thai lunar calendar all across the country, and it was an experience I am very glad not to have missed. The basic idea of the holiday is that by setting your Krathong afloat (Loy means to float and Krathong means leaf bowl) into the water, you are releasing the sins of the previous year and making a wish for good fortune in the year that follows. The Krathongs are made out of parts of a banana tree and are adorned with decorations, most often flowers. Some people place a strand of hair or a nail clipping as a way to further ensure that their personal misfortunes are taken away to make room for the wealth of new fortune coming in the new year. There are many little stories about the meaning of the Krathong’s path. For example, if it comes back to you that is a sign of misfortune or  if your Krathong stays side by side with the person you like that means good fortune for your relationship to come. Also, I heard that for some people the festival is a way to pay respects to the goddess of water, Phra Mae Khongkra.

The festival seemed to involve the whole community. There was a big parade procession with floats and people dressed in traditional Thai clothing, as well as hordes of school children walking between floats. The parade led to the end of the Island where we would set our Krathongs afloat into the water. Becca, Sharon and I walked right along side the parade and I couldn’t help but notice that everyone in Phuket town seemed to be out and about. The traffic was so insane, with motorbikes in droves at every intersection. And there was a stand selling Krathongs every five to ten feet. It looked like families all together were working on making the Krathong floats to sell, it was very cool. And if people weren’t travelling to the end of the island, they were set up outside of their homes and businesses just watching the holiday evening unfold.

Once we got to the main area, there was a huge market selling food, drinks and all kinds of goodies and products as well as a stage with entertainment. It truly was a fantastic event. Once we got there, Becca, Sharon and I went to the waters edge down what seemed like a treacherous rock obstacle course, but what I later noticed was only a couple of feet of a rocky edge, to set our Krathong’s afloat. Each Krathong has a candle and three sticks of incense to be lit before release. Once we were able to finally find a lighter and get them to stay lit, we sent them off one by one. Please know, I’m not making this up, and that this simply would be what happens to me as I try to participate in a zen cultural experience: a paper flower on my Krathong literally caught fire from the candle while it was in my hands. So then I of course had to release it very quickly (while I made my wish) which caused it to proceed to tump over in the water, extinguishing the lights and almost capsizing. But luckily for my fortunes, it did eventually regain composure and float on with the other floats to places far and wide. The floats all lit up in the water was a very pretty sight, like a little fairy ballroom on the water. With the full moon above us, it was  a beautiful sight at the water that night.

PS Loy Krathong also coincides with the lantern festival (Yi Peng) up north which is MAGICAL and I am honestly a bit sad that I couldn’t have been up north and experienced both traditions and all of the beauty in one place.

PPS I never noticed quite how much we get stared down because we are foreign as I did on this night. We are a spectacle all our own because we’re different. People are so curious and it’s surprising because we are in a town with a decent number of farangs (what the Thai people call foreigners), yet they still stare and take our pictures. I am really interested to see how people will react if/when we venture out to small communities away from cities. I have heard really funny stories from people who have been the first westerner some children and families have ever seen and the interactions that follow. I want to have one all my own, and I will be sure to share if I ever do.

Disclaimer: I didn’t get great photos and I know that. I struggle with night photos. Also  I stole the image on the top right from Becca. But below is what a typical Krathong stand looks like, a Krathong in the water, some Krathong selfies, Becca and I and then the two images of my Krathong release and my Krathong fallen sideways in the water!

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On the up and up

Just a quick update: today was a very good day! I had wonderful classes, good food and found out that there is an awesome park area on the roof of my apartment building with AMAZING views. Up there my little group (Becca, Sharon and I) met a bunch of other foreign teachers who are so great and want to show us around next week. Very smooth day compared to the one two days ago, am I right?

Also, tomorrow is an important Thai celebration – Loy Krathong, as well as my school’s “Sports day.” I hear it’s a really fun school day (bonus: no need for lesson plans!) and I am going with a group to participate in the Loy Krathong festivities in the evening. Expect a full update tomorrow!

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My creeper photo I took up on the roof tonight 555! (555 = hahaha because 5 is pronounced “ha” in Thai)

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My kinder K1 class – are they not just so ADORABLE?!

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Working hard on a group work activity I gave them

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Lyndsay and Sharon two nights ago at dinner 🙂

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Typical school cafeteria lunch

Anuban Heroine

Yesterday we officially became teachers. And yesterday was a hilarious mess of a day from which I am sure the people of Hollywood would gobble up our embarrassments and fumbles and create lovable romantic comedy characters out of us. Or at least empathy-evoking pathetic, funny best friends.

Yesterday I woke up with nerves and anticipation brimming within, and got dressed in my most Thai teacher appropriate attire – long skirt below my knees and “polite blouse.” Feeling put together and the epitome of legit, my friend Sharon and I began our stroll to the elementary school where we teach. So of course, being as this is an important day for me, as soon as we leave our complex, it starts raining on us and we {of course} have no umbrellas. Well okay, not ideal but mai pen rai, right? So, continue strutting, head held high ready to change the world and inspire young minds and BAM I slip while crossing the busy street and sliiiiide through a puddle of mud. I mean…what? I can’t even help but just crack up even as I write this. An important day – my first day at a new job where I would stand up in front of classrooms filled with people expecting me to be an authority figure and role model and I can’t even cross the street without getting covered in slop. So, hurriedly Sharon helps me up and quickly inspects me for injury. Deeming I was fine, she hands me a few wet wipes and I try rubbing off the mud as we hurry to the school. So fast-forward to me not able to find a restroom stall once I get signed in, so I’m hiding in the turn of a hallway trying to wipe mud off the back of my skirt and feet while pausing nonchalantly anytime a student or teacher walks by. Awkward. And of course if you want to fast-forward to after I’ve taught my first two lessons, I look down while I’m at lunch and realize that the inside of my right leg is streaked with mud. Not sure how I missed that, but I’m almost certain the kids and other teachers probably didn’t.

That whole story was just a brief part of the day. The teaching scenario was almost just as laughable. I was told I may be able to observe on day one, but of course as soon as I arrive to my office they tell me that I am teaching four classes that day. And they are two different levels and I see each class twice – so four DIFFERENT lessons. And I had planned nothing. The girl at the desk next to me says “It’s my first day also.” Of course, you would think that would be reassuring, but don’t forget that this is a hilarious movie where you laugh at the misfortunes of the well-meaning star. This other “new” teacher had transferred from the high school, but had come the previous day and prepped materials with the help of the other Filipino English teachers. She had a huge laminated song lyric sign, among other very nice looking props. So I felt even worse if that was my standard. But I somehow made it through the classes, with the homeroom teachers giving me sympathetic looks and one even wrapping my class up twenty minutes early for me because the random game I was playing to fill the time went pretty awry and she could sense I was floundering (God bless that woman).

True to the fact that I am a sympathetic character, I of course did pretty well in my first class and thought I had my footing, until I mixed up my schedule and prepped for the wrong class, leaving me with literally nothing when I walked into the correct class with twenty five wide-eyed 5 year olds waiting to learn and be entertained. Not ideal, I’ve never sweated so much in my life.

What does make me feel better though, is that I am not the only teacher who had a rough first day yesterday so maybe it’s just a rite of passage. Becca had a couple of students point out that her face was covered with blue dry erase marker residue as she was leading a lesson. A kid actually walked up and handed her a mirror and towelettes while she was teaching. And I heard that one girl walked all the way from the restroom to her classroom with her skirt tucked in her panties.

It was a mess. But I am very happy to say that I survived and from what I hear, things could be worse so I am grateful. I had a bit of bad luck and somewhat embarrassed myself because I was thrown into the fire, but in reality this school seems like a great place to be. The other kindergarten teachers are fun and friendly and the kids are nothing if not adorable. The air-conditioned office (I mention A/C because here, it matters) I share with the other Kindergarten staff overlooks the playground and as I write this I can hear the kids laughing and playing. It’s really pretty great. And today, I should add, went spectacularly. Once I knew what I was expected to teach, and learned the levels of my students I was able to fill the time and plan fun lessons for them. The kids were picking up on things quickly, loved the videos I showed and the books I wrote for them last night, and the teachers seemed very thrilled to learn that my performance yesterday could be chalked up to just a rough first day on the job.

So, there you go – my happy ending (sorta). It will be a lot of work, but I am very excited to be teaching right where I am.


Also: Anuban = kindergaten

Mai pen rai = it’s okay, everything is okay, no worries – it’s basically a way of life here, and you here this phrase all of the time. Thais are verrrry laid back.

What’s in a Name?

You may be asking yourself, “why is this blog called yee-sib-saam?” Well, let me tell you how this name came to be:

Just over one week ago, I turned 23. On that very day (October 24th), I arrived in Thailand to live here for 23 weeks as an English teacher. So clearly 23 seems to be a big number for me right now. And in predictable blog title fashion I’m sure you can guess that “yee-sib-saam” is how you say 23 in Thai.

This blog will be a chronicle of the musings of a 23 year old living for 23 weeks in the cultural, colorful, cheap and most importantly, charming country of Thailand. Enjoy!