A lot of teaching and a lot of playing
How is it already February 20th? I’ve tried to slow time down…oddly, it’s not working. I’m living this life and things seem to be happening in warp speed, yet when I think of events that occurred 4 months ago, it feels like it’s been years. I’ve never experienced this feeling to that magnitude.
As stated in the previous blog, I promised I would pick up where I left off…our trip from Koh Phi Phi to Phuket. After an hour and a half of sleep, I shockingly coerce myself out of bed. Half asleep and possibly still slightly intoxicated, I manage to pack the rest of my belongings into my oversized bag (between this blog and the last one, this bag shamefully makes a bigger cameo than some of my friends do). We say a quick goodbye to the other hostel mates and our dear Carter and walk aimlessly back to the pier…this time, sparing ourselves and paying to get our luggage transported. Moving slowly and looking rough, we board the ferry. We agree the next few days will be spent not overindulging in copious amounts of alcohol. After 2 long, sleepless hours, we arrive in Phuket and find the van that will be taking us to our hotel…secretly I’m hoping it will drive me straight to Pathum Thani so I can sleep in my own bed for the next 48 hours. We arrive to the hotel, transport our luggage into the room, praise the heavens above for this lovely room, crawl under the covers and rapidly fall asleep. 8 hours later, we wake up and decide to scour the 7-Eleven for chocolate milk and toasties…and apples and hardboiled eggs…and banana muffins and yogurt (sometimes you’d think we were planning for the apocalypse). It goes without saying, we were famished. I message a few of the girls from our TESOL course and explain that we won’t be able to make it out tonight, we’ve wiped ourselves out and my body was on strike. I can feel myself getting sick. They’re a bit disappointed but they understand. I’m excited to see them though and can’t wait to hear how their holiday has been, so I climb the flight of stairs, knock on their door and find a seat on the floor so we can exchange holiday stories. Our words are flowing like wine, intermittent with bursts of laughter and incessant interjections of the word, “REALLY?!” These are my life friends…I love them with every ounce of my being! A few other people show up and the room fills with love and laughter. Eventually, I break myself away from the group and wander back down to our glorious hotel room (probably just average by normal standards but the best we’ve stayed at so far) eat a few snacks, I somehow find my way back to the delightful bed and wrap myself tightly in the soft, immaculate comforter…sleep finds me instantly.
We wake up the following morning and surf the TV hoping to come across something in English…we are in luck. There is a movie channel playing mediocre American movies. We spend majority of the morning and part of the afternoon being lazy. Our friends are at one of the beaches nearby so we dress accordingly and pay an exorbitant amount to be transported there. We walk along the beach and quickly stumble upon our friends. I lay my sarong on the warm, soft sand, pull out my book, put in my headphones and relax under the hot sun. A few hours pass like this when someone asks Anne (who lives in Phuket) for suggestions on where to eat. She conjures up a few ideas that will allow us to overlook the ocean and watch the sun go down. We pile into a songtaew and head towards food. Sadly the food is subpar at best, but the view and the company is unbeatable! I order a glass of wine…a rarity in this country because it is more expensive than most drinks…I cherish every sip. This will be the only drink I have until January 30th (for those counting, that’s 4 weeks…but shamefully, we did not make it the entire month). The sun begins to set and we try and capture this breathtaking beauty in a picture…unsuccessfully. I don’t know what it is but the sun and moon are so much more beautiful on this side of the world. I don’t know if it is science or psychology, but there is something mesmerizing about both of them. Conversation begins to die down and glasses become empty. We take this as our sign to go back to the hotel. I have to break the news to our friends again that we will not be going out and once again they understand. The bed is calling my name and I’m delighted to embrace it.
The following morning is similar to the previous one…surfing channels on the TV. We debate whether or not we should do any extracurricular activities but resort to walking to Patong Beach, swimming in the warm, blue water, watching the old men waddle around in their speedos and the women gallivant around topless…while we bask under the sun for a few hours (not topless…just to clarify). Carly, Anna and Anne meet up with us just as we are leaving the beach…it’s time to determine our next move. Someone throws out the idea of purchasing tickets to a lady boy show and I’m not opposed. The adorable British couple we met in Koh Phi Phi had suggested seeing one so we were more inclined to humor the idea. We haggle with a lady for tickets that include transportation from our hotel to the show. We make the long, hot walk back to the hotel and begin to get ready.
My sickness is progressing and I’m not elated at the idea of spending any time away from our heavenly bed, but I want to spend time with my friends. I do a little internal pep talk and convince myself to climb into the van when it arrives. The van drives away from the hotel and after a few stops to pick up others along the way, we pull up to the destination, crawl out of the van and find our seats in the theatre. At this point, I have no idea what to expect for this upcoming performance, but I’m intrigued nonetheless. Within minutes, the show begins. How can I politely describe this show? It wasn’t what I was expecting and unless you’ve been to one, it’s probably nothing like the images you’ve formed in your mind as you read this. It was rather boring…I realize it’s possible that’s the sickness and lack of sufficient sleep talking, but I think I was expecting something a bit more…racy and risqué…neither of which happened. There were a plethora of men dressed up as women performing various skits. To be fair, a few of them were comical and very creative but again, I was expecting something a bit different. It’s interesting how expectations can impact the outcome of things. Sadly I kept falling asleep on my propped up hand. The show ends and I jolt awake to sounds of clapping and laughter. We walk outside and are pushed to take pictures with the performers…200 THB (about $6) per picture. If I added it up correctly, we ended up spending about $24 collectively for the same pictures because several of us had given our phones to have the pictures taken for us…we clearly didn’t plan that one out in a logical manner.
The van drives us back to the hotel and AGAIN I tell my friends I am unable to go out. Lauren and I walk along the street searching profusely for a rotee…a rotee is exactly what I need…and a bed. After a long 15 minute walk, we give up hope on the idea of finding a rotee…but I know exactly where to find the bed.
We wake up the following morning, turn on the TV and begin discussing plans for our last day in Phuket. Check out is at noon but our flight back home isn’t until 8:00PM. We check out but leave our belongings with the hotel, so we pack up our computers and walk to Starbucks where I blog for hours…my thoughts are running rampant and I need to get everything down before I forget even minute details. Time flies by and we are growing increasingly hungry. We search for the pizza place Carly, Anna and Anne had suggested days before. We finally arrive and although the place is empty, I’m excited to indulge in some Italian food. We order a margarita pizza and the most basic cheese and penne pasta dish…and it’s fabulous. I contemplate ordering another dish for the trip home. We still have a few hours until we have to leave for the airport so we just sit and talk mindlessly…and I begin to reflect on the events of the past week. I am full of unfamiliar emotions and they are impossible to contain. I break down and cry to these two girls who have seen me in every state of emotion. More often than not, I don’t know what provokes the tears…there are a myriad of emotions all the time…they are so raw and real and deep…and unfamiliar. As time progresses in this country, I’ve become more familiar with these emotions. A couple of weeks after our vacation, I came across this article that has resonated with me on a great level. There are some parts of this article that I have not experienced yet and a few I have not mastered yet. I suggest anyone interested in moving overseas or anyone who has moved overseas or anyone who wants to know what my life is like, this article is a must-read! I’ve read it more times than I can count.
This is seriously one of my favorite articles…ever!
Arriving back home in Pathum Thani was both depressing and liberating. We were going back to normalcy…but we were going back to NORMALCY. No more beaches, no more holiday romances, no more running up a flight of stairs to chat mindlessly with my friends who are currently scattered throughout this country and no more channel surfing on the only TV that has offered American movies. I will forever remember that week of bliss.
A week after being home, my sickness had not gotten any better. I will spare the details but I was fairly certain I had a sinus infection. While the students were taking the midterm exam, Sara (who was also feeling under the weather) and I went to the local hospital. I paid 389 THB (less than $12) to see the doctor and for medication he prescribed. I recovered within days and promised myself I would not go that hard again. The excessive drinking and lack of sleep had gotten the best of me.
Things continued to get back to normal and the students were just as charming and entertaining as ever. At the end of one class, one of my boys (about 16 years old) came up to me with a small, folded up piece of paper. He handed me the paper and asked me what it meant (in broken English). I opened the piece of paper to the word “masturbate”. Instinctively I shrieked loudly, “No, Tae (the boy’s nickname)!” his rebuttal “Not me, Teacher!” as he attempted to elicit that he “found” the piece of paper at his desk. I was taken aback…it was a good thing the class was over because I was flustered beyond words. Every time I tell this story, people ask me if I told him what it meant; and every time I roll my eyes and secretly wonder if they are joking.
And then I have my boys who watched me drink water from a big water bottle and proceeded to ask me if it was alcohol which progressed to us joking and laughing about “taker backs” (which I inferred was similar to shots of whiskey…we can’t know). They found such enjoyment from it; it was hard not to laugh with them. I’m a wonderful teacher, I know (laying the sarcasm on thick), but if you were in my position, you would have done the same (or possibly not). The boys and I bonded over that and now we laugh together all the time! The girls are mostly angels while the boys are troublemakers. A few weeks ago, I had one of my 12 year old boys run around the classroom with his shirt off. Watching him try to explain himself was both confusing and entertaining. Most of my classes are outside with only a short, cement wall to separate my students from the classroom to the grass and dirt beyond. Apparently while my back was turned, he had jumped the wall and was playing around in the dirt. I was so baffled the only thing I knew to do was take a picture.
Not all of the boys are troublemakers though. There is one boy in particular who comes into the office on a regular basis, his nickname is Ovaltine. He isn’t one of my students but we talk (and sing together) on a daily basis and he actually gave me the sweetest Valentine’s Day card, of which was delivered to me by a young girl wearing a sweatshirt that said, “Don’t Mess With Texas!” on the back…these are the little things in life that make me undeniably happy!
Of all the Thai people I have met in this country, my students are the ones that amaze me the most. That is likely an obvious statement considering I see these students regularly, but there is this purity to them that is so genuine and inspiring. I was walking up the stairs one day when one of my boys reached out his hand to take my bag. I knew I couldn’t decline his offer. I sheepishly handed it over…I’m not even used to boyfriends carrying my bags, much less my wonderful children carrying them for me. It’s these moments that I never want to forget. I’m so afraid of them escaping my mind. The realization that the semester is coming to an end is hitting me like a brick wall. I’m doing everything I can to hold onto each moment with these children…like taking random pictures and videos at various times of the class period.
On a side note, I have learned almost all of my students nicknames…all 250+ of them…which was not an easy feat at all!
A few weeks after being home from Koh Phi Phi and Phuket, we decided it was time to plan another trip, so we set our eyes on Ayutthaya. Ayutthaya is about an hour van ride from Pathum Thani and costs a mere 40 THB (or about $1.25) per person to get there. Transportation costs still flummox me even after living here for almost 5 months. A taxi ride from the local mall to our home can cost upwards of 80 THB which is about a 15 minute drive…still not expensive, it just surprises me how the prices can differ so greatly. The only difficulty with taking vans anywhere is a matter of figuring out how to get to the final destination. The vans make periodic stops along the way so the challenge was to find the correct stop…a task left up to me for this particular trip. Google Maps is often times unreliable in this country but I put the hotel address into my phone all the same. I followed the blue dot on the map and determined we needed to stop sooner rather than later and just wave down a taxi to take us directly to the hotel. The second stop in Ayutthaya, we climbed out of the van and found some Thai men…really they found us…who rounded up a 3-wheeled tuk tuk to take us to the hotel. 100 THB and 10 minutes later, we stopped at the intersection of a side street and a main road. We began the short walk down the side street to our hotel, checked in and were escorted to our room. This was the first room to have a couch…not that we used it for anything aside from being a makeshift closet, but we were still a bit surprised. Considering we still weren’t drinking, we decided to spend the evening in the hotel room playing Heads Up and laughing incessantly…two activities we do regularly.
The following morning, we set a plan to rent some bicycles and explore Ayutthaya. Ayutthaya is such a magnificent, relatively small city full of ancient history and so much beauty…and more westerns than we anticipated on seeing. We stopped by a western restaurant for breakfast, rented some bikes and asked the French owner for suggestions on which temples were most highly favored. He pointed out a few, we located our bicycles and we prepared to make our journey to our first temple in Ayutthaya. I can’t recall how long it had been since my last bike ride but certainly I remembered how to ride a bike, right?! I confidently walked up to my bike, ready to lead the way. I grabbed the handlebars and tried to kick the kickstand back…it didn’t budge…I tried again, this time with more force…I don’t even think it moved. I was laughing awkwardly because neither of the girls are having difficulty with theirs. A boy half my size and looking to be no older than 8-years-old walked up and fiercely kicked the kickstand back…success on the first try. My mouth dropped open and my eyes grew to the size of gumballs…”impressive” is the only word that came to mind…this obviously wasn’t his first rodeo. We climbed onto our bikes and began our ride. I don’t remember loving riding bicycles when I was younger the way I loved riding this bike. It was so freeing and exhilarating and cathartic. Sometimes I wish I lived in Ayutthaya just so I could ride a bicycle regularly. We weaved in and out of traffic, accidentally cycled onto sidewalks and eventually stopped at one wat (which means “temple”) and began exploring. The initial plan was to break apart for about 15 minutes where we could take our own individual pictures but meet up to take pictures collectively at the end of that time frame. About 5 minutes in, we ran into one another and never separated again. I guarantee that when these girls and I finally separate for good, I will have separation anxiety and withdrawals at a very real level. We spent the next few hours wandering around. The hours passed quickly. We ate lunch nearby and walked to the next temple across the street from the first one. We took our time and enjoyed every moment. After the second temple, we went back to the hotel so we could relax for a while before we took our long bike ride to take sunset pictures at one of the bigger temples. An hour later, we changed clothes and headed out for our next adventure. Map in hand, I lead the way. I was confident I knew how to get there…yet a few miles in, we found ourselves lost. I had no idea where the temple was in reference to our location. The sun was setting quickly and I knew it wasn’t a good idea for us to be riding our bicycles after dark (sometimes these drivers are crazy). We stopped at one of the temples we had passed and proceeded with our sunset pictures. We climbed back on our bikes and headed in the direction of the hotel and happily stumbled our way into the doors of The Pizza company where we finished the day by eating pizza and drinking ice cold Pepsi. My heart was happy.
The temples are abundant in this remarkable city. The girls and I knew we would not be able to see all of them while we were in Ayutthaya, but we have plans to go back and I hope we follow through. The following day, we contemplated venturing off to a few of the temples the French owner had suggested or taking a river tour around the city. Unfortunately the river tour wasn’t an option due to timing conflicts, but we ran into just the right person who offered to take us around the city for 3 hours and only charge us 300 THB. He took us to several different locations where we took an endless amount of photos, fed sheep, ate while sitting on the floor and bought more souvenirs. The day was coming to an end and we needed to get home. We finally made our way back to the hotel where we rounded up all of our belongings and made the short walk down the road to the van that would take us back to Pathum Thani.
Points worth mentioning:
I don’t remember the first student who took the bold leap and sent me a Facebook friend request, but it happened…and now I get friend requests from students on a daily basis…students who aren’t even MY students. Don’t get me wrong, I love these kids, but there’s only so much that I want them to see about my personal life. One of my girls sent me a friend request and the following day proceeded to say, “Teacher sexy!”
They now know I don’t appreciate when they use that word, so they say, “Teacher lovely.” It’s endearing and I know it’s my fault for allowing them full access to my profile…oh well (I literally just got another friend request from a student this very moment)!
On 1/26/15 (yes, I documented the day), I drove one of the Thai assistant’s car…with Lauren as my co-captain and videographer. This was my first time to drive in this country and this was the first time I’ve ever driven on the left side of the road (legally). I was honored that she let me drive and I was secretly proud of my driving skills, but I think I gave the two other Thai assistants in the car a mild heart attack.
Lately, our weekends have been a bit more tame. We have seen a couple of movies in the theatre…one of which was 50 Shades of Grey (slightly awkward)…and the other was American Sniper which evoked a lot of emotions on more than one level. I will say it is awe-inspiring to watch a movie filled with so much patriotism while you are outside of your own country. The nostalgia becomes so real you can feel it through every inch of your soul. It didn’t help much that the movie was largely centered around Texas…
The last weekend in January we attended a pool party at a beautiful sky rise location with a pool overlooking the vast skyline of Bangkok. The water was too cold to swim but the weather was just right to dance the night away and meet more amazing people from all over the world! I don’t know how I’ll ever be comfortable going back to a life where this kind of thing isn’t a regular occurrence…and I’m certainly not referring to the pool party…that’s just an added bonus.
The following weekend, Sara and I joined Carter and two of his friends at a beer festival in Bangkok. The scene, the food, the people and the beer were perfect…especially the beer! The first sip of having a truly good beer aside from the standard Chang, Leo or Singha was a memorable moment! We lounged on our bean bags, drank various types of beer and played a few games of Heads Up (a highly addictive game) before Sara and I got a cab back home.