Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Chon Buri

I’m not sure I know what day it is or the time.  Sleeping on my bed is like sleeping on a solid rock.  It is hot as, yes I’m going to say it.. balls.  I have to take off my shoes when I’m entering my own house, because I happen to have a middle-aged Thai woman as a roommate/house mom/land lady.  I slept with a beach towel as a blanket my first night because I had no sheet.  I can’t ever remember how to say anything in Thai.  Why can’t I remember hi? Oh yeah, because it is just a short sawatdee kha.  Our shower is ice cold and shares a space with the sink and toilet.  But surprisingly, I don’t seem to hate any of this.  Well, okay I definitely don’t love a freezing cold shower, but it’s something I’ll get used to eventually.

So far, everything is a learning experience.  I feel extremely naïve in this whole new world, but it’s exciting.  Trying to learn words so I can order food at the night market is interesting.  Half the time I find that I’m not exactly sure what I’m about to eat, but I’ll learn.  Luckily I’ll eat just about anything you put in front of me.  Proud to say that we've already made friends with Uthai, the smoothie guy who after three nights of going to him, found out that he speaks decent English! All of the new foreign teachers at Anubanchonburi are in the dark, and it’s nice that we’re in this together.  Amelia and I are destined to be great friends here.  We have mutual friends from home and got the chance to talk A LOT the few months before we got here. We are living together, walking to school together, teaching the same grade level, eating dinner together, and the list goes on!  I am so thankful to have her here or else I would be lost!

A few things I know about Chon Buri:

-It is HOT.  I am no stranger to complaining about the heat and humidity during a summer in New York.  I don’t complain about it via social networking, but I may start complaining publicly soon enough (sorry in advance).  I worked on my bulletin board today for about four hours.  The bulletin board is outside.  It was sweaty and all I was doing was cutting and stapling.
            -Average temperature in Thailand in the month of November: 87 degrees. Aka I will be sweating my buns off, while the locals will be wearing pants and sweaters, thinking that this is the “cold” season.  And it only gets hotter.  My poor hair is going to hate me!

-I am living in a decently central location:
            -20 minutes from a beach
            -One hour drive to Bangkok
            -Phuket, Chiang Mai, and Ko Samet are all within a long bus or short plane ride away.  The planning has begun, and we will probably go on our first weekend trip in a couple of weeks! Look these places up, they are just beautiful!

-The school I will be teaching at is called Anubanchonburi, and I am teaching in the cutest little purple school.  I will be teaching English, (reading, writing, grammar, and conversation) science, and math to Thai children in second grade.  How I will go about this, I have no idea, but I guess I will figure it out tomorrow.  We had two days of orientation which was extremely helpful, but I still feel like I’m going in with zero clue of what to do.  My Thai consists of hi and thank you, when I can remember it.  This should be pretty comical.

-My apartment is also interesting.  I think my description for a lot of things here is just that.  On the first floor is our common room.  We have two couches, a table, a fridge, some room for snacks and cooking supplies (although there is no kitchen to cook), and a squatter.  What’s a squatter you ask?  Well, have you ever peed outside in the woods, holding onto a tree so you don’t fall over?  It’s like that.  A bowl on the ground that you squat over to relieve yourself.  Not my kind of toilet bowl and luckily I haven’t had to use one yet, although I will have to at some point during my stay.  Then, our landlady, Aor, lives off of the common room.  It’s almost as if we have a host family because people are always in and out of here cleaning and fixing things that are broken.  Taking time to get used to.  But after a long day of orientation today, I walked into my room and it had a beautiful comforter on my bed, a table cloth on my desk, a new lamp, and everything was so organized!!  They are taking care of us for sure.

On the second floor, Amelia and I each have our own bedrooms.  This consists of a twin sized bed, desk, armoire, and balcony.  It is simple, but it works.  I started “decorating” my room today with pictures from home and it makes me so happy just looking at them.  We have a bathroom to share.  This has a normal toilet, although toilet paper should not be flushed.  Gross, I know.  The shower hangs on the wall and is not enclosed.  That’s right, I’m showering in front of the sink and mirror and right next to the toilet.  Everything gets wet.  Like I said, it’s interesting.  We each have AC in our rooms (hallelujah) and the wifi is awesome!!  There is a third floor with three more bedrooms and we are trying to convince some of our fellow American teachers to move in with us.  There are so many animals that you hear throughout the day and night.. Birds, dogs, cats, bugs, and my favorite visitors of all: the lizards.  Frequent visitors in my bedroom and bathroom.

The new comforter and table cloth from my land lady!

-Tesco!!  Tesco is basically like Walmart, except you can’t read anything because it is all in Thai.  I went to Tesco the second I got in from the airport, when I was about to crash from jet lag.  We took the Songtao there, which is the taxi in Thailand.  It is a truck with gated in seats in the back.  They stop for you if you wave, and they let you off when you press a button.  It only costs 10 baht no matter where you go in Chon Buri.  This equals about 1 cent.  At Tesco, Amelia and I got our Thai cell phones.  They’re so ancient that I don’t even know how to use it, but they work for trying to get a hold of the other teachers!

On the songtao.. Very jet lagged on my first day

As for now, that’s all my brain can think about sharing because I have had so much information about work shoved into my head the past couple of days!

Friday, October 25, 2013

And I'm Off

I bring you my last post before I leave for Thailand.  The countdown is over.  It seems like just yesterday I received the email with the job offer and now, I’ll be on a plane at 1:30 am, trying to figure out what to do first in trying to pass time on a 16 hour flight.

The past month has really taken a toll on me emotionally.  The wedding was happy, but with happy weddings come happy tears of course.  Then, during the wedding weekend, I had sad goodbyes woven throughout.  You often forget how amazing friends are until you spend a long, fun, and highly entertaining weekend with them.  It was very difficult to say goodbye to the people I’ve grown accustomed to seeing at least once a month.

I said goodbye to my family at a little going away party we had Columbus Day weekend, but I still promised I would go visit each of them again, and I did the best I could with that.  That was also rough, especially knowing that I won’t have any holidays with them this year.  Even though I may not have cried to all of them, I definitely shed a tear or 17 thinking about them this week.  My sister was home for the party too and I am so happy I got to say goodbyes to her in person.  Lindsey recently moved to Nantucket with her boyfriend Jake.  Nantucket.. I’m not sure I understand that yet, but then again, I’m moving somewhere way more drastic.  Guess I can’t really talk.  They seem happy being there together, and that’s what matters.

I left my students and coworkers for good on Monday.  As much as I have been looking forward to leaving the daycare, I cried like a baby.  My students definitely don’t entirely understand that I won’t be back, and I can imagine that “What the heck is wrong with this lady” was among some of the thoughts going on in their heads while I was bawling my eyes out.  Although teaching a roomful of three year olds can be stressful (I give one child in particular all of the credit for the gray hair I have accumulated) and I really was ready to move onto something else, kids are kids and I can’t help but love them all.  They are hilarious and you never know what is about to come out of a child’s mouth.  I recently asked one of my girls what her dad’s job was because it was community helper week and her dad is a trooper.  She replied with “working out.”  Not exactly the answer I was looking for, but it's things like this that just make me laugh and love this age group.  Saying goodbye to my coworkers was just as difficult. I have gotten to work with great people over the past two years and I wish them all the best taking on my kids without me!

Now, goodbye has been dragged out a bit with my friends.  Even though we have had so many fun events planned, the inevitable departure was always on everyone’s mind.  The closer today got, the more everyone was thinking about it.  And crying about it.  If I didn’t know this before, I now know that we can be quite the emotional bunch, especially after having a few margaritas (who am I kidding, I definitely knew this before).  I met my amazing friends at Mexican Radio last night for a final hoorah.  We had some laughs and caught up a bit, but it was a going away party.  All anyone was thinking about was me going away.  We eventually got to the goodbyes and it honestly wasn't as bad as I thought.  By this point, we’ve been crying about my leaving for a good two months, and now I’m just ready to go.  As sad as I am to leave the ones I love, I am so excited for what’s coming up and I need to be selfish here.  I’ve realized that it’s just 6 months. Life will go so quickly in 6 months and by the time I snap my fingers, I’ll be home.  Unless I find a European boyfriend and move to Europe (mom, if it happens, it happens).  Friends, I love you so much.  You are the ones I spend most of my time with and I am not as comfortable and myself around any other people in the world.  No one will ever be able to replace you and I am the luckiest girl to have you.  Be happy with where you are, however you can make that happen.  Run marathons.  Keep our corner of the bar at Lionheart warm.  Open up a bakery.  Fly to Italy.  Don't keep people in your lives who let you down.  You don't deserve it.  Be happy.  Love you.

I haven’t even gotten to say goodbye to my parents yet, but I can’t imagine it being pretty.  They have been my biggest support system for anything that I have done throughout my life, and I honestly don’t know how people survive without parents like mine.  Whether it’s a flat tire that needs fixing, or a flight that needs to be bought for Christmas, they are always there.  It’s funny, but I haven’t gotten very many tangible birthday or Christmas gifts for a long time now.  I am always trying to travel.  On my salary at the daycare, I could barely afford to take a weekend trip to Boston, let alone support my frequent traveling itch so, insert flights (or spending money) as gifts.  Vegas (twice), New Orleans, Atlantic City, and even Italy way back in high school.  Why get clothes that I’ll end up hating soon enough when I can gain an experience that I will never forget.  I love them so much for supporting me when I choose to drain all my funds on traveling!

Everyone please pray that my mother doesn’t have a heart attack at any point throughout my first flight.  If you have children you would like them to adopt while I am away, that may be helpful as well, as this will truly be the first time they have a very empty nest.  I think they’ll do great without me though, they’re growing up so fast :)

I want to give thank yous to every person who has encouraged me to go for such a crazy opportunity.  Recently I have been wondering if I am just that.. Crazy.  But no, I then correct myself. Smart.  That’s what I am.  People don’t just get handed an experience like teaching English to 2nd graders in Thailand.  It is the opportunity of a lifetime and I know I won’t regret going.  So, I am off.  Off to the unknown.  Not knowing the person picking me up at the airport.  Not knowing the language.  Not knowing exactly where I’ll be living.  Not knowing how to teach English to native Thai children.  Not knowing where the best place is to exchange my dollars for baht.  These unknown things would be a big deal for many people, but as I do in any other typical day of my life, I’m just going with the flow.  What will be will be, and I’m going to take each day as it comes.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Hand In Hand

Dana and Mike are married!!  Two of my best friends, the most generous and genuine people that I know, are married.  It feels like just yesterday we were pressuring Mike to propose, and I feel so honored to have been included in their special day.

Dana and I became friends when I started visiting Emily at RPI.  After many sleeps on the glitter factory couch and then tons at Dana's State Street place in Albany, I am happy to be able to call her one of my very best friends.  Dana has done so much for me over the past few years.  She has provided countless pans of buffalo chicken dip and bottles of Andre for random pig-out days.  She has been present, and very consoling, whenever the most recent flame has broken my little heart (tequila usually guaranteed to follow).  She has opened her home to us whenever we needed to stay, and she has plenty of extra rooms for her “children.”  She is always thoughtful in gift-giving, most recently giving me a camera as a bridesmaid gift, knowing that I wanted one for Thailand so badly.  She is sure to be found in Albany about once a week and show up for any and all events, although Dana and Mike moved to Hopewell Junction last year. Dana is selfless and I am thankful that I have her in my life.

As for Mike, he won me over the first night I met him.  On this particular Friday night, I had zero plans of going to RPI because I was incredibly broke, but suddenly after student teaching that day, I had texts saying that Mike Passante was taking the girls out to dinner and I would be missing out.  Free dinner?  Yes.  Okay fine, count me in.  Mike took all 7 (?) of us girls to dinner at Carrabba’s and this was the first time he had met most of us.  Sangria, apps, sangria, dinner, and more sangria later, I was sold.  It was like Dana and Mike had been together forever, and from that night on, I never thought twice about their relationship.

In the weekend that is supposed to be dedicated to them, Mike and Dana were extremely generous, as usual.  Gifts were given, nails were done, lobsters were eaten, smores were made, boats were ridden.  These are just some things that Dana and Mike did for us, just as much as for themselves.  Although Dana is allergic to seafood, she made sure that everyone got lobster, clams, and mussels at the rehearsal dinner.  On the night of the wedding, the reception ended at 10:30, but who wants to stop partying then?  So they planned a bonfire on the beach with a bar and ingredients for smores.  Then, why end a Friday night wedding on Friday night?! Most friends were staying until Sunday, just because we wanted to have each other’s company, but Dana and Mike insisted on finding something for us to do.  Booze cruise anyone?

I couldn’t be happier for these two amazing people.  I literally cannot find another word other than perfect to describe this weekend.  I will now agree that a bit of rain is good luck on a wedding day.  Dana has dreamed of getting married on a beach in Cape Cod since she was a little girl, and there was a moment when we all almost broke down crying because of the rain.  We watched the radar all day, and we finally found that the rain would break 20 minutes after the ceremony was supposed to start.  So, we waited.  Really, what is 20 minutes when this is what you have wanted your whole life?!  As soon as the rain let up, we got into wedding mode, telling the wedding planner to GO, GO, GO!  The ceremony was perfect.  Perfect temperature, perfect sunset, perfect bride, and perfect groom.  You could just feel the love on that beach at that moment (and the tears dripping from Allison's face), and I can only hope that I experience that from a bride’s perspective at some point in my life.

Dana Ciborowski is now Dana Passante, and I don't find it weird in the slightest bit.  These two are meant to be together.  It is obviously cliché to say about a newlywed couple, but I don’t know that I am so sure of anything else in my life at the moment.  Dana and Mike have been through a lot, and everything in their lives finally fell together at the right place, right time.  I am happy to call Dana my best friend, and happy to call Mike my sugar daddy.  Happy to call them both family.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013


I’m a big fan of birthdays, therefore I tend to let them last for as long as I possibly can.  This year I had a 5-day birthday binge.  Why not?  What other time in the year do you have an excuse to celebrate yourself?  Who doesn’t like celebrating themselves?!

I really do have the best family and friends.  I have a new prized possession.  Hello Ray Bans!  I got roses from someone other than my father for sadly, probably the first time in my life.  Pathetic, I know, but there’s a first time for everything!  They were gorgeous and they made me smile so much!  My parents are helping pay for my upcoming wedding expenses and that is honestly the best present that I could ask for right now.

I enjoyed a nice dinner at Baba Louie’s with my parents on Thursday night.  I worked at Baba Louie’s a couple of years ago, and I’m surprised I didn’t gain 20 pounds.  Or maybe I did..  Anyway, the food is so good that I’m glad I never got sick of it.  It is hands down one of my favorite restaurants and I would recommend it to anyone who is not afraid of the not-so-common pizza selections.  On this particular night, we ordered the bruschetta salad as an appetizer.  Then my mom is insistent on the Melenzana Cardinale at every visit (fresh mozzarella, eggplant, tomatoes, smoked gouda and pesto, garnished with parmesan and red pepper flakes), and as a birthday request, I ordered the Cole’s Creation (fresh mozzarella, red onions, fresh garlic, plum tomatoes, topped with arugula, feta and balsamic vinaigrette) ,which has always been my favorite.  Check out their website if you’ve never been before, or if you are currently finding your mouth watering! http://www.babalouiespizza.com/

The rest of the weekend was filled with drinks, friends, cousins, bacon, and lots of fun!  I do have to mention a couple of events that have occurred within the past few days that have made me so happy:

Race for Hope:  This is a 5k which benefits people living with brain, neck, and head cancer in the Capital Region.  Although this didn’t directly affect Erica, it was something that Alyssa and Meg put together which was an amazing success.  Word spread about the race, and Team Erica grew and grew.  Meg designed t-shirts, and each one that was bought sent proceeds Erica’s way.  Seeing so many people with Team Erica shirts on at the start of the race was incredibly touching.  So many people that we know and love came to show their support for Erica.  Some ran to beat their best time, some came out with a steady jog, and others (like me) enjoyed the beautiful day with a walk and some conversation with a couple of friends.  No matter how anyone finished, it was a success.

Volley for Erica:  Hats off to the HHS Girls Varsity Volleyball team!  In a very short amount of time, Chuck and Carol Peters (I’m sure there were more people involved, thank you!) pulled off quite the success of a volleyball game!  Proceeds from the raffle and candy sales all went to Erica and they also had a donation box available.  They raised over $1,200!! Besides being a successful event to help Erica, it was also fun! I haven’t been back to Hudson High for a sports event since… I graduated?  I actually love to watch volleyball so I was happy to go.  The girls wore pink and gray ribbon in their hair, they wore Erica’s old number on their arms, and they showed such amazing sportsmanship.  Congrats on the win girls!

Olana:  Go there. Now!  I haven’t been since I was a little girl, and I suggested that my mom and I go on Sunday to walk on the carriage trails.  We parked before the booth, as neither of us had money to pay the $5 to drive up top.  What are the chances that neither of us brings our wallets?!  I was more excited to get to the Fredric Church house than I could have imagined.  I forced my mom to walk up this treacherous hill to get to the top and I felt like I was Jillian Michaels cheering her on.  We eventually got there and it was well worth it.  The views from the top of Olana are breathtaking, especially right now as the leaves are changing colors.  We walked on the trails.  On one trail, there is a view of ALL of Hudson.  You can see the hospital and all that surrounds it.  I didn’t think that I would see something as great as that, but then I turned the next corner.  Think RipVanWinkle Bridge, Hudson River, and Catskill Mountains. I could have stayed all day.  Go, go, go, go.  And if you don’t feel like paying $5 and you have your walking shoes on, park low and walk up!

Now onto wedding week!! One of my best friends, Dana, is marrying quite possibly the greatest guy I’ve ever met.. that’s you Michael.  I leave for Cape Cod tomorrow (Heck yeah to a 2.5 day work week) where we will spend the weekend celebrating the newlyweds!  And Kristen is back in America.  Foreseeing the best. week. ever.