Friday, January 31, 2014


It’s official!  I am flying home to New York on May 11th.  After toying with which flight to choose, I finally went with a flight that will include all of the luggage that I need to check, and also one that is a short 11 hours of travel time.  One quick layover in Iceland and to America I go!

As I will be home in less than 100 days, I am beginning to get very excited. Maybe too excited for still having that much time left, but the end is in sight and I can’t help but really begin to miss things from home.  I actually blame my rediscovery of Pinterest for making me miss things so badly!

I miss..

1. Making my own coffee in the morning and my French Vanilla Coffee-mate.

2. Hot, or even warm showers.  No, I have never gotten used to the cold showers here.  If I haven't worked out before a shower, I'm frozen.

3. Happy hour/Sunday funday.

4. Flushing toilet paper.

5. Dancing.

6. Fresh air that smells more like roses and less like sewage.  If you think NYC smells bad, you haven’t been to Thailand.

7. My friends.  Sometimes I just want to hop on a plane and meet them for #3 above.  Or sit with them and watch Bravo for 10 hours straight.  Not like we've done that before..

8. The gym. Never in my life did I think I would say this, but working out here is BORING. Five days a week I force my butt to go to the running park to attempt to keep the abundance of rice and noodles I eat daily from packing on the pounds.  The running park is a 4 minute walk from my place and it is a .48 mile track surrounding a park. The scenery has gotten all too repetitive, but it is impossible to run on the sidewalks here, if you could even call them sidewalks.  They’re more like slabs of concrete that are displaced and cracked all over.  Run on the sidewalks if you want to break your ankle.  Also, having free weights, a yoga mat, or a stability ball would be a big help.

9. Forever 21 and buying clothes in general. I bought a pair of Thai pants for myself and that is the extent of shopping I have done in three months.

10. My parents and the rest of my family.  A few weeks ago when I turned on my camera, a very scary message popped up that read battery exhausted.  Already?! Well I looked here and I found no replacement, so the angels that are my parents sent me a new battery and charger.  This package came way faster than I could have imagined, and what a great thing to receive on a Friday!  Of course the package was filled with things I had requested, like a shirt, sports bras, and some medicine, but they snuck in some surprises as well.  Bug spray, Valentine’s Day gifts for my students, and a People magazine!  I cried.  I'm not sure if it was because of happiness, of missing them, or a teeny bit of both.  Something so small as a People magazine will make me happy for days after.  I'll read it slowly throughout the week to make it last longer!
Also, Lindsey and Jake are moving to Connecticut within the next month! Two big moves for my sister this year, and I am hoping that this next one is the perfect thing for them! Wish I could be there to help (but secretly happy I don't have to!)!

11. My car.  I have had nightmares that something bad happens to my car.  This is probably because my dad chooses to keep his boat in the garage while my car is freezing outside all winter.  I have had my car for less than two years, and the poor thing has spent the past three months just sitting there. I miss driving my pretty Ford Focus and I can’t wait until I no longer need to rely on my feet and public transportation.

12. Cooking and having a kitchen in general.  Like I said, Pinterest has been the devil lately.  I have recently pinned cake pops, Reese’s mini cheesecake bites, homemade ice cream, chocolate chip cookie cake, and frozen strawberry crunch cake.  I would do a lot to be able to have these desserts right now.  These things make a person in America’s mouth water, but at least you have the option to go to the store and actually bake these things!  I don’t even have a microwave!!  Oh and CHEESE!  If anyone wants to get on my good side when I get home, a simple block of cheese would earn you big brownie points!!  Speaking of brownie points.. Mmmm, brownies.

13. My queen size bed.  The twin isn’t doing it for me.  My friends here have learned that I like my space when I am sleeping.  A few weekends ago, we went away for one night.  We got a room with a double bed and thought we would also get a cot.  The manager immediately shot us down when we asked for that, but he did bring us a comforter, an extra pillow, and extra blankets.  Although three of us could have probably fit in the double, I was glad to immediately volunteer to sleep on the hardwood floor!  Although I don’t even move around while sleeping, I am looking forward to having all that space back.

Even though there are things that I miss and I now find myself tearing up about the silliest things from home all too easily, there is SO MUCH to look forward to before then!  My travels are all booked, beginning the day after school ends!  Brittany and I are doing Cambodia for 10 days.  We move onto Vietnam to meet up with Amelia and Mikaela, where we will be spending another 12 days.  I will then get 14 days of me time before my flight to London.  It is looking like it will be just me and some island hopping and I am a. okay with that.  Keep in mind, there is still a chance to visit..

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

A Day in the Life

There is no such thing as a typical work week here.  This is due to all of the holidays and shows that the Thai culture seems to value a tad bit more than academics.  These, along with other constant interruptions, force me to be incredibly flexible with my teaching time.  With zero planned disturbances this week, I decided to use today as a model of the most typical day I have had in a couple of weeks.

Things that happen every day:

-7 minute walk to school. I arrive at school between 7:30 and 7:45, unless I have gate duty.  Everyone has gate duty once every two weeks at 7:10 am.  There are usually four teachers, including myself, who have to stand at the gate of the school and greet the students (Thai and English teachers). For forty minutes straight I say, “Good morning,” “Good morning,” “Good morning,” “Good morning,” “Good morning,”  “Good morning...”  Picture this getting very repetitive after a short three minutes.

-Flag Ceremony.  With my Thai teacher, I line my students up around 7:50 to go to Flag.  All classes stand outside in the courtyard for the morning assembly.  The Thai students and teachers begin with the King’s Royal Anthem, which is extremely catchy and I have learned to really enjoy it.  Then they do their Thai chants.  There is lots of waiing and the Thai flag is raised.  I have no idea what they are saying, but my job is to stand there and make sure the kids are behaving, shirts are tucked in, and hair is looking nice.  Sometimes there are also announcements made.  Flag lasts anywhere from 5-20 minutes.

Volunteers doing cheer!
-Flag period.  When we get back from Flag, it is my time with my students every day until 8:30.  I use this time to practice our weekly cheer (which they get tested on for a conversation grade each Friday) or practice words of the week (spelling, reading, or phonics).  Our cheers are extra corny, but they are always reinforcing a concept.  This week we are practicing There is/There are, along with some phonics words and plurals.  These are all difficult concepts for the students and need constant reinforcement.  Cheers are done in partners and performed for me on Fridays.
In case you are interested, our amazing cheer this week, created by yours truly, is…

There is a snake!
The snake is long and green.
There is a skunk!
The skunk is white, black, and smelly.
There are snakes and skunks!
There are three snakes and four skunks.
Run! They are all in the woods!
(Our phonics words this week are smile, smell, smoke, stone, stop, stove, snake, snack, skate, skunk, swim, and Swiss)

Monday, January 20, 2014

I teach four periods on Mondays.  The glory in our periods is that I don’t ever have to think, Okay, period 3 is reading, period 4 is writing, period 6 is phonics, and period 7 is math.  Not ever going to happen.  I basically think of my periods as rolling.  One may roll into the next, which may roll into the next and that is normal.  In one period I may finish reading and move on to writing, or reading may take longer than a period.  This was slightly difficult to get used to at first, but I have made myself become flexible!  Like today for example..  I finished everything I had planned for Monday and grabbed some science for the last half hour of my last period.  I am free to do as I please when I teach and that is something I truly enjoy.

First thing on Monday is always spelling!  Each week I introduce six new words.  These words are taken from the Dolche sight words list and we are free to choose them as we wish as a team.  This week, some words are repeats because of constant errors we have seen in writing pieces.  Our spelling words this week are with, myself, their, your, because, and about.

Focus would live in a tree house!
Next, is reading.  I have a book called Very Easy Reading that I need to finish before the end of the school year, but I was behind because of midterms.  So, today I did units 12 and 13, and you bet my students gave me a hard time for it!  Very Easy Reading provides reading words, a short story, and comprehension questions.  Unit 12 is called Sally’s Room and the reading words are table, flower, purple, blanket, pretty, things, really, and soft.  Unit 13 is called Mike’s Bike and the reading words are wheel, bell, ride, bike, every day, hole, ringing, and fast.  Students are always assigned at least a page of homework out of VER and then we do a writing assignment, which I love.  
Ploy 2's house and bedroom

This week they were to:
1.  Think of what you would like your dream bedroom to be.  Describe it, design it, and draw it.
2.  Think of what you would like your dream house to look like.  Describe it, design it, and draw it.

Ploy 2's writing piece

We incorportate the designing and drawing as part of the activity because we are a STEM school.  We are constantly trying to get students to think outside the box and be creative in their learning.  After showing these prompts, I Googled some examples of abstract/innovative houses and bedrooms to get their minds working.  Look at some of the amazing work I got!

Getting excited about the earth
Like I said earlier, I had a bit of extra time in my last period, so I decided to introduce Earth.  We are beginning to explore the solar system in more detail on Thursday, and I gave them an introduction today!  First, I showed them a short, intense video showing the natural beauty of earth along with some severe weather that can occur. That hooked them! The students did a KWL chart and then I flew through a quick introduction PowerPoint.  They are so excited for this topic which in return makes me excited to teach it!

At the end of every day, I post on Facebook.  No, not to my own personal Facebook (well maybe to my own Facebook too), but to my “Teacher Facebook” as we call it.  I have my own teacher account and this is how I do most of my communicating with parents.  I love everything about it.  This is a way for parents to keep up with what is going on in class, and a less intimidating way for them to interact with me if they are nervous to try and speak English in person.  I post on this Facebook every day, excluding weekends, even if there is really nothing to write.  I post homework here.  I post when materials are needed for class.  I post school updates, upcoming days off, and about school events.  I post pictures of activities we do throughout the week.  I post our weekly cheer and words of the week.  You name it, you see it on Facebook.  Three of my students got glasses within the past two weeks and you bet, I took a picture of all of my students who wear glasses and put it on there.  A student’s birthday?  Yup!  If nothing exciting happens, I will simply post Happy Wednesday!  Parents can message me at any time if they have questions or concerns, and they do.  I thought I would mind, but it is nice to interact with the parents.  For example, last week, one mom messaged me to say that her daughter was in the hospital, that is why she missed school for two days.  She quickly followed by telling me that Ploy would make sure to get all of the work done that she missed that weekend. What?!?  No way!  In this situation, I was happy she reached out so I could tell her that doing the homework was not nearly as important as Ploy resting and getting better.  She was extremely thankful that I gave her a break but, of course, Ploy came in on Monday with her work done.  Thai culture.
My Facebook update on Tuesday the 21st
What my desk looks like Tuesday mornings
When Tuesday comes around, there is a lot of grading to do in my free time, and the week continues pretty similarly, but with different subjects. We get to do STEM projects on Wednesdays or Thursdays, which normally revolves around our science subject.  This week students will be creating the earth's layers with clay. By the end of the term, students will show the phases of the moon with oreos (shout out to Block 26!) and they will create a whole solar system for their final exam.

I cannot believe that time is going by so quickly!  My last day at Anuban is officially on March 10th.  There is so much to do and so little time!

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Oh the Places

It is getting to that time. The time where I have to begin thinking about the real world back in America. I thought I would have more time to focus on Thailand without worrying about the future but, the future is sneaking up on me very quickly.

I have less than two months left of school at Anubanchonburi.  I just had a hectic week of midterms, and finals will be here before I know it.  I am going to cherish every minute of teaching while I am here, since I don’t know if I will even find a teaching job for the next school year when I go home.

As I begin to prepare for the second half of my time in Thailand, so many thoughts are running through my head…

Before heading home:
          -Polish up my resume.
          -Apply for my literacy certification, because of course I put that off for a year after graduation.
          -Join Olas so that I can actually start looking for jobs.
          -Network. I am willing to take a job next year almost anywhere.  Inside the state of New York would be my first choice, Boston second, but teaching beggars really can’t be choosers.  If you are a teacher in America and I know you, watch out because I may just be sending you a message soon enough.
          -Find a summer job.  Back to the daycare?  Nanny?  Waitress?  Maybe I’ll find something new?!

After Anuban:
          -Plan travel in Asia.  As of right now, the last day of school is non-existent.  That’s just how things go in this country.  Our last day of school may be any day between the last week of February and March 14th.  That is a difference of two weeks, so that could mean two more or two less weeks of traveling in Asia.  I am definitely going to Cambodia and Vietnam, but for how long, where to go, etc.  If I have an extra two weeks, that could mean checking out another country as well. Indonesia? Singapore? Malaysia?  Also, is it possible to have a mess-free travel experience?  Probably not, but I am going to try to plan buses, trains, ferries, and flights so that I can avoid the chaos as much as possible.
          -Save money.  Something I have never been good at, but something that has to be done.  The first two months of living in Thailand were filled with travel every free second I had.  It was amazing and I loved every second of it, but I am happy and satisfied with the places I have seen.  The next two months of living in Thailand will be filled with cheap day trips and a semi-boring/normal life in Chon Buri.
          -Luggage.  On the airplane to Thailand, I checked a large suitcase and a backpacking backpack. I carried on a normal-sized backpack.  There is no way that I could ever cart around all of these things during my Southeast Asian travels.  Bringing a suitcase while backpacking is travel suicide so, where will I leave my over-sized luggage while I’m backpacking for a month?

One thing that is very certain so far in my travel plans is that I am leaving Asia for good on April 17th and I am headed to London.  From the second Kristen told me she was moving to London, I knew it would be a pit stop on my way home.  Why wouldn’t I take advantage of visiting my best friend while she is living in Europe?!  She is more than willing to put me up in her flat for as long as I will stay, and I am planning on taking her up on that.  So far, I am staying in London for one month, but I have no intentions to book my flight home for a while, so you never know!  I think that one month in London is two weeks too long because of how expensive it is, but this is my last hoorah as I will never have this much time to take for a vacation again in my life.  Having a small debt when I get home is something I will quickly get over.  I’ll never change my mind.. The experience is worth more.

The weekend of April 17th just so happens to be a 4-day weekend for Kristen, so we get to spend a quality Easter weekend together!!  Unfortunately, Kristen can’t take a month off of work to hang out with me, so for the rest of my time in London I will be re-exploring the familiar from my first visit in 2010, getting happily lost wandering the unknown, and visiting friends that I have made over the past several years who reside in London.  Em, Dana, and Al will be joining Kristen and I in London the first week of May.  I can’t even explain how excited I am for this great reunion.  I have been lucky enough to talk to these friends practically every day and I miss them always. They are my people (I have been watching too many Grey’s Anatomy reruns) and I can’t wait to be with them on the final leg of my journey abroad!

Thursday, January 2, 2014

The Island of Fire

On Friday, we rushed out of school to catch a van to Bangkok. This has become simple and easy for us, as we often have to travel through Bangkok to get anywhere else. We took the sky train, transferred to the subway, and ended up at Hua Lamphong train station with an hour to spare, where we awaited/dreaded our overnight train. When I stepped onto car number 3, it was like I time-warped to the 60's and I was in a nightmare of a train that was transporting people to an insane asylum. Dingy lighting, broken windows, and over-crowded. The four of us were facing one another (luckily it was us and not strangers) but our seats were at a perfect 90 degree angle. Let's just say sleeping was a large issue.

We finally took off a half hour late and quickly realized that this may be our most miserable trip yet. It was a local train that went a s l o w 30 mph, it consistently stopped to let other trains go by, and also frequently stopped to let people on and off.

Scariest train on the planet.

We were supposed to get into the Chumphon station at 3:30 am, but arrived at 5:35 am. Our bus was supposed to leave at 5:30 to take us to our ferry. Thankfully in this case, Thai time is Thai time, late means on time, and our bus didn't even arrive until 7 am. By some crazy chance, we made it to our ferry.

The ferry was PACKED. The inside and the upper deck was full. We were so tired that we all sprawled out on the ground and used our backpacks as pillows. Unfortunately, the water was incredibly choppy. Everyone was getting soaked. Everyone was getting sick. A girl sitting near us came up from getting a drink and said in her great British accent, It's bloody carnage down there!! The ferry staff had barf bags readily available and everywhere you looked someone was using one. I thankfully have never been one to get sea sick and I was lucky that the feeling did not hit me on the two hour trip.

After traveling for 19 hours, the ferry docked at the beautiful island of Koh Tao. As the ferry was pulling into the pier, I could have pinched myself because of the view we were seeing. I almost kissed the workers from Simple Life who came to pick us up because we had finally made it. We were brought to the diving school and our rooms happened to be directly across the small street. We had a couple of hours until we could check into our rooms, so we grabbed some food and headed to the beach. Maybe my only complaint of the trip is that it was cloudy and hazy every day. I don't think I have seen clouds in the two months I have been in Thailand, but we got them in Koh Tao for 4 days straight. Perfect timing!

So, the main reason for choosing Koh Tao out of all of the islands in Thailand for this long weekend was for the scuba diving. This island is famous for its diving and we decided to sign up for a four day open water diving course. After doing hours and hours of research one day, we chose to dive with Simple Life Divers. Like many of the diving schools we found, Simple Life was 9,800 Baht, around $300. This included accommodation for four nights, our diving course, and our diving certification. Even though the other schools were mostly the same price, Simple life had amazing reviews so we went with our gut.

We met our instructor, Steve, the day we arrived and we got started by watching videos and doing worksheets. He kind of left us to it without explaining much, but he was very reassuring that you learn the most while you are in the water. The next day was more video and then we got practice time in the pool with all of our scuba gear. Vests, tanks, regulators, masks, and all.

Conquering fears seems to be a recurring theme of mine in Thailand. Elephants, check. Zip lining, check. Now I can add scuba diving to that ever growing list. We were only in a pool with water up to my waste and I completely panicked the second I went under. Ever since I could swim my family always said I was a water rat. I am a great swimmer and have never been scared of water, but scuba diving is scary. We are used to swimming under water by holding our breathe and coming up for air when needed. In the pool, I was suddenly expected to breathe under water. What kind of concept is that?! Steve told us to stay knelt and try our hardest not to stand, but after about 30 seconds, I panicked and stood up until I could feel my lungs breathe like normal again. There were a million thoughts going through my head at once. I looked around, saw my friends under, probably also freaking out, but dealing with it so they could put the skills we learned from 5 hours of videos to use. I knew this was my moment of truth. Run and get the heck out of that pool, or suck it up, go back under, and try again. Another thing I've learned about myself being in Thailand is that even if every bone in my body is shaking with fright, I don't like to quit. So, go back under I did. I was breathing through the regulator as if I had just run a marathon, which isn't exactly ideal. Steve came to me, looked me in the eyes, signed to breathe slowly, and suddenly it got less scary. I was breathing normally and I didn't feel like my lungs were going to explode anymore. Besides the water becoming freezing from being in the pool until 6 pm, the whole session went so well, thanks to Steve and Jordan, our second instructor. They were both extremely patient with a group of five girls who knew absolutely nothing about scuba diving, and I would recommend them as instructors in a heartbeat!

On our third day, we set out on the long boat in the afternoon to get to Simple Life's diving boat. We nervously hung out for about 10 minutes until Steve basically said, Okay girls, you're on your own. Let me see you set up your gear. We set up our own tanks and vests ourselves, got into our wetsuits, and suddenly it was time to jump into the ocean. At this point the nerves were hitting me. We had all of this heavy gear on, I suddenly felt like I was going to vomit from nerves (or hangover), and we were about to go swimming at the ocean floor for 35 minutes. I jumped in and there was no turning back. Luckily our first dive was a fun dive at Buddha Rock, meaning Steve needed to see how we would do with the real deal. No skills to practice, just a swim. It was awesome. There were reef and colorful fish everywhere. I survived that one, so I knew I could get through the rest.

We had one more dive that day and two dives on our last day. White Rock was the second dive and one sight was called Junk Yard, which literally had junk dumped there. Exercise machines, a bench, and other random things are there to serve as an artificial reef. The last dive sight, called Hin Pee Wee, had a small shipwreck at the bottom. Even though not all dives had great visibility (conditions were very choppy on both days of diving), I saw things on the ocean floor that could never be the same as just seeing a picture of it. Some of the marine life that we stumbled upon were clown fish, parrot fish, damselfish, puffer fish, butterfly fish, moray eels, sea cucumbers, and coral reef was everywhere you turned. Everything about it was surreal.

Some of the dives had scary moments. In order to get the certification, we had to show that we could do all of the skills we learned in the ocean. As if it wasn't difficult enough in the pool, I was now on the ocean floor trying not to panic, all while I had to practice filling my mask up with water and then blowing it out at 10 meters deep. Lots of reasons to panic while scuba diving, but I just had to trust Steve and Jordan, and also be confident in myself. We always followed Steve, and Jordan always brought up the rear. She did a great job checking on us to make sure we were okay throughout each dive. Steve was so awesome and a great teacher but we were also happy to have an experienced female with us who really wanted our first diving experience to be great, not traumatizing. Go check out Simple Life Divers if you ever find yourself wanting to scuba dive in Thailand!

On Tuesday, we finished our last dive, went back and took the final test, and I am now a certified open water scuba diver! My certification is universal, so I can dive anywhere in the world, with or without an instructor. I almost didn't do the diving so that I could have beach time instead, but it would have been a big regret if I was only watching my friends from afar!

Our last night in Koh Tao was New Year's Eve, and I can't think of any place in Thailand that would have been better for it. We popped champagne (more importantly.. ANDRE!), celebrated receiving our certification with the Simple Life staff, watched the fire dancers fill the beach with their talent for the fourth night in a row, and enjoyed our last night on the island that I am dying to go back to already.

Our instructors, Steve and Jordan, in the middle

I hope that everyone had a happy and safe New Year's Eve! 2013 was a bumpy year for me. It had lots of ups and downs, but I can only assume that everyone's does. We talked this weekend about describing the year in one word, and I think my word to describe 2013 is challenging. The biggest challenge was facing, and dealing with, the fact that my best friend was diagnosed with brain cancer. This may have been the single most challenging thing of my life so far, let alone this year, but I am happy to say that Erica is doing SO WELL, and besides the chemo once a month, she is living life just as she always has been. Some other challenges were sorting through relationships with people I care about and deciding to put my life at home on hold to pack up and move across the world. Even though the year was a challenge, I am grateful for all of the amazing moments, like Dana and Mike's wedding, Mandy and CJ's wedding, meeting my Thai students and watching them learn and grow, a trip to Vegas, and getting to experience living in Southeast Asia. I have no idea what is to come in 2014, but I have a feeling that the word challenge will carry over again, especially after moving back home in the spring. There will be constant change, excitement, some anxiety, and happiness throughout this next year, but I can't wait to see where 2014 takes me!