Today, I am biding farewell to another one of my closest friends who I met at our teaching orientation and preceded to grow into a tight knit friendship with. On our last day of orientation our coordinators from our new school came to pick us up. There were over 200 people spread across two hotels at our CIEE Teach in Thailand orientation. I had the pleasure of meeting tons of awesome friends which I have stayed in contact with via social media and our various meet ups on weekends and holidays. When our van arrived to bring us to Suphanburi, Jackie and I were nervous, excited, and anxious to get to our town. We knew there were other girls placed at our school and apartment building but we hadn’t really gotten to know them at orientation. The two hour van ride from Kanchanaburi to our new home was the perfect, awkward time to get to know each other. The conversation didn’t feel forced but we had to go through the obligatory initial questions, “Where are you from?”, “Where did you go to school?”, “What was your major?”, etc. All of us were eager and excited for this new chapter of our lives to begin! Erin and Kelsey were best friends from childhood and grew up together in South Carolina, Maggie and Kelsey were random college roommates at FSU and ended up becoming best friends, Jackie and I obviously went to WVU together and were each others life line getting through our graduate school program. We all had our own “security” best friend, which made getting to know each other as a group an interesting, but fun adventure.
Our first weekend in Suphanburi we planned a trip back to Kanchanaburi, which ended up being a huge reunion of about 15+ American teachers from our orientation. It was an awesome weekend and Jackie and I could tell that we really lucked out. Not only did we have each other, but also we some how stumbled upon a whole posse of newly graduated 20 something American girls, who moved to Thailand to teach and travel the world. It was amazing to hear all of the reasons and the paths that lead us to the same destination, but regardless of where we came from or why we were here, we all had a similar desire to see the world, meet new people, and suck the most out of our youth as humanly possible. Being around a group of that many like-minded dreamers and free spirits was exhilarating. I truly didn’t know that many of us existed. It was refreshing and reassuring.
As time went on we grew closer, traveled more, ate lunch together at school, took ridiculous shopping trips to Tesco Lotus, ate dinner, went to Muay Thai class and quickly the strangers in the van turned into my close friends. We had a month long holiday for New Years and the “Thailand Olympics” that were conveniently held in our town giving us an extra two weeks off of school. Kelsey, the master of planning trips, told us about the island hopping adventure she was planning for herself, Maggie and Erin. Jackie and I decided to follow her lead but we planned a bit of a different route not wanting to impose ourselves into their plans and wanting to stay a little longer at each location.
On our January Island Extravaganza (I like to name each of our trips, cheese ball central, I KNOW) we turned from close friends, into “us”. I wish I could remember the moment that we became “us”, but I think it was New Years Day. After an absolutely epic night celebrating the New Year in Chiang Mai we woke up and continued our celebrations with veggie burgers, burritos and Singha (naturally). I will never forget that day of bar hopping, laughing about the night before and telling stories about college, high school, boyfriends, best friends, family and everything in between. Now I can tell you all of those stories FOR each one of these girls. On our March Madness backpacking trip, we realized we were together so much, we actually ran OUT of stories to tell and resorted to talking about things like what is our perfect temperature to keep our AC on in the house…(I kid you not). From there our relationship blossomed from an awesome traveling crew of close friends to best friends I will know for the rest of my life. We depended on each other and got to experience some of the most exciting beautiful places in the world together but we also went through heartbreak, terrifying traveling moments, moments of discomfort, vulnerability, frustration and anger. We were the outsiders of a very traditional Thai community but we had each other so that made it okay. The bond I have with this group, our extended Suphan family, and our extended “teeecha” family is something you can’t quite put into words. Not only were we getting to know each other, but also we were getting to know ourselves; and that can be one of the scariest and most liberating experiences of one’s lifetime.
One of our five, Erin is already home safely in America and will embark on her next adventure starting dental school in Charleston, SC in June. She has only been gone for a couple weeks, and it already feels as if something serious is missing from my life. As we send Kelsey off to her next adventure, living and working in Melbourne, Australia, our Suphan crew grows even smaller! I am so sad to see you guys go, but I am so proud of you both for chasing your dreams and continuing to seek new horizons! I wouldn’t expect anything less!
Life has a funny way of surprising us, sometimes for the better and sometimes for the absolute worse, but I am happy to say our friendship was the best surprise I have had in a while. Who thinks they will fall into an awesome group of American girls their own age, living in the same apartment building, working at the same school, 10,000 miles away from home in a third world South East Asian country? NO ONE! But I am so happy that is what happened to me. I can’t thank you girls enough for reminding me why I came here in the first place, listening to me, keeping track of all my stories, being great eating partners and helping me build countless stories of our own. Our memories are PRICELESS and I wouldn’t trade them for the world (Maybe for some Chipotle, lolz JK). Luckily, I know that our wanderlust will surely lead us to the same place again soon (cough cough, OCTOBER) and no matter where we are in the world, our experience the last 6 months will be close to our hearts forever. Good luck in all that you do, I am proud of you, I am inspired by you but mostly I will miss your presence in my life. Never stop being you and continue to live your lives to the fullest!
Chok dee! Mai Pen Rai! Sawadee-ka! Until I see you again…one last cheers for the collection, “Some ships are made of metal, some ships are made of wood, (some ships look like they may sink in Halong Bay) but the best ships are FRIENDSHIPS!”HG4LIFE!