Returning to My American Dream

Things that I will miss desperately about teaching in Thailand 

  1. Respect
  2. Adequate planning time
  3. Free delish lunch
  4. Valuing extra curricular
  5. A “family like” community of teachers and a group office
  6. Personal Teacher-student relationships
  7. Compliments
  8. Freedom of choice for curriculum (minimal standardized tests)
  9. Gratitude
  10. Laughter

Things I actually miss desperately about Thailand

  1. Friendly Strangers & Smiles
  2. A deep sense of value and gratitude
  3. SUNSHINE
  4. The food- especially Som Tam and Tom Kha Gai
  5. MY STUDENTS & MY JOB
  6. Simplicity
  7. Surprises
  8. All of my friends/coworkers
  9. Adventure around every corner
  10. Mai Pen Rai attitudes

Things I appreciate about America

  1. Familiar faces
  2. Quality time with family & friends
  3. My doggie/other doggies I can actually PET!
  4. The emphasis of HEALTH, NUTRITION & EXERCISE
  5. Having a car and a kitchen
  6. Good wine & coffee
  7. CLEANLINESS
  8. Customer Service
  9. Good music
  10. Comfortable beds

A few months before I left Thailand I jotted down a list of things that I believed I would miss the most about teaching there. After being home in America for nearly two months I wrote a list of what I actually miss, not just about teaching there but about living there in general. I miss it every single day.

That doesn’t mean that I haven’t thoroughly enjoyed my time home in America. I am grateful for the luxuries of home and I am astonished by how much our country truly has at its fingertips. I am beyond grateful for the quality time I have spent with people who I love sharing stories, meals, dance parties, copious amounts of wine and more than a few laughs. I love sharing about my journey, my life, and the magical slice of South East Asia that captivated my soul and stretched me to my limits both in positive and negative respects. Many people I talk to have preconceived notions about what it would be like to live there and I never hesitate to prove them wrong.

I came home at by far my favorite time of year, Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years. Now the rose colored holiday glasses are rapidly being clouded with SNOW. It’s -8 degrees right now. That just sounds like a sick joke. The temporary high of being back in America is wearing off and reality is setting in. Just like moving to Thailand, there is definitely a “vacation” period filled with adrenaline, reunions, and FUN and then you come to terms with the fact that you actually need to adjust to life here.

Home for the Holidays _1

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Leaving the Land of Smiles

After a bit of a mishap in the flight department (I’ll skip the story due to my own embarrassment) we finally made it to Thailand and back to our favorite island, Ko Phi Phi. It was so strange to be back in Thailand after being in such a westernized culture for two weeks. But even more strange was how NORMAL it felt. It was normal to not understand anything going on around you, for men to be screaming “I LOVEEE YOU”, to see a family of four on the motorbike next to you and to see more 7-11’s on one street than in all of Australia. Since we had such a hard month in Bali and Australia we knew we would need time to kick up our feet and relax in Ko Phi Phi for our last week abroad. Hey, c’mon you can’t hate us for planning the best vacation ever. 😉

Unfortunately the weather in Thailand was not cooperating with us. We were there for 7 nights and we probably had two days of sunshine. Lots of rain and mud puddles which caused us to find recreational activities inside… There isn’t much to do on an island when the weather is bad, especially Ko Phi Phi. We kept ourselves entertained with lots of stories and laughs from our trip, food, and an adult beverage or two. I finally got the chance to meet up with my friend from high school, Fallon who started teaching in Thailand in March. It was so awesome to catch up with her, reminisce on life in Syracuse and bond over our unexplainable desire to find what we need out of life even if that means traveling all over the world to find it. As the rain fell the reality of the end of my journey getting closer and closer washed over me. We didn’t want to talk about moving home because that made it real. I was so excited to see my friends and family, meet my nephew, squeeze my puppy, eat real pizza and finally feel clean but I couldn’t help but hate having to leave behind this place that I have learned to call home.

Thailand is a magical place for many but for me it changed my life in a way I will always revere. Thailand taught me what it means to be myself. That is the most beautiful gift anyone can give you. By no means did I feel “lost” in life before, but Thailand opened my eyes to a world I needed so desperately to see. A world beyond sorority formals and football tailgates. A world where people don’t have shoes on their feet or have to share a small room behind their restaurant with 13 family members. A world full of dreamers, teachers, and travelers; young people who have the same desire to see new horizons as I do. Like I said in an earlier piece, I joined a club I didn’t know existed. There are so many people, so different than I am, who went to different unis, speak different languages, were raised in diverse situations that have the same fire burning inside of them. This fire can not be extinguished or “gotten out of your system”. There is a whole world full of people who want to experience life, other cultures, have heart to hearts at 3 am on cruise ships in Vietnam, explore ancient temples in Cambodia, eat traditional Indonesian food at 6 am with locals and talk to strangers about their lives simply because it matters. I am so grateful for each and every one of you I have met along the way and you have inspired me to continue dreaming, no matter what anyone thinks.

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Great Expectations

I apologize for disappearing but I am here and ready to get you all back up to date with my crazy life. I am now back in America sitting in my bed at my parents’ house in Syracuse, NY shivering under 3 blankets. It is 28 degrees and snowing outside. In the past two months I have been in four countries, countless cities and have sucked more out of life than some people will for the entirety of their existence. I wrote this piece before I set out on my month long trip. To be honest, I had no intentions of including it in my blog, it was more for personal reflection, but it does an uncanny job at introducing the past two months of my life and a trip I will remember forever. I am going to try to condense the trip into three blog posts but we will see what it turns out to be. One of my quirks as a writer is that I go in completely blind as to what I want to say and simply let my thoughts guide me. But that is also what I attribute my authentic voice to… I have tried to fight it but ultimately it’s what works for me. Enjoy these expectations and stay tuned for the rest of the stories to come!

Expectations for The Finale Trip

Before I moved to Thailand I read a girl’s blog who lived and taught here and one of her biggest pieces of advice was “to not have any expectations of what your experience will be like because you will most definitely be wrong.” I took this sentiment to heart and shared it with Jackie and we adopted it as our motto jumping into the experience without expectations. My friend who started teaching here this semester shared with me an idea given to him by his aunt. She told him to write down his expectations and hopes for his experience before he left for Thailand so he could have them to look back at once he was finished. She wanted him to realize how different his expectations would be from his reality. Looking back on how much my life has changed in the past year and how “normal” life in Thailand feels today, I wish that I recorded my expectations. Not because they would be right but instead to see how WRONG they would be. I decided that it isn’t to late to use this technique both for my final backpacking trip and for my adjustment back into American culture and life. I won’t be disappointed if I am “wrong” because I know that the reality will be even better than what I can imagine. It is wonderful that my life seems to work out that way and I accredit it to using my knowledge of the law of attraction, a positive attitude and bringing kindness with me everywhere I go.

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Alice in Wonderland

This post is dated October 7, 2014. I just realized I never posted it and it was only saved as a draft. To keep the chronological story pieced together I decided to post it anyway. Plus, these pictures are too amazing to miss out on! Enjoy & look for a lot of retroactive posts to come in the next week!

This is my last full week living and working in Thailand. I can’t believe how fast the time has gone by. This week we have to work Monday- Sunday judging our students final projects and helping them practice for their presentations for the competition this weekend. We also have to pack ALL of our lives in two suitcases and a backpack BUT the week culminates with a month long trip to Bali, Australia and Ko Phi Phi so it is hard to complain.
Our last weekend living in Thailand was one of the best yet. We were invited by our coworkers and Thai friends to go on a trip to the Central/Northern province of Petchabun. We stayed at our coworkers family resort nestled in the picturesque mountains. We had an amazing weekend full of TONS of Thai food, incredible views, lots of laughs and tons of photos. On Sunday we visited arguably the most beautiful place I have ever seen…anywhere. A massive temple called Wat Pha Sorn Kaew nestled in the mountains. We hired a van for the weekend and he took us up and down winding roads for about an hour.
When we finally reached the destination Jackie & I had to put on canvas wraps because our shorts/dresses were too short. Once we reached the steps of the temple, our jaws were dropped for the remainder of the visit. Every square inch of the steps, walls and temple was covered in gorgeous mosaic glass that was so vibrant and colorful. Every nook and cranny was covered and so intricate. We climbed each stair case snapping photos and “ohing and ahing”. Not only was the temple magnificent but the views were even more stunning. The mountains looked as if they lasted forever. The temple was built 10 years ago but it is very much a part of the “Unseen Thailand” category because it’s not often visited by foreign tourists or travelers. The architecture and design of the temple was very Gaudy-esque and definitely not the traditional Thai style.

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To my Students <3

What I want you to remember:

1. Always believe in yourself! I believe in you so much.
2. KNOWLEDGE IS POWER! Read and learn as much as you can.
3. “The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams”
4. Your dreams ONLY work if YOU DO. Always give your personal best.
5. Find something you LOVE to do for your future career.
6. To improve your English= watch English movies, TV shows & listen to music.
7. Don’t be afraid to talk with foreigners! BE CONFIDENT!
8. The most important beauty is the beauty of your heart.
9. Be kind to everyone. You can’t make it through life alone & you never know who needs you.
10. Remember what Kid President said, “BE AWESOME”
11. Get off your phone & appreciate the people & places right in front of you
12. Keep Smiling & Laughing! There is always a way to be positive.

Students _0

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Awe-inspiring Awe-gust

August has been full of experiences rich in culture, calories and camaraderie. Isn’t that what life is all about? I continue to laugh, eat and dance my way through life. As my yearlong experience comes to an end, I have a heightened awareness of my surroundings and a greater appreciation for my parallel universe.

The term “parallel universe” is defined through a wide variety of scientific definitions, philosophical terms, music, literature and films. I gained a particular affinity for the term after watching the film, The Beach(2000) starring Leonardo DiCaprio. I saw this film before I moved to Thailand but have re-watched it several times since moving here. Despite the mediocre reviews, the film does an uncanny job at describing what it feels like to transport yourself into a whole new world. It is terrifying at first, but you quickly make new friends, make different routines, decipher your role in your new reality and find that your life begins again; a parallel universe. Life continues on without you back at home. Friends and family text, call, Facetime, and stay connected through social media outlets but no one can understand the parallel universe of living in a third world country without having experienced it themselves.

It reminds you how vulnerable and insignificant we are as human beings but it also reminds you how valuable each and every day is. Ultimately, our memories of reality and the impact that we leave on others is the only way that our universe continues to exist long after we leave the physical place behind. In today’s society it is so easy to become distracted from what is in front of us. We always have a way out of uncomfortable situations. If we feel lonely we can text our friends, if we’re bored we can browse social media and if we want to laugh we can go on Youtube binges. I have made a personal promise to myself to be less distracted and more aware and absorbed in the moments I am existing in. When we are consciously aware of the beauty of life; it isn’t just exciting, it is AMAZING!

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March Madness Second Round: Cambodia

I am not sure what I expected when I heard the word Cambodia, but I can honestly say I was shocked when I got there. The first thing I noticed while driving on the bus from Vietnam to the small beach town Sihinoukville, Cambodia, was how dirty the country was. There was literally garbage everywhere. I was trying to keep an open mind, but after 17 hours on a bus, (actually multiple buses with transfers and long waits at shady bus stops) I wasn’t feeling too confident. The surroundings looked very barren and poor. Eventually we got to the last stop on the bus on a random road and got out to grab our backpacks and make our way to the guest house. Literally, we got harassed by 17 tuk-tuk drivers trying desperately to get our business. The tuktuk drivers in Cambodia were so aggressive it shocked me! Finally, we negotiated a fair price with one of the drivers and piled our five battered bodies and 5 giant backpacks into one small tuk-tuk.

We were driving along the road and all of a sudden civilization appeared. There were bars and restaurants, supermarkets, tons of people walking up and down the streets, and of course dozens of tuk-tuk drivers. We checked into Sekal Guesthouse, which has a great location and clean rooms for a decent price (if you looking for a place to stay in Sihanoukville). We dropped off our backpacks, showered and ventured out to find some food. We stumbled upon a place called Mum’s Kitchen; which was a real hole in the wall place right across the street from our guesthouse. The food was incredible. At least one of us ate there, at least once a day for the entire week we stayed. Once we were full, we heard music and decided to wander into the bar next door called Utopia. Chaos ensued from there and we discovered that Sihanoukville may be a small town, but they sure know how to have fun. We spent all night dancing the night away running from beach bar to beach bar on the infamous Serendipity Beach.

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