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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If you don’t like the book, STOP READING IT

Once again the anticipation leading up to my two weekends of traveling in July was validated and surpassed by the actual experiences. Amazing Thailand… always amazing. Our first weekend out of our town of Suphanburi in a few weeks was spent in Bangkok celebrating the Fourth of July! Nothing starts of Independence Day like being asked by your boss to sing the National Anthem in front of the whole school (about 2,500 Thai people). We asked for the day off to celebrate and our deal was that we had to sing the National Anthem in the welcoming ceremony for some visiting teachers from America first. Reluctantly we agreed because neither Jackie nor I have a good singing voice and it’s one of the hardest songs to sing for a GOOD singer. But, we already made plans to leave early and meet friends in Bangkok. We sucked it up and luckily recruited two more singers to join us so no ones talent stuck out too much.(Thanks Jared, even if you forgot the words) 😉

After being in Thailand for an extended period of time, when you are in Bangkok Khaosan Road is definitely not the first area that you are eager to visit. Since it was our American holiday weekend, we figured that Khaosan Road was the best place to run into travelers, backpackers and expats and hopefully find a way to celebrate despite being away from the Land of the Free! We did some research and found a great hotel right on Khaosan, D&D Inn with a rooftop pool, swim up bar and decent rooms. After our stellar rendition of the National Anthem we left school and hopped on the bus to Bangkok. We were in our red, white, and blue suits soaking up the sunshine and jumping in the pool by 1pm. Well worth the semi embarrassment.

As the day played out we began to meet new tons of new people. The pool was packed and we were surprised to meet a big crew of Americans. They understood our excitement! Things escalated quickly from there and despite the dirty looks we ran around that pool deck waving our American flag and made sure that every single person knew what July 4th meant to us! We even befriended a few Brits, Irishmen, and EVEN Canadians (LOL inside joke). The party continued that night on Khaosan Road, which is an experience like no other. For the rest of the weekend we continued to take over the rooftop pool, meet amazing people, shop, eat, dance, and especially laugh. We reunited with teacher friends that live in different areas and when we get together my cheeks literally start to hurt. Funny people make the world go round.

On Sunday we made the best discovery of the weekend, a little brunch/dinner spot a short tuk-tuk or even walk from Khoasan called Chomp. The food, coffee, sangria, milk shakes and desserts were heavenly. Yes, we tried them all…And, yes we not only ate brunch there, but also stayed late in Bangkok just so we could go to dinner there too. Nothing and I mean nothing pleases my friends and I more than a good meal, especially a good western style meal. Don’t get me wrong I ADORE Thai food, but in my town there are absolutely no options for other styles of food and sometimes you just need to satiate your craving for Italian, Mexican, Indian, French and ESPECIALLY SUNDAY BRUNCH. A twenty something girl has GOT to have a good Sunday Brunch spot, it’s basically a part of our genetic make up. After an action pack weekend in Bangkok school on Monday was extremely difficult but luckily my students’ smiling faces always make me feel good about where I am Monday morning. I really have the best of both worlds.

4th of July _0

 

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The Grass is Always Greener…

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The past month or so has been very eventful!(I PROMISE I WILL KEEP UP BETTER SOON!) After 2 weeks of summer school we got off an unexpected extra week. Fortunately for me, I already requested the time off because my boyfriend planned a visit from America! That meant I still got the time off and I got back 5 extra vacation days to use in the upcoming semester! The odds started out in my favor! After over six months apart, the anticipation of seeing my boyfriend at the airport was unexplainable. Luckily he was wearing a huge flying WV shirt so I could pick him out of the crowd (not to mention he was a 6’3 white boy in an predominately Asian airport). After traveling for over 2 days he was surprisingly energetic and now I could share the fact that we still had a full day of traveling ahead of us to the reach the southern island of Koh Tao. After a hot and sweaty journey by plane, bus, ferry, and overpriced taxi, we arrived at our secluded resort on the private Tanote Beach. It was about a 15-minute cab ride from the pier, but the ride was well worth the seclusion and beautiful atmosphere. The next few days were spent talking, laughing, snorkeling, eating, drinking, and frolicking in the ocean. We went on a one-day snorkel tour to Shark Bay, Mango Bay and ended the trip at Koh Nang Yuan Island. Although it felt hotter than the Sahara Desert, we still climbed up all the steps to the viewpoint. The view was well worth the sweat! It was absolutely breathtaking. We ended up meeting up with two of our friends from home that happened to be on the same island. It was awesome to hang out with fellow Mountaineers! The boys spent the day deep-sea fishing, caught a bunch of fish and the hotel’s staff served us up an amazing dinner overlooking the ocean; stir-fry with the fresh fish, veggies, rice and wine. It was probably my favorite meal of the trip! If you visit Koh Tao make sure you stop by Fishbowl Bar and the burger stand that is right outside of the bar Chopper’s (Sairee Beach). Both were favorites that we visited multiple times in six days! Koh Tao definitely lived up to the hype, but I have a feeling it may have to do with who and not where I was.

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March Madness Final Round: America takes Thailand

It was such an awesome feeling returning “home” to Thailand. I really shouldn’t put that in quotes… this has been my home for the past 6 months and a wonderful one at that. It felt so great to be able to speak Thai again (no matter how little I actually speak), use baht, and feel comfortable with my surroundings. Not only was I home in Thailand but 3 short days later five of my closest friends from college were coming to visit me from America! Although I could not contain my excitement I also felt like my body just had been hit by an 18-wheeler. Over a month of backpacking will do that to ya. Luckily, I had two days to go back home to my quiet town of Suphanburi to unpack, do laundry, sleep, exercise and repack just to head right back out the door. Those two detox days were crucial to my survival for the rest of the trip. Not only did I have over two weeks left, I also had to play tour guide for 5 people who had never been to Thailand before! I needed to be on my game!

Waiting for them at the airport was one of the most nerve-racking, exciting sensations I have had in a while, and with all of my experiences lately, that is saying a lot. I knew their flight was delayed but when I got to the airport I had no way of contacting them. The flight board wasn’t updated yet when I got there and was on the opposite side as the arrival gate. Even when they landed their phones wouldn’t work internationally, so I just had to good old fashion wait. I made a little paper sign with an inside joke from college, “Wake up it’s Thailand time to pawty!”.

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The Mad Ones

As the school year in Thailand is winding down, it is time for final reviews, exams and projects. Teachers can understand and commiserate that during this busy time of the school year personal reading and/or writing for pleasure become exponentially more attractive. Some may define this as  “procrastinating”. Okay, everyone defines this as procrastinating… but I can’t help it and I promise I still get my work done on time! We had a long weekend for the Buddhist holiday a few weekends ago (which happened to fall on Valentine’s Day). Jackie, Erin and I decided to visit our close friend Kevin who we went to WVU with. He teaches at a university about an hour away from us and we have heard countless stories about his town and living situation. It was something we couldn’t leave Thailand without experiencing first hand. It turned out to be an absolutely comical weekend, filled with lots of wine, whiskey, stares from locals, delicious food, rap/guitar/harmonica freestyles, heart to hearts, moped rides and tons of laughs. Since our backpacking trip we have gone on several other weekend trips to close by cities such as Bangkok and Ayutthaya and spent weekdays grading papers, teaching, working out and trying to get back into a routine to make life feel “normal” again. We often discuss and marvel at the fact that we live and teach in Thailand. It is still mind blowing some days. It is absolutely incredible how quickly human beings can adjust and morph into members of a new group of friends, community, and even a country. In my day to day life, it becomes increasingly difficult to pick out things that are “different” than life in America. Of course when I think about it, the list goes on forever but for right now this is my stomping ground and I am becoming very comfortable with that.

Here are some highlights from the past month. They prove to be a hilarious balance between “Teecha Susie” life and 20-something Traveler Susie life.

Sensation White– My Suphanburi teacher crew (who have quickly become my close friends and traveling partners) and I went to a world famous music festival in Bangkok. It started in Amsterdam but has spread to all different countries around the world. It was an awesome experience with famous DJ’s from all over the world, a “wicked wonderland” theme, and of course an endless sea of people dressed in white. It felt great to dance the night away with my girlfriends. Oh, and of course eat Mexican food in Bangkok. Any chance we have to eat good Mexican food is an instant burrito party.

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Field trip to Ayutthaya– The English Program took a fieldtrip to Ayutthaya, the ancient capital of Thailand, and had the privilege of having our M-2 (8th grade) students be our tour guides. Each foreign teacher got a group of 3 or 4 students and they led us around the temples, historical landmarks, and museums for the day while spouting off more facts than I could possibly process. My group was absolutely adorable and I learned so much. I loved all of the ghost stories they told me and found out that Thai people have many tales about ghosts that are passed on from generation to generation.  Field trips in Thailand are NEVER disappointing!

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College besties booked their trip to Thailand – Some of my best friends from college finally bit the bullet and booked their flights to Thailand in April. I am SO EXCITED to play tour guide and already made a color-coded itinerary for our jam-packed 10 day adventure! I am blessed to have such great friends who are willing to trek half way across the world to see me! Love you guys! It’s going to be EPIC!

Kasetsart University trip– As I said before this was a hysterical weekend with too many laughs to count. It reminded me how important good friends are and no matter WHERE you are, the company you keep is what matters the most! ❤ Love you guys! ImageImageImageImageImage

Thailand’s National Storytelling Competition– One of my favorite students made it to the national storytelling competition that took place in Bangkok. We have been practicing her story since October so she asked me to come along and watch her at the grand finale. It took place in a huge convention center with thousands of people and I could count on two hands the number of foreigners who were in attendance. There were also political protests going on right across the street and everyone seemed extremely casual about it(I was slightly freaking out). All in all, it was awesome day chalk full of Thai culture, shopping, and bonding with my student & coworkers. She took home 6th place overall and absolutely rocked her story. I am so proud of her!

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First Suphanburi FC Football match– Personally, I never understood other countries fascination with soccer (football). I never played in high school and I only followed it on TV when it was the World Cup. When I first moved to Suphanburi I heard that we had a professional football team that was very talented and well followed. My crew and I decided to attend the first match of the season since some of them will be moving away from Thailand after this semester. Let’s just say… I GET WHY PEOPLE LOVE IT! It felt like a college football game at WVU!Despite the fact that we were the only 5 white girls in a stadium full of locals…The whole town was decked out in orange and blue jerseys, and cold beers, and food vendors were everywhere. The whole shabang! It was SO fun, despite Suphanburi FC’s loss; they definitely gained a group of new loyal fans! GO SUPHAN!

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Birth of my nephew Samuel Benjamin Bell – My nephew was born yesterday (2/24/14) weighing in at 8 lbs. 2 oz. and he is just as adorable as his older sister, Layla. I am so happy for my big brother and sister-in-law! Being an Aunt is one of the best jobs around and I can’t wait to spoil this little guy. I am definitely extremely sad that I can’t be there to meet him, hold him, and spend time with my family but I am grateful for technology and looking forward to getting to know him once I return to America! I can hear myself telling my niece and nephew stories of my adventure in Thailand when they grow up. I hope to instill a wanderlust in them and the confidence to follow their dreams, no matter how radical they may seem. Sending lots of love your way lil Sam & Bell fam!

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With a little over a week left of the first semester, I am looking forward to my summer break while simultaneously marveling at how quickly time passes us by. “The days are long, but the years are short”, ain’t that the truth! There have been many moments of nostalgia, culture shock, despair, excitement, joy, fascination, realization, stimulation, longing, and frustration in the past four months.  I have grown so close to my friends I have met here, and joined in a mutual “teacher/foreigner/American/20-something” bond that feels as if I have known them forever. As I write this I am reminding myself how incredible my life is here and how lucky I am to have the chance to enrich my mind, body and spirit in the Land of Smiles. The month of March will be an extremely exciting one as my travels will lead me to Vietnam and Cambodia with the crew. Then, my WVU friends will join me in this amazing country in April. Many thrilling stories and photos to follow! I’ll leave you with a final thought that continues to drive my actions, mind and life,

“The only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn like fabulous yellow roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars.”- Jack Kerouac

Here’s to finding the mad ones! Here’s to the ones who truly believe anything is possible! We gotta stick together! Cheers! Xoxo