A Quarter You’d Better Hold Onto

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Quarters in college were such a hot commodity because without them you couldn’t do your laundry, you had to annoy everyone on your floor, beg the front desk RA’s, and ultimately wear no underwear for a few days until you could find enough to do your laundry. Obviously going to the bank was simply out of the question. Oh, the mind of an irrational college freshman… I surely don’t miss it.

I have a quarter for you that will remain of value no matter what age you are. A quarter century worth of wisdom that is. Turning 25 sounded monumental for some reason. Much older than 24 and definitely the age I told myself I would have it all figured out. As I get older I start to believe that every year is the year I told myself I would “have my life together.” What does that mean anyway? Now I have realized no 25 year old on this planet has it all figured out and only humor, liquor or empathy will get us through this tumultuous time in our lives.

On yet another long weekend road trip I had an abundance of time to think and reflect. Birthdays always remind me of the best there is to life and just how much I truly have to be grateful for. I feel obligated to share what I have learned in my quarter century on this planet but not in a list of course. That would make me a hypocrite. So, I will give you 25 snippets of wisdom I have gained from my short but incredibly meaningful existence, a few of which are still unanswered questions. Kudos to those who will still read it despite the lack of bolded headings and condensed thoughts.

First and foremost, life is hypocritical but that does not give you the right to be a hypocrite. Life has a funny way of contradicting itself. People tell you to act one way, give you great advice but they don’t follow through themselves. You learn lessons (at least you think) and you will inevitably make the same mistakes. But that also leads me to my belief that whatever you look for you will find. If you expect the worst out of a situation that is what you will get. If you look for good people, that is who you will find yourself surrounded by. There is enough of everything and everyone to go around in this world; you determine what you are surrounded by.

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Just Decide to Do It

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Over the long holiday weekend I spent a LOT of time in the car by myself driving all over the east coast to spend Memorial Day weekend with friends and family. Whenever I am in the car alone for hours upon hours, my mind darts in 100,000 different directions. Usually I call my whole phone book for my overdue catch up conversations, and no one answers but my mom (who I see everyday). So I go back to chugging ice coffee, blasting beats and mull over my next blog post in my head. I realized this weekend that I haven’t actually written those well-calculated road trip posts in far too long. I apologize for drifting away from my blog and I realize now as I write what clarity and satisfaction I glean from condensing my thoughts into words.

The mind is an incredible instrument and machine, but the mind of a woman who is a teacher, writer, Gemini, and suffers from extreme ADHD; it is almost unfathomable for most. I have hundreds of “tabs open” every waking second of the day. My release is when I can verbalize those into a medium I dearly love and understand: words. When I was traveling I was so excited to share about my adventures and so disconnected from my once known world that it was easy to stay inspired and motivated to consistently post. I was going through so much change and writing was the best way to reflect and understand how I truly felt about those eye-opening experiences. The pace of life and my career in Thailand also allowed me the most precious gift of all: time. I had time to write and read, rewrite, reflect, recharge, and release. Now I am lucky if I have time to charge my phone. But without the release of writing my mind hasn’t fully been synthesizing my life and my experiences.Despite the lesson plans, special ed paperwork, work for my coaching business, certification online workshop, laundry, and the 85 other things on my to do list, I am pressing pause and spending time to remember, reflect and release.

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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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Contagious Enthusiasm

After an exciting weekend with two amazing ladies and friends from a place so near to my heart, Syracuse, NY (my hometown) I am left with lots of inspiration, new memories and a rejuvenated feeling in my heart. I discovered a while ago through social media that Hannah and Hannah would be traveling in South East Asia and specifically Thailand. Although I hadn’t seen or talked to them in years I knew that I had to reach out to them! Luckily, the universe aligned and they were able to come visit me within the first week of their three-month trip through South East Asia. As soon as they arrived at my apartment we began talking; swapping travel stories, reminiscing, getting in extremely intense conversations about life, love, adventure, YOU NAME IT!
We had a jammed packed weekend in my town Suphanburi; including attending a Suphanburi FC match, lots of delicious Thai food, a trip to the Samchuk 100 years Market, a visit to my school and did I mention delicious Thai food! The past few weeks have been filled with lots of Suphanburi activities! It actually feels like my home now, not just a town I am teaching in. We attended two Suphan FC matches which are the closest thing we are going to get to a college game day or professional NFL or MLB game here in Thailand. Our town lives and breathes for Suphan FC! We even bought our own jerseys so we could officially represent! We have had tons of activities going on at school and I have kept busy teaching my 7th and 9th graders. Every day guarantees at least one surprise! My kids keep me on my toes, make me laugh, frustrate me and most importantly remind me why I moved here in the first place.
It is a true blessing to wake up everyday and love what you do and I actively remind myself of that. The day I posted my blog about gratitude happened to be the day before a very important day at our school; the Wai Kru ceremony. It is a special day dedicated to students thanking their teachers for all of their hard work. They have a ceremony where they sing many songs and chants and wai out of respect for their teachers. They also present the teachers with extremely elaborate flower arrangements that they make themselves. I will let the pictures speak for themselves because these arrangements were truly works of art. I continue to feel lucky for how appreciated I feel each and every day. It is something that never will get old.

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Share your Lollipops

Inspiration is a perplexing concept. We draw inspiration from others and the world around us but ultimately inspiration is a highly personal experience. You can read the same book or watch the same film as your friend, lover, or mother and draw totally different inspiration from the same source. Some people are extremely difficult to inspire and others are inspired by minute daily beauty. As a writer, inspiration is something that is not only necessary but is truly like kryptonite. When I feel the words forming in my head, I can see the sentences budding like flowers in the springtime. When I feel the inspiration and the drive to condense my vast imagination into compartmentalized fuel…I must fulfill that need. Often I am inspired by other writers, reading their books and getting so lost in their created world I just can’t wait to create a world of my own. Often I am inspired by writers’ quotes or interviews about writing. I feed off their immense satisfaction with written words and begin to muse over what I can construct myself. As an educator, I am writing SOMETHING every single day. I have recently started a gratitude journal and it is remarkable way to write at least one (usually about 7 or 8) bullet points of little things I am grateful for that particular day. Here is a quick recap of what I have been extremely grateful for in the past few weeks.

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  • My health– Celebrating my 24th birthday on June 2nd was a wonderful reminder of how lucky I am to continue to grow older. Not to mention my IMMENSE infatuation with birthdays. I love making people feel special and birthdays are a great excuse to celebrate something (YOU). Seems like a common Gemini trait!;)  I also have made a commitment to myself to put my physical health- exercise and diet back at the top of my priority list. Endorphins are my drug of choice and they have been neglected a bit in my adjustment to my new world/ traveling the world. Sixty days of Insanity began this week and I am excited to challenge myself physically and mentally! I’m even dragging Jackie & Maggie along with me! 😉
  • My students- These little loves challenge me every single day and especially test my patience. But they are incredibly thoughtful, creative and kind. I got not one or two but FIVE birthday cakes on my birthday and countless presents. I was treated like a queen and it was totally unexpected but greatly appreciated. Once again Thailand surprised me with its ability to make me feel right at home on special days, holidays and random ordinary days.
  • Good food– You may laugh at this one. BUT IT’S TRUE! After a weekend in Bangkok with incredible western food including brunch at Roast BKK(Thonglor district, GO if you are visiting Bangkok), juicy burgers, gourmet salads, sushi, daily fresh pineapple sold on the street outside my apartment, you name it, I have been eating like a queen and nothing feeds my foodie soul quite like a GREAT meal with GREAT friends! J
  • Good shows– Current Obsessions: Games of Thrones, Orange is the New Black, Modern Family. Laughing, drinking wine, and covering my eyes & gasping (A LOT) with my gal pals is a favorite past time lately.
  • My innumerable “lollipop moments” (I’ll explain later) and all of the incredible people who are attached to them. I am definitely what you call a “people person” Besides food; people are probably my favorite thing about life. I try to be as proactive as possible as I can about thanking those people who have helped me throughout my life. I try to do this as often as possible. I can’t leave my thanks unspoken. Currently I am thinking of wonderful teachers who have helped me along my journey; my parents, Chapman, Mr. & Mrs. P, Barrett, Kiesha Kiebler, Stephanie Lorenze, John Stallings and many teachers I never formerly had in a classroom, my big brothers, Lisa & Dave Craig, Punkie& Dickie Lighton, Krista & Zach Mendelson and many more whose influence cannot be forgotten. My friends, the very old and new; you are my shining stars. I can’t think you enough for your love, laughter, guidance, empathy and companionship. Thanks for your lollipop moments; you have touched my heart and life in ways that will never be forgotten.

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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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Gratitude Attitude

          Today is my first day at my new school Sa-nguan Ying (English Program). I am so happy with my school, my co-workers and my students. It is nice to be teaching again after a long period of vacation in the United States and in Thailand! Since my last post so much has happened. I have been in Thailand for over a week and I am continuously surprised, frustrated, excited and challenged.  Our orientation group left Bangkok last Thursday and went for an overnight trip to the rural town of Katchanburi. Our hotel was resort style and the view and grounds were spectacular. We visited the River Kwai bridge,took a sunset dinner cruise(which turned into a monsoon dance party),rafted down the Kwai River and explored Taweechai Elephant Camp.  I got to ride an elephant, watch an elephant show and take priceless photos. After lunch orientation came to an end and I had to say goodbye to many friends who will be teaching all over Thailand. “Chok dee ka” to you all!!

           Four other American women and I got into our van marked “Sa-nguan Ying”, met our coordinator and found out that we would be going to visit our new school…RIGHT NOW! Mind you, we didn’t have a moment to shower after the rafting and elephant ride… Not the best first impression. Butterflies filled my stomach as we drove through the luscious green fields that make up rural Thailand. The girls and I anxiously chattered and giggled the whole time. When I arrived at my school I felt ecstatic, relieved, and eager. The campus is beautiful and the staff is more than willing and able to help the new “farang” teachers.

Finally we arrived at our apartment, which is literally within 3 minutes walking distance of our school. I received my key and charged to the elevator fumbling over my suitcase. I arrived on the fourth floor and walked into the most shocking moment of helplessness since arriving in Thailand. The numbers were in THAI!! I wandered aimlessly from door to door trying my key on a few of them. I felt frustrated, isolated and exhausted. Luckily our coordinator followed us upstairs shortly after and led us to the right door. My feeling of helplessness subsided due to the incredibly welcoming atmosphere that my school and Thailand in general continuously offer to me. I am so grateful for my accommodations especially compared to some friends I have talked to that are in different parts of the country. After moving in the next few days have been a whirlwind of trying new places, exploring, getting lost, trying desperately to speak some form of Thai, shopping, eating, drinking and soaking up my surroundings. The fluidity of my feelings is astounding! One minute I am frustrated and the next I am delighted.

           I feel extremely safe despite feeling like an alien. I am already used to being stared at with not even a hint of subtlety.   I am overwhelmed by the feeling of gratitude for my fellow teachers who have helped me get around, my partner in crime Jackie, and my loved ones who are cheering me on every step of the way. Coincidently my partner in crime for this adventure has also become my partner in crime in the classroom. Jackie and I found out that we would be team teaching upon arrival at our school. It was surprising but we both embraced the idea with open arms. Two heads are always better than one.  I feel appreciated by my students already due to the polite “ GOOD MORNING TEACHA” at the beginning of each class and the “THANK YOU TEACHA” at the end. So refreshing. I think I’ll shout to this country “GOOD MORNING THAILAND” and “THANK YOU THAILAND” before bed to practice gratitude. I can only hope I feel this inspired for the extent of my journey. 

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My wifi moves at a turtle’s pace! For more photos check out my Facebook Album! ❤ xoxo