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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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 

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