Sunday, July 30, 2006

Yesterday I finally made it to downtown Bangkok. I didn't realize how far we actually were from central Bangkok. I didn't actually calculate how long it took us to get there but we took many forms of transportation. First, we had to find a sung tao (I'm not sure of the spelling) which is basically a truck that has benches in the back. We took that to the bus and took the bus to the Skytrain. The Skytrain is their rail service that goes above the city so you can actually get a good view of the surroundings. Compared to the rest of the city it was very clean and the air conditioning was a nice luxury. The Skytrain took us through downtown and dropped us off in front of the river where we had to take a river taxi to get to the Grand Palace. So basically we had to take trucks, buses, trains and boats to get to our destination.

The Grand Palace is one of the major tourist destinations. Unfortunately, I didn't study up much on the history or the significance of the Palace but you really don't have to know much about it to appreciate it's beauty. There was lots of gold and intricate artwork. We were able to go inside the Temple of the Emerald Buddha which was the first time I had actually been in a Buddhist temple. You wouldn't expect a Buddhist temple to look so ornate but everything was decked out in gold and bright colors.

While we were walking around we saw a monk in his orange robes. Women are forbidden to touch monks in Thailand because they are supposed to resist any temptations of the flesh so I try to avoid going anywhere near them. I was very surprised when he started talking to us in English, asking us what we thought of the palace. We ended up talking to him for quite a while and he even let us take a picture with him. He was from Sri Lanka and I think that the rules are quite different for monks in Sri Lanka than they are for monks in Thailand because he handed me something which I had heard is forbidden. The whole time I was thinking how crazy it was that I was walking around Thailand talking to a Buddhist monk from Sri Lanka!

The heat was quite unbearable yesterday. I keep waiting to get used to the heat but I don't think you ever really do. Instead, I think you just resign yourself to feeling sticky and hot all the time. I can't wait until October when it starts to cool down. I took lots of pictures yesterday and I'll try to upload them later for you all to see.

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Thursday, July 27, 2006

I'm starting to be able to explore my surroundings a little bit more. Last night we went out in search of food which was quite an adventure. We decided to walk down the long residential road so I could see everything close up. People don't walk much around here. Instead they all take motorcycle taxis or ride bikes around so we kind of stood out. They don't have sidewalks here and the motorcycles and cars are fearless. I don't think they have the saying that pedestrians have the right of way. I'm glad we walked down the road because it was interesting to see how people have businesses right out of their homes in their driveways and front yards. Restaurants are often hard to discover because it may just be in someone's house and the only way you would know it was there is if you were a local and were familiar with the area.

We walked down the main road hoping to find some food that I would consider edible. I realized once I came here what a picky eater I am. I think I am going to get very skinny here because I am very sensitive to smells and funky tastes and I would rather not eat than to eat something questionnable. For example, they have lots of street vendors that cook right there on the street in little carts. Most of the stuff is sitting there under heaters. Lots of fried stuff and lots of sausage and soup and noodles are sold in little baggies. Unfortunately, the area can get very smelly so I don't want to take a chance on getting food poisoining by eating at any of these stalls. The locals seem to not have a problem with it but I'm not that daring yet.

We were about to give up when we saw what looked like a little restaurant. The sign was in English and as we were walking I was excited to read "Coffee"...."Tea"... and "German Sausages"! You have to imagine us eagerly reading the sign out loud, trying to see what the next word was and hysterically laughing when we figured out that the last word was German Sausages. It seemed a very unlikely combination. If you know me, you'll know that in any normal circumstances the mention of sausage would make me run the other way but in this case I was never so excited to see sausages in my life.

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On our way back we decided to take the motorcycle taxi. I was terrified to get on because I have been trained to think that motorcycles are very dangerous, especially without a helmet. In the picture, you can see a motorcycle taxi with the driver wearing a helmet. I have to say that out of 100s of motorcycle taxis I have seen, this was the only one that I have seen wearing a helmet. You basically just hop on the motorcycle and hold onto the back. Some women ride side saddle but I would be too terrified to ride sideways. They act so nonchalant; some of them don't even hold on! You even see them with 2 people riding on the back. Once I got on and he started going it was not as terrifying as I had thought. It was actually very exhilirating, especially when he went over the speed bumps! I have a feeling that every day in Thailand will be a new experience!

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Wednesday, July 26, 2006

I'm officially now in Thailand! The flight was painfully long. 20 hours! I literally think I may never leave Thailand because I can't fathom having to go through that awful plane ride again. First of all, I hate flying. I mostly hate the take off because it feels so unnatural to be catapulted into the sky. After that, I'm normally fine unless there is turbulence and then I am just a nervous wreck. It would be fine if there wasn't always someone sitting next to me on the plane that wants to chat it up while you are trying to concentrate on not passing out or screaming. And the food was terrible! I didn't eat anything for the whole flight. I guess I really shouldn't be telling you guys how terrible it was because that may deter you from coming to visit me. So, I take it all back. The flight was great!

My friend and a bunch of people from the school came to the airport to pick me up. We drove to the school and I tried to take it in as much as I could. I noticed that there were a lot of stray dogs wandering around on the streets. Susan says that its dangerous to walk around at night because the dogs follow you and might bite you. There were literally packs of dogs just chillin on the street. Bob Barker needs to get over here and start some sort of spay and neuter campaign to take care of this animal problem.

The area where I will be living and teaching is in the suburbs of Bangkok and we are surrounded by the richer residential area. I arrived at night and it sounded like there was a jungle right outside my window. There are frogs and who knows what else making lots of noise and I've seen a few small whitish lizards running around inside the apartment building. It tripped me out but supposedly they eat all the bugs so they don't bother me that much. As long as they stay out of my room I'll be fine.

The Head of the English department took me around and introduced me to the students today. As soon as a teacher enters the room all of the students get up and greet you and bow to show respect. I was worried that the children would be shy and quiet but they are not at all. They are very boisterous and energetic and I doubt I will have a problem with them being shy. The school has so many resources for the children. They do Thai dance and play traditional instruments but they are also all boy scouts and girls scouts. They have piano lessons and can learn English, French, and Chinese. They have a huge olympic size pool, tennis court and soccer field. It's much nicer than any school I've ever been to in the United States. I've heard that it's one of the nicest schools in Thailand and I believe it!

I'll be teaching in a classroom with two other teachers. One is my Thai counterpart who will assist me with the class and the other is a science teacher. I'm not sure how it will work. They are very vague about things. I still haven't seen the books I will be using or been told what level the students are at. The Head of the English department mentioned that she would like me to teach some computer classes as well and I'll also be tutoring my Thai counterpart in English. We are only assigned about 15 classes per week (which is about 15 hours) but we have to stay at school all day. I figure that will be o.k. because I can do all of my lesson plans, grade homework and study my Thai while I'm there so that when I go home I won't have to worry about anything else.

I've been trying to pick up some Thai here and there. So far all I can remember is how to say "Hello" and "Thank you". The locals get a kick out of it whenever I speak what little Thai I know. They are usually shocked I can even say that much. Thai is going to be very difficult to learn because it is so different from English. I have no way to make connections like you can in French or Spanish. The trick will be not being scared to sound like an idiot and use it in meaningful context so that it will stick.

I will try my best to post and upload pictures. Unfortunately, the internet connection here is very slow and it takes several attempts to connect to an outside line. I still haven't figured out how to call internationally. The phone in my room doesn't want to work and I get close on the pay phone but right before I am almost finished dialing the number it hangs up on me.

I was a little homesick but I think I'm really going to like it here. The people are very friendly and there are so many interesting things to explore and observe. I know I'll have a lot to write about on this blog and hopefully I'll get over my fear of looking like a tourist by taking lots of photos so you can all see what I'm talking about!

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Here's a picture of the view from my room. You can see I'm very close to work! I'm on the 4th floor and we have no elevator. I am going to have buff legs! Just to the left of my window is the pool. The teachers can use it after school hours and it is really big. Just below me is where the students practice traditional Thai music and dance. It is really cute!

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Here's a picture of my breakfast. They were nice enough to stock my fridge with some American stuff and lots of fruit. After the plane food I was so glad to have some "normal" food. I haven't been to the market yet but there are lots and lots of 7-11's. They have a 7-11 nearly every three blocks.

Monday, July 17, 2006

Welcome to my new blog! You may know me from my previous blog Defying Debt in 2 Years. Regardless, you should know that I have been saving tirelessly for the last 2 years so that I can do exactly what I am doing now, traveling and experiencing new things all around the world. You see, I was in loads of credit card debt when I graduated college and had to work at jobs I didn't like and spend next to nothing to pay it all off. Now, I'm free to do whatever I want without having to worry about bills to or when I'll receive my next paycheck.

I'll be leaving on July 24th and after an excruciating 20 hour flight I'll be in Bangkok where I'll be teaching English at a private school. I'll be teaching there with a friend of mine so I won't be completely alone which makes me feel much more confident about the whole situation. I've never traveled anywhere in Asia so I'm sure I'm in for quite a culture shock, but I guess that's why we travel isn't it?

Check back later and I'll post lots of stories, pictures and maybe even some personal finance tips for traveling and living abroad.