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Category Archives: Preparing for Thailand

Christmas and goodbyes

While I’m sitting here with less than 5 hours until I leave for the airport, I can’t help but feel a little emotional about the past week.

Just last weekend, I had my going away party with all my wonderful friends. The highlight of my night though was definitely a mixed CD compiled by one group of friends of all the cheesy songs that shaped our friendship up until now. Like the time we realized that we could convince a guy friend to sing pretty much any song during karaoke, so we picked Madonna’s “Girls just wanna have fun.” While I’m not bringing the actual CD (with the most hideous pictures everyone could find, cut-out to make the most amusing collage, of course) I have made a playlist on my iPod, so I may laugh and cry when I listen to it on planes, trains and boats during my travels.

But this past week was truly about spending time with my family. Christmas is generally the time of year for that, but somehow it always seems to be lacking in my family. So this year in order to make the most of it, we all packed into the van and headed to my grandparents house in the country and simply enjoyed everyone’s company.

There is something about driving down Canadian highways that simply makes me happy. It makes me think of that Death Cab for Cutie song, Passenger Seat, in the sense that I can truly just empty my mind and enjoy the ride and the views of the countryside. The highways carved out of rock, the small towns with the exorbitant amount of Christmas decorations, and the nighttime ritual of watching for deer once we actually enter the country (and of course, my dad constantly reminding my mom, “high beams! Low beams!”)

Then we were lucky enough to have a white Christmas. I was so happy to see for the last time a legitimate snow, complete with shoveling and snowmen before I leave.

My brother and his whiskered snowman

I took pictures and video to show those who may have never seen snow before, and my aunt even suggested that I print a picture to hang on my wall to cool me off when it’s so hot I think the thermometer might break.

So with plenty of warmth in my heart for my friends and family, memories of winter when I feel nostalgic, and everything packed in my bag (and I mean pretty much everything, I’m going to regret bringing half the stuff I have, I can just FEEL it) I’m off.

Next, I’ll be writing from a hammock in Thailand.

Mountains of useless knick knacks

So in trying to pack my life for the next year into a backpack I’ve realized that I have accumulated a giant amount of stuff that I will never use. I have lotions out the whazoo, perfume that I’ve never worn and may never wear, make-up that has stayed in a make-up bag so long that it will probably expire before it sees the light of day and clothes, of course clothes. I have a freaking mountain of clothes.

Then of course there is the miscellaneous crap that may have been useful at one time, or that I saved because I might “need” it someday. I am by no means a hoarder, but it seems I have a serious problem with getting rid of things that are still useful, or have sentimental value. I’ve been organizing some stuff in my room to either put in storage, or simply for the sake of being organized, and I found assignments from high school… why would I ever want to look at those again? I’ve found diaries that I’ve loved reading through and laughing at myself over (i.e. “I’m absolutely in love with Michael*, I want him.”) and I’ve wasted too much time sorting through pictures from another lifetime ago.

I’ve also been sorting through my clothes to figure out which I want to take (… and making lists), clothes that I want to put in storage, and clothes that I’m willing to part with. I usually go through my clothes once a year to weed out things I haven’t worn and may never wear again to make room for new purchases, but this time I feel like I’m looking at the task through fresh eyes and actually getting rid of a number of things that I generally would have held onto.

Still though, I’m going to have trouble parting with some favourite articles of clothing. And I’m going to have to get crafty with the way that I pack my backpack to make everything that I deem bringable fit. Luckily, my mother is a genius and sent me to Dollarama to buy vacuum seal bags for the clothes I’m putting in storage at home, and for the teaching clothes I’m bringing. Both to save space, and keep them clean and separate from my beach clothes. It’s going to be packing lifesaver.

It kind of makes me crazy to think that there is a very limited number of things that one actually needs on a day to day basis. I’m bringing my computer and the important electronics, and the bare minimum amount of clothes and toiletries, but the amount of stuff that I have that I don’t actually use every day or even weekly is astonishing. I’m ready to live a more minimalist lifestyle.

Now the question remains: who wants all my random lotions?

*names have been randomized because, let’s be honest here, I totally have a crush on every boy and always have.

Through the eyes of a teacher

Lately I’ve been looking at things through the eyes of an English teacher. I’m worried about lesson plans and how I’m going to come up with them and if I’ll be able to pull lessons out of thin air that will not only be educational but fun at the same time. Games that I wouldn’t normally think of are going to come in handy here, and I have a feeling that I’m going to be taking a lot of inspiration from board games that I played as a child (and drinking games as an adult). Comparison games like Scattegories, word games and even classics like Pictionary and Charades.

I’m excited and nervous to teach English. It’s funny how I haven’t really talked that much about teaching in general, because I’m currently focused on the adventure that is going to be the entire experience and not what I’m going to be doing. I’m overwhelmed at the concept and seriously worried that I’m not going to be good at it. Then again, I can’t be as bad as all those teachers I had in school, right?! I know that I have experience training people on things that I know, and making it easy to understand a process that needs to be done, but that’s all been in English and people understand what I’m saying!

That’s what the course is for. I just have to go in with an open mind and be ready to make a fool of myself trying new things!

If anyone has any advice or knows any lesson plans that have worked for them, I’m all ears. I want to go into this prepared to succeed.

 

So here’s the big picture:

Just as I predicted these last few weeks have been a whirlwind of research, planning, shopping and hair pulling. I’m over budget and can’t seem to find enough time in the day. So there are some (minor) things that are just not getting done before I leave. Some of them I have to do while I’m away (i.e. refund my return ticket), and some of them are just not going to get done (i.e. getting my scratched glasses lenses replaced).

However, I now have a very flexible plan in place that is going to determine what happens with the next year of my life. I’ve decided to take an in country TEFL course with TEFL International.  This specific company has many different locations that I could have chosen from, including Phuket and Chiang Mai in Thailand. I could also have chosen to go to Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam, or even Buenos Aires, Argentina.  I chose to go to Ban Phe for the course staring on January 30 through February 24. 

Why Ban Phe? Well, not only is Ban Phe the organizations head office, but seems to be the most rural in Thailand. The lessons include practical teaching sessions with students from the surrounding village, including children monks. The fact that it’s the most rural is somewhat appealing to me because I don’t want to be distracted by all that there is to see and do in Phuket. I also want to make sure that I’m seriously dedicating my time to everything that I’m going to have to learn and study while I’m there. The course is an intensive 4 week program, and from what I’ve read and heard there is a lot of “take-home” work that I’m going to have to prepare after class. Yes, I can probably do it on the beach, but as far as night life or tourist traps go it sounds like there just isn’t much. From what I’ve read about Ban Phe, the only thing it’s known for is being the place to catch the boat to Koh Samet, (where I may just have to spend weekends). It’s seriously just a village. I hope that I’ll be able to better immerse myself in Thai culture and customs in this small fishing village than I would have in tourist centric Phuket.

Also, I’m kinda hoping that I’ll be able to visit Phuket, and its surrounding beaches, in the weeks before the course that I’m going to be randomly wandering around Thailand.

So here’s the plan: Next Wednesday I’m headed to my grandparents for an early Christmas, driving home on Christmas, then getting on a plane on December 27. New Years on a beach, possibly attending the most epic rave ever… on a beach – The Full Moon Party (I’m either terrified or excited), then recovering on the beach at Kho Phangan for a few days at our resort, which is actually called “The Sanctuary” (scuba diving/snorkeling, sunrise/sunset yoga and plenty of massages will most definitely be a part of those days) then heading to Bangkok, Chiang Mai and then wherever the wind blows. (It all depends on who I feel like joining after Sasha leaves. Tears will ensue at this time.) I just have to make sure to make it to Ban Phe by the 29th for the orientation dinner.

Speaking of goodbyes, I’ve already started and it’s making me seriously emotional. It’s hard to believe that I’m going to be away for a year or more, and not only am I saying goodbye to loved ones, but I’m saying goodbye to my city. Silly things like streetcars, signs in English, the guy at my corner store who makes my coffee before I have to ask, knowing where I’m going without having to think about it, coming home after work to a house full of people. I’m having a lot of “last” days.

In other words, I’m a big sappy mess right now. I saw a friend for the last time before I leave today because she won’t be able to make it to my going away party this weekend, and thank god she is not a sappy person, because otherwise I would have started bawling on the street as I walked away.

It’s worth it though, while I’m both terrified and excited wrapped up in one big ball, I wouldn’t change it for the world. I’m seriously going to miss my friends and family, my dogs, and the familiarity of home, but like I said when I was planning on going to South Africa, part of living is the anticipation of the unknown. I had written then that I hoped that I would always be living in a constant state of anticipation for the next great thing, and that reminded me that what I’m doing is what I’ve always wanted to do: Live.

As one great friend put it, my friends will still be my friends when I get back.

My to-do list is longer than Santa’s list of nice children

I kid, I kid. I’m sure there are plenty of children who are going to get more than coal in their stocking this year. I, however, have been having a hard time telling people what I want for Christmas, as I’ve been thinking about packing everything I need for a year into one backpack and a box, hence the need for my list-making spree.

For years, I’ve been a little insane when it comes to to-do lists. Every notebook I’ve ever had was always filled with to-do lists, to buy lists and budget lists.

I make one, forget where I wrote it, and write another.

I usually end up with 5 of the same lists with slight variances.

So I’m not exactly good at the list thing, but I’m honing my craft.

This week, I’ve made like 10. Minimum.

Some of them are things I need to research, some of them are things I need to do, some of them are things I need to buy and some of them are things I’m going to pack.

See, insane.

I like to call it organized.

However, it’s not so organized when I can’t find where I put that list and have to re-research the phone number I needed, or rack my brain for the things I needed to buy.

Despite that, I’ve found throughout the years that making a list is a good way to distress. It places everything I’ve been thinking about non-stop onto one ruled sheet of paper (or note in my phone, or scrap piece of paper) so that I can look at it and visualize everything that needs to get done. I’ve also found that it sometimes turns into a good way to motivate me to actually get it done.

Nothing is more satisfying that crossing things off that list.

However, when deadlines start looming and things keep getting added to that list is when the REAL crazy sets in.

Lately it seems like everything that I try and do can’t be completed in one easy step, and every phone call turns into yet another item on my list.

For example, this morning a simple phone call about getting travel insurance for the next year turned into adding to my list calling the Canadian Life and Health Insurance Association, then making sure that I get in tough with Service Canada to extend my OHIP from 212 days outside the country to at least a year.

These next few weeks are going to be filled with stress, sleepless nights, and feeling like my time spent at work making money are wasted hours in which I could be getting things done.

Bring it on.

Get those whales into the Gulf of Thailand!

Even before I had (have?) technically decided that I wanted to stay in Thailand, my parents have been freaking out about this flood in Thailand. For good reason, half the country is under water and over 500 people have died. The World Health Organization is suggesting that all non-essential travel be cancelled and as of Monday, Bangkok started evacuations.

It is my understanding that every year Thailand floods to some extent, but when it rains, it pours.

I am in the mindset that I don’t want to make any rash decisions based on the news, and wouldn’t cancel my travel plans until the day comes nearer, but I can’t help but selfishly fear that this is seriously going to put a wrench in my plans.

So I’ve been doing some research and I found Newley Purnell, an American journalist working in Bangkok, and all his blog posts and Twitter lists make for a pretty comprehensive update about what’s going on at ground level.

However, the best thing I’ve come across so far are these informational videos about the flood. These videos make me hope that the whales make it to the gulf of Thailand, and I also get to acclimatize myself to the Thai language while giggling at the super cute cartoons.

 

So far there are 6 episodes, that appear to be created as soon as new news comes out to keep Thai people informed about the best practice for knowing about the flood in their area, evacuation, even sensible hoarding.

I have a serious case of Wanderlust and I just can’t shake it.

At the end of this summer I decided on a whim to join some friends in Thailand for New Years. I am eagerly waiting and planning for this trip, but now that my job is facing impending doom, I will be left in almost exactly the same position I was in a year ago when I get back from vacation: searching for a new job relevant to what I want to do with my life.

I still face the obvious fears of whether or not I am ready for an actual career, and whether or not I have even decided if that’s what I want to do with my life.

For years, I’ve been envious of people who have picked up and gone traveling for extended periods of time. But especially, I’ve been jealous of people who have gone to work abroad.

So I’ve started the dreaming process again. And I’ve come up with the ideal situation: I’m going to take a 4-week in-country TEFL Certification course that will prepare me to teach English as a second language.

I don’t have a BA, but a diploma in Journalism, so I’m going to have to fork out the money beforehand to get the training and certifications required to allow me to teach, but I know that the life experiences and the reward of teaching English will be well worth it.

The biggest drawback is that I need to have this figured out in the next two months so that I can stay in Asia once I’m there and not have to worry about finding another two grand for the plane ticket.

While there are obvious negatives about up and leaving my home, my family and my friends, I feel like it’s something that I need to do for me.

So I’ve narrowed it down to courses in Phuket, Ban Phe, or Chiang Mai in Thailand, with an eventual placement in the Thailand area.

I think this time I’m really going to do it. Otherwise, I will never be satisfied. (Although, I’m sure wanderlust is the kind of thing that moves on to bigger and better things, but never really goes away) I want to have a job where I actually feel like I’m contributing, and I want to start from scratch somewhere where I’m taken out of my comfort zone. It’s so easy to be lethargic when you’re comfortable, and I’ve never really taken that gigantic leap of faith that would result in solo traveling and setting up a new life.

I’ve been to an information session about a course that I could take here, and while the session was more of a sale pitch about the course here, it has propelled me into a world of “I can do this!”

So I’m researching changing my return ticket, getting the proper travel Visa and health insurance and making sure I choose the most recognized, organized and supportive language institute to get my certification.

In the next two months, I’m going to be planning for my entire life to change drastically.
Hopefully, by March I will be settled into an apartment in Thailand and have a job as a teacher in a school that could have me there for (at least) the next year of my life.

It might be time to resurrect my travel blog…