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Living abroad and the illusion of endless fun

I’ve done it, my friends and family are probably doing it as you read this.

It’s easy to see pictures posted on Facebook or blogs and be insanely jealous of all the fun that someone is having without really thinking that those pictures were one or two  nights out of the past month. It happens when you haven’t seen someone in a while, are just meeting someone new, or if it’s someone that you just aren’t that close with anymore but keep on your friends list so that you can stalk their lives. (We all have at least one, don’t even try to lie about it)

Most of the time, it’s a complete illusion. That’s not the way most people live their lives, through endless nights out and planning the next destination.

Well, it’s certainly not me. Most of the time I’m quite a homebody. Since I moved into my house, I’ve had at least two full weekends in where I may have texted people and made half-hearted plans to go out that ended up with me being lazy around the house and doing laundry. Like I mentioned previously, my life has settled into a routine.

I enjoy cooking, and reading and finding useless shit on the internet. I’m not going to post about countless nights spent in wearing sweats, eating pistachios and scrolling down endless Pinterest pages  (my pinterest!).

To be honest, my life outside of work resembles very closely what my life would be like outside of work at home but with slight differences:

I come home
eat dinner
browse the internet for things I missed during the day (sadly, not a lot).
sometimes head out to meet friends (but lets be honest, the only time I really make an effort is for market dinner on Wednesday nights.)
sometimes have a nap
browse the interwebs some more for silly things, projects I’ll never make, things that make me laugh, or music videos that I feel the need to play for my roommate.

That’s it folks; Monday to Friday in a nutshell. Yes, my weekends are sometimes, but not always, something to be desired. Honestly though, the Toronto Islands are a nicer destination than the closest beach to Lop Buri. :/

Sometimes I feel like most peoples concept of a travel blog is to catalog the wonderful things that they’re doing abroad and the cultural differences that they notice. But for me it’s also to come to terms with the fact I am away and have assimilated to those cultural differences and am still living my day to day life, little things that are all part of long-term travel.

You’re allowed to be jealous (a bit) but remember that despite seeing cool things and experiencing random moments, life goes on.

Moving in

I realize that I’ve become like an absentee parent to this blog. I realize, yet I can’t seem to do anything to stop it.

I haven’t really even been that busy since moving into my new house.

Yep, that’s right. I got out of the pint-sized apartment in the middle of new town Lop Buri and moved out to the ‘burbs into a house with a garden (and pond). The whole top floor is ours, with a proper bedroom, another partitioned bedroom, kitchen and living area – and it’s cheaper than what we were paying (combined) at “Saiva Mansion.” Now we’re literally living in a Thai suburb. The neighbourhood isn’t that wealthy and I’m usually the only farang at the Tesco market. I’m getting the stares that I thought I would get moving to a non-touristy town.

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Lop Buri: My new home

I’ve mentioned it a few times briefly, but it’s time to devote an entry to the city that I’m going to call home for the next year.

Muang (City) Lop Buri:

The sun setting over the road into old town.

Lop Buri is about 2 hours North of Bangkok, just North of Ayutthaya, and is home to most of Thailand’s military bases and operations. (My mom will be happy to hear that this is probably the safest place to be in all of Thailand.)

A family of monkeys in old town.

My guidebook mentions little more about Lop Buri than what’s concentrated in the old town; ancient ruins and monkeys. As far as traveling  goes, it suggests making it a day trip and catching the night train out of here. Precisely what enticed me to accept the job offer here and live in a truly Thai town that is barely touched by tourism.

I keep calling it a town, but really it’s quite large. There is everything here that you could ever need, it’s just a matter of finding it. There are 3 large department stores, a night market for every night of the week, countless food stalls (including the night food stall street not far from us – literally an entire street packed with food stalls cooking anything you could ever want for under 40 baht.), as well as numerous restaurants and a handful of pubs.

A traffic circle, complete with the King’s picture

I’ve met farang (foreigners) from as many as 5 different schools in town, but outside of the foreign teachers, it’s rare to see a foreign face. (When we’re out walking in a group, it’s not uncommon for Thai people to seem astounded by the sheer number of us “whoa! 6!”)

My first impression of Lopburi wasn’t the most positive. Coming from the tiny little town of Ban Phe, I was worried that I wouldn’t like the bigger city atmosphere, or the fact that it feels ridiculously hotter here than anywhere else in Thailand, or the fact that I will have to get a motorbike or scooter to navigate my way through town comfortably.

However, after almost a month and learning how to ride a scooter, I’m quite happy with the laid back pace and while I still have a lot of exploring to do, I’ve learned the basics and can get around the city without too much confusion. Also, what I thought would be a bigger city atmosphere is actually non-existent, the people here are so laid back and by nightfall the city almost comes to a halt. I have yet to actually experience anything negative about this quiet city, and am quite happy settling into a routine and can’t wait to start teaching.

The School:

Banjongrat main entrance

Banjongrat School has two locations; the main elementary (Prathom) school as well as the kindergarten. The kindergarten is about a 15 minute walk from my apartment,

The mini jungle outside our school

(literally a 1 minute ride on the bike) although I’ll only be there once a week. The grounds of both schools are beautifully manicured, complete with updated playgrounds and miniature jungles with waterfalls and paths and signs explaining what the plant types are (I assume, although the signs are all in Thai).

Despite working directly at the school on a regular basis, all the foreign teachers are hired by an outside company, Fun Language, that has a main office in Bangkok, but the Lopburi and new school in Ratchaburi are franchises run by Westerners. This is another reason that I decided to come to work for Fun Language; the organized and friendly manner of the directors all helped to immediately make me feel comfortable in my decision.

There are 4 classrooms at the Prathom school and 3 at the Kindergarten, all are large, clean and air conditioned. Every day I’ll be working with a different Thai Teacher (TT) who acts as an interpreter when needed, mediates between me and the parents, organizes resources needed for every class and helps with classroom management. All of the TT’s are incredibly knowledgeable, fun and friendly. I look forward to developing friendships with them as well as the other foreign teachers and students.

The lessons are meant to be as interactive as possible, with no desks for students to zone out at and numerous games and songs to make learning English fun (not to mention teaching it!)

My Apartment:

We’ve dubbed it the mansion, because it’s literally called Saiva Mansion. (In Thai: Say-wa mansion) All the foreign teachers at our school, plus a handful of others,  live here and instead of saying “see you at home,” it’s, “see you at the mansion.”

My room with my funky (polyester) sheets. I’ve since upgraded to cotton..

It’s a basic blue room with a bed, wardrobe, tv, fridge, air con and bathroom with hot water. It also has the typical Thai style hard-as-rock mattress.  But it’s relatively comfortable, clean, and has wifi (sometimes). I would prefer a share house with some of the other teachers, and if we can find a nice, furnished house in the next few months, we’ll likely move in together. I think we all desperately want a place to hang out that’s not on someone’s bed, and a place to cook a communal western meal. One of the teachers who was here last year, but left to manage the school in Ratchaburi, used to have barbeques at his house on the weekends. That would be beautiful, but for now, it’s nice to have my own space while being relatively close to all the other teachers.

So far it’s been great and now that school is officially starting on Monday I can start what I came here to do: Teach. I can’t wait to get started!