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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.