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Bring it, 2014

It’s the eve of the new year, so of course, I’m reflecting on the past year.

I rang in 2013 surrounded by new, yet lifelong friends on a beach on Koh Chang, Thailand with a bucket in hand, and I’m ending the year in the exact opposite way. It’s absolutely freezing in Toronto and I’m getting prepared to get all dressed up and head downtown to one of the fanciest hotels in the city for a party that I wouldn’t have been going to if it weren’t for work.

Throughout the year I’ve said emotional goodbyes to friends, my students and colleagues and had emotional reunions with my truest and dearest. I’ve gone from being gainfully employed, saving to travel to being contractually employed, saving to pay off debt, with a large period of (f)unemployment in between. I’m not really ending the year with a bang, but I’m ending it on a high note.

I’ve done a lot this year that I can be proud of. Of course there were low moments, lonely moments, but there were also (and continue to be) moments that I wished would never end.

I’m not too psyched about this New Year’s Eve, as I can barely afford a glass of wine at this hotel, let alone a buckets worth of alcohol, but I am excited about the coming year. I’m working with a company that I love (and think they love me too) and feel secure in what’s to come.

I’m preparing to move out with a close friend, and I feel like this is the year for growing up and doing things the adult way. I know that I’m ready; I can feel it in my bones. I’ve grown so much this last year, through so many unique and wonderful experiences, that I can hold my head high and say “Bring it, 2014.”

The last hoorah

I’m back in Lopburi. Although in approximately 24 hours, I start my journey home in a bus that will take me and my accumulated mementos to the airport.

I thought that I would have time to write and relax and catch up on everything that I haven’t been keeping up with while I was travelling. I have not. Instead, I’ve been catching up on the gossip, drinking until the sun comes up and sleeping until I have to peel my melting skin off the blankets. Then repeat.

Instead of writing about the monks in Yangon, the feet steering fisherman in Inle Lake, the art and architecture in Penang, or love notes to this crazy little town I’m leaving, I’ve been lazy.

Being in this unemployed transition is quite depressing, and I’ve had no shortage of craving to stay. Most people that are here at the moment are no longer in this transition. They’ve moved into houses, moved into new jobs, started their regular routine again. It’s making me wish that I had decided to stay on for another term, another year, for life.

While I do have to be home for some of the best moments of my best friends’ lives, things that I wouldn’t miss for the world, I really only have a 6 month obligation to Toronto. I love my city, and it will be where I eventually settle down. But, unless I find the job of my dreams, meet the man of my dreams or am simply too happy to get the itchy travellers foot (how likely is that, really?) Than it’s quite likely that I could pack my bags and leave again once those 6 months are up. Now that I know just how easy it is, and just how happy it can make me, I’m ready to take on the world.

We’ll see just how much of the world I can afford in 6 months’ time though…

Koh Samet: Still my favourite Thai island

SaiKeaw Beach on a weekday

SaiKeaw Beach on a weekday

Despite how many places I’ve been in Thailand, and despite anyone else’s interpretation of favourite, I think that my favourite island will always be Koh Samet. Not only was it my first island away from any of my friends from home, it’s basically where I did my TEFL course. I have so many amazing memories of the island; of what I used to think where the worst bungalows in Thailand at Naga, of the all-night dance parties, of late-night swimming, of partying with Thai’s for the first time, and of course of all the amazing people that I was there with at different times throughout the past year.

During the day on any given weekend the beach can get quite crowded. However, during the week, the place is almost a ghost town. Considering how close it is to Bangkok, many Thai’s and teachers come down for the weekend to let off some steam and get in some beach.

The fire shows are simply amazing, and the bodies on the guys doing the crazy acrobatics and fire throwing make it even more entertaining. I would have to say the fire show at Ploy Bar is, by far, the best I’ve ever seen.

Jep's Restaurant, waiting for our speedboat

Jep’s Restaurant, waiting for our speedboat

The sand is only slightly whiter than I was when I arrived in Thailand, and the waters are almost always calm. Jep’s restaurant and bungalows is always my first choice of places to stay and eat. Their ridiculously extensive menu has very little in the way of disappointment, and I’ve eaten pretty much every meal there every time I’ve been there. It’s also this part of Ao Phai beach, just around the mermaid from SaiKaew, that is my favourite spot to lay out and chill out. It’s significantly less crowded than its neighbour and the chances of seeing Russians in Speedo’s decreases the farther from SaiKaew you get. But you will always see the one we call “leather woman,” who has been on Samet for at least 2 years walking her severely anorexic, brown old self up and down the beach.

UV Paint on the wall in Naga Bar

UV Paint on the wall in Naga Bar

The Lopburi crew went back as a final group trip of the year. It was a chance for us to cram ourselves into a mini-van together and leave our dusty town for some sun, relaxation and crazy nights on the beach. I couldn’t have asked for a better trip. While the sun didn’t come out until the day we left, we were all able to get a little too much sun (damn you clouds for making us forget sunscreen!) and a lot of fun in the sea tossing a (Canadian!) football in a circle for hours on end, or lazily floating on the surface of the calm waters.

But by nightfall, we all had our game faces on. Naga Bar ended up being our base and we stayed until the wee hours, when the bar staff

Drinking games turned photo shoot

Drinking games turned photo shoot

shut off the lights and the music and left us to our own devices in the dark. It was at that point that a couple people decided to get into the Muay Thai ring and have a go, having a seriously scary girl-on-girl fight that ended in bruised and damaged faces. Another night, we planted ourselves on the beach in front of Naga Bar to participate in what I could only call a teachers circle of seriously dangerous drinking games. (“Mango, mango, banana, banana,” “I’m commencing a yee-haw to my right,”) As well as card games made up on the spot left us entertained until weirdoes came and stood around us and dogs needed to be buried in the sand. The only thing left was to cover ourselves in UV body paint and dance like idiots until the early hours.

Acting the fool

Acting the fool

Despite my current plans to travel around the South of Thailand, I feel like my teaching career has come full circle in the past year. I started my TEFL on the shores of Ban Phe, and we had our last Lopburi hoorah on the shores of Koh Samet. Considering that it’s my favourite island, I couldn’t be happier.

March is Phoneography Month: A day in the life

While these aren’t from today, or yesterday, or even one day in general, I thought it only right to compile photos from my (now outdated, but still awesome) Samsung Galaxy 2 Android that best describe a day in the life of an English teacher in Thailand.

Hugs make this job worth it

Hugs make this job worth it

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March is Phoneograhy Month: Weird and Random

As part of Phoneography Month I’m focusing on some of the strangest things I’ve captured with my phone in Thailand. What else is having a good cameraphone for than to instantly take shots of things that make you raise your eyebrows and giggle out loud?

There are definitely a lot of random things I’ve captured throughout the year. Things that I can’t even believe I’m seeing. Here are a select few that make the cut as being ridiculously random.

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Found in a sticker book at the market… sold for kids…

6 more after the jump!

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Road Rage in Thailand

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There is only one road rule in Thailand: don’t hit anything.

Everything else is pretty much open to interpretation. Despite my failure at learning to drive at home, I’ve been driving a motorcycle in Lopburi for the past year.

On the wrong side of the road!

Despite everyone saying that everyone has at least one, *touch wood* I have yet to have an accident.  I have only 3 more weeks of driving left before I head off on another month long travel and then return home. I haven’t come off my bike, I haven’t laid it down, I haven’t gotten any scrapes or bruises from any sort of accident. I’ve definitely had some close calls, but beyond some insane driving from everyone on the road, I’ve steered clear of anything major.

But I’ve learned a few things along the way about driving here.

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March is Phoneography Month: Pets

As part of my continued participation in March is Phoneography Month, I’ve organized a collection of my Thailand pets. Seriously. Sometimes I think that people have a camera on their phone for one sole purpose: To show the world their pet.

I’m a victim as well. There are so many photo’s of my dogs Rocky and Buddy that I think my phone should just self-implode.

But since I’ve been in Thailand, I have had a chance to have, or help others have, some other amazing pets. First there was the kitten who was too young to be in a pet shop and whom my boss instantly adopted.

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Then there were some seriously adorable puppies who just helped themselves up onto our porch. A photoshoot ensued, obviously.

Then, the best of all, Jing Jai. (Means “real heart” in Thai)

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March is Phoneography Month: ‘Aww Yeah’ shots

Once again, I have a random addition to my forthcoming series of phone pictures, idea thanks to WordPresses Phoneography Month. These are ones that I’m proud of. That make my little camera seem like a God when it does things that I want it to do without even having to think about it.

Honestly, these are the pictures I’ve taken and gone “awwww yeaaaah” because it captured the moment perfectly and I didn’t have to rustle around in my giant purse to locate my point and shoot camera.

I’d also like to take a moment to announce that I haven’t, and will not, edit a single one of my phoneography pictures in order to more accurately emphasize the awesomeness of both the photographer and the camera. (Does this make me sound like I have a big head? Really, I’m just proud that my purchase of 2 years ago still continues to amaze me.)

Monkeys hanging out on a wire in Old Town Lopburi

Monkeys hanging out on a wire in Old Town Lopburi

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Say Cheese! March is Phoneography Month

A view of some ruins by the train station in Lopburi

A view of some ruins by the train station in Lopburi

So I’ve decided I’m going to participate in WordPresses March is Phoneography Month.

I’ve actually taken an amazing amount of pictures from my phone that I don’t even know where to start. But having this little beast in my pocket at all times always comes in handy, and always allows me to capture the moment spontaneously – if I remember that my phone even has a camera.

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I’m in the home stretch… and it’s kind of terrifying

I feel like I’m in the home stretch. The final month before classes officially end, the final lessons, the final goodbyes. March is going to be an awkward month. I’m still not sure if I’ll be working until the end of my contract considering that there will no longer be a summer camp. I don’t know if that means that I’ll be finishing up within the first week, and then spending a few weeks hanging around waiting for the vacation portion of my home stretch to start, or if they’ll find work for me to do and I’ll work up until the end.

People are going to start leaving. That’s going to be really hard: saying goodbye to people who were strangers a year ago that I’ve become so close with that I now consider my Thailand family. My roommate is going to be the first to go, planning on shipping out to Germany to live with her boyfriend as early as the 19th of March. My little heart is going to break.

The group, with a couple exceptions, at our Anything but Clothes Themed post-halloween party

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