Around the world

Around the world; a Nation Hopper's journy to teach on all 7 continents.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Car ride

I have my 'mean lifeguard' sunglasses on, my head pounds. The cab is thick with baby powder that forces its way up my nose and into my throat. I swallow hard, the taste of coffee is thick in my mouth. A taste I do not like, so why did I drink it? My stomach rolls with the rocking of the car. After nearly two weeks I still am not used to riding in the car. The wrong side of the car, wrong side of the road. It makes my head spin. Culture shock. 
I am sitting, slightly sick in the  passenger side of the car, picking the kids up from school. The only positive thing is its a solid hour of ac. The only ac I get in this hot sticky climate. Sure, I’ve lived in a hot and humid climate for a few years, never without ac. Out here, no one has ac. Only the hotels, or so I imagine. Culture shock.
A stray dog runs across the road, dangerously close to the truck. I bite back a hiss of fear. This is just one of the ten things that scare me half to death driving down the road. Culture shock. 

Tuesday, August 30, 2011


Today all of the mothers, Nathan, and myself drove an hour to Buriram (the city) to go to the big supermarket. Picture Walmart, in Thailand. They had everything, food, clothes, furniture, everything. An hour and 7 shopping carts later (the shopping carts were over flowing they were so full) we left to have lunch. Lunch consisted of real som tum (papaya salad that is REALLY spicy) with sticky rice, a soup with bits of pumpkin and other veggies, cabbage leaves, and fried bananas. Two things I didn't care for in the states, bananas and coconut/milk. Two things I cant get enough of in Thailand, bananas and coconut/milk. On the drive back to Nang Rong I saw a palm tree with spikes shooting out for about five feet on the trunk. I wish I could have gotten a picture but we were moving too fast.

A surprise is going out in a mail for a few of you. Expect to receive it in about a month (sucks that it takes so long to send letters). The girls helped decorate :)

Have not been sleeping the last couple days and it is not sitting well with me. Maybe tonight will be cooler?!

Yesterday when I got on to post, the top options of the blog were in Thai!! I freaked out, scared I had changed an option on the blog. I clicked every button I could but couldn't get to a new post. So today I enlisted Nathan's help since he could read Thai. It took us about 30 minutes to realise it was just the server and when I clicked one of the buttons (that I had already tried by the way) and BAM. The site was in English again. Tbbh. Oh well. Now I know to just keep clicking till it turns back to English!

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Arts and Crafts

Today all the kids came over to the big house to do arts and crafts with me. It was fun having everyone in the same house, and noisy, and insane at the same time. Sound in the living room bounces off the walls like a toddler in bounce house. The room was filled with laughter and too many voices to count. We also sang some songs and played cards in between the craft, which was coloring wooden cut outs of frogs, horses, mermaids and the like. Nathan helped me translate, but the girls already knew the songs (head and shoulders, and the hokey pokey) and the girls in the big house new the card games from earlier this morning.  We played go fish, slap jack, and speed. The kids really took to the card games. Thanks grandma for all the decks!

Thursday, August 25, 2011

More rain

Last night was aaaamzing, this morning is aaaamazing. It rained last night, and the temp dropped a zillion degrees and I was able to sleep, and I woke up not covered in sweat, and I can sit in the living room after my shower, next to an open window, with no fan on and not feel sticky!! Y'all don't know how happy this makes me. After not sleeping for the last 4-5 nights, and sweating buckets alll the time, this was much needed. I actually slept through my alarm, whoops, but I figure that was my body telling me it needed some extra zzzzzz.
I made a new friends yesterday:
-First is Nathan, he is Jack and Sue's son. He will be here for a while, defiantly until I leave for India. It will be great having him around. Not only does he speak English (obviously), but also Thai. He was translating up a storm for me and P Ui (I have learned that the proper way to address Mae Ui is now P Ui. But you HAVE  to say PEa, make sure the e is high and then drop the a. Otherwise if you just say pea, it means daemon). He has also asked if I would like to see the town and surrounding area and some legit old Thai Buddhist temples way up in the mountains, I said heck yes!
-Second is Ging
-Third is Pa (sounds more like Bah, but they said it was spelled with a p..)
-Fourth is Noon
-Fifth is Chan
-And sixth is Rut
They make the magic behind the curtain here (they work in the office). I had my second lesson with the staff yesterday. Speaking of which I really should be writing the next lesson plan... but this is so much more fun, right? No? are you sure?  Ok ok, I'll go write my lesson plan, yeesh.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Photo phun

Today was cooler then is has been, even though it did not rain, which was nice. Still wicked hot out. I asked Mae Ui if it was going to rain today, the clouds looked like they might spit a bit, but sadly no. 
The food has been outstanding. Mostly rice, tofu (meat for everyone else, usually pork, or fish) in a soup with veggies. At church on Sunday there was a coconut milk, on ice, type of watered down smoothie thing that was sooo good. My favorite sweet dish thus far. There is a lot of amazing fruit as well. Fresh bananas (that I eat by the pound, and I don’t even like bananas) small and regular size, rambutan, the little white grapes in fruit cocktail, and a native fruit that is suuuuuper mushy and smells funky (I did not care for this one). Mango is next on my list. 
I gave the older girls an English lesson today, May, Mint, Fai, and Noona. Have to find a good way to teach them how to spell, which many of you know is not my forte. Hahah that should be fine. 
When I got home the girls and I had some fun with photo booth, May was on a walk with Mae Ui. Below is Fai, Nat and Prea.

Sunday, August 21, 2011


Today I: Made new friends. Taught some English. Ate a bug, intentionally. Met an elephant.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Busy Saturday

I went to the super market today with Khun Ui. They have the two most important American products, Olay makeup and Pringles. Just kidding. But they do have a surprising number of American things. Listerine, Gillet razors, and M&Ms. Mae Ui and I took the truck, which has seats in the bed, we picked up Yi Et at the office on the way back. I wanted her to sit in the front seat of the truck, but she waved a hand away and pulled herself into the truck bed, she’s 80 something years old! So I climbed up to sit with her, Mae Ui asked if I wanted to sit in front. I told her no, that I wanted to sit with Yi Et, who was thrilled that I remembered how to say her name! 
I also got some paper at the supermarket to start preparing for the first English lesson on Monday, I’m very nervous!
After lunch Walai is going to take me to one of the other house to met the other girls. I’m trying to think of a good game to play with them. I’m thinking of Marco Polo, on land. Or I spy. I spy might be a good one to help the girls with their colors. Or Red Rover... I taught everyone how to play duck, duck, goose and head, shoulders, knees, and toes last night at a birthday party we had, everyone one seemed to like it. 
Speaking of the birthday party, all of the girls and staff came to the big house last night for a party. I was bombarded by new faces and had a super hard time remembering everyones name. It doesn't help that there are two Mint's, two May's and one Mai. They all sound the same to me, but I have been assured there is a difference. All the girls are super sweet and very very shy. I am hoping that after today the girls in the other houses will feel more comfortable with me.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Eating. The iternational language

What is it about new comers that makes us want to feed them? Every time I leave the United States, all anyone wants to do it feed me. At first I thought maybe it was the specific country I was traveling to, like it was a custom. 
But the more I’ve traveled, the more I’ve come to realize it is not just one specific country. You find it in Japan, Finland, Germany, Thailand, Holland, the US. I know my family is guilty of it. As soon as the exchange student steps off the plane, our first question is ‘how was the flight’. The second is ‘are you hungry?’. 
What is the appeal with sharing our food with others? Is it the fact that eating is something done around the world, a connecting point that does not have a language barrier? Or is it that warm fuzzy feeling of sharing something that is yours with a complete stranger? Maybe both? Maybe I’m off base and its something else entirely. 
All I know is that if you are going to travel, be prepared to eat. Isn't that one of the greatest perks of traveling, getting to experience new food in a new environment? Never before did I think I would be sitting at a table where little English is spoken, and even less Thai on my part, laughing, communicating and smiling with those around me. Food is a connection that can be made no matter what religion you are, what time zone you live in, or the color of your skin. It creates bonds that last for ever. I will never again look at Pad Thai the same way.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Nang Rong

Made it to Nang Rong. Goodness its sticky here. It’s not very hot, because of the rain but man is it humid, possibly more humid then Texas (which I did not think was possible). Pun and I went to the Foundation office first to meet the staff. I only remember a few names and have no idea how to spell them, but here goes. 
There is Walai the director, Khun Nun (the u makes a oo sound as in loot), Khun Lp, and Khunn Pet (like Peter with out the er). Khun is a polite title given to everyone, like miss, Mrs. and Mr. After meeting everyone Walai drove Pun and I to the house.
I met Khun Yi Et, one of the grandmothers, Khun Yi Op another grandmother (Yi is grandmother) and Ui (like when someone pinches you and you say owy) the house mother. Fai, Nat, Prae (sounds like play without the y), and Mai are the girls that live in the big house. 
The big house is currently the only finished house on the property, they are in the process of building two more. One will be done in October, the other one in December. I have a roommate, his name is Spencer. He likes to hang out on the ceiling, pictured above. He’s bigger then he looks in the picture, maybe a finger and a half. The girls brought me home roses :) They are sitting in a coffee jar on the table. Dinner was famous Pad Thai, vegetarian style with tofu! Can you say delicious?! There was also a fruit, the name of which I have forgotten. It was white, looked like a mango, and had the consistency of cream of wheat and mushy apple. The taste was sweet, with a hint of spicy undertone. I did not care for it. Pun told me that the fruit is normally served at a harder consistency....
I’ve retired for the night and had my first experience with a Thai bathroom. The Bangkok Christian Guest House had a westernish bathroom, the toilet and shower were separated by a sliding glass door. But in the big house, there is no separation. The sink sits on one end of the bathroom, the toilet on the other, and the shower in the middle. That’s going to take some getting used to.


I’m sitting in front of gate D 71 in Vancouver, waiting for the late plane to show up. I’ve had lunch, kind of figured out what's going to happen once I reach Hong Kong when a woman walks up to me. She is a late 60’s, little old Chinese woman dressed in khaki capris, white shirt, tan jacket, with a blue fishing hat and red scarf. She excitedly asks me if this is the gate to Hong Kong. I nod politely. It’s hard to hear her quiet, some what choppy English over the voice on the loud speaker who is anxiously calling for some passengers for a flight to Seoul. I lean closer to her. She is explaining to me how she has not been back to Hong Kong in fifty five years. Linda had been a single mom in Hong Kong before moving to Canada. She claims it was the best decision she ever made. She got a job, flat out refusing to live off of welfare. Linda informed me that in China it is disgraceful to live off welfare, ‘it cheats the government out of money and is just not something people do in China’. So she moved to Canada and got a good job to support her and her son. Her son is waiting for her in Hong Kong, he has been to China many times but this is Linda’s first time back. She is very excited to see her uncle who is picking her up from the airport. He is 80 years old. She is afraid with the three hour delay, her uncle will be asleep, in which case her 60 year old cousin will pick her up. She pauses and asks me if I have ever been to China. I tell her no, and that I was just passing through to Bangkok. Interested, Linda asks what I will be doing in Thailand. My answer, to teach English. Her face lights up. “It is very different for young women to grow up in America then in China. In China a young woman like yourself would not be living on her own, and would definitely not be going to another country for 6 months to teach English. I think this way is better.”  The conversations dies and Linda pulls out a map, muttering about how she does not remember her way around the city. A few minutes later she turns to me and asks if I have had any potato chips. I shake my head, informing her I had already eaten. She tells me that she has some potato chips if I get hungry.
 Conversations dies again. Linda flips through a magazine for a few minutes before she slowly starts packing up her bag. She gets up and teeters towards the door. “I am going to go to computer station and email my son, make sure he know I will be late.” Linda says.
 A while later I look up from my computer and Linda is shuffling away from the men's room, with a confused shake of her head she tried to enter the family bathroom. When that did not work she goes back to the men's room before a helpful teen points her in the right direction. She comes back out, wispy hair peeking out from the edge of her hat. Sitting down next to me, she informs me that she was not able to get on the Internet to email her son. Instead she bought a phone card to call him, but was not sure of the time difference and did not want to wake him up if he was sleeping. 
Poor Linda sits next to me, tensed up and nervous. She excuses herself, asking if I would watch her bag while she is gone before high tailing it to the restroom. When she comes back, she has a smile for me. “When I fly I get so nervous I throw up.” Poor thing, that was me this morning. She takes out a yellow stretching band to keep her hands and mind busy while we wait for the plane to come, shouldn't be too much longer.  The plane pulls in and after it de-boards six or seven policemen rush onto it, not what you would call comforting. While we wait Linda scoots over and points to Kelly who is playing on her ipad. “That computer is so small.” Linda whispers. I smiled. “It’s an ipad Linda.” I whisper back. We have a discussion about the ipad, she wanted to know how it worked. Kelly looks up and spins her ipad around to show Linda how to navigate on it. Linda is intrigued. She asks us where she can buy one, wanting to know if she should get it on the black market. Kelly and I immediately tell her no, but to go to the Apple store instead. Kelly looks up the nearest store to Linda’s cousin’s house and shows her where it is. The policemen get off the plane and we start to board. Kelly and I loose Linda in the shuffle. That was the last time I saw Linda.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Taxis and Airplanes

Holy cow. Well, I made it. It was a grueling 30 hours of travel time but I made it. I left off in Vancouver, with a delayed plane I think. Well the plane finally got there and when we finally boarded it was 5 pm, Vancouver time. I made two friends while waiting. Linda, who was so special she has her own post, which will arrive shortly, and Kelly.  The flight was excruciatingly long. I ended up in the aisle, which wasn't awful, I could get up and walk around as much as I liked. I mainly ‘slept’ and watched movies. There was quite a variety of movies on this flight. I remember there only being three or four movie choices and a few tv shows, but on this flight they went all out. There were 10 different movies and tv shows to watch. Which movies did I watch? I totally went for the kiddie movies and watched Megamind (which I love) and Gnomeo and Juliette (which was surprisingly good). The sleeping was less exciting, I don’t think it even qualifies as sleeping really. More like dozing in and out. Anyway, the plane lands in Hong Kong and I freak out. I don’t know what it was but all of a sudden I was doubting myself and the decisions I had made that got me to that point in time. Thoughts raced through my head, was someone going to be there to get me on a plane to Bangkok, what if I had to stay the night in Hong Kong, what the hell was I doing so far away from home?  I wasn't cut out for this, I had clearly made a mistake and needed to go home right that minute. As the line of people started to move off the plane Kelly came up behind me. “Come on kid, lets go get on a plane to Bangkok.” These words were my saving grace. I picked up my bag and followed behind Kelly like a little lost sheep.  
As promised there is someone waiting for us outside the gate. She, along with a few other airline people, were shouting different connecting cities. Kelly and I were first in line to get our tickets to Bangkok. I nearly had a heart attack when the woman said she had to talk to her supervisor about my visa, but apparently I misunderstood her. After getting our tickets Kelly and I booked it to the gate, which was hard to find. First we took the elevator down, then got on a train for one stop, then walked up and down lots of stairs, down hall ways, around stores (you will not believe the kind of stores they have in the Hong Kong airport. Chenlle, Gucci, Tiffanys, just to name a few.). We got to the gate with minutes to spare, and it was a 2 hour flight to Bangkok. This flight I actually slept. When we got off Kelly and I parted ways, she was catching yet another flight, one that did not leave until 7am, while I went through customs. 
Customs took a surprisingly short time. I exchanged some money and went to find my bags, with a sinking feeling in my stomach that they were not waiting for me. Sure enough my bags are missing. I spend half an hour in the baggage claim office trying to figure out where my bags are. The guy finally comes to the conclusion that the bags are probably still in Hong Kong. They should be flying in from Hong Kong at 11 am (it is now 2:30 in the morning Bangkok time. I’ve been up for God only knows how many hours). After that I walk down stairs, not really sure if Pun was still picking me up. I walked around looking for the sign she told me she would have. No sign of the sign, so I stopped by a travel desk and asked them to translate the name and address of my hostel, The Bangkok Christian Guest House, into Thai. 
With that piece of paper in hand I walked outside, ready to brave a taxi ride by myself. Note: I had never ridden in a taxi before tonight, and it has been on my bucket list for years. Score one for Manda :)
 Some interesting things about Thai taxis, they drive on the wrong side of the road/car (something that makes me very car sick and nearly die with anxiety), they do not believe in blinkers or driving in one lane, two or sometimes three lanes if the car is big enough. My first look at Bangkok passed by in a blur. I was terrified that the translator had gotten the address wrong. I kept imagining the taxi driving to Nang Rong, 5 hours away, or dumping me in a back ally. I worried that the guest house would be ‘closed’ and I wouldn't be able to check in, where would I go, what would I do? After twenty minutes of heart racing driving, and the urge to vomit and cry at the same time, the taxi man pulls up into a….. wait for it…. a back ally. And not a legit ally either. Like the bad kind your parents always warn you about. He starts speaking Thai and pointing to a building. I shake my head and pull out my notebook with the address in it. It was hard for him to understand me, and even harder for me to understand him. We both came to the conclusion that we were not in the right spot. So he starts driving around, asking other taxis for directions. We finally find the guest house. I ask him to wait, now fearing that the doors will be locked and I will have no place to go. But the doors are unlocked. I check in, get my keys, go up to my room, close the door, sit on the bed and start crying. Crying because it had been one hell of a long day, well two actually. Crying because the plane was late to Vancouver and I hadn't been able to cry at the airport. Crying because I have no clean clothes. Crying for no good reason. Giving myself a mental slap across the face  I do the only two things that make sense at that point in time. I take a shower and call my mother. So there it is. The exciting, suspenseful tellings of the first two days of my trip. Boy, the next 6 months has some pretty big shoes to fill.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011


So I get into Vancouver and after trying to navigate around this ridiculous airport, find out that my flight into Hong Kong is delayed by three hours... I only have an hour and a half from the time I get into Hong Kong till I'm supposed to leave for Bangkok, AHHHH! I am currently trying to find another Air Canada ticket counter to see what the blazes is going on and if I can get on a different flight. The airport is HUGE and my pack weighs a ton (Note: if you re going to travel over seas, dont over pack your carry on. I know you THINK you will need three note books, your make up bag, a computer, a book, a nook, and a three travel books but in reality you only need an ipod, a nook, and a computer. Trust me). Insert hysteric voice now.

Breathe.....Breathe..... Breathe....

Ok...  I'm going to brave the confusing terminal to see about my flight. Wish me luck and keep your fingers crossed that I dont have to spend a night in Hong Kong!

On a side note: the Vancouver airport has a waterfall in it. Win.

On another side note: Pumped up Kicks is the official song for this trip, I have a 'trip song' for every international trip I have been on. Dork alert!

Monday, August 15, 2011

Hello, Goodbye

The last month and a half have been so up and down, I’m surprised my head is still sitting on my shoulders. I would not have been able to make it through the car wreck, the syncope episode, moving, finishing up summer lessons, or almost having to push back the departure date without the incredible people in my life. I want to take a second and thank everyone. To all the lifeguards, the Aarons, Johnathin, Philip, Selin, Zoe, Brian, the front deskers, Jessy, Sammie, Ashley, the most amazing lifeguard supervisor, Beth Ann, the best roommate in the world, Kat, my wonderful family, mom, dad, Lex, Julie, Steve, Re, Liva, the Grandmas, Phil, Lisa, Tom, the boys, Victoria, Brie, my favorite patrons Jennifer and her husband George, and last but certainly not least Sue and Jack. I would not be sitting in this airport without you guys. I would still be in Austin, not about to board a plane, jumpstarting my dream. So thank you, thank you, thank you! Y’all mean the world to me, and I am so thankful to have you incredible people in my life. 
This is such a huge step, I can only hope that I am ready for it. I think I am, I feel ready, though not at the moment. At the moment I feel like up-chucking on the guy next to me. I’m nervous, excited and apprehensive all at the same time. But this is going to be good. No. It’s going to be GREAT, I’ve just got to get there first. The agenda for the day, first an hour to Phoenix with an hour lay over. Then three hours to Vancouver with a three hour layover. Then a 13 hour flight to Hong Kong and an hour and a half layover. Then a four hour flight to Bangkok. Just in case you were not counting that comes out to 21 hours IN the air and 7.5 hours in airports. Whew. But I’ve got plenty of paper and a book to finish, so that should keep me busy, and I have not yet been to a Canadian airport, or Hong Kong for that matter… 
Ok, enough chattering, I need to get on the plane. Lot’s of love! See y’all in 6 months. Keep an eye for lots of pictures and up dates. 

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Two more days!

Two more days! I'm so excited. I can. Hardly. Ahhhh!! Got my Thai visa last night (Yes, last night as in two days before I leave. Yes, I was pretty much chewing my fingers off in anticipation). So I am ready to go, with the exception of one or two quick errands. The excited butterflies are out of control!

I received an email from Walai the other day. She is having a friend of hers, Pun, pick me up from the airport and show me around Bangkok before accompanying me to Nang Rong. I am very excited to meet her and to see Bangkok.

My brain is so jumbled I can hardly concentrate, I'll catch you guys at the airport Monday morning.