A New Foreign Experience

It’s been a while since I last posted, but it’s for a good reason! No one wants to hear about how I spent my quarantine reading books and watching movies. As soon as I got out of quarantine, I had to hit the ground running to get my life sorted out before school began.

I’ve been here for about 3 weeks now, but those first two weeks of being held prisoner in a cute, comfortable little hotel obviously didn’t count. I ran around like crazy for the following few days, looking for an apartment and finalizing my immigration stuff. As soon as that was all complete, I jumped right into training for my new job!

The view from my quarantine hotel room

Things here are very different from my experience in Thailand. There, I was more on vacation than anything. I was traveling to islands and hiking mountains, with a little private tutoring here and there. My full time job hadn’t started yet, so I was really free to do whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted.

Here, I was expected to start working quickly. My school had sponsored me to come to Taiwan, which is more or less required during these COVID times. They’ve guided me through the visa process, helped me find and pay for an apartment, and set me up with Taiwan’s national health insurance program. Without them, things would have not gone this smoothly at all!

I went through a few days of training and job shadowing, and now I’m teaching my own classes. Most of my students are very quiet middle and high schoolers, which is my favorite age to teach. It’s fun to watch these silent and awkward students slowly come out of their shells and become more comfortable in class. Since I’ve only taught a few classes, there’s not much to report yet.

My apartment is a cute little studio on the 5th floor of a typical apartment building in Taipei. There’s no elevator, so I’ll have some toned legs by the end of this year. I was lucky enough to find an apartment with its own new washing machine, a kitchenette, and an American style bathroom.

This was taken on the corner of my street. I love the little mountain in the background!

The apartment is about a 10 minute walk to the closest subway station. I’ve never once felt unsafe during my walks to or from the subway, even at night. Taipei is an incredibly safe town, with plenty of people milling about at 9 or 10 pm. Everyone just kind of minds their own business, but is polite and happy to help out a lost foreigner like me.

So yea, there’s no crazy jungle adventure or island hopping to report back about yet. The COVID world has just put everyone’s adventures on hold for now. I’m just happy that I’m back in Asia, and that I can soon begin more small-scale adventures on this neat little island. I can’t wait to share more with you all when I get more settled and comfortable in my new home!

New Country, New Name, Same Blog

It’s finally time to bring this blog back to life! In exactly two weeks, I’ll be in my new home – Taipei, Taiwan. I had no idea that this is where I’d end up, but I’m excited to start my new adventure.

To give you a sense of where I’ll be, Taiwan is a little island located off the coast of mainland China. Taipei, the capital of Taiwan, is well known for its supertall skyscraper, The Taipei 101. Since I don’t have any pictures of my own, I’ve included a map of the area and a picture of The Taipei 101.

Taipei, Taiwan. The tall, funky looking skyscraper on the left is called The Taipei 101

As you can see, I changed the URL and title of my blog to something a little more apt for my situation. At this point in time, I plan to be in Taiwan for at least a year. Seeing how last year went, however, who knows where I’ll be year from now.

I’ve never actually been to Taiwan, aside from a few layovers in the Taipei airport. This adds a new dimension of the unknown, which causes an understandable level of nervousness. That being said, my excitement for what’s to come overshadows this nervousness.

After a 20 hour flight, I’ll be quarantined in a designated quarantine hotel for 16 days. During this time, I won’t be able to leave my room under any circumstances. I was lucky enough to find a hotel room with a balcony, so I’ll at least have access to fresh air. I can’t say that I’m all that upset about not having to do anything for two weeks, though.

About a year ago today, things were beginning to shut down around the world. People were getting nervous, but I was still in Thailand. Little did I know, I’d be back in American within the month.

The year 2020 was nothing like what anyone had expected it to be. People’s lives, plans, and dreams were put on hold. We still don’t seem to have the luxury of having any sense of normalcy. When one situation dies down, another one rises. This past year has proven to us that nothing is promised and that not everything will go as planned.

I’m so excited to start my new adventure and to share it with you!

My Journey Back to America

It’s taken me a while to be able to open this WordPress app to write about this seemingly un-ending pause in my new life. Even now, I can feel the dull pain of the knife that is this global shut down cutting into the pit of my stomach. It’s so hard to see all the work I had spent the last year doing being ripped away from me. It’s hard to remind myself that it won’t last forever.

Before I go into the episode that caused my last-minute return to America, I’d like to acknowledge how incredibly lucky and fortunate I am at this moment. While things are far from what I’d like them to be, I’m in this comfortable house with loving parents who have supported me through this ordeal. I’m currently unemployed but I still have job prospects. I have a bed and books and plenty of food. The lengths that my parents have gone through to make sure my assimilation back into (quarantined) American life is something I’ll forever be grateful for. I’ll discuss that a bit later, but let’s jump into the stressful last few days in Thailand.

The visa situation in Thailand can be a bit convoluted. As an American citizen, you can enter the country on a 30 day tourist visa. After that, you can either extend your visa for an extra 30-60 days at a Thailand immigration office (but you can only do this once), or you need to leave the country so you can re-enter for another 30 days. After being in Thailand for 30 days, I extended my visa for 30 days, as my plan was to go to Korea in March and Vietnam in April. By May, the school that hired me would have had my work permit. These would solve my tourist visa problems. Of course, the virus thwarted those plans.

Thailand is known for having thousands of foreigners living on tourist visas. There are companies that will drive you to the nearest country so you can walk across the border, turn around, and re-enter Thailand for another 30 days. This turned out to be my next best option. I booked myself a round-trip bus ticket to and from the Myanmar border for about $25 and prepared myself for the 13-hour journey. It’s 5 hours to the border, 3 hours to complete your border run, and 5 more hours back to Chiang Mai.

The morning of this trip, I was comfortably seated on the bus, happily practicing the Thai language. About 30 minutes away from the Myanmar border, I decided to check my Facebook. I happened to scroll through my news feed, only to find posts that Myanmar had suddenly shut its borders down and that visa runs were no longer accepted. I felt my blood run cold and immediately looked around the bus for other foreigners. I could tell that they had just noticed the bad news as well.

I suppose that myself along with the four other foreigners on the bus were in denial. As soon as the bus pulled into the station, we all headed to the border on a red songthaew to see for ourselves. Perhaps the facebook posts were wrong. Maybe we could be exceptions to this shut-down. It was a solemn ride to the border. We were crammed into this small red bus, along with locals, a bike, and two boxes containing live chickens. We all seemed a bit on edge (especially the chickens). The Thai locals even seemed a bit quiet for their normal bustling selves. Of course, as soon as we reached the border, we were quickly turned away. There was nothing else we could do but go back to the bus station and wait for our ride back home.

Chickens and a bike on the back of a crowded Songtheaw

As soon as I got home, I realized that my power had gone out. Exhausted, sweaty, and defeated, I turned around and went to one of my favorite nearby restaurants. I ordered myself a giant Chang beer and tried to figure out what to do next. I e-mailed the U.S. Consulate and Embassy, I searched Facebook and forums to see what the thousands of foreigners that were in my same shoes were going to do, and I prayed there would be a way I could legally stay in Thailand to wait out the virus.

Thankfully, the power came on the next day, but that seemed to be the only good thing that would come. By around 10 a.m., I had received e-mails from the Consulate, telling me that I needed to go back to America ASAP. Through the tears and the multiple phone conversations with my concerned parents, I decided to book a ticket back to America. I was able to get the 3rd to last seat on a plane home for the next day. Within 24 hours, my life in my new home would temporarily cease to exist. I had to scramble to tie up loose ends and pack up everything I owned. I had to say goodbye to friends who were either also going back to their home countries or braving the storm in Thailand. I was heartbroken and scared. However, I was still under the impression that I’d be back in Thailand within a month.

The flight home was surprisingly not bad at all. I arrived at the Chiang Mai airport very early for my flight in case of crowds. Our temperatures were taken both in Chiang Mai and Taipei. After a 24 hour trip, I was back in America. No one checked my temperature or asked me questions in the Houston airport. They just checked my passport and let me back into the country.

For the next 14 days, I would need to be in quarantine. My parents were waiting at the airport in two cars – one for me to drive alone and one for them to drive back home together. In my car, I found water and snacks that were lovingly packed by my parents.

As I followed my parents home, I had to be extra careful to drive on the right side of the road. For the past three months, I’d been driving on the left-hand side! When we got to the house, I was met with an equally humorous and touching sight. My parents, along with the help of some neighbors, had sectioned off a whole portion of the house for my quarantine! There were double-enforced plastic walls blocking off the entryway along with my bedroom and my sister’s bedroom. In this sectioned-off bubble, they had placed a mini-fridge, a microwave, a coffee maker, food, and plenty of whisky.

My little bubble

I spent the next 14 days mostly sleeping and reading. I was just too sad to do much else. As the realization that I may not see Thailand for quite a while sank in, I allowed myself to just feel the hurt. My parents took extra care to cook me food whenever I wanted something, and to make sure I was comfortable. Their actions were not surprising, as their lengths to make sure my sister and I are happy have always been great. However, I will forever be grateful for how they helped me through this.

So now I’m home and out of quarantine. I’m free to go on walks or bike rides, and I’m able to cook and bake. I can drink wine with my parents and hang out with my cat. It seems that I have endless time to do whatever I want. My original plan was to spend most of my time studying Thai and finding some sort of income. Unfortunately, as soon as I open up my Thai books, I feel pangs of sadness. The weight of this situation has taken my motivation away. I will start to look for work, but will quickly be discouraged. While I am in an extremely privileged position, I can’t help but feel out of control.

At this point, all I can do is accept that this is the new normal for a while. The fact that I’m even able to write this shows that I’m getting out of my slump. Hopefully it’ll only go up from here!

Coronavirus, Cave Exploring, and Communicating with Locals

I just looked at my previous post and realized it’s been three weeks since I’ve written on here! When I think back on why it’s taken me so long, I realize that I’ve been really busy….and maybe a little lazy.

I’m an English tutor for the time being, until my actual job at a school starts in May. I teach SAT English, TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language), GMAT English, and IELTS (International English Language Testing System). I also teach some communication and grammar on the side. During this super exciting panic about the coronavirus (we’ll get to that in a bit), some schools in Thailand have shut down. March – April also tends to be a “summer” break for some students. Therefore, more students are going to tutoring classes. I teach many interesting people from Thailand, China, and Korea. Most of them are middle or high-school students, but I have some adults and young children too! While some of these classes can be tedious and challenging (some students don’t speak much English at all), it’s very rewarding! You begin to connect with the students and become invested in their success as English speakers.

So let’s beat the dead horse that is coronavirus for a second. You’d think that because Thailand is so close to China, we’d have a big problem. However, I haven’t seen much of a change in daily life. Every once in a while, I’ll get my temperature taken if I’m going to a crowded space. There’s hand sanitizer EVERYWHERE you look. Some government schools (we call them public schools in America) have shut down and major events such as Songkran (the Thai new year) have been cancelled. However, the grocery stores and markets are fully stocked and we have plenty of toilet paper. Maybe that’s because Thai people don’t really use toilet paper….they use a form of bidets.

If you watch the world news, there appears to be a mass panic everywhere that would make one feel like a second Black Plague was….plaguing the world. It’s odd to watch this panic over something so similar to the flu overshadow the concern we all had over Ebola, Swine Flu, or even the regular flu – all which, what I thought, were more deadly! It makes you wonder how social media has negatively impacted the spread of information and fear. Either way, I’m ok here in Thailand and there doesn’t seem to be much of a problem for us.

I WAS supposed to go to South Korea this month and I WAS supposed to go to Vietnam next month, but both of those plans went down the drain with all the toilet paper the rest of the world seems to have hoarded. For now, the Corona virus is nothing but a nuisance for me. I know for others, it’s much more serious. But for those worrying about me, I’m just fine!

So let’s switch gears to some more fun stuff! When I came to Thailand, one of my goals was to make friends with locals and learn the Thai language. I’m proud to say that I’m doing both of those things! Following through with these resolutions have put me in some pretty exciting and unique situations. I’ve found myself in a car with two Thai friends, driving through this gorgeous countryside until we get to a massive limestone cliff that we are able to rock climb on. I’ve found myself looking at 5,000 year old hieroglyphs on limestone walls and hiking 6 miles to these beautiful secluded waterfalls, saying hello to elephants along the way. I get to eat this delicious food on the side of a road while looking at some surreal landscape that you simply cannot find in North America. I can show up at a restaurant, be given heaps of food, and sing karaoke with the locals. During each one of these moments, I get a chance to stop and really appreciate where I am and what I’m doing. I sometimes think back on the stress of my old job at home and the worry I had about money. Those things are simply all gone now. I work enough to afford a comfortable living here (which isn’t much at all) and I get to have these once in a lifetime experiences.

As I’m slowly learning Thai, I’m having to get comfortable with looking like a complete idiot every day. Once I accidentally asked for china coffee instead of iced coffee. Thankfully, most people I talk to are so happy to help me along the way. One day, a waitress at a nearby cafe saw me practicing my Thai writing. She exclaimed, “ahhh so cute!”, and immediately started asking me questions about how long I’ve been learning Thai and how much I can understand. Now, whenever I go to her cafe, she teaches me new words and asks how I am. Even as I took a break from studying Thai to finish this writing, a local excitedly asked me about how my learning is going and how long I’ve been here.

So that’s where I am right now. I’m drinking in the joy of living on the other side of the world. I’ve found myself with many new friends and acquaintances, which has given me these beautiful and unique experiences that I simply wouldn’t have gotten in the hustle and bustle of American life.

Chiang Mai

I’m absolutely in love with this town. Everything about this place makes my heart sing. Of course, there are the not so great parts like the burning season (when the farmers burn their land to clear it for new crops and the smoke settles in our little town) or not being able to communicate clearly with many locals. However, I get by. I especially get by because I’m learning to speak Thai. I practice it at food stalls and my tutoring job. This has earned me many brownie points and a LOT of free food!

So I have a little scooter that I drive around town. It was a little daunting to drive in the chaotic traffic at first, but I got the hang of it quickly. Here, we drive on the opposite side of the road, we don’t necessarily wait for the red light to turn green, and we ALWAYS use our blinkers. One thing I’ve noticed when I’m driving around the old down is the sweet smell of jasmine and other flowers that fill the air. I don’t know why, but that smell just adds to the magic of this place.

I have a story that I think perfectly highlights the wonder of Chiang Mai, Thailand. It was the day that I had a 2 pm flight out to Krabi to meet up with my American friends. I was still battling jet lag, and found myself wide awake at 4 in the morning. I decided that instead of laying in bed, scrolling through social media, I’d do something a little different.

There’s a temple at the top of the mountain near Chiang Mai called Wat Phrathat Doi Suthep. It’s about a 45 minute ride up the mountain to make it to this temple. I called a Grab (Thailand’s Uber), jumped on the back of a guy’s motorbike, and braced the chilling wind up the mountain. It gets pretty chilly here at night and in the morning!

As we climbed up this steep, dark road, we passed runners and bikers who were also trying to make it to the top. My driver would point out vistas where you could see the lights of Chiang Mai from up high. After that freezing 45 minutes, my driver dropped me off at dark little village at the base of the temple. A few locals were already preparing for the day, and they pointed me in the right direction of the temple.

Words can’t really do this place justice (I think I said that about Krabi as well), so I’ll just add some pictures here. I silently wandered this sparkling temple and witnessed its monks chanting their morning chants. I was also able to watch the sunrise from a lookout point. It was all a pretty humbling, almost emotional experience. Enjoy the pictures!

Wat Phrathat Doi Suthep before the sunrise.
Monks’ morning chants
Adorable temple puppies
Orchid flower garden at Doi Suthep
A quiet sunrise on top of Doi Suthep
One of the MANY vibrant Buddhas in the temple. There are different colors that correspond with the day of the week.
A daytime view – look at those colors and designs!

After I was done, I hitched a ride in a red songtaew (somewhat of an open air bus/truck combo), packed my bags, and flew on out to Krabi. I told you, this place is magical.

Settling Into My New Life

As quickly as the care-free fun in Chiang Mai and Krabi started, it ended! I knew this would be the case, because ya girl is NOT made of money. Once I got home from Krabi, I started looking for jobs.

I quickly learned that finding a job here is pretty easy. I applied for a tutoring job about ten minutes away from my apartment, and that night, the company asked me to interview with them. It turns out, the interview was more of a 5-minute “when can you start because we desperately need an English speaking tutor” type of meeting. They wanted me to start the next day. I was a little surprised at how easy and quick the whole process was….but I was in for an unpleasant surprise.

My new boss told me in broken English that I would be teaching two Korean kids – a 5 year old and a 7 year old. They needed a new tutor because the previous tutor was “too high level” for them. I thought that meant that the old tutor was teaching them things that were too difficult. When I asked what they had been learning, my boss shrugged and said she didn’t know. That afternoon, I pulled out all of my material from my Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL) course and slaved away at a four-hour lesson plan for the next day.

When I got to class the next day, I was nervous. I was also confident that I had planned to the best of my ability – I had easy games and fun toys for these two sweet little kids! Turns out, I was wrong. Really wrong.

I walked into my classroom and found not two kids, but four kids. These kids could speak English pretty well, too. I brought out some flash cards and the kids breezed through them. At this point, they realized that I was going to be an easy target. Thirty minutes into this four hour class, the kids just completely stopped listening to me. They screamed and ran around, flickering lights on and off. One of them was sobbing because he was trying to play with LEGO’s while the others kept turning the lights off. Two of them kept locking themselves into another room. The rest of the staff at the school didn’t have keys to this room, so I would just have to wait until they’d come out. These kids were a nightmare. I was exhausted.

About three and a half hours in, I determined that these kids were not going to learn. At that point, I decided to just put YouTube videos of The Avengers on for them. This finally quieted them down until their parents came to pick them up. I had realized that the class was probably actually too “high level” for the teacher, not the students. They were mean and misbehaved because they didn’t want to be there.

I went home feeling defeated, exhausted, and isolated. This was the first time since I’d moved to Thailand that I felt like I was completely alone. Was I in way over my head? Was it a mistake to move here? Why did I think that teaching children would be a good idea??? I got a business degree, not an education degree!

My friends and family were literally on the other side of the world. I hadn’t made many friends yet and no one in my neighborhood spoke more than a few words in English. I had that terrible sinking feeling in my gut that just wouldn’t go away.

As uncomfortable and sad as I was, I knew I had to embrace these feelings. Brief thoughts of quitting and going back home flashed in my mind, but they were overpowered by the fact that this discomfort was only temporary. I told myself that I’d rather be feeling this short-lived discomfort than being stuck in my old routine back in the U.S. As awful and discouraging as my day was, I reminded myself that things could only get better from this horrible experience.

Of course, I reached out to friends and family, who sent me a tidal wave of love and support. They reminded me to keep going and that things would get better.

Things did get much better quickly. I only had to tutor the four kids for one more day and I had the power of YouTube to calm them down when they’d get unruly. My other students are bright young women, ages 14 – 30, who actually want to learn English. We’re able to have fun conversations about their lives and their interests.

I’m still working on my work-life balance. At the beginning, I was pouring too much time into lesson planning. Once I got the hang of time management, I was able to start adding social events to my schedule. I’ve found most of my friends through – you guessed it – the climbing gym.

So now that I have a routine, I’m starting to feel a little more at home. I wake up, go to a coffee shop to work and read, ride my motorbike to work, and then come home to some sort of social event or adventure. I still get uncomfortable a few times a day – but that’s to be expected. Things are so different here compared to America, and I have so much learning to do. I’m slowly learning some Thai as well as how to not look like an ignorant tourist.

Once again, I find myself wanting to write ten more paragraphs about the people I’ve met and the places I’ve seen. Each experience and meeting I’ve had seems to warrant its own post. I’m looking back at this exceedingly long-winded story, and I’m wondering how many of you have made it this far. For those of you who are still with me, thank you! I promise I’ll be adding some more exciting stories in the near future.

Things I’ve Learned So Far

As we all know, social media generally only shows the good parts of peoples’ lives. You see those beautiful beaches and tanned smiles. What you don’t see on social media is annoying jellyfish stings or people struggling to figure out how to use a thai washing machine at a laundromat. You don’t see those injuries or lessons in common sense, but you sure do experience them.

Here are some things I’ve learned so far in my new life in Thailand :

  • The fast lane in Thailand is the right hand lane, and people will let you know about it if you’re going too slow.
  • Thai people like to keep their money crisp, not crumpled
  • Expats can be kind of weird (that’s a whole other story in itself ).
  • Don’t hand a Thai vendor a 1,000 baht note that you got straight from the ATM. Get smaller bills for your 40 baht meal.
  • If you’re getting a Thai massage, expect an older Thai lady to hastily help you get undressed.
  • Expect to get pulled over by the Thai police if you’re a white person. If you don’t have your international driver permit, you WILL get fined (whoops…)
  • If you walk into a job interview for an English tutor position, and you speak English, you will probably start the job the next day. (By the way, I got a job!)
  • People here are incredibly trusting.
  • Expect tremendous amounts of hospitality from the Thai people.
  • Listen to your gut.
  • You’re going to get lonely.
  • You’re going to wonder if you’re in way over your head.
  • No matter how scary or strange things may be, they’re going to work out.

I’ve sure had my fair share of awkward and uncomfortable moments here so far. I try my best to laugh them off and embrace them. Thankfully, I’ve had plenty of help from friends and strangers to help me along the way (thank you, man at the laundromat). There’s no place I’d rather mess up than among the gracious and friendly people of Thailand. So here’s to many more mistakes!

It’s been a while!

I couldn’t help but chuckle to myself as I woke up in my Chiang Mai condo this morning and said, “well, back to normal”.

A view from my condo’s bedroom

After finding a long-term condo in Chiang Mai, I dropped my luggage off and hopped down south to the Krabi Province to meet up with an old college roommate, Maddie. She’s been living in Taipei for the past year and a half, teaching English. I spent five days experiencing the hostel life in Ao Nang and Koh Lanta with her and another friend of hers. Those past five days were absolutely unforgettable. The people I met, the things I experienced, and the food I ate have left their crystal-blue mark on my heart forever.

You know those surreal Microsoft desktop screen savers of huge limestone rocks jutting out of an impossibly blue ocean? That’s where I was. I’m not exaggerating when I say that my breath was taken away by the view at least three times a day.

On the way to Railay Beach

The first full day we were in Krabi, we rented motorbikes (sorry Mom and Dad) and drove up to a mountain temple called the Tiger Cave Temple. In order to get to the actual temple, you needed to climb up 1,260 sweaty, painful, uneven steps. There were times up this steep jungle ascent that you wanted to throw up or just turn around – the climb never seemed to end.

Thankfully, there were distractions – hundreds of other travelers were suffering and laughing with us along the way. Fearless monkeys would jump on your back and try to steal anything they could grab from your backpack. They knew they could get something from you either with their charm or stealth.

This lil man getting ready to climb up my arm

After what seemed like agonizing hours, I reached the temple at the top, and you guessed it, my breath was taken away. This massive golden Buddha was benevolently watching over all of the Krabi Province. You could see for MILES (or as the Thais would say, KILOMETERS). It was incredibly peaceful up there. No one spoke. The only thing you could hear was the wind whistling through your hair. Occasionally, someone would ring a giant brass bell, which left a hauntingly beautiful ring humming through the temple. I don’t know if it was just me, but that bell’s lingering noise shook me to my core, almost bringing me to tears. Words cannot describe the beauty of what I saw on the top of that mountain that day. The pictures I have don’t do it justice, but it’s the best I can do for you.

Views from the top of the Tiger Cave Temple that made you forget how much your calves and butt were burning. Also, HOW did they get that giant Buddha up there??

Another unforgettable part of this trip was the people. Thankfully, one of the girls I was with, Sierra, has to be one of the most extroverted people I know. Making friends was easy when she was around. In Ao Nang, we stayed at a Hostel called K-Bunk and everyone there was absolutely remarkable. The Thai ladies working there, B and Cherry, were beyond hospitable and fun loving. The guests were around our age, and were from anywhere from Indiana to England to Norway. The fourteen of us banded together to get a private long-tail boat tour of the islands. We each paid about 40 USD for a 12:30 pm – 8 pm long-tail boat tour. That day was nothing short of magical.

Our long-tail boat

We all crammed ourselves on this charming, traditional Thai long-tail boat and motored off to one of the best days of my life. We visited multiple islands, exploring the white sandy beaches, snorkeling through lively reefs, and climbing overhanging cliffs. I think I asked, “how is this place even real?” at least ten times. At the end of the day, we stopped at Railay Beach for dinner and the sunset. By then, our group was drunk with wonder (and a few beers), and we laughed our way through caves and “secret” lagoons. The sunset there was like nothing I had ever seen – I didn’t think it could get any better….but then it did.

Sunset views at Railay

We were ushered back onto the boat after the sun set, and we found ourselves in a pitch black bay. We were instructed to jump into the water for the final event – bioluminescent plankton. As you could imagine, we were all a little apprehensive. “You want us to swim around in this pit of blackness?” Curiosity overtook our fear, and one by one, we put on our snorkel masks and jumped into the obsidian-dark water.

Jumping into that water was one of the best risks I had ever taken in my life. My heart swells when I think about our night-time swim in that bay. I dunked my head in the water and saw millions of iridescent blue specks floating around me. I felt like I was floating in space, surrounded by bright blue stars. Suddenly, the fear that I could be swallowed by the darkness was overtaken by absolute wonder. Every once in a while, I’d take a break from staring into the dark ocean to look up at the sky. The night-time sky looked like it was filled with bioluminescent plankton itself. The stars were incredible. You’d just be floating there, looking up at a massive limestone cliff, backlit by a myriad of stars.

That boat trip was easily a highlight of my trip, and at this point, my life. The day was filled with absolute beauty, laughter that hurt your stomach, and new friends.

Of course, there was so much more that we experienced in my five days in the Krabi Province. I haven’t even covered Koh Lanta, which I’d describe as Thailand’s own Jamaica. Considering how long this post is, Koh Lanta will need its own post. I’ll put an end to this post for now – I’m currently sitting in a trendy little coffee shop a minute’s walk away from my condo and I need to find a job!

My current situation 🙂

Goodbye for now, friends! Here are some more pictures that I couldn’t seem to fit into the story:

My new international friends!
Snorkeling in crystal clear water

I’m Finally in Thailand

After 21 hours of travel, I’m finally safe and sound in Chiang Mai. It’s funny how flying through the air in a giant metal tube can mess with your sense of time. I left Houston on January 18 at 11:40 p.m. and landed on the other side of the world on January 20 at 10:50 a.m. It really felt like the time I spent in the air never actually happened. I’m not exactly sure what I did for the first 16 hour flight – I didn’t sleep much, but the time just seemed to pass by.

Oddly enough, I wasn’t even tired when I got to my AirBnB. I wasn’t sure what to do, but it was liberating to know that I didn’t HAVE to do anything. I was on my own and had absolutely no obligations to anyone or anything but myself. So far, I’ve been totally okay with the idea of being completely alone on the other side of the Earth. I guess I’m still waiting for the realization that I am in fact alone, on the other side of the Earth, to kick in.

It’s now almost 7 p.m. in Chiang Mai. I spent most of the hot afternoon in my AirBnb, taking stock of my belongings and figuring out what I needed to take care of to begin my life here. Once it got a little cooler, I walked across the street to a Thai massage parlor, spent $10 on an hour long massage, and then wandered around my new neighborhood. The heat was gone and what was left was a cool, dry air that invited everyone to walk the streets. I paid $2 for dinner, stumbled upon a dog cafe, and wandered some more.

I’m sure I’ll soon add another post that includes a detailed rambling of what I saw today. For now, I just wanted to let you know that I’m safe, I’m happy, and I’m home.

A view from outside my AirBnb
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