Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Animal Farm

Once again, we hope everyone had a very Merry Christmas! And happy almost New Year! How in the world is it almost 2011? I still remember the fear of Y2K like it was yesterday. Ah poor little 13 year old Natalie with her velvet overalls was so scared. Anyways, our experience here has continued to present us with a fair share of challenges, and we keep overcoming them. I worry sometimes that I am becoming paranoid, every time someone talks to us I am afraid they are going to say something bad! But, we continue to learn and expand our comfort zones. And I am VERY proud to say that we have even had the extra energy and internal resources to have done some volunteer work (in a sense).

Monday, December 27, 2010

Christmas: Part Nueng (One)

Hello family and friends! We are planning on writing a longer post about our whole Christmas experience, which was pretty insane. We didn't get around to it yet, but I did put together a video of a small but really fun part of it, a trip to the aquarium and zoo. As you will see we got to hold orangutans and "baby" tigers!! The first crazy part was that it only costs seventy cents to do so. The second crazy part was when we realized that even for so little, we might have gotten more than we bargained for when the tigers started nipping and swiping at us! The camera was put down quickly when it started happening, but you can still catch some glimpses of the situation.

Make sure to check back in a day or two (or just subscribe for automatic updates near the top left hand side) to get the full story of our day. Much Christmas love to everyone, and Happy Happy New Years!!!

If the video isn't playing here, double click on it to play directly in Youtube. 

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Thanks for the love, and Merry Christmas!!!!!!!

Ah, THANK YOU so much to everyone for their outpouring of love and support after we covered some of the hard times we've experienced lately! We really appreciate everyone who's reached out, even when we are so far away; each message has made both of us smile and feel infinitely better. Many of the people at our school have also been very supportive, which feels great! We were even told what great teachers we are, which is nice because in general people in Thailand are not very open about giving praise.  Personally, we are trying to stick together and have bounced back from negative emotions really quickly.  Living and working sure has given us a lot of opportunities to learn and grow.

While we have been missing out on a number of treasured holiday traditions, we have had fun teaching the kids about Christmas (I have gotten better about teaching them songs haha) and have gotten a bit into the holiday spirit. We have been making Christmas ornaments which the kids LOVE and we continue to settle in and tweek our teaching styles to be more effective. We also may or may not be having a Christmas celebration tomorrow, we will update about that too:) I went to a yoga class last night, which was especially meditative because it was all in Thai. It was fun to be the only farang doing yoga in a class of middle-aged Thai women. I also have gone to an aerobics class at my school a couple nights, which is always fun. It is the closest I have gotten to dancing lately. But this will change in a week when we go to the islands for New Years!

We both miss our families so much! And a special shout out to my brother Clark who just finished college at UC Davis with a degree in civil engineering, and Weston just finished his first quarter of college at UC Davis. I am sooo proud of both my brothers and love them with all my heart!

I hope you all have a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year (as I'm typing this I am singing it in my head!) and Graham and I are sending love from Thailand!

Monday, December 20, 2010

UPDATE - New Pictures: It was supposed to be so eeeaasssyyy

Click Here for the picture gallery that goes with this post!
Today's Theme Song: Here 

Oh my gosh today has been one of those days, ugh. While both Graham and I try to be positive about our experiences here (and life in general) the flood gates of ick really opened on us today. So to all of you who may be a bit bored at your jobs, wondering what the world has to offer, let me tell you-what you got isn't so bad trust me! Today we suffered the consequences of simple mis communications that have resulted in a day full of frustration. No one can be blamed, but the inability to speak with people here, coupled with layer upon layer of social customs and norms, can be incredibly difficult to handle. And then we have some lingering problems in the states, which also sucks, especially when we both worked so hard to clean our slate for our time here. Ah, life, sometimes you are a....um, difficult. Thank you so much to our parents back home, especially my mom, Lynn, for all of their help making this whole dream (right now it seems like a nightmare-were we crazy to come here? sometimes I think so!) a reality. Teaching has also been very challenging at times. Today I actually had to hide some tears, as I dodged things getting thrown at me as I sulked out of my classroom. After trying so hard, walking around singing "We wish you a merry christmas" like a total idiot for an hour, with the kids being so loud and disrespectful, I could not but momentarily give in to the stress and cry quietly behind my fake purple RayBan glasses.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Island Fever

Koh Larn from the sky
Last weekend we traveled to an island and met up with several fellow members of the teach-abroad organization we came here with. The island was called Koh Larn, and it is a couple hours bus ride from Bangkok, and then another half an hour ferry. Because it is relatively close to the Capitol it was rather crowded with revelers who came for the day, but after 4pm the beach cleared out and it felt like we had the island to ourselves. Of course nothing here is quite as straightforward as it first sounds...

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Indiana Jones Adventure

This weekend was a three day holiday to celebrate the birth of the King. Although Thailand is politically a democracy, it still has a monarchy which theoretically holds broad sway. The current king has been in power for ages and is very well loved, mostly because he uses the benefits that accompany his role to do good. There are some crazy rules regarding the king though, like is you step on his image you will go to prison for the rest of your life!

 We heard one story about a teacher being fired after he dropped a coin with the kings image in front of the class and stepped on it to stop it from rolling away. There was also a traveler a couple years ago that spray painted a picture of the king, and was sentenced to life in jail. He was eventually pardoned by the king however, who stated that he hoped prosecutors would relax a little when it came to such matters.

Anyway, thanks to the King we had 3 days to explore this amazing country......

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Karaoke and Suphanburi

Sunset from a cool little bar over the reservoir by us
Happy belated Thanksgiving to all the American's that read our blog! We hope that it was a truly great holiday weekend for everyone!!!

Graham and I were so sad to not be with family this year :( I enjoyed skyping with everyone but missed experiencing my family's crazy antics in person, although they did a great job of making up for it throughout our entire call. Graham especially missed not being in the States for Thanksgiving, because it is his favorite holiday, and the food his favorite. Poor guy did manage to make pretty good mashed potatoes by boiling them in a hot water heater though, which I thought was very inventive of him. We were joined by our American friend Katie, and our English friend, Jessica, and had and  a nice "Thanksgiving" dinner of pasta, mashed potatoes, and fried chicken, so not all was lost.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Loi Krathong Festival-Our Night as Popstars

Hundreds out of thousands of flower boats which were floated away for Loi Katron
Note: We will do our best to make sure that the first picture in the post always links to the full gallery, while the rest will just link to larger versions of themselves.

Loi Krathong is a Thai festival to thank the goddess of water for the rainy season, and offers celebrators a chance to symbolically let go of all their grudges, anger and defilements to start life anew on a better foot. For us it meant these things, but it also meant an awesome party at our school! We arrived straight from Bangkok into the craziness, and as we were walking past tons of lights, with multiple sources of music blaring in the foreground, we felt as if we were walking to a rave or something.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Five Year Anniversary In Bangkok and Meeting some New Friends

From the rooftop restaurant where we rang in our 5 years together!

We hope everyone is doing well! It is yet another very tired Monday. I just taught 2 classes and Graham is teaching his third class right now. Only a couple more to go! The good news is the reason we are so tired is because the end of last week and this weekend were incredibly fun! I guess I will start at the beginning (a very good place to start...)

Friday, November 19, 2010

The Best and the Worst

Group of guys, including a monk, hanging out and watching a soccer match.
I have been wanting to write this post for awhile because, like most adventures, this one has pushed our usual range of happiness, sadness, and every other emotion to the poles. There are so many fantastic things we are experiencing, but definitly a fair share of difficulties to accompany them. Here therefore is our list so far of the Best and Worst of Thailand.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Exploring Our City, Dan Chang

Another (hardly) manic Monday. I am sitting here in the computer lab, feeling slightly high from all the paint fumes I am inhaling. Poor kids, I wonder how they are learning anything today. We had another very good, very short weekend (isn't that always the case?)

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Life in Dan Chang

There are so many little things that are different about life here. In this post therefore, rather than focusing on any larger experiences, we wanted to zero in on some of the details of daily life. Warning: this may only be interesting for our more hardcore readers.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Thailandish Weekend Warriors

Soooo, we just got back from yet another sweet weekend in the town of Kanchanaburi. Prior to the weekend we had another busy week helping with spelling bee word pronunciation, feeding puppies, and eating an amazing dinner hosted by our new friends James and Taygan (local falangs, the Thai word for foreigners with white skin, who we are soo happy to meet!). The range of emotions I have felt (and that I know Graham has felt) since we got here has been really all over the map. Last week was hard because English teachers are being shuffled all around, and we never know what exactly we are supposed to be doing. I feel like I am already pretty go-with-the-flow, but seriously after this I could be a Taoist teacher. Either that or I might turn into a water puddle, I'd go with the flow so much! Life in Dan Chang is treating us well overall though.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

First Week Of School and Weekend in Bangkok

Last week was our first one teaching, yet it already feels like a lifetime has passed since then. We were picked up by our coordinator bright and early that Monday morning, with the expectation that we would be given a tour of campus and get some paperwork sorted before starting our classes on Tuesday.  When we arrived at school our first impression was that it was a lot bigger than either of us imagined. There are a total of 1400 students who go there, all in grades K-6th, making it by far the largest school in town. Most of the infrastructure is basic, but there are obviously a lot of buildings and facilities to host that many students, and most of the campus is very green and beautiful.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Ayutthaya: The Capitol of Siam

Hi Everyone!

Again, so so much to report! We had the most amazing weekend visiting the ancient capitol of Siam, the city of Ayutthaya. After taking a couple days to explore our new home, Dan Chang, and the area around where we live, we decided to take advantage of our long weekend and take a vacation from our vacation. One of our new friends, Ben, and our coordinator, Dick, drove us there on Friday morning, which was very much appreciated as it meant not having to figure out the buses.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Finally Settled In

Graham and I have finally settled into our new home, and I have to say that I am STOKED! We are living in a cabin campsite and each have our own little room and shower. But, the best part is that we are right on a beautiful (and currently very fast-moving, as there has been lots of flooding around Thailand the last week or so) river, and the grounds of the place are beautiful, complete with hammocks, outdoor eating areas, and lots of picnic tables and plants and trees. We are a bit out of town, but it is nice to get away from the city a bit, where we live feels very rural. But our little city is great too.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Beijing and First Days in Thailand

Hello!!!!! Finally was able to find a decent internet connection, so I wanted to update, although I only have about 10 minutes till this place closes. The bottom line is that Natalie and I are having an amazing time! Thank you to our families for sending us off in such great style. We miss you all a ton. (Meghan, the camera you got me is amazing, as you will see in the pictures, and thank you Lynn and Jim for taking care of Gazzette, our cars, and for our going away party and for driving us to the airport! The leftover cake lasted us a couple days, and was always a nice treat)

We plan on writing with more detail once we are more settled, but quickly:

Beijing - Amazing modern city with not a single car that was more than a year old. Our couchsurfing host, Darlene, showed us the best time ever, and we saw way more than we ever could have without her. The Forbidden City was definitely up there with the Vatican, Grand Canyon, Yosemite, etc. as one of the most amazing things I have ever seen. Everyone we met was super sweet, and overall just an awesome time, even through our dreary eyes.

Thailand: Amazing - we have already met so many cool people and eaten a TON of good food. The program is fantastic and we feel like we are getting a lot of great training and being very well taken care of.

They are shutting down so thats all for now!  Check out the pictures though, and will write more soon!

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Beijing Debacle

As mentioned previously, we planned a 24 hour layover in Beijing on our way to Bangkok. We were going to see the Forbidden City, Tiananmen Square, and hopefully even the Great Wall. All preparations instantly snapped to a standstill however when we discovered that even to just leave the airport, you need a Chinese visa. Our first reaction was to try and change our flights – total cost: $300. Next we looked into staying in a hotel inside of the airport – total cost: $120, and a depressing way to start our trip. Finally we decided to just bite the bullet and pay $140 each for Chinese visas that we will only be using for one day. Luckily we have been very fortunate to find a couch surfing arrangement, so the good news is that we will have someone local to point us in the right direction, and a free place to crash (thank you Darlene!) So Beijing, here we come!

Other than that, preparations are going sooo smoothly that we both keep worrying there must be something we are forgetting. My last day of work is on Thursday, and I am still in a complete state of shock; the fact that I will not be coming in on Friday because this era of my life is over, and I am about to travel to the other side of the world to a place I have never been, and teach students whose language I don’t understand, in a little village that has monkeys scampering and elephants stomping though the streets…..it just hasn’t sunk in. I will let Natalie speak for herself, but I think it might have set in for her, poor girl J!

Anyway that’s it for now. Thank you to all of those who are following our adventures- we will do our best to make it interesting!

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

I'm a (half) blogger

I have been an avid journal writer for years, and here I am writing a blog, kinda weird for me! Having an audience. I better work on that GRE vocabulary....

Anyways, I am hoping that I/Grahamalie will have an interesting story to tell. I hope so for your sake, I don't want to bore you to death with we'vehearditbefore stories, but also for my sake. It has been pretty overwhelming getting everything ready for this adventure. We bought our plane tickets, and Graham was all excited and giddy jumping around like a school boy, and there I was, sobbing, holding on to my growling cat, like the true cat lady that I (kind of) am. But seriously, the thought of being away from my loving family, and all of my amazing friends, and our animals, and my beloved oakTOWN made me almost want to back out of this whole thing, something I have been dreaming about for years. But, all tears aside, I am insanely excited. I am figuring out car insurance holds, banking abroad, living situations, and work, and it all seems to be falling into place. Everyone so far has been so supportive. I guess this really is the right time.

I have had a few people ask me about the program that Graham and I are going with, and why we chose Thailand as our temporary home. Well, we are traveling with an organization called CIEE, which our good friend Susan (sup Susan!) recommended to us. She also taught in Thailand, and I spent some time looking at her pictures and being really jealous, and inspired to do something similar, (or exactly the same, in this case. Well, not really, we will be in a different town) in spite of my reservations about leaving a great job and a great situation. In order to do this program in Thailand, we did not need to speak Thai, all we needed was a college degree and some good recommendations. It also seemed like a good length of time; enough to really experience something new, and soak up a new culture, but not so long that we will come back grandparents or anything. Just enough to get our feet wet, so to speak. Also, and maybe most importantly, it was something we could afford, and Graham and I have had Southeast Asia TOP on our list of places to travel to for years. Everyone just has the most amazing things to say about the area, and Thailand.

On an entirely different note, we just got back from Burning Man, and it was incredible. It was by far the most exotic place I have been to. Mars, seriously, has nothing on Burning Man. Unless mars is inhabited by seriously insane Martians. Wow, my first post and I am already writing about Martians. Either this blog is going to be highly entertaining or flat out senseless. I am hoping the former. If you have not seen a perfectly welded statue of a woman dancing that lights up at night, or a remote controlled car has never driven up to you with a "Have a beer" sign on it (and a beer, naturally), or if you haven't experienced 1 ton of explosives blow up an entire art installation, you have not lived. Trust me on this one!

So, to sum this post up. We are not in Thailand yet (one month) but we have my amazing friend Traci watching out for stuff while we are gone. We are getting all of our ducks in order (is that the right saying? Or is it...oh, ducks in a row! duh!) and spending some treasured time with some of our incredible friends and family who we are going to miss so much. And, of course, I am spending some time relaxing in my beautiful sunny apartment, with my adorable cat, (and beta fish and frogs too of course!) reflecting on the past phase of my life (which I designate as the time since I have graduated from college until now, pretty much) and the one yet to come. I hope everyone enjoys reading this! I wish I could see each one of you on a daily basis, it sucks missing so many people all of the time. I love you guys and miss you already, even though I haven't even left.

I guess I need to get better at developing a "thesis" and sticking to it. OOps. OXOXOXOXOXOXOX

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Getting Ready To Go!

We just bought our flights and are super excited! We will be leaving October 11th, arriving in Beijing on the 12th, staying for almost 24 hours to quickly check it out, then flying to Bangkok on the 13th. Our first week there, we will be given an intensive training on everything from the culture, to the language, to how to teach English!

We still don't know the exact date that we start teaching - sometime around the beginning of November we think. After five months of teaching we are going to travel around Laos, Cambodia, and Vietnam for about a month, then fly to the Philippines for a week or two.

Our goal is to update this blog at least once a week, since apparently they have internet in the town where we will be living (HERE are the details on our teaching assignment). You can follow our adventures in several ways. The easiest is probably by subscribing with your email address on the left hand side of the screen where it says Follow. If you have Twitter, you can also use that to get updates, and every time we post a new entry here, it will update to Facebook.

We are both very excited, kind of nervous, but overall ready to embark on a great adventure. Thank you for your interest, and wish us luck!

P.S. The above picture highlights the part of Thailand we will be teaching in (Province of Suphanburi, town of Dan Chang). For a more detailed view of the country, HERE is a good map. Additionally if you are insanely interested in seeing what the future holds for us you can check out THIS BLOG which was written by a couple who embarked on a similar adventure teaching in the same town about a year ago.

P.P.S. Come and visit us!!!!!!!
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