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thailand

Songkran 2017

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I arrived in Thailand on April 11 and spent the day picking an apartment and shopping for some supplies that weren’t possible to pack such as laundry detergent, pillows, clothes hangers, etc. The next day I flew out to Phuket and then took a cab down to Khao Lak to meet up with some of my coworkers. April 12 was spent settling in at the hostel, exploring the town and having dinner by the water with a beautiful sunset. The next day, April 13, was Songkran which is the Thai New Year. In some areas of Thailand Songkran is celebrated April 14-15 as well since it is still the holiday period but where we were there was only one day of the water festival. We were really relieved about this because even though it was an incredibly fun experience by the end of the day we just really wanted to be dry.

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We bought cheap water guns at little shops and all along the streets establishments placed out large buckets of water for people to fill their guns or buckets with. It was just one gigantic water fight. We went to a bar that had the large gallons of water on the sidewalk and then there was a median in the street which is where we stayed for most of the day because the bar was playing music and trucks would drive by with people shooting and throwing water from the back. We were also aiming at the people on motorbikes.

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During this fest, if a Thai person likes you they will put a white or colored clay/paste on your face which you can see in some of these photos. It was just honestly such an amazing experience to get to have fun and feel like a little kid again. It is definitely an experience I’d recommend to everyone who comes to Thailand.

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thailand

Packing For Thailand

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My suitcases are currently open and exploding with items so I’ll have to update this post with a photo of them when I’ve completed the packing process. For now here is a photo of my travel themed tote bags (excuse the wrinkles, one’s been in use and the other’s been folded up in a suitcase for three weeks).

Step 1: Mix up a Natural Vitality Natural Calm Magnesium drink and dig out your suitcases. I decided to try to go with one 13″ by 20″ suitcase and one 17″ by 24″ as well as a carry-on backpack. I toured Europe for 35 days with just my small (13×20) suitcase in May 2016 so once again I’m attempting to travel at least semi-minimalistic.

I started with what was ABSOLUTELY necessary: my work clothes. (since that is why I am going there, to work, although I sometimes forget that because it’s going to be so beautiful and a lot of fun!). As a kindergarten teacher I will be dressing very conservatively abiding to their customs of dress pants or long skirt, shoulders covered and close-toed shoes. Luckily, I am blessed with an air-conditioned classroom. All of that clothing is black due to the recent passing of their king. This part wasn’t a challenge for me since I normally wear a lot of black anyway.

Step 2: Quick five minute meditation break. If I get overwhelmed I just quit and then put it off so I’m actively trying to prevent that from happening this time…

Step 3: I’m not going to be in an extremely rural area so most toiletry items I don’t really have to stress over because I’ll be able to find something. However, I did treat myself to a few Lush shampoo bars since they smell amazing and they’re super easy to pack on the go (I have a few mini island expeditions coming up) and it’s also another way to cut down on my bag weight (in comparison to bringing liquid toiletries). Additionally, while I am packing some makeup for special occasions, I plan on going bare-faced most of my time there since it will probably almost immediately melt off my face in 80-90 degree and extremely HUMID weather.

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One challenge I’ve been facing my whole life whenever I travel is squeezing in books. As much as I would like to be able to enjoyably read from a Kindle or iPad (and have tons of books in a tiny little electronic folder), it will never be the same to me as holding a physical book and flipping the pages. However, there is supposed to be a bookstore with English books about an hour from me which isn’t too bad so I tried to limit the books this time.

As for casual clothing for when I’m relaxing/traveling/not working/etc., I am really challenging myself to live with less. Not only will it relieve stress, but it will save me time I might have spent picking out an outfit. It will mean I’ll wear things more than once unless they’re really dirty which is something I’m already comfortable with and used to doing. I feel confident in my ability to work with what I have since I actually haven’t bought very many new clothes in the past two years. (This took a lot of work for me to cut down on clothes shopping since I like to keep up with trends and I felt like shopping was somewhat ingrained in me from my time working in retail).

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These are the shoes I’m packing. It looks like a lot because they take up a lot of packing space but I’m justifying it by the fact that they’re all necessary for different reasons/occasions. The top left are everyday work shoes while the heels will be for staff meetings, any day I want to change it up and also could be for going out after work. The rain boots are coming along because it is going to be the wet season in Thailand basically the whole time I am there so I want to be at least somewhat prepared for the weather. My Nikes are for running which I normally do 3 times a week and will also be worn for any hiking I might do. Finally, my super old Urban Outfitters sandals that are getting super worn down but that are crazy comfortable are for the beach or market shopping or pretty much anytime shoes.

I also don’t own a lot of jewelry or other accessories so I’m only packing my absolute favorites (a lot of which were actually gifts, I’m very lucky to have people in my life who understand my taste!). I’m packing a ton of hair ties since I’ll probably be wearing my hair up a lot in the heat and my hair just gets really crazy in humid weather.

Finally, I recently left my job at a health foods store so supplements are a big interest of mine and I happen to get sick pretty often but ESPECIALLY when traveling so I try to over prepare nowadays.

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Some people might not even pack this much and plan to get some of it from a 7/11 or something over there but I like to use a lot of natural products so I’m bringing a few. The top left corner is actually a prescription from my doctor for emergency cases of traveler’s diarrhea (fingers crossed I don’t need this!). That is also the reason I’m bringing the probiotic pearls because the strain of Lactobacillus acidophilus has been shown to be effective in preventing traveler’s diarrhea. The next two in the second row are to support my weak immune system. The Emerald lab multi vitamins I always take so I stocked up on a 6 month supply. Lifeseasons Pain Bloc-R is the best natural pain relief supplement I’ve ever tried-it’s very powerful and same goes for the Rest-ZZZ and I’ve tried almost every sleep-aid I’ve ever heard of. On the right side here are two natural sunscreen products which I’ll most likely run out of quickly having to reapply frequently and then mosquito stuff in the bottom row. The bug spray is by all means the worst product on this list and not even a tiny bit natural but everyone I’ve spoken to in Thailand has warned not to underestimate the bugs and to go for the sprays with the strongest chemicals possible to defend yourself. Although it goes against my better judgment living in the US, I have no idea what I’m getting into over there so I’ve armed myself with DEET just in case…

I didn’t have to buy too many things that I needed to bring but I did make one really BIG investment just now, a few days before my trip and that is what my next post will be about…stay tuned…. !

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thailand

1 Month To Go – Thailand

Step #1 in preparing to teach English abroad, I actually completed a year ahead of time – that was taking a course to earn my TEFL certification. This was a one-month full-time course I enrolled in immediately after graduating college.

My time at International TEFL Academy of Chicago was extremely challenging but also extremely rewarding. I was thrown out of my comfort zone completely during that month acquiring + practicing a completely new set of skills. I was recently reminded of how inspired I felt after teaching my first TEFL class + I’m very excited to have just accepted my first teaching position at a school in Thailand.

The shoutout to Maria (below) is especially relevant since I met her as an exchange student at my high school. She is from Poland and speaks very fluent English but every once in awhile would ask me questions about particular words or phrases and that’s what helped me to become aware of this passion I have for teaching English.

IMG_5468Upon accepting the position + hoping I’ve saved enough money, I gave my 2 week notice at my part-time job here + my plans started to feel much more real + imminent. So far there haven’t been too many unexpected realizations when it comes to preparing for my move but one of them was how many shots I needed! I was due for my tetanus + then needed 3 others specifically for the trip. One of them is two doses you need to receive a month apart, so luckily I began this process with enough time in advance. (Note: I needed this many for staying an extended amount of time – I assume you wouldn’t need all these if you were just going to visit Thailand for a vacation).

Here I am after the doctor said she was proud of me + before my bruises from the shots formed. 3 down, 2 to go in a month.IMG_5899The most difficult part of my preparation so far has been applying for my work visa. Long story short a lot of things went wrong on my trip to the Consulate but thankfully I had my best friend with me to assist with logistics + problem solving while making it a surprisingly fun trip to the city! IMG_5928I have one more visit here to pick up my passport + other materials next week when my visa is approved. IMG_5929Oh yeah…the only other thing left to do now is……..packing.

***UPDATE***

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My work visa has been approved!!! Now I just have to fit 6 months worth of stuff into a backpack and 2 suitcases (one small and one large). To be continued…