Monday, December 27, 2010

A season of friends

The holidays for most people mean getting together with family. This was my fifth (i think, correct me if im wrong mom) Christmas holiday spent away from my family. I know some people will say but your Jewish! Thats true, but I did grow up spending this time with family, and in America even for a Jew this season makes you want to spend time with family.  I'm not sure if we have spent Thanksgiving together in a while either... dont get me wrong, we still get together and celebrate but we do it on our own time, Christmas in January! I almost think I like that more, we pick the day when we get together.
It can be hard though when everyone around you is getting together with family. I have been extremely lucky to have an amazing friends who always take me in and let me join their families for the day.
This year was actually easier than being in the states and away from my family. In America you cant forget Christmas is coming. In fact it seems to come earlier every year! Back home we are surrounded by people getting ready for the holidays. I like this time of year back home, its fun and festive, and I like trying to find the perfect gifts for people. But when you are surrounded by Christmas you cant forget its Christmas. Since Thailand is a Buddhist country your not reminded at every turn its Christmas. It just feels like a normal un-festive time of the year and, for me at least, that makes it much easier not to be around family because it just doesn't feel like the right time of year.
I forget how important this time of year is to people and how much they want to be with family. I felt like a fly on the wall watching my friends experience their first Christmas away from home. I know it was a hard day for them but for me it was a great day. I spent Christmas eve with Jeff and our friend Ashley, we went to Sizzler for Christmas eve dinner, splurged on steak and a bottle of wine and then walked around an open air market. Christmas day was spent in a tiny beach town, where we met up with a few more friends. We found a local 'farang' bar where there was Christmas lights and Christmas music playing. Ashley brought her computer and we all took turns skyping home to spend Christmas with our families. For me it was perfect, good food, good drink, and good friends. I love my family but we are always going come back together, for me i dont need a day to tell me to do that. Family is family, but friends are the family you choose.
I know there are going to be many more Christmas seasons I will not spend with my family, but for me this season has kinda become a season of friends, and I sure do have amazing friends!

These pictures are what we found of Christmas in Thailand. 

A condom Santa at this awesome restaurant in Bangkok.
Everything was condom and safe sex themed. Majority of the
proceeds from there go to raising safe sex awareness around 
the country. The food was really good too!

There was this huge Christmas display outside of a mall in
Chonburi. These little girls were dancing around on this huge 
fake keyboard.  

Again in Chonburi. Merry Christmas!  

Christmas eve dinner. It was super good! Its so hard to find
good American food over here.

Merry Christmas! Me and Ashley messing around Christmas 

Christmas on the beach.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Stranded on a Dessert Island

Dreaming of Oregon

We went to Koh Chang last weekend for a much needed - and deserved - break. It was kind of a pain to get to; lots of traveling, late nights, early mornings, crappy hostels and ferry rides. But believe it, when we got there we all agreed it was well worth the hassel. Absolutely beautiful, most picturesque, stereotypical tropical island you've seen, and far from a desert. As Francesca already said, Koh Chang is Thailands second largest island - behind Phuket - which felt just enormous compared to Koh Samet. There are also some 40 odd smaller islands peppered all around Chang.
People always say "stranded on a desert island", but do you ever really picture a desert? I always picture tropical for some reason (like Castaway), but I don't know if that's just me.

Although I found myself on this gorgeous island a few hundred km from home and work, enjoying an amazing relaxing vacation, I couldn't help but think of Oregon. Don't ask me why, but everything was reminding me. The second morning we were there, we sat down at the outdoor restaurant at our backpackers bungalow to have breakfast, and there were storm clouds rolling in over the ocean and a breeze blowing inland - which funny enough made the temperature really nice - and I could even feel the hint of raindrops (it monsooned later that night). But as I sat there staring at the grey ocean, something clicked and I was suddenly missing Oregon very much. Not just any one thing, but all of it. Sitting on the coast on a grey day drinking a delicious Oregon beer and enjoying a big fat cheeseburger with some Tillamook cheese. I miss seasons. I actually do miss the cold and the rain, and did I mention not crappy beer. I can't explain it, despite the picturesque setting, I think I would have given anything to be sitting on the coast of Oregon, not Thailand, right at that moment. It was weird, I felt stranded, but in paradise.

Don't worry though, we rented a kayak that day and paddled out through the amazing warm and clear water out to one of the islands off Koh Chang, and cleared those Oregon sentiments right up... Paddled back while the sun was setting and swam in the ocean till after it went down, it was amazing. And we didn't even get a chance to hike around the national park that takes up the entire center of the island.
I think we'll be back to Elephant Island, still so much to do there.
(Koh in Thai means island, Chang is elephant.)

Pulling into the pier, early morning at Koh Chang.

Our beach hostel.

Josh and Francesca

Hermit crab

Mistranslation? Not sure what this sign was doing on a tiny island you could only paddle to.

living for the weekends

Wow. We have officially been here two months on the 13th. That date when by without even a second thought. It has been a blur of a 2 months. On one hand it seems like time is flying by, I mean we are already almost at mid-terms that’s one half of our first semester here done. It is almost new years (Christmas is just not that big of a date in a country where no one celebrates it) and a new year just seems crazy, good bye 2010 hello 2011! Weird.

Lately I’ve been going a little crazy, everything has been bugging me, the other Thai teachers, the students, the people on the street who walk at a SUPER slow pace and somehow take up the entire side walk, and even the food, I mean come on, cant you eat something other than rice!? But the weekends here have been amazing and that is making it all worth it, we just got done with two three day weekends in a row so we were able to travel a bit further than normal. The first 3 day weekend we went to a beach town about 3 hours south of Bangkok called Hua Hin. It was awesome! It I high travel season right now and it was a 3 day weekend but this little beach town was not very crowded, and the first place I’ve seen in Thailand that has been relatively clean! We were able to find some non-Thai food there (thank god) and it was real good. On Sunday we rented some motorbikes and drove about 60km out of town to this beautiful national park. Normally for tourists the fee to get in is 400bht (and since we don’t have our work permits yet we are still tourist) but because it was the kings birthday all the parks all over the country were free! Happy birthday to the king! The waterfall was beautiful (we posted some of the pictures on facebook) and the drive was a really nice drive through the countryside.
The next weekend was spent on an island paradise called Koh Chang. It is the second largest island in Thailand and in the north bay near Cambodia so it is not as popular with the tourists. It was kinda a bitch to get to but so worth it. The water was warm and clear. The beaches were not crowded. We had our own cheap bungalow right off the beach and the place we stayed at had an awesome restaurant. The best bacon cheese burger I have found in Thailand so far! We spent two lazy days on the beach soaking in the sun and playing in the water. On the second day Jeff, Josh and I rented a kayak and decided to paddle out to one of the small islands we could see just off Koh Chang. It was a really fun, I actually didn’t kayak they only gave us two paddles so I just sat in the middle and let the boys do all the work! (I offered to paddle but they turned me down) One more day on the island would have been perfect, it was hard to leave.
I think those longs weekends were just what I needed. Im feeling a bit more cordial to the Thais around me. I know there will be more that drives me nuts throughout the year, but as long as the weekends continue to amaze me, and Jeff can deal with my bad moods (which he has wonderfully so far!), I think everything will be just fine. 

    some good beer with a our good friend Ashley

    the water fall was packed with tons of Thais celebrating
    the kings birthday and fathers day

          our island paradise--Koh Chang

    Sunset on Koh Chang...not the best
    because of the clouds but sill beautiful 

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Motorbike Fsho

Okay, so it's time to freak out the worry worts (you know who you are)... drum roll please... we got a motorbike! And it's freaking sweet.

Not really much to say other than it's awesome, it's only 3 months old, it's pretty, it's fast-ish (all 110 cc's of it.. :/ Francesca made me get the smaller engine) and it's red and grey, and it's a Honda. We motorbiked to work this morning, which was awesome cause we got there in like 5 minutes instead of 12 - a new level of laziness.
It was 30,000 baht - which is a lot for us, but if you think about that in USD, it's still ridiculous how cheap it is for a brand new motorbike - but we only paid 5,000 to start, and we are leasing for 1600 baht a month. We would eventually own it if we wanted, but the shop owner knows we are leaving the country in 10 months, and he said we could sell it back to them. So we are renting, sort of... but we get a really nice bike for less than it's worth, plus we get to sell it back for near the same price at the end of our 10 months, so it is a good way for us to save a chunk of money for right until the end of our time.
And by the way, our Thai coordinators at school helped us do all this - probably couldn't have communicated all this to the shop without them.

But now we can explore our region more, give us freedom and cheaper ways of travel. And new ways to entertain ourselves if we get bored. We can go visit friends in other cities. Needless to say we are very excited. Don't worry though, I am safe, and there are tons of motorbikes in Thailand; cheapest, easiest way to get around.

And PS I'll post some photos of it... maybe.