With nothing extravagant planned for the May long weekend there was a fun opportunity for us to try something new. Mike and I decided to take a day trip to Niagara Falls and try to find some hiking that exists in the area. I am such a clumsy person it is a huge surprise that I enjoy hiking at all lmao. I can trip over my own two feet. Give me a hill to climb, stairs, broken branches and water and I can practically kill myself ten times over. Either way, with a quick Google search, sure enough we discovered the Upper Whirlpool Trails. Having lived in Toronto for my ENTIRE existence and only discovering this gem now concerns me. What other beautiful places are being hidden from me?!!!
These trails are anything but disappointing and gave me a completely different view on the typical expectation of Niagara Falls. Not that the falls are not beautiful, but how many times can you climb Clifton Hill, go to Ripley’s and visit the Casino? It gets tired after a while…
Anyways, we got up early on Saturday and began our drive over. After a long drive due to typical long weekend traffic we finally found what we believed to be the trail. It seemed to be situated across from a beautifully kept golf course which is where we decided to park. Following anyone who looked like they were hiking we began on our way, unsure where to even start. There is more than one entrance to the trails and I can only speak about the way we entered and exited. Finding the way to get down to the trails was a little confusing at first. These trails are in the Niagara Gorge and along the Niagara River so in order to get there you must climb down a huge amount of stairs. Once you get down into the gorge it is kind of up to you which way you want to go and how far. There are trails for all types of levels. With that being said we threw that all out the window and decided that we wanted to be closest to the water regardless of how hard it would be to get there. We hiked for about 3 hours total from one end to another and loved every second of it. We were even lucky enough to find ourselves at the mouth of the Whirlpool and all its rapids.
- Stay on the trails. Mike and I tried to veer a few times only to realize its not safe (well at least for me and my two left feet)… I’ll be honest though, many of times we felt like the trail had suddenly ended only discover it again after looking around a little.
- Wear hiking appropriate clothing. This is not rocket science. It’s common sense. Unfortunately common sense isn’t always so common. Upon leaving the trails you will not believe how many people we saw enter the trails in dressy attire… I’m sorry but leave your sandals, dress pants and collared shirts at home. Unless you don’t care to get dirty and potentially loose your balance that is?
- Watch out for snakes! No for real. We scared the crap out of one that was chilling on the trail. We didn’t even notice it there until it jumped up like a mad man and hauled itself into the bushes.
- This is not a tourist trap! Take your time and enjoy the beauty. Put your phone down for a bit and allow the scenery to swallow you whole.
- This one is specific to all my fellow juice heads out there. Do not under any circumstances DO NOT come here after leg day in the gym. My legs were in for a real shocker.
- Also, bring snacks… I wish we would have done the same. There are some pretty spots you can definitely picnic on.
Overall, this has got to be one of the best hiking experiences I have had in a long time. What shocked me the most about this is that I never knew they even existed!!! Now I’m feeling pretty determined to discover other hidden beauties in Ontario this upcoming summer. I may just have to make a thing of it. Stay tuned there will be more!
In the madness of our world there will always be those who judge, stereotype and make ignorant assumptions. However, in that very same world there will always be those who want nothing but love, empathy for others and solidarity. The latter is my kind of world.
Christmas is just around the corner and I cannot believe that this will be my first time being away from home during the holidays. I am definitely sad that I will not be with my friends and family this year but I must say that I did luck out! The school that I work at is Catholic, as a result they haven’t hesitated to get into the Christmas spirit. Within the last week decorations have sprung up all over, Christmas music has been playing and us teachers have been getting our students ready to perform in the annual Christmas concert held at the school (cannot wait to post pictures from that). Although I am literally thousands of kilometers away from home I suddenly don’t feel so far.
Merry and beautiful Christmas everyone ❤
So I will admit. I am beyond excited that I get to experience one of the most colourful and picturesque festivals celebrated within Thailand! Loy Krathong! For those of you who may not know, Loy Krathong is an annual festival that falls on the night of the twelfth lunar month. During this time people gather around lakes, rivers and canals to pay their respects to the goddess of water. In doing so, stunning flower type rafts that are decorated with candles and incense (known as Krathongs) are then released into the water. I have only seen pictures of this festival and it looks absolutely magical.
In preparation for today’s/tonight’s festivities, my students showed up to school in their beautiful Thai outfits, put on a cute dance performance and each brought a Krathong of their very own. The best part about work today is that I even got to make one! Cannot wait to see what tonight has in store.
I kind of have the feeling that many people back home think that I am in Thailand living the life of luxury, not learning anything important and spending my time doing nothing but traveling/vacationing in paradise with not a care in the world other than what fancy tropical drink I should order next. Furthermore, many parents in specific are not supportive of their children making such a life changing decision because my job is “not a real one.” However, I can assure you that couldn’t be further from the truth and I think it’s time to defend myself and other English teachers out here because of it! Here is the truth about TESOL in Thailand and ultimately whether or not you are up for the challenge!
Teaching English is one of the hardest things I have ever done in my life and there is a reason we get paid a crap ton more than our Thai co-workers (to be honest the inequality really bothers me). This is because people from English speaking countries wouldn’t be as willing to pack up their comfortable lives at home just to live and work in a country where they suddenly join the poverty line. As a result, schools have to offer a better salary to attract teachers like myself. However, even with a much higher salary the turnover rate is immense (because people don’t realize how challenging it can be) and this causes a big problem for Thai people who want and need to receive a proper and reliable form of English education.
So now that we know the basics let’s start with the work itself. My work conditions are insanity as I teach in a class room with no air conditioning everyday from Monday – Friday. The sweat literally drips down my face all day and usually burns the crap out of my eyes. Imagine working in the scorching heat where the average temperature is in the mid to high 30s with a humidity percentage of about 70% and to top it off you’re in a hot stuffy classroom with no air circulation. In addition to the immense heat picture yourself not only having to teach your lessons while sweating your butt off but having to manage those students, trying to keep them interested, well behaved and active at all times while knowing they barely understand a single word you say. This includes a shit ton of physical activities which require me to dance, run and jump around as much as possible, all whilst dying in the unbearable heat. It is exhausting and us teachers on this side of the world work just as hard (if not more) than anyone else.
In addition to the tiresome work with our kiddies, we have to figure out just about everything ourselves. Sure, I have co-workers and a school director who try to help out with any questions or concerns I may have but the unfortunate truth is that most of the time no one can really understand me. So in order to explain myself I engage in a game of charades trying to get a message across that usually ends in giggles and awkwardness. If you are not a patient person you will definitely become one with a job like this lol.
Another thing that many may not be aware of is dress code. The dress code for teachers on this side of the world is generally more strict and conservative in comparison to back home. As a result, you must make sure you are nicely groomed and wear appropriate attire, whether that be a uniform provided by your school or for woman a typical professional just below the knees skirt paired with either a collared button up shirt or a blouse of some sort and closed toe shoes (flats become your best friend) and for men dress pants and a dress shirt.
Once you live in Thailand you come to the frustrating conclusion that most if not all of your daily tasks at work are completely fluid, meaning there is no one right way to do something and everything is constantly changing. In addition to that you may never know if you are doing something right because Thai people are so kind and non confrontational they will almost never tell you. Also, random things will and do happen… all the time…and usually you will never be informed of it. Some days you may show up to class with a perfect lesson plan only to find out your classes are cancelled because of a field trip or some school event that requires all of the students on the field dancing…This has happened. Sure, some may say this is exciting because you can do whatever you want (e.g. “WORKPLACE FREEDOM! I’m basically an executive”)…No. Just no. Let me tell you, us North Americans are used to organization when it comes to work and all of a sudden not having a solid foundation to base your teaching on becomes extremely confusing. You find yourself in a constant whirlwind of mistakes, self doubt and towering last minute tasks due to last minute expectations from higher-ups. This in itself is both overwhelming and tiring.
Now that I have expressed why teaching in Thailand is no vacation I do have to admit that this is what makes Thailand exciting. Sure the majority of us came here because we all share the love of travel. However, dig a little deeper and you’ll realize it takes a lot more than the love of travel to make someone want to just pack up their things and leave their friends and family for x amount of time to make another country their home. Curiosity, adventure, self discovery and most importantly wanting to make a difference in this world are more than enough reasons why we are doing what we do. This job actually makes me feel like I am doing something that is having a positive impact on the lives of the people who live in my new home town. There is no better feeling than teaching a lesson and seeing your students finally understand what you are saying. It’s amazing. Moments like those sometimes make you want to cry. For these kids English is the doorway to their future. This is what they need to help them gain a good job in such a competitive world.
Contradictory to everything I’m saying about the hardships, I absolutely love it here even with the complications. Sure teaching has not been a walk in the park and it comes with a lot of uncertainty, confusion and frustration but I wouldn’t change it for anything. You are not babied here. No one holds your hand and gives you instructions on what you need to do and for that reason I have learned so many valuable lessons. For one I have learned that you don’t always need words to communicate with people. As a result, I have met a lot of beautiful people here that I wouldn’t have otherwise back in Canada and I truly feel so blessed to experience it all. I love the fact that I can smile at any Thai person especially at work and know that I will always be greeted with an even bigger smile. A job like this molds you into a completely different person. Working in Thailand is a character builder and has not given me anything less than a whole new outlook on life. I have gained so much patience, acceptance, compassion, creativity, self-confidence, knowledge about myself and most impotantly have learned to work independently with little direction. What excites me most about these characteristics is that they are transferable and I know that I have so much more to offer my future employer when I do return back home and the confidence to go for what I want.
I think this is important information for people who are curious about taking the leap into TESOL specifically for Thailand. The very first thing I was taught in my my certificate program was that “if you are here for a vacation you are here for the wrong reason and may need to reconsider your purpose here.” This is 100% the truth. This is a job just like any other. However, with living and working in Thailand you are blessed with the beauty of its physical geography and as a teacher you will have more than enough time to explore it. Thailand has to be one of the most beautiful places I have ever been to in this world with the kindest people.
Next time you are ready to judge us about our decision to teach abroad think to yourself “could I do this?” On the flip side, if you are serious about taking the big jump, buying that one-way plane ticket and want to make a difference this is an amazing way to do it. Just do your research and know what you are getting yourself into. Teaching abroad is not all luxury but I can promise you that if you greet the opportunity with an open mind you will not regret it and will be on the ride of a lifetime.
“Work, save, travel, repeat.”
Story of my life.
“I don’t want to wait until I’m ‘established’ to be able to live my life. Instead, I’m thinking that these kind of moments are exactly what will shape me as a person and point me in the right direction to become more than just established. I want to live my life knowing that I did exactly that. I lived.”
“Did you know, you can quit your job, you can leave university? You aren’t legally required to have a degree, it’s a social pressure and expectation, not the law, and no one is holding a gun to your head. You can sell your house, you can give up your apartment, you can even sell your vehicle, and your things that are mostly unnecessary. You can see the world on a minimum wage salary, despite the persisting myth, you do not need a high paying job. You can leave your friends (if they’re true friends they’ll forgive you, and you’ll still be friends) and make new ones on the road. You can leave your family.
You can depart from your hometown, your country, your culture, and everything you know. You can sacrifice. You can give up your $5.00 a cup morning coffee, you can give up air conditioning, frequent consumption of new products. You can give up eating out at restaurants and prepare affordable meals at home, and eat the leftovers too, instead of throwing them away. You can give up cable TV, Internet even. This list is endless.
You can sacrifice climbing up in the hierarchy of careers. You can buck tradition and others’ expectations of you. You can triumph over your fears, by conquering your mind. You can take risks. And most of all, you can travel. You just don’t want it enough. You want a degree or a well-paying job or to stay in your comfort zone more.
This is fine, if it’s what your heart desires most, but please don’t envy me and tell me you can’t travel. You’re not in a famine, in a desert, in a third world country, with five malnourished children to feed. You probably live in a first world country. You have a roof over your head, and food on your plate. You probably own luxuries like a cellphone and a computer. You can afford the $3.00 a night guest houses of India, the $0.10 fresh baked breakfasts of Morocco, because if you can afford to live in a first world country, you can certainly afford to travel in third world countries, you can probably even afford to travel in a first world country.
So please say to me, “I want to travel, but other things are more important to me and I’m putting them first”, not, “I’m dying to travel, but I can’t”, because I have yet to have someone say they can’t, who truly can’t.
You can, however, only live once, and for me, the enrichment of the soul that comes from seeing the world is worth more than a degree that could bring me in a bigger paycheck, or material wealth, or pleasing society.
Of course, you must choose for yourself, follow your heart’s truest desires, but know that you can travel, you’re only making excuses for why you can’t.
And if it makes any difference, I have never met anyone who has quit their job, left school, given up their life at home, to see the world, and regretted it. None. Only people who have grown old and regretted never traveling, who have regretted focusing too much on money and superficial success, who have realized too late that there is so much more to living than this”
– Wunderkammer, Did you know?