8 Major Life Lessons Learned in Thailand

I don’t always know what I want to write about. It’s actually pretty hard to figure that out. I am not a very structured person and I also prefer to go with the flow especially when it comes to journaling. Instead, I usually wait for something to inspire me or a special moment that I never want to forget to get my so called “creative juices” flowing. The second I try to force myself to write I get hit with a solid 500 lbs of writers block. However, when those temporary moments of stagnation subside I write without hesitation and more importantly from the heart. I have never cared about others opinions when it comes to my writing. To me it is a special outlet that allows me to share my interests and commonalities with other like-minded individuals. It is both therapeutic and comforting.

In relation, my epic journey in Thailand is coming to a quick end. Nothing about this experience has been easy for me. Everyday for the past 7 months has brought some sort of challenge my way (especially in the beginning). Being able to share my roller-coaster of emotions through my blog has helped me in more ways than many people could ever begin to imagine. I did not blog about my experience even half as much as I anticipated on but nevertheless I am happy with those moments that I did. Now that my semester of teaching is coming to an end you could say that I am inspired to reflect on everything that I have learned while living abroad. Enjoy.

8 major life lessons learned in Thailand:

 

  1. Kids are crazy and its a good thing.  I have always loved kids but I never realized how much until becoming a teacher. Their energy is unlike anything I have ever experienced. Having to deal with 21 little hyperactive humans makes you sometimes want to run screaming for the hills or just hide in a nice quiet room away from all of the chaos. However, sure enough you start to enjoy their craziness. After all, they are just being kids, and it has been a nice little reminder that deep inside of my heart lies a little kid also. I am going to miss my students more than I ever thought possible. I am going to miss the endless hugs, nose nuzzles, laughing and I love yous. At this age kids are so impressionable and its important to remember that as adults we shape them for the future. It is our responsibility to teach them good ethics and to think with an open mind. If we expect to see a continuous progress in our society it starts with these little ones. I have seen them grow immensely in the last several months and I only wish I could continue to watch them grow. My sweet, adorable babies.
  2. You do not need to speak to someone to have a relationship with them. My co-teacher Am is an adorable Thai woman who is the same age as me. She is an absolute sweetheart who I will remember always because of her kind and gentle nature. Am cannot speak a stitch of English but we have a fantastic friendship. We communicate through charades, translators and laughing and surprisingly that is more than enough. Whether she knows it or not, Am made my teaching experience just as special as my students have. My students have had nothing but respect for me and I know that Am played a role in making sure of nothing less. I will miss you Am.
  3.  Cockroaches are vile creatures and are EVERYWHERE in T-land.  You would think after 7 months of living with these disgusting insects I would be able to man up and conquer my irrational fear. Nope. Not even close. After several encounters, broom beat downs, endless sprays and inhalation of poisonous bug spray in enclosed spaces I am absolutely terrified and traumatized by them. I am not exaggerating when I say that I wake up every night to do a spot check to make sure there are none running rampant in my apartment (I have called Mike in the middle of the night freaking out because this has happened)… Just the thought alone of these things gives me the heebie jeebies. Goodbye repulsive creatures of the night. I shall NEVER miss you.
  4.  Living abroad takes a freaking toll on the bod. Of course this would depend on ones immune system and the country of residence. However, I can say with confidence that since moving to Thailand in July 2015, I have experienced 1 ear infection so bad that my ear drums were torn, 3 cases of the stomach flu, 2 cases of food poisoning, 3 terrible colds that I am sure were bronchitis and various common colds almost every other week and multiple moments with an upset stomach (Thai tummy). I never thought that my body would go through so much in such a short period of time lmao. It has been brutal. Working with kids has definitely played a major factor in all of this. Kids are dirty little buggers who get messy, pick their noses, eat things off the ground, cough on you and decide you’re sleeve is good alternative to a tissue. In addition to my germ-filled babies, the health and safety standards concerning food here are almost non-existent, thus it is pretty normal to wind up with some kind of food poisoning or upset stomach. Despite all of the ailments experienced I somehow manage to laugh about all of it. In a way you just get used to being sick all the time haha.
  5.  My addiction to travel has gotten significantly bigger. I thought that this experience would relieve some of the nagging wanderlust I feel regularly. Instead it has accomplished the exact opposite. My urge to travel is stronger than ever and it scares me. There is something about living abroad that is insanely liberating and addicting. When I first got here I was so freaked out by culture shock that I almost bought a plane ticket home after only a month. Little did anyone know, I was an emotional disaster crying almost everyday that I would not be able to continue on further with teaching. However, with a lot of prayer, support from important people and blogging I got over those hardships. Now 7 months later, I am scared to death of moving back home. I have learned to live outside of my comfort zone and I LOVE it. For those of you who don’t know, reverse culture shock is a thing and I am almost positive that I will experience it once I get back home. Don’t get me wrong, I am beyond excited to be with my amazing boyfriend, friends and family again but I am terrified of getting back to the same old routine. Living abroad has been anything but routine and has been full of surprises and spontaneous moments that I will never experience back home. I will hold these moments dear to my heart for a lifetime.
  6.  Thailand is money well spent and I now have a sick obsession with 7/11. I have had the honour of experiencing such a beautiful culture, kind people, beautiful scenery and endless outdoorsy activities. The plane ticket here is expensive but the country is affordable for even those on the smallest budget. What a fantastic place to travel. There really is something for everyone here and an adventure to be found just about anywhere. The party scene is unlike anything I have ever witnessed or been a part of for that matter hahaha. The beaches are the most beautiful and the wildlife is incredible. In addition, I have learned that I have an unhealthy obsession with 7/11. Most of my paycheques probably go here. The freaking store is everywhere, has almost everything you need and has basically fulfilled my western cravings for the duration of my time living in Banphai. Damn it, I am going to miss eating a Toasty every morning. Anyways, I highly recommend Thailand to anyone. It is life-changing.
  7.  I have made lifelong friends around the WORLD. How awesome is that?! I have met so many amazing people since living in Thailand and I will forever love those who have made my time here incredible. The connection I have made with many of you has been surreal. Especially my Suchaya House roomies, I feel like I have known you ladies forever. Also, a shout out to my Banphai girls who have kept me sane over the duration of this semester as well as last. It is the coolest feeling to know that I have great friends now all over the globe. Obviously, once I return to Canada casual hang-outs will be almost non-existent but with today’s technology I have no doubt that many of us will stay in touch and hopefully have a reunion sometime in the near future. Good luck to everyone wherever life may lead you. ❤
  8. I have a huge appreciation for immigrants back home.  My small glimpse of what it is like to be an immigrant has filled me with nothing but admiration for anyone who is brave enough to move to another country permanently. It is scary, intimidating, frustrating and just overall emotional. With such an intense communication barrier even the simplest of tasks can become practically impossible to do. I myself have avoided going into certain restaurants and stores simply because I am too shy or embarrassed because I cannot speak Thai. However, in this wonderful country there is no shortage of sweet people here who are more than willing to try and help you out despite these barriers. If I have learned anything, it has been patience and acceptance.

Just thinking about my time ending in Thailand is making me emotional. However, I know with certainty that my future holds many more incredible experiences. Although I may never have the chance to live abroad again I will never stop traveling. Travel is my life and I know that now. In exactly 11 days Mike is coming to Thailand. This will be my very first time seeing him after a very long and agonizing 7 months. Before I left a lot of people questioned our relationship and whether or not we would be able to withstand the long-distance. Without hesitation I can say that we killed it! Mike and I never even thought twice about it being an issue. We both knew that we would do amazing and we did. So on to my next journey. In 3 weeks, Mike and I will be traveling around South East Asia for approximately two months, island hopping and all that crazy fun stuff. I cannot wait and could not choose a better travel buddy!

Thailand it’s been a slice! You will always be a second home to me.

“Traveling- It leaves you speechless, then turns you into a storyteller.”-Ibn Battuta

xo Chaylavie

 

English Camp in Khao Wong

This weekend was a busy one. I got asked by my agency if I wanted to be a team leader for an English camp they were hosting in Khao Wong (insanely small town right near Laos and Cambodia and 4 hours away from Banphai)! The English camp was for approximately 150 mathayom students aged 14-18. The day consisted of various games, activities, competitions and even a baby powder fight that the teenagers thoroughly enjoyed! I must say the job completely wore me out. I woke up this morning feeling like I had spent an entire day at the gym but I loved it. It was an absolutely amazing opportunity to work with older students and to be able to connect with them on a more personal level! I love teaching kindergarten but the conversations that you can have with them are very limited to say the least! Anyways, I hope that everyone had a fantastic weekend! Safe travels everyone.

xoChaylavie

My TESOL journey

Koh Phi Phi

Over the last several months I have had many people contact me through email, Instagram and my blog to ask me what steps I took to move to Thailand and become an English Teacher. So, I decided it would be beneficial if I blogged about what lead me to my life changing decision and exactly how I did it! Below is my story. J

Where it all began:

I experienced my first plane ride at the age of 15 on a family vacation going to the Dominican Republic. To this day I will never forget seeing the ocean for the very first time, the beautiful palm trees swaying all around me, the warm sea-breeze gently touching my face, the long stretch of sparkling white sand and the surge of emotions that ran through me at that moment. I was so excited that I literally ran right into the waves fully clothed. You never forget your first.

Ever since then, I became totally enticed by travel. Like many, I had only categorized myself as your typical “Holidaymaker” type of traveler. Staying on an all-inclusive resort was all I ever knew and the idea to relax on the beach with a drink in my hand always appealed to me. However, my passion for learning and experiencing other cultures quickly became an obsession of mine to say the least. As I got older, the appeal of a country became more about what makes them physically and culturally unique and less about staying inside the limitations of my comfort zone. I wanted more. I needed more. Therefore, it is no surprise that I ended up studying and receiving an undergraduate degree in physical and environmental Geography. What can I say? I am just a girl who loves the world.

Upon completion of my university career I had planned (for many, many years) to move abroad and teach English as a second language (TESOL). This was going to be my first step to experience the world in a way I had always dreamt about. I wanted the opportunity to submerge myself into another culture and a more intimate experience rather than just vacationing. Initially, I wanted to teach in China and was pretty set on that idea. Many programs and schools in China offer a competitive salary, will pay for your flight including return and even provide you with a living allowance! China is a fantastic country for teachers who want to save money/pay off student loans, debt etc. However, after a lot of research I realized that China may not be the country to suit my personal goals or needs. One reason in particular was that most of the teaching positions/opportunities I was interested in China required you to sign a year-long contract. This alone scared me because I didn’t want to feel pressured to stay for an entire year just in case I absolutely hated it. Upon that conclusion I decided to look at other countries that are in high demand for native English speakers. Subsequently, I came across South Korea and Thailand and started to research programs offered in these countries as well. Unfortunately, I started to read various forums on specific programs that offer services to provide you with a TESOL placement. This was extremely discouraging for me. I read one bad review after another and came to the upsetting realization that a lot of these programs are nothing but scams. Many of them ‘claim’ to provide you with nothing but the utmost support but instead provide nothing short of a nightmare for the many victims who get sucked into the whimsical fantasy illustrated on their websites.

The typical hook, line and sinker: Get paid to travel!

It’s a no brainer really. Who wouldn’t want to get paid to travel?

Result? Many people become interested and are willing to pay large amounts of money for these services without doing their research first.

This kind of information is terrifying for a novice who is deciding to move across the globe to a country, (let alone a continent) they have never been to before. In addition, these programs are not inexpensive; hence my extreme hesitation to settle for anything less than reliable. Now, before assumptions are made about my opinion on recruiting agencies let me make myself very clear. I am not bashing every company out there that provides such teaching programs. I know that there are many above average ones that provide nothing but outstanding service. However, in my opinion, finding a credible recruiter (much like any other service) is as hard as finding a needle in a haystack. You have to weed out all the bad ones to be able to find the amazing ones. Unfortunately, at that time in my life, this intimidated me enough to make me sweep my long-time dream of teaching abroad under the bed.

My heart turned Green:

Fast forward a couple of years and I finally graduated university and was immediately offered a full-time position with a fantastic development/construction company. However, my heart had other plans and no intention of staying put much longer. Not too soon into my new chapter of life my long-time dream started to creep up on me again. Due to past research and enquiries for different TESOL programs I was still receiving advertisement emails from these organizations. Once again I found my curiousity urging me to look into other possible teach abroad options. Then something magical happened (oh Google you wonderful thing you). I came across an organization that seemed too good to be true. Greenheart Travel. I started to research forums to see what they had to say about Greenheart and I couldn’t find any dirt on them! Some people had left silly complaints but nothing that Greenheart could prevent. Some people just like to complain about everything. Those people can never be satisfied even if they’re fed with a silver spoon (those are the kind of people who leave bad reviews on Trip Advisor that boil my blood). Greenheart had so many different options all of which seemed incredible. However, I decided that Thailand was definitely the country I would want to experience teaching abroad and Greenheart offered this. For the heck of it I decided to type Greenheart Travel Teach in Thailand on Facebook and came across a closed group. I requested to be in the group and almost instantly I was added into it by Sarah (Greenhearts amazing angel who will go out her way for anyone). This group blew my mind. It is full of current English teachers in Thailand who went through Greenheart and many who are considering whether or not to join the program. Any question you have has either already been answered in the group or will be answered. I spent a lot of time reading through the comments and was almost positive that I had finally found my program. Not too soon after showing interest in Greenheart, I received a call from them. It was a fantastic one on one that provided in depth answers to any unanswered questions I had about the particulars. So there you have it. I jumped ship. I was sold and little did I know my life was about to change forever!

 TESOL Certification and placement:

Upon arrival to Thailand, Greenheart essentially hands you over to a company known as XploreAsia. This is the actual company that provides you with your one month TESOL course (120 hour certification). XploreAsia both certified me to teach English and provided me with a job (monthly guaranteed salary of at least 30,000 THB (approximately $11531 Canadian) as soon as the course was completed. This was one of the craziest, most exciting, emotional and special times in my life. Nothing could have prepared me for my first month in Thailand. My group was small one of less than 30 people. For the duration of the TESOL course we all lived in Hua Hin (just 3 hours south of Bangkok) and quickly became very close. It was amazing to meet so many other likeminded people who are as curious about this world as I am. Not to mention, these fantastic people became a support system and my family away from home. Little do they know but they helped comfort and lessen the culture shock that was consuming every fiber of my being. The best part about the connection made with these guys is knowing that I now have friends all over Thailand. The course was fun, intimidating and sometimes nerve-wracking but nothing we couldn’t handle. Everything we learned gave us the confidence we needed to move and start worker as full-time teachers. The preparation was fantastic. We were taught exactly how to write lesson plans and given opportunities to practice on our peers and in a real Thai school.

Moving day?

When you teach English abroad through an organization you will be given little room to choose where you get placed to work. In my course we were all told to be open minded about all of the potential teaching positions within Thailand and to basically expect whatever position we ended up with. If not, we would run the risk of waiting a much longer time to get another offer (which was a worry because we all had limited amount of money to get us through before our first paycheck). I am not saying that it is impossible to get a position somewhere that you may have a preference for, however it might be a challenge. In my course most (if not all) of my classmates requested that they not get placed in Bangkok. They didn’t want to get caught in the craziness of the city. However, a huge handful of people ended up with positions there regardless but they all actually ended up loving it. In my case I got a placement literally in the middle of nowhere. I am one of few western/ English speaking people in my entire town. Which has made me experience a roller coaster of emotions for multiple reasons but I must admit I love my little town.

Where do I live now?

You know what’s scarier than moving thousands of kilometers across the world to a continent you have never been to? Googling your new soon to be home/town and realizing that there is basically no pictures or information that can be found! I was told I would be moving to a small town but being unable to research anything about it freaked the crap right out of me. I mean, how could I mentally prepare myself for the next chapter of this adventure if I could not find anything about it online?

So fast forward, I Currently I live in a small town in the region of Isan, which is northeastern Thailand and is considered the most authentic and culturally rich part of the entire country. My town is called Ban Phai and it is the real Thai deal haha. It’s is smaller than a suburb but bigger than a rural farm town, although completely surrounded by farms. However it has just about everything you need to live comfortably. What shocked me the most about Ban Phai is that this town is the true Thai experience. You won’t find any Western style restaurants here and if you are anything like me it is a huge struggle. This town is big on dishes with fermented fish (stinky fish as they like to call it) which has been hard for me to accept, considering I don’t really eat fish at all. Tesco is the equivalent of Walmart in Thailand and they are everywhere except in super small towns like mine. However, as always you can always count on 7/11 to have carry many of your basic necessities (everything from shampoo, makeup to bread and other random foods and stationary). My town has one main grocery store but it is pretty far and only convenient if you have a car, bike or moped. Otherwise I walk when I’m desperate because it is the ONLY store that sells peanut butter here and I gotta have my PB. Fruit is plentiful here and all over the country no matter where you are. Thailand is huge on markets that sell everything. There is clothes shopping everywhere. However, if I want really nice western style stuff/clothes I have to go to the city and shop at the mall which is an hour bus ride. Anyways, I just wanted to give you a little insight as to how my town is and how I live.

Lessons learned so far?

I’ve been to Bangkok a few times, visited the south such as Phuket and Krabi and I realized that I am happy living where I do. I like peace and quiet and calm vibes and Ban Phai provides all of that for me and more. Also, when I came to Thailand I really wanted an authentic Thai experience and I do not feel that I would have got it if I had been placed in a more touristy area (so in a sense I got lucky with where I ended up). I can truly say that I feel at home and I know I am exactly where I need to be at this point in my life. Teaching in Thailand has taught me lessons that I will hold on to forever. The majority of those lessons focus on patience, acceptance, passion, appreciation and enjoyment. Teaching has taught me how much I love life, people and more importantly my beautiful and bright little students.

Fun fact:

As a result of living in Ban Phai I am able to save quite a bit of money. Once this semester is finished I will be traveling for almost two months with my boyfriend before I move back home to Canada. As a result, the cheap living in my town has made it possible for me to save money to do this! 😀

xoChaylavie

A new year, a new adventure- Hello 2016

 

xoChaylavie

Christmas in the land of smiles

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 ❤

xoChaylavie

Loy Krathong 2015 Late Post

With the new school term I have been quite busy, which many of you could imagine. As a result, I never did get around to posting my pictures of the Loy Krathong festival that I had the honour of celebrating in my wonderful Thai town, Banphai. It was an absolutely incredible experience to say the least. What made this experience extra special was the people that I was surrounded by. I was taken to the festival by my lovely Thai friend Nok (who feels almost like an aunt to me now) and my new co-worker/Chinese teacher, Joanna. Nok made sure Joanna and I had the chance to participate in the activities that make Loy Krathong so magical. I bought 2 gorgeous enormous paper lanterns for 40 baht each (about $1.50 Canadian) and was then shown the neat process of how to get them to float! At the bottom of the lantern there is an opening with a round coal looking thing that is attached by wire. That is the object that you have to light! When lit, you must hold the lantern as close to the ground as you can in order to allow the flame to heat the air that is inside the lantern. As a result, the lantern rises beautifully into the air. It really was a fantastic sight to see. After, Nok brought us to buy Krathongs from her cousin who was hand making them at the festival! We each bought one for the small price of 35 baht (roughly $1.30 Canadian), brought them to the pond, lit the candle on them, made a wish with the hundreds of others there and set our Krathongs to float away.

Anyways, without further ado here are my pictures from that gorgeous evening.

xoChaylavie

 

Happy Loy Krathong!

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.

xo Chaylavie