Emails from Abroad, Southeast Asia, Thailand

Emails from Abroad #9: Hot Season, New Beginnings, Songkran

Email to friends and family written after my first 6 months of expat life in Chiang Mai, Thailand, April 2nd, 2012.

“Greeeeeetings from hot season in Thailand!

“Woops!  Almost been two months since I last wrote.  Kho thot na kha (I’m sorry).  Lots of exciting things have happened since I last wrote.  If you recall, my awesome friend Marlies from Virginia had entered a competition to win a fully-paid 7-month dive instructor training course in Bali, and after 2 solid months of hardcore campaigning, SHE WON!!!  Needless to say, I’m already planning a trip to Bali to visit her and will hopefully have enough money by then to at least do my open water certification with her.  More diving-related news: Addy’s more than halfway through her dive master training on Koh Tao and just completed her 100th dive (naked).  I was planning on visiting her at the beginning of this month, but due to a moronic visa faux pas committed by myself and everyone we went to Laos with back in December, she will be in Malaysia applying for a new one when I was planning to go see her.  Really disappointed about that, but such is life.

“My other exciting news, if you didn’t already know, is that I got a new job!  It was a horribly stressful process because Thailand has really strict requirements when it comes to hiring foreigners, and lots of red tape surrounding the visa and work permit application processes.  In any case, I finally got all my ducks in a row and secured two interviews in the same week, both for positions as a kindergarten teacher.  One school is about 23 km away from Chiang Mai, so would have been a huge pain to drive there every morning.  Luckily, I interviewed at the other school first and did a demo lesson for them, and signed the contract the next morning.  I am officially a kindergarten teacher! The position is at a bilingual school so I will be working beside a Thai teacher and her assistant teacher, and even though I have to be at school from 7:45-4:30 every weekday, I only actually have 20 contact hours a week.  There will be a lot of singing, a lot of games, a lot of creative activities, playtime and nap time, and I couldn’t be more excited.  There’s probably nothing more adorable than Thai children on the planet, anywhere ever.  Anyway, I quit my job at Language Corner (had my official last day on Saturday) and have about two weeks until the position starts.  Since my plan to see Addy has been foiled, I’ll be heading to Laos to get my non-immigrant B visa (for the teaching position) and visiting Luang Prabang instead since it’ll be my third time to Laos and I’ve always wanted to see it. Planning on spending some time with elephants and then taking a slow boat down the Mekong River (about a 2-day trip) to get back to Chiang Mai for Songkran.

“Which brings me to my next point: Songkran!  The Thai new year (which falls in April as it aligns with the astrological calendar) is celebrated over about 4 days and, although the original purpose of “sprinkling water” was to show respect to your elders, it’s now just an excuse for a giant, national water fight.  Chiang Mai is widely regarded as the best place to be for the festival, and unfortunately, disgusting moat water is readily available for throwing on people (stores even sell buckets attached to ropes so you can throw them in from the road and scoop out your own nasty moat water).  There’s also a huge parade to start the celebration, people pay homage to images of Buddha and it’s a national spring cleaning day.  ANNND I’m getting my first visitor during Songkran, Dave Koken!  Woop!

“Fourth bit of exciting news is that I no longer live in a “studio” apartment with a view of a dank alleyway.  As of yesterday, I moved into a stunning 3-bedroom house on the southwest side of town, near Chiang Mai University.  I’ll be living with two awesome girls who are also teachers, Ann from Missouri and Danielle from Auckland.  We’ve got a huge yard, a real kitchen, and two decks on the second floor (one with an amazing view of Doi Suthep to the west, and a hammock, perfect for drinking wine and watching the sunset).  The other girls will move in closer to Songkran, so for now I’m solo.

“Still going through the heart-wrenching process of saying goodbye to friend after friend after friend.  March/April has seen a veritable mass exodus of people, either going back home or off to another country to continue teaching or in pursuit of some other adventure.  On the bright side, there’s a sizeable group of people who I know are here for a solid chunk of time like myself, including my roommates obviously so that’s good.

“I thought this email would be longer but I think I’ve hit all the main points.  Anyone wanting to visit, you’ve got another year or so, so start planning now!  Miss you all!!”

Squeezing in Marlies time before she headed to Bali to become a dive instructor!

Squeezing in Marlies time before she heads to Bali to become a dive instructor!

My new school!

My new school!

Songkran visitors!

Songkran visitors!

The new roommates.  It's important to have common interests.

The new roommates. It’s important to share common interests.

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