When I’m headed back to America in just a few weeks

What am I excited about this time around?

Mozzarella sticks.
Readily available EVERYTHING that I could possibly imagine: makeup, water bottles, sweaters, running shoes, batteries, lemonade, whatever. With, like, next-day shipping or a ten-minute drive.
Staples (the office supply store).
Donuts.
AUTUMNAUTUMNAUTUMNAUTUMNAUTUMN! –> running in autumn, racing in autumn, eating in autumn, driving in autumn, exploring new places in autumn, wearing autumn clothes, eating autumn food, drinking autumn beverages.
(And, obviously, Chipotle. That’s a no-brainer.)

This trip could not have come at a better time. #ALLTHEEXCITEMENT!

Basically.
Basically.

But, really. Tons of flying will be occurring in the next few months. I’ll let you in on more of the details later on!

What are you most looking forward to this month? Happy October 1st! 

Advertisements

When it’s time for my week in workouts, recap style: Vol. V

Last week we left off with a treadmill 10-miler. I must have thought I was hot stuff then and well-deserving of pizza, but let me tell you, I had no idea what was coming for me. Head’s up: this week we’re starting with a less-than-impressive few days but ending on a high note.

Monday, September 22     |     Rest

A much-appreciated rest day. Instead of working out, I took the opportunity to use up the last bit of sun in the sky to throw my laundry into the washer down the street and then hang it up to dry. (Lovely?)

Tuesday, September 23     |    Rest

Something came up [more on that later, perhaps], and I had to cancel my workout.

Wednesday, September 24     |     Rest 

So, at this point, can we even call Day 3 a “rest” day? I’m not so sure.

Thursday, September 25     |     Run + Yoga

Finally! On Thursday I got it together and went to a yoga class after work. I thought it was to be a Gentle Flow class, but I think it ended up being Core Flow. Regardless, my favorite instructor taught it, so I was a happy camper. Afterwards, I had the most fantastic (mentally and physically) three-mile run on the treadmill! As I’ve mentioned before, I think that the treadmills’ gauges are off at this gym, but regardless, I ran much faster than I have the past few months. Woo.

Friday, September 26     |     Rest 

Zilch.

Saturday, September 27     |     Lift 

All I can really say about this one is that I did ten minutes worth of arm work at home with my weights. Nothing too impressive, especially considering how bad I’ve been about lifting these past two weeks. (I told you my workouts were mostly in a sorry state of affairs this week!)

Sunday, September 28     |     Long run

Perhaps it was all that rest I’d shored up in my body, but somehow I knocked out a 14-MILE TREADMILL RUN on Sunday!!! It was a great run similar to Thursday’s — I felt mentally and physically strong and energized, something that really is key for me when it comes to getting through a run of any distance. I’d been planning a 15-mile run, but hey, I’m not complaining. Since I’d known this long run was coming, I started hydrating with lots of water starting on Friday. (I’ve been especially parched lately!) I kept a full bottle of water with me on the treadmill, and matched with the GU I’d taken earlier, a fantastic, new-to-me Spotify playlistA Prayer for Owen Meany on my iPad, and some lip balm in easy reach, I felt solid. Afterwards, I basically chugged a bottle of Gatorade, hurried downstairs to the grocery store for a bottle of chocolate milk, and decided that it was necessary right then and there to go get a giant dinner. (The treadmill, correct or not, showed that I’d burned 1200+ calories!) I ate a big salad, soup, and chicken for dinner, came home and laid on my bed for a long while, and finally fell into a good, deep sleep. Check plus.

What "after 14 miles" looks like.
What “after 14 miles” looks like.

What did you get up to last week? Happy Monday! 

When everything is valuable

Maybe you’ve pieced together (from some of my posts over the past sixteen months + the common effects of living as an expat for an extended period) that my time in Thailand has not been as simple and delightful as pumpkin pie. As the months have passed and the attractive sheen of living in a foreign land has mostly worn off, it’s become easier and easier for me to gripe. So, I’m sure you can imagine what was going through my head last week when I was sitting (take a deep breath because a huge phrase is about to follow!) . . . in incredible sun, heat, and humidity on an open-air song-thaew that was stopped at a traffic light on a major road crowded with traffic. Probably something akin to whatismylife. I suppose — no, I know — that that’s what made the following so impactful.

There’s a particular area on the song-thaew route home that I particularly hate. It’s where the song-thaew almost always stops: outside an all-boys’ school. Now, nothing against boys, but I think we can all agree that hordes of them typically don’t help matters (in any country) when they board public transportation all at once. Eager to be out of the confines of school and on their way home, they’re usually loud, boisterous, even obnoxious — basically a headache for “old grannies” like me who are melting in the heat and can barely keep their eyes open at 4 PM. (You wish I was joking about that second part.) So, when the song-thaew stopped there one day last week, it was no surprise, and I was not excited about it. What was surprising was that only four teenage boys got on, and none of them was smacking anyone around. In fact, one of the boys standing in front of me had a phrase etched with Wite-Out onto his backpack, and it was this phrase that got into my brain without my even realizing it. (Point being: duh, Laurin, the boys you’re apt to dread seeing on your way home will come bearing the most pertinent and impressionable of messages.) He’d written in perfect, legible English, “Everything is valuable when you think it valuable.”

To be honest, I read it the first time and thought nothing of it other than, “Wow, I’m impressed he has that — in English — on his backpack. I wonder where he heard it.” I kept reading it over the next five minutes because I’m a nosy people-watcher and he was standing right in front of me. After noticing that his soccer jersey was sponsored by a French team from Lyons and wondering if his school has a soccer team and mentally weeping over the heat and wondering for the millionth time how it’s possible for Thai people to wear colors other than black when black is the only color that hides sweat (and how can you not sweat so much here?) and reading the saying on his backpack a few more times, it hit me.

Everything is valuable when you think it valuable. Everything is valuable when you think it valuable. Everything. is. valuable. when you. think it valuable.

Whoa. Everything — the heat, the traffic, the long and sweaty time it takes to get from work to home, the frustrations, the offenses, the good interactions, the incredibly embarrassing interactions, the concerns about the future — everything. is. valuable. when I. think it valuable.

Whoa. Thanks, teenage boy soccer fan, for teaching me truth that I’ve really needed to hear in a language that’s not natively yours (impressive) but is natively mine. You’re awesome.

Meditation for today: “Everything is valuable when you think it valuable.” 

Hello from final exams week! It’s all light and airy and relaxed and glorious over here, at least for me. (Probably not so much for the students.) I expected to take way more advantage of relaxing yesterday than I actually did, but I ended up powering through a heap of marking grades, recording grades, and finishing other paperwork — which I loved because it made me feel productive and saved me from putting it off until later in the week! Today, then, has been much more easy-breezy. 🙂 Gradebooks (AKA final grades, comments on each student, and lots of other paperwork) are due on Monday, and then we’ll have two weeks left in the office before the official end of the semester for teachers.

Now, in preparation for the next two days of proctoring, here’s a little re-post from “way back when” (AKA midterms week last semester). Let’s just swap out “midterms” for “finals” any time we come across that word below, eh?

“When I Write a Letter to My Students During Midterms Week”

To My Students During Midterms Week:

I see you bent over the stapled papers, pencils in hand. You’re on your first test of the day, and you’re still good-natured; not too much can wipe the grins off your faces. Even your second test ends with a whole heap of you sailing out of the room giggling and flailing, eager to check your guesses in the hallway. But by your third test – just before lunch – more of you are bent in full concentration, no grins, and some of you are slouched because you’re in the throes of a subject you just can’t tackle. Math, science, English, what have you.

When you get to your math midterm, my little heart breaks. For the whole hour and a half it takes you (because we dare not cut you off when the time’s really up, this is a hard one, you see), I sit in tension because I’m living through you, and it’s not a happy moment. I’m remembering my own math tests one right after the other: algebra, algebra, algebra, geometry, [I can’t for the life of me remember what I took my sophomore year, maybe it was that awful], trigonometry. I’m remembering all the sassy conversations I had with my parents and my geometry tutor about how none of this mattered, I’d never use it in real life. (And I haven’t. Yet.) I’m remembering how I spent every single lunchduring my junior year of high school in my trigonometry teacher’s room because I needed extra help that badly. Goodness, I’m remembering how much I despised it all. So my little heart is breaking because I’m sitting at a spare desk at the front of the room, chair turned sideways so I can keep an eye on you, and one of you is sitting behind me in tears because you just can’t do it.

You take a little nap because, really now, who can answer these impossible questions? But of course you’ve been assigned a seat beside the smartest girl in the whole math class, and that’s not helping matters. I can imagine what’s running through your head: How does she do that? How does she understand so easily? Why can’t I be like her? What’s wrong with me? I hate this. I’m going to fail. I don’t even know how to answer the first question. (It’s true, you don’t, because you’re napping through the test as a way to avoid crying in front of me, and you’ve only used up one inch of your scratch paper.)

But I’m thinking about how brave you are, how full of resilience you don’t even know you have, because where I come from, we moan and moan and split our sides moaning three times over because midterms week is so hard. Two or three in one day will absolutely kill us. But here you are, half my age, on your fifth test of the day, and it’s only 2 o’clock in the afternoon. You’ve been here since 8:30 AM. You’ve been sitting in the same desk beside the same people with the same pencil with the same proctors all day long, and you’re not even finished yet. (You have one more to go. And then a whole second day ahead of you with six more back-to-back tests.) You’re a rockstar, that’s what you are, whatever your grades may be.

And I want to tell you that so badly, but, uh, you’re napping through a test right now. A few minutes later, I look back at you, and you’ve woken up. You’ve decided to use your scratch paper as a highlighter doodle pad. (The nap definitely didn’t come with an instruction manual for how to FOIL.) You show me what you’ve written in bright pink: “Keep Calm and Love Math.” I smile, and I’m so proud of you. You’re not going to pass your test, at least not this one, but there will be others, and perhaps what’s most important right now is that you let yourself break down, you let yourself rest from it all, and then you picked yourself back up with some truth to swing you through.

How brave, how awesome you are, students of mine. No matter your grades. Your life is more than this, I promise you, and you’ll be finished soon. (In fact, you already are. Look at that!) You are more than the awful, sloppy moments of midterms week. Woohoo!

Your Teacher

PS. If you come into the office selling hydroponic vegetables as some sort of fundraiser – one minute after I finished writing this post, mind you – I will absolutely melt and buy them from you no matter the price. I’m all mush now.

When it’s time for my week in workouts, recap style: Vol. IV

Monday, September 15     |     Rest

I’d already scheduled a rest day for Monday back when I’d assumed I’d have run a half-marathon the day before. If you read last week’s recap, then you know it didn’t quite pan out that way. (UGH still.) Obviously I can adjust my workout schedule, but I just didn’t this time around.

Tuesday, September 16     |     Run + Yoga

I had a great three-mile run on the treadmill and then, later on that night, did my favorite YogaDownload session at home. It’s called Simple and Sweet Yoga Flow, and it’s 20 minutes long. I keep it saved in my iTunes to use at my leisure (which is obviously pretty frequently).

Wednesday, September 17     |     Run

My theory at the moment is, “So what that I couldn’t run the half last weekend? Why not jump into a full-on marathon training plan?” So that’s what I’m doing, pretty much with the mental concession that if I don’t actually end up running a marathon in the coming months and all I do is successfully train for one (like what happened with the half), then I’ll be okay with that. More than okay — proud of myself! So I’d scheduled a 7-mile run for Wednesday. However, since last week was incredibly exhausting (what with it being our last teaching week before final exams), I could barely even keep my eyes open on the treadmill (literally — I’m not even kidding). If I’m remembering correctly, I ran somewhere between 5 and 6 miles and then power-walked the rest of the way on an incline.

Thursday, September 18     |     Run + Yoga

Same deal, except this time it was a four-mile run that I could barely keep my eyes open for. Same YogaDownload session at home later on, mostly because my legs felt robotic they were so stiff and uncomfortable.

Friday, September 19     |     Rest

An incredibly glorious rest day!

Saturday, September 20     |     Cross-training

For last week’s cross-training day, I chose to cycle (my first time ever at this gym) for 45 minutes. I’m convinced that the settings are wrong on pretty much all of the gym equipment — but since that sounds ridiculous, I’m probably wrong — so I’m not quite sure how far I cycled. All I know is that the machine showed 16 kilometers by the end of the 45 minute-period, and my butt was suuuper sore when I stood up. A good workout though!

Sunday, September 21     |     Long run 

I’d intended to wake up very early and run half-marathon distance outside before the 100-degree heat hit, but I was so incredibly exhausted that that definitely didn’t happen. Instead, I opted for a ten-mile run on the treadmill around noon with pizza as a late lunch / reward afterwards. Awesome. I ate a huge, delicious salad for dinner, so in my mind, everything balanced out.

I’m pretty much ecstatic now that it’s final exams week. The past ten days were awful what with lack of sleep, writing and submitting final exams for approval, giving final exams early to four of my classes, and submitting all of the grades I have so far to the admin. (Which, let’s be honest, was more like playing with calculations in Excel since students can’t fail — any assignment, any quiz, any exam, any class. . . . ) But final exams week means that teachers’ sole responsibilities are to be in the office or to proctor exams as assigned. Glorious.

In other news, I submitted my first project for one grad school class on Saturday. My other (online) class has been going on for three weeks now, and it involves weekly reading and posting in discussion forums. Crazy that this is what my life is now!

Sizzlin' Friday night working on my project.
Sizzlin’ Friday night working on my project.

What have you been up to? How was your week in workouts? 

When a blonde-haired, blue-eyed girl became a minority

On June 3, 2013, I was sitting at my gate in the Hong Kong airport waiting to board my flight to Bangkok, the flight that would mark my official move to a new country. I vividly remember the feeling of giddiness coupled with my statement, “I’m surrounded by all Asians! I love it!” (Cringey? Yes, maybe. Bear with me.)

See, I’d amped up my move so much during the short time frame I’d been given (two months) between acceptance into the sending organization and being sent. I’d been completely head-over-heels for Asia, Asian people, and, specifically, Thailand and Thai people for two full years already. June 3 meant that the time was finally here! It was completely and utterly here — and proven by my physical surroundings: a smattering of Asians of numerous nationalities, all on their way to Bangkok. With me.

My arrival in Bangkok was not unsettling or shocking in the slightest, as I’d visited for the first time in 2011, so two years later I was not surprised by the things that might hit you upon a first sighting (or first smelling, as some would say) of the city outside the airport. My arrival was, instead, heaped with joy, a sense of homecoming, and further giddiness over this new sensation of intimately knowing and loving a foreign land, and finally returning to it.

My first week back in Thailand: wonderful. I spent it at orientation in Bangkok with, yes, some new people, but I took them to first-timers’ must-sees like the Grand Palace and Terminal 21. My return to Thailand felt exactly as I’d expected it to: warm and cozy, like home.

The next fifteen months up to the present: largely disheartening. I haven’t put my finger on all the reasons why yet, and I honestly can’t plumb the depths of it all right this minute because I don’t yet have enough emotional or physical distance to do that. But I do want to attempt a fumble through a few possibilities.

It is obviously an upside-down experience for a blonde-haired, blue-eyed American girl to be a minority. Take me outside Bangkok, Chiang Mai, and Phuket (the three most heavily expat-populated cities in Thailand), and all — I mean all — eyes are on me. In some ways, it’s an introvert’s haven: you get on the song-thaew to ride to work, and no one speaks to you (language barrier like whoa) and no one smiles at you or otherwise acknowledges you, but everyone stares at you. Most stare until you look back at them; then they blink and turn away. But there are the few — not uncommonly — who will stare right back, unblinking, just s t a r i n g. Now, there are the very few times when no one will stare, and it is like a slice of heaven. But even with all the staring, I — an introvert — am otherwise unbothered. If people are talking all around me, I hear them but can’t understand a word of what they’re saying. It is rare that anyone attempts to talk to me. And, so, I can sit in a crowd of people (a crowd of stare-y people, more often than not) and feel as if I’m completely alone with my own thoughts. There’s no possibility for multi-tasked listening since I can’t understand the radio, the billboards, or the words of the person sitting beside me on my skirt hem. It’s just me, alone with whatever my thoughts might be. (Hint: they’re typically about how it could not be any hotter than it is right now.)

For the record, I cannot speak Thai. (Not for a lack of desire, mind you. I’ve met people who have lived in this city for years and have yet to find someone to tutor them. I’m telling you, this is no Bangkok.) But I’d say that my success rate at ordering lunch and dinner is at 90% and that, after some speech attempts plus hand motions, I can usually get my destination across to a motorcycle taxi driver, van driver, or bus station attendant. Sometimes these interactions go swimmingly; sometimes they are the worst. Sometimes my conversation partner is smiling and encouraging; sometimes she / he is visibly irritated and eye-rolling. And sometimes I’m on the receiving end of the irritation and eye-rolling before I even open my mouth to speak — simply because I’m a foreigner. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been applauded by Thai people because “I can speak Thai so well!” and then, the very next day or hour or minute I am met with laughter or frustration or actually being walked away from when I try to speak to someone else.

I have had people clap at me to get my attention. I’ve had fingers snapped in my face. I’ve had handfuls of people walk away from me when I’m trying to communicate something to them. I’ve had fistfuls of people turn to the person beside them and speak in Thai for minutes rather than answering my attempts. I’ve had servers see me approaching and they immediately sigh or roll their eyes or make someone else deal with me (that’s what it feels like).

For awhile, I believed this was the exception to the rule. (This really is rare and shocking to Thai people I tell, but I’ve even had a group of servers laugh in my face and mimic me.) And really and truly, so many Thai people are exceptionally warm and forgiving and considerate. I’ve had people bend over backwards to make sure I get to my destination (i.e. calling friends to drive me to where I need to go; themselves driving me halfway across town to my hotel because the van dropped me off at the wrong location; and talking to bus station attendants in Thai for me to be extra sure I get on the correct bus). I’ve had countless people stop to tell me how beautiful I am. Dozens of kids have run up to me to say hello or to ask “How are you?” in English, and they’re always so tickled when I respond. The restaurant owners near my house have made every effort to make me feel included in their family amusements when I’m eating at their restaurant, and they’ve taken care of my bills that have shown up in my mailbox late and then need to be taken who-knows-where to be paid in-person, and they’ve watched my pets while I’ve been away.

The thing is, being one in a thousand (the one that sticks out?) is extremely, exceedingly draining. It has worn me down to the thinnest version of myself. I can totally understand why some foreigners grow bitter here: because the bad, the embarrassing, the awkward, and the cruel can stick out so, so, so much more than the outstanding, the kind, the selfless, and the gracious.

I’m not sure what the conclusion should be here. All I know is that I feel like I’m in the strangest position: a white girl being a minority — imagine that! (Obviously that’s not so bizarre if the scope of your day-in-and-day-out thoughts extend beyond North America and Europe.) I do know that I think constantly now about those who immigrate to America, or anywhere else for that matter. I think constantly about native-born citizens who are minorities within their own homelands. I imagine what the stigmas attached to them could be, and in some instances I know these stigmas all too well because they’re assumptions I’ve made about them in the past.

Oh my goodness, for the love, have everlasting patience with English language learners. Bear with them as they smile and point and turn a little red and try to eek out the English words they’ve been practicing over and over for this particular exchange. For the love, believe that a minority could actually be a native-born citizen with a higher pay grade and three times more education than you. It’s so possible. From my own exceedingly minimal and, in comparison, sososo painless experience as a minority in Thailand, I’m asking you to see human when you look at people unlike yourself. Enough awful interactions start piling up quickly after awhile, and life becomes miserable. As a “by appearance, typical” American, European, Brazilian, Kenyan, Indonesian, you have so much power to instill with hope those who typically get a bad rap. Note: This is not to say that minorities are weak and need the majority to uphold them and give them reason to live. But it is to say, Speak with love, take a deep breath and speak with patience, and golden rule it. Interact as you’d wish to be interacted with. It really makes so much difference.

A very important PS: If you know much about the employment of native speakers in the Thai school system, then you might be protesting what I’ve written in this post. Let me say, it is true that native speakers are highly desirable as English teachers here; it is not difficult to find a teaching job; and the salary is (I’d say, unfairly) higher for native English speakers than for non-native English speakers. (An example to underscore this last point: I’ve met Thais and Filipinos with fantastic English ability and a neutral accent who are either paid less or simply not hired in favor of a strongly-accented Brit, Australian, etc.) To me, this is unfair and quite obviously in favor of the white-skinned foreigner. All that to say, for me, living as a minority in Thailand can be quite cushy in terms of employment opportunities and salary. Hear me on this: I am not complaining about either or asking to be “elevated” to the level of a Thai person. (For the record, I’ve never even felt some kind of top-down Thai-foreigner hierarchy.) That is not the case at all. All I’ve wanted to do in this post is raise the very interesting issue of immigrating to another country where a) the tables are turned, and you are now the minority and b) your native language is not spoken with fluency or functionality by the majority of the country. What happens then? How does it make you feel? How does it affect your interactions with minorities in your native country and in others where you travel? That’s all.

When it’s time for my week in workouts, recap style: Vol. III

Ohhhhhh, dear. Last week.

Last week feels like a blur. Or, more accurately, like something I can’t even remember — probably because I blocked it out. I had a horrendous weekend in which I felt the lowest of the low because I decided to stop trying to push it and make it to the half-marathon on Sunday. The race I had planned on running since April was to be about four hours away from me, which in theory is not bad at all. But, in reality, given the unreliability of Thai public transportation (think: songthaew to pick up a van on the side of the road; van to the BTS; BTS + MRT + city bus to the bus station; bus to town; taxi or who knows what to packet pick-up; taxi or who knows what back to my guesthouse an hour away), and given the fact that I had some work assignments sprung on me last-minute, and given the fact that I didn’t get back to my house until 9 PM on Friday night (and still had to pack, finish several grad school assignments, and get a good night’s sleep before leaving at 8 AM the next day), it just was not going to happen. Despite ALL MY CAREFUL PLANNING AND PREPARATION. Ugh. I can’t really talk about it.

So let’s just jump right into the recap, shut our eyes, and try to move on. There will be other half-marathons, there will be other half-marathons . . .

Monday, September 8     |     Yoga
60-minute Gentle Flow class at the gym.

Tuesday, September 9     |     Run
I ran 45 minutes on the treadmill and pretty much enjoyed it!

Wednesday, September 10     |     Run
Again, I hit up the treadmill and ran 30 minutes this time.

Thursday, September 11     |     Rest
I started powering down with rest days in preparation for the race . . .

Friday, September 12     |     Rest 
Ditto. (Also, I got the best massage ever in preparation. I regret the no race bit, obviously. I do not regret the massage — it was not at all wasted.)

Saturday, September 13 – Sunday, September 14     |     Wallowing in self-pity 

Over and out! We’re on to bigger and better things this week. AKA back to running when I’m not buried under an insurmountable pile of grading and exam-writing . . .

When I let you snoop around my house

All right, all right, it’s not snooping. I’m not going to open up my drawers or show you the spare room where I keep only my cat’s litter box. But I am going to let you in for a little bit of a first-timer’s peek inside my house. After all, it’s only been eleven months since I moved in (!) . . .

Starting from the top left, we have a view of the neighborhood as seen from my teeny-tiny balcony. I took this photo at sunset way back in May when I was doing the #100HappyDays challenge, and apart from the “duh” beauty of the sunset, I particularly think it contributed to my #100HappyDays because I’ve always, always wanted to live somewhere with multi-colored houses all along the street — and here it is, in Thailand!

Next up is a close-up of the front door (and my umbrella — after all, it is rainy season). Of all the things that Thailand knows how to do right, making beautiful doors is one of them.

The far left photo in the middle row is the majority of the downstairs space. Though you’ll have to squint to really attempt a snoop, I’ll tell you that apart from that fantastic geometric rug and oh-so-comfy sofa, there’s a scratching post for Aggie (so that she’ll let the sofa be), a fridge and trashcan, two shelves smushed together to hold all the food paraphernalia, Aggie’s food and water bowls, and the door to the “backyard” (which is actually just a rectangular patch of cement). Apart from the rug and the sofa, my other two favorite parts of the downstairs are the yellow bit you can see hanging on the wall (a traditional Lanna flag picked up in Chiang Rai — and there’s an orange one unpictured) + the glass coffee table. Bonus information: I’ve got two magnetic quotes from Barnes & Noble on my fridge, and they’re ones I’ve carried with me everywhere I’ve lived since college. One is by Emerson and the other is a favorite from Alice in Wonderland.

Then there’s a snippet of the bed with a very, very well-loved elephant tapestry from Laos hanging above it. I say “well-loved” because kitten claws finally got to it, so it was taken down not too long ago: 1) Aggie pulled it down in the middle of the night and 2) it’s not ruined by any means, but I’d rather preserve it for safe-keeping than use 35 more Command strips trying to hang it back up again!

The remaining four photos are all different sections of the room I’ve come to call, simply, “the desk room.” It’s not an office since I don’t work from home — and sometimes I go a full week without spending much time in there at all — and it’s pretty small, so there’s not room for much other than the desk. So, then, why all the photos? Well, it’s a teeny room, so it’s basically impossible to capture every bit in one go, but I also really love it. I think it’s the room I love most, in fact. Almost everything is from Ikea: the desk, the paintings, the coffee table, the rugs. I just love the cozy and eclectic feel it has, what with a really gorgeous candle and a too-cute-for-its-own-good elephant bookend, a few maps of places I’ve visited around Thailand, the succulents, and some shells I’ve picked up while traveling. (Oh yeah, and my grad school books from last month are there too.) The window in here is really great too — it has the same design as the downstairs door, and it lets in a lot of beautiful natural light. Insider scoop: Nora the hedgehog has a new set-up (unpictured) in one corner. This room’s a winner. 

I hope you enjoyed this little house tour! For those of you with spaces bigger than an apartment, tell me what you do to keep your house an inspiring place — as well as what you to do keep yourself from going crazy because it never stays clean! It really is one of the craziest things to me (along with time flies the older you get) — you clean one thing, and something else gets dirty; you clean that, something else gets dirty; and by the time you’ve finished, you’re back at square one and it’s time to clean everything all over again. Harumph. 

When I’d quite possibly never been happier to be on American soil before

While July was summer break in America for most people near my age, it was most definitely not for me. July falls smack-dab in the middle of rainy season in Thailand, and it also falls smack-dab in the middle of the academic semester. So my necessary trip back to the States was 50% the best (good weather and relaxed Americans) and 50% the worst (my colleagues all giving me the evil eye as I left them behind during midterms week). 

Now, why was this trip necessary? BECAUSE, GRAD SCHOOL! YAAAAAAS. 

Ahem. It really and truly was because of grad school. But, to be more specific, it was because I’m enrolled in a hybrid Masters in TESOL program which involves one-two weeks / semester of in-person classes. Every July, these in-person classes take place in California, and every January, classes take place in Thailand. (Convenient!) These lectures kickstart the beginning of whatever new class is on the agenda, and then, for the remainder of the semester, I submit my research assignments via the lovely Internet. 

I’m completely sold. 

After an extraordinarily lonely first year living abroad, the idea of REAL-LIFE PEOPLE! NEW FRIENDS! FACE-TO-FACE LECTURES! was like cake to Kate Spade. I was all over it, and, luckily, it turned out just as I’d hoped. I met up with one of my best friends on a long layover and hit up Santa Monica; I ate all of the foods I’d missed with my parents and another best friend back on the East Coast; I grabbed coffee and pizza and falafel and fro-yo with new friends in-between lectures; and you better believe I booked it to the Chipotle .3 miles away at least a handful of times. 

Note: If you click on each photo one at a time and then wait for it to load, you’ll be able to read each caption.
Second note: Much thanks to Kelly for the far left and middle photos in the bottom row! You + Santa Monica were the greatest layover combination in existence.

So, when it was actually time to buckle down for classes, here’s what was up for bat: Teaching English Pronunciation. Seven to eight hours of class every day for five days in a row was no joke — especially when a test, a research proposal, a small presentation, and numerous graded homework assignments were involved (talk about déjà vu! I thought I was a teacher, not a student!) — but I can honestly say that I loved it. Of course my energy gradually began to decrease each day, but the subject matter was fascinating to me. I love that my classmates teach all over the globe (we’re all in the same boat!) and that we can put what we’ve learned into immediate action upon return to our respective countries. Among twenty-or-so of us, we cover Thailand, Cambodia, China, Kazakhstan, Saudi Arabia, Korea, Indonesia, and California! Seriously, I cannot say enough about (1) what a fantastic idea this program is and (2) how fantastically implemented it is. Here’s to the rest of the semester + beginning a new one together — Thai style — in January!

As for jet lag, my body cut me hecka slack. I made it through a 13-hour daytime layover in LA without a hitch, slept on my red-eye, and arrived at my destination the next morning able to power through another day as well. I remember having about three days in a row where I’d lay down for a nap in the early afternoon, intending to sleep no more than an hour, and then I’d wake up at dinnertime. Oops! But, other than that, jet lag was not killer at all. I’m so thankful, as I’ve heard terrible stories in particular about what re-entry to Thailand is like after being with family, friends, and your favorite home-y foods. Even then, I was able to power through my first week back at work with minimal napping and only slight fatigue. I also remember feeling genuinely grateful for my break from the constant barrage of expat life yet not overcome by homesickness at all. Praise!

Well, after that spillover of memories, I’d say it’s time to wrap things up! As for now, I’m making my way through two more weeks of teaching before final exams. Then it’s time for a semester break. Thank you, calendar; I’ll gladly accept.