I have spent a total of 2 years living overseas. 365 days since I moved from New Zealand to Thailand. All the planning, stress, anxiety and sleepless nights worrying lead me to my life now. I am so thankful that I WORKED and made my DREAM a reality. There were many moments where I thought about throwing in the towel and booking a flight back to Canada, instead of a one way ticket to Thailand. Since grade 8 I dreamed about coming back to Thailand and living here, not coming back as a tourist, but experiencing day to day life in my homeland. Try to reconnect with my culture and experience living somewhere else other than North America. The paperwork/politics of trying to live here, the language barrier and the anxiety over finding a job, and living accommodations while being Thai illiterate has made me a much stronger person!
If I had to define my year in Thailand it would be; self-discovery. I am a transracial adult adoptee (TRA) who is continually trying to figure out my adoption story and ongoing life story. Racial and cultural issues play a deep role in my identity. I have always felt like I was searching for something unattainable. Becoming more self-aware continues to help but never solves this problem. Learning more about racial and cultural issues and discovering communities of support have been life changing. The amount of literature now out there and currently being published is encouraging. I realize the concept of HOME is ever evolving for me. Being an adoptee will always be a lifelong learning process.
All that said – living in Thailand has made me appreciate all the opportunities I was given growing up as a Canadian citizen, in a household of 5. My family will always means the world to me. I will never be able to express the gratitude I feel for the life my parents gave me. They may not have “given me life” – but they may as well have put air into my lungs. When they chose to adopt me I was welcomed into a beautiful family with so many people to love.
I am proud of myself. The other day someone very dear to me reminded me that I should feel super proud of all I have achieved and accomplished. Moving and living in Thailand is no easy feat. I took a moment to really reflect on just how far I have come. I have always described myself as shy, almost deathly shy. When people argue that I am anything BUT SHY I become immediately defensive. Maybe it is not that I am shy but overwhelming self-conscious?? Many adoptees identify themselves as being codependent. Mix that in with the desire to try and always please people and you create a big insecurity problem. I care what people think. I wish I could always have my supportive group of friends and peers around me. I value their opinions ALMOST more than my own. I want to make other people happy. I want to laugh and smile and to make sure others are enjoying themselves too. Travelling alone has really helped me establish my core group of people. People who love and care about me. We ignore the distance and focus on the constant connections. Thankfully, I also do make friends relatively easy. There was never really a time that I felt alone in New Zealand or here in Thailand. I know what I want in a friend and I am finding it easier to let go of those who don’t put the effort in. In Canada I used to try so hard to hold on to weakening friendships. It really isn’t possible to be friends with someone who doesn’t put in the effort. It has become very clear to me that I work extremely hard to stay in touch with my friends, and I am ever so appreciative of their love in return. No matter the time or distance we have been away their love and energy means…Everything.
Not only do I have a wonderful family but I have had the continual joy of being welcomed into the lives of countless other people and families. My time in New Zealand was so memorable because I was welcomed with open arms by 3 great families! Here in Thailand my friends have all introduced me to their friends and families. It feels great to feel like a community member of their tight knit group. My Canadian friends have always made me feel like extensions of their family! I am forever grateful to have shared in so many great memories.
I had originally planned on sharing some of my opinions and experiences of living in Thailand but I think I will save that for a separate post. I want to end this by answering one of my most asked questions, “When are you going back to Canada”? My answer to that is I really don’t know. At least once a day I think about it and what my plans for the future are. This quotes sums it up really well.
Sorry it has been ages since I have blogged. Believe me I think about posting often. I don’t know how many I have composed in my head…someone needs to invent a keyboard that types out your thoughts!!! Much love and thanks to everyone who reads this. Thank you all for the support. I have travel blogs and pictures to share..one day!!
Lots of Love Always,
Amanda Sumalee Dowput MacWilliam
Officially the first day of our Andaman Coast Vacation
We arrived at the bus terminal a little earlier than we expected. It was close to a 12 hour drive after the breaks were factored in. A few facts about our bus ride:
Turned out the ticket attendant who couldn’t find our seat also sat at the very back of the bus and would take his jacket off when he wasn’t working. He was seated perpendicular to our seats so we would see him lying across the two chairs sleeping and then suddenly jolt up if the bus stopped. He would rush to put his jacket on and hurry down the steps to see what was happening. We found it odd that he would be seated on the 2nd floor atthe very back of a double decker bus.
There were a lot of sketchy stops. Through the darkness we would feel the bus slow down but wouldn’t be able to see any buildings or markings of a bus stop. We would sometimes catch a glimpse of people standing next to suspicious looking packages. Some big, some small. Packages were quickly loaded onto the bus and we would continue our driving. I don’t think we would have found it so odd there was some consistency. Sometimes money was quickly passed to the driver and the sizes of the packages were unpredictable….
Another thing to note is our coworkers and travel books/websites all warned us about locking our luggage and bringing all our valuables on the bus with us. We made the decision not to lock our bags to show we had nothing of real value in our luggage. We stayed nervously confident that all our belongings would be accounted for -and they always were!! yay.
Our exhaustion quickly turned into hyper-ness which I captured in this short clip: Megs uncontrollably laughing and me encouraging her giggles http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Kvk9o42ahQA
We were excited to get off the bus and start seeing Krabi Town! We had a decent amount of sleep on the bus and were eager to check into our hotel and begin sightseeing. We easily got our bags off the bus –but then the confusion set in. We did not see any taxis waiting. There were no visible forms of public transit. There were just locals repeatedly asking us if we needed a ride or to book a tour. All we really wanted was a map and to go to our hotel. We finally figured out that the locals were the ones that charged taxi fare but drove their own vehicles at an outrageously set price. Sheer genius on their parts; we really had no other viable options. We felt like helpless tourist. No matter how near (or far) the location was we were at the mercy of the driver. We paid the set rate and quickly discovered how close our place was to the bus depot. If it had been a metered taxi the fare would have been at least half of the outrageous rate we were quoted.
Our suggestions to all those who work at the Krabi Town Bus Terminal:
To all the taxi drivers trying to strum up business -don’t swarm the bus and start grabbing at peoples’ luggage. Passengers have been on the bus for nearly 12 hours– we don’t want to get off a bus and see a bunch of people touching our belongings.
Wear name tags or something to distinguish yourself as employees. The taxi drivers and the ticket agents just blended in with all the other passengers and other people at the terminal. (People kept approaching us asking if we wanted to book tickets. One man was carrying around a mug and cellphone. We weren’t looking for a scenic tour of the town by some local with extra seats in his car. We wanted a taxi driver to drop us off at our destination.) Ironically, we asked somebody else for a ride and he directed us towards “mug man”. So in the end he DID get our business.
We were disappointed to arrive at The I Talay Room and Souvenir Guesthouse only to discover that they were closed. The rooms are located above the souvenir shop. The shop’s tables were all covered in cloth but we could see that they did have some cute souvenirs for sale. Judging by the exterior of the building we were not having high expectations for indoor facilities. We sat outside in the gorgeous sunshine trying to be patient. It was a little frustrating that one of the staff members came up to us to tell us their English speaking staff member would arrive at 10am and we could then check in. She was puttering around in the background which made us wonder why she came into work if couldn’t check us in or open the store? Things that make you go hmmm.
We did some Lonely Planet Travel Guide reading and lots of Candy Crushing (iphone game app) to pass the time. When the staff member did arrive after 10am we struggled to understand that we were still unable to check in. I noticed a sign was in Thai but had the numbers 1:30pm. I groined and relayed the message to Megs. Neither of us saw a MESSAGE anywhere on agoda.com (where we made the reservation bookings online) about 1:30 book in time. After patiently conversing in Thenglish (Thai-English) Megs was brilliantly able to communicate the time 11:30am. We now had hopes that our room would be ready at 11:30am. Megs was adventurous enough to go off on her own in search of food and a quick sight-see. My lazy-ass volunteered to stay with the bags and bask in the sunshine.
Finally checked in around noon. Not the way we had planned our first day of vacation. Our plans of spending Christmas lounging on the beach while drinking refreshing cold drinks was a bust!! We had lost half the day and were now exhausted from sitting around in anticipation. We got to our room and it smelt awful. A mix between: dust, mold…just overall staleness. We were told THERE WAS HOT water, just not on our floor we had to go upstairs. (I don’t have hot water in my apartment so I was really looking forward to some hot showers on my vacation) Our air-conditioning didn’t work and our windows were sealed shut by screws. Please enjoy our room review. (If you are wondering about our accents: Megs is from the United States of America and I am from Canada).
While Megs unpacked I told her I was just going to relax and lay down. I accidentally (but by no means fought NOT TOO) fell into a deep sleep and Megs saw that I had dozed off so decided to join in on the fun. We didn’t mean to NAP until 4pm but boy was it wonderful. We deserved it. We felt so relaxed and refreshed when we woke up.
We got dressed and were now pumped for our Krabi Town adventures. We walked along the water and inquired about boat fares over to Koh Phi Phi. We booked return tickets that also provided us with a minivan shuttle to the boat dock. The agoda.com reviews were right in saying the night market were very close to our place. It was definitely within walking distance of the hotel and we enjoyed looking at all the stalls. I am always on the lookout for fresh coconut water and I was not disappointed when I finally found some.
During our very leisurely walk we stumbled upon the Hotel/Restaurant Good Dream that was featured in the Lonely Planet in 2008. They were showing a Christmas movie in English at 7pm. Their sign advertised that it was the only English movie they owned. We glanced at the menu and were intrigued by the style of it. The dry sense of humor throughout the menu is ultimately what sold us on the place. For my Christmas dinner I ordered fried rice and Megs ordered the special of burger/fries/soda pop. (A fun fact about Megs that I learned very early on is that she is addicted to Coke. Not diet coke not pepsi –Coke. I am not a big soda pop drinker but I can appreciate her addiction and have joined in on it on numerous occasions…She thinks it is funny how I have to let it sit for a while to let the fizz die down. (Unlike most people I much prefer flat pop! She won’t drink it once it has lost its fizz.) Sadly Megs did not enjoy the burger as much as she had hoped to. She tried to coaxed me into taking a bite but I kindly declined…after expressing her thoughts on it tasting funky I thought it best to skip that offer.
After our leisurely dinner we walked around the town and grabbed some fresh fruit from the market. We were going to be having an early morning so I bought some breakfast foods. We decided to have a chill night and just hang out back at the hotel. DESPITE our super un-high-speed-internet Megs was able to skype with her family in America. Her Mom’s story about how she broke her wrist was (tragically) hilarious. In my humble opinion the Selby’s are gifted storytellers. They can find the humor in anyyyyyy story!
This was a pretty long blog for not having done much on day one of Krabi! Sorry for those who aren’t speed readers. Happy Holidays!!!!
Thanks for reading!
(with help from Megs)
***A reminder that any picture on the blog can be enlarged by double clicking over it*** I upload them at a medium or small size to save on data storage***
Today begins the first day of Meg s and my 9 day road trip during our Christmas break! We had both been really looking forward to our adventures around the Andaman Coast! As teachers, we were thankful to be able to get 9 days off. This is how my fabulous travel buddy and I chose to spend our days:
Eve of the 24th -Board the night bus to Krabi
Wed Dec 25th -Day in Krabi
Thurs Dec 26th -Day at gorgeous Koh Phi Phi
Fri Dec 27th -Commute to Phuket
Sat Dec 28th -Professional beach bums at Surin Beach, Phuket
Sun Dec 29th -Chilaxing at Hata Kata Beach, Phuket
Mon Dec 30th -5 hour bus ride to Trang Town, Scooter rentals
Tues Dec 31st -Death defying day of scootering around Trang / Evening bus back to Bangkok
Wed Jan 1st -Arrive back at the Bangkok bus terminal only to see lots of POLICE and traffic…
[Apologies for my lack of blogging. I have plans of posting blogs to fill you in on the “gaps” from the past 5 months. I am an extreme procrastinator and STILL have so many photos to sort and edit through! I really hope to become more active on BROWN EYED GIRL in 2014. Thanks for sticking with me. I brought my laptop along during the vacation and was able to jot down notes every day of our travels. I had planned to blog and post daily but clearly that did not go as planned. I really had not taken into account all the commuting exhaustion and just how lacking the internet would be!!]
As soon as school ended at 3:30pm I excited walked home to grab my packed bags. In order to meet Megs at our arranged meeting place I had to catch a songtow, ride on the Railink for 30 minutes and then transfer over to the BTS for one stop. We met up at the Victory Monuement BTS stop and hopped into a taxi towards the Southern bus depot (Sai Tai Mai). Even though traffic was bad at this hour we arrived with plenty of time to spare before our bus would depart at 8:00pm.
I set my iphone to capture this picture because we were so clueless as to what the ticket lady was trying to tell us…
It took a while for the ticket agent to figure out how to print off two tickets and give them to us. There was some confusion and a bit of waiting around before we were given two tickets and a receipt. The bus left shortly after 8:15pm and we were both excited to be starting our vacation. There was a little mix up in the seating arrangements when we first arrived on our bus. The seating attendant struggled to locate our seats on our tickets. At one point it seemed like we might be on the wrong bus or people were in our seat. Luckily it was sorted out and we were able to catch some sleep on our 12 hour bus ride from Bangkok to Krabi Town. We were pleasantly surprised that our tickets were less than we had budgeted and we were provided with beverages and snacks on the bus. We say snacks as opposed to a meal because the portion sizes were not comparable to any meal we would be satisfied with.
I promise, IN TIME I will post an entry for each day of the trip.
Thanks for reading and please keep checking back for updates.
These past few months keep surprising me with unforeseeable outcomes. Many have been so amazing. That phrase of EVERYTHING HAPPENS FOR A REASON is feeling like a reoccurring theme in my life.
In 2012 I joined a Facebook group called Bangkok Expats. I made a post about my back story and how I was eagerly planning my move for 2013. Mia replied to my post and we quickly began swapping stories of our Thai adoptions and our present life. I felt an instant kinship to her. Not wanting to go too deep into Mia’s personal story I can say that she is a Thai adoptee like me. She was adopted into a loving Australian family and raised away from her homeland. At the age of 21, she flew to Thailand alone to travel and discover the country. I was fascinated at how many similarities we shared. I felt an insta-bond to this lady I had yet to meet. My commute to getting to Mia and her husband Eddie’s house was memorable. Meeting them for the first time was both exciting and amazing. It just refueled my joy for having made it to Thailand.
To get to Mia’s house was an adventure in itself. I had never been to her house before and FOR THE LIFE OF ME could not locate it on a map (paper or electronic!). I was nervous to have to take a taxi for the first time. Recently, locals and tourists have felt the need to share horror stories of tourist being kidnapped or being taken on the LONGEST route possible to their destination. Mia reassuringly told me to call her if I had any hassles and gave me all the details on how much the fare should be and what possible routes the driver would take. I was feeling excited and nervous.
On a daily basis drivers of: tuk tuks, motorcycles and taxi’s honk at me or slow down to try and get me to hop aboard. I always try to look uninterested and keep walking to whatever destination I am heading towards. So the first time I need to hail a taxi I thought it would be easy! I kept scanning the traffic and standing as close to the edge of the sidewalk as possible. I knew that if I walked to BIG C and the other shops there were always vehicles hanging around waiting to drive people. I was just so stunned that no one had picked me up by the time I was almost halfway to the shops. I then spotted a green and yellow taxi (with his light on) coming out of a soi. I waved at him and he nodded his head. I confidently took the front seat and optimistically asked him if he spoke English. He said, “Little bit”! Phewff I was able to exhale. I got a good vibe off of him and the fact that he answered back in English. I was very prepared for the, “Nitto”.
Well to my AMAZEMENT my taxi driver not only spoke a little English…HE SPOKE a lot and we were able to converse completely in English. It did make me slightly nervous when he told me he had to tell me something, “I have to tell you that the green and yellow taxis are private. We don’t belong to a company”. I gave him this blank stare. He quickly reassured me that I was SAFE! He just wanted to let me know that people in green and yellow taxis own their own cars and make their own hours. So he is selective as to which passengers he takes. He bought his car from a dealer and designed the inside of it. I asked him why he chose for his car to have cable but not a gps system? He said he found them to be unreliable and got more lost with them. Not even 2 minutes into the ride I noticed a Canadian flag sticker on the meter. (OF COURSE I NOTICED it because whenever I am in any taxi I always incessantly check the number as it grows bigger and bigger!) The taxi driver told me that Canada is one of his favourite countries. For respect to the couple’s privacy I won’t share their whole lives’ histories but …again I felt like everything was happening for a reason. His wife is American, whose Dad works (worked?) for an oil company. She was born in New Mexico but did a lot of moving around as a child. Their family moved to Thailand and that is where she met him. She is now an English Kindergarten teacher. We switched contact info and was told I could call him if I ever needed a ride. I could even schedule times days in advance. So fancy 🙂
Let’s just say I am now friends with 2 amazing couples! Both women met and fell in love with Thai men and never left Thailand. So sweet. So romantic. In one day I welcomed 4 incredible people into my life. Thailand is really living up to its name: The. Land. Of. Smiles.
Thanks for reading!
P.S. So proud of Kiwi Momma for all her blogging of the Singapore/Hong Kong trip. I knew you could survive without my IT services 🙂
P.P.S. Looking forward to reading all of your NEW YORK blogs DOM! This is so exciting that you will be in your “home away from home” so sooooon!!!!
What a great blogging community I am helping to create. Go Suma go!
I should have blogged this weeks ago –forcing myself out of my lazy blog funk!!
The first day of October and I was treated like a tourist princess. I had asked Marius to treat me like a tourist and he did just that! He took control of the whole outing.
I walked from my place to the bus stop at Big C Chaengwattana. There are no bus schedules so estimating commute times is nearly impossible. The buses come and go however they please and don’t always stop EVEN when you are waving at them. I wish I could say standing and waiting at the bus stop is pleasurable…but man oh man is it ever hot on your legs when the sun hits you! Took me about 40 minutes on the 166 bus to get to the Victory Monument stop. From there I caught the BTS skytrain to the Siam stop. Love the BTS! It runs so efficiently and air conditioned. I don’t always get a chance to sit, but the asian TV ads are able to distract me pretty well! From Siam I walked a short distance to MBK where Marius and I met up. We walked to the canals where we hopped on. Marius was telling me that not many tourists use the canals as a mode of transportation. The price of tickets has stayed reasonably low. The signage to locate the docks are not clearly marked with English maps or names so farang/falang (like myself would have no idea how to differentiate the different stops)! So glad he was with me or I would have stayed on the boat all day. The operators of the boat shoo people on and off the boats so quickly that you NEED to be ready to jump off when it is your stop. What would have been around a one hour bus ride was a cool 20 minute scenic boat ride. We walked passed The Grand Palace on our way to Khao San.
I finally got to see Khao San Road…during the day. As a popular backpackers stomping ground, it takes on two different personalities! Around midday they stop all the vehicle traffic along the road and make it “night life friendly”. I was excited to see all the food stalls and especially the little collectible trinket stalls. I finally saw the tourist Tshirts! We stopped in at a couple of used bookstores to search for some books my Daddy-O recommended for me. No luck finding them but I found LOTSSS of other books. Don’t think I will be buying a new book for awhile!
Soi Rambutri was a lot quieter. A gorgeous stretch filled with restaurants. We passed a fish pedicure salon! I want to try it one day. The sensation of having fish pick away at, and then eat your dead skin must feel so weird!! We stopped for food and drink at a funky little restaurant. We were both attracted by the shade and fans!
We boarded a boat at the Phra Arthit Pier and headed towards Sukhumvitt. We chose to board the local boat (that was more than half the fare) as opposed to the tourist or farang/falang boat. We had to hop on the BTS for a couple of stops. Again I was a very happy tourist looking at ALL THE SHOPS. It was late afternoon so the stalls weren’t too busy. I witnessed my first car accident while trying to cross a busy intersection. Marius and I heard this extremely LOUD CRUNCH and saw a bus drive into the left side of a truck. We heard the crunch then saw the bus TRY to keep moving straight..further metal on metal action. It really felt like slow motion. Luckily there was no passenger in the truck. Both vehicles were turning left and it seemed like it was the buses fault..but who knows how that issue was resolved.
We went to some more book stores and found another restaurant to stop and eat at. The restaurant was cute and quirky. As we progressed into the meal I was reminded to always pack insect repellant. The bugs were relentless and forced Marius to run to the nearest 7 Eleven! I ordered sticky rice and mangoes. I was surprised at how sweet the rice was. I don’t remember it being this way. I felt like I was being hit with a huge sugar rush.
It was a great day of sightseeing.The humidity was a great excuse to pop into different places for refreshing drinks!I loved being navigated around and not being stressed about getting lost.
Forgot to mention we also saw the building and alley/soi where Hangover 2 was filmed.
Thanks for reading! The countdown is ON until I move back into the city. EXCITED. I. am. to be closer to friends!!
27 years ago this week my parents moved from Calgary, Canada to Bangkok, Thailand!!! Is it ironic that I am currently 27 years old and chose Sept 2013 to move back to Thailand? So many arrangements had to be adjusted and planned to get me to where I am today. I am taking my parents moving anniversary of living in my homeland as a positive sign for the future. WITHOUT THEM I would not be the Thai-Canadian I am today. Happy happy thoughts to celebrate this momentous milestone in our lives.
GORGEOUS view of Whistler. Canada
I have lived here for a week now and already feel like time is flying by. I managed to bus to school all by myself. Unfortunately as soon as I arrived I was reminded that it was only FRIDAY and school was on Saturday. I felt so silly and a little heartbroken. My inner geek was so excited for my first day of school. I must have mixed up my days; Tuesday felt like 2 separate days for me. I arrived at 1am in the morning and saw Pi Loong twice that day. I think that is what through me off. It was actually a good thing I went because I found out the bus ride to towards school was over an hour long. I learned to allow for more commuting time. I have not encountered any pedestrian cross walks yet. I am still feeling proud of myself every time I cross the road. I crossed 8 lanes of traffic without injury!I wonder if that feeling will slowly fade?
It was my first time to enter some of the malls and really look around at the fashion. There seems to be 2 different styles of fashion. Conservative wear of pants/skirts/tshirts/polos and button up shirts. Compared to the more “touristy or trendy fashions” which includes v-neck or heart shaped tops and shorter skirts and shorts. The local women all wear flip flips or wedged flip flops. I still don’t know how they manage the roads and public transit in their foot wear. The more affluent ladies wear heels, makeup and carrying a posh looking purse. I myself wear a mixture of both. In public I wear pants (sometimes shorts) and high neck t-shirts. Many of my tops and dresses are too low cut in the front. The v neck has always been a staple fit for my wardrobe but is not appreciated in local Thai fashion. It feels like the more conservative I look the hotter I am. AS SOON AS I step through my apartment door I am peeling off my clothes and trying to cool down. My short skirts and shorts paired with a tank top are my immediate go to. The past few days I have been wearing my sarong or swimsuit cover up with no bra. When I am hot straps irritate me so much. I wish I could dress more like a tourist but I am trying to blend in and respect the culture as much as I can these days. I have been warned that this is the rain season –the next two seasons are dry and HOT. I LOVE THE HEAT I ABSOLUTELY love it I just don’t like sweating.
I was able to clean my laundry the other day using a bucket and hose. It really jolted me to see how dirty water turned. I was shocked but quickly realized when I do laundry with a machine I never SEE THE water! I don’t think much of my Canadian clothing will make its way back to Canada. It is getting so faded and stretched out already. (In NZ I washed my clothes in the washing machine then hung the clothes to dry on the line). Not a big deal since it will slowly start to get replaced by the Thai fashion here.
We went to the Pak Kred Boat Pier on Monday. I got to see where lots of locals hang out and eat along the water. I didn’t see many people being transported across the river but I did see food being loaded into boats. You can pay to feed the fish bread but I was against it. They were so big and looked like they were attacking each other to get the bread!
Thank you to my parents for flying to Thailand 27 years ago! Thank you to all my family, friends and new readers who continue to read my blog!
My first time enjoying a Traditional Thai coffee. There will be more in my future!
The orphanage I was adopted from was called the Phayathai Orphange and was located in Thailand’s metro region of Bangkok. Since the late 1990’s the orphanage merged with another orphanage and now run by the Thai Government. When the two orphanages merged together it took on the name of Pakkred (or Pakkret) Babies Home and became the largest one in Thailand. It is located around 40 minutes north of Bangkok. Part of my desire to come back to Thailand was to volunteer at the orphanage…Babies home. I keep calling it the orphanage but they no longer refer to it as an orphanage. I honestly don’t know what I expect to get out of this experience. I don’t know if it’s closure; giving me a sense of coming full circle? Maybe I will feel more connected to the country if I go back to where it all started? I am not sure. I just know that Thailand->Bangkok->Orphanage was always part of the plan.
Since the relocation of the babies’ home they have less volunteers dropping in. It is not conveniently located and many tourist find it hard to find. From what I have read from online blogs and other internet sources –many people find it too difficult to contact the administration. People wanting to donate or volunteer their time became too frustrated by the lack of communication resulting in a redirection of their donations to other charities. Reading those stories made me sad and even more determined to volunteer some of my time.
I checked out of the Embassy Hotel and taxied to Pi Sangwan’s apartment (that will be a separate blog! LOTS to say about that topic!) Together with Pi Loong, we headed off to find Pakkred Babies Home. Having left Bangkok, we thought we would be able to commute much more easily! The bus stops are right outside BIG C so it is our one stop shopping. It is the place to go for shopping or find transport. Pi Loong didn’t know what bus to take so she asked the lady beside her. The lady happened to be going in the same direction and said that only ONE bus turns down the street we need. After waiting for nearly 30 minutes, Pi Loong layed out the options: tok tok, motorcycle, walk or mini truck. It felt like we had climbed on the next truck we saw. I got the sense we were lost/in need of directions. I was trying to ask Pi Loong how she knew what truck to take, as there had been absolutely no number or any signage. Do you just communicate with the driver once you are on? What happens if the other passengers are going a different way? When Pi Loong started conversing a lot with the only other passenger my suspicions were confirmed. Well we got off that truck pretty quickly. Pi Loong told me I could get off..but since I had NO CLUE what was happening I thought it best if she got off first and I followed her. I really didn’t want to be on the side of the road while she was still riding in the truck! She asked me if I had a phone number for the orphanage. I gave her a longggg look of, ‘no… I thought you knew where to go.’ She tried to reassure me that she DID KNOW, she had been before with Mom and Dad. She just needed to know how to get there. OH DEAR OH ME OH MY. She had to ask a lot of people for directions. Good thing she was with me because I definitely would not have found the place on my own. Eventually she began to think out loud that maybe they would be closed by the time we arrived. Not the motivational words I wanted to hear on our ever going walk in the heat. I told her I wanted to at least get there and see the place. I didn’t care if we had to go back another day when they were open I wanted to see it. I was becoming super agitated. I felt like we were walking and getting more lost. People were meaning well when they tried to give us directions but sometimes EVEN I COULD TELL that they were kind of guessing in hopes of being helpful. We stopped to ask for more directions at the Centre for Crippled Children (so not politically correct!! I am fully aware) and Pi Loong sank into a deep conversation with two security guards. I could tell she was asking for directions AND TELLING THEM MY BACK STORY. They kept looking at me and looking back at her. They asked to see both our IDs and by this point I was OVER the small talk. I wanted to just get to the orphanage. This detour was no making me happy. I was so flustered that we were so close but had not made it yet. I told them I had ID but why did we both need to show if we weren’t at the right spot? We needed directions to the Babies Home. She told me they gave her directions and we were really close but we were allowed to go inside and see the children. They were asking for ID because they need to hold on to them during our visit. I remember trying to stay calm while explaining to Pi Loong this was not the Babies Home. If she was worried about them being closed or closing soon, we should not be making any stops but heading directly over. I know I was coming off rude as to not wanting to see these children -but I truly didn’t. I was so close to where I actually wanted to be. We had to keep moving.
I was so relieved when we finally arrived. The gates were open and there were two staff members on their break eating food. I tried to explain in English that I moved here and wanted to volunteer. They understood the word volunteer and said, “Chai chai chai”. They were saying yes but they were not able to reply back to me in English. Thankfully Pi Loong was with me (hurray for a personal translator) and she explained that I should come back on Monday. There was an English teacher that came to see the kids and he could help organize something for me. That made me happy that I was allowed to volunteer. I really had not thought of what I would do if they said no.
I was pretty sure that I would not be allowed to take pictures once I had entered the premises. I was correct; there were even laminated pictures of cameras slashed out around the property. Clearly there has been an issue in the past! We were allowed to see the children and visit. There were about 35 Thai children around the ages of 2-4, playing in an enclosed metal playground. Well more standing around then playing. Lots were leaning on the gate or sitting with the one staff member that sat on the floor leaning against the gate. There were 3 other staff members outside the play area walking around or watching. I wasn’t attacked by emotions! My first observation was that it was sad that no one was playing or entertaining the children. They weren’t doing anything. Some of the children came up to the gate to say hi and gave us big smiles but most of them just stood around. It felt weird to be watching them like they were a zoo exhibit. I wanted to put my bag down and go in and cuddle and play with them. One of the most outgoing girls noticed Pi Loongs watch and was asking her what time it was. Then they started to have a little conversation in Thai. The kids all looked so tiny and cute. They were well dressed and groomed. I couldn’t understand what they were saying but it wasn’t too hard to get the gist of it.
One of the smallest girls kept crying for Momma. Later we learned that she had been dropped off today. HER FIRST DAY! That broke my heart. She was crying so one of the staff took her away from the play area and out for a walk. When she came back she was told she had to get her haircut. She started crying again. No one hugged her or tried to calm her down. They gave her a little trim while she was standing there crying. She did not enjoy it but seemed to calm down relatively quickly afterwards. I don’t like seeing children cry! It was awkward witnessing this child’s first day away from her parents. What would probably become a permanent stay.
Before we had entered the property I was joking to Pi Loong that she could adopt 1 or 2 of the children since she loved kids so much. I knew she wasn’t going to adopt but maybe she could play with the children weekly. She joked that she was tooo old but then the conversation grew serious. She said that she would not even be allowed to take them out on play dates. The government is very strict on who adopts them. She is too old and doesn’t make enough money so they would never even consider letting her look after a child. That made me really sad to hear too. Here is someone who is great with children and could give them much needed one-on-one attention but she is discriminated against due to her financial background. I guess it is for the safety and welfare of the children but what a loss for the children…Good thing they don’t require my financial history too volunteer!
We watched the children have dinner/snack. They lined up and each got a small bread roll. When they were done they were given another bun that had pork inside. One of the little boys started crying because he got told off for just picking out the meat on the inside. He didn’t want the bun and started crying. His cry was so cute…but he did eventually eat his entire bun! Good boy. Some of the children then lined up along the gate to share a water cup. The cup kept getting refilled from a big jug and passed along until everyone’s’ thirst was satisfied. They were all so polite about it.
I left not knowing how to discern my emotional state. I was happy to be invited back to volunteer. I was glad the children looked healthy. I was concerned that they weren’t playing and having fun. I think my role will be to go and speak English to them and bring a bit of joy. To help create happy childhood memories. All believe that all children deserve to be happy and fun. I hope that I can do that for them. Selfishly this volunteering will probably be more meaningful for me then them; but I am hopeful that we all share in the good times.
Thanks for reading…sorry for another long one!
xox Amanda Sumalee
I woke up to my delicious breakfast of: sticky rice, fresh fruit and coconut yogurt. (As I type this I notice little ants crawling all over my keyboard – They better stay clear of my fingers or they will be squashed or blown away!) Pi Loong brought over some freshly cut up papaya for me because she thought EVERYBODY loved it…I am the minority. That is one fruit I just do not enjoy. I did try a piece since I haven’t had a piece in years. I will admit it wasn’t as bad as I remember it being but I was not a converted fan!
After breakfast we had a look at my map AGAIN. I just feel so disoriented. In New Zealand I was trying to circle places on my map where; hostels, hotels, Babies Home and friend’s lived. In general I have a horrible sense of direction and was really wanting to get a visual of where everything was located. My Thai/English map is pretty detailed but it is still so hard to find anything. Pi Loong says there are just so many streets in Thailand! I had the address of Hope Academy School and Pi Loong said she knew where it was, but I wasn’t convinced. To her defense; she knows the Suhkumvit area really well. She was born in Thailand but has been living in the United States on and off for 18 years. I keep calling her my little American because she is so westernized now. All I knew was we had to head towards Victory Monument then walk a few blocks more to the school.
We caught a bus easily. I like how passengers pay their fare once they are seated. A bus attendant comes to give you your ticket and change if needed. What I will have to get use to is hailing the bus and climbing the stairs as it is moving. I watch people hop on with their flip flops and I worry that they will miss a step and fall and get crushed! We got off at the Victory Monument stop and thought we were going the right direction by walking along Ratchawitee Road. Unfortunately what we were not aware of was the fact that we were going in the opposite direction. We kept walking and walking and I couldn’t see ANY building numbers. Pi Loong asked a motorcyclist where to go and HE LED US a Stray BIG TIME. She had advised me to always ask a motorcyclist if you are lost because the “the streets are theirs”. They will always know the roads better than taxi drivers. Well my first experience with them wasn’t amazing. We passed a street sign pointing out different locations of landmarks. It showed that Victory Monument was behind us. At this point I had a strong feeling we were lost and going in the opposite direction. It was HOT and I was getting disgusting purse sweat! As we kept walking she informed me that the motorcyclist said he would take us to our destination but she said NO WAY! She was too scared and never rode them. She said we were learning by walking. After more walking she finally asked another 2 motorcyclists for help. I was confused when Pi Loong told me okay we would go with them. She had passed up the last offer. Now I knew we were lost. I was excited to finally be able to stop walking!
So my first motorcycle experience in Thailand was scary FUN. My friends KNOW I love me some motorcycles. The faster the better! But these drivers weave in and out of traffic like they own the road. I was peering inside peoples’ cars and inches away from touching their side mirrors. I thought it was great that Pi Loong was facing her fears and that we might actually make it. WELL while on the motorcycles our drivers stopped a few times to ask for help. So my confidence in finding the school was wavering. They dropped us off at a building and told us we were close to where we needed to go. IT WAS NO WHERE NEAR the right place. We were both frustrated at this point. Pi Loong wasn’t happy that they dropped us off at the wrong place and now we were more lost. Well we eventually did make it back to Victory Monument by way of taxi. I think there is around 5 lanes of traffic that loop around the Monument with 8 different turnoffs? That may be an exaggeration but It is one busy place. We had been so close — if we had just taken a different direction when we got off the original bus ride. Luckily we DID make it to the school. I think it took us 3 hours or so to make it but it was worth the journey. The school didn’t’t look anything like the website pictures. It is located down a soi (small side street) and I never would have found it without actively looking for a sign. I was relieved to see a receptionist when I entered the building. Unfortunately I quickly realized the receptionist that spoke English was on a break and this girl covering barely spoke. Considering it is a language school to Learn Thai you would think they would have had someone who spoke more English than she did. She kept trying to get me to fill out enrollment forms. I was trying to tell her I was already signed up and paid my fees. I wanted to know the class schedule and if I needed to sign in? Pi Loong was trying to help translate but it was making the girl more confused. She was on the phone a few times to tell the receptionist they had lost my paperwork and she didn’t know what to do. At this point I BEGAN TO WORRY that maybe I wasn’t signed up as a student and my middle man had organized my visa but not my tuition fees. I was trying to get a hold of him and he wasn’t answering his Thai number. That made me nervous. I WAS NOT GOING being scammed was I? The girl was asking me for my passport and if my paperwork had gone to Laos? Thankfully another staff member that spoke English cleared everything up for me. He informed me you simply show up for classes. Again, that seemed odd. How did they know I had paid a year’s worth of tuition if they couldn’t even locate my paperwork? Oh well not my issue. What did rattle me a bit was when the staff member was asking me why I didn’t speak Thai. He was asking me what level of Thai I felt I was. I answered that I was definitely a beginner!! He didn’t seem to believe me. I explained that I was raised in Canadian and therefor never learned Thai. Hence the reason why I had enrolled for classes. He thought it was funny that I didn’t know Thai. Like he was expecting me to be fluent in it. Kept asking, “Really? Really why don’t you know it”? Hopefully these classes pay off! After at least an hour of unnecessary waiting we were finally able to continue our day.
We caught the BTS Skytrain back to the BIG C near the hotel. At this point it was around 4:30 and I was exhausted and sweaty. I was hoping to go back to the hotel and shower and grab a quick nap before meeting a new friend Kaimook at 7:00 at MBK. Pi Loong thought it was best we go on the BTS Skytrain and head over to MBK now. I half-heartedly agreed. I had not planned on looking or feeling the way I did to meet a friend for the first time. I wanted to freshen up but it wasn’t really my call. I would get totally lost without Pi Loong’s help so whatever she was saying goes! I bought a pass for the BTS and tried to catch a couple minutes of sleep. We got off at the Siam stop…and then Pi Loong started to ask for directions. We weren’t lost this time..just needed a little push in the right direction. I felt the need to apologize to Kaimook when I saw her. She had come straight over from work and was dressed in a lovely skirt and blouse with gorgeous heels! I was in my denim shorts and tshirt…with frizzy haggard looking hair. It was quite the contrast. She laughed it off and said I looked like a tourist. Oh man I will need to class up the wardrobe once I am employed 🙂
Photo found on google images
MBK is 7 story shopping mall that is VERY popular to both tourist and locals. There are so many different shops and gadget booths. Kaimook was my technology angel that night. We went to her friend’s stall so we could get the “friends discount”. I got my internet all sorted out. I traded in my locked iphone 4 for a gently used unlocked iphone 4s. They transferred all my pictures and some of my contacts over. I had to buy a data plan for my sim card so I could get 3G internet and wifi but I am all hooked up now. It has been great to actually have an Iphone that works again. I used to have to push the home button repeatedly until it worked. Taking pictures was a nightmare because it took so long to get to the camera! I am also glad I didn’t buy an internet stick for my laptop because it can share a network with my phone. So convenient! It will be nice to be back to only having one phone! In Ne w Zealand I always had to make sure I had to have my Iphone (to take pictures and wifi) and my NZ phone J
We dined at a yummy Thai restaurant then said our goodbyes. Pi Sangwan met up with us at the hotel later that evening. It was so nice to have Pi Loong and Pi Sangwan together in the same room again!
This was a pretty long blog. I plan to keep the upcoming ones shorter. NOT full day experiences anymore. Too time consuming trying to stay current on my blog and journal!
Thanks for reading
xox Amanda Sumalee
PS. The 3G internet is great when it is working. Unfortunately for me it is pretty sporadic. Just decides when it wants to work! Luckily there are a lot of free wifi areas close to the apartment and most bus stops have TRUE wifi host spots which is my service provider.
PPS. Remember you can click on ANY of the pictures to make them bigger and clearer 🙂
My flights over were both great. The staff and plane were awesome. In all honestly, I didn’t have any expectations of the flights as I had to book them in such haste. I couldn’t be bothered to check comments or ratings for either Qantas or Emirates. I was impressed by both airlines and would recommend either. I LOVED that the Qantas flight had a usb port so I could plug my iphone to charge 🙂 I also like that they served Tip Top ice cream bars for dessert (or “pudding” as my Kiwi friends call it).
I flew from Auckland to Sidney with Qantas and only had 1 hour to switch flights. When I checked my baggage I stupidly forgot to ask if I had to re-check my bags for my connecting flight. I was a little nervous that I would arrive in Thailand without my baggage. Luckily the clerk at the Emirates counter assured me that if was impossible for Emirates to expect me clear customs and check my baggage in under an hour. I was fortunate to receive my request of a window seat over to Australia as the airplane was only around 2/3rds full. On the way to Thailand I was sitting in the aisle in the middle row. Not ideal but not the worst situation. I was lucky to be seated beside a lovely young couple from Amsterdam. I felt awful for then when I heard their flight route. They had just spent 3 weeks (or was it 5?) travelling Australia and were now beginning their trek home. They needed to fly 8hrs from Sidney -> another 8 hours from Bangkok to Dubai -> then an additional 8hours home to Amsterdam. What was worse was they were obligatory to exit the plane so they could go through customs and then re-enter TO THE SAME SEATS! I thought that was brutal. When we touchdown in Thailand all three of us had had barely any sleep. Thankfully the movie/tv/music selection on our individual TVs was exceptional. I was happy with everything I watched! They were eager to exit and re-board the plane so they could try to get more sleep where as I was excited to have reached my destination!
It was after 1am when I got off the plane and felt the humid air. I loved it! Going through immigration was a bit of a wait but fairly manageable. One of the female security guards told us if we wanted to walk a few minutes down the hallway there were another whole area for passengers to go through. That handy little tip saved me quite a bit of time. I was thrilled to discover that my luggage was WAITING for me when I found the luggage belt. It had been turned off with all the luggage lined up in a neat little row.
As planned, I phoned my friend Pi Sangwan once I was ready to leave the airport. She told me she would head over to the airport and that Pi Loong was already at the airport waiting for me!!!! I phoned Pi Loong and she told me where I could meet her. I was really glad she recognized me as I haven’t seen her in years. I was thrilled to see a friendly face as I was not really sure if I was meeting them at the airport or the next day. Pi Loong, her brother and I grabbed a drink at the airport’s food court and caught up as we haven’t seen each other in years. I was under the impression that we were grabbing a drink while we waited for Pi Sangwan to arrive. You could say that I was A LITTLE CONFUSED when around 3am (so 8am Auckland time) we were leaving in a taxi together. I had originally planned to taxi over to my Thai-Australian friend’s house but we decided to change the dates. I then decided I would stay at a hostel near Khoa San Road. I had researched a LOT of different hostels with help from my Thai friends. Lolly mentioned a hostel that she stayed at 4 years ago and it sounded quite cozy. Within walking distance, to Khoa San Road but far enough away to get away from the party scene. The location sounded like an ideal place for travellers and expats to mingle. After catching up with Pi Loong I learned that the two ladies had been chatting a lot about me and were very worried about my safety. They had decided that I wouldn’t stay anywhere near Khoa San Road. So there was a change of plans and I would be staying in a hotel near Pi Loong’s house for a few days.
On the taxi ride to The Embassy Hotel I wanted to sleep so badly. I remember not wanting to blink too long for fear of falling asleep in the car. I was EXHAUSTED and had no idea how long the car ride would be or where we were going. When we arrived at the hotel IT LOOKED massive. There was a bit of confusion when we tried to get our key. Something about them wanting us to wait until 6am to get a room…the mixture of jet lag and English-Thai translation left me in a state of confusion. I looked at my phone and it read 3:34am. I asked Pi Loong 2 questions: if there was wireless so I could message people back home so they knew I was alive, and was I allowed to sleep in their lobby? My phone kept saying it was connected but it wasn’t giving me internet. The room situation was sorted out and I remember sleepily following Pi Loong into this massive bedroom with two beds and a huge window. She said goodbye and she would see me the next day. I put my bags down and belly flopped on one of the beds. I woke up a few hours later and realized I needed to take my contacts out and change out of my clothes!
I woke up again around 10am (Thailand time) and decided I should start the day. I showered and threw on a dress. I did not know if Pi Loong was going to walk back to the hotel or if I was going to need to call her so I left her a note to tell her I had just left for a quick walk. I think it took me 5 mins of humming and hawings as to whether or not I should wear a scarf. (I laugh at this now! But while I was standing in my air conditioned room I really was finding it hard to decide if I needed it or not). AS SOON AS I OPENED the hotel door I smiled as to having made the decision to leave the scarf at home! IT WAS HOT. DRY hot heat. I left the house on a mission to find a sim card for my phone and a wireless internet hot spot. My iphone was easily locating the wireless spots but not being too friendly about connecting to them. I got really frustrated at how fast my battery was dying struggling to connect to a wifi source. I successfully communicated to the 7 Eleven attendant that I needed a sim card for my phone. WHAT I lacked to understand was that I needed to buy a top up card as the sim card was simply a phone number. After sorting that out I still wasn’t able to get internet on my phone. I walked up the street for ages. I debated crossing the street but decided against it for my first day in Bangkok. Baby steps to this BIG ADVENTURE. I really did not want to be using my medical insurance on my first day!
I was starting to get hungry but I wasn’t feeling brave enough to try any street food. 7 Eleven are like North America’s Startbucks. THEY ARE EVERYWHERE. So I went into 7 Eleven and grabbed some water and dried seaweed. YUMMERS. Solid choice, as I knew I would be eating more food with Pi Loong later that day. Loong came over to my hotel later that afternoon and we grabbed some food at BIG C. It is your everything cheap store (comparable to Wall Mart or Kmart). It has it’s own food court besides all the groceries, clothing, stationary etc. It is your one stop (cheap) shop. Their food court uses the refillable swipe card method payment. So you have to be really good at estimating how much your total meal will cost – or come back within 7 days to spend the remainder of your balance. Pi Loong and I tried to sort out my lack of internet. I decided that if I couldn’t get it on my phone I would try to buy an internet stick. It would mean no whatsapp but at least I would email, google maps and facebook. I quickly nixed the stick idea when I learned that you buy a blank stick and have to pay extra for the internet. That seemed rather odd to me. Would pretty much be like buying a memory card?! Anyways after all that confusion I was still without internet at my finger tips. It really made me realize how much I take internet for granted. I am just so used to always having internet in the home or places to find wifi. I said goodbye to Pi Loong around 10 and got back to my hotel around 11:30ish. I love that there is such a night time atmosphere in Bangkok. Shops are open late and people are out having dinner or at the internet cafes just skyping up a storm. While I was at the internet café emailing and facebooking someone was casually skyping his friend SO LOUDLY beside me. Sure he had his headset on but I felt like I was part of his conversation. His male friend was sitting on his couch in his shorts and t just laughing and loving the catch up… Well that was day 1. I won’t be blogging EVERYDAY but I will try to keep the blog relatively active!
I made it to Thailand and I am excited to share my highs and lows with all of you. LOTS LOTS of highs!
Lots of love to everyone,
ONE year ago today: Sept 16, 2012 I arrived in the Auckland Airport. I have officially lived in New Zealand for 365 days! Today I am in the departure section of the airport as my Visa has expired and my new journey begins!
This day has ARRIVED! I never knew what date it would be–> but September 16th, 2013 sounds perfect to me! I am flying back to Thailand. The place I was born. The place I have visited twice before. THIS TIME I am going alone…sort of. My family will not be joining me for the plane ride or meeting me when I land. I am going on this flight alone BUT WHEN I ARRIVE I am comforted in knowing I have so many friends ready and willing to help me. I have always dreamed of moving to Thailand and I am so overcome with emotions knowing this day is today….well technically TOMORROW with all the flying.
They are beginning to board the plane (hurray!) so I wanted to end this by thanking everyone who has helped me get to the point where I am at now. Passport in hand, smile on my face EXCITED for this journey to begin.
Special thanks to my Kiwi families that I leave behind. I am awful at goodbyes – sorry my hugs were QUICK! We will keep in touch. I LOVE SNAILMAIL almost as much as I love food and sleep 🙂
I tried to pack the cat but she didn’t want to come 😦
All my love to everyone-
Keep smiling and wish me LUCK
xoxoxo Amanda Sumalee