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,
Hey Everyone!!! Over the past few weeks I have begun to sort through my things. I have dropped some clothes off in the charity bins and started to build my package of items I need to mail back to Canada. I came across my journal that only had 1 entry in it. I had high hopes to maintain an updated blog and journal during my travels. It looks like I was only able to do one out of the two things well. Something about reading my own writing and being able physically turn the pages is so appealing. I PLANNNN on trying again to keep a journal for my days in Thailand. Journaling is something I keep trying and failing at. For those interested in reading how my first 10 days were in New Zealand can read my journal entry below:
Tues Sept 25th, 2012 8:22pm
WOW! I have already been in New Zealand for over 1 week. After all the stress and money put into this adventure – I am actually able to finally live it. I must take note that CC remembered how much I love Hello Kitty and bought me this adorable journal. How awesome would it be if I was able to keep a journal and a blog these next few years. I know I have tried in the past…I really like the idea of having a travel journal that I can read back down the road.
Looking back on how much time and thought I put into packing my luggage grr Groin; I really wish I had packed warmer clothes. It’s not quite summer here and I never really – well never thought about how windy it would be! I have worn long sleeves every day since I have arrived. I am SO MAD at myself for not packing more hoodies.
Before I get too far into this, I want to note just HOW GENEROUS the Whitleys were to ME. They graciously offered to move me into their home and allowed me to stay in their home. FREE of any payments. No rent! No food! No I.o.u or pay at a later date was ever expected from me. I was even allowed to have a garage sale to try and sell my stuff. There are good people in the world and this family is proof of it. They have been beyond generous to me and I can’t thank them enough for all they have done to get me to the point where I am now in my life. Just amazing! The remainder of my stuff is stored in their house so I could save of storage fees. I am beyond blessed to have them in my life. It is so exciting that they will be COMING here in 4 months!
Emzie has been so good to me since I arrived. She brought me warm clothes, and bought me warmer bedding and hot water bottle. She has tried to make me as comfortable and as warm as possible. She even brought me gloves and cut the tips off so I could text and type! OUR FAMILIES are so different! I always call her the princesses in the castle coming to rescue the damsel in distress. Her host family treated her arrival a bit more “welcoming” and tried to ensure that she was as comfortable as possible. My family isn’t as financially secure as Em’s fam and their living accommodations aren’t as ideal. We are living in Mount Roskill, New Zealand but are trying to find a house in the North Shore for November. I am hoping it all works out smoothly as I am looking forward to moving to the North Shore. It will be closer to Emzie and out of here. Let’s just say my family does not walk around their neighbourhood at night…
Our Sumzie 2012 adventures have been exciting thus far. We drove to Piha beach which was about a 1 hour drive. We climbed Lion’s Rock and were rewarded with a gorgeous view. We tried to not let the strong winds dampen our beach experience! We’ve also walked around the viaduct and seen a little bit of Mission Bay. We strolled around downtown Auckland for post cards and hoodies but came away with nothing. We weren’t worried because we know we will be doing much more shopping in the future.
OBSERVATIONS off the top of my head:
People here are super friendly
Food is expensive
Gas is expensive
The lanes are narrow and cars tend to park on the road making it HARDER to keep the traffic flowing
The water tastes different
My hair is wavier here
My skin is really dry and my nails seem to be growing faster
It’s a very diverse; lots of different cultures and religions that all seem to blend together well
For having only been here 10 days I feel like I have adjusted nicely. It has been hard with the time zone difference to stay connected with people. I am not allowed to use my phone at all from 7:30-4:00 (but usually closer to 5pm) during the day. Other than that I feel pretty good. The girls are both sick right now but I am hoping my immune system is strong enough not to catch their cold. Understanding the kiwi accent can be hard at times but it’s not too difficult. I just find myself saying, “pardon” when I can’t understand – so they can repeat it to me again.
So besides being cold ALL THE TIME and the house not having heat, and the door being kept open every night I am doing pretty well. I am REALLY thankful that I have a travel buddy here with me. Great travel buddy and built in morale support.
I am so thankful I moved on from that situation and found the Kiwi family that I did. I love my family and am not shy about my love for their cat Magic 🙂 My adventures in New Zealand will be ending in a month (or so) and I will begin many new adventures in my homeland! I am sad to be leaving my Kiwi Fam Jam but am so excited for the next step!!!! Thank you to everyone who continues to support me and read Brown Eyed Girl!
An excerpt from an email I sent to brother Reece a few days ago:
“Life could be better. A lot. Don’t worry I’m wearing my big girl pants! I’d let you know if it was anything serious…I can honestly say I feel grown up. Life is BEING experienced!”
Every word was the truth. There was a little sigh of relief in letting big brother know that my trip wasn’t ALL AMAZING and not everything I was doing these days could be chalked up to fun. It was Thanksgiving weekend and I was in now in Dannemora (about 45mins from Central Auckland) and I had not shared with any family members that my life got was getting a bit more adventurous. The timing of my situation coincided with Canadian Thanksgiving making me want to reach out a little bit to family. Not enough to worry them but just enough to keep them someone what in the loop! (Reece, Tyler, Lisa, and Helle thanks for emailing me about your Thanksgivings! I ABSOLUTELY love emails and hearing about the day to day stuff! xox)
So how did I leave Mt. Roskill and move to Dannemora? What happened and why I am no longer in Dannemora right now is what this blog will be about.
Pretty much as soon as I arrived in New Zealand I knew I should look for a new family. My spirits were shrinking as the days went on. I’m a fighter and I hate giving up, so for me to recognize that enough was enough was a huge step! I knew that I could “put up” with the family I was living with but I wanted BETTER for myself. I didn’t want to “give up” on this family but I also did not want the next 9 months leaving me bitter and depressed. With encouragement from friends I concluded that I really had to step up my search for a new position. I posted an ad online and kept a watchful eye out for anyone needing an Au pair I received a response from a lady seeking an Au pair to help her in her daycare. She lived in Dannemora which meant it would be a further distance for Emzie and I to commute. That said, I thought working in a daycare would be great experience and would look awesome on a resume. The accommodations sounded lovely as the lady had just moved into a 6 bedroom house. Laundry, queen bed, HEAT, TV lounge area, internet and access to an automatic car were all included. We emailed back and forth a few times and the lady said no interview was required. There was a 1 week trial period to see how I got on with the children. The only thing not included was food! It may not sound like a big issue but FOOD is SUPER expensive here so that and the location were too factors that I had to consider. Emma was heading to Australia (meaning no weekend relief) and I really wanted to get out of the living situation I was currently in. I agreed to give this new job a shot! At first the lady invited me to meet her at her house, but quickly made arrangements for her to pick me up as Mt. Roskill was quite a ways off from where she resided.
Having never met my new “boss” I was quite anxious but ecstatic to be leaving and heading to a daycare environment. The lady was over 30 minutes late picking me up so I was extremely on edge as to whether or not she would be a no show. Having had previous interviews cancelled and job offers filled I had put all my eggs into this one basket. She pulled up in an old mini-van and I instantly knew it was her. She was 60 years old lady driving a minivan that had definitely done many days of carpooling. The inside had not seen a vacuum in years. All this excited energy was running through my body as we drove away. To my surprise she informed me that we were making a stop at the ferries to pick up a young man from Ireland. He too would be moving in and working as an Au Pair. Was she hiring 2 people for 1 position? Was she getting more kids in the daycare? He was only staying 3 months where as I was staying for 6 months so maybe she just wanted the overlap? Questions were running through my mind as she was explaining her expectations as she drove us both home. She explained that she had over 100years of experience working with kids: she was a teacher, owned a daycare, helped employ Au pairs in Auckland. Recently she had sold her Daycare center and was working on growing her home based daycare. She was licensed to look after 6 children and she currently had 3 and would have a 4th child by the end of the month. Not only did she hire Au pairs but she also boarded international students and couples and taught English and tutored from her home. She was always busy and was working on trying to retire in 5 years. She told us she just moved into a bigger house 3 weeks ago so there was lots of room for everyone. She has a lot of experience with Au Pairs and nannies as she has employed over 100 but at least 70 have only lasted a week. Hence the one week trial, if she likes you, you sign a three month contract and have to have a criminal record check conducted by the Ministry of Children and Families.
Long story short –even though she had a brand new huge house to live in we did not agree with how she ran the daycare. This was fine as she let us know she did not like either of us either. She had a 6 bedroom house with a huge front yard and backyard yet she was running the daycare from her garage! The kids and the Au pairs spent their time in the garage all day while at home. The only reasons we were to go inside the house were to get running water (dishes, and drinks) or to use the bath room. It was just so weird. We were meant to believe we had access to the car but soon realized when we weren’t working the car was off limits. We walked to the nearby grocery store and unhappily bought our groceries. We both commented on how we felt we were both in college again living off cheap noodles and bread.
After the first few hours of living there both the Irish man and I were looking for other work. The car had 2 seat belts that were broken and the car seats looked ancient and very unsafe. The seat belt that was strapping the kids into the seats were twisted and not nearly tight enough. The daycare itself had so many safety hazards from no childproof cupboards to tools lying around to sharp edges.. It was completely NOT at all what we had expected. The ad was so FAR in left field from what we were dealing with. After the first night of looking after the children the Irish guy was told he wasn’t what she was looking for. As soon as he told me I knew there was no way I was living out here alone with her. So I spoke with her and asked if we had been “applying for the same job” and if so, he could have my position as I was looking for an Au pair job closer to the North Shore. She told me even if I left she still wasn’t going to be hiring him. Then the very next afternoon she told me she was through with me too and didn’t need me. It’s a shame because the 3 kids were so much easier to look after than the previous 2 I had. I preferred tag teaming them with the Irish lad but when he left it was still manageable to look after the 3 on my own. So that was my three day experience in Dannemora.
This blog became WAY longer than what I was planning on typing. So I will do another blog about where I am at now… mentally and physically! Thanks for reading!