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.
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 other day my 10 year old asked the question, “Do you miss your family?”
Instantly I answered, “Yes all the time – I love them. But I also love being here with you and living in New Zealand too.”
His eyebrows furrowed when he asked, “Then why are you going to Thailand?”
I was now confused…did he mean MY FAMILY the only family I have ever known? Or the two people who are biologically related to me; who chose to give me up for adoption?
His innocent question is what finally compelled the completion of this post. I have been meaning to post more on the topic of family for quite some time. I have so many partially typed notes that it’s time to sort through them and start posting. I am not getting any younger 🙂
He has cousins that are adopted so he has a great grasp of the concept of adoption. When I first moved in with his family; I had explained that I had lived in an orphanage in Thailand until the age around 2.5. My parents (the only 2 people I have ever seen as the definition of my parents) then adopted me. Shortly after my adoption we moved to Canada where I have lived virtually my whole life. With a little help from his Mom, I explained I have always called my parents, “Dad” and “Mom” because THEY ARE my parents. I was just a baby when I went to the orphanage and know no different. I do not believe I could be ANY CLOSER to my brothers, had they been biological or not. I grew up feeling very close to both of them and feel blessed to have such a great bond with both of them.
After clarification, I understood he wanted to know why I was travelling to Thailand if my parents and brothers lived in Canada. I had to remind him that yes my parents and brothers do live in Canada, but I am an adult and haven’t lived in the same house as my family for years. Yes OF COURSE I miss seeing my family and friends but I have wanted to go to Thailand for a long time. Just like I had traveled to New Zealand, I would continue on travelling before flying back to Canada.
Canada is where I have grown up, but Thailand is where I was born. I am a Thai-Canadian who only feels Canadian. I am not able to relate to my Thai roots. My dream has always been to live in Thailand to learn more about MY culture. My dream vision for myself would be to instantly be able to assimilate myself to all things Thai. I know that is not realistic but it’s what I want. I want to no longer feel like an outsider. I am sick of feeling like a tourist. I look the part, now I just have to feel it. I realize I am putting a LOT of pressure on myself with this upcoming trip. I am trying to lower my expectations but it is so hard when I have dreamed of this moment for so long!
Thanks for reading – Buddha Blessings,
xox Amanda Sumalee
After months of talking about the blog I finally created brown eyed girl. I chose this name because.. though I have lots of unanswered questions in life > ONE certainty remains …I am a brown eyed girl 🙂 (And who doesn’t … Continue reading →