Author Archives: wanderlust614

About wanderlust614

Fun facts: I'm extremely adventurous, eternally optimistic, and dangerously inquisitive. I'd rather be busy than bored and I'm happiest when I'm on the go, preferably exploring somewhere new. Ultimate life goal: travel to all 7 continents. Antarctica or bust.

(Almost) Half Way There….! Living on a Prayer.

7 hours of 27 travel hours complete! The prayer is that somehow my ticket gets messed up again and I end up in “Prestige” class in one of these babies:

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Flying in style, Jan ’13. I mean COME ON. Look at that leg room and 180 degree reclining power!

Flying from Chicago to Seoul back in January was hands down THE best flight of my life.  Earlier tonight (last night? is it today or yesterday? time zones confuse me) I inquired at the Korean Air check-in desk about an upgrade. The nice Korean lady looked at my ticket, laughed, and handed it back while informing me that it would cost $4000 to upgrade to prestige. I’m not sure what about my yoga pants, flip flops and backpack gave her the impression that I couldn’t afford this, but I wasn’t going to argue. I’m still holding out the smallest sliver of a chance that somehow I get re-ticketed into that wondrous section. But I’m not holding my breath.

I had a great last day in Thailand, starting the day off with one last giant bowl of fresh fruit, muesli and yogurt at the local market followed by a final $6 hour long Thai massage. My go-to masseuse, a painfully strong woman named Goi who I visit about once every week and a half, gave me a wooden bookmark when I told her that I was leaving! So sweet. I’m going to miss that woman. So is my neck.

After a little cruising around on the motorbikes in search of a particular English teaching book, I enjoyed some chicken and rice for lunch, finished packing, and hung out with my fellow ATMA SEVA crew until it was time to go to the airport around 9:30pm. My last meal in Thailand? Pad pak gai, fried vegetables with chicken, a dish that has become a favorite second to only pad thai and tom yum.

I’m going to miss Thailand a lot. Especially the people. I’ve spent the vast majority of the past four months with the same handful of people and it’s going to be strange not to see them everyday. The internet is a great tool, but no replacement for face to face conversation over a 30 B plate of noodles. I guess I’m going to miss the noodles too.

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THESE GUYS! Poor picture quality, but good times and great people so it’ll have to do.

I apologize if this post is all over the place. It’s 8:45am in Seoul, so 6:45am for my brain which is still on Thai time. I got about 15 minutes of sleep on the flight from Chiang Mai on account of being squashed in a middle seat between two average sized men. I was hoping for two tiny Asian women, but no luck. At least I have an aisle for the next 13 hour leg. Two and half more hours to kill at Incheon, then off to Chicago, a few hours there, and then back to good old CT! I’m counting down the hours until I’ll be asleep again in my own bed. Sigh. The end of a trip is always bittersweet, but right now I’m ready to be home. I’m sure in a couple of weeks I’ll be counting down the days until my next adventure. Bye tinai? (where am I going?) Yung mai lu (I don’t know yet) but there’s a whole big world out there to explore and this trip won’t be my last if I have anything to say about it!

Signing off from Asia (for now 🙂 ),

❤ J

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36 hours til departure!

In just under a day and a half, I’ll be on a plane somewhere over Asia on my way back to the east coast of the US. As sad as I am to be leaving all the great people I’ve met here in Thailand, I’m ready to go home. I’m ready for my bed, my house, honey nut cheerios, feeling clean and generally getting on with my life. I’ve been researching and applying for jobs from Thailand for the past couple of months, but it’s time to get home and do some good old fashioned on the ground networking and get serious about things. Not that I’m thrilled about diving back into the job search (I’m not) but I’m ready for that next step in my life, whatever it may be.

I’m also ready for a few good nights of sleep in my comfy bed and many wonderful long conversations with friends that I haven’t seen since January.  I have a family vacation down to TN and NC on the books for mid-June, which should be great too. Not to mention I have a birthday coming up. 24 sounds so old, eek. But I have a good feeling about this upcoming year. I think promising things are on the horizon. I’ve finally figured out a career path that feels right (international education) and suits my personality in so many ways. Many of the jobs that I’ve thought I wanted over the past few years sounded great, but none of them fit as comfortably with my personality and interests as this one does. It took a few years, and several detours, but by gosh, I think I’ve finally found it. Now I just need to figure out how to get to my ultimate destination: directing a university study abroad office. Thoughts, advice, and job offers all welcome 🙂

Anyways, I got a little offtrack with that career tangent, sorry. One of the things I’m trying to get better about is not living in the future so much. I’m trying to enjoy my last few days in Chiang Mai as much as possible without thinking about life back home too much (it’s hard!) I have gotten to do some fun stuff this week, though: scenic lunch overlooking the reservoir out in Doi Saket, delicious goodbye dinner at a middle eastern restaurant last night, one last order of pad thai from my favorite pad thai place in the city and I’ve enjoyed some much needed downtime after a busy and fun-filled weekend with a friend from college last weekend! Holing up with a book and my journal in one of my favorite cafes is a lovely breath of fresh (air-conditioned) air. I’m making the most of my 40 B iced coffees (~$1.33) while they last.

I have one last work meeting this afternoon, then a low key day tomorrow to get all my stuff together, one last dinner, and a short pickup truck ride to the airport (followed by ~27hrs of travel time…) standing between me and my return to the states! Bring it on!

❤ J

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Epic Sky

Epic Sky

Storm clouds rolling in but sun peaks out over Chiang Mai. Beautiful scene from Wat Doi Ku, Doi Saket district. Couldn’t stop photographing this scene!

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Into the Homestretch!

I’m officially into my last full week here in Chiang Mai. I’m still not sure where the time went, but it’s been a great four months. I’m definitely sad to be leaving, but there are a few comforts of home that I’m starting to miss and looking forward to enjoying in about a week and a half. These include:

-Greek yogurt. You can find most foods here in Chiang Mai, but Greek yogurt is one of the few things that you can’t. And I miss it sorely. Chobani, here I come!!

-Cooking. Man do I miss waking up, walking downstairs, and actually having a choice of foods IN MY OWN HOME that I can enjoy while still in my pajamas. My kitchen appliances here consist of one half-functional refrigerator. And a hot water heater that I purchased only a few weeks ago.  My fridge is half functional in that the fridge part doesn’t work and the freezer keeps foods that should be refrigerated slightly too cold. I can’t wait to be able to cook again with my own recipes and ingredients. It will be a glorious feeling to have a stocked and functional kitchen again.

-AIR CONDITIONING. Okay, now I know I was warned that Thailand would be hot. Duh. What I was not prepared for is just how hot, for how long it would be and how low my tolerance is for living without airconditioning. I don’t mean to whine, but heat makes me cranky. When I fall asleep and wake up daily in a pool of sweat, I start to get really cranky. I will not miss this feeling. I cannot wait for that first wonderful night sleeping back in my own bed in my airconditioned room. Sigh.

-My car. Don’t get me wrong, a love a good fresh (?) air motorbike ride, but there is something about cruising on the highway (aircon pumping) in my car and singing along to favorite tunes that can’t be beat. I’m sure once I’m back I’ll miss the feeling of the fresh (?) air blowing through my hair, but right now Coche (as I’ve fondly named my car back in CT) sounds pretty nice.

-Reasonably clean bodies of water in which I can swim. For those of you who may be geographically challenged, Chiang Mai is nowhere near the ocean. Despite the abundance of islands and beaches in Thailand, I am nowhere near those and have sadly not been able to enjoy them on this trip. I’m looking forward to all the summery things New England has, like beaches, lakes and pools within an hour or two’s drive from my house. Especially if a job that I applied for works out (it would start in mid-August), I can’t wait for all the water time I’ll have this summer. Fingers crossed things fall into place, but I may have a job lined up for the end of the summer, allowing me to frolick and play for a couple of months before having to get my ducks in a row again. Please life, please work out!

Hm, I’m sure there are other things that I’m missing, but those are the big ones. Air conditioning. And some other stuff, yeah. Obviously I can’t wait to see friends and family, but that’s a given 🙂 I have a couple of very exciting weekends to look forward to back in Boston as well that makes the transition back home slightly less depressing.

Here’s to a solid last… 10.5 days in Thailand!!

Cheers,

Jamie

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Time to Get Tatted in Thailand

Those of you who know me have probably heard the story behind the dolphin tattoo on my ankle. Or at least you know that I have a tattoo of a dolphin on my ankle. Or maybe you don’t. Either way, I do indeed have a tattoo of a dolphin on my right ankle that I got while in the Cook Islands. I won’t go into the details of that tattoo here, but suffice it to say that the patterns inside it all hold special meaning for my seven months abroad, both in New Zealand and Rarotonga. Ever since then, it’s been a matter not of “if”, but “when” I would get another one.

I’m happy to announce that day has come….!

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My brand new tattoo!

Now before I hear shouts of “you got a tattoo in THAILAND? Aren’t you going to get diseases and DIE?!” let me reassure you that the artist who did the work was extremely professional and hygienic. This is not the type of activity where I would pull up to any old stall on the side of the road and ask for them to stick me with inked needles for half an hour. Noooo sir. I went to a guy named Tawan recommended by my friend Stu who has previously had work done here. His came out looking good and infection free, so I figured I’d take my chances with Tawan.

After meeting my entourage (Stu, Bex and Josh) in the center of town, we headed over to the studio and got down to business. After a stressful ten minutes of frantically flipping through google images of compasses, Tawan drew up a design that I liked. Up until earlier that day, I had planned on only getting the words done. The compass was a bit of a last minute addition and one that I’m very glad I thought of in time.

After I approved the compass design, he started on the script of the phrase I wanted: “bye tinai?” which is Thai for “where are you going?” With both of the pieces sketched out, it was time to transfer them onto blue drafting ink paper (for lack of a more precise term) which would later be transfered to my wrist. Once the blue ink was stamped on my arm, the fun began!

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Tawan turning a blue stamped compass into a permanent black ink compass

Now I’ve only had two tattoos done, and the other one was about three years ago, but I’m pretty sure this one hurt more. I was bracing for the pain and while it did feel like 10,000 yellow jackets stinging my wrist, it wasn’t as bad as I expected. At first. It’s amazing how much sensitivity can vary within a very small space. Luckily, the tattoo isn’t too big, so I only had to endure the slicing and stinging sensations for about a half hour. Even better, I had a friend to tell me stories and keep me distracted throughout the whole process (thanks, Katherine!)

Thirty minutes later, I was done!

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Great success! We won’t talk about how sweaty I was…

With my arm all wrapped up and basic instructions on how to avoid screwing it up/getting it infected, I gave my artist a kop kun mak ka (thank you very much) and headed off for some pizza! (This is only the second time I’ve had pizza since leaving the states in January, so this was a big deal.) All in all, a successful night! The whole ordeal including planning, waiting for him to sketch and then finalize the design, transferring the design and inking it on me took a little over two hours. And it only cost me 1500 baht, or about $45. Not a bad deal, IMO.

I’m very happy with how the design came out and what it symbolizes to me. Like Dolph, I enjoy the layers of meaning within it. I’ve wanted something on my left wrist for awhile, and I’ve been thinking about this particular quote for about a month, so I’m quite happy to have it done!

With two weeks to go, that’s one more thing checked off my Thailand trip bucket list. Next up? 1-day Thai cooking school (only slightly less tame!)

Cheers,

Jamie

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A long-overdue update!

Well hidey-o. It’s been awhile and I apologize for falling off the blogging wagon, so to speak. The problem with blogging, and journaling for that matter, is what happens after you miss a few days. As soon as you go from writing regularly to realizing that a week has passed since last updating, the thought of recapping everything that has happened since the last entry becomes overwhelming. Suddenly, a week turns to two and catching up seems even more daunting. At some point, you just need to bite the bullet and get back in the game. So that’s what I’m doing. Now!

I have just over two weeks left before my trip comes to an end and I head back to the good ol’ US of A. I’m not sure where the time went, but my pictures tell me that I did a lot. I realize that I never fully blogged about Cambodia and Vietnam as I intended. So much happened in such a short period of time that things got lost in the shuffle. Someday soon I hope to go back and write more about that trip because it was amazing and deserves more attention!

But starting with the present… last weekend I spent three days out in another district, Wiang Haeng, up by the Burmese border. ATMA SEVA was helping run an English camp for about 40 novice monks. We spent three nights at a foundation center run by this amazing monk up there who has dedicated his life to helping educate boys who otherwise would probably have no access to a school. Over 60% of the novices living at the center are from Burma, many of whom are also orphaned. The novices were absolutely adorable and a pleasure to teach, even if only for a few days. They loved all the songs that we taught them (mostly classic children’s songs with the words altered to focus on the camp’s theme, community helpers) and the kids enjoyed cooking western food.

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Novices making and enjoying some waffles 🙂

Over the course of three days we made waffles, scrambled eggs, pork burgers, french fries, fried chicken and spaghetti. I’m not sure who was more excited about this, me or them. 

The town of Wiang Haeng is quite small- it does have a 7-11 and a few mom and pop shops, but not much else. It’s only about a 20 minute drive from the Burmese border, although the road here is not an official border crossing. Government traffic and other important people can cross, but from what I gather, that’s about it.  There is also a refugee camp set up not far from here that houses Burmese Shan state refugees.  I left before we had a chance to visit, but I would have liked to see more of the border area.

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PUPPIES. EVERYWHERE.

Another highlight of the trip was the scenery. The center where we stayed was back off the main road, nestled between a ring of hills in the distance. There was a lovely manmade pond on the grounds and plenty of green space. Adding to the scene, there was a whole litter of puppies running all over the place, which was absolutely ADORABLE. Downside? I’m pretty sure one of them ate my flip flop. I left my room around 7am on day two, bleary eyed and in need of some coffee, to find only one flip flop remaining where I’m sure I had deposited two the previous evening. After a few minutes of searching (as I said, I was only half awake) I concluded that flip flop #2 was indeed gone. RIP flip flops.

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And then the sky turned black.

Anyways, I digress. The point is that the center was set in a beautiful landscape, highlighted by a late afternoon thunderstorm that came through on our first day of camp. The sky took on the eeriest half-blackened look over the hills. The winds picked up, the clouds rolled in until they hovered directly above us, and then it poured. As a total weather freak, it was one of the most visually stunning thunderstorms I’ve had the pleasure of witnessing. The pictures I took don’t quite do it justice, but I tried.

I got back to Chiang Mai on Monday afternoon and I’ve had some much needed break time back in the city: a couple casual nights out on the town, Jazz co-op Tuesday jam night, yoga, several super long walks around the city (some intentional, some accidental when I failed to locate the coffee shop I was looking for… damn you, Bird’s Nest!) and catching up on sleep have all been wonderful. Today’s big plans? A little work, a little massage and a new tattoo! Stay tuned 😉

I promise to try and write more before I return to the boring land of Connecticut two weeks from tomorrow and my life becomes significantly less interesting!

Cheers,

Jamie

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Adventures in the Hills: Ob Luang National Park

There’s a lot more to see in northern Thailand beyond Chiang Mai. Check out my latest post for the ATMA SEVA blog all about our recent trip to Ob Luang National Park and Thep Phanom hot springs! A great escape from Chiang Mai and some beautiful scenery.

ATMA SEVA

This past weekend the ATMA SEVA team took a trip out to Pa Pae to pick up Dan, our latest Lawa village volunteer, who has been teaching summer classes in the village for the past month. We were fortunate enough to have a little extra time, so we set off from Chiang Mai a day early to check out the “grand canyon” of Thailand: Ob Luang National Park! (Ob Luang literally means “canyon grand”, making this park the home of Thailand’s very own Grand Canyon!)

The park itself is located about two hours southwest of Chiang Mai. We took a airconditioned van from Chiang Mai headed for Mae Sariang (200 B per person, or about $7) but asked the driver to let us off at the entrance to Ob Luang instead of taking the ride all the way to Mae Sariang.  Local busses (~70-80 B) are also an…

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SONGKRAN.

In case you’re unfamiliar with THE BEST HOLIDAY EVER, let me fill you in.  Every April, Thailand basically shuts down for three days (in some less urban areas, it’s only celebrated for one day, but the cities go hard for three whole days.)  This beautiful holiday, Songkran, celebrates the Thai new year.  Coincidentally, this occurs in mid-April during the height of the hot season. This is key because the holiday is essentially the world’s biggest water fight.  When temperatures are soaring right around 100 for days on end, and when your apartment lacks a/c, any way to cool off is a welcome change.  Especially one that involves water guns.

I’m lucky that my four months here in Chiang Mai coincided with Songkran.  Last weekend, I spent three days throwing water on friends, neighbors, strangers, police men, little kids, and little old ladies.  It was the best thing ever.  Home base was a Thai friend’s house, right in the heart of a busy little neighborhood. We ventured out to the main roads and down around the moat, but the highlight of the weekend for me was seeing how Thai people celebrated just as much as falang. We went down to Thae Pae gate, basically backpacker central, to see the festivities, which were NUTS. There was a foam machine (a la HMC), multiple dance stages, six inches worth of water flooding the streets, and countless people dancing amid the chaos. It was a sight to see, but personally I preferred the time at the house where fresh cooked french fries and endless buckets of water were available. We had quite the battle going with the Thai family who owns the restaurant across the street. Unfortunately, they were more consistent than we were with the purchase of ice blocks to chill their water… Brr.

Anyways, I must say… Songkran is something that should be on everyone’s bucket list. Young, old, Thai, falang… everyone celebrates together and it is a BLAST! I mean, when else is it socially acceptable to shoot a police officer in the head with a water gun?? Come onnnn.

I’ll leave you with a few favorite photos, courtesy of Katherine’s waterproof camera…

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Me, Katherine and Lindsay playing down on Huay Kaew!

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Along the north side of the moat around the old city of Chiang Mai. NOT my favorite water to be splashed with, but “no” really isn’t an acceptable option.

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Nid’s costume shop located in Santitam, our Home Base. We’re so ready!

Needless to say, it was a little hard to get back into the swing of work after a 3.5 day celebration like this. After a day of recovery, we’ve managed to have a pretty productive week with a lot of good things on the horizon for ATMA SEVA.  We’ll be heading back to the Lawa Village this weekend to pick up a volunteer who has been teaching there for the past few weeks, and then next week we head off to another district for a three day English camp! I can’t believe I only have five weeks left… man time flies.

Until next time,

J

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A Word a Week Photo Challenge- Dawn

A Word a Week Photo Challenge- Dawn

Sunrise on Rarotonga, Cook Islands. One of my favorite mornings ever.

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Thai yoga.

So one of my new favorite discoveries in Chiang Mai is Yoga Home, a yoga studio five minutes from my apartment run by the most adorable Thai teacher.  He teaches classes mostly in Thai, with some English thrown in when a falang (aka me or Katherine) is present.  Classes are 90 minutes and while the classes aren’t as intense as some I’ve done in the past, it feels good to be moving and exercising regularly again!  Anyways, I wanted to share some things that I’ve learned from the few classes I’ve been to thus far…

1) Falling out of shape is NOT FUN. There’s nothing more frustrating than struggling to do something that three months ago was a piece of cake, whether it’s running five miles or holding a particular pose. Luckily, as with any exercise regimen, each day gets a little better. It’s just hard to keep that in mind on days 1 and 2!

2) Thai people have some miraculous gene that prevents them from sweating, even in the hottest places. I’m sweating before class even begins, thanks to the 100 degree days we’ve been having here. Somehow everrrrrybody else in the class manages to complete the entire 90 minutes without even a modest glisten on the brow. Not fair.

3) Myself and Thai people are built very differently. Well duh, you say… but it’s interesting to me to compare the poses that I struggle with vs the poses that everyone else finds difficult.  For example, I cannot do anything that involves hip flexibility. Sitting Indian style with both knees flat on the ground? Doing a split? Forget it. But when it comes to hamstring stretches, I have a much easier time grabbing my foot and putting my head on my knee than the rest of the class. I know there’s always some variation in any class, but I find it interesting how specific the differences are. It could just be the particular group, but it’s been constant across several classes with different groups of people.

4) Thai yoga class is a great way to pick up random Thai vocabulary.  Today, for example, I learned that “clai” means “relax/release” and “lehk” means “and.” Success! I really like that the class is mostly in Thai. Yoga is one of those things that doesn’t require too much talking once you have the basics down, which is nice.

Anyways, I’m really glad that I found this studio.  It’s relatively new and located on the ground level of an apartment complex on one of the Sois (maybe 8?) off Nimman. If anyone in Chiang Mai is looking for a good place to practice that isn’t run by and attended solely by falang, this would be the place! Google “Yoga Home by Kru Noom.” The studio also has an air-conditioned cafe attached that makes coffee, fresh juice and other drinks!

Cheers,

J

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