Like a Dog in Dirt on a Hot Day – The PreMove Day 4

For those of you following this blog the last few days, you know that I have not done a really good job of capturing the essence of my new home in Bangkok with the pictures I took. I had been busy meeting new people, arranging new accommodations, and learning a little bit about my new position. Because of this, I did not pull out my phone very often to take pictures. That is the real reason that you are not getting a good visual representation. This theme continued on my last day in town, and this is the only picture that I took of that day. Normally I would not have shared a picture like this with you, but it is all I had, so it is what I have to go with. I also have to explain something profound and deep by only using this picture that really describes the way I feel about taking on this new challenge in my life. So all I could come up with is that my move feels like a dog in dirt on a hot day.

I know that this might seem like a huge leap to make a connection with, but for those of you that have dogs and have been outside with them on a hot day, you will know what I am talking about. My dog, Bear, who I have talked about on this blog from time to time, would find dirt on a hot day, and dig himself a hole. It was under that initial layer of dirt where he would be able to find a nice cool patch that he would cozy up to in order to cool off. He would be able to sleep the afternoon away with a big old grin on his face, much like the dog was that I had come across when I took the picture.

Now what does this have to do with my move. Well, going out to Bangkok and meeting all of these new people while looking at the place where I was going to live was like finding a nice cool patch of dirt on a hot summer day. It was really great to get to know these people a little before making the move. I did not long lasting friendships in that short period, but it calm down my nerves a bit that the people I will be working with are dedicated educators who like to have fun at the same time. It also showed me about the new place I am going to live, a comfortable house that is not too large, and not too small and has enough character to make it unlike any of the other houses that other people might live in. It also showed me the neighborhood I am going to live in with all of amenities and escapes that I will enjoy over the next years. I was everybody to find a little bit of comfort in a stressful time, and it had helped to alleviate some of my concerns.

Moving to a new place can be very stressful, and moving to a new culture and country can add a lot to that stress. I had been feeling that pressure over the last couple of weeks as I tried to wrap up my time in Korea while getting ready for my next jump. It is the busy time of the school year as the things that brought comfort in my house slowly disappeared as I started to pack things up. Add on to all of this one big unknown, and I would toss and turn throughout the evening as I tried to make sense of something I would never be able to touch. That is why this trip was so important to me. I did not take a lot of pictures because I was too busy digging into the dirt of my new life until I could find that comfortable spot. I know it was just a premove to the bigger jump that will take place towards the middle of the summer, but it has given me the comfort that I was looking for. And just like that dog in the picture I have found joy. Of course, there are still some trials and tribulations coming up in the next few weeks, but for right now I am going to enjoy the cool and get the sleep I have been looking for. I will be just like a dog in dirt on a hot day.

Sammakorn – The PreMove Day 3

I started the day promising myself that I would take more pictures during the day.

I ended up taking one.

I would like to claim that this little place is available for rent on Air B n’ B for a very modest price, but I cannot in all honesty make that claim. At first, I was amazed at the sheer size of the place. There was no way that this place could be somebody’s house. It had to be a clubhouse for one of the neighborhoods in Bangkok, but after I talked to a couple of people in the area, that it was in fact somebody’s house. Apparently, there was a rich model that owned this place, and lived there with her family. It blew my mind that this kind of place could be situated so close to places like I had posted the day before. But that is what goes on in Bangkok and I am going to have to accept this reality to soon because in a couple of months, it will be a part of my reality.

Today was spent looking for a place to live in the neighborhood where this house sat, Sammakorn. This place is a twenty minute drive during good traffic from the school I will be working in, and even though the neighborhood around the school was very nice with a lot to offer, I felt like Sammakorn was more my speed. There were a lot of great restaurants in this neighborhood and a huge street market. The houses belonged more to a neighborhood with more Thai people living in it, so I would have to learn the language in order to get around more, and be forced to be a part of the culture more. This is the whole reason that I moved overseas in the first place. I don’t want to just live in a different country; I really want to get to know its culture and people. I felt like this was the place where I could do that.

It took all day of looking at many different places and talking to many different landlords, but we eventually was able to find a new place that I would call my home next year. I know you want me to supply you with pictures, but like I said earlier, I didn’t take any. I wasn’t thinking about it as I was looking at these places. I was more concerned with what the place looked like and if I could be comfortable there. The place we decided on is tucked away in a quiet neighborhood. It is a one floor house with a tiny yard, but it has a nice front patio protected from the shade of a mango tree. And yes, the mango tree produces fresh mangoes twice a year. We were told over a thousand every year. Now, I am sure that is an exaggeration, but twice a year, I will be enjoying fresh mango on a regular basis. It also has a brand new kitchen with a full sized fridge. I haven’t had a full sized fridge in so long that I forgot what it was like to open my fridge door without something falling out of it. It is also has three bedrooms and two full baths with one of other bathrooms having a great fresco of a jaguar painted into the tile. The whole house has made me really excited about the move, and has made the moving process even a little easier.

Overall, the day proved to be very productive, and justified the reason that we came out in the first place. Of course, I was also able to spend the day getting to know a few of my new colleagues and checking out the places in our new neighborhood, but it is the house that we found that makes me know that I have also found a home. It will be a couple of months before I get to see it again, but in the meantime, it has put my mind at ease. It is not as big as the mansion that I took a picture of, but I would never want something that big. I am glad that these small things are coming together, and making the move that will happen soon easier.

Checking out the Neighborhood – The PreMove Day 2

I do enjoy taking pictures, and I even have a nice Canon camera that I pull out for time to time when I know I am going to experience some opportunities for great pictures. Most of the time though, I just take my phone around and I feel like I can take some pretty nice pictures that I can use while working on this blog. While I am traveling, I usually take anywhere for ten to fifty pictures a day, and I can sort through them to bring you the best of what I have experienced.

This was not the case this time around.

I know why I didn’t take as many pictures. I was pretty busy looking at different houses that I could possibly move into, meeting new colleagues that I will be working with next year, and getting a tour of the school. All of these were great reasons to pull out the phone and take some pictures. I could look at the different houses, and compare them to others I would see tomorrow. I can take picture of the people I will be working with and show them to my family to let them know that I would be working with sane people. I could have taken pictures of the school to show others the beautiful campus that I will get to work on next year. Instead, the only time I pulled out the phone to take a picture was to snap a shot of a cock fighting ring and two run down houses on a river that is pretty close to the school.

I know that these pictures are a piece of Thailand, and there are many places like this all over the town, but this is not a complete picture of what is happening out in Bangkok. The houses that I got to look at were all two story with three bedrooms and two full bathrooms. They were full furnished and even came with a small lawn that I had not been able to experience in a long time. They sat next to neighborhoods with large mansions and houses so big that I did not believe that they could exist in any culture. The strange thing about all of them was that they all existed so close to each other that it seemed as if there was no line between social classes in Bangkok. I know that they exist and it is sad to see, but at the same time, it did not seem to disturb any of the people that were living in the neighborhood. It was just a part of what made it the neighborhood.

I wish I had more pictures to show you because it is truly a beautiful place, and the visit out made me excited for the change I am making in my life. We were not able to find a new place this first day out here, but the school is really amazing, and the neighborhood that it is in will make a wonderful diverse home for next year. I am glad I came out to prepare for this big leap and I do think it will make things easier in the coming months.

Basketball at Airports – The PreMove Day 1

I have known for quite some time that I would be making a big change in my life. I have been living in Seoul for the last four years and teaching at a great international school there, Korea International School, but it was time for me to move on as a person and as a teacher. I was in fear of growing complacent at the school I was working in because the years were starting to become routine, and I needed to find a new challenge so I could remain relevant as a teacher. I also needed a new adventure, so I looked into new jobs last October and found a new position in Bangkok in December. I did not want to say anything about it until the school year started to wind down because that knowledge compromises what I can do in the classroom, so this is the first time I have made the information public.

I am pretty excited about the move, but it does cause some stress in my life as I try to get everything together for my new job while wrapping up the school year at my old school. Luckily for me, KIS has three day weekend in May and I took the opportunity to move a lot of my stuff to my new school to make the transition a little easier. So I loaded up way too much stuff for a weekend trip on a budget airline and flew down to Thailand to look at my new school, my new neighborhood, and meet some new colleagues and get some paperwork taken care of. It will make for a busy weekend, but it will make things easier in the future.

I left Friday night to get the most of the weekend, but before I left, I had a couple of hours to kill in an airport. Most of you know that I come from Denver, Colorado originally and love the sports teams out there. And if you are following the NBA and the NHL, you know that Colorado is having a year that they have not experienced in a long time. The Nuggets look like serious contenders for the first time ever, and I wanted to watch the game. So I pulled out my tablet, found a place near my gate, and started watching the game.

It seems like a boring story I know, but it was the reaction of the Koreans that made my evening complete. The NBA is huge in Korea and there are many times that I have to tell my students to turn the game off and focus on the work of the classroom. The adults always love the opportunity to watch a game, so when they saw that some random waegookan was watching the Nuggets/Portland matchup from earlier that day, they started to gather around me to watch a play or two. I didn’t get to finish the game before my fight left, but I did have a couple of people peer over my shoulder to pass the time they were forced at an airport.

It is those small things that I am going to miss when I make the move to Bangkok. South Korea has been frustrating at times, but that is true for a lot of places in the world. But I found that I need to ignore those things that frustrate me, and focus on the moments that make me smile. If I do that in Thailand, it will be an experience like no other over the next couple of years.

I am excited to see where this weekend will take me, and I am excited to take that first step towards a new adventure. The weekend will probably fly by really quick, but I should take the time to pause and watch what life presents me. I will find those small moments that make life worth treasuring.

Make the World Your Destination

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I was standing by myself in the warm water off the beach in Koh Samui, a tropical island in the southern part of Thailand, and I was contemplating the meaning of life, the universe and everything. Some might wonder why I would be thinking about such a deep subject, and the only answer I would be able to give those people is 42. Some would understand that answer, they would just ask me what the question would be. For those that would scratch their head at the answer 42, I would have to refer them to Douglas Adam’s masterpiece, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. In that story, a group of intergalactic mice create a computer to determine what is the answer to life, the universe and everything and they are told 42. Of course, they were disappointed in the answer, and the computer told them in order to understand the answer to life, the universe and everything, they must first know the question. In order to find out the question, they created another computer they name Earth.

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Now, I know you are wondering why somebody who is standing in the warm water of the Bay of Siam on the edge of fall would be thinking about such a thing. Well, it was because I was presented with the number 42 earlier that day as I was traveling on a short boat trip through the Marine National Park of Thailand. While partaking on this tour, I was able to visit secluded beaches, hike up to a private lagoon, watch sea life while I snorkeled in the clear water over a protected choral reef, and watch flying fish and dolphins while I kayaked around the islands where they filmed the movie, The Man with Golden Gun. I was also told on that trip that there are a total of 42 protected islands located in the Marine National Park of Thailand. The coincidence was uncanny. How could I not stop and contemplate the meaning of life, the universe and everything. Maybe I could come up with the all important question, and we will would all be better off for my having discovered it.

That’s when it hit me, the question. Here I stood on the edge of southeast Asia with the question that gave meaning to life, the universe and everything.  Of course, according to the book, this would be the exact moment that the Vogons would come down to blow up the Earth to make way for an intergalactic highway, so I looked up in the sky to make sure my life wouldn’t instantly end. No big spaceships were there ready to blow up everything that I knew, and I could rest assured that the knowledge I now possessed allowed me to reach an epiphany of what it means to live life.

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But what does all this mean? Many wise, old men will tell you that life is not about the destination, but instead about the journey. If we are always worried about what the destination is like then we won’t enjoy the moments that we have in getting to that place. Everything we have placed in the destination will be lost to us, and we will have missed something more important along the way. But the problem I have with that philosophy is when the destination is like this:

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This is what I had to wake up to every morning I spent on the island of Koh Samui. If you close enough out in the water you can see the speck of me standing out there contemplating the meaning of life, the universe, and everything. My destination was a villa I rented with five other friends. It was really hard to do anything but relax at this place. Every morning, I could walk out the back door and see the ocean waves gently crash against the beach that was only a mere walk away from where I was enjoying my coffee. If I wanted to go stand in the middle of the ocean to ponder the greater mysteries of life, I could do it without hesitation and not have anything holding me back. I could take a nap on an outdoor bed while the gentle fall breeze gently whispered me to sleep. A few houses down from our place was a restaurant where I could enjoy some delicious Thai cuisine or an adult beverage. What was there not to like about this place? This destination rocked. I was in paradise, and enjoying every minute of it. Maybe life was about the destination and those many old, wise men had gotten it wrong all those years.

This got me thinking about my life so far, and how lucky I had been. I have had some amazing experiences, and have seen some incredible things. I have been able to do it on a shoe-string budget and the only cost has been I have had to discard a few superfluous luxuries along the way. But I wouldn’t give up all of my experiences for all the luxuries the world had to offer. Some of my experiences were great like the beach on Koh Samui, and some of them were crazy stories such as my tuk tuk ride in Bangkok. But I came to the realization that the bad moments are just as important as the good ones and sometimes tell the better stories.

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One day on this trip while in Bangkok, my companions and I went to visit the Wat Pho, and the Grand Palace, two of the bigger tourist sites the city has to offer. We started at the Wat Pho where we wandered the expansive grounds, and got to look at the Reclining Buddha. It was fun to do the touristy thing for awhile, but rain clouds started to roll in and we wanted to figure out a way to get to our next stop, the Grand Palace. We innocently asked a man dressed in tour guide garb if he could point us in the right direction, and he proceeded to tell us all about the other wonderful sights the city had to offer. He asked a lot of personal questions which is common for people in southeast Asia with their belief in Confucianism so we gave up that both couples had been married for at least a couple years. It seemed like the polite thing to do while he secured two dry tuk tuks for us to take on our citywide excursion.

Basically a tuk tuk is a three wheeled motorcycle that can be used to transport passengers through Bangkok. The rule of thumb when using this form of transportation is to determine a destination and a price before you leave, all of which we did with the help of our new friend. We went to our first destination spot which was the Smiling Buddha, our friend telling us that it was only open one day every month which happened to be the day we were in the town. How could we not go on this journey? We only had one day to enjoy Buddha’s smile. Also, if we took a picture of us smiling along with him, we would receive good luck for the year. The place was neat when we got there, but it didn’t take us long to observe the Smiling Buddha before we wanted to move on to our next destination. The group was out by the tuk tuks again within ten minutes. One of the drivers had to run to the bathroom while we waited for his return at a bus stop.

This is when we met our next “friend.” He told us about how he was going to visit the coast the next week to give his new wife a honeymoon that they weren’t able to go on yet even though had been married for a couple of years. This wasn’t his first wife either. He had lost her to the devastating tsunami that hit the coast of Thailand ten years earlier. The pain was immense, and he regretted the fact that he never showered his first wife with expensive gifts to show her how much he loved her. One such gift he wished he could give her was his new wedding ring that he kept showing us. It had a blue sapphire which he told us could only be found in Thailand.

After talking to this guy for awhile, our driver finally returned from the bathroom. It took him awhile so I suspected he had some serious business to attend to while we talked to our new “friend.” We loaded up into the tuk tuks thinking we were going to be taken to a market where we could get some good Thai food. They did take us to a market but not one where we could buy food. It was a jewelry store with an upstairs room that had a tailor. It suddenly became clear what this trip was really about. We were not being looked after from friendly Thai people, but instead we had been given a long commercial in the hopes that we would buy a product from somebody who had a difficult time getting people to his store. I get it. This is what capitalism is all about. I definitely went on a journey and the destination was not what I had envisioned it to be. Luckily, we left the shop after spending only a couple of minutes there, and the tuk tuks took us to our original destination, the Grand Palace.

The part of my experience left a bad taste in my mouth, but as that bitterness faded, I could look back at the tuk tuk trip with fresh eyes. Even though it just happened to me recently, I can laugh at the moment. It has now become a joke among my friends I shared the experience. It made life meaningful. This will be just another story I will add to my repertoire as I sit around a table with friends. I have many of these stories to tell, but why am I the lucky one to have all these stories while other people do not have the same experiences?

This was one of the things I pondered while standing just off the shore in Koh Samui. Not everyone I have met in my life have lived such a mundane existence. I have listened to wonderful tales from many people about their experiences. Some people have had more of these stories than others. The people who I have recently met with my new position at an international school for the most part are some who have more experiences to share than others. What do these people have in common with me that give them such great experiences? The answer was pretty obvious. They were world travelers. They go and see all this world has to offer, and now see different perspectives because of this. They were always on the journey. The path was always in front of them.

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The best part about these world travelers is they are no longer on a journey because wherever they are, they have already arrived. They have made the world their destination. They can quit worrying about where the journey is going to take them, and just live in the moment. They can begin to soak up all the world has to offer.

You would think that this would make people jealous of world travelers because they have not been given the same opportunities. They can’t wake up some morning and find themselves a mere feet from a beach on a tropical island. But I think they can. It take just an adjustment of perspective. Make the world your destination. This way you can quit worrying about that pesky journey all those  old, wise men have told you about throughout your life, and you can start to enjoy your life for what it has to offer in that moment.

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Partake in the bounty placed on the table in front of you.

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Take the time to enjoy that piece of art you’ve always wanted to examine closer.

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And most importantly, when given the opportunity, dance.

All these thoughts rambled through my head as I pondered the question to life, the universe, and everything, and some of you might want me to share that question with you so you can make sense out of the number 42. But I am not going to. You need to find your own body of warm, salty water to stand in so you can let these thoughts bounce around your head. You will probably come to the same solution that I did on that fateful day, and when you do you will have finally arrived.