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.

From My Window on the Plane

You look like nothing more than mere ridges
From the distance where my seat is now at,
And the small twigs I see must be bridges,
Crossing over where the water was spat.
The ground is covered with powdered sugar,
Enticing me with this earthly dessert.
If I could just reach down with my finger,
I could taste the confectionary dirt,
But the breeze blows in the cotton candy,
Obscuring my view of what is below.
I hold in my head, those dreams, so dandy
Of the plane’s cooking television show.
During my trip, it is hard to compete
With the view I see from my window seat.

The Cedars

Listen as the wind runs through the cedars,
Telling tales of the Shogun who fought here.
They came to pay respect to respect to their leaders,
And to console them from their greatest fear.
The land was torn apart from civil war
As the blood of men stained the frozen ground.
Many sacrifices were lost to lore,
And only the cedars could hear their sound.
After all the monuments have been built,
And the tourists have come to take their pictures
No on will remember the life blood spilt
Except for the wind running through the cedars.
Will you stop to listen to the tale told,
And the numerous lesson that they hold.

Cherry Blossoms – Day to Japan Day 8

Seeing the cherry blossoms in Japan is on a lot of people’s bucket list and I always wondered what made them so special. They happen in other places in the world around the same time. In fact, I have seen them pop out every Spring that I have lived in Korea, and yes, they are pretty, but to put it on my bucket list of things to do before I die seemed a little absurd. But to the Japanese people, this annual event is something to get excited about.

It is a completely different feeling being in Tokyo during Sakura, or the cherry blossoming season. It only lasts for a couple of weeks, but people make the most out of it while they can, and they are also so happy throughout the course of this natural event. You will see people walking around with cameras all over the city, getting ready to take that perfect shot of the tress exploding in pink and white. They also gather in the parks during the night to celebrate with each other with picnics and the sharing of drinks.

I think the best way to describe it is by talking about this older couple I witnessed at one of the parks during my stay in Japan. They did not move quickly, and they were bent over from years of hard work. The man held his cane in one hand, and his wife grabbed his other arm as the walked among the lanterns that Tokyo had put out to highlight the blooming of the Sakura. I like to think that they did not make it out of the house very much, but this was an event that they would not miss ever. As they shuffled down the park’s path, they had huge smiles on their faces as they peered this way and that to take in the beauty that was before them. The moment was truly magical for them, and I am sure that they had seen it every year of their lives, and every year, it was just as spectacular.

This is like Japan’s Christmas season, except the nature that they witness marks the coming of Spring and warmer weather. It does have that feeling of going out and looking at the Christmas lights during a snowstorm, except that it is not as cold outside, and I was a lot more comfortable taking in the views.

The whole city is not covered in Sakura, and I did come across the occasional lone tree making its mark. There are many places where the blooms really hit, and these are the places where people come together every night. Each one of the locations has its own charm and its own excitement, but there are tons of people gathered at each spot to enjoy the mark of this celebration before it disappears for another year.

The ancient architecture adds to the excitement, as I was able to see the cherry blossoms frame some of the bigger shrines and extend out over some of there gates. I have not seen this same appeal in Korea even though I bet there are places where it does exist. They just seemed to go hand in hand in Tokyo.

They are not only fun at night, but it is still quite the sight to see during the day. I think I was out there during the height of the bloom as I was able to travel down one of the streets and see the trees line the canals of Tokyo.

One of the best ways to enjoy them is to go out on the canals in a kayak, and get up close to them hanging out over the water. It was a great way to spend the morning while getting a little exercise. There are also a lot of tour boats that travel up and down these canals, and many of the guests would wave at us as they traveled on by. But it was the pre-school children that were my favorite. The path that we took went by many of the schools, and the teachers took the time to take the kids out on walks to enjoy the Sakura as well. Any time they saw us, they would wave at us and say the only two English words that they knew, “Hi” and “Goodbye” when we drifted away. It just added to the joy of the moment.

So I knew that by coming out to Japan with the goal of seeing the cherry blossoms, I would be something really pretty. What I did not know was I would be caught up in the excitement of the city celebrating one of their favorite times of the year. I learned why many people put this on their bucket list, and I am glad I got to experience it once in my lifetime. It has made this trip to Japan probably my favorite one that I have been on so far, and it is going to be hard to beat the calling of Spring with the Sakura if I ever get the chance to come back again.

Goodbye, Japan, and thank you for the wonderful trip.