Rainy season? Oops!!

So when I booked tickets to Thailand on a whim in February this year I didn’t really consider much other than “it’s my husband’s birthday in June” so colour me a little mortified right now as it dawns on me that June is kind of rainy season in Thailand…

Dude… I don’t have money to spend on raincoats! And I don’t even think you’re allowed to take umbrellas with you in your hand luggage on planes. So…

Wait… Do I even own an umbrella?

Hmmm. I think there might be a few floating around here…but I prefer to use umbrellas for photo opportunities rather than actual dryness… The whole holding up umbrellas as an act of self-preservation does not work so well for me.

Then again: At this point I’m so looking forward to our trip that I might even be happy hanging out inside Seven Eleven all day and just eating ice creams and toasted sarmies while I wait for the rain to die down. Or bedroom picnics with junk food and a book? I might be daft but that doesn’t sound too bad.

It’ll be fine, right?

We don’t need clear skies to have fun, do we?

Lort I might need to sell my pancreas and buy a damn raincoat…

Freaking rainy season. Damn.

Although…. Cloudiness makes for great photography so perhaps it won’t be too bad after all?

Thailand? Again? Have you lost the plot?

Well, probably, but that’s besides the point. Yes, I’m going to Thailand again. Yes, I’ve already been there twice in the last five years. And yes…. I’m excited as hell.

When I went to Thailand for the first time in 2013 I went with my folks and my brother. Of course it was glorious, but it took me three seconds to realise that I had to bring my husband back, because that’s what happens when you find your soulmate, I guess. You kind of get a little bit grumpy about not being able to share the extra good stuff with each other. Of course that trip solidified a kind of wanderlust that neither of us have been able to quench.

Ty turns 40 this year. I think we’re both low-key having a crisis about it. Ty originally wanted to take a roadtrip for his birthday. But June is in winter and roadtrips are a lot of work (and at least 1.5 times more expensive than you expect them to be) and after a few thousand thoughts on the subject we decided that maybe, just maybe, we could get ourselves to our soul country instead.

See, ever since we went there together we’ve been longing to go back. And every time we sort of tell ourselves “no, we must go somewhere new”. But this time we kind of thought that sometimes it’s ok to indulge in the comfort of the familiar. We want an easy slow pace. We want to sip on watermelon shakes and eat dragon fruit in the streets while walking hand in hand to the beach. We want selfies in the swimming pool (as you can see we need the practice) and long explorey walks and bedroom picnics. We want “us” time that doesn’t come with a strict schedule (although we do have a kind of schedule that we need to stick to – apparently we can’t resist making plans!)

And seriously: My love, I can’t wait to take this trip with you. I’m even looking forward to the cuddles on the plane.

I’ve Been Keeping Secrets

So for the last two months I’ve been kind of sitting on some news. Why have I been sitting on it? Honestly because I’ve been a little embarrassed to admit what I did, and because once I had done it I sunk into an anxiety pit that I haven’t quite been able to climb out of yet.

In February all the big travel companies were pushing flight sales, right?

Believe me… they were…

And I kind of had a little wiggle room on one of my credit cards….

And my husband is turning 40 this year…

And we’re not really about the parties…

But we do really really really love and adore Thailand…

So…

I charged two non-refundable tickets to Thailand to my card.

Which basically means that right now we’re in the “hold thumbs and hope for the best” part of trip planning.

Because YOLO…

Right?

Dear Friends, You’re Always Welcome Here

For the last couple of weeks India has been on my timeline, and so of course I’ve been thinking about how while I was in India I met the most fantastic couple: Ella & Jack. Silly, I know. In reality we only spent a couple of hours together, exploring the Taj Mahal on Valentine’s Day, but I love those two so much! One of my absolute favourite things about traveling is that there is always something so special about the people I meet while doing it. As someone who spends a lot of time feeling a bit out of place no matter where she is, it’s a big deal for me to ever be in the sort of space where I feel like I (*gasp*) fit in. I do recognize that this is no more or less true within travel circles than it is outside of those circles, but feelings are feelings and the good ones should not be denied.

Of course I have met people from all over, not just in India. Many of you have a special place in my heart and I appreciate the small amount of time that I shared with you out there in the big wide world. I think of you often and wonder after your wellbeing. I find my mind drifts towards a number of you as I get nostalgic about past travels or start making plans towards the next adventure. I find myself wondering if your next adventure is on the horizon, or if you know just how wonderful my little part of the world is. And if you do know, would you considering visiting it? (more…)

What Zanzibar can learn from Thailand

OutriggerThe travel bug properly bit me in 2013. I blame Thailand. The bug has always kind of been there. I’ve always had a travel list. But before I went to Thailand, my travelling wants seemed to be in the same impossible league as my very real wish to attend Hogwarts or fly around with The Doctor.

But I went to Thailand and suddenly going places became possible. It became this thing that I could do for myself if I really tried, even if I don’t always feel like I deserve it.

And guess what? Three years later I am now someone who travels. Ok so I’m not one of those people who only travels, but I reckon managing to be a homeschooling mom of three who only ekes by on a few freelancing gigs every month but still manages to get out there into the world a little bit is still kind of cool. It counts, right?

I digress… (more…)

Loving the Elephants

candyAfter seeing a post from the Zimbabwe Conservation Task Force on how a whole bunch of elephant babies have been taken from their mothers and sold to zoos in China, I once again find myself thinking heavily about these giant but often gentle creatures.

When I was in Thailand in 2013 I was lucky enough to stay at a pretty swanky hotel in Laguna beach. I went along as my bother’s “plus one” on the Herbalife holiday that he had qualified for. Every day, after breakfast, the most beautiful elephant called Candy, came to visit the patrons of the hotel. She was such a gorgeous creature, and despite me having a broken knee at the time and therefore being very limited in my mobility, I played happily with this baby elephant and never felt endangered by her. ellieHer owner was a sweet man as well, and after being horrified by the sight of those bullhooks that they use on the elephants when we went elephant riding, I was exceptionally happy to see that this man did not carry one. Candy, it seemed, was quite happy to follow him around like a puppy without intimidation. At least no visible intimidation. It seems silly, but to me she seemed like a happy thing. And she was cuddly and loving and she seemed to really enjoy the attention she was getting. I was completely mesmerised by her.

Last year when I went back to Thailand with my husband we skipped the elephant riding. I had enjoyed meeting those elephants before, but I  kind of felt like I knew better. I had since learned about how elephants are broken in order to be useful as workers. As much as I can appreciate that it is simply part of how a culture different to mine does things, I still cannot help but find the thought unsettling. Those bullhooks are especially good at making me feel a bit nauseous.

Just before we left Phuket, however, we ended up doing a quick (and cheap) tour of a few last minute places. If I remember correctly there were two lookouts and a trip to a big Buddha (there are so many big ones!) and there was an orchid farm (ie: three orchids hanging from a wire with one flower between them) and a baby elephant petting session.

Well, this baby elephant broke my heart. She didn’t want to be there. She was anchored with a chain around her ankle which was not long enough for her to move at all. I remember wondering if the concrete she was standing on might not be burning the soles of her feet. She was nothing like Candy. She was sad. And meeting her broke my heart. I realised then that it was possible that Herbalife might have made sure that the elephant that visited us at The Outrigger was well taken care of (they do strange “little things” like that – though please note that this is an assumption on my behalf) in a non-cruel manner. I so wanted to hug this baby, but she didn’t want me to so I did not even try. Instead I placed my hand on her forehead and whispered “I am so sorry” in her ear, hoping that if nothing else her instincts might sense the deep regret I felt for her state of life.

I don’t think I am one who puts the welfare of animals before the welfare of people. I understand that one of the biggest heartbreaking truths of the world is that so many humans’ livelihoods depend on the exploitation of animals. It is how children are fed. It is heartbreaking. Take the abused little elephant chained to the ground away, and it is possible that several people will go go hungry. It sucks.

It makes all the sense in the world that people who care, in general, care more about animals than they do humans, but it seems to me that the only way to save the animals is to save the humans as well. How? Of course I have no idea.

It is easy to bemoan the idea of Zimbabwean baby elephants being shipped off to China without their mothers. It is easy because it is bloody awful. But is it possible that the exploitation itself is an act of desperation in a desperate country?

And the same can be said for Thailand. The exploitation of these animals feeds children. It’s not ok, but it is the reason. Headway is being made as far as Thai elephants are concerned and that is wonderful news(see below). But I cannot help but wonder what happens to all the people who have been using these animals to feed themselves. IS there someone helping them? Is there an organization showing them how to feed their families without selling interaction with these creatures in the streets?

 

Dear friends and all animal lovers. I would like to update you about some positive animal news here in Thailand. On December 26th, 2014, the Thai government has passed the first law to protect animals, in which the animal including elephant will now be protected. It has been a long time for the animal rights group that work and join hands together to fight for years and many governments.
For more than a decade, we have gathered groups to protest for animal law in Thailand; we have held too many demonstrations in front of the government house , and government officials over and over to voice and get the law to protect the animal. Our organisation has gathered many hundreds of thousands of signatures from people all around the world to help to voice for the animal and elephant , especially the street begging elephant.
It is now your voice that we can hear , even if the law has not yet reached what ever we want , but for the first start and first step in Thailand , it is still good news and we can see the future for the animal.
About the elephant: from now, Street begging is illegal, including who ever supports to buy or give money, you will be implicated in an infraction of animal law in Thailand.
Old elephant , pregnant , handicapped and sick elephants cannot be used to service tourists any more . If any of you see any animal get abused, you can complain to the authority of Thailand. I will update you regarding the details and address soon when the law begins to take effect within this year.
I would like to thank all friends, and animal organisations in Thailand who joined hands together to work in the last couple of years. Special thanks to the braveheart woman, Khun NuNa Silpa-archa, and her background supporters, who walk through the big wall and make the law success. With her strong heart and love to the animal she stood with us to fight for the animal. Thanks to all friends and supporters and Elephant Ambassadors from all around the world for your voices and your education to others . Your voice can make the difference and victory to the animal . Never give up !
Darrick Thomson Lek Chailert, Alan Ourworldnottheirs

On Staying and Going and Thinkery Things

DSCN2424I’m too zen. It’s weird. I’m not usually “ok”. I’m pretty much usually a mess. Lately I’m ok though. Obviously there must be something wrong…

(I’m kidding: yoga, better eating and a little meditation have gone a long way. I’m allowed to make awkward jokes about myself though.)

I guess it helps that our Thai trip is behind us now (pity the debt incurred during the trip is still very much in front though) and I am no longer overwhelmed by all the planning and wondering. For now we kind of have a vague-ish idea of where we stand and it feels like a good place to be. (more…)

Home & Happy

It’s Thursday (I think) which means I have been home for three sleeps now. I still feel a little high.

I must admit, as much as I love my home (being the introverted little hobbit that I am) this time being home feels particularly good and I’m struggling to grasp why. Usually coming home has a little bit of sadness attached to it. A bit of oh-here-we-go-again let’s-get-back-to-reality kind of thing. I don’t know. The sad part is missing this time.

A week before we left for Thailand my pastor from Molteno (the man who has been at the head of my spiritual wellbeing for most of my life) came up to PE for a visit and he spent almost a whole day with me. I must admit: I spent most of that visit with tears pouring out of my face. Again, I can barely express why. I suppose this has been an exceptionally overwhelming year in almost every way. From considering massive changes like moving countries, to (still) trying to get to a point where stepmom and stepkids can happily co-exist in the same space, to heavy financial burdens made heavier by losing previously reliable clients, clients who just don’t pay, and an unfortunate drop in financial help as far as two of our children are concerned – this year has been a challenge.

Then, of course, Thailand started experiencing its crazy strict military coup and all sorts of things started to go as pear shaped as possible.

During week three of my vacation (aka: week two of hell-on-earth TEFL course) I sent my pastor a message which said something like this:

I don’t know if it counts as a miracle, but I hate teaching English so much that the degree thing is no longer a problem. I will never ever consider doing this as a career.

I also admitted that even though feeling this way is technically a disaster in the face of our plans, I am feeling quite content about it and not panicking at all.

He replied that peace in the midst of the unknown comes from God.

I have to wonder if that is what it is then: just peace.

I have absolutely no idea what we are going to do from here. We’ve talked about it a few times and the conversations have all branched off into quite extreme directions. I’m not even sure which ones were serious ideas…

But for now? For now I’m just going to enjoy this peace.

Later I might tell you all about why I think that TEFL (in Thailand at least) is a farce.

But for now? Peace.

I’m not even going to think about all the credit card payments I need to be making on a non-existent salary. That is future Nadine’s problem. Present Nadine is unpacking and playing with her kids.

Why I need to learn to speak Thai ASAP…

NO-I-DON-T-WANT-A-F--K-N-SUIT,-TUK-TUK-OR-MASSAGE-TopsIt occurs to me today that there is an increasing number of stuff that I need to be able to express while I am out and about in this country, and my inability to do so is creating a bit of a wobble for me.

One of the main reasons that I decided that English teaching is not for me is this: English is my thing. I love English. I love communication. Communication, in fact, is my superpower. And when you put me in a classroom full of people with whom I cannot communicate, I kind of feel as though I have been stripped of my superpower. This leads to unhappiness. And the whole point of anything really is to not be unhappy…

So…here I am in this country where my snark and sarcasm mean nothing. My ability to express myself means nothing. I cannot even so much as order more than one thing off of any menu without being almost 100% sure that the wrong thing is going to arrive at my table. I will then not be able to communicate the mistake because in Thai culture it is considered the height of bad manners to embarrass someone by pointing out their error… *sigh* (more…)

Perspective… (Alternative title: Let’s not freak out just yet.)

 

I’m sitting in the breakfast nook of the Holiday Park Hotel in Lamai Beach, Koh Samui at the moment, drinking coffee and talking to you, while there are 21 braver-than-I-am souls currently on their way to a school, whose name I can’t pronounce, in order to teach a (large) group of children to speak English. At the moment I can’t really remember ever being happier.

Pure relief is highly addictive…

Some of you may know that Ty and I are currently in Thailand. We’re into the third week of four and we are doing a TEFL course and trying to establish if we really really would like to move here for a while. Correction: Ty is doing a TEFL course. On Monday evening I tended my resignation for this course which I paid way too much money for because honestly – I just could not deal! (As a quick side note: Ty seems to be enjoying it and has said he can see himself doing this one day if we decide to still move here so at least there’s that! He’s on his own though!)

For the last ten months I have been so lost in preparing for this trip that not once did a very pertinent question did not occur to me: What if I hate it?

And I do. I hate it so much that not doing it right now has been the most insane source of happiness. I almost feel bad for the others because they are all having a miserable time of it as well (something which the course administrators seem to find baffling…ok then….) but my guilt is most definitely being overshadowed by relief. (more…)

Underwater Selfies

I just kind of felt the need to share my absolute love for my new camera with everyone. My God it’s been a long time since I’ve had so much fun. And I’m so glad I married my husband. Spending time with his is the best. Our trip so far has been awesome! I can’t wait to use this camera while snorkelling! I’m SO glad we were lucky enough to find it!!

P9220105 P9220107 P9220152 P9220154

Suddenly….the Husband….

Hello to the three folks who read my blog from time to time!

This message is coming to you from my hotel room where I should be taking a mid-morning nap in an attempt to be well rested for our over-night bus ride to Koh Samui later. The husband has gone off in search of a giant swing that has Hindu origins (it’s close by) but I stayed behind because I need a break from touristing and because yesterday I had a yogurt that has somehow made me feel a bit off for the last 12 (18?) hours or so. Blegh. I’m pretty sure it wasn’t yogurt so much as it was a yogurt-like substance. I may have to stay away from dairy products for a while….

So, anyway. After admitting that I am taking a break from the bustling information overload that is Facebookland, I discovered that my husband has been sharing our daily photo downloads from my computer on (you guessed it) my very own Facebook wall. Boundaries… Apparently in marriage there are none. Anyway – I hope you all enjoyed those ten thousand selfies that are of no consequence to anyone but the two people in them. I shall make an effort to squash my need to make sure I haven’t “ignored” anyone’s comments in that regard.

Ag…buggerit… Let me pop in to say hi 🙂