And that’s a Wrap!

My time as a foreign teacher in Chonburi, Thailand has come to an end. It feels very surreal that I will be clearing out my desk this week and no students will be there to call out “Teacher!” or ask me “What color do you see?” 5 million times.

I realize that many of my blog posts this year have centered around my travels and weekend outings. However, I feel that they gloss over the main reason as to why I came and have loved my time in Thailand.

My students.


Throw back to our first class photo!

For the last 10 months, I have been in charge of teaching English to a class of 45 kindergarteners. And I’m not going to lie, not every day was filled with rainbows and sunshine.

They are loud and they are crazy. They run around and sometimes do things that are not acceptable in a classroom- whether that be in America or Thailand. They can be downright frustrating and have tested my patience and ability to keep calm and carry on.


And yet, I have found that they are sweet and caring. That they want to understand me and for me to understand them. That even though I look and speak so differently from them, they will still run up to me every morning to give me hugs and ask me to play with them.


These tiny creatures, slowly, but surely have carved a place into my heart. They have made me a better teacher and by far a better person. And for that, I am grateful and blessed to have been their teacher.


Now, I knew the last day of school with my students would be a rough one. But honestly, I didn’t expect it to be so hard.

The day started with me walking to school extra early because I was assigned gate duty for the last day (lucky me!). And of course, there was a thunderstorm that morning, making the walk not the most pleasant.


What should have been- a non-rainy day walking to school

And then, I was informed that I would be making the last morning ceremony speech of the year (we don’t give heads ups here in Thailand). No pressure. Luckily, I’ve become pretty good with thinking on my feet and gave what I hope was a decent goodbye.

From there, the day got more fun. We had a big party in our classroom. And Thai parties are not complete without lots of food to go around.


Food for days

My students also surprised me with gifts and handmade cards!


My co-teacher, Teacher Piw, gave me a handmade coin purse and my student teacher, Teacher Palm, gave me a collage of pictures of me teaching. I almost cried then and there. Probably one of the most thoughtful and best gifts I’ve ever received.


The rest of the day passed with playing games and watching movies (the thunderstorm outside made everything seem peaceful and cozy). I didn’t want the day to end.


But of course, it had too. Before leaving the classroom, my co-teacher had the students wai to me. They then all said “Thank you Teacher Deanna, beauuuutifullllll” and ran up to hug me. And that’s when I pretty much lost it in terms of emotion. For the next hour, we sat downstairs and my kids slowly got picked up by their parents. It was a long and gut-wrenching hour. Some tearful goodbyes ensued.

Saying goodbye to my students and co-teachers was the hardest thing I’ve done since moving to Thailand. I love and will miss them all terribly.





Teacher Piw!


Teacher Palm!


The final class picture


Riding through Chiang Rai

I’ve had my sights set on Chiang Rai for a very long time. Chiang Rai, the most Northern province of Thailand, is home to Thailand’s (arguably) most famous temple: Wat Rong Khun. Or, more commonly referred to as “The White Temple” for foreigners.

Time has been going by so fast, that I was shocked to discover that I only have a little over 2 months left here before going home. I knew I would never forgive myself if I didn’t make it to the White Temple before I left. That, and Chiang Rai itself is simply a place you have to check out if you’re in Thailand.

To get to Chiang Rai, I went to the bus station directly from school on Friday to catch a ride into Bangkok. From there, I took the BTS to get to the Mo Chit Northern Bus Terminal. Since I’m trying to keep my spending low, I decided to take an overnight bus rather than to simply fly to Chiang Rai. It ended up being a bit of a long night (the worse being waking up, convinced that I had slept for at least 4 hours… only to see that I’d only slept for 30 minutes).

Eventually though, we made it! I got off the bus and quickly flagged down a taxi tuk tuk to take me to the White Temple for 100 baht.

The White Temple ended up being super crowded, even though I had gotten there 20 minutes after opening time. Still, it was beyond gorgeous.


So, the story behind the White Temple… back in the 90s, the temple was in a bad state. An artist named Chalermchai Kositpipat decided to buy the whole property, redesign it with his own money, and then open it back up to the public. The temple demonstrates the evils inside people and the path to salvation. The temple is free for Thais, but costs 50 baht for all foreigners.

When you first enter the temple complex, you come across a foot bridge with demonic-like creatures there to welcome you.


As you cross the footbridge, there are hands reaching out on both sides of you, portraying the souls stuck in Hell.



That one red fingernail really bothered me for some reason…

After crossing, you come to a larger bridge, guarded by two mythical creatures, that goes over a pond.


Finally, you are ready to enter the main temple! But no pictures of this because no photography was allowed. At the back of the temple, the walls are a fiery red-orange and shows images of Western culture wrapped in flames. In what can be a very controversial discussion, these include pictures of Michael Jackson, the Twin Towers, Pokemon, Harry Potter, Neo from The Matrix, Spiderman, Hello Kitty, Ninja Turtles, and Freddy Krueger- just to name a few. Google “inside the White Temple” to see exactly what it looks like!

As you move to the front of the temple, the coloring on the walls turn to a gold and you see images of Buddha.

Once you leave the temple building, you can explore more of the complex and even leave your imprint on a Wishing Leaf. These are then hung up for anyone to view and read your wish.


Towards the exit, there’s also a pretty golden building:


This ended up being the most fancy bathroom exterior I’ve ever seen. And no, the toilet seats were not made of gold. BUT each stall came with toilet paper, which is a golden find in Thailand itself.

Overall, I felt that the temple was worth the overnight bus ride. It was kind of hard leaving because I knew I’d probably never be back.


Next, I wanted to head over to Wat Rong Suea Ten (aka: The Blue Temple). Problem was, my transportation options were limited. I eventually found a taxi driver who would take me there and then to my hostel for 500 baht. Knowing that I was in a touristy area and that was a ridiculous price, I argued that he take me there for 400 baht.

“450 baht.”

I tried to maintain my best poker face (kinda hard to look tough in a flower dress). “Mai chai ka, 400 baht…”

He agreed, which meant that I definitely could have asked for a lower price from the beginning. Ahh well, for anyone reading and planning on going, you now know to start the bargaining at 300 baht.

So, the Blue Temple…


Not going to lie, I think I liked this temple more than the White Temple. A person who’s visiting Thailand for a short time might say otherwise, but from living here for 9 months, I’ve seen A LOT of white and gold temples.


I found the rich blue colors of this temple refreshing. The inside was also very tranquil. In fact, I just sat down for a bit to enjoy my surroundings and listen to the calming music.


After zen-ing it out for a bit, I had my driver take me to my hostel so I could check-in. The place I stayed at, Mercy Hostel, ended up being an amazing hostel! There was a large public area where you could play games and pool, watch TV, drink and eat free snacks, and even go swimming. All the people there were incredibly chill and most of them were solo backpackers.

After placing my stuff down, I found I was in a bit of a dilemma of what to do next. While solo traveling has the benefit of being able to do whatever and whenever, it’s pricey because you can’t split costs with anyone. Plus, as a (somewhat) social human, I like sharing experiences with others.

I had already completed what I really wanted to see in Chiang Rai and had spent 500 baht in the process. And it was only 10:30 in the morning…

Just as I was scanning my phone for nearby stuff to do (preferably in walking distance), a guy sat down across from me and asked me where I was from. Turns out, he was from the United States too! His name was Brain and he was a solo backpacker from Colorado who had just arrived in Thailand the other day. After talking for a bit, he asked if I wanted to explore some of the area with him on a motorbike. Ummm yes!

Perhaps back home this would be a bit of an unwise thing to do, but in Thailand it’s not out of the ordinary to make a friend in under 10 minutes. Especially with backpackers. Plus, he drove a motorcycle back home and had a spare helmet. All good to go!

The first place we went…was back to the White Temple! And here I thought I’d never see it again.


Take 2

Next, Brian had wanted to travel up to Doi Chang. This is considered Thailand’s “Coffee Paradise” and was located about an hour away, high in the mountains. The drive up was the best part. All around us was some of the most beautiful scenery I’ve ever seen. With the wind from the motorbike keeping me cool, I was totally content with life.


Unfortunately, pictures don’t do this place justice


The Doi Chang Viewpoint

As we reached the top of the mountain, I swear the whole area began smelling like coffee. As I did not sleep well on the overnight bus and didn’t want to be kept up for a second night, I didn’t actually get any coffee. A decision that I’m still thoroughly regretting.

On the way up, we had noticed that there seemed to be a lot of fires around, causing the valleys and mountains in the distance to be somewhat smokey. We had been trying to figure out how these fires were occurring. Now, as we rode down the mountain, we heard this roaring sound and saw thick smoke ahead.


So of course we got off the motorbike to take pictures! Turns out, the fires were naturally occurring and a way that the ecosystem removes dead debris. Little science for you.

An hour later, we were back at the base of the mountain and heading to our last destination for sunset: Singha Park.

Singha is actually the name of a popular beer in Thailand.


Beer logo

Who would have guessed that a park named after a beer would be so beautiful and full of classy eateries?



Apparently we went during the park’s Valentine’s celebration!

Brain and I arrived just in time to watch a hot air ballon take off, creating a picture perfect moment:IMG_0328

Since Brain is a photographer, he wanted to get a perfect sunset picture. This required us to drive around the park and literally run across fields to get to this one section of the park in time. We got many confused looks from Thai people, but we made it just as the sun was setting behind the mountains.


I think Singha Park was my favorite part of the day.

After we got back to the hostel, I said goodbye to Brian, cleaned myself up and then went to the night bazaar, where I got my som tam (papaya salad) and went clothes shopping for some warmer clothes (it actually gets somewhat cold in Northern Thailand!).


Chiang Rai’s Clock Tower

The next morning, I caught an early flight back to Bangkok and then took a van back to Chonburi. Overall, Chiang Rai ended up being the perfect weekend get-away trip. Totally recommend getting a motorbike though (or making a friend that can ride one)!

Chasing Waterfalls

After celebrating the New Year in Hua Hin, the rest of my January passed pretty quietly. Mostly because 1) I’m saving money for my after-semester travels 2) almost all the places I really want to go to in Thailand and around requires more travel time than a 2-day weekend allows.

However, last weekend I did decide to do a solo trip to Kanchanaburi for the sole purpose of chasing the Erawan Waterfalls.

Aside from Bangkok, Kanchanaburi was the first place I went to in Thailand with my orientation group (you can read about that trip here). During that trip, I was worried about how I would navigate my way through Thailand on my own. Nine months later, I’ve finally got it down (mostly). I reckon I’ve come full circle. Proud?

To get to Kanchanaburi, I left on Friday with Jessica. Jessica was going to Ayutthaya that weekend, but since we both had to pass through Bangkok to get to our destinations, we decided to go together to grab some Mexican.

The next morning, I woke up at 4:30 to catch a 5:45am van to Kanchanaburi. Why so early? Because once in Kanchanaburi I would have to catch a bus for a 1.5-hour ride to the waterfalls. Since Erawan National Park closes at 4, I wanted to make sure I got there in time to make it to the top of the waterfalls.

With traffic, a van to Kanchanaburi usually takes 3 hours. However, I forgot to factor in that we were leaving before the sun rises. Meaning, we got there in half that time. Nice!

From there, I was able to catch the first bus to the waterfalls.

Some more information about Erawan Waterfalls… the Falls are located inside Erawan National Park and require a short walk from the entrance to get to the base. There are 7 official tier levels to the Waterfall- all requiring an upward hike to get to. The higher the level, the more intense the hike becomes. In total, it’s about a 2km climb to the top.


The first 3 levels were easy to get to. In fact, it was more of following a concrete path than a climb. There were lots of people of all ages (both Thai and foreigners) at the first three waterfalls. Still, it didn’t subtract from the view.


Level 1- Hlai Khuen Rung


Level 2- Pha Namtok


After level 3, some older people and families with young children began turning back because the path was now more vertical and required some careful footing. Privately, I was happy for less people because I wanted to enjoy my surroundings without excess noise. Plus, I’m impatient when it comes to waiting for people to move (a trait I need to work on).

From level 4 and beyond, people began jumping into the waters for a cool-down. The day, luckily, was overcast so I felt no need to jump in yet.


Level 4- Oke Nang Peesau. People use the large smooth rocks as water slides!

By far, the most popular waterfall tier was level 5. With multiple pools of water, people were just sitting and relaxing.


Level 5- Buea Mai Long

Tip for anyone planning to go to Erawan- just because there are only 7 “official” levels doesn’t mean there aren’t other waterfalls in between. Since nobody stopped to visit these, I got my most tranquil (and magical pics) “off the beaten path:”





Levels 6 and 7 required some intense climbing to get to. The path also became less distinct and I sometimes had to forge my own path. Just when I thought I was going the wrong way and getting lost, I would spot a set of old rickety stairs (which were honestly more scarier to climb than the rocks and tree logs) to lead me in the right direction.


Level 6- Dong Prucksa

Finally though, I made it to the 7th level! Not going to lie though, it was less impressive than I thought it would be in terms of cascading water. But the water did have this pretty blue glow to it.


Level 7- Phu Phu Erawan

Several people were swimming at this level, but I quickly pulled my feet out after 2 minutes once a school of large fish began nipping at and trying to suck on my feet’s dead skin.


I’ll pass on the fish pedicure this time…

After a mini-celebration of, “Hey, I made it to the top in one piece!” I began my descent down.

Since moving to Thailand, I have been hiking steep inclines a lot more than I ever expected. So far, I can concluded one sure thing: the hike down is always harder for me than the hike up. Mostly because I always feel like I’m about to pitch forward and roll down the mountain.

And sure enough, I experienced a fall as I went down a set of stairs from Level 7 to Level 6 (told you they were rickety). On the plus side, I didn’t pitch forward and bust my head open. Instead, I slipped backward (wet leaves on the stairs…), landed on my rear and slid down 10 stairs. Ouch x 10.

Miraculously, nobody heard or saw me fall down (for once, thank goodness people are self-absorbed in taking group selfies) and I was able to slowly get up and limp on over to the nearest rock to inspect the damage. Once I was sure I had no broken wrists, fingers, or rear I continued on down to the lower levels.

About an hour later I was back at the base of the waterfall and ready to take a bus back to Kanchanaburi town and check in at my hostel. After a very necessary shower, I decided to replenish my day’s calorie deficiency at Do Love Farm Café. IMG_3719

I had one of my favorite Thai dishes, Som Tam, surrounded by strips of sushi salmon.


Followed by dessert.


Yes please to the charcoal waffle with mangos and ice cream on top ❤

Let’s just say I really needed that replenishing after chasing waterfalls 😉

New Years on the West Side

The transition from 2017 to 2018 was full of happy endings and bright beginnings. But before I get into what I did travel-wise, I have some exciting news to share!

This coming August, I’ll be leaving home to teach abroad again! This time in the Czech Republic! As I was with Thailand, I’m sorting through many emotions. On the one hand, I’m sad that I’ll have to leave Thailand in April now- Thailand has truly become my home. I’m even more sad that I’ll be heading back to the United States only to say goodbye to my family and friends again after a few short months. However, I am incredibly happy that I will be able to continue my travels and immerse myself in a totally new culture and lifestyle. Guess it’s time to brush up on my Czech.

I’ll update y’all with more details about the Czech Republic as I get my teaching placement!

Anyway, back to my New Year’s weekend travels! Since this was to be my last long weekend while teaching, I wanted to go somewhere that I wouldn’t be able to tackle on a regular 2-day weekend. Originally, we had planned to celebrate the New Year in Malaysia, but after our recent Cambodia trip, we were a little short on funds.

Instead, I suggested that we head on over to the Gulf of Thailand’s West Side (we live on the East Side) to check out one of Thailand’s most famous caves: Phraya Nakhon. This was another image of Thailand that I had seen plastered over the internet. Yet, this cave is often overlooked by most travelers because of its remote location and the intense hike required to get there.

Saturday morning, I took an early bus into Bangkok where I met up with Marie and Cicely. From there we caught a van at Sai Tai (the Southern Bus Station) that was headed towards Pranburi (the province our cave was located in). But of course, we were headed to a more rural area, so we then had to take another van to reach where we were staying at.

It was a day of traveling.

By the time we finished checking in to our hotel- which was a bit of a nightmare due to a language miscommunication that resulted in the manager wanting to overcharge us- we were ready to grab some dinner across the street at the beach.

Now, for being an area so difficult to get to, I was surprised by the number of people there for the holiday weekend. People- both Thai and foreigners- were relaxing under the palm trees, grabbing 25 baht (76 cent) smoothies, or jogging across the beach (overachievers).

The place we ended up eating at seated us right on the beach in comfy wicker chairs. I had a grilled pork medallion (I had missed the taste of grilled food) and mussels, which were both heaven!


The next morning, we woke up early to watch the last sunrise of 2017:


Starting the last of 2017 on a good note

Afterwards, we grabbed fruit shakes for breakfast and hopped on our songthaew, which would take us to Khao Sam Roi Yot National Park. Here, we were dropped off at the base of the mini-mountains we had to climb.

The hike itself was very scenic:



But, I was quickly out of breath from such a vertical climb.


Who said you had to wait for the New Year to get into shape?

And to make myself feel more out of shape, all the optional tour guides for the hike ended up being 9-year olds who made those steep slopes seem like child’s play.


These kids are going to be so in-shape for the rest of their lives.


I wanted to stop for pictures partially for the view and partially so that I could catch my breath.

Two mountains later, we were at the entrance to our destination: IMG_3089 As we descended into the cave, the air became a lot cooler and sounds from the forest seemed to go on mute. Suddenly, I felt so small compared to my limestone surroundings.


The first cavern we were in had its own mini forest in the center, with light streaming in from the opening above. After we crossed a dark foot bridge, we entered into the second cavern. This one holds the golden pavilion/temple for which the the cave is famous for.



It was just one of those views that you didn’t want to turn away from.

Eventually though, we did have to leave because our songthaew driver had only given us a certain amount of time to explore.

Rather than returning to our hotel (which we were kinda bitter towards), we had our driver take us North towards Hua Hin. Hua Hin is a very popular get-away destination for Thai people. We figured there would be more festivities here that would help us ring in the New Year in a fun way.

Plus the hostel we booked ended up being AMAZING! Prime location, hot showers with shower curtains, comfy beds, a lounge area, a rooftop view, and free snacks and refreshments all day. The best hostel I’ve been in yet.


I totally recommend The Moon Hostel Huahin if you ever decide to visit Hua Hin!

By some miracle, we still had energy after our morning hike and took a quick look at the beach before grabbing Greek food for dinner. While eating, we ended up having a conversation with a guy from China named Young. He talked to us about coding (I think he was trying to get us to change our career paths) and how he was in Thailand for a solo vacation. We got Young’s contact info so that we could meet up with him later that night.

We then hit up the Night Market, where we all went in on some candles and earrings to get a discount price. Finally, we went back to our hostel for a mini-rest and prepare for New Years Eve.

While getting ready, we met another guy from China who was also doing some solo traveling throughout Thailand. So again, we offered someone to come out with us. When we asked for this guy’s name, he said it was too long in Chinese and just to call him Chicken or Drake. Chicken it was then.

So off we went to Hua Hin’s walking street. At one of the places we went, they had glow-in-the-dark body paint, which we were able to use for free.



From left to right: Cicely, myself, Marie, Chicken, and Young

The rest of the night went by really quick. As it got close to midnight, we ran out onto the walking street, where people were spraying strangers with silly string. We each grabbed cans ourselves and joined in the war.


Unfortunately, someone sprayed Marie right in the eyes before midnight. So, I spent the last seconds of 2017 and first seconds of 2018 trying to help Marie get the gunk out of her eyes. Awww well. The whole night ended up being super fun anyway.


Plus, we still got to see fireworks!


2017 has definitely been my favorite year. With still the rest of my time in Thailand and the Czech Republic coming up, I can’t wait to see what 2018 brings!

Having Myself a Merry Little (Thai) Christmas

We are currently in the dead of winter here in Thailand with temperatures dropping to a blistering 70 degrees on some days. Now doesn’t that make you just want to turn on the fire place, drink some hot chocolate, and snuggle underneath a blanket?


Me neither.

But to all Thai people, we may as well be heading into a scene from The Day After Tomorrow.

I arrived at school the first day of the Thai winter in my typical short-sleeved dress, noting that for once I wasn’t sweating to death. Suddenly I was surrounded by a sea of jackets, hats, scarves, and gloves. No exaggeration, some kids looked like Alphie’s little brother from A Christmas Story:


Some days he even sports thick leggings too!

And if the students were being dramatic, it was nothing compared to some of the Thai teachers. One was literally hugging herself to a pillar (still not sure how much heat that generates) and was breathing hot air into her hands while shivering. Let me repeat. It was 70 degrees.

After 7 months of dealing with Thai teachers laughing and mockingly asking me, “Teachaaaaa, are you hot?” I was ready for a little bit of revenge and had fun going up to Thai teachers and asking “Teacher, are you cold??? Where I’m from, this is warm!”

So what do you know? I had myself not-too-hot weather for Christmas. A little Christmas miracle in itself.

To answer a common question I’ve been getting: Thai people only celebrate Christmas to an extent. Since 95% of Thai people are Buddhist, they don’t follow any religious aspect of the holiday. They do, however, recognize the holiday’s significance to a large portion of the world and will decorate streets and malls, sell cookies, and play Christmas music in stores.

The best comparison I can give is St. Patrick’s Day in the United States; even if you’re not Irish, you can pretend and indulge in corned beef and drinking festivities. So, even though Thai people don’t take off from school and work on Christmas, they since party it up!


Our classroom decorated for Christmas!

Now, not being home for Christmas was a bit depressing for me. One second I was blasting holiday music, while the next I wanted to listen to anything but. Honestly, it wasn’t bad until I saw pictures from friends and family back home. Curse social media.

Since I knew I couldn’t have my traditional Christmas, I decided to get away from it all by waking up early and going on a solo biking trip! The place I went, Bang Krachao, is nicknamed the “Green Lung” of Bangkok as it is located in the city, yet remains separated from the craziness and smog. To get to this little oasis, you have to hop on a ferry that costs 4 baht ( 1 US cent). 10 minutes later, you enter a world of lush green and friendly locals. You can’t hear ANYTHING from the mainland and you completely forget that you’re even in Bangkok.

I rented a bike for the whole day for 50 baht ($1.50) and was on my way!


Since I entered the island from the Bang Na Pier side, I was located away from the free scenic park. This meant that I was passing the homes of locals and that no fellow bikers were around me for the first hour. Which ended up being a good thing since the biking roads were raised, narrow, and sometimes had no railings.


Not really sure what would have happened if I had veered a bit to the right…

I hate to sound so reliant on technology, but thank goodness for GoogleMaps, because the Thai map I was given (NOT drawn to any scale by the way) was not cutting it. Eventually I found Bang Krachao’s Floating Market and walked around for a bit. It was filled with fruit stands for the locals, crafts, clothes, pets, and food.


Not really a “floating market,” but I guess being located by water makes it so?

I would have totally pigged out on some snacks if I wasn’t saving my appetite for the most popular resort and restaurant on the island, The Bangkok Tree House.

Afterwards, I used GoogleMaps to bike myself to the island’s free park. On the way, I passed several temples, which is what you do in Thailand.


The park ended up being GORGEOUS.



I stumbled upon a place where you could buy bread for 10 baht and feed huge fish. Best 10 baht spend ever! The fish would stick their heads right out of the water and open their mouths to wait for the food drop.


I could have biked around the park all day. The only thing that stressed me out was my phone quickly draining of battery and that my backup charger conveniently stopped working for this trip. I panicked because I had no clue how to get back to where I started without the map!

Luckily, I hauled it and made it to the Bangkok Tree House with 4% left on my phone.

I had first heard of the Bangkok Tree House, and Bang Krachao for that matter, before leaving for Thailand from this YouTube video: It was too expensive to actually stay at the Bangkok Treehouse, but I could afford lunch and the spectacular seating:



At this point, I was all biked out and headed back to the mainland to check into my hostel and go see the movie, Wonder (it was in English, which was a treat!). Afterwards, I was feeling more in the traditional Christmas spirit and decided to check out the city’s Christmas lights. I was not disappointed.



The next day, I had to head back home because I had school that Monday (Christmas Day). At first, I was kinda bitter that we had to go, but it ended up being a super fun day and it kept me from wallowing in self-pity.

Because there was dancing involved, Jessica and I were required to wear particular outfits:


Don’t we look like a pair of stunners

One of the activities we were responsible for was leading students from our grades in a Christmas dance. After 2 weeks of dance practice, I was so proud of how my students performed! Can add dance teacher to the resume list now…


My dancers from my homeroom

And of course, foreign teachers had to perform their own holiday dance too:


I suggested that we do the Jingle Bell Rock dance from Mean Girls. Clearly, I was outnumbered.

There was also a fashion/holiday spirit competition I was thrown into last second with my student teacher.


I think I prevented us from winning…

After the festivities, my class retreated to our classroom to eat food for the rest of the day. Had no idea such little mouths could eat so much.


That night, my fellow teacher friends and I went out to celebrate Christmas at a local restaurant. I’m blessed to have a group of such amazing people to keep the holidays bright for me.


Family photo

The rest of the week was spent teaching Christmas-related topics such as…


Pinning the Clothing on the Snowman


Creating our own “Class Snowman.” Ok, so the idea of wrapping a student in toilet paper didn’t quite translate well. Whatever, we all got a laugh out of it (minus the student we wrapped).


Christmas craft!


And you all know I had to have my kids make no-bake Christmas cookies!

The other night, my school had a New Years party after school hours.


How long does it take you to notice? A Thai teacher must have made the sign…

A lot of it was in Thai, but there was a buffet and dancing that made up for it.

When I got home, I finally opened my Christmas gifts I had accumulated throughout the week. I got a lot of food (even peanut butter snacks!), so clearly my kids and their parents know me well.

I hope everyone had a Merry Christmas! Happy New Year!

Cambodia for the Weekend

Last Monday, Thai people celebrated Constitution Day to commemorate Thailand’s adoption of a constitutional monarchy. This meant a day off from school!

Since we’ve wanted to hit up different countries in Southeast Asia while here, Marie, Cicely, Jessica, and I decided to spend our 3-day weekend in Cambodia! Specifically, to visit the country’s most well-known structure- Angkor Wat.

Back in the United States, it would not be physically possible to drive to either Canada or Mexico from New Jersey over a 3-day weekend. Thanks to Thailand’s small size though, the idea of spending a weekend in a different country is definitely doable.

Friday night, Jessica and I caught a bus into Bangkok and splurged on food at a Mexican restaurant that served nachos with ACTUAL cheese. The things you learn not to take advantage of…

The next day, we meet up with Marie and Cicely to take our 9-hour bus ride to Cambodia. After flying halfway around the world to get to Thailand, a 9-hour drive was really no big deal. It’s also hard to complain when you realize that the bus ride is only costing you $29.

Passing from the Thai to Cambodian border proved to be slightly nerve-wracking. Without getting into too much detail, my work permit in Thailand requires that I get a re-entry permit if I plan on leaving the country. Otherwise, I get in verrrryyyy big trouble with my school. Although Jessica and I had obtained this permit several days beforehand, there’s always the chance that there’s a miscommunication and you’re given the wrong documentation.

Luckily, everything checkout for Jessica and I and we entered Cambodia without a hitch and were able to retake our seats on the bus.


Since Marie and Cicely got their re-entry permits at the border though, they were required to stand in a much longer line and, despite our pleas, our bus ended up taking off without them!

Fortunately, our bus company has a bus that passes through the boarder every hour or so, so we knew they wouldn’t be stranded. We just had no way of knowing how long it would take to meet back up as our phones stopped working once we crossed the Cambodian border.

The rest of the bus ride passed smoothly. We traveled on a very scenic route.


Once we arrived in Siem Reap, Jessica and I were surprised with how rural the city was. In fact, I would label Siem Reap as a town rather than a city. Regardless, the place definitely had its own charm as we traveled down roads that alternated between being concrete and dirt in our tuk-tuk.


After we checked in at our French hostel and were reunited with Marie and Cicely, we went to town to exchange our Thai baht into Cambodia’s currency. Surprisingly, Cambodia uses the American dollar, as well as the Khmer Riel. This meant that for the first time in 7 months, I was using dollars to pay for transportation and food. Like Thailand, prices in Cambodia are super cheap. For instance, you’re able to get a nice restaurant meal for under $5 (and we were in a touristy area, mind you).

A heads up to all my family and friends though- I have become super cheap since living in Thailand. I kept looking at those $5 meals and thinking, wow that’s a really expensive meal. Why? Because I no longer use the American dollar to gauge things pricewise. In my mind, I convert the dollar into the Thai baht to determine its price to me. For instance, when I see something that is $5, I automatically convert that price into baht: $5 = 165 baht. All of a sudden, that $5 meal could pay for 4 nice meals that I would get for myself in Thailand.

Sorry friends and family. Don’t expect me to go out to eat with you anytime soon and not die when I see the bill.

Okay, mini ramble over.

Anyway, the 4 of us went to bed super early that night since we had a 4am wake-up call the next day so that we could see the morning sunrise at Angkor Wat.

A little background on Angkor Wat for those who are unfamiliar (or have no clue) what it is. Angkor Wat, which literally means “Temple City” in Khmer, is the world’s largest religious monument in the world. It was built in the 12th century to mimic Mount Meru (the Hindu’s version of Mt. Olympus) and serve as a possible tomb for King Suryavarman II (he was never actually buried there though). Unlike other monuments in Cambodia, Angkor Wat continues to undergo maintenance. The Khmer people have incredible pride over Angkor Wat and it is even featured on Cambodia’s national flag.

Watching the sun rise over Angkor Wat is very high on the bucket list of many people who decide to visit Cambodia. Needless to say, we were not the only foreigners, shivering slightly, as we walked in the dark through the ruins on a Sunday morning.

Eventually, we found a small open area by the pond and waited as the sky slowly brightened. In my last post, I described how watching the sunrise for the first time over Railey Beach had been an incredible sight. I’m glad my second sunrise in Cambodia was just as magical.


After our gorgeous sunrise, we explored more of Angkor Wat:



Receiving a blessed bracelet from a monk




After a quick breakfast, our sweet tuk-tuk driver, Koy, took us to more of the outlying temples. By now, the temperature was quickly rising and we began breaking into a sweat as we climbed the steep steps of various temples.


Resting after a climb




My favorite temple we visited was Ta Prohm. This one had crumbling green ruins everywhere with trees and vines weaving through cracks. There were some very earthy vibes and I think it was the most beautiful temple of the day. Apparently, I’m not alone in my thoughts as this temple was chosen to be featured in Angelina Jolie’s movie, Tomb Raider. 

IMG_2560  IMG_2570


“Life finds a way” – Dr. Ian Malcolm

By noon, the four of us were exhausted and ready to go back to our hostel. Koy made stops for us so that we could pick up some refreshments. Along the way, he told us about his adorable sons and how he wants them to get into a good English speaking school.


Us with Koy

Once we had rejuvenated by the pool, we decide to head back into town and explore Siem Reap’s night life.


We did some shopping, looked at live tarantulas, grabbed dinner and ice cream and ended the night by watching Titanic at a bar.


The next day was dedicated to taking our 9-hour bus ride back to Bangkok and then taking another 1.5 hour van ride back to my town.

Aw-koon for the memories, Cambodia!

Birthday Travels

Time for an overdue post on my two weeks of traveling around Thailand with my older sister, Jac! Warning: a very long post with many pictures follows.

In October, Thai students are given time off from school. The allotted time differs from school to school – some teachers will have a whole month off, while others are given 2 weeks or so (my school fell into the 2-week category 😦 ). So, months ago, my sister and I began planning a trip together that would start in mid-October and continue until the 27th (my birthday!). Our destinations were Bangkok –> Chaing Mai –> Krabi.



To be honest, I was least excited to be spending time in Bangkok. That may be because I already live so close, but Bangkok’s heavy traffic, reliance on the BTS system, and lack of “daylife” can be quite tiring. Especially when you’re on an 11-hour time difference in regards to sleeping. Because of this, my sister and I only planned to spend 3 days in Bangkok.

The first day, we decided to be cultural and check out some of the temples. Since Thai people were in mourning of their late king still, I warned my sister that it was best to wear full black (as not to be disrespectful) and to cover our knees and shoulders (a requirement, anyway, for temple-seeing). Apparently though, many tourists were not aware (or cared) about the king’s passing as I saw lots of colorful wear. So, I sweated it out in all black quite a bit that first day.

Whatever, it was still fine. We first took a boat on the Chao Phraya river in order to get to Wat Pho, home of the famous golden Reclining Buddha. This is Thailand’s largest Buddha statue at 151 feet long and 15 feet tall. Due to the sheer size and surrounding pillars, it’s impossible to get the whole statue in one picture.


Afterwards, we explored the rest of the temple and had lunch on the Chao Phraya river at a café that offered us a view of Wat Arun (it was also a lazy way to see another temple without figuring out a way to actually get to the temple…)


That night, my sister and I planned to go to Bangkok’s Sky Bar, which gained fame after being a filming location for The Hangover, Part II. Due to this place’s popularity, there’s a very strict dress code and drinks and food here can be quite expensive (even though we’re talking Thailand here). I kept having to remind myself that I was on vacation- it  was okay to splurge.

Unfortunately, it began to downpour on our way to the Sky Bar. Whelp, that scratched out that plan in an instant. Instead, we retreated to the nearest mall where we ate poke bowls for dinner and called it a night.


How this Hawaiian meal came to be in Thailand is a miracle beyond me…

The next night, Jac and I found out that there was actually a sky bar right next to our hostel. It might not be THE Sky Bar, but it was also not all the way across town and a million bucks to sit down at. Score! After waiting for another rainstorm to finish, we took an elevator up to the 46th floor of the Cielo Sky Bar and Restaurant. Since we had arrived right after a storm, the sky bar was technically not open yet. However, the sweet staff opened the outside section just for us and we got to have the rooftop to ourselves for a good 15 minutes before other dinner guests began showing up.

It was absolutely breathtaking! You had a 360 view of Bangkok and every so often, a portion of the sky would light up from the storm in the surrounding areas. I didn’t want to look away. Especially because I realized that almost nowhere else (and definitely not in the U.S) could I get this view and drink for a total of only $10.


The next morning, my sister and I had an early wakeup call in order to catch a van to Damnoen Saduak. This is Bangkok’s most popular floating market. I was a bit weary of this market has it has become known as a tourist trap. However, I was pleasantly surprised that the market wasn’t quite as bad or crowded as I thought it would be. Plus, I got a delicious serving of coconut ice cream in a coconut shell! Overall, I have no regrets and it was a fun experience.


That night, we packed our bags and took the hour flight to…

Chiang Mai

Everything went smoothly and we arrived at our hostel a little after midnight. Unfortunately, the manager at our hostel forgot we were coming in late and closed up the hostel for the night. After calling the manager several times, I grudgingly suggested that we try the mini-hotel next door for the night and deal with the hostel in the morning. When we entered the hotel though, we found that the guy at the front desk was busy attending to a few Chinese tourists in the lobby, who were ordering the largest and most unnecessary amount of pork from a menu. As we waited for them to finish up (why were they so insistent on this pork?!? The world will never know…) my cell phone rang. Turns out that the manager finally got my message and would be outside the hostel in 2 minutes.  We returned to our hostel to receive hugs from the manager who apologized for leaving early so that he could head out to a show and winded up down the street at a bar. He gave us the keys to our room and said we could check in and pay the next day because he couldn’t think too straight at the moment and wanted to head back down the street… Only in Thailand does this happen.

If you have been following this blog, you might recall that I visited Chiang Mai with my friends back in midsummer to volunteer at an elephant sanctuary. It was also while traveling to Chiang Mai that I lost my phone 😦 Luckily, nothing bad happened this time and I enjoyed the “city” just as much as last time.

We went through a bunch of handmade craft stores,  got flesh-eating fish pedicures, and walked through some temples. One of the temples we went to, Wat Phra That Doi Suthep, required us to get a ride outside the city and up a mountain.  We then had to climb the world’s longest staircase to get to the top.


At some points, I thought I was going to die. But, it ended up being worth the view.


And of course, we had to volunteer at an elephant sanctuary while in Chiang Mai! This time though, we only signed up for a half day, which was fine because I was still exhausted by the end of it. While at the sanctuary, we helped feed the elephants bananas and bamboo, played with the newborn elephant, bathed our elephants in a pond, and gave them mud baths in a mud hole.



One of the baby elephants we worked with was super playful and “naughty.” He would put his head down and then randomly charge at us. One girl we were with was looking the other way and had her foot run over by him. By the end of the day, her foot was extremely red and becoming more and more swollen as we watched. Take a way- never turn your back on a baby elephant.

After getting back, showering, and taking a nap, we talked to our hostel manager who was more than happy to take us out that night to a Lady Boy show. It was very Las Vegas-like and hilarious to watch.


Perhaps my favorite thing to do in Chiang Mai this time around was taking a cooking class.


As some of you might know, cooking is one of my favorite hobbies. Unfortunately, it’s kind of hard to cook in Thailand. And so, I was really pumped to take this class. The place we cooked at was May Kaidee, which was recommended to me by Jessica for making amazing vegetarian options (Jac is a pescitarian). In preparation for this class, Jac and I didn’t eat anything as we knew that there would be a lot of samples to try. What we didn’t realize was that those “sample sizes” were actually a whole large serving each. In total, we each made:


Tom Yam and Tom Kha Soup


Green and Yellow Thai Curry


Som Tam (Papaya Salad)


Pumpkin Hummus


Spring Rolls


Mango and Sticky Rice

(Not pictured: Pad Thai)

Needless to say, Jac and I were covered for breakfast, lunch, and dinner that day.


Where to even begin with Krabi? It is a heaven on earth with some of the most beautiful scenery I’ve ever seen.


My sister and I stayed at Bhu Nga Thani Resort on Railay Beach. Railay Beach arguably has some of the best views in Krabi and it’s a must-go destination. It’s also a paradise for rock climbers, hikers, and kayakers.


Railay Beach looking to the right


Railay Beach looking to the left. We watched as two people rock climbed up this baby.

However, you can only get to Railay Beach by taking a longtail boat. Since the longtail boats leave directly from the beach, my sister and I had to roll up our leggings, hold our luggage above our heads, and wade through the water to get to and from the shore. Not fun.

The resort we stayed at was gorgeous. There ended up being a mix up in with the rooms and we ended up in a Honeymoon suite. Whatever, it was worth the stares from staff and honeymooners for this room.


Jac and I passed our time at Railay laying on the beach and eating som tam (papaya salad) and a variety of local Thai dishes with squid in it.

One day though, we decided to book a tour to Koh Phi Phi. The Phi Phi Islands sit between Krabi and Phuket and is probably the most well-known group of islands in Thailand. Since we were technically in Thailand’s rainy season still (it ended the following week), our tour of Phi Phi was 50% off, which was amazing. AND we ended up having a beautiful day.

First, we were taken to the white sands and clear waters of Bamboo beach:


We then snorkeled by Khai Island. I’m pretty sure this is the point where I started getting sunburn…

Next, we went to Maya Bay- the famous beach featured in Leonardo DiCaprio’s movie, The Beach. I was a tad disappointed that the place was swimming (literally) with wayyyy too many people and that my man Leo was not around, but at least the sights were still pretty without him.


I was lucky to get this shot without a bunch of people in it!

Afterwards, we saw Viking Cave:


And snorkeled again at Pileh Cove:


Now, the tour advertised that we would get to see and interact with monkeys on Monkey Beach. Little false advertisement as we were not allowed to get off the boat 😦 In actuality, we just saw one monkey climbing a rock at a distance. Not worth the picture.

The next day, Jac and I decided to rent a kayak and explore the rock formations and surrounding beaches on our own.




In front of Ko Rang Nok!

As a present to myself, I woke up super early on my birthday and walked onto the beach before the sunrise. I then plopped myself down and watched as the sun slowly began to light up the sky. I don’t think I’ve ever really just sat somewhere to watch the sun come up. To do this for the first time on Railay beach, in Thailand, and on my 25th birthday was a pretty magical event that I don’t think I’ll ever forget. Twenty-four was an incredible year- I student taught, graduated college, moved away, began to live on my own, and got my first “big girl” job. I’ve met amazing people, seen unbelievable sights, and gained a deeper perspective on life in general. I can’t wait to see what 25 brings me! (sorry to be corny).


Anyway, the rest of my birthday consisted of traveling from airport to airport as we made our way back to Bangkok. I didn’t mind though because I considered the past two weeks as my birthday. I said goodbye to my sister and then headed to a hostel before returning home to Chonburi the next day. Shout out to my sister for traveling halfway around the world to spend time with me and make my birthday extra special. Without a doubt, the best birthday present ever.

Loy Kratong

One of the most iconic images of Thailand is a night sky filled with lanterns (if you have no clue what I’m talking about, just look at the picture at the top of this blog). This image also graces the cover of my Lonely Planet travel book, so I’ve been constantly reminded that I NEED to partake in this Thai holiday. And participate I did last Friday (November 3rd).

First off, the name of this holiday is “Loy Kratong” which translates into “Floating a Kratong.” A kratong is a small boat made typically from banana leaves. During this festival, Thai people “float away” their worries on these kratongs and look forward to better days.

So, the festival began that morning, when all the students came to school in traditional Thai clothing. This was both a hilarious and cute sight.


My students all brought in kratongs, which ranged from being made out of banana leaves to ice cream cones and loaves of bread!


Loaf of bread kratong

Later that day, we had a mini parade and all of our students released their boats in blown-up pools.


After school ended, it was my turn! Fortunately, my fellow OEG teachers and I live right next to the beach town BangSaen and were able to send off our troubles into the Gulf of Thailand. For those not so close to water, they can float boats in streams and pools. In Northern Thailand where there is less water period, people fill the night’s sky with lanterns instead.

The only issue with sending off our kratongs was the wind- my candle would not stay lit! After many failed attempts, I sent off my boat without a light (I hope this doesn’t mean bad days are coming for me).


After dinner though, we saw that the sky was starting to twinkle a little too much to just be stars. We went back to the beach and saw that people were letting off lanterns now! I bought one for 80 baht ($2.50) and after excitingly watching my friends let theirs off, was ready for a second chance of good luck.

So here’s a picture of me super happy and ready to let off my lantern.


What you don’t see is the fact that after I pushed my lantern up, it started to float back down.

Okay, just not enough hot air yet. I pushed off again. Same issue. Well, third time is a charm. Apparently though, not everyone thought that as at that moment, this old Thai man CAME OUT OF NOWHERE, grabbed my lantern from the sky, threw it on the ground, and stomped the fire out with his foot. With no explanation, he left. My friends and I just stared in amazement, at a loss of what to say, the whole time.

Sir, you quite literally just stomped on my hopes and dreams.

For the rest of my time at the beach, I just looked into the sky filled with lanterns and pretended that one of them was mine.

So far, no incredibly bad incidences have occurred from this mishap and I have concluded that an unlit kratong does in fact bring good luck (or at least counterbalances the bad luck from a stomped on lantern).

UPDATE: 2 weeks after Loy Kratong, my friends and I went back to BangSaen beach and found that they were selling lanterns! Of course, I bought one to try again. I am happy and relieved to say that my second lantern was not tackled down by a random man, but rather floated off into the night. All is well 🙂 )

Next blog post: my 2 weeks of travel with my sister!

How to Make the Best of a Professional Development Day

FYI- even in a foreign country, it is impossible to escape the dreaded professional development days. And so, a few Fridays ago, I found myself waking up at 3am (*sob*) to set out for Bangkok with my fellow Thai and Filipino co-teachers.

Our PD consisted of touring a very high-end urban school. This school was HUGE and situated within a college campus. The youngest grade level consisted of 18-month olds. And so, it is possible for a student to enter the school before their second birthday and stay on campus until their early to mid-twenties. Scary thought.

Since I am teaching Kindergarten though, my tour centered around the lower grades of the school. I can’t really go into too much details about the tour as it was all in Thai (hmmmm, who could have seen that one coming?), but peering into the classrooms reminded me of kindergarten classrooms back in the United States: 20-something kids in each class, class aids, centers, tables and chairs. Ahhh the luxuries I’ll never take for granted again…


Anyway, after the tour we got lunch and then had to gather in a conference room for some type of presentation. Again, I’m not too sure what it was about because everything was in Thai. So, I spent over an hour practicing my Thai characters and sight words. It was a very productive ending to the PD day. Afterwards, I was given the option to either head back to Chonburi with the other Filipino teachers or venture off on my own (Jessica wasn’t with me because she was on vacation- I take back what I said, there is a way to escape a professional development day).

Since I had gotten a free ride into Bangkok and it was a Friday afternoon, I was not going to miss the opportunity to go exploring! So off I trekked for some solo activities.

First up, I went to the Jim Thompson House and Museum.


For some background info… Jim Thompson was an American from Delaware who joined the US army during WWII. He became stationed in Bangkok after the war, fell in love with Thailand, and decided to revive the world’s love of Thai silk. Thompson became one of the most famous Americans living in Thailand and decorated his house with cultural pieces to wow his many guests. Unfortunately, in 1967, Thompson went to Malaysia and disappeared. Nobody knows what happened to him.


The house tour was pretty cool and I recommend it for those visiting Bangkok (no indoor pictures allowed- sorry!).


The making of silk

Afterwards, I trekked over to my hostel where I made it inside just before a rainstorm broke out. Not wanting to sit inside all night, I decided to go to the Jim Thompson café that ended up conveniently being down the street.

Too bad it was closed.

Instead, I wandered around and came across a cat café. Yup, a café where you can enjoy a mango and sticky rice parfait AND play/chill with adorable cats.


Lucky kitty

I find it a bit concerning that I spent a Friday night by myself playing with cats. Hopefully this is not a preview of my life 15 years from now…


Eventually I did leave though because my throat, eyes, and nose became super irritated. After 5 months having no contact with cats, I had forgotten that I’m allergic to them. Whoops. Whatever, it was all worth the runny nose.

The following morning, I took a stroll through Lumpini Park, which is Bangkok’s version of New York’s central park.


Large monitor lizards are also known for strolling about too. Unfortunately, I didn’t see any reptiles.

Not to worry though! My next stop was the Snake Farm at the Queen Saovabha Memorial Institute. This organization, run by the Thai Red Cross Society, specializes in extraction and research of snake venoms and vaccines.


So, I got to enjoy some air condition as I toured the building and learned more about snakes than I ever thought possible. And good news guys! If you ever get bitten by a poisonous snake, I now know exactly how to treat it.


Parts of the museum had a very mad-scientist vibe to it

Afterwards, I was invited to a snake show where I got to see a bunch of snakes up close and personal.


I even got to hold one in the end!


Professional snake trainer in the making

So that, my friends, is how to salvage a PD day: get your hands on some silk, cats, and snakes.

The Teachaaa Life

As my first semester teaching in Thailand wraps up, I figured I’m way overdue for posting about my experiences in the Thai classroom so far.

Where even to begin? It’s hard to describe the classroom as many things in the Thai education system are contradictory.

First things first, I am absolutely in love with all of my 44 little kindergarteners.


Our classy class picture

They have stolen my heart (along with my sanity, mind you), with their “good morning, Teachaaa Deanna” and “thank you, Teachaaa Deanna.” Even though they have little knowledge of the English language, they shower me with hugs and kisses, look for my reaction when they lose their first tooth, and demand that I scowl any student who accidentally bumps into them. In other words, they act as any 5/6-year-old from the States would act.


At the same time, they are so much more mature than students back home. Thai students are expected from a young age to be very independent. Here, students are sometimes left unattended at the lunch table or in the classroom. I panicked the first time I walked into my classroom to see that no adults were in the room with them. Back home, this is a BIG no-no. But here, nobody cares because Thai children are expected to not (totally) lose their heads the second they are left alone.

Likewise, Thai students are expected to be tough. No coddling here. There’s also no nurse’s office here either. So if a child throws-up during the morning ceremony (unfortunately, a pretty common occurrence), he/she is expected to clean themselves up and get back to class. If they feel REALLY bad, they’re allowed to take out their bed and rest in the corner of the classroom while the rest of the class just moves around them. It’s a wonder as to why our whole school hasn’t been quarantined yet. On the plus side, I’m going to have a super awesome immune system when I get back home.


I’ve also found that Thai students (across all grade levels) are more advanced in their studies than the equivalent grade level back in the States. For instance, my students know how to identify, write, and say all the 44 Thai consonant characters PLUS the 26 alphabet letters and their corresponding sounds. They also know their English sight words, can solve basic addition and subtraction problems, count to 100 in Thai and English, and have begun to blend simple sounds together to form words. I’m not saying that kindergarteners back home can’t do this too. I’m just saying that the expectations here are more rigorous.


Me and my boys!

Don’t get me wrong though, Thai classrooms have not killed the imagination and spirit of their students. Not by a long shot. Thai kids in general are little balls of energy who MUST see the fun in an activity in order to stay engaged and learn. Otherwise, they are rolling on the floor (literally), wrestling each other, and talking loudly during teaching time.


Activities like this are required to keep these kiddos listening

Prior to teaching here, I joked that teaching in Thailand would be a breeze compared to my other teaching experiences. The worst thing that might happen is a student dropping a pencil on the ground.


Don’t let them trick you with their white outfits and innocent peace signs

Wrong. Wrong. Wrong. Many Thai students do not have the motivation to learn. This is largely due to the fact that the Thai education system does not allow teachers to fail their students; teachers have to provide retesting until a student passes. And so, there’s no fear of failing or being held back to keep a student from messing around during a lesson. Instead, Thai teachers will resort to physical punishments to keep their students in check.

But didn’t I just say that my Thai students are more advanced than students back home? And here’s where things get contradictory and blurry. I have these smart students with little desire to pay attention and learn. I have an education system that demands perfection, yet does not know how to address any situation that is less-than-perfect. The paradoxes here are mind-blowing.

So enough ranting. All education systems have their flaws. In the end, it’s how a teacher rolls with the “punches and throws” that matter.

Let me just reiterate really quickly: managing students with very little knowledge of English is, without a doubt, the hardest thing I’ve ever done while in the classroom.

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Me and my girls!

But if at first you do not succeed, you got to try, try, and try again! For instance, back home when I wanted my classes’ attention, I’d say “Peanut butter!” My students knew to respond with “Jelly!” and get quiet. Day 1 in my Thai class, I wanted to establish the same drill using “Chicka Chicka, Boom Boom” (Thai people don’t know what peanut butter is, so “peanut butter and jelly” was out). My students quickly latched on to the idea of responding to my “Chicka Chicka” with “Boom Boom.” Problem was, they would begin talking right back up the moment after. No amount of “shhhh!” and quieting gestures would silence them.

Moving on to idea #2: reward system. I made a card for each of my students. If they were “caught being good” by me, they would get a hole punch in their card. 5 hole punches = a prize from my toy chest. Unfortunately, this method was hard to manage with 44 kids. Plus, the hole punch thing just wasn’t grabbing their attention. After a failed trial period, it was back to the drawing board.

Idea #3: stickers. Works about 50% of the time. I would like to move away from material rewards though (especially ones that need constant replenishing…)

Ironically, I found my best way of managing the volume of my class by accident. I was having trouble learning my students’ long and tongue-tying names. Feeling guilty about always pointing to a student and saying “you,” I got a bunch of popsicle sticks and wrote a student’s class number on each one. Whenever I want a student to give an answer, I pick a popsicle stick.

Pretty random procedure, right? Except for some reason, my kids think that what they’re doing at the moment will determine whether their popsicle stick is selected or not.

Now, all I have to do is shake my popsicle stick container to get my students to settle down. Many of them sit, cross their legs, close their eyes, and start to silently move their lips. Whether they are praying to be called on or not, I don’t know. All I know is that the talking stops because they all want to know who’s going to be IT and possibly traumatized by being asked “What day of the week is it?” by me.

My other way of controlling the class is through singing. I taught my students the “Do Your Ears Hang Low?” song and they are all obsessed with it. All I have to do is begin singing the song and my students stop what they are doing to perform the hand motions. This works on even the “bad boys” in the class.

So, what does an average school day look like for me? Every morning, I walk the 20 minutes to school with Jessica, my fellow CIEE/OEG coworker. We both wear all-black dresses every day as Thai people are in a 1-year mourning period over their late King. We arrive at school at 7:30am and sign in with the school’s fingerprint scanner.

Every other Monday though, I arrive at school 30 minutes early for Gate Duty. This duty requires me (you guessed it) to stand by the entrance gate and have all the students wai (pressing hands together as if in prayer and bowing) into my open palm. Aside from still being half asleep, it’s pretty cute to see all the kids get dropped off by their parents on motorbikes.

At 7:50, our day begins with the morning ceremony. This is probably the most torturous part of the day. Everyone is required to stand under the school pavilion for roughly 20 minutes for prayer, chants, speeches, and songs. Since Chonburi is a coastal city, it gets very hot and humid. Thus, students and teachers are sweating like crazy the whole time. On the plus side, I get myself a daily detox.

Next, we climb the stairs to our classrooms, take off our shoes, get our students their water, have them settle on the floor (we have no desks and chairs), and then begin our teaching. My student teacher and I alternate teaching blocks. In the morning, I teach a phonics block and a block on whatever the topic of the week is.


Everyday I make my kids tell me what month we’re in and the days of the week (in complete sentences, of course). I reckon they have it down now!

On Tuesdays, I leave my students to teach in another classroom for 45 minutes. When it’s not my teaching block, I assist my Thai co-teacher and student teacher with managing the students.

For lunch, I am required to prepare the food bowls and serve my students extra helpings of food. Thai lunches consist of either rice or noodles paired with some sort of meat. Not going to lie, I sometimes want to eat what my students eat for lunch.

Next, it’s nap time. Meaning lunch/prep time for me. Jessica and I either eat at the school canteen or venture outside of school to our favorite noodle soup place. We stumbled upon this family-owned place by accident and it is definitely a hidden gem! Since Jessica is vegetarian, we don’t mess with trying new dishes in case there’s meat in it (many Thai people do not understand the concept of a vegetarian/vegan). Instead, the grandmother/shop owner has her son/cook make us the same noodle-poached-egg dish each time.


Only 86 cents for a huge bowl. I can eat this stuff for days…

We don’t even have to order or say anything when we walk in; they just automatically make it for us.

For the rest of nap time, I run around doing random prep work or preparing my students for upcoming English activities. As for English activities, so far I have…

1. Coached a Grade 5 student in correctly pronouncing and memorizing various speeches for English competitions.

2. Coached one of my kindergarteners in correctly pronouncing and memorizing a Mother’s Day speech. The student I coached for this competition so happened to be my favorite student, Patchara. For over a month, I had to wake poor Patchara up early and practice his speech. This was very difficult to do as this kid loves his naps. Even after I dragged him into the hall with me, getting him to memorize a speech while he was still half-asleep was brutal for both of us. I kept thinking how I would feel if I was 5 years old and a foreign teacher woke me up early from nap every day to sit outside in the heat and memorize words to a speech in a language that was unfamiliar to me. I have to say, Patchara handled the situation a lot better than I would at 5.

After a month and a half of this, Patchara had to stand in front of a room of teachers and deliver the speech. He ended up being the most cheerful and energetic student up on stage and flew through his lines. Of course, I recorded the whole speech and every time I watch it, I feel like a proud mama. After the competition, Patchara ran up to me, tears in his eyes, and hugged me. Too cute!


Happy Patchara

3. Coached two of my students in a “crossword puzzle” game board competition. Don’t ask me the specifics because I never learned them myself. That’s Thailand for you!

4. Coached a handful of my students in learning the lines to a Little Red Riding Hood play that I wrote. This play required some intense practicing and we actually just performed it yesterday for the whole kindergarten building and parents. I feel like a proud mama for this event too, so picture time!


The cast and I before showtime.


Hanging with the star of the show


Those eyes…


We had butterfly princesses in our version of Little Red


…and monkeys

Alright, back to my school schedule now… So after nap/prep/coaching, my kids wake up for specials and then I teach for one more block. Usually, I use this block for hands-on crafts, games, and demonstrations.

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Sing-toe (lions) out of hearts


Teaching about family. Note: Patchara draws me a Spiderman on every assignment he hands in.


The topic of the week was “rice,” so of course I had them make paper sushi!


Learning about fruits by making shish kabobs


I’m the person responsible for introducing “Green Eggs and Ham” to Thai children. After this activity, I was asked if green eggs and ham are a type of “American food.” I believe I responded with an “ummm yes?” Sorry for the new American staple guys…



In case you haven’t picked up on it yet… I do a lot of food-related activities with my kids.


And so far, they have enjoyed every bite of it!

Every other Friday, I participate in “English Fun Friday.” This rivals the morning ceremony for “the most torturous part of the day.” Once again, I’m back at the outside pavilion, where the foreign teachers and I have 3 classes rotate between us. I teach each class for 20 minutes. Since most of the other kindergarten classes are not used to seeing a white foreigner, many of them will just give me blank stares, regardless if I speak to them in English or Thai.


Me as I realize that none of the kids have any idea what I’m asking.

So how do I get them to respond? I go all out with the dramatics and act like a crazy person. I give out a ton of high-fives, and “way to go’s!”


I feel like such a motivational speaker

The kids may not fully grasp what I was teaching them by the end of the 20 minutes, but I do get some hugs.

At 4pm, it’s finally time for Jessica and I to walk home and prepare for the next day (and mayyybbbeeee watch some Netflix).