Life on Hold

24 08 2011

I’m in a slump.

I don’t really want to start my blog out with a sentence like that, but unfortunately it’s the truth. I just got back to site from a fantastic two week vacation with my first visitor from the states and I’m bummed. For the first time in seven months I got to forget about being a volunteer, leave my job and all my responsibilities behind, and just be. It was awesome.

I didn’t have to speak Thai unless I wanted to. I could wear clothes that showed off my shoulders and my knees. I even wore a bikini! I had air-conditioning and a hot shower. I traveled to areas of Thailand I haven’t seen yet and enjoyed excursions I wouldn’t normally get to do given my schedule and my tight budget. I was a tourist … and I love it.

I also got to spend two weeks with my best friend. I spoke English. I interacted with someone from home. I got hugs. I had deep conversations about things other than what I did today and what I ate. I laughed. I cried. I was myself.

And now I’m back. I’m slowly trying to immerse myself back into my daily routine – going to work, coming home, doing chores, talking to neighbors. I’m finding it more difficult than I thought it would be. I thought it would come naturally after seven months of living here, but it’s been the complete opposite. I feel a little bit like I’m starting over. I went through something similar when I left for two weeks for our Reconnect conference, only then I had still been immersed in the “Peace Corps” life. This time, I had a clean break and that made it all the more difficult.

I can’t stop thinking about my time with Cory and the easiness with which I lived for those two weeks. I can’t stop thinking about home. I’m stalking Facebook this week, checking people’s updates, looking at pictures, seeing what’s going on in the world of the “non-volunteers”. I’m jealous.

I’m jealous for a number of reasons. I’m jealous because I’m missing things. There are weddings, parties, fun summer events, and I’m not a part of any of them. Yes, I’m living in a tropical country and yes, I recognize that fact often trumps missing a few volleyball games or happy hours … but I would give anything to be at one of those events, hanging out with my friends, living my “normal” life.

I’m also jealous because everyone at home is moving forward. Their lives are progressing – engagements, weddings, pregnancies, births, reunions, so many different things. Some days it becomes blatantly clear that my life is on hold while I’m in Thailand. While everyone else continues to move forward, my world is standing still. I’m doing great things over here – helping people, experiences new adventures, growing as a person. I recognize and am thankful for all of that. But, the life I am going to return to – the one I’m going to be living once this experience is over – is on hold. Marriage, kids, a job, a house, everything I passionately want, is on hold until I get back.

Some days I wonder which is more important to me, this adventure or that life. This week that life seems pretty dang important. This week I want to be at home working a steady job, living in a comfortable apartment, driving a car, hanging out with my friends, being a ‘normal’ person. This week I would readily give up Thailand, take my experiences so far and get the heck out of here.

I know next week will be different. I know next week I’ll be back in the swing. Next week I’ll attend my Youth GIG meeting and remember the great things I’m doing here. Next week I’ll see a few of my Peace Corps Volunteer friends and remember that my support group here is a strong second to the one I have back home. Next week I’ll have a great day at school and remember why I love teaching. Next week I’ll think about home and realize that it’s not going anywhere and that this is where I’m supposed to be.

For now thought, I’m in a slump. But, I’m happy to say I have high hopes for next week.

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New Cooking Blog URL

23 08 2011

Okay, so after my last post about my new cooking challenge I received an email from my dad. He gave me numerous reasons why I would be better off moving my food blog to a separate page all together.

For example:

1) People will not want to sift through tons of entries to find the one for a particular recipe.

2) Some people will want to follow my Peace Corps blog, others will want to follow my Food blog … some people may not want to follow both.

3) He (or anyone else for that matter) might want to refer other people to the food blog and it would be best not to have it attached to my PC blog.

4) The list goes on and on …

It didn’t take much to convince me; I had already kind of wanted to move it to another location anyway so this email just solidified my thoughts …

So, may I present to you my new cooking blog!

http://kycooksthai.wordpress.com

The site is already up and running with a few different pages and articles … but it is definitely still in the works. You can check out some basics in Thai cooking, a few recipes, a couple fun articles, etc. There is definitely more to come! And please feel free to pass along this link to anyone you think might be interested.

Thanks, and happy eating!





New Thai Cooking Blog!!!

21 08 2011

I have a new project … one that I am extremely excited about and one you all can (hopefully) reap the benefits from.

During Cory’s first week in Thailand we visited Chiang Mai and one of our excursions was a cooking class in a nearby village. We spent the entire day traipsing around the garden picking herbs, chopping up vegetables, grinding up peppers and pastes, boiling, sauteing, frying, plating … and most importantly, eating.

We learned how to make some incredible dishes that tasted fantastic and were actually far easier than we both anticipated. Turns out Thai cooking is pretty easy! At the end of the class we were both given an awesome cookbook with all the recipes we made (and then some) and some great cooking techniques.

On the train ride home, we both discussed our new found passion for Thai cooking and our desire to continue when we returned home. We made mental lists of all the things we would need to buy (wok, oils, etc), where Cory might be able to find this stuff (it will be readily available for me at the market), and where to find additional recipes.

It was during this conversation that I came up with my new project … a cooking blog!

I haven’t done any cooking on my own since my arrival in Thailand. I’ve made popcorn, the Thai version of Top Ramen, and pancakes, but I don’t think any of that really counts. I have the stove, access to all the ingredients, and the time … I just haven’t known where to start.

Now, I have the resources, the knowledge, and the passion to start cooking, and who better to share that with than all of you!

So, starting next weekend, my cooking blog will take shape.

The Plan

Every weekend I will cook! In the beginning, I will start by making one new recipe either from the cookbook I received in cooking class, a recipe from online, or a recipe from someone in my community … or anything else I come across.

I will take notes on the whole process – going to the Saturday morning market, picking the ingredients, cooking, plating, and eating! I will then share the recipe and all the notes with my followers (along with pictures of course). I will share what worked, what didn’t, and any tips I would give to someone else who might want to try the recipe, including where people in the states can find the different ingredients.

Then, you guys can give it a shot!

I know many of you have been dying to get some recipes so I’m finally going to help you guys out 🙂 Thai cooking is really easy so this will not only be a fun project for me, but will also give you guys a chance to spice up your dinner table (literally … Thai food is spicy!).

Your Job

For now, your job is just to read 🙂 … but, if you feel like making this endeavor a bit more interactive, here are a few more things you can do:

  • Try the recipes!
  • Let me know how they go by posting comments, sending me pictures of your final products, asking me cooking questions/tips, etc!
  • Send me ideas! If you find a Thai recipe you want me to try out and give feedback on, send it my way! I have some recipes to start with but I’d love more!

For now, this new blog will just be an extension of this one (a weekly post), but if it gets up and going, I’ll start a new page just for cooking.

Get excited! I know I am 🙂

 

 





There’s No Crying in Thailand

21 08 2011

I’m a crier. I always have been. I probably always will be. I’m one of those people who cries at nearly everything – sappy romantic comedies, weddings, cute dogs in commercials. Okay, so maybe I won’t take it quite that far, but it’s a known fact that I’m an emotional person … which is why I find it interesting that I don’t cry much in Thailand. I’ll admit that I have my moments. There are stressful days, overwhelming tasks, and frustrating encounters that put me on the verge of tears. Sometimes they even invoke a mini cry-fest. Aside from that though, no tears.

Thai movies are not sad. They are usually humorous and include awkward sound effects that make it nearly impossible to cry (unless of course its from laughing so hard at the stupidity). Thai commercials are also usually funny, except for the one where the chili pepper jumps off a bridge because he’s been replaced by a canned chili sauce that’s much more convenient … though that’s actually pretty funny, too. Weddings are definitely not emotional here; the ceremony is painfully boring and the reception is a huge shindig.  Additionally, I don’t have strong enough relationships with my Thai community nor am I able to communicate complexly enough that any topic would ever be considered cry-worthy.

Long story short, there’s no crying in Thailand.

Needless to say, I was both overwhelmed and relieved with the tears I shed on Friday when I said goodbye to Cory at the airport. After two weeks of bai-tiaoing (sightseeing) around Thailand with my best friend in the entire world, it was very difficult to say goodbye. The emotions were high and the tears were flowing. In the end, I was able to compose myself and we shared a very heartfelt final few moments together. As I watched him walk away though, proceeding down the concourse and passing through security, the tears returned in full force.

I’m not sure if these tears were because of my sadness of his departure or for some other reason. Obviously I was very sad to see him leave – I would have given anything for him to stay just a few more days – but I think these tears were simply because I had the opportunity. After seven months of restrained emotions, it felt good just to let it all out. I had cried a few times during my trip with Cory – being sick, falling down stairs, etc, can bring about the waterworks – but those instances were somewhat restrained as well. This time, riding the escalators down to the Skytrain to head back into the city alone, I allowed myself to really cry. By the time I made it back into the city and worked my way toward the van station to head out for a short visit to Ellie’s site, I felt better. The tears subsided and a feeling of calm had fallen over me. I forget sometimes how therapeutic a good cry can be.

I’m still sad. I still wish that Cory could be here, experiencing more of Thailand with me. I wish he could be giving me the support system I didn’t quite realize I was lacking. I have amazing people in my life here in Thailand, but they just don’t compare to the people from home who really know me inside and out. I feel the distance more now than ever and it’s going to take some time to get used to being on my own again.

I’m ready to face it though. These two weeks have been rejuvenating. While I spent a good portion of the vacation sick, it was really nice to get away, not think about work, and spend time with an important person in my life. A few weeks before this vacation my mindset started to change and I started feeling better about things here in Thailand. This trip enhanced those feelings and I’m returning to site invigorated to see what the next few weeks/months have in store.

And I’m also going to remember to cry every once and awhile. There may not be a lot of things here that evoke that emotional part of me, but I’ve realized that sometimes you just gotta let it all out in order to move past and keep going.





Here I Am!

15 08 2011

First off, I would like to apologize for the long delay in blog entries. Life in Thailand has been busy of late and my time to sit down and write has been lacking. I promise that starting next week I will be more diligent about keeping you all informed of the goings on here in Thailand. That being said, here is a brief entry to fill you in on the last week and a half of my visit with Cory. Enjoy.

As I write this entry, I can hear the surf of the Andaman sea crashing rythmically against the white sandy beach not fifty meters from the door of my bamboo bungalow. The door to my bungalow stands ajar so I can listen to this peaceful sound as I lounge in my mosquito net drapped white marshallow bed, a fan blowing cooly from the corner of the room. Sounds like heaven, right? Well, before you get too jealous, let me give you a few additional details.

Just outside our bungalow door is a very large hammock set up perfectly so that anyone lying in it can gaze down the hill toward the beach and the water while enjoying the slight sea breeze. I should be out there. I should be lounging in that hammock. I have not lounged in a hammock since arriving in Thailand and I think it’s about darn time. Instead, I am inside. Why you ask? Well, let me tell you the story of yesterday.

Yesterday, Cory and I set off early for a day of snorkeling and kayaking around the Phi Phi Islands. The trip began around 10am and was set to return just after sunset. We would be taken to multiple snorkeling stops, a few beaches, and have ample time in between to enjoy relaxing on the boat. Sounds like the perfect trip, and it started out that way. Shark Cove, Viking Cave, Maya Beach (made famous by Leo in The Beach), and Lo Sama Bay were perfect. Great snorkeling, beautiful pictures, fun in the sun.

Not long after Maya Beach I began to feel a bit chilly. I noticed I was getting a bit of sun and decided to stay in the shade for awhile. I opted out of the next snorkeling session and while Cory was in the water checking out the colorful schools of fish, I sat on the boat with feverish chills and shaking uncontrollably. By the time Cory returned to the boat, I was a mess. He suggested I go down below and lay in the inside cabin away from the chilly breeze. I agreed.

I went downstairs, curled up, and attempted to feel better. Things only got worse. Enter nausea. For the next three hours I laid downstairs, feverish, shaking, and making frequent trips to the bathroom. Cory checked on me periodically though he also enjoyed the rest of the tour (thank goodness). It was during my few hours of hell that I came to a realization.

I am taking antibiotics.

For those who don’t know, one of the warnings that goes along with antibiotics is avoidance of sun exposure. It makes many people more suseptable to UV rays and can cause sun sensitivity. Awesome. When we got home, I could see this was definitely the truth. My burn was horrible. From head to toe I was red. No wonder I was so sick on the boat. Cory didn’t come out unscathed either. While he wasn’t on antibiotics, the sun here in Thailand is still very harsh and he received a rather intense burn as well. We are both feeling a bit better today, but we are not planning on going back out into the sun anytime soon.

Oh, and one more note, I also slipped down the stairs on the boat and have a nasty purple bruise on my forearm and my butt … just a few additional battle scars to an otherwise fun day.

So today, I sit inside. I will say though that while I’m not enjoying the hammock, this place still is a small slice of heaven.

Now,  a bit more about our trip.

We started off in Bangkok for two days enjoying the hustle and bustle of the city and meeting a few of my Peace Corps friends. We both agree that while Bangkok is a fun city, the peace and quite of the more rural areas of Thailand are much more enjoyable. The highlight of this part of the trip: rooftop pool at our hotel. It was awesome.

We then set off to my site where Cory got to see where I live and briefly meet my co-teacher. We then headed off to the city center where the next few days included sightseeing (Bridge Over River Kwai), massages, night markets, and a trip to the famous Erawan Waterfall where we hiked five of the seven tiers and took some awesome photos.

From there, we headed back into Bangkok to catch an overnight bus to Chiang Mai. In Chiang Mai we enjoyed some fantastic food, a Night Safari, a trip to the mountain top wat (temple) where we got stuck in a bit of a rain storm, a trip to the Tiger Kingdom where we got to play with actual Tigers, lots of night shopping, and lots more good food.

From there we hopped a flight to Phuket, stayed overnight there, and caught a ferry out here to the Phi Phi Islands. We’ve walked in the sand, watched a fire show (so cool), went snorkeling (you’ve heard about that!), and enjoyed some general relaxation.

Tomorrow we hop on the ferry back to Phuket and enjoy one night on Patong beach, then catch a bus and the overnight train the next night back up to Bangkok. We will spend our last day and a half up there before Cory heads back to Seattle.

It’s been a great trip so far aside from my multiple health issues … headaches, fevers, sunburns, etc. Cory has been wonderful to take care of me, I just wish I could have been in better health for his first trip over here. He says he doesn’t mind (and he probably doesn’t), but I wish I could have been on top of my game for our first reunion in seven months. Oh well, so it goes.

I guess that’s all I have for new updates. I’ll be sure to fill you all in on more stories and things when I’m settled back at site next week. For now, I’m off to take a nap and apply a new round of aloe.





I’m Thankful

3 08 2011

Today I am feeling overwhelmingly thankful for my life, the people in it, the experiences I’m gaining, and everything else there is to be thankful for.

Yesterday I received a text message and then a subsequent phone call from one of my closer volunteer friends. That communication was to inform me that the volunteer had just found out a good friend back in the states passed away back in June (they were just finding out about it now). The friend was young – in her twenties – and died in a terrible accident. My friend was in shock, was angry, and was very very sad. I was happy to be there for them offering any support I could muster. This was their first experience with death of someone close to them and given the two losses I have gone through over the last few years, I hope I had some insight and some support to share.

That being said, the phone call got me to thinking. It got me thinking about my own life and the people in it. It got me thinking about what I would do if someone close to me was injured, or God forbid worse, while I am in Thailand. It made me think about whether this experience is worth the risk. Most importantly, it got me thinking about how thankful I am for everything. Things can change in an instant – for better or for worse – and it’s important to be grateful for what you have at any given moment.

So I am thankful … for so many things.

Family and Friends

The people in my life are amazing. I knew that when I was back in the states but it has been reaffirmed over the last seven months of my journey in Thailand. The support of my choices and my experiences is overwhelming. There are many Peace Corps Volunteers who receive less than positive feedback when they make the choice to serve. I received that from no one. I constantly feel loved and supported. There is no way that I could get through this experience without everyone.

Health (of Me and said Family and Friends)

I am so thankful to be healthy enough both mentally and physically to continue this journey. That isn’t to say that I don’t have my medical concerns (as I have discussed in the past and am still currently dealing with) but as of right now none of it is hindering my service. My anxiety is non-existent here in Thailand and I am so thankful for that. I am even more thankful for the health and well-being of my family and friends. My sister is recovering nicely from her knee surgery. My niece and nephew and as active as ever. My brother-in-law is strong and fighting well. My parents and Nancy are happy and healthy. My grandmother is getting older but is still lively and talks of a trip to Thailand. My friends are all moving forward and living wonderful lives. I am so thankful for all of that.

Thailand and the Peace Corps

This experience has been incredible so far. I am so thankful for the opportunity to live in another country and immerse myself in a new culture. I love learning a new language, meeting new people, and finding out new things about myself. I am growing as a person in ways that would be unimaginable  back in the states. I am so thankful that things worked out the way they did and that I am here, serving with incredible volunteers, doing an interesting job (on some days!), and exploring new things. It’s a once in a lifetime experience.

I am also thankful that I am pursuing my dream of helping people. While some days I do not feel the effect I am having, deep down I know that I am making a difference. I am impacting people’s lives and I am promoting positive change. I am so thankful for the Peace Corps organization that has given me this incredible opportunity.

Peace Corps Staff and Volunteers

I put them into the category of Family and Friends as well, but for now I am going to single them out. I am doing this because they are playing a completely different role in my life than those back in the states. I am so thankful for the Peace Corps staff who keeps this operation running smoothly. They are so supportive, very organized, and take away all of the nerves that come from this experience. The administrative staff and medical staff have been nothing short of amazing since our arrival and I couldn’t be more happy about that.

My fellow volunteers are what keep me going here. I have thought numerous times about going home, leaving this experience behind and heading back to the comfort and security of my life in the states. It is the fellow men and women I am serving with that have pushed me through those doubts and continued me on my journey. Without them I would have missed out on so much. And I firmly believe they will continue to help me in this way over the next few months/years. In the last seven months, I have created friendships here that are stronger than many I have back home that have been present for years. These people share similar qualities, mindsets, opinions, goals, and dreams. I am so thankful for the opportunity to work with them and learn from them.

Life

I am so thankful for my life. Every day I wake up and start the journey of my day. I work, I eat, I talk, I play, I explore … I do so many things. And on most days, I take it all for granted. Today though, I’m stepping back and allowing myself to be thankful for it all. I am on an incredible journey. I am growing as a person. I am creating memories and experiences I never could have imagined. I’m loved by so many people. I’m affecting people’s lives. I’m making a difference. I’m living.

I urge everyone reading to take a moment today and think about what you are thankful for. It can change your entire perspective.





A New Creative Outlet

2 08 2011

I am a creative person.

I’m happy to say that this creativity happens to be genetic. My mom and grandmother used to make these awesome decorative baskets. I’d sit and home and watch them piece them together and often traveled with them to craft fairs where the customers went crazy. My dad follows a different creative path; he’s a writer. He’s finished one novel and is diligently working on his second. My sister inherited the creative gene as well. She went to design school, has always been great at drawing and painting, and currently designs, makes, and sells baby and toddler accessories. As you can see, creativity is not lacking in my family.

I am thrilled that I have the creative gene as well. Back home I had many outlets for this creativity and general “artsy-ness” and always seemed to have some project in the works. Most of the time, my art came in one of three forms.

Scrapbooking

I started scrapbooking when I was a teenager, my first project being a jump rope scrapbook. Over the years my projects got bigger and bigger and more and more intricate and almost led to a possible business endeavor. My most recent scrapping creations were wall hangings – large canvases that I would paint, decoupage, and embellish until the finish product looked like a scrapbook you could hang on your wall (see picture).

Six segments of a nine piece wall hanging, each segment measuring 1.5'x1.5'

Writing

Like my dad (and maybe because of him), I love to write. Over the years I have written poetry, short stories, and even have a novel in the works. I began writing it two years ago with the idea that if I loved reading so much I may as well give the writing side a go. It isn’t very good, but it’s been a fun project. Most recently, my writing endeavors have been in the blog form … also a fun project.

Baking

Some people may not consider baking an art form, but for those who work in the industry, and for me, it most certainly is. I absolutely love to bake. I love the feeling of trying out a recipe for the first time and seeing a successful final product. More often, I like to tweak recipes and come up with my own concoctions. In the last few months I was home my passion fell to cupcakes, my best creation being a french toast cake with maple frosting and bacon bits. Very tasty.

Not my cupcakes ... a picture from online of a similar recipe

Now, I bring all of this up because I am currently in Thailand (if you didn’t know that already then I urge you to keep up) and in Thailand the opportunities for creative outlet are few and far between. Scrapbooking is out of the question. Even if I had the supplies (which I don’t) the weather would make it nearly impossible. Humidity does terrible things to paper and glue. Writing has also been a challenge. I keep up with my blog fairly regularly, but that only satisfies a small part of my creative mind. Progress on all other forms of writing has been limited. It’s amazing how a person’s surroundings can affect their creative writing flow. Unfortunately living in a 3rd world country (kind of), volunteering, and traveling, does not provide me motivation or insight to continue my chit lit novel on a woman living in small town Washington state. Go figure. Unfortunately, baking has been non-existent too. A friend of mine has an oven here in Thailand and bakes all the time so it is technically possible. However, I do not have the money for an oven or the supplies it would take, nor do I have the willpower to bake and not eat the final products. So bottom line, my creative outlets are lacking and I’m none too happy about it.

For someone who is used to doing something creative nearly every day, this change in my daily habits has not been a welcomed one. I need creative expression. I need art. I need to do something with the right side of my brain. For the last seven months I really haven’t.

Just yesterday though I had an epiphany. I do technically have one creative alternative that just might work.

Photography.

Thanks to Cory and his extremely generous family, I have a nice camera to work with. I also have a decent amount of spare time to start reading up on what I can actually do with said camera. And, being in Thailand, I have tons of potential themes, projects, and subjects on which to practice. I haven’t started yet, but I am excited about the possibilities. More so, I’m excited to release some of this creative energy. Hopefully the results are something worth sharing 🙂

And with that, I will leave you with a few of my favorite photos from my trip so far. I have been in Thailand for nearly seven months and these are some of my favorite memories … and remember, I’m still an amateur! (… and my apologies for the duplicate last three pics … I can’t figure out how to keep them out of the gallery. Oops.)