Tuesday, March 14, 2017

The Journey Continues

Where to begin, where to begin…

My time here in Phuket is coming to an end so I thought I’d go ahead and try to write about the past few months.

Haley arrived right after Christmas! Funny story actually. Her flight was scheduled to land at around 1am. I caught a cab to the airport to pick her up. We just had a new international airport terminal open up a few months ago and customs and immigration has been notoriously slow at times.

Haley happened to catch the worst of it and she was literally stuck in line for four hours.


Meanwhile, I was sitting outside the airport waiting on her. My cab driver got angry and left, but there was obviously nothing I could do.

Outside of the terminal is actually a large, covered area with green turf as the flooring. At first I wondered why they bothered with the turf. I later realized it’s to give people a more comfortable place to wait for hours at a time. Tons of people were literally spread out and laying on the bright green turf, everybody waiting for somebody.

Finally, she made it out and we headed back towards Kamala, arriving at my place at about 6am. It was a stressful ordeal.

The first few days she was here we went to two of my favorite local beaches, Laem Sing and Surin. We also had a fun touristy day with my boss and coworkers. We went to the aquarium (which I obviously loved) as well as Chalong Temple and the Big Buddha, which was really cool. I also of course took her for a crazy night out on Bangla because you just can't come to Phuket without witnessing the madness and choking down strange alcohol that you bought for a few pennies.

Me taking a selfie with Haley's GoPro when she's not looking.

When we visited the Big Buddha, we were able to write our wish onto a piece of metal and hang it outside of the temple. 

I was blessed by a monk! They surprisingly sprinkle A LOT of water on you. I was drenched. 

Cute little ray at the aquarium.

Haley also brought a bunch of goodies from home for me including both presents for my parents (thanks for the beautiful new dive computer mom and dad!!!!!) and some of my favorite foods and even a few new books. She’s an angel.

I'm not sure what we're doing here but it makes me incredibly happy.

My bff, teacher Hamant.

On New Years Eve we headed towards the Gulf of Thailand. We took a bus to Surat Thani where we caught a ferry to Koh Samui.

Another funny story… The ferry was a ride straight out of hell.

It was almost comical in a sad, pitiful way. Everyone getting on the ferry was young backpacking kids looking for fun and to have a crazy NYE. Music was blaring. Selfies were being taken.

About three minutes after we left the port, we hit the first big wave… everyone had a nervous laugh as the realization settled in that this may not be a very fun ride.

Sure enough, the waves got worse. The boat was lurching and people were immediately getting sick. The crew quickly started passing out bags for people to throw up in.

So there we were, crammed into the inside of a ferry hurling across the Gulf of Thailand on rollercoaster sized waves surrounded by probably fifty people throwing up.

It was terrifying. I’d never gotten sea sick before but I hadn’t exactly put myself to the test either. I was starting to get panicked out of the fear of getting sick.

The ferry ride from hell lasted a little over an hour. I luckily calmed down and never got sick, but Haley wasn’t so lucky unfortunately. It was seriously insane the number of people there were throwing up.

That night we hit up the main strip along the beach to ring in the New Year which was quite fun.

The next day we rented a motorbike and did a little exploring around the island and laid on the beach and read our books. A girls’ day at its finest.

The next day, we made the trip out to Angthon National Park.

Of course, the weather still wasn’t the best and we ended up being stuck on a tiny boat hurling through waves once again.

Luckily neither of us got sick and we had a good chuckle watching the poor little Chinese family suffer through their seasickness. It was actually quite sad. I’m not sure why people didn’t take seasickness pills….

Anyways, Angthon was pretty cool. We went on a kayaking adventure to a little island.

The next day we took another terrifying ferry ride to Koh Tao. I actually really liked this little island despite being stuck in a monsoon the second half of our time there.

Our first night there was really cool. Sairee beach has tons of little bars right on the beach. We sat and watched the fire dancers for hours. It literally never got old. They were really, really cool.

The next two days we did some swimming, pool laying, shopping, and took a cooking class, which was really fun.

Our amazing spring rolls. Literally the best thing I've ever eaten.

We learned how to make the most delicious spring rolls, pad thai, and papaya salad, all some of my favorite dishes here.

At this point is when the rain really started. It literally started monsooning and the island quickly started to flood.

So what do you do when you’re bored and stuck on an island in a monsoon you ask?

The obvious answer is to get a tattoo.

I always said I wouldn’t get a tattoo, mainly because I couldn’t think of something I thought I’d actually want to be on my body forever. Like forever and ever.

But on our first night in Koh Tao, Haley and I were walking around and discussed how many tattoo shops there were.

Over cocktails on the beach she had an idea which I instantly loved. So here it is, my tattoo! It was actually done with a traditional bamboo needle.

It’s an ellipsis. To me, it means ‘the journey continues’.

There’s been a lot of times in my life when I’ve been sad to close one chapter and move onto the next, like when I got home from Prague or Madagascar or when I left Portland to come to Thailand. It’s always hard moving on and I’m always doubtful that what comes next could ever be better.

But it is.

And it’s a lesson I’ve learned time and time again. The journey always continues. There’s always something that’s bigger and better right around the corner if you’re open minded enough to embrace it.

It’s not only a lesson I’ve learned but something that I’ve actually come to enjoy. Life is great if you go out and live it.

Even now, my tiny tattoo is a reminder that the future is bright. Although my time here in Phuket is coming to an end, I’m both appreciative of the amazing time I’ve had here and excited for whatever the future has in store.

Anyhow, Haley and I barely made it off of Koh Tao. We showed up for our ferry the next morning and the port was packed with hundreds of backpackers all anxious to get off the island. It was crowded and tense and everyone just wanted off the island. The streets were literally flooded in waste deep water. It was insane.

Luckily Haley and I barely made it through the line in time to board our ferry, only to find that all the seats inside were taken and we had to sit on top of the boat in the pouring rain. Somehow I managed to spot a small VIP sign that led to an empty room full of comfy chairs. We couldn’t believe our good luck. We were able to sit inside for our two-hour ferry ride for the whopping price of 100 baht, AKA $3. At that moment I would have gladly paid $30 for that seat.
Saying goodbye to Haley was hard. Those two weeks were by far the most time we’d spent together since we lived in Prague. It’s crazy how normal it is when we see each other. It’s literally like we’ve never spent a single day apart.

I’m so thankful for my friendship with Haley. Even when we’re continents apart we manage to keep in touch and be each other’s biggest supporters. I literally can’t imagine my life without her. I’ve said it before, but Prague gave me more than just memories, it gave me my best friend and I really couldn’t imagine my life without her. Whenever something happens in my life she’s one of the first people I talk to about it.

I’m so happy we had those two weeks together and I know I’ll see her again soon.

Here's a short video I put together from our trip if you want to check it out: 

Next came my birthday!

My co-workers here sure made it a good one. My desk was decorated and I received my very own MJ Birthday Card. Everyone who has had a birthday has gotten their own personalized cat card drawn by Erin.

We celebrated with lots of cake, followed by margaritas and chips and dip after work before having Thai food for dinner and then hitting the bars. It was a great night and I’m lucky to have such great friends that made my 23rd so much fun.

It's a PHBGTU birthday tradition to wear one of the flashing headbands they sell on the beach.

Hamant's birthday was actually a week after mine. We made it a goal to make it to ten bars in Kamala! We have movie night here on our rooftop where we set up the projector and play movies on a big sheet. We had previously watched The Goonies, so we of course made a legitmate pirate map of Kamala with all the bars we had to go to. It was quite a night. I love my Goonies, AKA Erin, Diego, and Hamant.

A few weeks later, my cousin Hannah came to visit me!

I’ve seriously felt unbelievably loved to have so many people make the long trip out to see me. It’s really meant a lot that people love me enough to make the effort.

Hannah and I hung around Kamala mainly. I took her to Patong one night as well where we saw a movie and then people watched on Bangla Road. 

My typical weekend look.

We also visited the Sky Bar here and had some amazing cocktails while we watched the sunset.

We also took a day trip to the other side of Phuket, with Evi as our guide. She showed us around Phuket Town which has some really cool street art and lots of neat little shops.

Took a break from walking around in the heat for a yummy pineapple shake. 

We then went to a beach and relaxed before heading to watch the sunset on the Promthep Cape which was exceptionally beautiful. We then had dinner in Rawai. I’ve come to especially enjoy when people visit me because it gives me an excuse to do all the fun tourist things I haven’t gotten around to.

There hasn’t been much else going on here in Kamala. Work is going really well. We’ve had some fun event including a color run/obstacle challenge and most recently, our residential students’ quarterly birthday party for the February-March celebrants.

We were a little too enthusiastic about the open dessert bar at our last event. Hands down the best desserts I've had in months. 

We were able to take ten of our residential students to help us throw color and have some fun on the obstacle course. They had so much fun and were so adorable. 

The birthday parties we throw for the kids are so much fun. We’re lucky enough to have beautiful resorts sponsor them. This particular party was at the Novotel in Surin. They had two giant body slides that the kids were enamored with and provided hours of fun. They also had a foam party and ate lots of pizza, burgers, and cake.

Here's a video I made for the Foundation of the Birthday Party. It's super cute and guaranteed to make you smile: 

I’m really going to miss these kids when I leave. They’re ridiculously cute and goofy and inspiring. They’ve got a lot stacked against without homes and loving families, but they way they stay happy really puts things into perspective.

Dress up day in Coconut Club. Above is Fim and Jem. Below is Got. He always puts on the clown outfit.

Above, an unknown skeleton and Garfield. Below, Peet with his homemade Valentine's Day card.

For now, I’m still finishing up my Dive Master Certification. I passed my written exam last week which was a huge thing. I’ve only got a few dives/objectives left. I actually had my 100th dive a few months ago which was pretty cool. Overall, I’ve really enjoyed learning more about dive theory and science as well as learning how to take people diving successfully. It has its challenges but it’s really fun and rewarding.

Check out this awesome nudibranch I found on a dive a few weeks ago. It was seriously about a centimeter long. It was super tiny and I have no idea how I found it. Picture credit to Monique!

I've definitely been feeling the strain of time and distance the past couple of months. Between my birthday and my mom's, there's been moments where I fiercly miss my family and friends. It's hard to contantly know and see what you're missing out on. I wouldn't change where I'm at for a second, but there's times when it'd be nice to sit around in the shop, talking with my family over dinner. 

I’m currently trying to get all my ducks in a row and finalize all my plans for once I leave Phuket. I’m not sure what exactly the future holds but I’m excited and ready to enjoy whatever it is. From what I can tell, the next couple of months will be pretty epic. And so the journey continues...

Bonus: You know how facebook always gives you ads based on your location? Well I get some really weird ones because they're aimed at Thai people. This is just one of the examples of strange ads that pop up. Others include snail cream to make your face whiter and inserts for your pants to make your butt bigger. I live in a strange, strange country. Spam Quail Egg Sushi anyone?!?

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