Thursday, August 12, 2010

I've made the switch

Well guys, as you may have seen on facebook, I’ve made the switch from blogger to wordpress. There are many reasons for the move, photo captions for one, but basically it’s just a better blog host. The new address is Please bear with me as I figure this thing out. I’m sure there will be many formatting problems and such.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

I didn't know it was possible to get kicked out of a bar in Thailand...!

Today the entire Mirror Foundation flooded. It poured all morning, and within a few hours, this is what the walking path looked like. There are 3 steps to the bridge that are under water.

Last Saturday we did karaoke at a bar in town. Unfortunately, the fun didn't last long because we got kicked out of the bar. A volunteer had bought a few bottles of whiskey for everyone, and by about 11:00 everyone was pretty smashed.

Alex singing Radiohead's Creep with Mike on the drums.
Steph and Britt
Sam, Britt, Kaitlyn, Aaron, and Adrienne

Mike rocking out on the drums.
Dancing at R&B bar.

Party at P'Noi's. Everyone usually shows up there on Saturday nights for a barbeque, but this week it seemed like an especially large crowd because of all the new volunteers.

The clock tower in Chiang Rai changes color every night at 8:00. This isn't a great picture, but it's really beautiful.
All of us crammed into a songtow on our way to Big C.
Riding on top of the songtow. You can't tell, but we're actually sitting on the roof of the truck. It was really fun, but we had to dodge branches the whole time.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

25 Things I LOVE About Thailand/Mirror Foundation

  1. Fisherman pants. Greatest invention ever.
  2. You can get your laundry done for 40 Baht and it comes back neatly folded and smelling fresh.
  3. It has forced me to overcome my fear of animals. I have embraced the natural world and all it's critters.
  4. Waterfalls abound.
  5. Movie nights in the orientation room.
  6. Knowing the words and actions to every children song known to man is considered a valuable skill.
  7. Discovering the healing powers of Tiger Balm.
  8. Working with little kids and watching them actually get what you're teaching.
  9. Craftiness is next to godliness.
  10. Mangosteens = heaven.
  11. Playing charades is mandatory.
  12. Thai massages. Enough said.
  13. Barbeques at P'Noi's tattoo shop.
  14. Modest is hottest.
  15. Even the boring parts of the country are some of the most beautiful places I've ever seen.
  16. The kindness and generosity of the Thai people.
  17. No makeup is required.
  18. I get to teach monks. Who else can say that?
  19. Sweet sticky rice with custard.
  20. Baby Buddha aka Ouan (meaning fat in Thai) aka the cutest kid ever at Mirror. No one knows what his real name is.
  21. Shaved ice at Baan Jalae hilltribe village. Amazing.
  22. The pancakes at the shop next to P'Noi's.
  23. Riding on top of a sontow.
  24. The ice cream man who rides up on a motor bike with the freezer attached to the back.
  25. Everyone LOVES the banana song.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Malaysia Madness

This weekend I went to Malaysia with two other volunteers to apply for a 60 day visa at the Thai consulate in Kuala Lumpur. After a 3 hour bus ride from Chiang Rai to Chiang Mai ($6.00 including a bottle of water and cookies) we took a flight to KL. I went through some hassle leaving Chiang Mai because I had overstayed my Thai visa by 2 days. The immigration officer took me to another desk and left me there alone, saying "One moment, mai pen rai (no problems)." However, that one moment turned out to be about 25 minutes. Finally, worried that I was going to miss my flight to KL, I asked someone else if they could help me. Officer #2 then went to try and find officer #1. Again I waited alone for 10 minutes. Fortunately officer #3 came to my rescue and filled out the necessary paperwork for me to get out of the country. I arrived at my gate in the midst of boarding, just in the nick of time.
I had no idea what to expect from KL. Zoe wouldn't tell us anything and I didn't do any research before we left. Mostly I thought it would be similar to Thailand (mostly poor and kind of dirty), but boy was I wrong. It's one of the wealthiest countries in Asia and you can certainly tell. KL is a beautiful city full of amazingly expensive cars, rich Arab tourists and very high end shopping malls.
Twin towers: tallest buildings in Malaysia

Boy Zoe (there are two Zoes here at Mirror, boy Zoe and girl Zoe) lives there, so we stayed at his house. The house is split into several different apartments. Zoe's is on the bottom floor and his sister lives on the upper level. Julian stayed in a back building (the old maid's room and his father's prayer room) and I stayed upstairs with Zoe's sister, brother in law and nephew. The family were amazing hosts. Imagine the nicest, most warm people you have ever met. Multiply that by 3 and then you're somewhere close to describing them. I felt right at home there.

Zoe's house in Kuala Lumpur

We got our visas without too much trouble. Just a long wait at the Thai embassy. The rest of the time we spent hanging out with Zoe's friends and family. Again, his friends are some of the most amazing people I have ever met. Zoe drove us around and showed us around the city. Most importantly, it's filled with DELICIOUS food. Zoe took us to all the best restaurants. I must say, Thailand has got nothing on Malaysia when it comes to food. Thai food is really good, but it gets a little monotonous day after day. There's so much more variety available in KL. I was really grateful I didn't have to eat rice 3 times a day. Julian is a vegetarian, so we ate at a lot of Indian restaurants because they always have good veggie options. I didn't mind at all though since Indian is my favorite kind of food.
Tosai and Dahl: a really thin rice flour crepe with lentil curry dipping sauce (sort of like Indian hummus) = PARADISE

Italian and Mexican food makes an interesting combo, no?
The toilets are much nicer in Malaysia (not to mention you can flush the toilet paper) but some people still don't get it.

Imagine you're in the center of a shopping mall filled with designer stores. Wall to wall Gucci, Prada, Lious Vitton. Food court with $50 per plate restaurants. Then you go to the top level, exit into a hidden hallway and emerge into this crazy Asian food court. THIS is where the locals eat.

If you couldn't tell, I had a great time. I met a lot of great people and ate a lot of good food. However, I don't think it would have been as fun without a local to show me around. I wish we could have stayed longer. We only had 2 days to spend there, half of which was taken up with visa stuff. On Wednesday morning we woke up at 4:00 am in order to get to the airport in time for our flight at 7:00. After a very long day of traveling we made it back to Mirror. Although I had so much fun, I was happy to be back. Mirror has really begun to feel like home.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

My first real goodbyes

On Saturday I had to say goodbye to two guys from the group I started with. I was so sad I almost cried. And you all know how rare that is. It's amazing how quickly such strong bonds can form. I really have come to love some of the people here in only a few weeks. It's hard to think about not seeing Paul or Mike again. They live in Australia and England, and who knows if we'll ever visit each other. I can't even think about saying goodbye to the people I will spend my entire 10 weeks with. Luckily I have Molly and Rachel's visit to look forward to, so leaving won't seem so sad. I'm sure there will be tears though.

To clear up the confusion, I'm going to Malaysia this weekend to apply for a 60 day visa at the Thai embassy. Two other volunteers, boy Zoe and Julian, are coming with me. Zoe lives in Kuala Lampor, so we're going to stay with his family. It will be fun to have a few days away from Chiang Rai. I love it here at Mirror, but there's not much to do in town except hang out. Zoe promised that I'll eat the best food of my life there and I'm going to hold him to it. I tell everyone that I make up for not drinking with eating. That is why I'm giving up treats for Buddhist lent. Well, I'm giving them up for the week to start. We'll see how it goes after that ;) Thailand is making me fat, so I need to nip my snacking in the bud. It's hard to resist oreos though when they're right there and they only cost $0.15. Plus I am officially addicted to peanut butter here. I discovered a bakery with real wheat bread, so I eat a PB&J nearly every day. Not good. Not good at all.

Teaching last week was super good. I taught for the first time by myself and it was so fun. We played a clothing relay race where the kids had to put on the clothes. The class loved it, especially when the boys had to put on a skirt or a dress. I'm amazed at how much you can convey with my very limited Thai, their very broken English and a lot of charades. It just proves that when it comes to communication, where there's a will there's a way. I think most people are just too afraid of looking stupid to try. I've found that the locals really appreciate it when you try your best. Particularly if you try speaking a little Thai. I taught some 4th graders about recycling on Saturday, which went better than I had hoped for. It's a complex subject to teach any kid about, and the language barrier makes it that much more difficult. They really picked it up quickly though. I think they really understood it. I'm amazed at how excited I get when I can see the kids learning. I get pretty giddy.

The people here are so hospitable. It really is the land of smiles. They would give you the shirt off their back and the food off their plate if they thought you needed it. As a teacher you are shown an incredible amount of respect, by both the kids and the other teachers. It's something that was totally foreign to me as an American.

Today is a holiday because of lent, so teaching was canceled. I gave blood in the morning with several other volunteers. A couple of girls had to go to the hospital anyway. One to get her tooth looked at and one to check out a reaction she was having to all the mosquito bites. Both turned out to be ok, which is good because they're both here for another couple of months.

Although I'm sad to see old people leave, I'm excited to get to know everyone better and meet future volunteers. I cannot believe that I've been here nearly 4 weeks. My time here is flying by.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Mirror Foundation Tour

Sorry about the Blair Witch Project camera action, but at least you can get a sense of where I'm living.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010


A few of you have asked me if there's stuff that we need here that they can donate. Here's our volunteer wish list if you want to collect some stuff to send over. It's expensive to mail, but you can probably send it with Molly and Rach when they come if you're feeling generous. Anything would definitely be appreciated.
  • cardboard
  • cleaning supplies
  • whiteboard markers
  • poster board
  • stapler and staples
  • large scissors
  • play dough
  • TONS of craft supplies (stickers, glue, tape, markers, glitter, etc.)
  • butcher paper
  • that blue sticky stuff that you can use to stick papers on the wall
  • world maps
  • story books
  • learning games (matching games, memory games)
  • any sorts of learning toys
  • musical instruments
  • basically anything you would find in a kindergarten or pre-school classroom
Address here at Mirror:
Mirror Foundation
106 Moo 1, Ban Huay Khom
T. Mae Yao, A. Muang, Chiang Rai 57100 THAILAND


Things here are great. I taught at Phuko child care center yesterday and it was the first time I didn't want to strangle the kids. The lesson went amazingly well. Not only did they pay attention (for the most part) but I think they actually learned what we were trying to teach them. It was just me and Ming and two Thai volunteers. I can say what I will about Ming, but his forced planning totally paid off. Hopefully the kids will remember how good it was and continue to behave for me next week. I tried to give blood yesterday, but the hospital was too busy. I ended up sitting on a bench reading most of The Alchemist. Today I taught at Jalae child care and the kids are 100% different than the Phuko kids. We got there and they were sitting in a circle quietly waiting for us. They're amazingly well behaved. Even when they get bored with something, they don't go crazy and start locking each other in closets.

These are the kids from Phuko saying the national anthem.

This is the cutest kid from Jalae. He wears a flower earring in his left ear.
A new group of 12 volunteers started this week. Mirror feels packed with all the new people. Teaching is going to be really light this week because there are so many teachers to fill the spots. I think I'm only going to one school per day for the rest of the week. There's still tons of planning to do though. I teach at my first grade school tomorrow and I'm kind of nervous about it. The little kids are easy because you can just play with them if they get bored. You really have to teach older kids. We'll see how it goes tomorrow, and then I have to go on my own with new volunteers the next day. Ahh! I don't feel like I've been here long enough to be in charge of anything.

Half of the guys that came with me are leaving this weekend. I'm so sad. I can't believe how close you can get to people in such a short amount of time. It's also weird to think that I probably won't ever see them again because they live across the world.

They put me in charge of putting together a video of all of the songs we sing, so please let me know if you can think of any. Kids songs with actions are the best. They LOVE the banana song. JoLynne, if you still have that camp songs book saved on your computer I would love it if you could send it to me. All the volunteers think my songs are horrible because the animals all die (i.e. the bumblebee song, monkeys and the alligator). I just told them we Americans just like to keep it real.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Pictures at last

Well guys, this is the briefest of brief overviews of my time in Thailand so far. It takes like a zillion hours to upload photos on this internet connection, so you only get a few. I will try to narrate as best I can.

This is my trip to a hill tribe village near Chiang Rai. Only a few of us got to go, but it was amazing. There was a festival going on and we just moved from house to house eating and drinking (Fanta for me, home brewed Thai whiskey for everyone else). I gained 1.6 kilograms in 2 days.

This is a Buddhist temple. Two artist rivals built two different temples, white and black. I wish I could have taken pictures inside because there is the craziest paintings on the walls. There are only 2 completed because it takes 3 years to paint the entire wall. It moves from Buddha and good to all kinds of crazy evil things - the two major ones are Osama Bin Laden and George Bush :( The white temple was beautiful, but I prefer the black temple because it's more natural and has more soul. That sounds weird, but it's the only way I can think to describe it. My pictures don't do them justice.

This is in front of Pi Noy's tattoo shop. He's this Thai guy that one of the volunteers made friends with and now everyone hangs out there when we go into town on the weekend. We bbq-ed corn and other veggies with with palm butter and this sweet chili sauce that his mom makes. AMAZING. The corn was delicious, but it made me miss the awesomeness that is Utah corn.

WWII cemetery about 2 hours outside of Bangkok. These are the graves of the soldiers who died building the death railway from Burma to Thailand. There are inscriptions from the families of the soldiers on a bunch of the headstones. It seriously made me tear up. There's not that much to it besides the graves, but it was really powerful to me.

I just thought this restaurant was hilarious.

Watching the tigers exercise at the Tiger Temple. It was the coolest thing ever. I think perhaps I'm getting over my fear of animals here in Thailand. There are tons of little ones just running around where we live. (Like geckos in our dorms that make the loudest geck-o noise ALL NIGHT LONG!)

This was at the death railway museum. Mostly I just thought it was the creepiest diorama I had ever seen. It totally freaked me out.

Bridge on the River Kwai. A beautiful spot but I definitely wouldn't go again.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Finally in Chiang Rai

Well guys, I know I'm a bit of a flake, but things have been so crazy around here. I apologize for the extra long post, but I want to tell you a little bit about what I've been doing since I've been in Thailand.

My first real day in Bangkok was on Friday. I was still super jet-lagged and kind of sick, so I slept a lot of the day and walked around the area where my hostel was. Day 2 was better. I walked to the taxi boats on the river (after getting a little lost) and took a ride down to the grand palace. It was seriously the most amazing thing I've ever seen. The closest thing I can think of to compare it to is Versailles in France, but even that doesn't come close. I will post some pictures on my blog so you can see. It's basically a giant complex of buildings that houses the old palace and a temple. Everything is so colorful and ornate I can't even believe it. I think I took about a thousand pictures. It was breathtaking. Like literally, I was breathless looking at some of the stuff. I was totally beat when I got back to the hostel, so I just hung out and got something to eat with a girl I met. The next day I took a tour from my hostel to the river Kwai, a WWII cemetery, death railway, a waterfall and the tiger temple. I must say, I was disappointed with the River Kwai and the death railway. If you don't know, it's this huge railway from Thailand to Burma that the Japanese soldiers made the prisoners build during WWII. Thousands of people died during the construction. Anyway, the cemetery was the coolest part because there were inscriptions from the family members of the people who had died on each head stone. We took an hour ride on the train, which was somewhat miserable, but had some good views of the scenery.

The last thing we did was the tiger temple. It was kind of annoying because we got there at about 3:00 and it closes as 4:00. While I was waiting in line to have my picture taken with the tigers, a worker asked me if I wanted to watch the tigers' evening exercises because someone had canceled. It was so awesome. It was an additional 500 baht ($15) but it was so worth it. They construct this fence cage and let about 20 people in. Then they release the tigers into the water to play. They are literally RIGHT there. The workers were in there playing with them, making them jump and climb trees and stuff. Definitely the coolest thing I did that day. I didn't get to see anything else because it closed, but I'm so glad I did it. Tragically, my tour bus left me stranded there because we got done a bit late. I was pretty distraught, but I managed to pantomime my need for a ride to one of the other bus drivers for another tour company. He told me he'd give me a lift back to Bangkok and he called my tour company. About a half hour into our journey home, we stopped at a light about 7 cars behind my original tour bus and I had to run out and switch cars. It was insane. I was pretty calm about the whole thing, but now I'm so glad it worked out. I don't know what I would have done if I has been stranded 2 hours outside of Bangkok with only about $15 and no idea how to get home. I guess that's one of the adventures of traveling alone :)

That night I went out to the Sukhumvit area with some other people at the hostel. It's a big area where there are a lot of clubs and bars and stuff. Usually it's packed, but the night was pretty quiet (for Bangkok anyway). We had a good time though, except that the ATM took my debit card. Again stranded with no money. I was nervous because I had to have cash for the taxi to the airport in the morning. I paid for everyone's drinks with my credit card and they gave me some cash, so all was well. We ended up going to bed around 3:00 am and I had to get up at 7:00 for the airport, so that sucked. I arrived in Chiang Rai yesterday and was picked up by the director and some of the volunteers. Immediately after I stepped off the plane, it was better than Bangkok. I don't know if it's just because I got used to the humidity or what, but the weather here is so much better. I think it's partly because I'm out of the pollution of Bangkok too.

My first day in Chiang Rai we just got to hang out and settle in. A bunch of us went to a waterfall. It was the first time I've been in Thailand that I wasn't hot. Although I'm acclimatized pretty well, it's still freaking hot. We all played charades last night. I feel a little like I'm camping. Like there's tons of games and stuff to get to know people, and the accommodations are about as nice as camping. Actually, not quite as nice as camping, but not too bad. Nothing I can't get used to. I've started a video tour of the foundation. I'll email that as soon as I'm done so you can have a better idea of where I'm staying. Very beautiful, but very natural (i.e. rustic). It's definitely not about luxury and relaxation. Today all the new volunteers have been in orientation all morning. The most helpful thing has been learning some Thai phrases. I'm getting a little better, but it's still tough because all the vowels sound the same.

The other volunteers are really cool. I'm sad though because my favorite ones are all doing the outdoor program instead of the teaching one. We get to hang out at night and in the morning, but I wish I got to work with them. There's this one old Japanese guy who's doing teaching that is so weird. He's really nice, but he asks like 50 thousand questions that are so random. Sometimes I just want to tell him to shut up and let everyone else talk. Of course I don't though. I just hope I don't have to go teaching alone with him too often.

All the people I've met (the Thais, people in the hostel, other volunteers, etc) have been super cool. The thing about travelers is that they love to meet and hang out with new people. You don't really feel like strangers because everyone is a stranger and it makes you all friends. I think the time here is going to go by so fast, but I can't wait for Molly and Rach to come visit. There's so much already I want to show you.

Friday, July 2, 2010

I made it!

It's been about 48 hours since I left Salt Lake and I've been in Bangkok for less than 24. You do the math. Despite my horrifically long flights, the trip here wasn't too bad. I watched plenty of movies and even slept a little. I arrived in Bangkok late last (Thursday) night. I had no trouble getting a taxi, although he did struggle a little finding my hotel. I'm staying at the Lub d hostel on Silom Road. From what I hear, this is a pretty nice place as hostels go. It's actually much nicer than some of the hotels I stayed at in Europe. Besides the bunk beds. However, the beds are surprisingly comfortable. It's no Marriott or anything, but I was expecting the worst. They are firm, but I don't mind that.

I tried to go to sleep as soon as I got in last night, but between the jet lag and having a cold, I didn't fare too well. The thing about the humidity is that my cough is a little better but my nose will not stop running. To be honest, I kind of feel like crap, so I just hung out and slept today. I ate at this Chinese restaurant. It was the best fried noodle thing I've ever eaten. I'm not sure what it was, but I'm pretty sure it wasn't Thai because they brought me out chopsticks to eat with.

I have met some cool people hanging out at the hostel tonight though. Most of them are British or Scottish, but there's a few Americans in the mix. Ok, like 1 American and 1 Canadian. Strangely, no Europeans. I've been answering millions of questions about Utah and America. The vibe here is cool. Very relaxed. And people are really friendly. There are a lot of solo travelers, so people make friends pretty easily. They usually bond through alcohol. I think these people who travel the world for months on end are so awesome though. I don't think I could do it for that long, but I think I would like it for a while. I don't really mind being by myself because you really do meet people.

Tomorrow I think I'm going to take the sky train to the Grand Palace. It's supposed to be amazingly beautiful, but you have to wear pants so I'm dreading it a little. I was right about the heat, it's like 1000 degrees here and a million percent humidity. I seriously feel wet all the time. I can tell I'm getting used to it a little though because I don't feel like I'm going to die anymore. Seriously though, when I stepped out of my taxi last night my glasses fogged up. Silver lining: my skin has never been so soft.

I've only taken a few pictures so far. I only have some from tonight because I realized I didn't have any yet. So, for your viewing pleasure, you get to see me hanging out with all the random people from the hostel.

Me writing this blog with Patrick watching me. I have to give Patrick a shout out. He calls me Chelsea from Utah in California because he thought Utah was in California.

Friends at the hostel.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

I'm still going

I've been asked many times lately if I'm still going. Due to the political climate, the riots and the possibility that I might not be able to get insurance, I briefly considered changing to another destination. I decided on Vietnam as my alternate. I emailed the program director in Thailand to get his take on the situation and he reassured me that I would be safe as long as I was smart and careful. That, along with my youthful delusion of invincibility, has given me the courage to brave the protesters. Also, my lazy nature made me reluctant to make all the arrangements required to switch locations.
Anyway, the trip is still most definitely on. I leave 4 weeks from tomorrow. Stay tune for more updates as I get closer to leaving.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Political Situation in Thailand

A bunch of people have asked me if I'm worried about the political situation in Thailand. I just read this newsletter written by the program director at the Mirror Foundation where I'll be working. It gives some interesting background to the current situation and has allayed most of my fears. Here's the link if you want to read the whole thing.

Friday, April 30, 2010

Just Checking In...

Hey everyone, so I just thought I'd update you all on my preparations for the trip. I've spent the last couple of weeks trying to figure out the visa information. It's difficult because I'm never really sure I'm getting the right information. The websites all seem a little sketchy. I think I've got it worked out though. I will get a 30 day tourist visa when I enter the country. I will have to exit and re-enter the country before it expires, and then do the same thing in another 30 days. Kind of a pain, but luckily the city I'll be living in is right on the border. It's just a hop, skip and a jump into Burma and back again.

It still makes me a little nervous because I'm not 100% positive that I'm doing everything right. It also doesn't help that there's been so much political unrest in Bangkok lately. A couple of weeks ago my friend Jordan told me he hopes the government doesn't collapse while I'm there. EEK! Thanks for the comfort pal ;) Anyway, from everything I've read, it seems like it hasn't been a big problem for tourists. I'm not too worried about it. I just have to make sure I register with the US Embassy when I get there.

I also thought I'd excite you all with some pictures of where I'll be staying. Unfortunately, it's been hard to find pics that I could copy and paste. So you won't get to see where I'm going to live, but, courtesy of my fb pals who've already been there, you'll get to some some places that I will be working.

This is a nearby waterfall. Pretty much Thailand is the most beautiful place on earth.

And this these two are pics of a village where I'll be teaching.

Monday, April 5, 2010

IVHQ Verification Letter

I have attached a verification letter from the group I booked by service trip through. Hopefully the image works... IVHQ is a company based in New Zealand that sets people up with non-profits in the countries they want to volunteer. They hooked me up with the Mirror Foundation, the group I will be volunteering with in Thailand.


I'm getting SUPER excited for my upcoming trip to Thailand. I just mailed out donation request letters, so hopefully that generates so much needed funds for the trip.

I've also been talking to some people on facebook who will be there the same time as me. We're starting to plan some weekend trips while we're there. I'm looking forward to exploring the country.