Friday, March 14, 2014


A Chapter ends: Ubon

I have a few hours left in what has truly become my home: the small, quiet city of Ubon Ratchathani. Last Thursday was the last day of school, and it was just as difficult as I though it would be to say goodbye to my students, particularly my 11th-graders who I’ve been teaching for the past two years and have gotten to know very well. At the end of the day, after the last final exam, I was standing in their classroom, listening to their homeroom teacher give a goodbye speech. After she finished, the students turned their already-teary eyes towards me expectantly, and ushered me to the front of the room to say my own goodbyes. The homeroom teacher was a hard act to follow, as she had already been tearing up throughout her speech, and as soon as I was standing in front of my students, I couldn’t help but do the same. It was a heartfelt goodbye. These students have helped me grow both as a teacher and as a person, and I do not lie when I say I’ll remember them forever.

Not only was it difficult to say goodbye to my students, but it will also be difficult to say goodbye to my friends, my home, and my life here. I know Ubon; the people, the places, the pace, the paths. And now I will say goodbye, maybe forever, to this place that has watched over me and has witnessed me grow over the past two years. It is a bittersweet departure, for I will never have this again. Each experience we have is specific to a place, a time, a mindset and the company we’re with, and once we’ve moved on from an experience, we’ll never be able to go back to it, as it was, again. Of course, this is the way of life, and is one of the many beautiful amalgamations of pleasure and pain that there is in this world. I embrace the ending of my Ubon chapter with a little heartache and a lot of contentment, as well as excited anticipation of the future.

My 11th graders. I'll miss you guys!!

A Chapter begins: Costa Rica.

In July, I’ll be moving to the outskirts of San Jose, Costa Rica, to teach chemistry at an international school, which I’m very excited about. First of all, I’m very much looking forward to teaching chemistry. This has been my goal since I graduated with my masters two years ago, and it’ll be great to get back into the subject that I love so much. Second of all, I’m excited to move into a new culture, learn Spanish, and have the opportunity to travel to new places, both in and around Costa Rica. Let the adventure continue!

In the meantime: SCUBA and sailing.

Beginning tonight, two overnight trains and a ferry will bring me from Ubon, through Bangkok, to Koh Tao, an island on the eastern side of the Malay Peninsula in southern Thailand. There, I’ll get my SCUBA certification and spend a few days relaxing on the beach. After that, I’ll take another train south, across the boarder into Malaysia, ending up in Penang, where I’ll climb aboard the Historic Vessel Vega. The Vega is a sailing ship whose owners are on a non-stop humanitarian mission to collect and deliver donated medical and educational supplies to poor and isolated communities in Indonesia and East Timor. I’ll be a volunteer on the ship, and will be helping with the sailing, daily chores, and deliveries. I’m pretty damn excited :)

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Springtime in Ubon

The feeling of springtime was something that I thought was unique to certain climates in the world, namely climates like the northeast US. Every spring in New England brings a sense of rejuvenation, hope, and excitement for more beautiful weather to come; it’s a mixing and meshing of feelings that’s hard to describe, but one that every New Englander knows well.

I’ve come to realize that I was wrong about the feeling of spring being unique to 4-season climates.  Last year, in Ubon, I didn’t feel spring. I think I missed it because I was still so new to Thailand and was not really looking for parallels to back home. This year—my second living abroad—has been different, in a really good way. I’ve become a whole lot more comfortable in my own skin, and all that blindingly shiny novelty of being in a new place and constantly experiencing new things has dulled down to a subtler glow. Because of this, I’ve begun to notice things—a lot of them—in climate and culture that are not so foreign after all.

One thing that I’ve been enjoying immensely since the end of October is the feeling of spring in the air. I used to define spring as the beautiful time of year when the weather begins to warm after a long winter, when the days grow longer, and when the color green starts to squeeze its way back into the world.

Spring in Thailand is different on the surface, but the underlying thing that truly makes spring is the same: the transformation from yucky, barely bearable weather to more comfortable, more beautiful weather. It is essentially a transformation of the out-of-doors from place if discomfort to a place of comfort, and one that draws you out of your indoor hiding places back into the light. In 4-season climates, this is the transformation from cold weather to warm weather. Here in Ubon, it’s the transformation from the hot, constantly wet rainy season to the beautiful, dry cool season.

Upon returning to Thailand from my travels to Cambodia and Vietnam in October, I was immediately hit by this change of weather, and the resulting change of feeling. Spring was in the air! No more rain meant no more wading and bicycling through flooded streets: opaque, brown soups of trash, dirt, and doggy doo on my way to work. Cooler days meant no more sweat-soaked shirts after 5 minutes of biking. Breezy, bordering-on-cold nights meant the opportunity to enjoy something seldom felt in Thailand: coziness (in the hot season, I don’t sleep with any cover at all—not even a sheet. Lately, I’ve been enjoying nights with a sheet and a blanket over that to keep me warm. What a wonderful thing!). I even did some spring-cleaning in light of all this springiness, sorting through clothing, getting rid of un-worn items, and scrubbing the ubiquitous rainy-season mold out of the nooks and crannies of my room.

The transformation has been rejuvenating, and has taught me a comforting lesson: that there are more similarities between home and abroad—between here and there—than initially meet the eye. They may be wrapped up in a different package, and may at first appear to be totally different, but inside they are just the same.