And what a year it was! I bid farewell to China, my home of just over a year, on my birthday last year. I think it happened to be the cheapest day to fly to Bangkok. The majority of the day was spent laid over in the Guangzhou airport (which is not the most exciting of places, by any measure). The night became a worthless expenditure of cab and rundown hostel costs for a “night out in Bangkok” that never happened; instead I got four hours of sleep inside a poorly rigged mosquito net before returning to the airport to head to Surat Thani at 6 am (I’ve since learnt my lesson and have spent two nights in the Bangkok airport in the past year). Definitely not the best birthday, but in a way it was an appropriate beginning to my big year of travel.
Things improved quickly (as I knew they would)! Reunited with Laura on Koh Phangan for some real celebrating at the Full Moon Party. Loved my first taste of Thailand (after exploring Koh Tao, Bangkok, and Ayutthaya) and felt confident in my plans to relocate here in the Spring. October was dedicated mostly to Nepal– what quickly became one of my favorite countries yet. I fell in love with Kathmandu, and then took part in one of the most challenging but rewarding travel experiences to date– the Everest Base Camp trek.
November was a whirlwind of India. Kolkata, where I spent most of my time in the bathroom (ha, I was going to say “on the toilet,” but anyone who’s been to India, or Asia for that matter, knows that depending where you are toilets may be few and far between. Also sorry for being crass? I mean. It’s India.); the retrospectively sillily short trip to Darjeeling; the 36-hour train ride; the ashram. The beaches of Goa, the boulders of Hampi, the five-photos from Mumbai. Camels in Jaipur, Taj Mahals in Agra, delis in Delhi (not really).
And then things settled down! I bid farewell to Wayne in the Delhi airport on December 2. And though my flight to London was delayed by almost 24 hours due to weather, before I knew it I was back home, and would be for four months. Looking back it’s hard to believe it was so long, but it was nice to have the time with my family, catch up with old friends, and make some new ones at my two new restaurant jobs. I got to celebrate Christmas with my family again, my roommates from Rome came to visit from San Francisco and Chicago for a few days, I saw my favorite band/celebrity crush and a fun/new (to me) band (something I was sorely missing outside the States), I made a few trips to the old stomping grounds down in Cville, and one to Minnesota to catch up with my family out there. And somehow in all these goings-on I made the money I needed to actually consider the move to Thailand.
And now I’ve been here nearly six whole months, aside from that little excursion back home for the wedding. Taught a whole term, visited some beaches, painted some walls, bought some furniture, collected some pets, buried one (*kisses finger, points to sky*), started a garden (read: took pictures while Wayne got his hands dirty), met a ton of great people (a few of whom have already moved on to bigger, better things), and even learnt to พูดภาษาไทยนิดน้อย (that’s pud pasathai nitnoi, or “speak a little Thai”). When I was twenty-three, it was a very good year.
Which means twenty-four has some big shoes to fill. I’m generally not big on birthdays (just another day, right?), but because this past year had such a memorable and official-feeling start it was hard not to do some reflecting. Of course it wasn’t all sunshine and roses, but I’ll take the lessons from the handful of lesser experiences and keep the myriad good memories in my mind’s eye (and… on my blog. Multiple times. So no one can ever forget them). Thanks to everyone who’s been a part of giving me such an excellent year, and who’s made the effort to stay close even when I’m so far. I can truly say I’m blessed to have so many wonderful people in my life.
That… took a little longer than I was expecting (not getting any less long-winded in my old age I guess) but I do have just a few quick things to share regarding the fresh new start I’m off to.
Item 1: Dinner
Since everyone knows the way to a lady (especially this lady)’s heart is through her stomach, Wayne played his cards right by cooking me a scrumptious pre-birthday dinner since we’d made plans with friends for the actual birthday dinner. Salmon steaks, roast potatoes, and salad with lettuce from our very own garden. Oh, and let’s not forget that bottle of tempranillo. Nice move, de Villiers. Nice move.
Item 2: Scorpions
There was definitely something missing from My Twenty-Fourth Year, and at the eleventh hour the situation was rectified. I hadn’t yet chased a scorpion from my kitchen! (Though we had been made aware of their presence in Thung Song.) The universe obviously saw that I was still in mourning after losing Jinx, and decided to give me the next best thing it seems. Or perhaps it was revealing the dastardly perpetrator that heartlessly took my darling rabbit from me. I don’t know. But I do know that in addition to (well before!) The Lion King I saw Honey, I Shrunk the Kids as a child, and from it I learnt that scorpions, not unlike the Wu Tang Clan, ain’t nothin’ to (I’ll censor this for you, parents) F with. But I think we all know what that F stands for.
And of course Trix, scared of her own shadow, was sniffing around to investigate. I wasn’t trying to lose two pets in one week, so he needed to go. Fearlessly I swept him out with the broom. This was made easier by the fact that he clasped onto the bristles. And to answer the question I know you’re all asking, Wayne was out buying salmon or my act of bravery probably would have never come to pass. But I waited for him to return before deciding ultimately what to do with it. Though it’s come back to haunt us before, we went the humane route by setting him free in a wild and uncertain environment.
Presents. I decided my PJs (with which I was attired during the present opening) are a little PG-13 so no photos. But Wayne got me shoes and paints, and dear old Mom sent me bracelets and a shirt from home so I’d have some prezzies to open :). Oh and I got stuff from some of the girls in town later on as well.
Breakfast? I thought it was cute how they served the toast and the teapot’s gorgeous (yes, oddly every time I order cappuccino here it comes with either a glass or a full pot of jasmine tea) so… there are photos.
Ah, the age-old and beloved tradition of finishing-one’s-grades-on-one’s-birthday. (Or not, as it turns out, but I’ll spare you the tragic tale of the last-minute unnecessary number scrawling involved today, the first of seven days I expected to come to work with absolutely zero work-related tasks to accomplish.)
Another dinner! The same TA I just mentioned in that semi-scathing remark is actually a lovely woman. For lunch a few weeks ago, she took David, some students, and I to this very-off-the-beaten-path restaurant some sweet lady has created out back of her house. It’s right along a little creek, as you can see, and the food is not only outstanding– it’s ridiculously cheaply priced. Once we were actually able to round everyone up and get them here (a task that seemed more daunting than it ended up being) we were in for quite a treat. Salads, soups, enormous steamed fish with garlic and chili, fried fish and chicken dishes, rice, shrimp, squid, beer… and 10 of us ate for 1580 baht. Total. ($53)
The night ended in more shenanigans at “Relak” bar (Thais don’t like “s” sounds on the end of words), and thus began the twenty-fifth year.