"Not all who wander are aimless. Especially not those who seek truth beyond tradition, beyond definition, beyond the image."

Wednesday, May 28

It's a Small World Afterall!

Ihave to start this by sharing my small world story! 1 night after I got to my new hostel, a group of us were out to dinner casually talking. I hadn't yet met the girl across from me so we introduced ourselves (Kristen) and it wasn't long before we were staring at each other in disbelief...she graduated from Rice in 07...2 years after me. Although I didn't reconize her straight away, we did know of each other in school. She was actually close friends with Kelly...which is even crazier! What are the chances!

ANYHOO... After my last blog, I relocated to Spicy Thai backpackers b/c I just wasn't feeling the other hostel. As soon as I pulled up, I couldn't help but smile. "Noom", the young owner who opened the place about 2 years ago came out front to greet me and instantly made me feel at home. It's in a converted house, with common "shoes off", "self-clean up" type rules, in a quiet neighboor and is full at all hours with fun backpackers keen to do anything. The first day here, I had a lazy day. Watching House episodes with some others and studying. That night, I went out to dinner with 2 Scottish guys I met and enjoyed one the best nights (weather wise) since I've been here. (Not that weather has been bad...but it was nice and cool). Sunday morning, there was a hostel trip planned to a Wat (Wat Doi Suthep) and a Lake. A few of us loaded up the SpicyThai truck and headed up the windey roads to the Wat. Noom gave us the history (and 'wat edicate') and I'm convinced we had the best tour of the whole lot (b/c Noom not only runs this place, he's a crazy fun taxi driver, tour guide and all around entertainer!). The Wat was beautiful and I still can't get over the extravant designs and gold finishings. I got a monk blessing and am super excited to explore this Buddist culture further (am thinking of doing a meditation retreat once my class is over). We headed back to the hostel to pick up the late-risers before heading to the Lake. Although the lake was a far cry from the clear waters that the pictures show (the clear waters are in Southern Thailand), it had a beautiful view of the mountains...and the tiny huts along the edges are a great local hangout...offereing shade, food, and drinks. Noom started off ordering some food for us all...and I couldn't help but notice the grin on his face. When the bowl of "dancing shrimp" came, it all made sense...live shrimp---a Thai favorite. After Noom shook 'em up to get them nice and spiced, he took a spoonful for himself and then offered them to us farangs (foreigners). While I couldn't bring myself to take a whole spoonful, I gave it a whirl! Why not! I have to say...they were pretty tasty (or the spices that covered them were anyways)...though, that wasn't the first word that came to mind when I pulled an antenna from my mouth a few seconds after I swollowed the poor guy down! After spending a few hours at the lake eating, swimming, playing frisbee, etc, etc, we made our way back to the truck and I got to ride rooftop!! The pictures will give you a clear picture but there is a rack on the top of the truck...4 people are allowed up top and it's AWESOME!! Mom and GG...stop reading...but we sat up there, holding on to the rack bars as Noom went over bumps, around circles and under tree branches in the park! Of course the particular branch he went under was loaded with red ants...so for the next few minutes, Lus and I were frantically trying to flick the ants off of each other and off the roof (as were driving down the normal road now!)! Hilarious. Driving in Thailand is interesting enough...I have yet to figure out why there are lines painted on the roads...no one pays attention to those. SO, riding rooftop was an entirely crazy experience! When we got back home, it was a mad rush for the showers before loading up the truck again and heading to the night market (not to be confused with the night bizaar). It was an adorable strip of vendors selling beautiful things...unfortunately, we only got to walk around for about 5 mintues before there was a mad scamble...the rain came with little warning so we followed suit and found selter with the rest of the crowds. It wasn't long before the rain was a full on monsoon....the lights went out and water was rushing everywhere...but just as quickly as it came, the rain past....but not in time for us to stick around. It was off to dinner with the group and then bed...which, on that particular night was the couch! Yep...the couch! The beds were all previously booked up before I showed up here...so they offered me (and 4 others that night) a place on the couch or in the living room! It was like a college sleep over! So fun! The next morning, I met Danielle and Lena at the airport and our whirlwind adventure began. After we settled on a "family vehicle" b/c the jeep that Dan reserved was taken, we headed off to do a scenic loop of Northern Thailand. Turns out we did a scenic loop of the city first...about 3 times! 3 smart cookies and we couldn't find the roads we needed! By the end of the trip, we realized it was the maps (we are pretty sure they are made up as a joke) and not our horrible sense of direction! We eventually got on the right roads and were headed off to Chiang Doa....passing lots of beautiful mountains, rice fields, wats and villages on the way. We made a stop in Chiang Doa to get some "ahaun" (food) and had a blast putting my Thai phrasebook to use! Outside of the city, English speakers are rare so we really had to manage...which we did quite well. I have to say, there is nothing more satisfying that successfully communicating! After our roadside lunch (a pork and noodle stew), we headed to the caves...complete with our lantern and tour guide, the 3 of us made our way through the bat-filled caves...often crawling though spaces in which our tour guide would say "too small" then immediately start making her way through! Oh, the beauty of language barriers! We carried on driving after the caves, occassionally stopping to take in the sights....which many times consisted of small, adorable children that I wanted to kidnap....and occassionally rolling very slowly through road checks/blocks....even though no one seemed interested in stopping us...we didn't want to upset the small men with the big guns so we gave them plenty of time to wave us down as we passed! We made it back to our hotel around 11:30 that night and took off the next morning for Doi Inthanon National Park...another scenic route (mountains and waterfalls) up to the highest peak in Thailand. The road that we took to our next destination was hardly a road...and I commend Dan's "4-wheel driving in a 2-wheel drive vehicle" skills! It was actually scary at times...and we were unsure if the road would just vanish at any moment. But, we made it out safe and sound and I have now become familiar with the Thai maps, roads, and signs....or lack thereof! It was great to see Dan and Lena and was awesome to get out of the city for a bit. I came home last night in time to go to an all-you-can-eat Thai BBQ with the hostel clan...which was crazy interesting! Rows and rows of cooked food, raw food, veggies, meats, fruits...a small charcoal cooker between a few people which you use to cook the meat (and other things that may or may not have been cooked already!). You fill the outer edges with water which eventually becomes a very tasty brooth...and enjoy! Not sure what's on the schedule for the next few days...maybe a Thai cooking class...maybe riding elephants...maybe just studying....maybe soccer with Noom and other locals...but surely more entertaining times with Spicy thai backpackers and staff!

My first:
Taste of "dancing shrimp", pork intestine, Banana pancake, Leechi fruit, waffle wrapped banana (on a stick), roadside cafe meal (x2)
encounter with a squatting toilet (see pictures)
Thai BBQ
Monk blessing
Wat tour
Roadside Elephant sighting
Monsoon (x2)

Successfully communicated (in Thai...not gestures):
Toliet, Cave, yes, no, right & left (direction), food, pork, chicken, thank you, hello, how much
Will attempt loading pictures onto my shutterfly in a few minutes: http://www.janellecrowley.shutterfly.com/
Love to all!

Friday, May 23


Josh and I in the tuk-tuk taxi

Sorry it's taken me so long to get out an "I'm fine" out...but I'm alive, well and loving it. Well, except for the fact that I just typed an entire blog post and lost it. Ugh! Let's see. Got a train to JFK airport at 8am wedneday. Took a few deep breaths on the way...more so because I thought I Should be nervous! Wasn't long before the guy in front of me at check in started talking to me...Wanye--came to Thailand over 20 years ago, fell in love and now holds residency. He quieted any fears I may have had and totally put me at ease. A few more deep breaths in line to board the plane but as soon as I hit the jet way (or gangway...or whatever it's called), it was all smiles! I had to keep myself from jumping up and down and running down the jet way! And once I boarded, the giddyness just intensified! The crew was so friendly, smiley and welcoming! And the plane and the crews' uniforms were SO colorful...how can you NOT smile?! I didn't sleep a wink on the plane and am not sure how I'm functioning right now! The plane ride flew by (no pun intended :) ) despite my inbility to sleep. Watched a few movies, learned Thai (they had a berlitz language game on the personal screen...how cool!), studied and ate! The native next to me was very friendly and helped me with my Thai pronounciation...and gave me her contact info insisiting that I call if I need help. I spoke with the girl across the isle towards the end of the flight...again, very friendly. She took my contact info and wants me to work (teach english) for her family business once I'm done with the course. What?! Not even landed yet and have a tenative job offer?! Sweet! Wayne was waiting for me when we landed and walked with me to our connecting flight (yes, we were on the same connecting flight!) and gave me his contact info in case I need anything! I PASSED OUT on the quick flight to Chiang Mai (CM) but was woken for my snack (they definitely don't let you sleep through meals!) and in time to see the beauitful landscape below. The sun was setting over the mountains as we were landing and I knew right away I picked the right city. I overheard an English guy (josh) behind me looking for a hostel so I introduced myself and invited him to come along to this hostel. Getting through "customs" was boarderline a joke...not sure why I was so worried about that! The hostel wasn't waiting at the airport so Josh and I jumped in a taxi and paid a crazy $2 for the ride! The hostel is more than doable...big bed, my own bathroom/shower, ac--though despite what I heard, they do not speak english! I like the hostel but it's not a great location and lacks that backpacker buzz (it's kinda quiet) so I may move in a day or 2 but we'll see) I met up with Josh and we wondered around the old city in search of the "highlighted" area on our map! We passed some crazy food vendors along the way that were selling foods I don't even think I could try once. Passed some beautiful Wats (temples) but couldn't get the full affect since it was dark (9pm). Eventually jumped in a tuk-tuk taxi and were loving it! They took us to the night bazaar and I was instantly amazed! Vendors selling everything and anything for crazy cheap (it was "mad" as my adorable, adoted reminder of phil Brit guy kept saying!). Found a place to eat...appeared to by "fancy-ish" and had locals inside so we went for it. Chicken with noodles and soya sauce....d-e-l-i-c-i-o-u-s. Crazy fresh...I swear they must have made the noodles right then. They even had a band singing english songs and they kept urging me and josh to sing along...which we did!! Found a bar after that...and enjoyed an awesome mai tai. Found a strip of indoor bars later and it felt like we were walking down the red carpet...everyone waving, smiling, cheering...some even grabbed josh's arm. We were cracking up! They had a muay thai (boxing) ring in the middle of all the bars but we just missed the match (??)...all in good time! Josh stayed to brave the night and I went home and crashed. Passed out..until 4:30am. I'm getting by on such little sleep it's ridiculous! Hopefully my body clock will adjust soon. I just enjoyed my free breakfast...delicious...and met a girl from Michigan who is interning here. She gave me a few more helpful hints and we will hopefully meet up for dinner in the next few nights.
So far,
I've mastered "thank-you", "please", "trash", "hello", and "bar" (okay...that ones easy) in Thai
Accepted the fact that bug spray is my new lotion/purfume
I've taken a taxi ride for $2
ridden in a tuk-tuk...for $1.50
gotten a bottle of water for less than 25 cents
had a delicious (and huge) meal for less than $2.50
--guess it's true! It really is that cheap!
Not sure what today has in store but I'll keep you posted. Think I'm just going to lay low, study, get to know the city a bit until Danielle comes in a few days.

Wednesday, May 21

Tomorrow, Tomorrow...only a day away!

I'd be lying if I said "I can't believe I'm leaving tomorrow". Not that I "don't believe it"...just that it hasn't hit me. And as one KDL pointed out, it probably won't hit me until the trip has come and gone. Though, I'm bound to have some kind of overflow of emotion on the plane tomorrow...if not there, than certainly in the Thailand airport! For now, I'm very cool, calm and collected. And no...that's not the Woodchuck cider talking! I've had a great few days visiting with friends and family...even got a small dose of my Merig cousins activities (soccer for Dreya, tennis for Galen, Recorder concert for Tari...and non-stop entertainment from Caleb). I'm catching an 8am train to JFK airport in the morning...then my 17 hour plane adventure begins at 11:35am. I'm feeling a bit of a sore throat coming on...which would not be my ideal way to start this trip...but I'm prepared with all the mommy medicines and will hopefully have this thing beat...either that or it will fester for 17 hours on the plane and I'll feel like crap when I land :) But hey, lets think positive, shall we?! Fabulous. In case there are others out there as worried as the mother (grandma...), you'll be happy to know that I'm registered with the US embassy in Thailand...so they have all my info (and dad's) in case they need to get in contact with me/him.

My address from June 2nd-June 27th (the center won't accept mail for me after this date):

Janelle Crowley [CELTA course]
Nugent Waterside
39-39/1 Moo 9
Ban Phe Doi Tham
Tambon Nam Prae,
Amphur Hang Dong,
Chiang Mai

If you get the urge to send a letter (no need to send parcels...Aunt Joyce, I traded 2 t-shirts for some underwear! :) )...you'll be required by the post shop to recite my address 5 times before you can send it :) Good luck!

So long...farewell...something, something, something...adieu

Thursday, May 8

T-Minus 7 days

Well, well! Who would have thunk I'd be returning to the blogging world after such a long absence! But, here I sit exactly 1 week before heading out! For those of you who are in the dark, I'm going to Chiang Mai, Thailand to take a 4-week TEFL (teaching english as a foreign language) course...and then, hopefully to...well, TEACH! My bags (or should I say BAG...If I learned anything from my NZ travels, it's to pack LIGHT!) are nearly packed and all the paperwork is done. I have a few things left to take care of (selling my car...all too familiar!) but I imagine the next week will mostly consist of studying (I have a whole packet of work I have to get through before the start of the course!) and maintaining a constant, steady buzz! Once again...all too familiar! It's how I prepared for Australia and NZ...and I don't see how this trip should be any different! Mr. Woodchuck has a way of keeping my mind at ease. Hey! Don't judge...you'd prolly be doing the same if you were preparing to get on a 17 hour flight to a country where you know no one...and can only hope they speak a little English! That being said, I couldn't be more excited! I'll be maintaining this blog the way I did from NZ. Pictures and posts when I can to keep anyone interested up-to-date. I don't like imposing with mass e-mails so I'll leave it up to you! Save the website for a rainy day! I'm leaving FL May14th...leaving Houston May 17th...and leaving NY (JFK-Chiang Mai) May 21st.

Here goes nothin...come along for the ride when you can! It might get pretty interesting!