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Exploring La Rioja; San Vicente de la Sonsierra Wine Festival.

Road trip! To get to La Rioja region of Spain we passed through 3 different counties; Cantabria, Pais Vasco and Alava. It took about 3 hours driving in total and on the way we stopped off for a coffee in Islares. Unfortunately it was raining but the bay would be stunning were it sunny;

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We arrived at about 11am in San Vicente de la Sonsierra, where the wine festival was taking place. We paid 5€ for the day and this included a wine glass in a holder to carry it round your neck for the day and 5 tokens to get into 5 bodegas (wineries.) The town had put on a free bus to pick us up and collect us too but we soon worked out it was quicker and simpler to walk around to each place. The first winery we stopped at was called Ramirez de Inoriza. Here they had lots of tapas laid out and you could try a few different wines. I prefer white so had that one, even though most of the wine this region produces is usually red. Here is a guide I found online about the different types of wine available in La Rioja, taken from winefolly.com. At this winery they didn’t really explain the process so we took our wine with us and walked along the road to the next one.

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This one was called Ramirez de la Piscina. Here you could sit at the bar and try all the wines. I was surprised to see a rose, as most Spaniards I have spoken to about wine think Rose isn’t really wine. This one was good though! Next we were taken on a tour of the winery and explained how making wine has changed over the years. It was all explained in very quick fire Spanish but I think I picked up the majority of what was said. Here is a picture of a sheep skin leather, which was how they used to transport wine in the olden days. And of me using an old grape press.

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Viña Ane was the next Bodega. This one is quite famous in the region as its Author wine is used and promoted by famous Chef Juan Mari in his restaurant Arzak in San Sebastian. Here I tried the red wine, it was okay. We walked around and saw all the many oak barrels and the owner of the winery was friendly and spoke slowly in Spanish so that I could understand.

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After lots of wine tasting at about 3pm we headed to the next town to have a siesta. On the way we saw an Osborne Bull, originally used to advertise the Osborne Sherry company.

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In the evening we returned to San Vicente de la Sonsierra for more wine! We went to visit the Olmaza winery, and this was the first one that had the vineyard attached to the bodegas so we could see the grapes growing. The people in this winery were super friendly and it was run by the whole family. I had broken my glass (it dropped off the chair I put it on) so they gave me one if theirs and explained how they like to harvest the grapes by hand. They get the whole family together in September or October, depending on sun etc, and all go around picking the best grapes. Most of their oak barrels come from France.  They also showed me a porrón, a glass jug with a thin spout used to drink wine. The owner showed me how to drink from it then I asked him to do it again so I could take a photo;

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The last bodega was located inside the little town and was one of the oldest wineries of the area, called Teodoro Ruiz Monge since 1870. Here they only had red on offer to try, and I was really impressed. It was very smooth and the best one I had tried so far. I asked why it was like that and it’s because they use older methods of using the whole grape rather than crushing it.

In the evening we went to the Plaza Mayor, the main square to hear some more information about wines and to see a blind tasting, where an expert had 3 red wines to try and to guess which wine was which. At sunset, around 9.30pm we climbed to the top of San Vicente de la Sonsierra where there is an old church, La iglesia de Santa María la Mayo, thought to be built in the 1600’s. The views of the old buildings with the vineyards in the background were impressive…

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At 10pm the town had organised a group of Russian dancers to perform. They were quite young but so in time with each other and looked amazing! They did quite a few dances and the night ended around midnight when we made our way back to the hotel to sleep.

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I feel like my Spanish improved dramatically this weekend, but that could be the wine helping!

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Exploring Cantabria; Puente Viesgo, Ontaneda and Santander in the rain.

Thursday morning was spent sleeping and resting from my sprained ankle from the day before. I was feeling better and was itching to get out by Thursday evening so after lunch at around 4pm we headed to Puente Viesgo, that won Cantabrias’ Best Town award in 2007. It’s very small and pretty and set within a backdrop of hills.

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A bridge goes over a fast flowing river and there is a path that goes along the river heading into the village. The town itself has a town hall, church, a few bars and one shop, a posh hotel and an old peoples home and Spanish homes, that is pretty much it. It was nice to wander around for an hour or so.

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Nearby is a village called Ontaneda. If you were going by car along the main road you could blink and miss it. However it is famous for its Helado (ice cream.) Helados Lopez and family have been selling icecreams in a tienduca since 1895 and there was a queue to get inside. I chose a scoop of toffee and a scoop of chocolate and it was yummy!

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Today we had plans to get up early and explore the coastal path in Santander however the weather had other ideas. I was told not to have breakfast as we were going out for it! We went to Santander by train (40 mins) and had breakfast in Valor, a chocolateria specialising in Churros con chocolate. I had tried these before when I lived in Madrid (at Chocolate San Gines, Sol) but these ones were with a thicker chocolate sauce that was more on the dark side than milky. It was a great breakfast and prepared us for all the walking we were meant to do.

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It started to drizzle as we walked around town, seeing the townhall, library and cathedral. We also visited Mercado Esperanza, the local market where fresh fish, meat and fruit and veg are sold.

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As we started to walk around to the coast the rain got fiercer so we saw the first beach and the Raqueros monuments.

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We eventually hid in a Chiringita and had a clara and tortilla. The rain began to pour so we gave up on walking the coast and got a bus back to the train station and the train back to Torrelavega. After a bit of shopping we returned home. I am now getting ready for the weekend ahead, a festival of wine tasting in La Rioja region! More food, more wine and more exploring to do! (Photo below of sunset, view from my window last night!) It’s still raining this evening….

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Exploring Cantabria; San Vicente de la Barquera, Trasvía and Comillas.

On Wednesday I went for a run around Puente San Miguel in the morning then after breakfast wrote my blog until Francisco finished work. Then all 3 of us went out exploring again. First stop was San Vicente de la Barquera, a coastal town close to Asturias. We stopped for Tapas in a renovated old fishing bar called La Pescador. We ended up with raciones (larger portions of tapas) of Sarten de Carne, huevos rotos y patatas. It arrived at the table as a pan filled with fried potatoes, mincemeat that had chorizo in too and then 2 fried eggs on top. It was delicious. Francisco had Sardines and Jane had strips of pork in garlic with potatoes. After food we walked along the coast, admiring how dry the place looked with the tide out and seeing all the stranded little fishing boats.

IMG_20150805_154133 IMG_20150805_172052 We then walked up hills of cobbled streets to the old town, following the signs of the Camino de Santiago, as this town (as well as the towns explored yesterday) are part of the 760km pilgrimage. We saw a few pilgrims completing that part of the walk later in the evening looking very tired in the heat!

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In the old town there is a castle called Castillo del Rey but the biggest monument is a huge gothic church, Iglesia de Nuesta Señora de los Angeles. As both are built high up there are incredible views of the surrounding sea and countryside as well as typically Spanish houses with orange tiled roofs.

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Comillas is another seaside town, though this is meant to be where the rich people buy their second houses, and each try to outdo each other with giant, over the top, homes. One of these is El Capricho de Gaudi. A home designed completely over the top by Gaudi that resembles Parc Guell in Barcelona. Its very colourful and has tiny tiles on the outside of the house decorated with sunflowers. The owner of the house was a musician so the balcony is made from metal musical notes. It looks like something out of a fairy tale! IMG_20150805_185500 IMG_20150805_185503 Next door to this house, is one completely the opposite, the Gothic Palacio and Capilla Panteόn de Sobrellano. If Gaudis is from a fairy tale then this one is from a nightmare. The palace is dark and looms over a hill facing the town of Comillas. Next to the palace, the owners only Son died and so they built a gothic church where he is buried. IMG_20150805_190911 IMG_20150805_190818_BURST002 IMG_20150805_190154

Other sights in Comillas were the Monumento al Marques de Comillas, comemorating the marqui of Comillas, which sits on another hill overlooking the surf. Also the Lluis Doménech i Montaner and Josep Llimona Cemetry which looks out to sea too.

IMG_20150805_180634 IMG_20150805_180755IMG_20150805_180809 After we returned to the house I tried a Sobao, a sponge cake specific to Cantabria with a glass of fresh milk from the cows outside the house.

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Exploring Cantabria; Suances, Playa de los Locos and Santillana del Mar

I woke up on Tuesday very well rested after a long sleep. It was about 1130am so I came downstairs to find a feast of fresh fruit, cereal, homemade bread, honey, jam, local milk from the cows nearby etc laid out on the table and a written note from Jane explaining she had gone out and will come back ready for 3pm when Francisco finished work, so to eat lots and then we would go out exploring.

I couldn’t believe how many nice beaches and bars are located nearby. The first place we went to was called Suances.

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Jane and Francisco took me to a bar for Tapas. We had tortilla again and this time something marvelous. I had never heard of it before, despite living in a Madrid, and am so thankful I have tried such yummy new food, called Tigres (literally tigers in English, with even spanish people not knowing why they are called that.) They are mussels with half their shell on in a green thick sauce then coated in bechamel sauce and breadcrumbs and deep fried. I took a picture because I knew my description wouldn’t do it justice.

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Unfortunately my picture doesn’t such just how tasty they are, like a fishy croqueta!

We went for a walk after the tapas and clara along the seafront, enjoying the views. We then went for a 5 minute drive away to see Playa de los Locos (beach of the crazies!) called this for the big waves and many surfers. The bay is cut with white rocks and you walk down many stairs to a grassy area then a sandy beach and, on that day, huge waves! The surfers looked like they were having so much fun! We walked around watching them and learning lots about the area from Jane and Francisco. It seems my job here is to enjoy exploring, spending time with them and having conversations in English and Spanish. I love to talk and Jane is so interesting that this is probably the perfect role for me, I feel like I am on holiday!

Next stop was Santillana del Mar, known as the place of the 3 lies; it is not related to any saints (Santi) neither is it flat (llana) nor by the sea (del Mar.) However it is an old small town thats very pituresque and typically Spanish with cobbled streets and stunning architecture. We wondered about the old town, enjoying the scenery and trying some more tapas, this time ensalada russa, russian salad that was mainly potato, tuna and vegetable in mayonaise, with bread. The best part was that most of the cobbled streets lead to a huge (un cacho de) Colegiata (Something like a church or cathedral with columns surrounding it.) There were many quirky shops where I bought some gifts for home and a really nice pottery place too.

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In the evening we returned to the house and Jane made a salad with chorizo y picos and other tapas style dishes. For dessert I tried something traditional to Cantabria, called a Quesada Paisega. This one was from the local shop that only sells quesada and had been making them there since 1891. A quesada is the consistency of cheesecake but it doesn’t have cheese or gelatin inside. It tastes like a sweet, slightly lemony, thick pancake and was so delicious! Its typical to have it with a glass of milk and many tourists in Santillana del Mar were trying it this way!

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What is HelpX? Help exchange explained and arrival in the North of Spain

I haven’t written a blog post in over a year (stopped in Australia as decent internet connection on the road became a big issue!) but since I am now traveling alone again I thought I would keep people updated. I left England 3 days ago for sunny Spain, to join a HelpX in Cantabria, in the north of Spain. Before I left many friends and family were asking  what is helpx and is it safe etc so I will give a brief overview of the site and what I am doing here!

This is the actual website for help exchange; http://www.helpx.net

Its a very simple idea in that people who want to volunteer (helpxers) create a profile similar to facebook, describing themselves, what jobs they are good at and what they like to do in their spare time, where they want to travel and for how long. Similarly, people who want to have helpers come into their home/business create a host profile with what help they need, what the accommodation is like and how much work per day.

It’s an exchange because volunteers usually work for 4 hours a day in return for free accommodation and food, though sometimes this differs depending on hosts’ needs. It costs 20EURO to join for 2 years.

I knew I wanted to go to Spain as I wanted to improve my Spanish language, it has been 5 years since I lived in Madrid and I feel like I am forgetting it all without practice! Since I had already explored Madrid and surrounds and quite a lot of the South I chose to come to the North. My host had advertised that she has been learning English for the past 5 years but wanted more help in pronunciation and to practice speaking fluently. I have a TEFL certificate, have previously taught English in Thailand and conversation classes in Madrid, plus have a British accent and want to practice Spanish too so it was a good match! We emailed each other explaining what we were looking for and my host had space for 10 days in August so here I am! HelpX is also great in that you get to be a part of a different culture and live how a local does.

I am staying in a cute house in the countryside in a place called Puente San Miguel that is almost at the end of the FEVE (local train) line from Santander.

Here is the view from my room; behind that hill is the sea!

View from window

There are lots of cows here, I ran past these guys this morning…

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I flew in to Bilbao airport and my flight arrived at 11pm. My host had found a bus from Bilbao centre that arrived near her house at 1am but I didn’t think there would be enough time to collect my luggage etc and get to the city so I decided to book into a hostel and go to hers on Monday morning. Luckily I did do that as the bus leaving the airport dropped me into town and then metro had already closed so I was looking for a taxi to get to the hostel instead and didn’t arrive until 1am there.

On Monday morning I caught an ALSA bus from Bilbao coach station (San Mames on metro) to Santander bus station which took about an hour and a half. I recommend booking in advance in the summer as I didn’t and I was lucky enough to get the last seat for 7Euro. From there I caught the FEVE (local train) to Puente San Miguel (about 45 mins and cost 2.50euro) where my host, Jane, met me. Straight away she was kind and talkative and took me for tapas in a local bar. We had a clara (like a shandy) and tortilla espanola con atun, a tuna and potato omlette. Her husband, Francisco picked us up in the car and took us to their house! Once settled we went for a walk around the surrounding countryside and it is stunningly beautiful. Lots of green hills, cows, sheep and trees. It is also very peaceful. In town we stopped for another drink before heading up the hill back to the house for dinner. Jane had prepared a salad, chorizo, lots of barbecue meat and all was delicious. We sat up to the table and talked for hours, in a mixture of Spanish and English (both Jane and Francisco are fluent in both.) I even had a quick spanish lesson into wines and some lovely tasters too. After staying in a hostel and late arrival the night before I had the laziest sleep ever, and didn’t wake up until 13 hours later. Cantabria and the countryside is so peaceful!

Countryside view

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Home is where the heart is…

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My “home home” as I like to call it, will always be Khandala Gardens, at least until my parents move out, [or I officially do – like move EVERYTHING from my room, which as my friends know will be a huge task and will probably never happen] but after living in Thailand for 8 months, it’s also become a home.

I’m back to my little town at an address I don’t even have except it’s known as San Fan Resort in Khaochaison, next to the hot springs. Even though my road is long and windy, it’s a back road and as far as I can tell it doesn’t have a name. (My post is sent to the council offices of the town.)

And being back here, and already starting school again seems like my time at “home home” was just a dream. What a fantastic dream though! I did nothing much out of the ordinary, spent time with friends, family, went to Cheltenham to see my extended family, and enjoyed every day life, making the most of being in the UK again! And planning new adventures for October. I was there for 3 weeks only and I advise anyone making the trip back to take longer holidays! I definitely needed a week longer, I was saying my goodbyes before I’d even finished my hellos it felt like. And I cried at the airport leaving. My luggage etc was ready but my heart wasn’t. I’d spent so long looking forward to returning home and counting down the days that I hadn’t given any thought on returning, except it being a little way off, and it came round sooo quickly.

Incase you didn’t guess already this post is going to be all sentimental.

Returning home and coming back out here again made me realise how much support I have from friends and family. My parents have always encouraged me to travel and have never held me back from fulfilling dreams, even when I was 18 and went to Sri Lanka by myself to work with elephants for 3 months! They knew it’s something I had always wanted to do and made it possible for me. This time round they are always on facebook, skype etc keeping in regular contact, and sending things in the post that I can’t find out here. Also mum was keeping count of the days until I was back home too. (And has already worked out when I will next see them, this time in Thailand, in 20 weeks tomorrow.)

Also friends have been fab, always keeping in contact and taking time off work at home to spend more time with me, and helping out such as cooking roast dinners and picking me up. I realise how lucky I am, knowing that everyone back home is eager to hear about my adventures and looks forward to seeing me (whether I’m at home or they come here to visit!) It makes life away a lot easier, as I am still part of their lives, and they are in mine, we’re just separated a bit by a few thousand miles (8,765 according to google maps – Portsmouth to Phattalung.)

I want to end on a happy note and I’ve been seeing lots of quotes recently – this one means the most to me and is written by Mark Twain;

Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do rather than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines, sail away from the safe harbour and catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.

I knew I’d regret it if I didn’t come out here in the first place, and so it was definitely the right decision! Making the decision to stay longer just means i love it here and it’s time for more adventures (or teaching…)

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Welcome home Roast with friends, cooked by Ryan, Chantal and Prawn.

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Catch up meal with Louise and Paul

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Catch up dinner with Jayne

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Paul and I train journey to london

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In the O2 arena in London with Chantal

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Goodbye meal with friends

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Goodbye meal with Mum and Dad

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Songkran

Sa-wad-dee-pee-mai jow!!! Happy New year Thailand!

I’m now into the 3rd day of celebrating Thai new year (Songkran) which involves everybody regressing to children to join in the biggest water fight ever! I believe waterfights are held all over Thailand but in Chiang Mai its mainly around the moat area. Tonns of people joined in, kids, old men, grannies, monks, thais and foreigners all come to together to soak each other over and over. All the bars are open, music blaring, and ice cold water is smashed into your face, whilst someone cheerfully calls out happy new year! Its a really happy celebration, and i think the best part is everyone joins in, no one is exempt. In fact the rule at the hostel was if someone’s dry they’re just asking to be soaked! In the morning everyone in the hostel worked together to terrorise the people on the main road outside. Our rules were not in the faces of people driving mopeds (dangerous) but passengers were definitely allowed a facefull.  Old western men with young Thai brides, people wearing tie-dye and people with football shirts of opposite teams were all decided by the people in the hostel as good targets too! The best was when a songtaow full of people (public busses) went by whereby the driver would slow down so we could launch buckets of water through the windows, great fun!

In the afternoon we made our way to Tha Pae gate, where everyone was on foot. There were huge stages with music pumping out and there had been a huge foam party, and people were going along on floats giving out free stuff; hats, water pistols and plastic cases so things didn’t get wet! The amount of people there was crazy, and water was constantly being dunked on us from all directions, some of it dirty river water, some with ice in that was freezing, some perfumed that people used little silver containers to pour on us so we were blessed. We stopped in a bar to refuel with water, and had a few drinks and jelly shots, then carried on to follow the crowd and ended up at the end of a procession through the old town, where all the more religious celebrations were happening. People danced in thai dress, and the monks sat outside the temples blessing people with holy water.

In the evening all the water from the songkran festivities had turned into rain showers, as the humidity had soaked all the water up. Ironically people were soaked from water fights but still walking around with umbrellas. When the sun went down people stopped playing and the saturday night market opened up right near the hostel, so i was able to buy lots of gifts and souvenirs.

Sorry for lack of photos, didn’t want to risk camera getting soaked too! Below; Some of the guests at the hostel, and Monkey playing in a bucket (Owners of the hostel daughter!)

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Sa-wad-dee-pee-my! Happy New Year!

I was able to celebrate New Year twice over! On Friday 28th December school closed for the students “exhibition and party.” This meant all the students moved over to the Tesaban (council offices) where a huge party was held. Each class performed a dance on stage and played games to win prizes. Lunch was served with fizzy drinks, ice cream and doughnuts and the children finished at midday.

Nursery kids performing

At 1.30pm i began my transformation… I was taken to a salon to have my hair and makeup done. My hair was pulled into a tight bun on top of my head and the makeup was bright eyes and red lipstick, and they also shaved my eyebrows (?) The rest of the day was spent  getting most of the teachers into thai costume, so that in the evening, at the Tesaban party we were able to perform a thai dance on stage. My costume was a gold long skirt, and a red top, but I really loved the hair. A huge (fake) bun was put on top with lots of flowers and pretty ribbon.

Myself, Teacher Wa and Teacher JaiTeachers in traditional Thai costume!

That evening I went on stage with an umbrella hiding my face so that when I started the dance it was a surprise to everyone it was me! Everyone cheered and I was later told quite a lot of people were surprised i did it. I wasn’t on my own though, Teacher Jai and head teacher Panida performed our dance with me then we moved to the back of the stage and the other teachers came on and did different dances. Thank you to Teacher Sao for teaching me how to Thai dance, i hoped i performed okay!

Real New Years Eve was spent in Koh Samui, with Paul and James who were visiting from England. It was great to be with them, and we had plans to go to the Full Moon NYE party on Koh Phangan. The boat was booked for 9pm, so we were rushing around buying alcohol and neon tshirts to get in the party mood! Also that day there was no power or water in our hotel so everything was quite late by the time we got ready. We waited in the hotel lobby for the tour guide to pick us up, and had heard that all the boats were running late because of the rain and nasty weather (it had rained most of the afternoon.)

When i phoned the company (because they were late) we were assured someone was on they way to us. Then half an hour later the guy we booked with came to us himself to say sorry but hes decided not to run the boats across because of the bad weather meaning big waves. He said if we still wanted to go there were other companies who would take our money and get us there, but they weren’t concerned with safety, and last year 2 boats had crashed. We decided it wasn’t meant to be so took a full refund and then headed to Ark Bar on Koh Samui beach for partying.

It was packed! Me and James stuck to drinking Spy (wine) and Paul got a bucket of Samsong (whiskey) and redbull. He threw most of it on the floor throughdrunkeness/not liking the taste of it! The countdown was really good because we were able to see all the fireworks going off all around the beach. As we thought we were going to Koh Phagnan we’d taken with us disposable cameras (safer.) We filled 3 up, but will have to wait a while to get them developed, to see what we actually took photos of on the night.

Paul, me and James

Best wishes for the year ahead guys, may 2013 be eventful as 2012 was!

Categories: Exploring Thailand, Festivals, Teaching Thailand- Government School, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , | 1 Comment

Happy Birthday to the King! (Festival)

A sky full of lanterns/wishes

Happy Birthday to the King of Thailand, Bhumibol Adulyadej, also known as King Rama IX, whose 85th birthday was celebrated yesterday! Thai people love their King, so I knew the celebrations would be big as here it is a national holiday, as well as Fathers Day.

 

The day time was spent catching up on things like washing and food shopping, and I also went to Phattalung with Madam and Teacher Pen so that they could buy a yellow shirt to wear that night. Yellow (see luang in thai) is the colour for the King, and was worn by everyone! Luckily I had a yellow dress that Madam had bought me when I first arrived here.

 

The night time celebrations were held in the Mattayom (Secondary) school in Khaochaison, right next to where Teacher Lee, Nonku and the new teacher Chay all live (and they are all from South Africa and teach English at the secondary school.) So I rode my moped over to them and we walked to the school from there. As we arrived we were given candles and pieces of paper shaped like a heart and told to write our names. I still don’t really know why but we did. Then we posed with lots of students, both mine and secondary, as they were all excited to see the farang (western) teachers out!

Mattayom students performingTeachers and student performers. Nonku, myself, Lee and Chay

On the school field a huge stage had been erected with a screen behind that was showing the Kings Birthday speech. For 85, he looked good! Wish I could have understood it, but everyone at the school seemed very moved by it. We got hungry and there was lots of stuff we didn’t understand, so we left briefly to go get dinner at the local place we always seem to end up in. I had crispy fried pork with morning glory (a green leaf.)

Me with my students in costume ready to perform!

When we returned the night was getting interesting, students ran up to us to tell us and help us light the candles we were given earlier. Then a tonn of fireworks went off, and it was a really good display. Afterwards students from all the schools nearby performed dances, once again in different costumes with lots of makeup on! Even 3 year old nursery students did a thai dance of their own and looked fabulous!

 

After all the dances everyone watching was invited on to the field and we were all given huge chinese lanterns, to light using the candles. This was by far the best bit and most magical part of the evening. Hundreds of lanterns filled the sky with peoples wishes. I’d never done it before so it was really nice to be part of such a huge group sending them off at the same time. Welit many lanterns that evening and helped the students. Also the cameras seemed to like us and we kept being filmed for the big screen and we were constantly invited to join in with the next lighting of each lantern!

 

Once again Thank You to Khaochaison school for a wonderful evening, and Happy Birthday to King Rama IX. Best wishes for the year ahead!Nonku, myself and Lee with a chinese lantern My student and me! Myself and Teacher Lee

Categories: Exploring Thailand, Festivals, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

Boundaries

So I’ve been here 2 months now, my life has order and most of the time i know what I’m doing.

 

Saturday was a day spent relaxing and watching movies, as well as a moped ride around town to take photos of the temples and explore a bit on my own. In the evening I met up with Lee and Nonku, the South African teachers in the secondary school in Khaochaison. They have puppies!!! Their dogs who live with them have had 2 separate litters, so 14 in total, but 2 have been rehomed already. So for a while I played with the puppies then we went to dinner in a local restaurant and I had Pad Khao Pow Gai. Rice with chicken in a gravy sauce that wasn’t spicy. Afterwards we walked back to their house and heard music coming from the secondary school, and there were lots of people about, so Lee and I went to check it out.

 

In the school there were so many people! Lots of hippies and bikers with dreads. Also lots of students. Everyone was drinking and smoking, and it was mainly men, with a live band (students) playing thai music. They were quite good! We deduced it was some kind of bikers convention, but wierd that they all wanted to come to Khaochaison, and that ti was held in a school! Lee and I sat on chairs and watched for a while while all the people were in groups in circles, sat cross legged on the floor, with the alcohol shared in the middle. A group asked us to join them so we sat in their circle and chatted for a bit. After a while the alcohol took effect and lots of people were dancing. I got asked to dance so was dancing too in a group when I realised the Mayor was staring across the room right at me, whilst i was dancing and drinking beer. (As a female teacher I’m not meant to drink in public here.) I thought UHOH.. better go say hi. Left my beer and went over and he seemed happy that I was happy. Other male teachers and policemen were there too. Then Lee starts receiving phonecalls from his neighbour saying its not safe, and too dangerous for us to be there. I think it was because Madam was worried about me so Lee told them we were with the Mayor, and there was police and it was fine. Everyone was really friendly towards us. Also there was a guy there with dreads almost to the floor, and he was dressed like a pirate, the Thai version of Cap’n Jack Sparrow! Eventually the music finished and there was an awards ceremony, we couldn’t understand anything then so we left, and the Mayor made one of the teacher escort me home on my moped.

 

On Sunday Madam arrived early to pick me up and we went to a place called Tale Noi, its a huge lake with lots of birds and a very pretty place. There was a small local market too, but it started raining so didn’t get to see as much as we hoped.

Also on Sunday a new teacher arrived, called Ana who will be in the Secondary school, but living in the hut to mine. Shed literally arrived in Thailand that day and was pretty anxious so Madam and I took her for dinner and tried to find out more about her.

 

This week at school has been good,  though the little angels halos are getting a bit tarnished! I guess the new teacher phase is wearing off because now the children are being loud. I’ve had to scream silence at the top of my voice a fair few times this week. It works most of the time, it shocks the smaller ones.

Also as they are getting more comfortable around me I’m getting a lot more hugs. The Pratom 4’s wouldn’t let me leave class today because they all wanted to hug me (thats 45 hugs!) and a few students like to shake my hand. Also when walking up and down the stairs students always try and touch my arm.. i think its the white skin thing. There are less boundaries in Thailand, with regards to touching other people. Also with taking food from someones plate.

 

The teachers are getting so much better at English too, and i think my Thai is improving. And becoming more comfortable around me.. here its normal to sniff people. Like go right up to them and sniff their cheek. One of the teachers, who I call Mummy Jai because she’s sort of adopted me, asked to kiss me, I said no, so she sniffed me. I think its affectionate like somewhere between a hug and kiss. Even so, was kinda freaky.

 

On Wednesday there was a huge storm here, it was pelting it down with hailstones and thunder and lightening. I was stuck at school with no coat, waiting for it to die down for about an hour when i decided to face it. Only had my moped but was drenched just running to the moped. All the teachers tried to talk me out of it, saying they would drop me home (but then id have no way of getting to school the next day) so i just went for it. Driving fast with hailstones hitting you hurts LOTS. I was worse than a drowned rat by the time i got back, and Nanny, my landlady was there laughing hysterically at me as i ran to the door. Got in, had a hot shower, put a jumper and jeans on, made a cup of tea and watched a movie, and was freezing all night!

 

Tonight I’ve been at aerobics again, then Mummy Jai made me dinner- chicken, rice and omlette, was very good! She teaches after school from 4 till 7 for the children whose parents are still at work. She cooks dinner for the kids too, and one of the cutest little boys is always there, so got to help them with their homework (subtraction in thai numbers.. they laughed lots at me trying to count backwards in thai) and drawing elephants on the board. Theres about 10 kids and they pay 80bht for 3 hours (less than £2) with dinner thrown in. She could charge so much more!

 

Still enjoying myself and looking forward to relaxing at the weekend and next week its Loi katon festival on Wednesday!

Categories: Teaching Thailand- Government School, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

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