Grab life by the balls

And so the Thai chapter of our adventure has come to an end. It’s earlier than anticipated but that’s another story. Grab me in person if you want to hear that one!

I have been reflecting for a while on our time here and there are many things which I am going to miss. Too many to mention here. We have had a blast and I firmly believe that to really understand a country, it’s culture and people you need to spend some quality time there.

Here are a few highlights:

I am going to miss Marivic my Assistant Librarian. I couldn’t have made it through the first year without her support. She has been a brick and I wish her all the best for the future (whatever that holds). Marivic you have been a great colleague and a good friend. I couldn’t have wished for better.

And the rest of the (second) library team. Ivy, Toon, Gigi, Bank and Rung. You have all helped to make my second year a pleasant one. It has been a learning journey for all us with some great fun moments along the way.

All my new friends

It’s been a blast getting to know so many new and exciting people from all over the world. Living internationally brings you into contact with so many interesting fellow travelers and such hospitable locals (well for the most part) and social media is wonderful for being able to keep in touch easily. A huge shout out to everyone who has helped us to settle in, who has explained things to us or has offered travel tips or great suggestions for places to stay/eat or just friendship. It’s been a great community to be a part of.

Thai food

The food out here is amazing. It is fresh, tasty and unbelievably good value for money. I am spoilt for choice and UK prices are going to come as a huge shock to the wallet. My all time favourite has to be the mangoes. Unlike the kind available in the UK these are so juicy, sweet, with flesh that simply melts in your mouth. I have adored having fresh local fruit salad for breakfast every morning.

Jack’s Bar

Sitting on the riverside supping beer, eating chicken and cashew stir fry while watching the boats go by. Most boats have nicer roof lines than our boat (I have a serious case of boat envy btw)

Respect/salutes/tolerance

Living in a Buddhist country has been a refreshing change with the high levels of respect and tolerance. There are no judgmental attitudes towards others as everyone is in their own journey.

And I just love the way the security guards salute me as I walk to and from school. That never happens back at home!!! I will really miss that.

The range of freebies in hotels…

even basic ones. (We are not talking just 5star here.) Wherever you go in Asia you get not only the standard tea/coffee (usually without milk) but also all these

Combs, toothbrushes, razors, shower caps – loads of stuff. It’s great.

Feeling safe

There is a very low crime rate here. The most we ever came across was some gangs on motorcycles who grab tourists’ mobile phones. Other than that was hardly any violent crime, street crime, no attacks or rape. I felt completely safe walking late at night or anywhere on my own. It makes a change from the news we hear from back home where parking meters and snack cans are vandalized and robbed.

Stunningly vivid tropical flowers

The kids

I will miss them most of all. The children at Shrewsbury are clever, talented and grounded. I have enjoyed teaching reading enrichment classes, sharing stories and coaching the kids lit team. I have been more than impressed by the musical abilities, especially the pianists

Pampering

Cut & blow dry at Best Salon for only 500 baht (£11 in real money) which includes the most amazing head massage. Ahhhhhh…..Actually foot massages in general here are cheap and on the whole relaxing. Having had a few elsewhere Thai massages are, so far the best. (Not the full body ones where they walk on your back though- lets just be clear about that) And Thai massages… probably not the vicious leaning on you with razor sharp elbows. No, more the relaxing foot massage at only £6 for an hour. Bargain.

Things I am NOT going to miss:

1. Crazy driving

Having said that accidents here are few and far between. There are huge numbers of scooters and no motorcycles on the roads and some look as those they are being driven by adolescents! Often you see overloaded vehicles some carrying produce others with entire families. and whilst the wearing of helmets has recently become compulsory it doesn’t apply yet to passengers. I cringe when I see little ones unprotected. Scooters are a cheap and accessible form of transport and dare I say fun in these hot dry climes. I guess that if all those people had cars like we do in the UK then the roads would be even more congested. At the moment although busy, the roads do flow so you never see any road rage.

Wires

Another sight which you cannot fail to notice when you first arrive is the tangle of overhead wires known as ‘black noodles’. Cable just isn’t a thing out here. I would hate to be an Asian telecom engineer!!! Look at this box just open on the street corner. But one of the positive effects of all these tangles of wires is that there are very few roadworks as a result. In the UK roads seem to be constantly being dug up by the utilities but that doesn’t happen here. Another reason why traffic does flow and road rage is minimized perhaps.

2. Serviettes

A strange one, perhaps but as a rule they are paper-thin, the size of toilet paper squares and about as useful as a chocolate teapot!

3. The incessant relentless unstoppable heat

It sounded wonderful from the depths of a British winter to live in a tropical country but the novelty wore off after the first year. Don’t get me wrong I like sunshine as much as anyone and I’ve always loved heat but this is different. It’s the high humidity that did for me. I probably suffered more with the heat than Kevin has done. I even grew my hair longer so that I could put it up to avoid the damp rat tail effect of sweaty hair on the back of my neck! It’s like living with constant menopause symptoms as waves of heat would suddenly wash over you and your limbs go slick with a sheen of sweat. It was when Kevin had a pre-cancerous lump that we took it as a sign that it was a good time to move on. It’s one thing to holiday in the heat but working in it is a completely different matter! I am actually looking forwards to seasons again.

4. Walking barefoot on beautiful wooden floors

Blissful feeling- however the permanent sandal/flip flop wearing although it sounds idyllic has meant that my ankles have lacked the support from winter shoes and boots and I have a mild planta pain in the ball of my foot. I’m not complaining, the floors are delicious to walk on.

5. Thai administration

Thai red tape is so very bureaucratic and paper based!!! My bank cards here are not even chip & pin, never mind contactless! Various parts of simple officialdom often require multiple paper copies of passports, work permit etc and I have been asked to sign or initial every page. Most of these processes are repeated annually. It a HUGE waste of paper. Nothing is scanned in or online. Living here has often felt like stepping back in time.

As an example: the government had overcharged me in tax as they front load during the tax year & I am leaving part way through. I received a tax rebate (which was a nice, unexpected surprise). But to get my money I had to to to a different bank, open an account into which the money was then paid, withdraw the cash then close the account!!!! Not looking for efficiency savings here then!!! Let’s create a system that keeps people in employment!!!! They even gave me a passbook and offered me an ATM card even though I had told them I was going to withdraw immediately.

And here is a slightly unbelievable but straight -up true story. I needed to have a Thai police check done. The initial appointment was a laugh as I completed a form which not only asked for my DOB & gender etc but also asked my shape (!!!!! I mean what did they want – curvy? A bit over weight!!!!) and Personality!!!!!! (Can be grumpy if you catch me on a bad day!!!) I was eventually advised to put down ‘medium’ and ‘friendly’ respectively. Then we were told to return 2 weeks later for the certificate. I asked if it was ok for Kevin to collect it and this was acceptable provided he produced a (paper) receipt. On the appointed day Kevin rolled up with said receipt only to be told at that point that I should have signed a ‘power of attorney’ to permit a third party to collect my certificate. So in clear view of the Thai police Kevin reached into his inner forgery skills and wrote my signature on the form. The police stamped it, everything was now legal and the certificate was handed over!!!!

6. The state of the pavements and lack of disabled access. This picture is from my route to church and as you can see there is so much street furniture that it’s hard for an able-bodied person to squeeze by never mind a pram or wheelchair!!! The paving slabs are often broken and protruding so you end up just watching you step rather than looking at things.

And

Obviously the pavement is the best place to park your posh vehicle! We’ll all just walk in the road and dodge the traffic shall we!!!

7. Durian the fruit which has to be smelled to be believed. Much like marmite you either love it or hate it. It smells so strong that durian is banned from aircraft cabins (thank goodness)

See it ranks alongside all those dangerous items

8. Thai state school uniforms for older boys.

Socks and shorts. Enough said.

The things I am looking forwards to back in Blighty:

1. Proper fish & chips

2. Being able to get a decent cup of tea wherever you go. You don’t realise how important that is for your sanity until you can’t get it! I thank God daily for all the people who brought us out packs of tea! Life savers every one.

3. A wide variety of cheese (not just cheese singles!)

4. Fresh air. It’s an indoor society here being so hot and you do get a little fed up of shopping malls.

5. Bacon butties

6. Seeing as many of you all as possible

Overall we have had a blast. It’s been an incredible two years and we have seen, done and tasted more than we could ever have dreamed of. I think that this says it all.

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