I’m sitting at a Subway at the airport in Bangkok, where I’ll be sleeping tonight I’m waiting for the 4am check in time for my flight to Sri Lanka. I’m taking the time to go through the Sri Lanka Lonely Planet to make a rough plan for the next few days. But I also wanted to blog a bit about this last month in Thailand.
After my friend Meghan left, I took the overnight train to Chiang Mai, and after extending my visa at the local immigration office, I headed to the Northern Insight Meditation Centre, also known as Wat Ram Poeng. After a few hours waiting (not so mindfully) for the monk in charge of foreign meditation students to arrive at his office, I was directed to the small but very beautiful residential area. Each two-story building housed 4 meditators individually. A small wooden bed with 1-inch futon, cold water showers and flush toilets made it about on-par with the hotels that I had been staying at.
The wat’s schedule: wake up at 4am, meditate all day–except for breakfast at 6:30am, lunch at 10:30am and a reporting meeting with the abbot around 5pm. Students are allowed to meditate in group areas or alone in their rooms…I started in the former and as the course progressed, ended up staying in my room all day.
There isn’t really much to blog about in a meditation retreat. I could tell you all about the experiences that I had, how difficult and rewarding it was, but it’s probably fairly obvious that 26 days in a Thai wat would be difficult and rewarding. I would definitely recommend any interested travelers or meditators out there to try a retreat at this temple, but it might not be a good choice if you’re a total beginner, because they do assume that you know a lot of the Buddhist termanology (defilements, aversion, etc etc, and the language barrier does make it a bit difficult to ask questions. But if considered as a self-retreat, it was fantastic, and allowed a rare opportunity to build a relationship with a well respected Thai Ajahn.
I would like to thank Ajahn Sopan, his translator, and Prah Shabodin (the monk in charge of running the foreign office) for their patience and kindness.
I’ve come away from the course with a very concentrated mind, and I’ve had a lot of issues come up (in a good way) including the same intensity of depression that I felt 3 years ago while on anti-depressants…but this time I am able to shine a flashlight on the depression and start to confront it in a different way.
One of my best travel friends, and indeed best friends ever, named Pete, is full of profound wisdom. This undoubtedly comes from having incredibly bad luck…a curse I am all to familiar with. He has given me some great advice at some important points in the last year-and-a-bit. Strangely the advice is always the same. When I got myself in a sticky political situation with the management at our school in Korea, he bowed his head and suggested, “Don’t Do That.” When I left my prescription glasses at a friend’s house 3 hours away, he consoled, “Don’t Do That.” When I got the chicken pox, and a subsequent blood infection last month on Koh Phi Phi, he advised, “Don’t Do That”. And finally, when I needed to go to an expensive hospital in Bangkok….he prescribed a sage “Don’t Do That.”
This is good advice. Don’t get sick when traveling. I have unfortunately visited the hospital a few times over the last few years. My motorcycle accident in Vietnam required stitches, and multiple follow up visits to monitor for infection. I had double eye injections in Nepal, which required some strong drugs.
But this last time was the most worrying. Worse than having a laceration on my leg on some remote mud road in a jungle. I felt like this:
Just about a week ago, I hired a taxi to take me to the Phuket International Airport to pick up my friend Meghan, who had flown all the way from Vancouver to hang out. Well, and probably to have some fun in Thailand too. Sorry Meghan, that didn’t work out as well as I thought it would
We set off for Koh Phi Phi, and had a great first night, granted with a few speed bumps. Quiet Meghan.
The next day, I was feeling really tired. I’d been drinking a fair amount during the ESL course that I had just finished, so I thought it was just the old “one night too many” shakes that can confront the backpacker/alcoholic. I slept for a few hours, and went back to the beach for a relatively quiet night with Meghan, Jack and Colleen at a tikki hut called the Deaf Gecko. Watched a fire show, had about 4 drinks, and enjoyed.
However, for the next 6 days, I struggled to get out of bed. I’ve only recently started to become aware of my body enough to know when something is mildly wrong, and when something more serious is wrong. I’ve had some great talks with my dad about it, and maybe its human nature to know–on some level–when you need to get to a hospital. And as I laid in bed beside the beach, unable to scuba dive on the most beautiful island in Thailand, I started to get that feeling.
I booked a ferry+bus ticket to Bangkok on the national holiday of Songkran, which essentially involved switching between several modes of transport amidst a nation-wide waterfight. I double-dosed extra strength Tylenol and held cold bottles of water to my pulsating forehead as I psychologically nursed myself through the long journey to the hospital.
I arrived with minutes to spare before the admissions department closed, and begged to be admitted for the night. Now full of Tylenol, my fever was absent, and the doctors–I suspect–thought that I was looking for a free night’s accommodation on my insurance company’s dime. But by 4am, the fever was back, and they began a flurry of tests, checking for Malaria and Dengue fever. At first, they thought it was H1N1, but after double checking the tests, they dismissed it. In fact, they never really found an explanation. I had a mild throat infection, but nothing that would explain a 40+ degree fever, cold sweats, and immense fatigue.
And that’s it! I’ve been released with all these drugs, and while I feel hydrated after 3 days on the drip, I can’t say that I feel 100%. I’ve now been on 4 different anti-biotic drugs in the last 7 days, including IV antibiotics, liver fixing drugs, anti-histamines, crazy cough suppressants, and a frightening number of Tylenol pills. So I’m going to hang out in Bangkok, and see how it goes.
What is the point of this post?? Good question. In regards to getting sick while traveling, Don’t Do That.
To update my loyal readers, I left Korea on February 26th headed for Bangkok. After a short few hours, I was on a bus headed for Chumphon, the departure point for the ferries to Koh Tao. I had a great few days of diving and partying with old friends. Pete met me on Koh Tao, and we had a wicked morning blasting around “Turtle Island” on little step through motorcycles, waiting for the afternoon sailing at New Way Diving. Unfortunately, we were going to fast, and Pete took a tumble braking through some sand as a dog jumped onto the road. Crazy shit.
So Pete and I have been in and out of hospitals, and our travels have been limited by staying within a short walk of a clinic to have the dressings changed. Luckily, Pete is alright. 6 stitches to the forehead! I don’t really think Thailand leaves anyone unscathed to be honest. I seem to have developed some food allergy myself, and one of my legs is covered in hives. Pete should be off his antibiotics today, and if my leg doesn’t improve, I’ll be making my own visit to the hospital on Saturday. But that hasn’t stopped us from having an awesome time on Koh Phi Phi and in Phuket
Anyways…moving on! I rented a flat in Phuket Town for a month. It has AC, hot water, a great view, and a giant bed ($160 / month). I’m very happy with it. I’ve started the CETLA course, considered by most to be the best ESL course, or certainly the one with the best reputation. I’m 2 days in, and I’m already very overwhelmed! My first class teaching adults didn’t go very well. I’m still stuck in the kindergarten mode, of acting like a clown a bit. Anyways, I’ll find out later today what the class tutor though of my lesson…hopefully it wasn’t a total bomb.
I’m eating as cheaply as possible, and cutting down the beer quite a bit to spread out my funds. Its going to be a new kind of low budget trip this time, even for me. I suppose I will feel better when I either get into a Teaching Certification program in Canada, or get myself a high paying ESL job somewhere in the Middle East.
Thats about it. I’m just SOOOO happy to be out of Korea, and eating Thai food!
Hi everyone! Its almost time to say goodbye to my fantastic students at EWAS in Seoul Korea. Today is Tuesday, and on Saturday night I will fly to Bangkok for a week of diving. I’m really looking forward to relaxing on the beach, eating the most amazing food at Nid’s Restaurant in Mae Had on Koh Tao, Thailand. Its been a tough week, saying goodbye to these little kids. We’ve grown so attached!!
Here is the final journal that one of my students, Melody, wrote.
I make a house. I can see a sky. I drink the water at night. I go to bed. I eat soup.
I can see a lion. And the lion can see me. But that is a toy lion. I see a fish in the sea. I see the people. That was my mom and dad, and I go to my home with my family. I go to bed. I sleep in the sea. I swim in there with fish. I eat food.
My mom sees me. I go home.
-Melody, Age 6, Korean age 8.
See what I mean???!!! As Maurice Sendak says, we just don’t have an appreciation of the psychology of children.
Weirdest moment. Its a 4-day weekend in Korea, and I’m taking a QNI (“Thailand backpacker” for quiet night in).
I just found an archived article about a small scholarship I won in 2007. I was so excited about being a high school teacher, but I was afraid that I couldn’t offer a lot to an 18 year old as a young 22 year old. I thought I needed more life experience.
In the last 5 years, almost to the day, I’ve pursued a Computer Science degree, worked at UBC and at Apple, traveled around Asia, and lived in Singapore, southern Thailand and in Seoul. And I’m **just** now applying to become a high school teacher.
Sometimes we know what we want in our hearts, but we just aren’t ready for it. Do I have more life experience now as a 27 year old? Absolutely. These past 5 years haven’t been wasted, although they do seem completely random on the surface. I’ve learned a lot about myself.
So, if anyone is unsure about what is happening with their life, try not to worry. What might seem like a failure, a waste of time or a step ‘backwards’ might just show that you have done exactly what you needed to do to reach the point you are at right now.
Happy Lunar New Year to everyone! I really need to take my own advice on this one: stop planning. Who knows what the next 5 years will bring!
Although I had a bad cold and didn’t feel like going out, we had a great party at the school for the kids. One of my American co-teachers named Kevin taught his class the thriller dance! Fantastic stuff.
…is it worth the price?
I’ve decided that I’m going to plan out this trip completely, something I’ve never really done before. I usually prefer to keep things completely open. This time, I’ll be taking a lot of flights, and the earlier I book, the cheaper the fare. Some of the deals on air asia were just too good to pass up…I saved just under a thousand dollars. I guess we’ll see if its worth it. At this point, there’s no leaving India early if I’m sick of it. I have to follow the schedule!
Tuesday marks the 4-month point. 4 months left at EWAS, and then I will begin YET ANOTHER backpacking trip in asia.
I’m been searching out visa information and figuring out some awesome places to go to try to back-time the entire trip. So, in order, this is the rough outline of the trip!
|February 25th:||Last day at EWAS. I’ll miss you Ted class!|
|February 26th:||Fly from Seoul to Bangkok, connecting in Malaysia.|
|February 27th-March 12:||Get Indian visa in Bangkok, and chill out on my favourite island, Koh Tao. Can’t wait to catch up with friends, eat awesome Thai food, and get diving. This has become my standard way to get back in the saddle, and it will be my 6th time to the island.|
|March 13-22:||10 day meditation retreat at Wat Kow Tahm International Meditation Center”, which is a short ferry ride from Koh Tao.|
|March 22-26th:||The long trip to Kuala Lumpur from the Gulf of Thailand. 2 days on ferries and busses. I hate this part.|
|March 26-27:||Fly to New Delhi, take a train and a bus to Dharamsala!|
|March 27-April 5:||“Introduction to Tibbetan meditation” at Tushita Meditation Center.|
|April 9-19:||“Peaceful Living, Peaceful Dying” retreat at Tushita Meditation Center.|
|April 20-31:||Check out Amritsar, Leh, and Rishikesh in Northern India.|
|May 1-15:||Mumbai for 2 weeks, including one 10-day meditation course.|
|May 15-30:||2 week beginners yoga course at Sivananda Yoga Ashram in Kerela. Kerela is probably the most well recommended place in India…everyone who has been seems to love it!|
|June 1-23:||Sri Lanka!! Yikes!|
|Jule 24-July 22:||Meditation and sightseeing in Burma|
|July 22-August 6:||Diving and surfing in the Philippines|
|August 7-August 15th:||One of my dream destinations…world famous diving in the Sipidan Islands on Kalimantan, the Malaysian part of the island of Borneo. Famous for whale sharks, rays, and canibal-pirates.|
|August 15th-???:||Either move to Japan to teach english, or head back to Canada if I’m accepted into teachers college.|
All of these flights are booked, except one (Sri Lanka–>KL). There’s no going back.
This is Ted Class. I spend about 4.5 hours a day teaching these 7 kids, and…there are good moments and bad moments. But there are also great moments, and that is why I will be a teacher for the rest of my life. Hope you enjoy the pictures.
My school went on a field trip to COEX aquarium, in a gigantic underground mall. I hope you enjoy the pictures. I love my job.