It’s 8:45 in the morning and I’m sitting at my desk in the foreign language department of my school in Nakhon Si Thammarat, Thailand. I’m wondering how I let Christmas pass two days ago as the most non-eventful holiday of my life. I spent it alone and did not give or receive a single gift, although I did get to speak to my family over the phone for a brief moment which was nice. I’m not surprised at how little attention I gave Christmas this year. I just moved to a new town, started a new job, looked for a new place to live, acquired a new mode of transportation, and battled a streptococcus infection merely a week before.  There was simply no time to worry about Christmas. What was I supposed to do? My family lives 10,000 miles away and once again I find myself not knowing a soul in a new town.

Thinking about past Christmases I remember reading Christmas letters sent by family and friends. They’re usually just a hello, have a merry Christmas, but some letters are more in depth. They’re sort of like a family’s state of the union address. They let you know the major events of the year and what each member of the family is up to.  Considering this is the end of 2013 I figured it wouldn’t hurt for me to do the same. Writing is a new hobby I’m starting and after all, it’s been a whirlwind year ending so many chapters and starting so many new ones. It wouldn’t hurt to let everybody know what’s been going on. Maybe this will be interesting to read 20 years from now? So here goes my 2013 recap…

I’ll remember 2013 as “the year of the nomad”. I would estimate I’ve woken up in 30 different beds and visited 13 cities in 3 different countries. Counting the number miles I’ve flown or flights I’ve taken would take far too much time so I’m not going to attempt it. The highlights of the year:

-Ended a 4-1/2 year reign in Hawai’i

-Ended a 4 year run with the Fastenal Company

-Moved to Thailand

-Started working as a Science and English teacher

Sometime in 2011 I started to formulate a plan in which I could take my life into a new direction. I desired to be free from the boundaries of an island that sprouted from the depths of Earth’s largest ocean in a location more remote than any other in the world. I needed to be free from the constraints of schedules and quotas imposed upon me by my company. I put myself in that cage and it was up to me to get out. I needed to stretch my legs a bit, roam around for a while, and grow. I decided teaching English as a foreign language would allow me to do all of the above.

May 31st, 2013 was when I started executing my plan. That was my last day of work for the Fastenal Company and I headed to Florida just a couple of days later, but not before winning a flag football championship and saying goodbye to my Hawaiian ohana. Florida was fantastic. In 2 months I spent more time with my family than I had the last 4-1/2 years combined. The 4th of July at Jacksonville’s beaches is something to behold, an experience that should be felt by anyone capable of making the pilgrimage. Parading around on bicycles, drinking Budweiser, firing water guns, and blasting bottle rockets is how I express my patriotism and that day turned out to be one of the best. After visiting family and friends for 2 months I left my home in the Deep South yet again to experience life in another faraway place. Thailand, labeled the “den of iniquity” by my Dad was where I would begin my quest.

The first stop was in Chiang Mai where I took a 120 hour TEFL certification course that lasted about 6 weeks. Chiang Mai is surrounded by mountains in the north of Thailand. It’s a large town that some call the “Bangkok of the north”. Despite its relative size Chiang Mai is still a pretty quiet town. Too quiet for me though, it didn’t take long for boredom to set in and I left as soon as I completed my course. From Chiang Mai I headed to Pattaya, a city about 2 hours drive south from Bangkok. I had a couple friends living there and one of them thought he could get me a teaching job at his school. With schools and friends close by it seemed like it would be a good base to look for work.

This plan did not work out as I’d thought it would. My friend that thought he could get me a job at his school was arrested for working without a permit and overstaying his visa by several months.  Unfortunately for him that was just a minor problem. He remained in jail for a few weeks before getting deported to Sweden where he was “wanted” by Interpol. It never ceases to amaze me how much of peoples’ past they can keep locked up in the back of their minds, not letting out the slightest hint to others that there’s more to their story. I spent those few weeks helping out the best I could, bringing him food and supplies and taking care of his apartment and bills. I’m not sure if we’ll meet again or if I’ll ever hear from him.

After a while I grew restless of the stagnation that was grabbing hold of me in Pattaya. I’d turned down a few teaching opportunities because they were in less than desirable locations or came on too short notice. A contact I’d gained was confident he could get me a job in the south as he was aware of several opportunities opening up. He threw a couple of opportunities at me that were once again too short notice. He’d call me on a Friday night and tell me about a position that needed to be filled the following Monday. I decided to pack up and move to the south so I’d be ready when the next job came.

My traveling companion that attended the TEFL course in Chiang Mai with me was living in Ao Nang, not far from my contact; she told me she knew of a couple schools that were hiring so I booked a flight from Bangkok to Krabi and arrived early December. What initially sounded like bad news turned out to be good news, my contact who seemed so confident in his ability to get me job left Thailand because some things had happened back home that he needed to take care of. Initially I felt a little deflated but he put in a good word for me at the school he left and they ended up hiring me as his replacement.

After a week in Ao Nang I traveled 3-1/2 hours west to Nakhon Si Thammarat. So far I’ve seen two tourists and just a handful of farangs here. One thing I’ve noticed about Thailand is there seems to be a direct relationship between the presence farangs and price. Nakhon Si Thammarat is very cheap compared to the rest of the places I’ve visited.

It’s December 27th and the adventure continues. I’ve got a new city to explore and a new job to master. As I mentioned earlier, writing is becoming my new hobby and I look forward to getting better at it. Hopefully sooner than later my blog will gain an audience and be something worth reading. 2014 has new adventures in store and I’ll be sure to write about them. Happy New Year.

-Shea

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