• New Direction: Why I Moved to Camiguin Island, Phillipines

    I am in a new place. Living a completely different life. It has only been 2 weeks. I’m slow to settle in and find my groove.

    I was working 9 hours a day in the city and waiting for the weekend to come so I could socialize, relax, and let go. It was a routine life. I always saw the same people and did the same things. I felt tired all the time. A bit frustrated at times. Even bored. Floating away from the type of person that I had been aiming for.

    Being a teacher was interesting. You have to hold it together in front of everyone all day. You have to be patient, kind, understanding, willing to explain, but also strong and regulated. I tried to be an example for my students. I tried to teach them things about life, not just what the book said. I tried really hard to be interesting, engaging, and inspiring. It takes more energy than you would think. By the end of the week, all I wanted to do was throw my inhibitions away, talk shit, swear, and drink.

    I loved to stay out all night dancing and saying yes to drugs if anyone was offering. I would sleep in and take a yoga class or go on a long drive into the mountains. I hated most having to avoid police check points and the air quality. I felt like I was constantly flipping through the same book. Over and over again. I loved it, but I was ready for something else.

    I was going through a break up at the time and felt like it would be healthy for me to go away for a while. I began applying to teach yoga at retreat centers all over the world: Maldives, Morocco, Cambodia, India, Hawaii, and so on. Nothing was working out. I had one last interview with a retreat center in the Philippines and I told myself that if this didn’t work out, I would finish out the semester and look again in December.

    The interview was a flowing conversation with laughter. Easy and natural. A few days later I quit my job and booked a one way ticket. I was worried about money, but I told myself that I would find a way to stretch it. I broke my lease and moved my excess stuff to a friend’s house. I was surprised at how many things were mine. That I held onto. It all happened so fast that I thought I’ll just take myself and a backpack to the Philippines and worry about all the logistics later. Sometimes I think that if something happened to the stuff that I left behind in Chiang Mai, I wouldn’t care.

    I am here now living on a quiet island. Teaching yoga. Sounds of the ocean in the background. Eating well. Coming and going on a bicycle. Taking naps sometimes, And writing. Actually, I have never been luckier. I am really living. I am not stressed or yelling at kids because they didn’t do their homework. Finally, I am giving myself the space to just be and do something that I love. Work that enriches my soul.

    Now, I wait for my soul to blossom. To feel and rejuvenate. To go deep within myself. To understand my path. To find my calling.

    In a sense, I am already there. But I always want to know more. Go further. I am always seeking.

     

  • Farewell

    Thank you
    You’ve played with my heart
    You’ve pissed me off
    You’ve burned my skin
    And suffocated my lungs
    With heat
    With warmth
    The rain started falling
    And I couldn’t go anywhere
    We can’t speak all the time
    But we smile together
    You’ve surprised me
    After all you’ve taken from me
    And pushed me down
    Tossed me around
    I noticed the flowers that you laid out for me
    Go find another heart
    To steal
    Feed them dragon fruit
    And show them the sleepy alleys with graffiti
    It’s true
    I fall in love with you more everyday
    Our bond thickening
    With every second
    My feet are planted on your floor
    But now since I have you
    I don’t want you
    Chiang Mai
    I’ve outgrown you
    Thank you
    Chiang Mai
    I’m letting you go
    I want something different
    Oceans not mountains
    Islands not traffic

  • 10 Things That Surprised Me About Chiang Mai

    1. There are more expats and foreigners here than I imagined

      Well, the secret is out. Northern Thailand is a paradise. And every other foreigner is either living here or visiting. There have been many instances where I have been out and about and there have been more white people than Thais. Many of the amazing restaurants (vegan, Italian, Israeli, etc.) are run by foreigners and usually their Thai wife or Thai business partner. As a result, the format of the city has been diluted with foreign influence. Chiang Mai is a multicultural place and sometimes you forget that you are in Thailand.

    2. The city is touristy

      For some reason, I expected Chiang Mai to be a low key, sleepy little city. I read that it was progressive and laid back and so I pictured lots of empty roads, hidden nature-scapes, and locals roaming around quietly. Instead, it is a bustling, growing city that has evolved to cater to its visitors. Downtown, prices for restaurants, bars, shops, tuk-tuks, and even markets are raised because of the influx of tourists. There are a lot of people everywhere. You can take any tour imaginable… For example: bathe elephants, hike to a waterfall, take a cooking class, go zip-lining through the jungle, and so on. Now, I live outside the city to avoid the tourists and the tourist prices.

    3. Almost everyone speaks English

      With tourism comes accommodation, comfort, and ease for the tourists. Tourists are more likely to come to a place where they know that they can experience something foreign without a communication barrier. Many Thais have realized that they can find more opportunities and success if they speak English. Some Thais are also very interested in talking with foreigners or maybe they want to be in a relationship with one. English is spoken and written just about everywhere. So much so that it has been difficult for me to pick up Thai because I can easily communicate in English.

    4. Thai is easier to learn than you think

      Many foreigners who live in Chiang Mai do not know Thai. They say it is difficult to learn because of the tones and how different it is structured from their own language. Part of immersing yourself in a new place is learning their language. I know many other foreigners who have picked up Thai because they force themselves to hang out with only Thais. You can easily take Thai language classes, higher a tutor, or immerse yourself more. With Thais, you usually have to be more outgoing at first, but they are very welcoming people. Just try it!

    5. Dealing with Immigration is complex and confusing

      One of the worst parts about living in Thailand is dealing with immigration. Bureaucracy, in general, is a hassle. When dealing with visas and all the other things that come along with it, make sure that you are on the ball. Constantly check in with the people, schools, or companies that are helping you get a visa. Rules change all the time and you have to be proactive. You will likely have to deal with a lot of annoying tasks that could have been avoided if you were more informed. It is so annoying, but that is the reality of having the privilege of living in Thailand.

    6. Police Checks

      There are police checks in downtown Chiang Mai and other parts outside the city on the way to other places (like Pai). They begin in the late morning and end in the early afternoon (usually). The police are checking for helmets and Thai licenses. If you are not following the rules, they will charge you 500 baht and give you a ticket. If police charge you less and don’t give you a ticket, that’s a bribe. Make sure you get a written ticket. Yes, they absolutely target foreigners. It is annoying, but just follow the rules or avoid the checkpoints.

    7. Alcohol can get expensive

      Food, housing, transportation, water, electricity, and gas are cheap cheap cheap! But, if you drink, it can add up. For example, a plate of street food can cost around $1 USD and a large beer can cost up to $3 USD. For some, alcohol is medicine. Cut alcohol costs by buying from 7-11 or a little mom and pop convenience store. If you buy drinks at a restaurant or a bar, prices are doubled and tripled.

    8. There are A LOT of bugs and lizards

      I know there are a lot of lizards because I have to sweep away their poop on my balcony all the time. And, also, how can I ignore their very loud mating calls at night? Rain brings flying termites that are obsessed with lights and they will show up in swarms of hundreds and thousands. Hundreds of ants will come marching in if you leave a single crumb. Once, there were hundreds of termites that birthed from my wooden stair. I told my landlord and she chalked it up to rainy season and said mai pen rai (it’s ok / don’t worry). Thais are way less fazed by bugs than me. I have become my own hero, even killing spiders and roaches with my bare hands. This is the price I pay for living in the jungle.

    9. You can get anything you need

      Thailand is not a third world country. There is a wonderful grocery store called Rimping. They are all over the city. You can get any snack or foreign food item here because they are stocked with imports. Yes, it is a bit more expensive than going somewhere local. Big C has any basic item as well, like a Walmart. You can find what you need anywhere in the city. I am always looking for special herbs, vitamins, holistic medications and toiletries, even organic produce and I have it all here. If anyone has ever wanted what you need, it probably exists somewhere.

    10. Chiang Mai sucks you in

      People have asked me: why do you live in Chiang Mai? Well, I have always wanted to go to Asia and Chiang Mai was my first stop. And I never left. I ran out of money, found a great job as a teacher, felt comfortable, and fell in love with a guy. One way or another, Chiang Mai will embrace you with all its wonders and comforts and you won’t want to leave either. Come experience it for yourself!

  • How to Accept Yourself – S P I R I T U A L L Y

    A personal story about how I learned (still always learning) to accept myself, my experience in Thailand, and stay connected with my spirituality. 

    My spirituality sprouted from the roots of my soul while I was in college. I had ended an abusive relationship with an alcoholic and it wrecked me. My university offered free yoga classes at the gym and I started going to them every day.

    Yoga class was not just an exercise, it was also about spiritual growth and coping with trauma. During meditation at the end of class, the instructor would come around and massage our temples with lavender essential oil. They would read us quotes and excerpts about letting go of anger, being in the present, finding yourself, etc. It validated that I was lost, that I needed to get back on the path, and build a fulfilling life. Back then, I was learning about all these ideas for the first time and so they begun to change me.

    I became so intrigued with yoga that I minored in Asian Studies. The philosophy, religion, history, and art of Southeast Asia and India fascinated me. I read excerpts from the Bhagavad Gita, Daodejing, and other Buddhist and Hindu texts in my philosophy and history courses. The texts put my abstract, unorganized thoughts into eloquent ideas. It explained things that I felt I had always known deep down in simple ways.

    While in college, I volunteered in Ghana and taught yoga to pregnant women. I worked with them one on one, with a translator, and taught them poses to help relieve pain and release tension. The women and the nurses in the clinic were very receptive and excited about what I taught.

    All I wanted was to travel, see new places, experience new cultures. I had a longing to go to Asia that I knew I would never let go of. Eventually, timing and opportunity aligned and I packed up and moved to Thailand.

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  • Hippie Culture in Chiang Mai

    My friends called me in the late afternoon and invited me to Deejai Gardens – a pool/bar/hostel in the center of town. My boyfriend and I arrived to a long strip of motor bikes outside. We walked up, no cover charge, and order our first round of drinks.

    I have found myself running into the same people all the time. I have never exchanged words with them, but their face has already been filed away in my brain. There are certain crowds of people that you will find at certain places, bars, venues, areas of town.

    Middle aged foreign white men can be found at the seedy bars or out to eat at an overpriced western restaurant with a quiet Thai girl. Young 20-somethings who are in and out of Chiang Mai can be found absolutely obliterated at Spicy from 12 to 2am. Chinese tourists can be found staring out the windows of large tourist busses. And then there is the hippie crowd–the 20-35 year olds with dreadlocks and sparkle shawls trying to ‘find themselves.’

    I have been inspired by hippie-types all my life as most have a creative, loving attitude towards life. But these hippies are the nomadic souls that had enough courage, strength, and money to uproot their lives to Asia. They are the cream of the crop–living the ultimate hippie dream. And therefore, there are S O  M A N Y.  I go to a venue that will be playing trance music and there they are with their scarves and glitter. I go to an open mic and there they are again feeling blessed and telling everyone how grateful they are. I went to Deejai yesterday and there they were (again) barefoot and jumping in a gnarly, green swamp-water filled pool not caring that they might get an ear infection.

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  • Air Pollution in Chiang Mai

    I live inside the city – the South East corner of the moat that puts a square target at the center of the Chiang Mai, Thailand. There are highways outside of the moat that encircles it. You can get from one side to another in 20 minutes, unless you drive through the center and it will take double the time…why? TRAFFIC.

    Chiang Mai is small…in size and in its communities, and it is infested with tourists, travelers, and nomads. Its population can charm and suffocate you.

    I cannot blame the new and settled people who occupy this wonderful place. I cannot blame the famers on the outskirts, the rich, the poor, the Thais or the foreigners. It is all of us. There is litter and exhaust fumes sprinkled everywhere and this special time of year amplifies the air pollution.

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  • Acupuncture in CNX

    Yesterday I went to a Chinese Acupuncture Clinic named Mungkala. The clinic was only a 10 minute walk from my apartment and right next to a small cafe that my friends and I always love to go to (Kat’s Kitchen). I walked down my street (Loi Kroh Road), which is a long windy strip of over-priced restaurants, bars and massage places with pretty, done up Thai girls (short dresses and lots of make up)  standing around. It is more or less a place where old men usually go to eat, drink, and receive attention from pretty Thai girls (some Lady Boys too). It is a little bit disturbing, but prostitution is a reality of Thailand and it is easier than you think to grow numb to.

    I arrived at the moat (the giant square that is the center of Chiang Mai city) and crossed. Sometimes a car almost hits me and sometimes my J-walking attempts are quite smooth. Fortunately, I am still alive and well. Traffic, driving and walking on the side of the street (because there are usually no side walks) in Chiang Mai is very over-stimulating and aggressive. Instead of cars and motorbikes following the street in one line, everyone floods in and out like a very adaptive blob of movement.

    I walk up to a nice little garden area with succulents lined along a stone path, table and chairs, and rusty swings. It always amazes me to find cute nature sceneries tucked inches from the dirty side walks and musty streets. And as soon as you step off the street and into a backyard it is somehow quiet and peaceful with green things like grass and trees.

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  • Finding My Balance in CNX

    Last week was difficult at school. I posted a photo on Instagram in which many people wrote back with spiritual advice and don’t-worry-i’m-here-for-you-type messages. This morning I cried out of frustration and sadness for how I’ve been treated in this country.

    Why is it that our negative experiences sting us more than our positive ones heal us? The source of my unhappiness cannot be blamed on the outside world. The world will always be like this: rough and imperfect. But it is just as equally extraordinary and perfect.

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