Life

The traces people leave behind

Wow, it’s been a long time since I have written anything on here. Returning home after living in another country for almost a year was a bit of an adjustment. The new job and studies have also been keeping me busy with little time for much else.

Also I tend not to write when things are going well. Which I suppose is weird, this blog was for me to share and journal my highs and lows.

Last Friday was a definite low. My uncle passed away at the age of 46. Young, if you think of all the medical marvels and technology at our disposal. I took his death harder than I thought I would. I’m doing the whole I’m strong and putting on a brave face bit but I’m still hurting. This is someone I grew up, a permanent fixture from my youth. He loved spending time with children, I think it’s because he never had any. I clearly remember one day after school he rounded up the neighbourhood children and we spent hours in the park collecting pine cones, leaves, anything that looked interesting to us. He then inspected our ‘treasures’ afterwards. I don’t why this memory is so vivid, maybe because of the look in his eyes was that of a young child, like all of us that day, ready to embark on an adventure.

I’m not going to lie, he was not perfect. He battled with drug addiction his whole life, he did not have an easy life and his living conditions near the end of his time was not great. Why I am grieving so deeply? Could it be that most of life he was not happy? He had his demons to fight, a fight we all have to face on our own. It almost seems like he had a wasted life, but I’m sure that he did experience joy and love no matter how brief or long it might have been.

All I know, the bad stuff, the things he did that disappointed and angered the family has diminished. What we left with are the memories of happier times. How a line from a movie can have us all laughing and thinking of him. Because no matter who or what he was he was loved. He will be remembered. He lives on.

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travel

What I miss most about Bangkok

Even though I am happy to be back home and even though I now have a deeper appreciation for Cape Town, there are things that I miss about living in Bangkok.

I miss the fruit, on every corner, everywhere and the fact that it is so cheap. The fruit there for some reason tastes so much better than the fruit here. Mangoes are sweeter and juicer.

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I miss the availability and options of public transport. A cab at 3 in the morning? No problem. The Skytrain runs until midnight and is always clean. Buses that costs only a few cents to get all the way to the other side of the city. Motorbike taxis that zip through traffic to get you somewhere quickly. The Chao Praya Express boat if you want to get around the city on water. Never  having to take tuk-tuks because they are such a tourist rip off and knowing how to get around using all the other options.

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The friendly people, more importantly, the friendly Muslim neighbourhood I lived in. Becoming regulars at the restaurants and with the street vendors and having them keep my favourite things aside for me.

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Malls!! They are simply amazing. Which is surprising because I despise malls and avoid them like the plague. From major fashion designers to quirky little boutique stores they have everything and the aircon is pure bliss.

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Free WiFi everywhere and I mean everywhere, even at temples. My YouTube addiction was activated in Thailand and now that I am back home the price of data bundles absolutely kill me.

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7 Eleven – perhaps a weird thing to add but 7 Elevens here are something else. They sell everything from make-up to painkillers, DVDs to pre-packaged hard-boiled eggs, stationery and quick meals for one. They also don’t have insane mark-up and are sometimes even cheaper than supermarkets.

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There are so many more little things that I miss that I cannot even think of now and of course there are many things that I do not miss. One thing that I do know is that I do not regret a second of it all and would love to go back one day.

 

 

 

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Uncategorized

Dissecting women magazines

I used to buy magazines by the truckload. Cosmo, Fairlady, Glamour, Shape, Elle, Marie, Heat, etc. To say I had an unhealthy obsession would be an understatement. Every month I would anxiously await the latest issues of my favorites. I loved the glossy feel and the smell of freshly printed paper. When I realised my addiction was costing me on average R200 per month I had to decide if it was really worth it. Deep down I knew it wasn’t so I went cold turkey and stopped buying them.

Over the past couple of years I would occasionally buy me one especially when there is an added bonus of a free lipstick or pair of sunglasses. Magazines do not however have the hold over as it once did. So recently I was lured into buying a glossy, I mean hello I could not say no to a new shade of berry lipstick. Girl’s gotta do what a girl’s gotta do. It ended up being a thoroughly disappointing and anti-climactic event. As I was paging through the magazine I started wondering if this drivel is meant to entertain and enlighten me.  Is this what consumes women on a daily basis? If so, then it is a sad state of affairs. So I decided to dissect this magazine page by page and blog about it. This is how we are being brainwashed:

Pages 1 – 30: It all starts out subtle enough, ads for perfume, designer bags and watches paired with photo-shopped beauties sometimes the new it girl actress is thrown into the mix. This continues for about 30 pages interspersed with other useless information like how to rock it like Rihanna before the magazine actually starts. Why can’t I rock my own look? What happened to individuality? This is then followed up by awesome do’s and don’ts and every second page we still have perfume, designer bags and watch ads. Again why are we letting these magazines tell us what we should or shouldn’t wear or what we should buy?

Pages 31 – 53: Ten pages of how to do denim as if you don’t know how to pair a denim jeans with a top. Wait! What? Dungarees are in again? Last season you wouldn’t have wanted to be seen dead in a pair of these but now all of a sudden we’re given the green light. Let’s not forget our prints and neon. You heard it here first, paisley prints and canary yellow is back on the palette. A feature on how to dress for different body shapes and the body shapes covered are petite, long and lean, hourglass and pear shape. The strange part? Surprise, surprise all models used are so skinny the shapes all end up looking the same. In an attempt to keep it real you feature one of your staff members and ask her for her fashion opinions and what her perfect day and night look is and how to seamlessly transition from the one to the other. Insert 8 page brand promotion, urgh could you be more obvious?

Page 54 – 64: Beauty regiments and make up colours none of which suits my skin tone. Hair products that are completely useless to me and hair styles which are not even possible with my hair type.  Insert: obligatory Dark and Lovely ad. Age defying creams that just does not work. Trust me nothing is going to get rid of the bags under my eyes, I never leave home without them. Seriously guys, I feel like you’re not even trying.

Pages 64 – 68: More ads.

Pages 69 – 81 : Single page articles on How to be fearless, How to lose weight, How to co-habit, How to get your dream job, One ‘real-life’ story. The opposite page of each article is filled with more advertisements for skin care products. Double page spread of GET YOUR SUBSCRIPTION NOW!!

Pages 82 -83: Double page spread advertisement.

Pages: 84 – 87: In-depth and intimate interview with model/actress/singer on cover including her fashion choices.

Pages: 88 – 91: A-Z of sex. If you’re don’t know how to have sex by now then you’ve got bigger issues. Ladies when it comes to sex you don’t need 101 positions which all end up looking the same anyway. Just remember to have fun, laugh, be curious and don’t be selfish or insensitive.

Pages 92 – 93: Double page spread advertisement.

Pages 94 – 95: Heart-wrenching true story. Finally, something worth reading.

Pages 96 – 98: Yet another awards evening, you never hear about these events until after the fact. Where was my invite?

Pages 99 – 100: Do’s and don’ts according to a celeb i.e. more unsolicited advice.

Pages 101 – 104: Advertisements (car, jeans, alcohol, soap)

Pages 105 – 112: Exclusive designer promotion so that we can all aspire to own shoes which cost R16,000 and handbags which cost R30,000.

Pages 113 – 120: Evening wear photo-shoot for above awards that I did not get an invite for.

Pages 121 – 129: Sigh! More denim.

Pages: 130 – 142: Sigh! More make-up, skin care and hair

Pages 143 – 144: Hard hitting journalism at its best, important health warning article.

Pages 145 – 150: Movies – what to watch, books – what to read, events – where to go, restaurants – where to eat.

Pages 151 – 152: Next month and stockists.

Pages 153 – 154: Horoscopes.

Page 155: Weight-loss advertisement.

Page 156: Can you believe it more do’s and don’ts. Denim do’s and don’ts.

Last page: Silly, useless, tongue-in-cheek advice.

So there you have it, this is what is being fed to us monthly. I am not impressed.  There was a time when magazines covered important topics and the fashion stuff was just a bonus. Now it seems to be all about brand promotion and not much else.

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travel

5 reasons why every daughter should travel with her mother

1. Well there are the obvious bonding reasons. For me personally though I already have a good relationship with my mother but travelling with her strengthened it.

2. You get to see a side of your mother that you would not ordinarily see. You will get to know her better as a person and not merely a boo-boo fixer. She will be more relaxed as there are no distractions or major motherly duties for her to attend to.

3. That being said you still get a bit of home on the road. You are still her little girl and she needs to know that you’re okay, not hungry, not tired or thirsty.

4. On the flip side you get to level the playing field. We all have our strengths, mine is an excellent sense of direction and I am a super organised control freak. It’s great to be able to let her take the back seat and for you to look after her for a change.

5. You will have perfect opportunities to collect dirt on her which can be used for blackmailing purposes later when you’re back home. Those awful photos? They might ‘accidentally’ find themselves uploaded and tagged on Facebook. Just kidding, cos that would be too mean, right? Or would it?

 

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travel

There is no wrong way to travel, yes I am talking to you travel snobs

I read a lot of travel blogs and travel websites and I noticed an alarming trend. Long-term travelers telling others how to travel. There is no right or wrong way as long as you’re being respectful to the locals and their culture. Below are some typical things you will come across when reading these annoying articles:

Step off the beaten track: This might be your idea of a perfect vacation but what works for one person does not work for the other. Some even go as for as to discourage you from visiting the Eiffel Tower when in Paris and the Taj Mahal when in India. I’m not saying there is no merit in stepping off the beaten track but if you’ve only got 2 weeks in a country and you’re not sure if you would be returning then checking out the major sights would be pretty high on my list. I might not have to time or money to come back anytime soon. Who travels all the way to Rome and then does not bother to go see the Colosseum?

Don’t book holiday package deals: I personally don’t believe in booking holiday packages or cruises but only because I happen to love the planning and organizing, to me that forms part of the whole travel experience. That does not mean I can look down on others who don’t want to go through the hassle of finding deals and booking everything themselves. The whole point of vacations away is to relax and sight-see and truthfully some people just have busy lives and do not have the time and energy to do all this grunt work. Yes, maybe you end up paying a little bit more and maybe you do get taken to a few tourist traps but if you’re still having fun what does it matter?

Real travelers stay in cheap hostels with only one backpack: Again we don’t all want to share a 10 bed dorm with dirty, smelly strangers (okay not all of them are dirty and smelly) who stumble in at 3am and noisily have sex in the bunk above yours. Hostels are great for meeting people I won’t dispute that but not all of us have this constant need to be surrounded by loads of new people. If you’re not a party person it’s perfectly fine to find a boutique hostel and get your own room or heck even book yourself into a 5 star hotel cos you know what, it’s your holiday and you can do whatever you like. Hostels also tend to have what I call one-uppers. They will always try to outdo you and have a better story to tell. Saw the leaning tower of Pisa in Italy? Well they sneaked in at the dead of night and bungee jumped off it, try not to get into travel story swapping situation with this type of traveler. It’s exhausting and seriously, getting diarrhea is not something to be proud of. It’s not rite of passage.

I merely scratched the surface but I am not in the mood to go into a full-out rant. Just remember that others don’t know what’s best for you, only you do. So spend your well-earned break how you see fit.

 

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travel

Teaching at an International School in Thailand

The contrast between teaching at a Thai government school and an International school in Thailand is stark.  It’s like day and night, black and white, yes it’s that different from each other. After tiring of teaching English in rural Thailand I was craving for the bright city lights and decided to head to Bangkok. After weeks of job hunting I managed to get a job teaching English at the Everclever summer camp at Wells International School along Sukhumvit Road.

I ended up teaching two 1 hour lessons daily and then accompanying my class to Gym, Art, Performing arts and Readers Theater. I had 10 students in my class, only three of which were local Thais, the rest were from Japan, Russia and Taiwan. The great thing about teaching at an international school is that the entire curriculum is in English so my students could already speak English well. I was able to teach Grammar something not entirely possible at a Thai school, where I would usually only teach 8 new words per lesson.  Apart from being able to teach Grammar I also taught them many games which took up half of all the lessons. I dredged up a few long forgotten games that I used to play as a child.

I was also fortunate to be able to participate in all the additional activities on offer to the students. At no cost to myself I was lucky to attend movie nights, visit temples, go on canal cruises, a weekend away in Kanchanaburi where we went to the Tiger Temple and Erawan waterfalls.  We also went to Kidzania, Dusit Zoo, Science center, Bangkok parks, Siam Niramet cultural show and I enjoyed every minute of it. This and the fact that the other teachers were American and all over the world meant that I was not the only English-speaking teacher made my time at the school memorable. When I was asked to stay on for longer because they extended summer camp I jumped at the opportunity and was sad when it finally all came to an end.

With my return flight date confirmed I knew I was going to miss this school and my students very much. I was happy when they asked me when I would return to Bangkok as they would love to offer me a full-time teaching position. Will I go back? Definitely. When? Right now I don’t know but I like that I have options and this time I will be more prepared and do things differently.

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adventures, Life

The truth and the lies

When I made the decision to live and work in another country I knew it was going to take research, preparation and saving money. So I set about doing just that. The plan was to teach English overseas for one year and once there decide if I wanted to stay another year, try another country or head back home.  Initially I wanted to go to Czech Republic but decided on Thailand because the cost of living is way cheaper.

Someone I worked with gave me the name of an agency called Work Explore Abroad. I applied and a few days later I received an email advising me that my application has been approved for teaching in Thailand. I then received my info pack, made the necessary payments and booked my plane ticket. My agency then put me in touch with the TEFL school XploreAsia and paid my course fee and placement fee. I successfully completed the month-long course. So far everything went smoothly until the owner of XploreAsia called me aside one day and told that he will not be able to place me in a school once I have completed the course and that he might only be able to find me work in May (4 months after the course). In Thailand most government schools re-open in May and October, those are the months when the big intakes happen and as I missed the October intake they could only place me in May. He said he never received my application for approval from Work Explore Abroad and if he had to see it then he would not have approved it for December. Instead he would have told me to come in April instead which would be in time for May placement. He said that Thai schools prefer hiring Caucasian teachers. Basically my lovely caramel skin was just not gonna cut it.

This is what I don’t understand when Work Explore Abroad emailed me to tell me that my application was approved who did the get approval from. The lady at Work Explore Abroad could not find the email where Xplore Asia gives the approval and Explore Asia claims they did not receive my application nor sent an approval.

The only thing that Xplore Asia could offer me was a volunteer position which I still had to pay an admin and processing fee for. They put me in touch with another company called Dragon Fly who places volunteers in Thai schools who cannot afford to hire full-time ESL teachers. So after graduating I moved to the south of Thailand to a in the middle of nowhere rural kind of place. Luckily the school offered free accommodation so I would be able to keep costs down until May intake. Unfortunately I couldn’t do much as there was nothing to do where I stayed. My daily routine entailed going to school teaching and going home. That’s it. I managed to stay for a month but realized that I was going to run out of money if I stayed there. I posted my CV on Ajarn.com which is a job website for ESL teachers and received replies from schools who wanted to interview me. That was when I decided to move to Bangkok. Bear in mind all this moving around, travelling, visa extensions was money coming out of my own pocket.

I then started going for interviews and here’s the thing all my interviews went well but if you wanted to teach at a Thai you need a degree as this is now a new legal requirement (which Xplore Asia knew about). Which brings me to my second question. As a second English degree student why did these agencies “approve” my application? Xplore Asia said that even though it is a requirement that there will not be enough teachers with degrees that schools will have to employ some teachers who do not have degrees. Ok, that did not happen for me. It is important to note that neither company wanted to take any responsibility for my predicament that I found myself in. I then tried to get partial refunds to get a plane ticket home. That’s right I was ready to head home but again neither companies were prepared to help me in any way which is quite disappointing seeing as I paid them both large amounts of money and did not get much in return. In fact the info pack Work Explore Abroad sent was stuff I could have Googled and I still had to apply for the visa myself. All she did was give me contact details for Xplore Asia, that’s all I really paid for, the name of another company.

I have managed to find myself employment at an amazing International school in Bangkok. I’m currently teaching at their summer camp and the head of the English department has advised me that they are looking for a primary school teacher for the new term and wanted to know if I would be interested. My ticket home is in October and after all I have been through I am really looking forward to going home.

I’m not sure how long I will stay once I get back home because there are so many places I want to see. One bad experience is not enough to stop me. I still have my qualification to teach English as a second language and I have more than enough teaching experience.

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