Happy Friday: Videos & Address!

So the main reason for this post is to let everyone know my address! Initially I was under the impression that receiving packages would cost us a lot of money upon their arrival. But, thankfully I have found out that is not true! If you send mail using the US post and not Fed-ex or UPS it will not cost me a dime! So, this is an open invitation to all to send me packages and cards! All of our mail comes to school, so there is a bit of an unspoken competition between foreigners on who receives the most mail. And lets just say I'm not in the top ten quite yet! :)

Anubanchonburi School
c/o Esther Wills
Wachiraprakarn Road, T Bangplasoi
A. Muang
Chon Buri 20000

No, but really I would love to hear from y'all and snail mail can actually be lots of fun! It makes the day feel like Christmas morning!

Here are a few silly videos to make you laugh this Friday and send you into the weekend happy and smiley! I'm headed to Bangkok right after school and will be checking out Thailand's biggest market: JJ's. The market is spread over 35 acres and there are more than 8,000 shops, vendors and stalls. Hopefully, I will survive--this isn't normally my cup of tea. I have already researched and found all the near by coffee shops that will act as my safe haven if I become overwhelmed by Thai trinkets, condensed milk, plastic bags, straws and stick food.
Gangnam Style: I hear this at least 5 times a week. It literally never gets old to them. 

Loy Krathong English Version. These two girls are so smart!

Nine Square: A very big deal here in Thailand. There are many competitions and when the students get older it is a combo between Dance Dance Revolution and Boot Camp. 
They go so fast and are amazing!

Below is Christmas. There really isn't much I can say about this. It was a crazy crazy day! I have so many more videos from this day, but they wouldn't load for some reason, so this is what you get! 
Happy Friday!

Drink (Condensed) Milk from Bag through a Straw

Very Very Spicy Red Curry!

So I haven't had a post about food yet. I have been here almost exactly three months and there has yet to be an entire entry decicated to food and food alone.

I've been sick the past couple of weeks and lost all enthusiasm for Thailand. Literally every ounce of positivity was suck out of me dementor style.  I was tired and achy with a horrible runny nose, stopped up ears and a cough that quite possibly woke up my neighbors. Getting in front of 37 small Thai children acting happy and peppy was the last thing I wanted to do. But, thankfully I made it through the week and quarantined myself to my room and slept the weekend away. It is now Monday and I feel like a million bucks compared to weeks passed!

So I figured this would be a good time to remember some of the things I truely am happy and thankful for here in Thailand. It is easy to look at all the breathtaking pictures from weekend travels and think I'm living the life. But, in reality I live in pretty smelly and dirty town (sewage, trash, stray dogs galore) and my job is never really easy to figure out. It never stays the same and randomly I'm asked to come in and work on the weekends (nevermind the fact that I already have weekend reservations/plans...)

But enough of that. On the topic at hand: Food. Food and I have a love hate relationship here. Thais always use high sodium sauces, fish and shrimp paste, sugar and extremely low grade oil, but if you can look passed all of that you can find some really delicious food. The most amazing thing about Thailand's food is that kitchens are nonexistent. If you wanted to open up a restaurant here buy a wok and a rice cooker, put it on a set of wheels, buy a few plastic chairs and tables and you are good to go.

Vegetarian Lady chopping ginger and bitter melon
I will start with my lunch spot: Vegetarian lady as we all call her. She is one of my most favorite people I've met since I've been here in Thailand. I go eat lunch at her restaurant Monday-Friday without fail. Through my very few Thai words and many many hand gestures we manage to have broken conversations every day. She told me one day that I'd officially become like a Thai person, because I made my food very spicy. Each day I ask for "chow" (rice) and pick two toppings from the clear glass case. Every day the dishes are different: curries, spicy greens, tofu prepared more ways than you can imagine, pineapple dishes, ginger dishes and too many more to name. While I eat each day, I watch them cut up the millions of vegetables being prepped for tomorrows case: eggplant, ginger, greens, radishes, potatoes, pumpkin, lemongrass, cabbage to name a few. My favorites so far are the Japanese pumpkin curries and this yummy pineapple spicy dish.

Everyone else loves the soup. It is delicious and is made right in front of you. They use colander type contraptions to lower rice noodles, greens, mug bean sprouts, daikon type veggie and lots of tofu into a big boiling cauldron and then add everything together to make a yummy steaming soup.
Always: Sugar, Red Pepper & Soy Sauce w/ Chilies & Vinegar w/ Chilies (This was special w/ limes & peanuts!)
Sour Mango
Recently I've been treating myself to a post lunch treat of sour mango. At home if I happen to cut up a mango and it isn't quite ripe I get mad. It tastes gross and ruins the whole salad. Here under ripe mango tastes like sour candy (I don't even like sour candy, but this is amazing!). They are crunchy and sweet and sour at the same time. Thai people use a wooden stick and dip the mango slices into a mixture of chilies, sugar and salt. I kindly say no thanks to the sugar salt spice packet!

As you will see as the post continues Thais are big on plastic bags, sticks and straws. The fruit stands are found all throughout the city and normally walk around ringing a bell--like an ice cream truck. They use incredibly sharp knifes and chop the fruit into this funnel like metal contraption and then slide the fruit straight into a bag, add your wooden stick and you are good to go! All for about 60 cents: you can get a whole pineapple, mango, papaya, guava or watermelon most times of the year here!
Next on to the coffee shops. Really I could make an entire post dedicated to just beverages that I love in the country: fruit juices, americanos and coconut water sums it up nicely. Drip coffee is almost nonexistent here. You either have nescafe or an espresso machine. Before I came I was told I'd never be more than 100 meters from an espresso machine. I thought "no way!" But truth be told, this is 100% true! Coffee shops are on every corner and sell every coffee, tea and fruit concoction possible all with a nice touch of condensed milk to call the beverage complete in the eyes of Thais. Thais are obsessed with condensed milk. It goes into all the above beverages as well as on waffles, in cookies and even sometimes in entree dishes. Really it is "when in doubt add condense milk!" Thankfully I've learned out to say no milk, no sugar and enjoy a black iced americano daily! (sometimes 2..) 
Favorite afternoon coffee spot
Favorite Morning Coffee Spot
Below are the earlier mentioned fruit juices. Once again I've learned to ask for nit nawy (little) or no sugar and they transform into amazing afternoon snacks or yummy beach cocktails. My favorite combo so far is orange-carrot which I can get at the night market for about 10cents!

And this--best drink in Thailand: Fresh coconut juice! Yum. Can't go wrong here! Cold, delicious and afterwards you can use a spoon to scrape out all the delicious coconut meat inside!
Below are pictures from the night market. The night market happens every single night and it is about a ten minute walk from my house. It also conveniently located right next to the running park, so in perfect blog world: after our nightly runs we can pick up something quick and healthy for dinner. (running portion doesn't always happen.) The market sells everything: fish, fruit, dolls, vegetables, soups, sushi, cakes, drinks, fresh herbs (and most of the mentioned options are also conviently served w/ condensed milk or on a stick and offered in a "to go version" in a bag)--really anything you can think of it is there.

One of our favorite spots is Padi Thai guy and his wife. This is him in action on our very first trip to the night market. His wife makes delicious som tum too! Som tum is spicy papaya salad. And as you can see she is conveniently making a "to go" bag version of som tum.

Padi Thai Guy
Spicy Papaya Salad: All made in a wooden mortar and pestle (you can say how many red chilies you want to add in!)
Popular Stick Method: Waffles on a Stick
Every day my kids (and all the kids in the school) drink milk. Sounds pretty normal, but actually kind of bizarre seeming the first couple weeks. In Thailand people drink beverages out of bags a lot. Milk, soda, coffee you name it and it can be put in a bag. After they pray, we walk by cutting small slits in the top and then they jam in a small straws (told you straws were popular). If you are going to drink a beverages in Thailand you will drink it from a straw. Even if it is a bottle of water, a canned coke, a beer etc. The top of these cans, bottles and cups will not touch your mouth! Straws are a big deal....

Keng on Milk Break!

I will have to make another food post later on. I don't want overwhelm you too much! But, I have so much more I could talk about: strange Thai customs, delicious thai meals and of course Esther's infamous rice cooker meals. Don't worry everyone, I still have dinner parties! Instead of an amazing dining room table we sit on the floor using a sheet (the same one taken to many a outside picnic in Memphis.) and instead of a great gas range everything is prepared in one small contraption: the much beloved and hated rice cooker....

Rose, Thorn, Bud

Title explanation: Over our causal NYE beach dinner, still sandy and in wet bathing suits we toasted our beach cocktails and played the game Rose, Thorn, Bud. Something wonderful from the past year, something a bit sour and something to work towards/look forward to or a way to group for the new year. As soon as the game was suggested, (and no even though this sounds like some corny thing I would have brought up just like my mother "When was the first time you knew you were in Thailand--did cross my mind though...it was not my idea) we all sat in silence trying to come up with what to say. We all had the obvious rose and thorn combo of moving to Thailand and leaving our family behind. The bud was a bit more of a challenge and not as obvious. Most of us settled on the simple idea of finding out more about ourselves this year and what we want to do when we grow up. 2013 should be a breeze of a year with that bud. 

Untitled This weekend was our first really long holiday. New years is a big deal in Thailand and we were off on Monday and Tuesday (rumor had it we might get Wednesday off too--but no such luck this year). For the long weekend we planned an island weekend in Koh Chang. Now realizing how short weekend trips can feel, we took every possible short cut and round about/more expensive measure we possibly could to make it to Koh Chang on Friday.

I've said it before, but I'll say it again: traveling in Thailand is the least efficient process in the entire world. Alicia's brother came to visit for New Years and it took him less time to travel from the US to Thailand than it did from Bangkok to Koh Chang. (Bangkok to Koh Chang should take no longer than 5 hours). So this go around we coughed-over the money and hired a driver--best decision we've ever made. Super fast, stop for snacks/bathroom whenever you want! I don't ever want to take public transportation in Thailand again.

We arrived at the ferry around 5 and were lucky enough to see the sun setting. It was the perfect way to start the trip: emerald blue water, firey red sunset, a cold beer and let's not forget stagnant air--but once on the island it was actually quite breezy! This trip over on the ferry was actually one of the best things we saw all weekend. As the sun set in one direct the moon rose in the other. Friday was a full moon and words cannot describe the orange-y storybook version of a moon that filled the sky that night.

Untitled The sunset and within minutes and the sky was dark. We arrived and could see more stars than I've seen in a long time. Jump on a songtao and took the scary windy road to our hotel. This weekend was not only a long holiday weekend and NYE, it was also a bit of a reunion weekend. Fifteen of us rang in the new year together!

Untitled Two of the other girls also arrived Friday afternoon and we all went to a Mexican Restaurant (yes--we eat foods other than Thai on vacation sometimes, because we miss them!!). The restaurant was amazing--owned by a French man and his Mexican wife. They marinate all their meat for hours, salsas incredibly fresh, homemade black re-fried beans and of course amazing margaritas and mojitos (I think mojitos are the best drink in Thailand, because the mint here is so flavorful!).

After dinner we called it an early night, so we could make it to the beach early the next day. And early it was, we woke up for coffee around 8:30 and grabbed a bite to eat. We walked a ways down the beach to a beautiful spot Maddie and Shannon found the night before called Sunset Beach. We posted up there and did not leave until nightfall. It was perfect. I swam a few laps in the calm, clear ocean, took a nap, chatted and read my book. Very peaceful and quiet. As the sunset over the ocean the other 8 arrived! They arrived just in time to see the colorful sky and snap a few pictures.

Untitled That night we planned on reservations at what was suppose to be one of the best Thai food places on the island, but unfortunately Ryan and his friend Pierce were still stuck traveling and hadn't arrived yet. A few of us stuck behind to wait for their arrival. They finally around around 11 and obviously by this point our reservation was no longer. So we took a songtao up to Lonely Beach and sat down at the first place we could find. We ended up having a great meal at a place called Magic Garden--but I'm not sure if it was good or we were just so hungry.

We then went dancing for a bit and out to the beach to see the stars, but head home not too late, because waterfalls were in store for the next day! We woke up early and climbed a short hike to see a pretty small waterfall. It was pretty, but nothing to write home about (but I guess worthy for blog writing..haha). The best part was the fresh water pond below the waterfall. It was so cold and felt so refreshing!

The rest of the day we posted up at the beach and once again did not move from under the umbrella (Mom, I do not have even the slightest bit of pink skin...you'd be so proud!!) That night I had to call it a night after dinner. I was so tired and wanted to save up some energy. I tricked everyone into coming back to the hotel so we could "look up places to go in white sands on wifi," but really I just wanted someone to walk back with. So, they all ventured out and I hit the sack.

We woke early again the next morning for a a full morning of kayaking. I kayaked a bit in Chile, but it was not river or ocean kayaking. It was definitely a ghetto version. This go round we received a lot of nice gear and were actually taught the correct paddle strokes. It was a lot of fun, a good work out yet also very relaxing at the same time. We stopped half way through and jump off a few cliffs into the ocean. I done cliff jumping in Hot Springs before, but these cliffs were had super jagged points and my heart was pounding. It really was quite scarey (quite was a word used a lot this day--our guide was from England). I did it though and only managed a few scraps and to flip my kayaking upon exiting it. Of course I was the only one to flip my kayak--what a dumbie.

Untitled That afternoon we met up with the rest of the group and suprise once again spent the rest of the day at the beach. This was my favorite beach day. All fifteen of us were together and we acted like little kids again. We played frisbee, did handstands, yoga, and drank cocktails out of coconuts (guess that isn't like little kids...) It was great. The one thing missing was a game of paddle ball. I tried to ask a few people if we could borrow their paddles, but the timing wasn't ever right! Bummer--next time!

Instead of trying to plan something big for NYE dinner, we just stopped at the same beach side restaurant we'd eaten at the night before: Family Restaurant. We had great fresh seafood and delicious curries. We then headed home to play dress up, get glitterfied and add tinsel to our hair. It was like a mini factory assembly line. We started with Alex and she did our make-up, then stop over to Laura and she sprayed us down with glitter then off to Hannah who tied a very dramatic yet understated piece of tinsel in everyone's hair.

Untitled The night to follow was pretty perfect. NYE is one of those holidays that has great potential to be horrible and normally is so for me. If we do a quick NYE recap of the years: last year broken ankles...and I don't really think the list needs to continue from there....

We just acted silly. It was great! I hate to say it family members, but y'all have some competition. Becca is maybe the best dance partner I've ever had. She can read, follow and lead some pretty amazing choreographed romie and michelle-esque dance moves that always end up taking up the whole dance floor. We are thinking of buying a tuk-tuk and driving around Thailand to show everyone our dance act and charging high dollar for this quality performance. The cameras flashes that night where a true testament to just how good we were--who knows where our dance moves will show up next. But all I can say our popularity is spreading like wildfire throughout Thailand and we are known by many for these epic dance moves.