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I’ve worked abroad a few times. Just like most people who do it, I seek labour to help me fund the rest of my traveling – hostels, food, drink, transport, and everything else in between. It can add up to be a pretty big bill.

I’ve taught English, handed out flyers on the street and sold promotion packages. Soon (fingers crossed…) I’ll either be employed in a bar, or on a farm.

To work, officially, you need a work visa. But there are PLENTY of places who will overlook this small detail. In fact, of the three jobs abroad I have held up until now, only one required any proof that I was legally eligible to work. One. The others? They’ve decided to take the calculated risk, which of course means that you do too.

Thailand

My Thai working visa was organised through a company called CIEE – the people who also found my teaching placement. I paid them a fee (which I found to be very reasonable) which covered all the costs of my visa, plus a great deal more, and it took away the headache of going through all the paperwork myself. Not bad. Because CIEE handled my paperwork, I don’t know much about obtaining a working visa for Thailand. What I understand is that you must first have a non-immigrant visa on your passport. Then to obtain a work permit, it seems that you must have a job lined up with an employer who will in effect ‘sponsor’ you and provide a contract with your job description and the dates that you will be employed.

In Thailand, my English teaching job was very official. I filled in any number of forms, got a fancy stamp in my passport, got a whole new booklet (my work permit) that looked a lot like another passport and signed a document every month when I received my salary.

We never came across any real problems, and I received my salary in cash which made things a lot simpler. The only hiccup was that my original contract ended on the last day of school. Of course it would; why not, right? The problem? Once my contract was over, I was no loner authorised to stay in the country and would have to either leave, or at least do a quick hop over the border to get a new entry visa as a tourist. The issue: it would mean missing the last week of school to get to the border and back. Luckily, we were able to have our contracts extended as long as the other teachers and I promised not to demand a salary for the extra month which, in theory, we could probably have done.

After teaching, and a couple of months of traveling through Laos and Cambodia, I was back in Thailand and looking for ways to save my dwindling pile of money. Now, of course, I had no valid work permit and nor did my traveling friend. So what did we do? We landed on Koh Phi Phi and quickly became one of the many travelers you see there handing out flyers for the various bars, advertising free buckets (of alcohol), free barbeques, Thai boxing, and any number of incentives to drive traffic. We were paid in cash at the end of each night, no questions asked. The problem is, the island had a slight run-in with the law and, as a result, the police (usually bribed to look the other way) took our photos and shut the bars down early. Luckily that was the worst that happened. I still got paid.

In theory, you are taking the risk of getting in trouble if you do this. But in my own experience and from what I’ve seen, the benefit outweighs the risk. It’s more often the company (i.e. the bar that hired me) that deal with the problems. The police know that you’re going to be gone soon anyway. Spending time getting you in trouble is rarely worthwhile for them.

Australia

Now I’m spending time in Australia, and again looking for ways to support myself and enable my traveling.

Before I arrived here, I obtained a Working Holiday Visa which was incredibly easy. Australia does all of their visas online, which means no need to send your passport anywhere. All I did was apply online, make a quick appointment at the doctors for a chest x-ray, and presto – a visa confirmation in my Gmail inbox. Simple as that.

Unlike the Thai visa, I didn’t have to have a job lined up for me. The Working Holiday Visa allows you to seek any kind of work after you have entered the country for up to six months at a time. Much easier.

When I first came here back in May, I stopped in Byron Bay for about a week. While I didn’t work there, I became good friends with quite a few people who did. Everyone I met worked in the hostel where I had a bed – Aquarius Backpackers. I don’t think that their work required a Working Holiday Visa, although most of them had one and often held a second job in bars and offices in the town. I would strongly recommend looking for hostel work to anyone traveling around Oz. It doesn’t require much work (at Aquarius, it was two hours a day) and your pay is in the form of free accommodation. It’s perfect if you’re running low on money and looking for ways to ease the pain. With free accommodation, you’re saving anywhere from $20 – $40/night. That’s pretty good if you ask me!

For the last month in Sydney I worked for Redhot PR, selling promotional packages for Sydney’s top hair salons on the street, in shopping centres, on the beach. Just about anywhere. The pros: they also promote bars and big events, which meant free club entry, and free tickets to things like the Space Ibiza party I went to on New Years Day. They also sent me to Melbourne for a week to work, paying for my flight and accommodation. Plus, every Friday they provided drinks and a small party in the office before we headed out for the night. They certainly piled on the added bonuses.

The cons: technically we were not allowed to sell inside shopping centres, the airport, or anywhere else, which meant spending the day dodging security guards and occasionally getting kicked out. There was no hourly wage, which meant all of my income was commission based. This could be seen as a good thing, as it meant your potential salary is completely unlimited. The difficulty is, if you’re having a rough day, you’re not on your game – you come home with nothing. A lot of people are fantastic at this job. Myself – I had a great start, but I quickly got worn down and eventually it became impossible for me to stay. You’ll find, in Sydney at least, that there are a LOT of jobs like this. My advice – give it a go, and try to stick it out for one week. If, by then, you don’t see the potential, at least you tried, but a week should be enough time for you to see whether you have what it takes.

Next on my list is either bar work or farm work, so we’ll see how it goes!

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Thai Royalty

So one of the princesses is coming to our school this Friday. Which means there have been no classes all week because they use their students as manual labour instead of hiring people for that. So we have new Zen gardens, white and purple sashes EVERYWHERE (I hope she likes purple…) ALL the building have been repainted including the water tower – all by students. Princess Margaret came to visit my school once when I was younger and I don’t remember being allowed to miss a week of classes to clean up! Although I probably would not have volunteered to climb into the roof with a paint brush attached to a 20 foot pole to paint the wall….

Friday is also our last day of “school” obviously there will not actually BE school, details, details. I was given strict advice on what to wear. No jewelry allowed including rings in case it’s a weapon.
A lot of things are happening on Friday. Thai royalty, the end of my school days in Thaiand, and, as it happens, my good friend Amanda heads off to the Peace Corps in Africa to help save the world like I know she can. Not a bad day overall.

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Hey everyone,

Sorry for the lack of postings lately, but hopefully this one will make up for that.
My time in Tha Wang Pha is winding down now. I should be leaving this coming weekend to start a new adventure! On that note: THANK YOU for all the packages and cards I’ve received, they have meant so much to me. Since I’ll be leaving in less than a week, please hold off on sending anymore since (unless you send them super Express) I won’t receive them.
On to the quick catch up:
A couple of weeks ago, a student, May, took me out for the evening. We went to the market first and she bought and showed me a bunch of fruit that I had never seen before (the season here is just changing, so all this new exotic stuff is showing up), then she took me out with some of her school friends and we went to the Nan River where we picked algae off the river bed to cook and eat. On our way back through the farm fields, we picked green chili peppers off the plants. May took me back to her house where her aunt taught me how to make naam prik (chili paste) which they eat all the time here with sticky rice (I think it’s a northern Thailand thing). It was great fun, and I got to eat dinner on the floor of her home with May, her sister and brother, mother and father, aunt and grandmother. It was the first time I’ve really felt accepted and welcomed by a Thai family. Everyone here has been very friendly of course, but this family taught me about different food, how to pick the fresh stuff from the fields, how to cook it, and eat it. It was one of my favourite nights here. I’ve added some photos from that night to this album, so check it out.
Another recent weekend involved a Girl Scout camp and an English camp. The Girl Scout camp was fun – the teachers just made the girls go through a number of obstacle course type challenges. English camp was interesting. Me, the girls and Devon were each given a station and asked to come up with an activity. There was no clear direction, and although there was a schedule it included things like “Rehearse for talent show, perform talent show.” What talent show?! The Thai teachers seemed to have slightly high expectations of what this event was going to be…. Luckily Shaleas’ made her station acting. Each group had to write and perform little plays, and the best ones performed for the whole group at the end which saved the “talent show” idea. It was fun although extremely poorly organized, but I met a woman and her daughter at the camp who I now tutor after school, so something good came out of it! Photos from Girl Scout camp, English camp, and some random school photos are all in this album.
A week ago, Kelly and I met up with Kim in Hang Chat, where Lisa and our other friend Nate teach. We stayed with them for two nights, did a lot of shopping and I took everyone’s money in poker which felt good after losing my money to Shaleas and Devon twice since we’ve started playing…  Since we don’t have poker chips, or enough 1 baht coins to play with, we have adapted to playing with grains of rice. The first ten minutes of every game is spent counting out 100 grains of rice each. It works surprisingly well. Photos of our first poker tournament when Shaleas’ friend Stephanie (another teach) visited are in the previous album link.
There are a few more memorable events that have occurred over the past week or so but I don’t want this post to get too long. Keep checking the site for another update soon. BUT
Meanwhile….
Another video! I got really into playing around with iMovie, so here is another video, this time based on my school and my students, so I hope you enjoy it! Keep checking for a third installment about my village.

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The weather changes pretty often in a lot of the world. It’s usually pretty unpredictable no matter what Al Roker or any other crazed weatherman/woman tells you.
Have you ever travelled to visit friends or family on a day where their weather happens to change from warm to cold or vice versa? If yes, then have you found people saying things like “oh, you brought the sun with you,” or “ohh, why did you bring the rain with you from England?” I am an innocent traveller. I do not ‘bring’ weather with me, it changes when it wants to change and pays no regard to my travel plans. If it did, I would never ‘bring the rain from England’ as I often seem to do. Despite how aware I am of how weird this phrase is, I’ve found myself thinking it, and I may even have said it at one point, not sure, to our new visitor Matthew, Kelly’s boyfriend.
Matthew lives in San Diego, where Kelly also resided until she decided to jump ship and come to Asia like the rest of us in the CIEE programme. Anyone in a relationship can understand how hard it is to be away from your partner for long stretches of time and the experience has been just as difficult for Kelly and Matthew as can be expected. Apparently one week ago Matthew finally decided that it was just too long since he’d seen his sweetheart. Last Monday night (or Monday morning for Matthew) he managed to get Kelly to give him all the information he could possibly need to get from Bangkok to Tha Wang Pha including the name of the bus station, the name of our town, everything, using some fake story about a bar tender who told him that trains were better than buses in Thailand (which is FALSE…refer to this post from a couple of moths ago for more details).
So on Tuesday morning San Diego time, Matthew hopped in his car, drove to LAX, took a plane to Tokyo (several hours in layover), then another plane to Bangkok (several hours hanging out in the airport), got a taxi to the bus station (a couple of hours of waiting…), bus from Bangkok to Nan, BARELY caught the last local bus from Nan to Tha Wang Pha, then hitched a ride with two students who found him on the side of the road, and showed up at our front door completely unannounced on Thursday night, about 38 hours after he had left. Wow. Talk about a big gesture.
Meanwhile, I was happily cooking away in the kitchen (which is in Kelly’s room) when these two students pulled up. I couldn’t see them in the dark, only their headlights, and all I heard was “hello,” and then “Marianne, I don’t know…” So I went outside only to see Matthew walking towards my front door having assumed that the room I was in was actually mine, not Kelly’s. I recognized him because….well I’m a Facebook stalker (there I said it), and in breathless hysterics tried to explain to Kelly who was outside. I don’t think she understood what I was saying until Matthew had been in the room for a good 30 seconds.
So here he is. White person #5 to temporarily reside at Thawangphapittayakhom school. Unfortunately he’s only here until this Friday when he will return to sunny San Diego to take care of some things before going to Australia and then back to Thailand in March which is when he was supposed to show up in the first place. Speaking of sunny – back to how I started this post. I know I just recently wrote about how incredibly cold it has been around here, especially at night. Well since the night Matthew showed up with his bags on the back of a student’s motorbike it has been surprisingly mild. I wouldn’t call it warm, but I no longer have to sleep with every item of clothing I own. I still have two duvet covers, but Matthew has, as they say, ‘brought the warmth’ with him. So thanks Matthew, for bringing a little sunshine to Tha Wang Pha and for giving this village some new gossip to chatter about.
In other news, my friend Kim just wrote a blog about life in Thailand that I think does a great job of describing all the little everyday things. The only thing that differs between her life here and mine is that I do not have a 7-11 on every corner. We do have one, it’s a pretty cool hangout. But in general, she’s right about the abundance of this 24/7 convenience store. Also, my school does not have buffalo, we have pigs. Kim’s blog.
That’s it for now. We tutored all this past weekend which was just as fun as it sounds. This coming weekend we are more than likely going to be running an English camp for the students, so I’ll let you know how that goes.
Finally – I want your comments. Tell me a story (any big gestures committed/witnessed lately?), say hi, talk about what life is like where you are, I don’t care, I just care that you share it with me and the rest of the blog-o-sphere.
Bye for now

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I know these have been long awaited by some people and my internet finally wants to cooperate, so here it is. Photos from all these old stories I’ve been telling. I don’t blame you if you don’t have the energy to go through all of them at once, but here are all the links for those not on Facebook to peruse at your own pace. Enjoy.
The most recent album is from this last weekend. I went to Chang Mai and met up with the girls plus the lovely Sophie and Claudia from London! They are here in Thailand/Laos/Cambodia for the next few months and it was great to see some familiar faces for a couple of days. You can check out their blog about their travels here.

Sukhothai

Bangkok (way old)

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This week back has been pretty hard so far. I’ve been reminded of all the things I find so frustrating about the Thai education system – mainly that the kids have no discipline whatsoever and are impossible to control. Then there was a small dramatic episode with our visas and work permits. On Monday we went to extend our visas only to find out that they would expire on exactly the last day of school. That means that we would have to do a border run to Laos either the weekend before, or on the very last day of school which is time consuming and not free. We finally got that sorted out, and I can now stay in the country until March 31st with no obligation to leave which is a huge relief.

In case this all wasn’t annoying enough, it is FREEZING here. When most people think of Thailand, they think about tropical weather, beautiful beaches, etc. Read my last two posts to see evidence that this does in fact exist. However, up here in the North, when the sun goes down it takes the heat with it. Yesterday I wore a huge pair of wooly socks, long pajama pants, a long sleeved T-shirt, a sweatshirt with the hood pulled over my head and a SCARF to bed. And I was still freezing underneath my two thick comforters. Our rooms have tiles floors and cement walls with no insulation and no heating/air conditioning, so if it’s cold, we’re cold, if it’s hot, we’re still kind of cold. If you’ve been thinking of sending that care package with the electric blanket, now would be a good time.
Let’s hope it only lasts a couple more weeks, then bring on the Thai summer!

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Happy Christmas everyone! I had a great day here in Thailand. This morning in front of the whole school, Shaleas, Kelly and I sang ‘Silent Night’ and ‘We Wish You A Merry Christmas’ while Devon played the violin. It was a beautiful sight. Kelly also told the historical story of the real Santa – St Nick, and a student spoke the words of the song ‘Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer’ among other activities.
The kids enjoyed having one more thing to yell at us down the hallways. Now instead of just “Hello teacher! Good morning!” it’s “Hello teacher! Good morning! Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!”
My friend Kara had sent me a can of cranberry jelly, powdered mashed potatoes and powdered gravy from the States which the four of us made and ate with some good chicken for Christmas dinner. Then it was followed up by some delicious mince pies and traditional Christmas pudding which I received this morning from London thanks to Naomi!
After stuffing our faces we watched The Christmas Story on Kelly’s laptop and I now feel appropriately ‘Christmassy.’ But now Christmas is about to be over, so what now? By the way, HILARIOUS skit about the time between Christmas and New Years by Michael McIntyre here. Please check it out, he is hilarious. American’s may not find him as funny, so Brits, enjoy. 🙂
I hope you’ve all had a great holiday, it was definitely strange not being home for the first time, but I got lots of love from a lot of you through cards, e-mails and Facebook messages so thanks so much for that.
Moving on briefly…

A few blog posts ago I wrote about the political situation here in Thailand.

Since then I’ve mentioned that Thailand does now have a new Prime Minister, Abhisit Vejjajiva. One blog reader asked me what I thought about him. Right now I’m not sure what to think. He represents a political party that I’m not particularly supportive of, however if you check out what he has said in that past (read here, thank you Wikipedia…it’s on the internet so it must be true right?) he seems to be all about helping out the people. The PAD as a party appear to be more about supporting the rich and ignoring the poor, but Abhisit says he supports creating free health care and lower gas prices among other things, which clearly help out the less fortunate in this country, of which there are many. So in other words, I don’t know and I will wait and see just like everyone else! He was educated at Eton and Oxford (more bio information here) so maybe it’s just my innate tendencies to love my fellow Brits…
As far as news in other parts of the world – my only connection to the Western World is Aljazeera, the Internet, and my podcasts. I am a podcast junkie, subscribing to over two dozen including ABC Nightly News. I am currently watching the December 22nd episode, and I just want to say how ridiculous it is that the FIRST headline news story; the one Charles Gibson/whoever actually organises the show thought was most important, was the weather. That’s right everyone, it’s winter. In winter, it snows sometimes. Sometimes a lot. Apparently this year, so much snow that it trumped the economic downturn, the many wars going on in the world,  and all the other fun things Charles Gibson chatted about. The reporter on the scene – standing in front of some …snow… Linsey Davis (someone should tell her there’s a D in Lindsey) described it as ‘bone numbing.’ That’s one level above ‘bone chilling’ I guess? Fascinating stuff. Also in the podcast – you can now buy an attachment for your iPhone called the iBreath to test your own alcohol blood content. Love technology.
That’s it for now. I miss you all especially during this holiday season, so have a great time and Happy New Year!!

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