A Christmas Story: Thai Style

As I mentioned in an earlier post, the holidays are a really special time for me, and spending it away from home has been really hard. And yet, I’m in Thailand, how can I complain?!  While I did miss home, there was no use in sulking, I had to make the most with what I have.

*****

This year, by all accounts, was a very Thai Christmas.  By definition, my presence in Thailand during the Christmas holiday makes it a Thai Christmas, however, Christmas was also Thai because the way that everything happened was all just so very, well…. Thai.

Our school has a huge party on Christmas Day every year. There is an assembly with a variety of different performances and the students make elaborate decorations out of recycled materials.  Despite the 100+ degree weather outside, it was still beginning to really feel like Christmas.  The decorations were coming together, the foreign English teachers had put together an awesome dance/lip sync performance that we were going to perform for the students and I finally started to feel that excited anticipation.  And then they gave me my costume.

Um. It’s super cute and I rocked it. But like……………….. I felt so awkward! I teach middle schoolers and high schoolers! School dress code requires teachers to cover the knees, shoulders and armpits at school. And now I’m dressed like slutty Santa in front of high schoolers at my place of work and they’re going to make me dance. But if nobody else thinks it’s weird, I figured I’d just go with it. Own it.

The assembly was great! The kids and the teachers put in a ton of effort and it showed! There was a nativity play, dance performances, a Mr. and Mrs. Claus contest (on which I have no idea what the criteria was),

and a contest for the best trees between the sophomore and junior classes.

In true Thai fashion, after a few hours of assembly the students just left. We never got to perform our lip sync song that we had worked so hard on.  But at least we didn’t have to embarrass ourselves!

That evening was the staff party at which the English department (both foreign and Thai English teachers) were putting on a performance.  Of this we were informed one day in advance of our mandatory participation. We were to perform a dance that started off as a traditional Thai dance and transitioned into J Lo sexy dancing (also so very Thai).  We rocked it. There was drinking, dancing, eating, karaoke, and merriment. (Also it cost 500 bath to be there, which we weren’t told, but whatever, I’m over it).

Since it was Christmas, I had made plans to spend it with my TESOL family in Bangkok. Thai scheduling being what it is (nonexistent), I ended up missing two buses because the last minute mandatory performance.  While I was anxious to get to Bangkok to see my friends, it’s a bummer the party had to coincide with my trip because I would’ve loved to stay and watch the night unfold. Each department put together a fun performance and I heard there were some good ones!

I finally arrived in Bangkok and to Carly’s apartment at 1:30 am where at least I was able to Skype with my family back home.

*****

Christmas weekend in Bangkok was incredible! It was my first ever trip to the big city and it did not disappoint.  We went ice skating, I met some Italian backpackers, and I was surrounded by people who spoke English! Christmas displays lined the streets and it made me feel right at home again.

But above all else, civilization means one very important thing- western food. I was able to fill the giant fajita shaped hole in my heart (and stomach)

1546139_10104880736661487_1434613896575532942_n

and also came across my favorite spot in Bangkok. Artbox.

image1 (12)

Artbox is a pop-up night market that appears in various locations around the city. It has a cute artsy vibe without being overly hipster. The stalls stray from the regular touristy items and focus more on trendy widgets, local designers, and vintage fashion.  There are bars, live music and incredible food vendors.

 

We drank beer and browsed the stands bracing ourselves for our caloric but, well-earned meals.  Mother Truckers, a food truck rumored to be the best burger in Bangkok, was my final decision. And holy cow was it good. A beef patty with bacon, an onion ring, various delicious burger toppings and what I’m deciding to call garlic aioli. Heaven.

*****

For New Years, I decided I wanted it to be a little quieter and cheaper.  I’m in Thailand, right? So why not head to the beach! After a night in Bangkok greeting those who came to stay for NYE, I headed out early on NYE morning to Koh Samet, which isn’t too far from Bangkok. Being located so far north it is apparently “the ugliest” of the Thai islands.

Well, if this is the ugliest, I CANNOT WAIT to head down south because holy crap, it’s beautiful!

It was a weekend full of sun and sand. One afternoon we took a speedboat out, cruising the island and snorkeling along the way.  It was a perfect way to break in my Christmas present- a shiny new GoPro from Mom and Dad. <3

While family, traditions and Christmas cookies will always trump everything else around the holidays; there is no denying that this was still a pretty great one. It may be a total 180 from what I’m used to, but isn’t that why I left home in the first place? While Thai organization and communication will never be something they excel at, their boundless curiosity and their incredible creativity really shone through. Being here was an irreplaceable and unique experience. It tested my patience to the bitter end but Thailand continues to show me that if I give it a chance, different isn’t always so bad.