Thursday, December 13, 2012

I dislike roofs

Want to hear a story?  Here.we. go.

Monday was Constitution Day here so we had the day off. Some of my friends were going to Phuket for the weekend so I decided to be social and go. Left early Saturday morning, got to Phuket around 12:30ish. Drove around for a bit looking for a place to stay. Ended up finding a little place a 2 minute walk from the beach. Had two beer waiting for people to get dressed, started throwing a frisbee around with Arvid. It might also be important to note that I'm not very good at frisbee. I can sort of catch and know how to run at a moderate speed but throwing is not one of the skills that the world blessed me with. So I eventually throw an awful pass to Arvid, goes way hard right and lands on the roof. We walk over to check it out. Looks a little flimsy but I'm not that heavy, won't be on it long and bad stuff doesn't really happen to me. I also didn't want to be responsible for losing a $5 frisbee. 

So I jump onto a small wall, put some weight on the roof, no problems. Start walking across the roof, get a hold of the frisbee, immediately throw it to Arvid. Then things started to go poorly. My left leg fell through then the rest of the roof I was standing on collapsed. I fell tailbone first, apparently landed on a water jug/cooler which may or may not have helped ease my fall. I fell into a Thai kitchen and luckily didn't land on anyone or anything dangerous. I really think I got lucky by not getting more injured. 
Photo: Farang go Boom!!
So picture a bunch of Thai people working at their restaurant, taking orders, speaking Thai and a massive white, shirtless white man rudely crashes into your kitchen via the roof. The word surprised might be a tad of an understatement. They immediately called for an ambulance, gave me water, fanned me down and were pretty understanding considering I ruined their roof. Ended up taking my first ever ambulance ride. Doctor took some X-rays, broke my wrist, got some stitches in my leg, a few cuts but overall feel way better each day. At the hospital they have a chart from 1-10. 1 being a green smiley face and 10 is a bright red angry face. They ask you about different parts of your body and you are suppose to point to the corresponding level of pain. I opted for orange for my back and a yellowish color for my wrist. Really is a brilliant system for a place that is inundated with several different languages daily.Tailbone felt like when you take a super hard fall snowboarding but multiplied by 9. Cast might be on for 8 weeks, I'm shooting for four. 

Waited until I came back to Nakhon to get my cast done, wanted to trust whoever was in charge of my long term health. Decent care here in my opinion. Although I have been called stubborn by a few doctors and friends the past two days; I disagree. My school covered all of the costs. Whenever people see me though they assume I am some dumb white tourist who got hurt riding a bike. I'm not a dumb farang. If they only knew I fell through a roof, they would respect me way more...

I returned the next night to apologize and ask about the cost to repair their roof. They could have easily called the police and gotten a bunch of cash from me but they were surprisingly reasonable considering it is such a tourist island that tends to overcharge for everything. Paid what amounts to about $45. To sum up, I'm fine, no scuba diving in Bali for Christmas and just happy I didn't get more seriously hurt. Enjoy both of your wrists everyone!

No matter how bad things are, they can always get worse.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

A Canadian summer?

I'm starting to think I might like to come home. My reasons for not wanting to come home are not wanting to get a serious job with only 5-10 days off a year, a Canadian winter and a feeling that once I get home I will stop traveling, get a job, girlfriend, car, house etc. HOWEVER, the thought occurred to me on Wednesday during the Father's Day celebration that I could get the best of both worlds if I spent the summer in Canada, got a few part time jobs that aren't serious and once I stopped having fun or once it started to get cold, head out to either South America or Japan. The key would not be getting tied down by jobs or a serious relationship.

The only thing that might be better is if I got a job in May working in Brazil for the 2014 World Cup, which is the dream.
I legitimately miss my family. My brother and his wife are having a very cute baby soon and would like to be around to play with him. I'd like to see my mom, sisters, friends, go to concerts, cottages, festivals, patios, movies, play some beach volleyball, barbecue, flannel sheets, constant English, poutine, and other Canadian staples. And bagels, I love bagels. And pink lemonade.

These are my thoughts. If you have any comments or concerns let me know but I think I might be on the right track with this. Now I will stop talking about my feelings and have 2 more fun posts coming up about the internet and expectations. 

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Loy Kratong!

Another Loy Kratong is in the books. Loy Kratong is an immensely popular holiday here where people make Kratongs, light them and put them into a river while wishing for good health, friends and happiness. It is very fun, students make them in class, to varying degrees of success. People also light and set off lanterns into the sky that would make almost anyone fall in love with Thailand instantly.

                                 The main reason for this post is when my friend said I should make a wish. I love wishes, specifically fountains that I can throw small change into. I think it is very romantic and optimistic about things to come. My favorites tend to be casino fountains. I can remember being in Ottawa and wishing for a girlfriend, a better job or any slight improvement to my average life. Before setting my beautiful Kratong alight that I may have received a mild bit of help with by my patient Thai teacher and one of my very bright students, I thought about what I wanted to wish for.
My wish: I don't want a single thing. 

I want my life to continue going exactly the way it is without any interference from  anything or anyone. Do I have everything I want? No. Do I have everything I need. Certainly. I'm also writing this with the prospect of a three day long weekend on Haad Yuan with some of my best friends, a no work Wednesday and a 12 day trip in Bali coming up with the legendary Kait, Jake and Emma so I might be in higher than usual spirits but as my Mother Goose would say: All is well. Here are some pictures from our schools beauty pageant on Wednesday. 

Thanks for staying tuned with my life. 
Stay safe, mildly sober and extraordinarily happy. 

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Halloween and student quote

I will get to the best part right away. Once a week I have a writing class with my students. They are crazy smart and my favorite part is teaching them new vocabulary. This evaluation we are teaching them about letter writing and in their Thai class they are learning the same thing. I bought all of my kids postcards while I was in Malaysia and I am in the process of writing them each a personal note and will put it in the mail so they get a postcard from their teacher. Might be a bit lame but I think some of them will like it. I had them bring in their addresses because they need to write a letter to the other grade 3 class. So I wrote a sample letter on the board and had them write a letter to me or to one of their friends in class. This is an excerpt of what one of my brightest and funniest kids had to say: 

"Dear Teacher Bert,

Hi! I am sad because I study with you. What are you doing now? I think you are playing with another student. Why your face is red all the time? I know that your colouring is so ugly. Do you know that my mom said you are very handsome? I think my mom eye is not ok....Sometime teacher Bert is crazy (draws a sad face) because when I said something he will laugh and laugh and laugh...I hope you have a bad day.

Your student, Kiki."

So funny. Another student told me she wanted to kick me 10 or 11 times. 

As for Halloween, this picture speaks for itself.
Most classes had treats to give to the students. We have just over 220 kids so I bought a bunch of grapes, put them in a bowl and had the kids close their eyes, put their grubby little hands into the bowl and pick out an "eyeball" and eat it. I think it worked out well, had scary music going on in the backround. Any student who might have been scared just sort of looked at me and thought there is nothing dangerous going on in this class. 

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Lessons I think I've learned. Maybe.

Here are some lessons I think I've learned but will surely re-learn at some point soon. Maybe you can learn or relate to them. These are put in order by how the came to me initially.

1-Never tell a girl you like her. Other ways exist for a girl to know that you like her. Be happy with your life outside of girls and I promise that it will help.
Example: Learned this lesson a few years ago. Will not be repeated. 

2-Always check over your shoulder or look into your side mirror before opening the car door.You could hit someone or a car.
Example: In Toronto, not paying attention, hit a BMW with a rental car. Not a good situation. However, the guy realized it was an accident, figured (rightfully) that I didn't have any money and gave me a break. One day, I will return that favor to some young punk.

3-Never quit your job until you have another one set up. Quitting jobs you hate is very appealing and rewarding in many ways. However, not having a backup plan or income coming in will eventually be a worse situation. Use your hate for your job to fuel you into finding another job.
Example: Quitting my job in Ottawa in 2009 with a job offer from Japan for sometime in 2010 then going on a trip to Vegas. (which I do not regret)

4-Booking a one way ticket is exhilarating and a life game changer. 
Example: Your life.

5-If you notice something you like about someone or admire something they are doing, tell them. Compliments shouldn't be kept inside.
Example: I loved living with my cousin Debbie. I told her I'd be there for 2 months, left just before my 3 years came up. One day I just told her how much I loved living there, appreciated her help and that she made me a better person and less of a savage.

6-Have some sort of filter between what you think and what you say. Don't be someone who just talks constantly without reflecting and interrupting people. Listen to other people. Think of intelligent things to say. Feelings are usually hurt, unintentionally hurtful jokes are made or things we regret are said more than half the time by not carefully choosing our words.
Example: Almost every joke I made in elementary school by trying to be cool or funny.

7-Just because your boss, someone you admire or someone older tells you do to something, doesn't mean you have to do it. Learn to say no and be able to articulate why you are saying no, especially if you think what you are doing is either morally wrong or illegal.
Example: 4th year internship experience.

8-Be loyal, have your friends and families back and stand up to bullies.
Example: Accepting Matt's offer to be his best man in his wedding and making it a priority no matter what that I would come home for it.

9-Keep your room clean. It makes you feel better, sleep better and you never know who or when someone will come into your room. It in some way reflects on you as a person.
Example: Almost anytime, anyone has ever come to any of my rooms at anytime. Makes you look like a nugget for having a messy room. I'm OK with cleaning it, it's the maintenance that gets me.

10-Be careful what you commit to. Don't jump into saying yes to something that you will ultimately have to back out of. OK to say no but once you give someone your word you need to back it up. Have integrity. Lesson learned from Kirsty Spence, my best and most influential and greatest teacher I've had. (See how we are using what we learned from Lesson 4?)

Example: Offered to help a sports team in 2009 that was a bit out of town while not having a car or much time to work on it other than weekend. Lesson learned. Say no to things.

11-Go to be early. Like 9:30 or 10:00. A tired Bert is not a fun or productive Bert.
Example: Felt like I was always tired last year teaching kindergarten. Realized I was wasting time on the internet or somewhere else till 11, 11 30 12 at night. You probably aren't being productive after 9 pm. Go to bed.

These are my thoughts. Let me know what you think or if you have any lessons you would like to pass on, would like to hear some.
"The only mistake in life is the lesson not learned." Albert Einstein.


Thursday, October 25, 2012

Cameron Highlands

After Malacca was the Cameron Highlands. I could have made this trip better and more memorable in retrospect.
Mistake #1: Not entirely my fault, I will admit. I dig sunrises. I think they are beautiful, don't love waking up super early but if I get the chance to watch a breathtaking sunrise, I'll take it. So I ask around about a sunrise tour or something like that. They don't offer one and act like people don't really ask to do this. Which kind of baffles me. This place has tons of tourists, make some cash and offer anything you can that people will buy. I ask around I can pay a thousand baht and take a taxi on my own. What am I a millionaire? I was talking to a girl at my guesthouse and she was certainly not into waking up so my brilliant idea was dead in the water. The only thing I really could have done differently is really hustled and tried to get a group together. Or just sucked it up and paid for it. I'm assuming it looked like this:

Mistake #2: Leaving your shoes on in Thailand is generally not a good idea when going into certain places. Feet=bad. Got it. So I leave my Solomon, basically perfect hiking/trekking shoes outside that my brother bought me. Feel like Cameron Highlands Malaysia is a pretty safe area. Wake up in the morning, actually cold because of the altitude, which was sort of a nice feeling, for about 1 min, woke up, had my iPod, some fruit, my jacket, all ready to tackle the day. You. Guessed. It. No more shoes. 
Wasn't a happy camper, asked the guy at the desk if this was common, he said it was his first time hearing about anyone losing their shoes. (He is secretly running the most elusive and profitable shoe smuggling business this side of Oregon) 
So sulked for about 15 minutes, walked into town....... shoe less  found some super crazy cheap, black scuba diving like slippers that were appropriate for hiking. By this time it was around 11 am and it crazy rains in the afternoon so finally find this trail that is suppose to be the best, found a small group to go with, sauntered my way up the mountain, started to pour. Which is all good because well I couldn't do anything about it. Get to the bottom, realize all of my clothes are getting washed and being really wet is something I can't handle well so bought a bunch of new clothes.
Mistake #3: Not just paying the 400 baht and taking a tour. I don't love taking tours because I like waking up when I want to, taking the trail I want and generally not being bossed around. However, Cameron Highlands is a pretty big area and getting to a tea plantation from where we were wasn't really easily walk able so after being soaked, walking or taking a bus to a plantation, drinking tea then finding a way back wasn't on my list of things to do after finally getting dry. Should have just woken up when they told me, took my shoes inside with me and enjoyed some delicious tea. But no, I want to be my own travel guide who doesn't need help from a "guide". Good call Bert.  
Lovers In Rain Rain Lovers

"I've learned that mistakes can often be as good a teacher as success."  Jack Welch. 

If you have a bit of time, check out these mistakes that might be more serious than mine:

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Too much TripAdvisor?

I'm a fan of TripAdvisor. I think it's great. I rarely go to a new city, town or country without checking out what their is to do, possible activities or day trips, where to stay and things to avoid. Definitely a routine of mine is to go to TripAdvisor and Wikitravel (and possibly Agoda) for 30 min to an hour and I feel fairly prepared for the adventure ahead. My only issue with it and by no fault of its own, I might be too concerned about reviews, what other people thought, how I'm going to rate it, how great the view is, what the service was like, the location or the value you receive for your money. 
Example: I was just in Koh Lanta and was trying to check out Kantiang Bay, heard it is the most beautiful beach on the island so decided to go check it out.

So I jot down two of the top 5 or so restaurants in that area and set out to find them with my friend. Several different beaches that have tons of bungalows, resorts, places to get massages, restaurants and travel agents. Finally get to the beach, don't see any of the two restaurants, go a bit further, come back to the area, passing by plenty of other resorts, look out points and places to grab a quick drink or some food but discouraged by the fact that I can't find them. So we don't end up eating or drinking anywhere there. I was somehow reluctant to go to a place I have never heard of because of another place that MIGHT be better for very subjective reasons. What if I eat somewhere and the restaurant was 1 min further ahead? HOW WOULD I FEEL!!!Furthermore, there was another restaurant that I found online that was suppose to be one of the better ones on the beach that I was staying at, spent a good 20 minutes looking for it and felt defeated that I couldn't find this one restaurant that may or may not have been good. On my mini van ride back to Nakhon we drove by it, no chance I was finding that place.

I was reflecting on this while I was eating at a mildly fancy, good vibe restaurant called the Fat Monkey. It was sort of getting late here and a bunch of restaurants start to close early because it is low season till November so I left my guesthouse, drove to the restaurant district, drizzling out so wanted to find a place fast, saw the looks of this place and could not be bothered looking anywhere else. It was great, nice people, good price, different options, would for sure go back. This is what I should have done searching for these phantom restaurants on Kantiang Bay. I think TripAdvisor should be used for many different things: making sure you stay at a safe and affordable hotel/hostel/guesthouse, making sure you don't miss out on any great attractions, tours or points of interest in a city or just giving you a better idea if that city/country is worth visiting. I don't think it should be used the way I did by being trigger shy about eating or drinking at a place that hasn't been reviewed by x amount of complete strangers. Some of these restaurants can't even be found on TripAdvisor, but it doesn't mean that don't make a crazy good Masaman curry or cashew nut chicken. I hope the lesson I learned from this is have a few restaurants in mind and areas to see, but just go with the flow and if you don't find it right away, or at all, just go with your instinct, pull up a chair and relax, it will be fine. Promise. And if it isn't, just give it a negative review on TripAdvisor.  Now if you will excuse me, the world needs to know what I think of The Fat Monkey Restaurant in Koh Lanta. Good evening. 
More Facts on Psychofacts :)

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Malacca Malaysia

My general plan for this break was certainly general: Go to Kuala Lumpur for Seth's birthday then see what happens. Spent about a week in KL, did a minuscule amount of research about Malaysia amounting to checking out Kieran's Facebook status about what he should do in Malaysia and copying and pasting the results onto my sticky notes on my computer. About a day or two before the guys were leaving KL for Indonesia and Burma, I asked them what I should do. Kieran: "Go to Malacca, I hear it's great." Done. Did a quick 10 min on Wikitravel then looked on hostelworld for a cheap place to stay and left on the Sunday. Malacca is a World Heritage Site, many temples, churches and museums that I can tell you I did not visit. I'm sure they are great though. 

My overall impression of Malacca was that I loved it. Fairly small town, very historic, interesting architecture, great weekend night markets, Chinatown, great for walking around, or taking one of these little devices that more often that not were playing Gangnam style:
It was a great place to walk around, got severely lost the first night (shocking) and is very safe. Malacca in my opinion is crazy romantic and would be a ideal place to go on a little getaway. They have a beautiful canal to walk along or take a small boat and tour the area at night. Lots of small little cafes and quaint restaurants. If I ever trick a girl into marrying me, I'd love to come back there and in a perfect world stay here: 

This may seem insignificant to you but they have 2 movie theaters so I watched Taken 2 (7.5 out of 10) and Looper (7.89 out of 10), found a small little burger shop called Bert's Jr. Can you believe that?? 

So the first time I found this great little gem I of course ordered one lemonade, I love lemonade. Just before I was about to order, I thought to myself "Bert, don't tell them your name is Bert. They don't care. This is what your dad would have done and you would have been embarrassed  Keep your mouth shut, drink your lemonade, and walk away" 
"One lemonade please, oh and my name is Bert"
Employee: "Oh your name is Bert, ha",.....hands me my lemonade, "Thanks Bert!"
Made my night. I also went back the next day to have a cheeseburger and the girl is like you were here yesterday right? Bert? Then the guy in the back near the grill "Hi Bert" It's true that remembering peoples names is important. People love the sound of their own name. 

Stayed at a great little guesthouse on the canal called River View Guesthouse. Perfect for sleeping in and near this famous Chinese chicken and rice ball restaurant that made me pretty happy.
View from the guesthouse.
Spent three nights in Malacca, was a bit sad to leave but like leaving places a little early, wanting a bit more rather than overdoing it and being happy to leave. Last quick note about Malacca: 
Cab ride from bus terminal to my first hostel, which wasn't great.
Cab driver after about 10 minutes of silence:
"Where you from" 
Me: "Canada" 
Cab driver "I studied at York University in Toronto....they still have table dancers in Canada? 
Me: "Umm yep" 
Cab driver smiles: "I used to drink Blue Labatt"
Good to know Canada's reputation in Malacca Malaysia is table dancing and Labatt Blue. 

"Never let your memories be greater than your dreams."  Doug Ivister