One of the things that I’ve definitely been missing in my life since I moved to Bangkok is Hungarian wine. I didn’t take it for granted while I was living there, but now that I’m away, the absence of Hungarian wine has left a noticeable void in my wine-drinking life. The quality and price of Hungarian wine is really unbeatable. It’s true that we can get a big selection of wine here (especially from places like Australia and New Zealand), but the cost is a lot higher than the European wine available in Hungary. Here I am usually paying no less than $25 per bottle for any bottle that I buy. And yes, that means I’m not drinking as much!

One thing that has continued in my wine-drinking life is regular wine-tasting gatherings. My lovely friend Amanda started what she called the Bangkok Ladies Wine Club and hosts monthly events where we get together and taste wine according to a theme. (This is the seventh country she’s lived in where she has run a club like this!) One aspect that is always part of her ladies’ wine club is a weekend away at a vineyard. You wouldn’t think that would be possible in Thailand (at least I didn’t!), but actually, there are a few wineries here. For our weekend away, we went to GranMonte in Khao Yai. From what I understand, this is one of the better, if not the best, of the wineries in Thailand. Even so, I did not have high expectations of the wine.

Well, I am here to report that the wine was actually pretty good! According to the information on our tour, the winery produces Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon, Chenin Blanc, Viognier, Semillon, Verdelho, Durif, and Grenache. For our tasting, we had what I believe was called the summer selection and included Verdelho, Rosé, Syrah Viognier, and Syrah. I found that each wine tasted really unique and was not necessarily the typical example of the grape. I also felt that certain flavors in each wine really stood out rather than being subtle. For example in the description of the Rosé (which I really liked), it mentioned in the notes that it had a “nose of strawberries and nuance of cream” and I really tasted that. It was the same with every wine that I tried. Of course, I’m no sommelier, so take that for what it’s worth.

The tour included all of the usual things that you’d expect from a winery visit like visiting the actual vineyards as well as the processing area and cellars. We learned that February is harvest time, and when they pick the grapes (at night!), the elephants in the bordering national park smell the sweetness of the grapes and come down to the vineyards. The way it was described sounded so magical, but I wondered about that because when we went on a school trip back in November, we learned how the pineapple farmers are in conflict with the elephants because they eat and trample on their crops and both elephants and humans can end up injured or worse.

We had dinner in the restaurant on site. The food was good but not particularly memorable. Coincidentally, our trip fell on the weekend of the national election which the government declared a dry weekend. We were still able to have wine with our dinner, but they served it in teacups like a prohibition-era speakeasy. I can confirm that wine does not taste as good from a ceramic cup.

There was the option to stay at the vineyard cottages, but we opted for a nearby hotel with a lovely pool.

Overall, it was a great getaway with some lovely ladies and surprisingly good wine! The only disappointment was that we did not find a local option for cheaper wine. I had thought that locally produced wine would be significantly cheaper than the imported, highly taxed wine from abroad, but after some basic internet research, I discovered that the excise tax on wine applies to Thai wine too. Still, locally-produced Thai wine should surely be cheaper than imported French, Italian, and Australian wine?

Back in 2012, when I lived in Beirut, I spent an entire summer (8 weeks!) backpacking around Southeast Asia. I traveled to Thailand, Singapore, Vietnam, Cambodia, and Malaysia. (I also wrote about that trip here on the blog – see the menu bar above!) Even though I had what seemed like plenty of time to travel and explore, there wasn’t enoug time to see everything and Laos didn’t make the cut. I decided to make sure to add it to the top of my travel list for my first year of living in Bangkok.

I planned my trip for April, but being new to the region, I wasn’t really aware that my trip would coincide with the “burning season” where farmers burn their land to prepare for the upcoming planting season. The unintended consequence of this practice is a thick blanket of smoke and haze that engulfs the region. The air quality was projected to fluctuate between “unhealthy” and “very unhealthy” for the duration of my trip. When my plane touched down in Vientiane and saw nothing but brown sky, I feared I had made a huge mistake not canceling. In the end, it was a great trip despite the challenges posed by the hazy skies and poor air quality.


Many people had told me that Vientiane was a boring city, so my expectations were set pretty low. Admittedly, for a capital city, Vientiane is quite sleepy. However, I was pleasantly surprised to discover the undeniable charm that Vientiane possesses. I had a day to explore the city, so I wandered around on foot despite the heat and haze. Compared to the bustling streets of Bangkok, Vientiane’s relaxed and laid-back atmosphere set the holiday vibes. I loved the low rise of the buildings, the French colonial architecture, the cafes with doors wide open (what air conditioning?), and the dirt alleyways tucked away behind the busier streets.

On my second day, I had planned to take a little excursion to see the sculptures at Buddha Park, but with the heat and haze, I decided to take it easy and relax in a cafe while I waited for my transfer to the train station.

Vang Vieng

There are a few things that made this trip much different than if I had visited back in 2012. One of those was the new Boten-Vientiane rail line that opened less than a year and a half ago. What would have been a few hours in a cramped minibus on bumpy roads, was an easy one-hour train ride. While there are still some things that need to be worked out (you can’t buy tickets online, there are no shops or food vendors in the train stations, the cafe car is very limited, to name a few), it was overall a very pleasant experience.

Another difference between now and that would be trip was my choice of accommodations. Back then I would have done some kind of budget accommodation, but this time I was all about the nicest place I could find with a pool.

At first I wasn’t all that interested in Vang Vieng, because from what I remembered hearing about it from other travelers, it was all about adventure activities: caving, zip lining, kayaking, and, famously, drunk tubing down the river. I wasn’t (and still am not) big on adventure activities which is probably why Laos wasn’t high on my list of places to visit when I first toured Southeast Asia. But now, as a resting point between Luang Prabang and Vientiane, it made perfect sense. I did manage to do a tiny bit of adventuring. I do actually like kayaking, so I booked a half-day excursion with a guide and it was a highlight of the trip. We paddled along the Nam Song River amidst stunning limestone karsts while my guide told me everything about Laos.

Mid way through the journey there was a stop to visit the inside of a cave. I’m not all that interested in caves, but it was part of the tour so I went with it. I got a head lamp from my guide and we had a short hike up before we entered the cave. The two of us were the only ones on the tour and in the cave. As we walked along in the dark, the guide told me (seemingly) every story he knew about people who had gone into a cave and got lost or trapped and never came out. Luckily, it was a very short journey through our cave. Unluckily, the way out was to get into an inner tube in pitch black water and pull yourself along to the outside of the cave. Thankfully, that part only lasted about three minutes (and the whole cave advenutre itself only about twenty minutes). In short, I survived, but I honestly can’t think of a reason I’d need to go inside a cave ever again.

Luang Prabang

My final stop for this trip was Luang Prabang. I wasn’t able to get a train ticket for this leg because of the in-person ticketing system, so I had to travel the old way by minibus. My planned one-hour train journey ended up taking close to five hours making me really appreciate the ease of the first leg of my travels!

Everyone I told about my holiday in Laos said that I was going to love Luang Prabang and it did not disappoint. From the cozy cafes and adorable houses to the sprawling temple complexes and breathtaking scenery, I could see why this town gets such rave reviews. I spent most of my time cafe hopping, window shopping, and wandering around the town.

My hotel offered a free sunset cruise on the river and bicylces to ride around town, so I took advantage of both of those.

A highlight was a half-day class that I took at the Ock Pop Tok Living Crafts Center. A new friend, Jessie recommended it to me and I’m so glad she did. There were a lot of classes to choose from, but I decided on a half day weaving class. I got to pick my colors and pattern and then the master weaver taught me the basics of weaving a scarf. I only got a vague sense of how they set the actually pattern in the loom. Something to learn in a much longer class! Then I had lunch at their cafe overlooking the river.

My last days in Luang Prabang was the start of the New Year celebrations. On the first day, there was an elephant procession in the morning from Wat Mai to Wat Xieng Thong. I almost missed it, but I arrived at the main street just as the elephants were passing by. I joined in the procession and was able to see the ceremony that the monks conducted. On the second day, similar to the Thai new year celebrations, there were huge water fights all over the town. I didn’t get too involved and managed to stay mostly dry. On the way to the airport, however, on my last day, I got a really good look at all of the water fights from the saftey of the airport shuttle!

Overall, it was a great trip. I could definitely see myself going back. Especially to Luang Prabang for a long weekend so that I could enjoy the beautiful views with blue skies and green hills rather than washed over in brown.

Bon Appétit magazine has a regular feature called “The Receipt” documenting how readers across the U.S. eat and drink in a week and what they spend to do it. I love reading this series, so I thought, why not do my own little food diary. I am constantly going on about how much more expensive it is to eat out and cook at home compared to Budapest, so I was interested in taking a look at one week of my life in food and drink.

Some Stats . . .

  • Week’s total: $200.20
  • Restaurants/school cafeteria: 1720 THB/$49.39
  • Takeout: 2339 THB/$67.17
  • Groceries: 1864 THB/$53.53
  • Coffee: 1240 THB/$35.61 including a bag of beans
  • Most expensive meal/purchase: 875 THB/$25.13 at The Deck
  • Least expensive meal/purchase: 10THB/$0.29 bottle of soda water at school
  • Number of restaurant/cafeteria purchases: 6
  • Number of takeout meals: 3
  • Number of grocery trips/orders: 2


8:30 a.m. I wake up to a message on my phone that my Grab food delivery has arrived. Today is a public holiday here in Bangkok, so I am sleeping in much later than usual. Last night, I did the most Bangkok of things and pre-ordered some breakfast for myself to heat before heading out for a fancy pool day. I got a jar of overnight oats for today and a jar of coconut chia seed pudding with passion fruit for later in the week (315THB/$9.15). I haven’t bought groceries in a few weeks, so I knew I would want to be able to have a simple breakfast before leaving the house. At 9:22, I finally get out of bed, make a French Press (Starbucks, previously purchased), and go downstairs to get my food.

9:45 a.m. As I eat my oats, I decide to finally put in a grocery order so that I don’t have to order in every meal this week (1065 THB/$30.84). I plan and buy groceries for three simple meals for dinner (salmon, a quinoa salad, and a broccoli parm frittata) and order the ingredients online at Tops Market. They are out of broccoli for the frittata, so I make a mental note to pick some up at the veggie stand outside the school gate on the way home from school tomorrow.

12:23 p.m. At the hotel pool, I settle into my lounger and order a fresh smoothie with banana, ginger, and orange (150THB/$4.35) and some Gyoza (210THB/$6.08). Later I order pork satay (195THB/$5.65), French fries (120THB/$3.48), and a Coke Zero (70THB/$2.03). Total food and bev spent at the pool 745THB/$21.87. However, I spent 1000THB/$28.97 for the day pass and all the food was credited against that. Sooo…not really sure whether to count this as food spending or activities spending.

4:56 p.m. I get home from the pool and pick up the groceries I ordered this morning from the front lobby. I’m not hungry yet, but I put some quinoa (previously purchased) on the stove in anticipation of being hungry later. I’m happy that one of the meals I planned was a salad since I already ate a lot today.

6:07 p.m. I look up the recipe I’m planning to make for dinner (Quinoa Salad with Cucumber, Orange, and Edamame from Serena Wolf‘s Instagram) and I realize that my cucumbers didn’t come in my grocery delivery. I quickly order some from Grab Mart (along with that broccoli and some random kale I have no idea what I’ll do with) (256THB/$7.41) and get in the shower before I start prepping the salad. The cucumbers arrive just as I’m done prepping the salad. I add them and eat!

Monday Total: 2381THB/$68.93


7:56 a.m. I didn’t have enough coffee left to make a batch of cold brew last night, so I buy an iced latte at the school coffee shop. (65THB/$1.88). Really not a bad iced latte for the price. If there’s one place to find good prices, it’s definitely our school cafeteria and coffee shops.

8:46 a.m. I have a few minutes to spare between homeroom and my first period of the day (which is actually a meeting, not a class), so I have time to pop back into the English Department kitchen and scarf down a few bites of the coconut chia seed pudding I ordered yesterday.

11:54 a.m. Time for lunch. For the first time in ages, I’ve actually brought my own lunch–leftover quinoa salad from dinner last night and a frozen packet of soup that I grabbed from my freezer (3 for 249THB/$7.20 at Get Fresh, previously purchased). The air quality is “Unhealthy” today according to the AQI meter, so instead of eating outside like I normally do, I eat with some colleagues in the English department kitchen. I miss the feeling of taking a break that I usually get by going outside for a bit.

2:05 p.m. I make a cup of tea with milk and sugar (supplies provided by the school) for the afternoon break and finish it during the advisory period.

3:37 p.m. We have advisory team meetings after school and my lovely team leader has ordered cookies for us. They’re the big, squishy, partially cooked ones. I eat 3/4 of a chocolate chip cookie and immediately regret the sugar overload.

5:43 p.m. I get home from school after a stop at the mall and immediately get dinner started – a quick and easy baked salmon (340THB/$9.96, Tops Delivery) and steamed broccoli (65THB/$1.90 for a head) from my grocery order yesterday.

Tuesday total: 65THB/$1.88


8:01 a.m. I arrive at school and get another iced latte (65THB/$1.90) at the coffee shop. Upstairs in the English office, I eat the last of yesterday’s coconut chia seed pudding.

9:23 a.m. Curriculum planning meeting this morning means free snacks! I have half a mini pain au chocolat, half a mini cinnamon bun, and a fruit kabob. We are also offered coffee, but I’ve just finished my morning iced latte so I pass.

11:30 a.m. I manage to get to the cafeteria just before the kids do, so no waiting in line for food. I go to the sandwich bar and get my usual–a wrap with chicken, cheese, lots of veggies, and honey mustard. While I’m distracted chatting with a colleague, they put my wrap in the toaster. (I end up eating only half because the lettuce inside is warm.) I get a soda water to go with my lunch (total 85 THB/$2.44).

4:25 p.m. After school, I go out for drinks with a friend (and by “go out” I mean, go to her house where she and her partner have a full-on tiki bar in their living room). We share two craft beers (one passion fruit and one blueberry muffin flavored) while snacking on mixed nuts and dried mango. When her partner gets home, he makes cocktails for us. First an amaretto sour and then his own invention with infused Butterfly Pea.

8:50 p.m. By the time I get home, I am starving (and a little tipsy). I order a chicken burrito on Grab (359 THB/$10.31) and watch Love is Blind.

Wednesday total: 509 THB/$14.62


7:53 a.m. Still haven’t managed to get more coffee beans, so another iced latte it is. I also grab a banana for breakfast. (80 THB/$2.30)

12:01 p.m. I go for lunch on the later side today. I get stir fry chicken with basil and chili topped with a fried egg and a side of rice (80THB/$2.30) from the Thai section of the cafeteria. The air quality is a little better today, so I eat outside.

2:15 p.m. I grab a cup of coffee with cream from one of the coffee stations in school. It’s not the greatest but it’s something to get me through last block.

4:11 p.m. I finally have a chance/remember to stop by Starbucks on the way home from work. I grab a bag of Ethiopia (595 THB/$17.09 for 250g). Ethiopia and Kenya make the best cold brew in my opinion. Starbucks beans are expensive here, but at least they have a deal where every fifth bag is free.

6:58 p.m. I get distracted when I got home from school, so I don’t end up starting dinner until almost 7 which is late for me in Bangkok. I make Serena Wolf’s Personal Broccoli Parm Frittata with the groceries I ordered on Sunday. This meal used to be in heavy rotation when I lived in Budapest but I forgot about it until recently. Really quick and easy meal! I also get a batch of cold brew going for the morning.

Thursday Total: 755 THB/$21.69


7:43 a.m. I plunge the French Press and strain the coffee through a paper filter. This step isn’t entirely necessary, but I like the smooth taste with no grit at the bottom of the pitcher. I pour some into a tumbler with lots of ice and a little milk.

10:06 a.m. I didn’t grab anything for breakfast, but it works out perfectly because I forgot it’s Friday which means “Friday Snacks” in the staff room. Today we have chicken quesadillas, fruit, and some little squares of banana cake with chocolate chips. The cake is so good I go back for another piece.

11:37 a.m. I have a professional development half-day session at another school in Bangkok. After a long Covid period with no in-person trainings, it’s really nice to be able to meet up with other professionals again. They’re providing lunch for us before the session. I go to the buffet and get vegetarian fried rice, a bit of grilled chicken thighs, some pork with mushroom cream sauce, and broccoli. They are only serving instant coffee, so after the meal, I make a cup of tea with milk and a little sugar.

4:02 p.m. After the workshops, some of us head across the street for drinks at a local Thai restaurant. I share two bottles of Sauvignon Blanc with three other girls (470 THB/$13.40 for my part) and someone orders a few snacks for the table.

7:16 p.m. After happy hour, I head to my friend’s apartment for our usual Friday night TV and takeout. She opens up a bottle of red wine for us to share and we order some burgers from The Meatchop. They’re amazing despite being delivered. For dessert, we have a slice of lemon tart to share (600 THB/$17.11 total for my part). Today’s show is season two of White Lotus–we’re behind!

Friday Total: 1070 THB/$30.73


10:23 a.m. It’s a lazy weekend morning, so I don’t even get coffee started until after 10. I brew a French Press with the Ethiopia beans I bought on Thursday. I usually save hot coffee for weekends when I have time to drink the entire cup. Plus, the heat of Bangkok means I don’t mind drinking iced coffee every morning. In Budapest, on the other hand, iced coffee was a sign of summer.

11:55 a.m. I finally get around to making breakfast. I guess we can call it “brunch” at this point. I sauté the kale (89THB/$2.56 for 200g) that I impulsively bought in Monday’s last-minute order. I add salt, pepper, some ground chili flakes, a squeeze of lemon, and some grated parmesan. Two scrambled eggs on the side.

3:10 p.m. Feeling a little hungry but holding out for an early dinner. I eat a handful of almonds and drink a Coke Zero that’s in my fridge, left over from some takeout order last week.

5:30 p.m. I meet a group of friends (and friends of friends) for an early dinner at The Deck before the Harry Styles concert. There are eight of us from different schools in SE Asia. A few have flown in from Saigon and KL to make a weekend of the concert. I order chicken fajitas, soda water, and a margarita that comes serves in a coup glass without ice (875 THB/$25.10).

10:28 p.m. After the concert, we walk for ages trying to find a place to sit and have a cold drink. We finally end up at a 7-11 instead and I get a bottle of water and an Oreo ice cream sandwich (37 THB/$1.06).

10:59 p.m. Of the three of our group who are left, one decides to get a motorbike home, so two of us continue the journey to find an open restaurant. We can’t find one so we settle for McDonald’s. I honestly can not remember the last time I’ve been to McDonald’s. I think it’s been years and I probably just got an ice cream. We share some chicken nuggets and french fries. (100 THB/$2.87 for my share).

Saturday Total: 1,012 THB/$29.06


10:05 a.m. Another person in town for the Harry Styles concert is a colleague from my last school. We both left last year after being there for 8 years (me) and 10 years (her). We meet up for breakfast at a place called Nick and swap stories about our new schools and life in Asia. I get an a la carte breakfast: two sunny-side-up eggs, hash browns, and Italian sausage. We both try the iced sparkling orange and espresso coffee drink. (450THB/$12.92)

3:13 p.m. After breakfast I go for a two-hour foot massage. (Much needed after all the standing and walking at the concert last night!) Then I wander a little and get a second coffee as a treat: an iced caramel macchiato at Starbucks (165 THB/$4.76 for a Grande).

4:39 p.m. It’s rare that I actually do in-person grocery shopping these days because there is nothing within walking distance of my place. Not to mention, in 2020 I got used to ordering groceries online. I’m right near the Tops/Robinson’s, so I decide to pop in and get some protein for dinner to add to the veggies I already have in my fridge. I had the thought to thaw some chicken thighs this morning but forgot when I left the house for breakfast. I’m planning to get some chicken thighs in Tops but then I see salmon (422 THB/$12.12 for 230g) and decide to get that instead. I also get a container of plain yogurt (52THB/$149 for 500g) for breakfast this week and a bag of cut pineapple (69THB/$1.98).

6:45 p.m. I make the salmon and sauté the rest of the kale the same way I did for breakfast on Saturday. After I eat, I clean up the kitchen and make some overnight oats for breakfast tomorrow. I improvise a recipe with milk, cinnamon, and frozen blueberries added to the yogurt and oats (all previously purchased).

Friday Total: 1,158 THB/$33.25

With only 3.5 months left in the school year, I thought I’d take a pause to reflect on the year so far. I will admit . . . it’s hard being new and especially hard getting used to new systems, new ways of doing things, and different philosophies. I would definitely say that this school year has been a rollercoaster of emotions in terms of how I am feeling about everything. (I can tell where I am on the roller coaster by how long I think I might stay here: who knows how long–maybe forever!…4-5 years…I’ll renew for 2 once my initial contract is up…I’ll renew for 1 once my contract is up…ok, this feels crazy, but maybe I won’t renew?)

Since the first real week of work, I’d had some thoughts pop into my mind that weren’t all positive. In the beginning, it’s really easy to brush that off as needing time to get used to everything, facing reality vs. very high expectations, etc. As time has gone on and I have felt more things and then voiced those things to others, they start to feel more real rather than imagined. (Even writing this here makes it feel much bigger than perhaps it it.) There are some great things about my school and job that’s for sure, and I am not at all saying that I am miserable. But, there are some things that make me wonder if this is the right place for me.

I do know that everything can change after the first year, and that’s part of why I am writing this down – just to have a record and memory of my feelings at one point in time. Right now that feeling is just that the vibe of the school feels off for me. I know fellow international teachers who were outright miserable their first years and then ended up staying 4, 5, 6 years and beyond because things always get better the second year. Beyond just the first-year newness, I also know that things are happening behind the scenes that could always change my outlook as well. Luckily I am pretty happy with my personal life situation in terms of friendships and being in Bangkok, so that helps.

Needless to say, I’m looking forward to a break and reset this summer so that I can come back with a fresh viewpoint.

Unfortunately, because this is a public blog, I’ve been very vague in my writing here, but I didn’t want to miss the chance to at least mark this point in my experience.

This week’s interview is with Greg Lemoine who is a career international educator currently working in Saudi Arabia. Greg has been teaching overseas since 2001 (Honduras, Egypt, Kuwait, Cambodia, Venezuela, Switzerland, Saudi Arabia – in that order). I was first introduced to Greg through his podcast, The International Teacher Podcast which he hosts with two friends. (He interviewed me for episode 33 if you want to check it out.) Greg has also written a book called Finding the Right Fit about how to get a job in international schools.

Tell me about living in Saudi Arabia.

I’ve been working for Saudi Aramco Schools since 2016. Did you know it gets up to 52 degrees Celsius (126F) in Saudi Arabia? Living in this company compound is like living in a small suburb back in the 50s. Kids walk or ride their bikes to school. They play at the park until dark without their parents watching them. Of course, it has to do with the multiple layers of serious security. But that’s how I can best describe the feeling of living around the school I work in. I’ll leave it at that. Saudi is not the easiest country to live in if you like women and bacon. Enough said.

What is a myth (or something most people don’t know) about your adopted country?

I love the way you call it an adopted country. I sort of feel like the country is adopting me. It’s fun to hear it turned around. My favorite myth of Saudi Arabia that I usually end up explaining – debunking, so to speak – is the idea that all Saudis are oil-rich. There are a lot of Saudis that fall way short of being rich. Most of them are from a class of Muslims that is in the minority in Saudi.

What has been your favorite teaching position/location thus far? Is there anywhere you are hoping to land a position in the future? 

My favorite teaching position is right where I am. I am a techie and maker space teacher at a fantastic school with a great package. My favorite place to live and teach was Switzerland. I am in love with Switzerland.

What made you decide to become a teacher?

The best thing about being a manager for Warner Bros. stores was training my staff to fill my positions as I moved up in the stores from part-time. One of the core values that drives my personality is the idea that whatever I learn is wasted unless I pass it on to at least one other person. I’m a natural teacher. It’s truly a calling for me.

What’s challenging about teaching at a new school in a new country?

The first real challenge for me is to be away from my family. Mom, dad, and my two brothers’ families are all close. The other challenge is being single. I believe in serendipity, so someday the right woman and I will cross paths. In the meantime, I’m enjoying life and living the dream of international travel. 

How is teaching internationally different from teaching in your home country?

The most important difference between teaching overseas and teaching in the U.S.A. is respect from students and parents. Teaching overseas gives me a chance to earn what a teacher SHOULD earn. Plumbers make more than the average elementary teacher in the States. What’s with that?

When you are looking for a new job, what do you personally look for in a school and country? Has that changed from your first international job search?

I still stand by the rule that I can live in any country. It’s the school that is important to me. If I am happy at work, I am happy in life. I spend so much time at work, I have to enjoy it. As for what needs I have, there are three. You may laugh, but I need a maid because I hate ironing and cooking. The second need I have is ice cubes. If I can have a good supply of ice cubes, life is grand. Third is transportation. In most countries I have lived, I had access to a car or moped. It is important for me to be independent. Many schools offer a bus for their expats, but in my experience, those bus rides turn into a negative teacher lounge pretty quickly. 

How do you go about making both your new accommodations and your new country your own? 

Well, it’s not decorating. Hah! Actually, I make my apartment “mine” by hanging up my collection of underwater photographs I’ve taken over the years from all over the world. Other than that, language is the overall key. Learn the local language and you will feel part of the country. It will quickly become home.

How do you know when it’s time to leave?

Gut feeling for the most part. Although, I was fired early on one September morning. I knew well in advance that it was time to leave at the end of the year. Long story with a great ending. Life isn’t always easy. That was a bizarre September morning.

What tips or advice would you give to others thinking about making the leap to a career in international teaching? 

Read my book, Finding the Right Fit. Then talk to me.

To find out more about Greg:

Visit his personal website: St. SomeWhere.  

Listen to his podcast: The International Teacher Podcast.

Find him on Twitter: @21Teachnology

Buy his book! Finding the Right Fit

Home Sweet Home

Friday I completed the last step in feeling at home in my apartment…hanging my art on the walls! I am the kind of person who likes everything to be in place YESTERDAY, so I’d say it really took me a long time to get settled in this apartment. It had pretty good furniture to start out with and a pretty clean look, but there were a few things I did to make it more of my own. First of all, I got a gorgeous white couch that was NOT from Ikea. It was the most I’d ever spent on a couch but so so worth it. The kitchen needed a lot of sprucing up. I got rid of the countertop dishwasher that was taking up space, installed an oven under the cooktop, replaced the faucet, and hung some backing paper to make it look like a backsplash and add some fun color. I’m actually going to replace the cooktop as well (a new one is being installed this week!). It’s a lot of work to put into a rental, but I love to cook so the kitchen needed to be a happy place for me. Once my shipment finally came, I realized I didn’t have quite enough storage for all of my kitchen stuff and cookbooks. I had just seen this gorgeous Chinese cabinet in navy blue on Instagram from a shop that a friend told me about, so I got online and ordered it while I was unpacking. I loved it and it was the perfect size to fit in the small space between the two doors in the dining area so I didn’t need to give it a second thought. Another investment piece that I’m so happy I got.

Friday evening after the handyman left, I cooked some dinner and enjoyed the evening in my cozy apartment. Evening time with lamp lights is my favorite time at home in my apartment, so that’s why I wanted to try to capture the apartment in the evening rather than in bright daylight. Now that everything is in place (and there are lots of extra holes hiding behind the frames..eek) I definitely am not moving to another apartment in Bangkok. Good thing I like it here!

Today was the first day back to work after a much-needed three-week vacation. There’s no tired like end-of-term-as-a-newbie-teacher-in-a-new-country tired. Traveling back to the U.S. after a full year abroad was not only a welcome break from work, but a break from the chaos and heat of Bangkok as well. Even though I had the end-of-break scaries yesterday and really did not want to do the work on Monday, I actually felt refreshed and energized to be back today. (No signs of jet lag either!)

One thing that has been very different about returning abroad after the new year compared to the last 8 year in Budapest is returning back to “summer.” I’d gotten so used to January being a month of hibernation with 4 p.m. sunsets and freezing temperatures. Normally, I would come back from the Christmas holidays and find a permanent spot on the couch with a cozy blanket, some candles, and a pot of soup cooking in the kitchen. Today, on the other hand, I left for work in sandals and a tank top carrying a tumbler of iced coffee. (Thankfully, the weather is slightly cooler this month, so I’m not drowning in sweat by the time I get to work!) It’s such a different vibe and feels very weird to not have that dead of winter, slower pace that I am used to.

Speaking of pace, I am starting to anticipate the race of time toward the summer holidays. I know it’s weird to be already thinking of summer, but every year January is a little hump to get over and then suddenly summer is here before I know it. We have six weeks until February vacation, another six weeks until April vacation, and then the countdown will be on for the end of the school year in mid-June. I’m not sure what I will do with the two upcoming breaks yet, but I’ve already bought my ticket for the start of summer.

After three months In Bangkok, I’ve finally gotten word that my shipment has arrived at the Port of Bangkok and I should be getting my boxes any day now! I am very excited to get my stuff but at the same time not totally desperate. (My aunt just visited for the weekend and commented: “You haven’t gotten your shipment yet? But your apartment looks complete. Where will you put anything else?”) Part of the reason for that is that my apartment came pretty well equipped with basics, but I think my packing strategy was also good. I thought I’d make some notes here about what I’m happy I packed to get me through the first few months and what I wished I would have packed so that next time I make an international move I can be even more prepared.

First, some background info on my shipping situation. I was lucky to have two shipping allowances (one from my departing school and one from my new school), so I had plenty of money to ship and pay for overweight baggage. I flew to Bangkok with three suitcases and a carry-on bag and shipped the rest. I had also purchased a plastic heavy-duty tub from the hardware store to bring as checked baggage but didn’t end up having enough to fill it, so I left it behind. My packing strategy was to pack one suitcase for my summer trip to Italy (luckily that was the same wardrobe I would need in Bangkok) and then in the other suitcases, I would pack a work wardrobe, workout clothes, some personal items and photos, and a few essential kitchen items to get me started in my new Bangkok apartment. Everything else got shipped.

What I’m happy I packed

Spices. I had a very well-stocked pantry and spice cabinet in Budapest, and the thought of getting rid of everything and starting over hurt a bit. I wondered if it was crazy to pack some spices in my checked luggage but my friend encouraged me to pack it if I wanted it. I decided to fill one gallon-sized Ziplock baggie with spice jars and then quickly realized I would actually need two. I was so happy to get to my new apartment and have all of my essential spices with me.

Hangers. I put as many hangers into my suitcase as I could fit. It’s a great feeling to be able to unpack right away and have everything neat and organized. Plus, I am really particular about hangers and love the simple white plastic ones that I get in the U.S. Ever since I’ve lived abroad I have been packing these hangers. Another quirk of mine: all of my hangers have to match, so I don’t want to just go out and buy random ones to join the ones in my shipment.

Bedding and towels. It’s a well-known tip to pack a set of sheets for each bed when you make an overseas move. Familiar sheets and duvet covers made my place feel like home right away. I’m also glad that I remembered to pack a towel so that I wasn’t caught unprepared on my first night in my apartment.

Photos and art. This is another common tip and I had it on my “Bangkok Suitcase” packing list but in my mind, there was a caveat of “only if there’s enough space.” I managed to fit a few framed photographs and a watercolor of Budapest that I got as a departing gift from school. In those first few weeks, just seeing my new bookcase with pictures of friends and family made me so happy.

Coffee supplies. Of course, you can get everything related to coffee in Bangkok, but I knew I would want to be able to make my first cup of coffee right away and not have to go shopping for the right supplies. I packed my French press, a metal filter, a metal tumbler for iced coffee, and even my plastic ice cube trays (good ice is very important!). All I had to do was buy a bag of beans from Starbucks and I was good to go.

What I wish I would have packed

I got really lucky in finding an apartment that had nice looking furniture and a pretty decent starter set in the kitchen with plates, glasses, and a few essential cooking items. All of that combined with the stuff I’ve packed and the shopping trips I’ve done means I have been pretty comfortable for these first three months. Still, there are a few items that I would want to pack in my suitcases next time I make a move abroad.

More essential kitchen items. Seeing as I had the space and money to bring more with me on the plane, I’ve been wishing that I packed more kitchen items. In the last month or so as I’ve been cooking more, I’ve been struggling without some of the things I am used to in the kitchen and I don’t want to go out and buy them knowing that my shipment is on its way and I would then have doubles of a lot of things. Some things I would have added to my suitcase: a whisk, a microplane, a spatula, tongs, etc. These items don’t take up that much space but they would make a big difference in cooking comfortably. Basically, anything I would really need for my last weeks in my kitchen after my shipment was packed up are the same first things I will need while waiting for my shipment to arrive.

More towels. Yes, I remembered to pack that ONE bath towel, but why didn’t I think to bring at least two so they could be switched out and washed. Again, I could buy some new ones, but I have a set of nice Turkish towels that I love plus a few more from Ikea in my shipment, so I really don’t need to buy any more to have on hand. The same thing goes for hand towels. I didn’t pack any so I bought two to get me through, but I could have easily added a few to my suitcase.

More toiletry backups. I packed a regular TSA-sized kit for my summer trip to Italy and left some partial bottles in Budapest to refill them when I got back to Budapest before my flight to Bangkok. I shipped a big tub of my backup supplies (that I get in the US whenever I’m back). I wish I had put some of those extra supplies in my suitcase.

What I wish I would have shipped

I was really in a frenzy selling and downsizing when I was preparing to move, but now I’m thinking that I may have been too hasty in selling some things.

Small appliances. This I know was a mistake. When I looked up the voltage used in Thailand before deciding what to pack, I read that the voltage was the same as in Europe (good!) but the plugs were different (bad), so I thought about it and decided that it was not worth it to have to use plug adaptors for all of my small appliances if I was going to be in Bangkok for a while. When I got here I discovered that most of the outlets DO use European plugs. And not only that, but most of them have universal plugs where you can plug in all kinds of plugs- even ones from the US. I sold my coffee grinder, milk frother, immersion blender, and a few other small items that I liked having but may or may not replace at this point.

Blender/food processor combo. This is partly connected to the plug issue, but for a bigger item, I was more willing to use an adaptor. What I was thinking about more with this one was whether I could wait several months for it to come in my shipment or if I wanted to be able to go out and buy a new one so I could have it right away. I finally decided that since the machine was 8 years old (it was one of my first purchases in Budapest) and I would want to use it right away, I would sell mine and buy a new one. I did go out and shop for one right away, but I found that the models here were both more expensive and not as good as the one I had in Budapest. I ended up buying one from an unknown (to me) brand and it broke after one use. I had to take it back to the store and they sent it to the manufacturer for repair. It seems my shipment will now arrive before I get it back, so I went three months without it anyway!

Big screen TV. I’m not really sure why I didn’t even think to ship my TV. Too big? Too valuable? Easily replaceable? I had a TV that came with the apartment, but it was pretty small and old, so I went out and got a new one right away. Still, I was thinking how there was really no reason not to pack the one I had.

Winter clothes. People told me not to get rid of all of my winter things because I might want them for a vacation to a cold-weather spot, but knowing I would be based in SE Asia and going to Arizona for winter breaks, I didn’t think that would be likely. Sure enough, now I am considering a trip to Japan for skiing in February and wondering if I have the right clothes now! I actually couldn’t bear to part with some of my favorite winter items, so I know I have some things, but I did sell most (all?) of my coats. One cozy winter one, in particular, I am thinking about that maybe I should have held on to. BUT, it was a little small and I didn’t love the color, so maybe I will just replace it when I am home for Christmas. (It’s pretty much always available on Amazon and not too expensive.

My second week in Bangkok was a big week.

On Sunday I moved into my new apartment and on Monday I started work. I always find it hard sleeping the first night in a new apartment (though sleeping in a hotel is not a problem). The bed is never quite right and something about it always just feels off. Luckily I had my sheets from Budapest to make it feel a little more familiar.

On Monday, we started our new teacher orientation and I finally got to meet all of the new teachers. We are a big cohort (about 42 new teachers) and the vast majority are couples/families. Still, everyone is very nice and I found some people to hang out with here and there outside of school time.

The orientation week started with getting to know our new school, new colleagues, and our host country. As the week went on, we started getting into the nitty gritty of our day-to-day working and teaching lives. Suddenly everything was becoming real. It’s hard to not compare everything to how you used to do it at your old school (in some cases it’s an improvement and in other cases it doesn’t seem to be!). I am still only starting to get a feel for what my department is like, what I will be teaching, and what I will be expected to do every day. Next week, that will start to come into focus a lot more as the rest of the staff returns on Monday and we will start to get into the real work of planning for the return of students and the first semester. I am feeling a little nervous about being ready after our four work days next week (Friday is a public holiday).

In terms of getting settled in, it’s happening slowly, but it is happening. I unpacked all of my bags and having a clean and organized apartment went a long way to settling in. Still, it doesn’t feel like home. I still don’t have internet, so when what I really want to do in the evening is watch some TV on the couch, I can’t do that yet. I also feel like certain tasks such as banking, looking at stuff for school, and other things online are piling up, so that makes me feel a little anxious that I’m not keeping my life under control. But, the internet should be set up on Tuesday and I have a beautiful new couch coming soon which I think will really make everything feel homier.

I have been loving traveling by the Khlong boats. It’s super convenient to where I live. I even took it to the fancy mall.

I’ve also started to make some good progress on my shopping list for the apartment. I’ve been to the big mall called Central World where I bought the couch and some other household items, and then I went to Ikea for a big shop (including a much-needed mattress pad!). Today, I got some furniture for the balcony as I have been loving sitting out there in the evening despite the warm and humid air. Once all of this gets delivered this week, I’ll be feeling much better, I’m sure.

First dinner at home.

Another thing that I’m not quite settled with is cooking at home. All summer, I’ve been looking forward to getting my apartment so I could finally cook myself a meal. Eating out every meal for an entire summer is really a lot. But I’ve been struggling to buy groceries because I don’t know what I want to buy or what I would feel like eating/making. I also need to figure out a balance between finding all of the comforts of home at the fancy import grocery stores that are super expensive and just buying staples that are locally priced. So far I have not been to what I would consider a “local” grocery store. I did finally buy the ingredients for one of my favorite summer salads and made an approximation of the recipe.

Hopefully, this upcoming week I will start to feel more comfortable in both my apartment and at work.

Remember, you can follow my daily updates on my 365 Day in Bangkok album on Flickr. Still going strong with the photo a day!

One week in Bangkok!

Hard to believe it’s already been a week since I arrived in Bangkok. The main goal this week was to find an apartment, and I am happy to say that–as of today–I accomplished that goal! It took me a little longer than I thought it would, but I’m happy with the end result. I should be able to move in either Saturday or Sunday. Just in time to start work on Monday! (Eek!)

Here are some photos (one for each day) of my first week in Bangkok!

As many of you may know, I have done several 365 projects on Flickr. Some were daily self-portraits and some were just daily photos. I did my first one in 2007 and I did my last one during the start of the pandemic. (It was supposed to just be a photo a day for the duration of Covid/the pandemic, but, well, we know how that turned out! I decided to cut it off at 365.) Anyway, someone asked me if I had any creative projects on the horizon, and on a whim, I said that maybe I’d do a 365 for my first year in Bangkok. Sooo…behold the first 7 photos of my 365. If you go to the album on Flickr I actually wrote journal-style captions for each picture, so you can get a full rundown of each day. I probably won’t do such detailed captions every day, but I do love the journaling aspect of the 365 project, so there will be some days that I write a lot. Feel free to head on over there if you’re interested.

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