ABCDad

Dear Dad,

I’ll admit it: You are pretty cool. Sure, you might embarrass the hell out of me from time to time and have the cheesiest jokes; but, you’re also one of my biggest supporters, best coaches, and closest friends.

When I think of what a good dad should be, I think of you. Yeah, you don’t know what to do if I randomly burst into tears or understand why I need so many different pairs of shoes, but you’re one of the best people in my life. And for that, I’m forever grateful.

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In case you’ve forgotten how cool you are, I’ve created a list to remind you:

A – Altruistic. Thanks for teaching me to put others before myself. I grew up watching you care for the people around you–whether that be our family or friends or even someone we didn’t necessarily know. You make time for people who need it. You offer a helping hand where you can. You’ve been an example of kindness since my first breaths.

B – Buoyant. To be buoyant is to be characterized by liveliness or lightheartedness. And that you are. I can always count on you to crack a joke or make a funny face. People gravitate toward you because of your lightheartedness–as seen by your wide and far-reaching friend circle.

C – Coach. Dad, you took the time to teach me the rules of the game (any and all.) You encouraged me to try any sport that I found interesting. You practiced with me on and off of the court/field so that I could be successful and skilled. It takes a lot of patience to work with kids, especially ones who get frustrated when they’re not great at something; Yet you always encouraged me to keep trying until I finally did get it. You even volunteered your time to coach middle school girls’ basketball. That alone deserves an award.

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D – Daring. When faced with a choice between easy and challenging, you push yourself. I watched you leave a company after many years of commitment with the aspirations of more. You stepped out of your comfort zone and worked your ass off to provide for our family. You took a chance on yourself and persevered through tough times. Because of you, I know that I too can dare to expect more than easy and comfortable in my life.

E – Ethical. You’ve taught me the difference between right and wrong from a young age. You are honest and always do what’s best for the whole.

F – Friend. I think that this is one of the best words I can use to describe you. And I think many others would agree with me. I couldn’t even begin to count the amount of friends you have in your life. I grew up surrounded by amazing, wonderful, and kind people because you know how to pick good friends and you continue to be a good friend. Not only are you my dad, but you are also my friend, too. You are my sounding board and supporter, and I love you so much for that.

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G – Generous. You are a generous person. If someone is in need, you help in big or small ways. I’ve grown up watching you volunteer your time and energy at multiple organizations because you wanted to make a difference. You think beyond yourself and care for others in whatever way you can.

H – Hardworking. Dad, you are honestly the hardest working person I know. Whether it be getting stuff done around the house, sports, or work itself–you make sure that the job is done and that it’s done well. You hate when I say, “It is what it is,” because in your mind you can always work to improve whatever the situation is.  When you set out to start your own business, you put in hours and hours (and still continue to) of hard work to build something you were proud of. Four offices and a million hours later, you’ve established a successful and growing business that anyone could be proud of.I’m fortunate that you’ve instilled that work ethic in me, too. You pushed me to try my best at everything I’ve set out to do and it’s made me a better person.

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I – Intelligent. You’re a smart cookie–even if I don’t like to admit it. You know more random facts than most people I know and that’s pretty cool. Throughout the years you’ve taught me more than I think you’ll ever know.

J – Judicious. You use good judgement and common sense. You are a practical person. This is another quality that has made you successful throughout the years.

K – Kind. You can make friends with anyone you meet. I used to hate running errands with you when I was little because I knew it meant that we would bump into someone you knew and a five minute task would turn into a half hour. Now that I’m older, I’ve learned to appreciate and respect this quality about you a lot. You genuinely care to know how people are doing and can always find a way to make conversation with whoever your path crosses.

L – Loving. The boys and I are so lucky to have grown up in a loving family. We don’t see eye to eye on everything, but you and mom have always taught us to overcome our differences and love one another. I’ve had an amazing example of love throughout my life because of you and mom. I’ve watched you come home from work and give her a kiss or hold hands walking down the street for 24 years now. These actions, though little, mean so much. Your example of love has set the standards high for my own.

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M – Multifaceted. You’re good at many things. As told by this list.

N – Neighborly. As I’ve mentioned above–you’re a good person. You help when you can. You do what’s right. Any one would be lucky to have you in their corner. And lucky for me, you’re stuck in mine.

O – Open. You are not afraid to tell it like it is. I don’t always love to hear what you have to say; But, for the most part, I appreciate having someone in my life who isn’t afraid to give it to me straight. On more than one occasion you’ve given me the reality check I need. You level with me when I need it.

P – Permanent. You are a permanent and important fixture in so many peoples’ lives. I know that whatever road life takes me down, you’ll always be there. I can’t imagine what my life would be like without you in it and I’m so glad I’ve never had to. I love knowing that you will always be there for me–even when I’m far away.

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Q – Quick-witted. You’ve always got a quick response for everything. You make me roll my eyes on occasion, but I’ll admit it, you’re pretty funny.

R – Reliable. I know that I can count on you. If you say you’ll do something, you’ll do it. You follow through and have always taught us that we should do the same. You would never turn your back on someone. I feel lucky to know that you’ll always have my back.

S – Sarcastic. Thanks for passing that on, too.

T – Thankful. This is something I am because of you. I hope this list gives you an idea of how much I appreciate all that you do and all that you are. You have always been one of the most important and influential people in my life. You have many qualities that I aspire for. To have known you since my first breath is a lucky, lucky thing. I couldn’t have asked for a better dad.

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U – Understanding. Once upon a time, when I may or may not have gotten my second speeding ticket in the span of a month, I cried to mom because I was scared of what you might say when I told you. When I finally mustered up the courage, all you said was, “Shit happens.” You’ve been witness to my mistakes, but you’ve never put me down because of them. You’ve taught me how to laugh it off and learn from it. I’m thankful for a dad who has allowed me to spread my wings, but who will always be there with open arms when I fall.

V – Values. Thanks for teaching me right from wrong. Thanks for teaching me to appreciate the good stuff. Thanks for teaching me what is truly valuable in life.

W – Wise. Not only are you intelligent, but you are also wise. You have experienced a fair bit of life and are better because of it. You have weathered through whatever storm life has thrown at you and come out stronger in the aftermath.

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X – (E)Xcellent. You’re going to have to cut me some slack here–there aren’t many great X adjectives to choose from. You are an excellent person, friend, husband, and father. Anyone who knows you is lucky.

Y – You. You are you. And I love that.

Z – Zero. There are zero other people in the world that I would want to call my dad.

I don’t tell you often enough how thankful I am to have you in my life. So although I can’t celebrate this Father’s Day with you, I hope this list begins to express how great you are and how lucky I feel to call you my dad. Thanks for being who you are and inspiring who I am. You are truly one in a million.

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Love,

Your baby girl

 

Dear Mom

Dear Mom,

I know I’ve said it before, but let’s be honest–I could never really say it enough.

Thank you.

Thank you for carrying me for nine, long, uncomfortable months. You took care of me before you knew who I was, before you had seen my face, and before you had heard my cry. You loved me unconditionally from the start, and that’s something I could never say thank you enough for.

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Thanks for putting up with sleepless nights when I finally did arrive. You held me close while I cried. You put my needs before your own. And you did all of this while caring for another two crazy children, managing a home, and working. I’ll never know how you survived it.

Which leads me to my next thank you: Thank you for raising a loving family. Do we all get along 24/7? No. But for the most part, I’d say we’ve got it pretty good. You’ve performed a juggling act for the last 28 years and managed to raise three kids who aren’t half bad (biased opinion.) You gave me my first friends–even if the boys didn’t always let me play Power Rangers with them in the backyard. You’ve also given me a beautiful example of what love is. Growing up, I watched you and Dad care for one another, work out your differences, and hug and kiss every night. Because of you, I know to be picky with who I choose to spend my life with. Because of you, I know what a happy family should look like.

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You cared for me when I was sick. I know I’ve thanked you for it, but I’ve never TRULY thanked you for it. Kids are sticky and messy to begin with, but you’ve dealt with the worst of the worst. Thanks for holding my hair, taking my temperature, and squeezing my hand during those seriously awful strep tests.

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Thank you for nurturing my growth. You made sure I ate well, played often, and slept peacefully. Beyond just my physical needs, you encouraged me to find my own interests, use my imagination, foster meaningful relationships, and chase my dreams–no matter what those were at the time. Because of you, I’ve always felt confident to go for what I want. You taught me that it’s okay that not everything comes easily. You sat with me when I needed extra help and you smiled proudly when I did it all on my own. You gave me the courage to spread my wings and become who I am today.

You’ve led by example. You went back to school, changed your career path, and proved that you can be whatever you want to be at any age. You’ve been understanding of my indecision as I’ve aged. You’ve talked me through my options and you’ve never pushed me to do anything I didn’t want to (except swimming lessons–but in hindsight thanks for those too.)

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Thanks for never saying, “I told you so.” You watched me mature and make choices that I don’t look back fondly upon. You stood (stand) there patiently during sassy days. You listen while I complain about things gone wrong. But never once have you made me feel worse about my short-comings. Instead, you make me laugh. You help me see the positives in bad situations, the humor in unflattering fashion, hair, makeup, etc., choices, and the benefits of all I’ve been through. Thanks for continuing to do this at every stage of my life.

Mom, you’ve stood/sat/laid beside me during my darkest hours. From grief to heartbreak, you’ve been the one to rub my back, hold me close, and tell me that it will all be alright. You’ve cried with me. You’ve talked me through the tough stuff. And you’ve always been there for a hug when I need you the most.

You’ve also celebrated with me during the happiest of times. You’ve been a listening ear to all of my good news. You’ve shared my excitement over new beginnings and adventures. You’ve laughed, danced, and jumped with me through all of the fun stuff.

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Thank you for all of the times you make me laugh. There’s not much I love more than laughing hard with you–especially when the Tierney snort comes out. You and Dad frequently tell me that I’m weird, but it never stops you from joining in on the weirdness with me. You allow me to be goofy and sarcastic. You don’t get freaked out by my strange faces. And you laugh at my stupid jokes. Not all moms are that cool.

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You have always encouraged me to be open and honest with you. I know that I can come to you with literally anything. I love that I’ve never felt the need to hide anything from you or to be embarrassed to tell you something.

Momma, not only are you my mother, you’re also my best friend. We’ve been lucky to have always gotten along well. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve gotten to really know who you are as a person–not just as my mom. And I’ve got to say, you’re really great. You’re my go-to shopping-partner, play-seer, bike-rider, adventure-goer, and couch-lounger. We’ve had some really great times throughout the years. From traveling the world to laying in the living room, your company is always enjoyable. With you I can sit in a comfortable silence, sing my heart out to the radio, or talk until I run out of breath. I’m so thankful to know that that will never change.

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I cherish you and all you’ve done for me. There will never be a day in my life that I won’t be thankful that God gave me you. Without you, I wouldn’t be me.

From the bottom of my heart: Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

With all my love,

Your baby girl

 

 

The Trouble with Time

Time has this funny way of inching by at the speed of light. It’s ironic, really. One second you’re longing for the never-ending week to reach Friday and the next you’re realizing that an entire 6 months have passed.

My time abroad has been no exception to this oxymoron.

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September, tearful goodbyes, boarding the plane alone, and arriving to the hustle and bustle of Bangkok wasn’t that long ago. In one sense it seems like it was only last week that I was working on my TESOL certification with 100 friends from across the world. Getting a grasp on lesson plans and learning more about my new found friends was only yesterday.

And yet at the same time I feel like I’ve been gone forever. My routine and familiarities at home aren’t at the forefront of my mind anymore. I’m no longer walking to the driver’s seat instead of the passenger’s. I’m not overwhelmed when I’m surrounded by conversations I can’t understand. And I’m no stranger to the many differences between eastern and western culture. (Time is so crazy that since writing this post, I’ve already managed to settle into my new routine in Australia.)

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This isn’t to say that I fully adjusted to life in Southeast Asia–I’m far, far from that still. I certainly haven’t adjusted to the crazy heat of winters or the rice diet. And I never go a day without missing my people at home.

Instead, what I’m trying to articulate is that as daunting as a year sounds, it’s really only a year. And it’s stunning how quickly it can slip by without you realizing.

Some days I can’t wait for my head to hit the pillow and other days I’m afraid that when I go to sleep I’ll wake up and be 80 years old.

Time is an extremely, sometimes frustrating and agonizing, beautiful and meaningful gift when you consider the memories, experiences, and friendships that can be made during our short and long time here on earth.

Whether it’s just one more day or another 100 years, we should embrace our time. Don’t sit at a job you don’t like. Don’t spend time with people who don’t make you a better person. Don’t feel bad for not following someone else’s plan. Your time and their time are two very different things.

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Most importantly: don’t let the time you think you have get away from you, because we never truly know when the clock will run out.

I like to think that I’ve got a lot left, but if tomorrow I do wake up as an 80 year old woman, I know I’ll be able to look back and smile. And for that–ironies, challenges, the good, the bad, the ugly–I’m grateful.

The Trials and Triumphs of Teaching Abroad

Teaching abroad. It’s been a journey.

I left home with a vague expectation for this experience, but I’ve come away with so much more. I’ve met lifelong friends, experienced living in a different culture, learned histories unknown to me, and communicated successfully with people whom I don’t share a language with. I feel confident to go into just about any setting after this semester. These lessons, while not always sunny skies and rainbows, have been the biggest blessing.

The Trials and Triumphs of Teaching Abroad

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The Trials

Like most people, I like to get the bad news out of the way first. While teaching abroad seems exciting and adventurous, it can be far from glamorous. Don’t get me wrong; some days it will have you beaming from ear to ear. But other days… you’ll be wanting to rip your hair out. It’s not perfect, but that’s reality.

Language barrier.

English and Thai couldn’t be more different. In English, I can say a word 700 different ways, but it will always have the same meaning. In Thai, if I pronounce one syllable of a word with even a slightly different tone, it means something completely different all together. Complicated.

A few of my classes have a decent grasp on English. I speak in broken sentences the majority of the time, but we manage to work it out. However, many of my classes understand maybe 5% of what comes out of my mouth. And 4% of that is Justin Bieber song lyrics. So you can see how my nid noi (little) knowledge of the Thai language could be a major difficulty.

On the bright side, I’ve become really good at charades.

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Routine.

Teaching ESL calls for a serious amount of repetition. Lesson plans usually involve struggling through the attendance chart and getting everyone settled for 10 minutes, repeating 12 or so new vocab words for about 20 minutes, explaining the game for 5, and actually playing the game for 10, before giving homework or settling kids down for the last 5. The first week of school I found myself really loving teaching, but as the semester progressed, I found that shouting the same word 100 times, wasn’t that exciting.

I still think I could love teaching if it was a subject I was excited about. But believe me, explaining the difference between the sound “v” makes compared to “w,” isn’t the most exhilarating thing in the entire world. Although I will say that trying to explain a blizzard to kids who have 90 degree winters was pretty comical.

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Lack of routine.

Seems impossible that these two opposites would be in the same section, right? Thailand is an indescribable place in so many ways–timing and schedule being one of them. The best way I’ve learned to explain it? You’ll never truly know what’s happening until it’s happening, and even then you should mentally prepare for the exact opposite thing to happen.

My parents always ask if I have class this week, and truthfully, I never know until I get to school that day or even until I’ve been sitting in an empty classroom for 30 minutes.

The perfect story to explain this: It’s my last week of teaching. I go to my classroom, only to find it locked. I sit and wait until 30 of the 50 minutes have gone by–not a student or a Thai teacher in sight. So, naturally, I assume that class is cancelled. I begin my trek down the four story building. Just as I reach the last landing, my students begin climbing up the stairs saying, “Teacher, Teacher! Time for class.”

My FitBit loved it. My dislike of disorganization did not. But that’s just Thailand, baby! You roll with it.

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Challenging.

As in any school or teaching environment, some kids seriously test your patience. While XploreAsia (the company that helped me through my TESOL certification) did an amazing job preparing me for my time in the classroom, nothing can really prepare you for a group of 45 fifteen year olds who speak zero of the same language as you, and who have no interest in learning it. I’ve definitely gotten a few grey hairs from some of my classes.

We had a session on classroom management during my training. During this class, our teacher told us to act (what I thought was) ridiculously while our peers attempted to teach and control us. I can say that every single one of those “ridiculous” behaviors actually happened in one of my classes–and then some. What had me laughing my first month in this country had me wanting to scream a month later.

As they say, “Patience is a virtue.”

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Exhausting.

I’ve never been a teacher before. I’ve never had to stand in front of a class for the majority of the day, project my voice, try to keep 45 kids in order, and attempt to teach something at the same time. At my last job, I sat at a desk and worked at a computer. The computer doesn’t care if you’re not feeling the best; it is completely unaffected. Your day goes on.

Teaching is a little different. Standing in front of a class means that your game face better be on. If you don’t feel 100%, you pretend you do. You summon energy you didn’t know you had and you crank through the lesson anyway. It’s exhausting.

Add the 90 degree heat and no air-conditioning on top of that and you’ve got a recipe for a very early bedtime (and bags under your eyes forever.)

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The Triumphs

I realize I didn’t paint the most beautiful picture, but we’re only half way there.

Teaching abroad, while it’s had its downs, has had many more ups. There have been days that have left me smiling ear to ear. Weeks that have made me consider a career path in education. And students and fellow teachers who have left a mark on my heart forever.

Humbling.

While I’ve never questioned that I live a very blessed life, going on this adventure only affirmed that fact more fully. I can hardly begin to compare my high school to the high school that I teach in here. The rooms here are bare, very few have computers, and there are only a hand full of air-conditioned rooms. The cafeteria is a more of a pavilion than an actual building. The bathrooms, aside from 3 stalls, are all squatty potties. If I want water, I have to walk to one of the six water stations spread across the campus and hope that it isn’t empty… You get the picture.

The students all wear uniforms–even in the public school. For the most part, these uniforms are in pretty good shape, however, I’ve seen many students with socks that can hardly be considered socks and shirt holes that are patched with bandaids.

Thailand is extremely different from the United States. While in some ways I find it to be more progressive than the States, in most ways it’s not quite there. This journey has allowed me to be grateful for the little things that I never would have considered “lucky” at home. Stepping out of your box definitely allows you to appreciate what’s inside of it that much more.

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Thought provoking.

If living in a different part of the world doesn’t really get you thinking, I don’t know what will. Every day here, I participate in a life that is extremely different than my own. It allows me to reflect on my personal beliefs and ideas of right and wrong.

I hear a different side of history and I’m shown the whole story instead of half a picture. Learning about different cultures allows you to truly value the things you love about home and confirms feelings against the things that you don’t. It makes you stop and ask “why,” instead of simply accepting that that’s the way things are.

Teaching abroad will keep your brain on the run.

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Challenging.

Funny how this can be classified as both a trial and a triumph.

Before I came to teach abroad, I was in a rut. My life was comfortable, but it wasn’t what I wanted it to be. My job wasn’t stimulating. I wasn’t pushing myself. I didn’t feel like I was making a difference.

Fast forward to now:

I’m constantly challenging myself in every way possible here. The challenges can be simple; It be making friends with someone I might not at home, trying new food, or attempting to pay for something in a new language. Or the challenge can be a little deeper. As I said above, experiencing a new culture allows you to reflect on your own. It causes you to question why things are the way they are. It stops your brain from accepting things just because and causes you to truly think about whether or not something matches your personal beliefs.

Teaching abroad challenged me career-wise. Before I was sitting at a desk, staring at a computer, responding to emails. While I had nothing serious to complain about before, I can now say that that is not my end goal. I’ve seen and felt what it can be like to have an impact, and I won’t settle for another job that gives me less than that feeling now.

I’ve realized the importance of challenging myself again, and it feels really good.

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Exciting.

For those who love to travel, teaching abroad is great way to do that while still providing for yourself. It’s exciting to immerse yourself in the unknown, to participate in different holidays, and see new parts of the world out of your backdoor.

I now have friends, inside jokes, and memories that I’ll never forget on the other side of the world. I’ve had countless laughs and adventures, and while there have been bad days, those will never come to mind first as I reflect on my time here.

I’ve explored the places I see on Pinterest and can fully appreciate computer screen savers after experiencing them in real life.

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Rewarding.

Teaching abroad, though challenging, has been extremely rewarding.

One day a student came into the teachers’ lounge during my off period. She explained that she had an English interview for university and asked if I would practice with her. She was so nervous to attempt English with me that she even brought a friend with for moral support. We wrote down and talked through a list of questions and practiced pronunciation and then she was off. The next week she found me at lunch, beaming from ear to ear, thanking me for helping her with her interview and sharing that it went well. Sitting with her took 30 minutes out of my day, but meant the world to her.

On the last day of school, a student stopped me just as I was about to dismiss the class. He stood in front of his peers and explained that he wanted to give a speech. He continued to tell me how much the group enjoyed my class and how he now has the confidence to practice his English. He wants to go into a career that requires English speakers, and now he’s ready to tackle that.

I can honestly tell you that I did nothing special. There were days that I didn’t necessarily want to go to school (hello, Mondays) but I was there. And to them that meant something. How simple.

To hear those words of gratitude was an amazing feeling. Certainly one that I’ll never forget for years to come.

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Just do it.

Before I began this journey, a friend who also taught abroad gave me words of encouragement. She told me that in the end, even the bad days aren’t so bad. And it’s so true. While there were days that I couldn’t wait to get back to my air-conditioned apartment away from the chaos and days that I really missed being home, the memories and lessons I’ve taken away from this experience will forever overshadow those moments.

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I’ll never forget the hugs from students on our last day together. The co-teachers who helped me translate and control the kiddos. The smiles, hellos, and awkward laughs when asking students questions outside of the classroom. Or the kind words heard from teachers and students about my time here.

If you’re considering teaching abroad. Make the jump and do it. It might not be perfect, but I promise you won’t regret it.

 

People are People

I try to keep my political posts to a minimum, but lately I’ve found that nearly impossible. I have a few things to say.

I am currently a minority. I live in a foreign country. I am a visa holder. I teach Muslim students. I teach Buddhist students. I work with Muslim teachers. I work with Buddhist teachers. I am neither Muslim nor Buddhist.

What have I learned from this?

Something I’ve know forever that has only been reaffirmed more strongly than ever:

People are people.

Sure, these people are different from me. We don’t believe in the same god, we don’t speak the same language, and we have very different cultures and traditions. But here’s the thing: that does not make me better or worse. It does not make them better or worse.

I’ve been blessed by the kindness of these people who differ so much from myself. They have welcomed me with all the English they know as I fumbled through even the most basic Thai. They have given me tips and tricks, making it easier to adjust to my move across the world. They have invited me to activities outside of school. They have shared dinners with me. And they have shared countless laughs and smiles–usually about trying to understand our differences.

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These have been some of the kindest people I have ever met in my well-traveled life. And I think that’s really saying something.

Reading the news lately has been painful. I’ve been offended, disgusted, and so confused. To assume that we can define millions of people because they share one common factor is not fair. Deep down, regardless of differences, we are all composed of the same parts. We all have something special to bring to the table. 

Whether you lean right or left, like elephants or donkeys, voted Donald or Hillary, all I ask is that you remember one thing:

People are people. Always have been. Always will be. 

Whether you are white, black, brown, yellow, man, woman, transgender, gay, straight, old, young, rich, poor… whatever… remind yourself that America was founded on differences.

We should continue to respect and embrace that.

The end.

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22 Things I Learned on my First Holiday Away from Home

One of the biggest hindrances for my decision to move to Thailand was the thought of missing some of my favorite days–especially Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s. And while realistically it is only a few days on the calendar, it is much more than that for a sentimental girl like myself.

Being away for the holidays means missing out on time spent with loved ones, good food, laughs, and the festive spirit. I don’t hear the merry tunes or see the beautiful decorations. It means I save money on presents, but don’t see my family’s smiles when they open gifts chosen specifically for them.

Being away for the holidays in an Eastern country, means even more: No tinseled trees or decorations, no fancy cookies, no seasonal drinks, no lights on the houses, no shopping, no wrapping, no singing classic songs, and no talk of mass or Jesus’ birth. Christmas in a small town in Thailand is practically nonexistent.

As I remind myself that there will be many more Thanksgivings, Christmases, and New Years to come, I’m thankful for the many things I’ve learned while away from home during the holiday season:

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1. New friends become your family.

I came into my TESOL program knowing only a few names and faces from brief Facebook conversations. From the first day in Bangkok I met people I knew would become great friends. I feel beyond fortunate to have spent each of my holidays with these amazing people. The laughs and adventures shared dimmed the sadness of missing home. While they were unconventional holidays, they are ones I will never forget because of the people I spent them with.

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2. Online shopping is a wonderful way to participate in your family’s gift exchange.

In my house, Christmas day tradition involves waking up early for an hour or two of immediate family time before the troops come rolling in. We open our gifts and toast to another year with mimosas. The idea of not participating in this tradition didn’t sit well with me. Shout out to the wonderful World Wide Web for allowing me to participate in giving, even in a small way.

3. FaceTime is the best invention in the world.

Again, God bless the world of technology. I can’t imagine this time away without the ability to see my favorite peoples’ faces regularly. I was able to join the celebrations on a few occasions, and while it gave me serious surges of homesickness, it was comforting to still be able to connect with my loved ones.

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4. It’s an equally emotional time for those at home.

I won’t lie, I had some bad days over the holiday season. Sure, I kept myself busy, but it didn’t stop me from missing everyone around the world. Sometimes when you’re the one away, it’s easy to forget that you’re not the only one feeling down during this time. Nothing gets you crying quicker than having your dad tell you that Christmas doesn’t feel like Christmas without you. I was reminded that I wasn’t the only one feeling the distance.

5. 85+ degree days can make you forget what MN December feels like.

I see pictures of the snow and read about the cold, and think, “Wow, that sounds refreshing.” Then I slap myself. One of my Thai teachers says there are only two seasons in Thailand: Hot and very hot. She’s not kidding. The heat actually helped make these days easier for me. I certainly do not associate 85 degrees with Xmas, so it was simpler to forget what month it was exactly.

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6. Brunch that includes macaroni and cheese is equally as delicious as the feast your mother prepares (or at least close enough.)

I love brunch, but I especially love Christmas brunch. This year I treated myself to macaroni and cheese at 9:30am. Sounds kind of disgusting in hindsight, but when Western food is limited, you take what you can get.

7. It’s OK to splurge on unhealthy Western food to ease your homesickness.

While eating local food is definitely the most cost-effective route, I’m here to tell you that it’s okay to treat yourself to the more expensive pizza and cake on Thanksgiving.

8. It’s OK to be a little sad. It means that you’re lucky enough to have people to miss at home.

While traveling and working abroad looks glamorous from the pictures posted on social media, it is not always the reality. I didn’t post pictures of the nights spent in my dingy hotel room reading letters from loved ones and missing home. These moments are important to understand and embrace. Sadness is okay. It only means that I’m fortunate to have people and traditions worth missing.

9. You can’t expect your day to feel the same as it would at home.

I filled Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Years with fun activities, but the days still didn’t resemble anything like they would at home. The cool thing about this is that I now have a year in my life that is completely unique to all others. I also have all the more reason to be excited for a return to the norm next year.

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(Decorations found in the primetime tourist spots. Thanks, Phuket!)

10. Life at home does not pause just because you are not partaking in it.

There will still be parties, events, laughs, and memories made while you are away. It’s one of the sacrifices of exploring the world.

11. There is nothing wrong with that.

You’re busy seeing and doing new things, becoming a new person, making new friends, learning new facts. It would be unfair to think that everyone else isn’t doing the same thing. As someone with a horrible case of FOMO, I sometimes struggle with missing out, but I am so happy for the new adventures my friends and family have started since I’ve been gone. With or without my presence, life goes on. Just as those closest to me were excited about my new adventures, I am excited for theirs.

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12. Christmas songs aren’t the same when you sit in a hot apartment, void of decorations.

I spent Xmas Eve doing laundry and cleaning my room. Exciting!!! I played the classics in the background, but it was not the same as listening to them while decorating the house or baking cookies with my mom.

13. You find a new appreciation for a white Christmas.

December and snow belong together in my mind and always will. Don’t get me wrong though, this does not mean I miss freezing my ass off (or shoveling.)

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(Winter 2015: I can’t remember what this feels like.)

14. The Grinch might make you cry.

Like I said, the holidays made me a bit emotional. After FaceTiming the fam jam on Christmas and settling in for the night, I turned to my beloved Netflix for a pick-me-up. Turns out The Grinch can actually make you tear up. As the movie says: it’s not about presents, it’s about love. And luckily—presents or not, near or far—I am so blessed with a lot of it. Thank God I didn’t try to watch It’s a Wonderful Life.

15. Laughing is a wonderful way to pass your time.

Seriously.

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16. Crying because of laughing is an even better way to pass your time.

There were sad tears shed, but there were also many tears shed from laughter. These are the moments I will remember and cherish most from my year away. Thank you, thank you, thank you to the people who helped make this post possible.

17. Seeing familiar faces is the best thing ever.

I was fortunate enough to have some of my best friends visit over the New Year. I can’t tell you the anticipation I felt the week leading up to their arrival. I screamed, I jumped, I cried at the reunion. It’s the best feeling knowing that time apart will never break bonds like these. It was cool to show off the places I’ve been and the culture I live in. Having that small comfort of home during such a fun season was really a blessing. Thanks for flying 8,700 miles to ring in the New Year with me.

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18. It’s extremely heartwarming to be wished a Merry Christmas by someone who doesn’t celebrate it him or herself.

My students and co-teachers do not celebrate Xmas, or even know much about it. So to be wished a Merry Christmas by these people was very sweet.

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19. Which reminds you how important it is to have tolerance and respect for different cultures and traditions.

My school put on a Christmas production that included songs, a skit, and many, many Santa hats. They will also do this for Chinese New Year, even though they don’t celebrate it themselves. While it is not their religion or tradition, they respect that it is someone else’s. With all the political turmoil happening around the world right now, it seems so rare that we see such regard between differing cultures. My time here has reminded me that just because something is different, doesn’t mean it is wrong or unequal. I have such an increased respect for cultures different than my own. And it was a very heartwarming feeling to have that reciprocated back through my kids’ seasons’ greetings. We should all be more like them.

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20. Pinterest is a dangerous place when all you want is delicious treats.

I don’t have a refrigerator, kettle, stove, oven, microwave, anything resembling a kitchen appliance in my room. Now I don’t cook frequently at home, but I never realized how much I love having the option. During off periods at school, I’d find myself perusing Pinterest and would spend the rest of the day with my mouth watering thinking of the sweet treats I wasn’t eating.

21. Amazing family and friends are the true reason being away is so challenging.

While I did miss the traditions, what I missed the most were the people I spend each of those days with. I missed my dad, mom, and brothers. I missed my extended family that I so infrequently see. I missed my Prior Lake crew, which truly is an extension of family. I missed my PL Gang or Die and my UST Betches (classy group nicknames, I know.) Sure, I would have loved to be stuffing my face on Thanksgiving and sharing presents on Christmas, but what I missed most was the people I spend that time with.

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22. New friends can give you one of the most memorable holiday seasons yet.

I’ve been places, done things, eaten food, learned tidbits, and met people that I never even knew existed before October. While the holidays weren’t what I am used to (and I am extremely excited for 2017’s season already,) I am so grateful for all that I have been able to experience. No other year will be like 2016 and that’s all due to the amazing people I spent it with. I am so thankful for the friendships, laughs, and memories created on this crazy journey.

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In the end, I’m glad I didn’t let my fear of missing out keep me from this adventure because Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Years are truly just days on the calendar. What makes them special are the people you surround yourself with, and I can easily say that I am blessed with the best—near and far.

Now I just have to get myself through the Twin’s home opener and the 4th of July and it’ll be smooth sailing.

Happy belated holidays, reader!

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For more consistent updates on life, follow me on Instagram–mts25.

Kindness is…

It’s been challenging to look at my timeline this past week. Every single post, in some way, seems to be related to the election. And so many of these posts are fearful–for the wellbeing of themselves and others.

What a sad, sad feeling. Fear.

I won’t make this a political post, because we have far enough.

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Instead, I want to talk about kindness. Because believe me, there is SO much of it out there in the world.

Before I left, people were filled with questions about how I was going to survive this new experience. How was I going to communicate in a language when I only knew “hello” and “thank you?” How was I going to navigate a country where I couldn’t comprehend the signs? Wouldn’t I be lonely? Wouldn’t I be scared?

While I face many challenges here, I am greeted with many more opportunities. Opportunities to learn something new, find a friend in someone I wouldn’t normally, and share smiles with people who understand nothing I say (and vice versa.)

The most daunting part of my initial descent was my layover in Taipei. Solo. I found kindness in two Americans familiar with the airport and happy to bring me directly to my new gate for the next leg of my journey.

I found kindness in the girl I sat next to on the plane to Bangkok (hey, Lisa.) We both shared our excitement and our fear in the new adventure that lie ahead. There was comfort and relief.

My first full day in my new country, just so happened to be my birthday. It’s strange to be away from family and friends on days of celebration, so I wasn’t expecting much. I honestly forgot about 24 for the majority of the day. I explored Bangkok with a group of 8 girls from around the US and UK. We spent the day snapping pics, laughing at how sweaty we were, and sharing confusion over what the hell we were doing. I was overwhelmed with kindness when they surprised me with dessert and a happy birthday chorus of 20 strangers. A day that I didn’t think would mean much, turned into one of the absolute best and most memorable birthdays ever because of their kindness. Thank you to the great eight! ❤

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Kindness lives in my Hua Hin roommate (shoutout to Eileeny!) Every time I forgot something or needed to vent, the girl had my back.

My TESOL training Blue Group overwhelmed me with kindness. These people bore their hearts and souls to one another without judgement. We helped to motivate each other and keep our heads up when the going got tough. We leaned on each other physically and mentally after long and hot days of presentations in the classroom. We persevered because of mutual respect, determination, and, of course, kindness.

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My Thai teachers do their best to translate and explain what’s happening when they see my bewildered expressions. They tell us what to do so that we’re not clueless. They tell the kids to shut up so that we can be the fun teachers. They make us laugh. They invite us to son’s weddings. They drive you to the pharmacy after they see you blowing your nose. They offer rides and food constantly. They make 8,690 miles away from home feel a little less far.  Kindness.

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It is the man from the convenient store next to your apartment who flags down the last bus leaving town for your weekend away.

It is the 2,500 plus children who smile, wave, waii, and say hello every single time we cross paths, in school or out.

It is the smile of strangers who try their best to understand your questions.

It is the smile of strangers who you simply pass on the street.

It is the people who I didn’t know existed two months ago and will now be friends for life.

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So how do I survive, you ask? It’s easy. I survive (and thrive) because I am surrounded by beautiful, wonderful, smart, funny, and kind people. And you are too. Promise. 

While the world might seem a bit dark right now, be reminded that there is so much light. Big and small. Near and far. 

If we continue to show our love for people, similar or different, that kindness can grow.

May your heart be happy. Your worries light. And your arms open to accept it all.

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Looking to take a leap and find kindness across the globe? Check out XploreAsia for amazing opportunities.

For more consistent updates on my adventures, follow me on Instagram. mts25