Hello and welcome to my second post ever, which shall be dedicated to informing you about everything between our research and our landing in Thailand!
Where I left off last time was researching for foreign teaching jobs. During our research, Matt and I mulled over the idea of teaching English in a few countries, but Thailand seemed to stick out among the others. We put some serious thought into the idea of going to Thailand because it was a breathtakingly gorgeous country with towering majestic palm trees, shimmering golden sand, warm, clear blue water with a plethora of colorful fish kissing your submerged legs, etc.,etc. You get the picture. It was also super cheap to live in and the people were supposedly superbly nice. Almost instantly, we settled on Thailand.
We researched what we needed to do for finding jobs teaching English in Thailand using Dave’s ESL Cafe. (That site is awesome, by the way. It gives you lots of job postings for teaching in foreign countries and other helpful teaching shenanigans.) We then found this agency called Island TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) and since it was on Dave’s ESL Cafe, we were immediately interested in the agency, since Dave’s is so legitimate and well-known.
We found their website and were scrolling through it and thought it sounded almost magical! The site said they’d help us obtain our visas, give us our internationally accredited TEFL teaching certificate, provide a week-long orientation course upon arrival in Thailand, 24-hour support for anything we need, before and after we arrive in Thailand, and promised us teaching jobs in Thailand which would pay us at least 30,000 baht (about $915) per month (although that is nothing in America, that is a generous salary in Thailand, since most Thai teachers make half that amount).
The deal sounded amazing! However, it was really expensive, it turned out. The online course we would have to take to obtain that TEFL certificate was going to be a little over $600, and then we would have to make two payments of $600 for the agency itself.
So, regardless of the wallet-draining expense, we decided to sign up with Island TEFL. Throughout the remainder of the summer until October 12th when we left for Thailand, we finished our course and obtained all of our important documentation and immunizations, which of course cost us plenty more money. Even though our money was funneling into our traveling expenses, we couldn’t have been more excited to get to Thailand!
Fast forward to October 12th.
6:00 a.m. While in a state of simultaneous exhaustion, nervousness, and excitement, I hulled a giant rolling red suitcase, a green duffel bag, a black Jansport backpack, and a small purse stuffed with all of my necessary belongings into my mom’s SUV. I ran back into the house and gave my sad-hearted orange feline friend of sixteen years a snuggle and a sickening amount of kisses good-bye.
I hopped in the car with my Mom and we made the two hour trek to Staten Island. Once at Matt’s house, we loaded my numerous travel bags into his parents’ car and my mom and I went into their house and made small talk. After about ten minutes, Matt’s father reminded us that we needed to go soon in order to have a decent amount of time to get on our flight. I walked my mom out to her car and, naturally, we hugged each other for minutes on end with plenty of wet sobbing. Then, she got back in her car, reversed out of the driveway, waved good-bye, and made her way back home.
After that, Matt, Matt’s parents, and I jumped into their car and made the hour long trip to JFK Airport in Queens. Surprisingly and luckily, there was no traffic at all on the way there. When we arrived at the airport, we all had a good, hearty laugh at Matt, who was dragging behind him two enormous black matching suitcases, which kept bumping into every object and person in their path.
When we arrived inside the airport, we followed some signs and headed up to the third floor by escalators (of course it had to be on the third floor when we have a ton of bulky and hefty baggage to carry). When we finally arrived to the third floor, we waited on line for at least forty-five minutes and checked our bags (what a relief that was!). Before going into security, we hugged Matt’s parents good-bye.
And then, we were finally on our own.
Security, just like baggage checking, was a forever wait as well, but after we went finally got through, we slapped our sneakers on, grabbed all of our things, and headed downstairs to the waiting area for our flight.
Since we were early, we had some McDonald’s, since that was the only food they had in the terminal and we were famished! After stuffing our faces with greasy, ketchup-drenched burgers and fries, we made our way to our gate.
This was the first time we ever experienced the “no line” system. In America, lines are so important for everything, regardless of where you are, so Matt and I are used to the whole “wait in line after all of the people who were here before you.” However, in most places of the world, lines do not exist and people simply push their way to the front. It’s just a mess, really. And, since we were going to an area of the world that doesn’t follow the “line” system, we weren’t entirely surprised what happened next.
There was a long line of people by our gate when we first arrived, but after numerous garbled and confusing announcements from the flight crew, the one line had grown branches of numerous lines out of it. Eventually, all the lines just turned into a giant amoeba of people, trying to push their way to the front and into the plane first.
Considering we didn’t want to be the last people on our flight, we followed suit. We wedged our way into one of the branches, showed our tickets to the obviously angered flight attendants, and made our way onto our plane faster than we probably should have, had we followed the American “line” system. We found our seats, which were the window seat and middle seat. Matt was a gentleman and gave me the window seat and he took the middle seat.
Side note: I am horrified of heights and don’t enjoy the whole “taking off” part of flying. Or, really any part of flying. I mean, I’m not terrified of flying, but the fact that our overall flying time would be about 22 hours and that I’d never been on a plane for more than two hours straight before made me nervous. In order to counteract this fear, Matt and I brought along some Xanax because I had a feeling we would be needing it, especially me.
First flight: 12:30 p.m. to Abu Dhabi
We took off a little later than expected, but only by about fifteen or so minutes. The flight was about twelve hours and during it, we watched movies and TV shows on our personal TVs, read, slept, and conversed with each other and the lady next to us. Contrary to popular belief, not everyone you sit next to on a long flight is unbearable and rude. This lady was incredibly nice and told us that she was also going to Thailand, but she was going to go for only a week to volunteer at an orphanage.
After a few hours on the flight, it was suddenly night time… but it was just 12:30 pm when we left. It totally messed with our heads. Since we would apparently be arriving in Abu Dhabi at 7:30 a.m. (this whole time changing while flying confuses me throughout the whole day, so I’m sorry if my “grasp,” or lack thereof, on this whole time thing confuses you) and it’s now night time, we figured this would be an ideal time to sleep. Since I wasn’t incredibly tired and neither was Matt, we took the Xanax.
Keep in mind, I’ve never taken Xanax before, so I was slightly nervous as to what would happen next.
I knocked out. I mean, I was pretty dead to the world, but only for a few hours. But, after a few hours, I woke up a few times, ate my meals, and continued to try to kill some time.
After about twelve hours of trying my best to sleep and make time go faster, Matt and I noticed the sun rising and starting to brighten the sky. The captain announced that we would be landing shortly and that our plane was descending. Upon our descent, we noticed miles and miles of golden brown mountains of sand with deep crevices next to smooth valleys covered by the mountains’ shadows.
Mouths agape, we stared out the window of our plane and couldn’t look away. The beauty of these untouched, unscathed desert mountains and valleys were astounding and mesmerizing. We had never seen a desert before and were completely taken aback by its beauty. It was nature at its finest and purest, and the way the morning sunlight hit against the infinite amount of grains of sand and made them glow made us stare at its beauty and take in as much of it as we possibly could.
After snapping a few photos of the desert, our plane continued to drop in altitude. We saw in the distance multiple skyscrapers smack dab in the middle of the desert. They looked almost out of place. But, considering our quickening descent, we figured it must have been Abu Dhabi.
At this moment in time, out of fear of having Xanax on us, we decided now would be the best time to take them before we head into their security, which we assumed would be intense. As Abu Dhabi grew nearer and nearer, we quickly swallowed our pills with a splash of water and got ready to get off the plane.
Matt, the lady next to us, and I all realized that we were late landing, which would mean our second flight to Thailand was now less than an hour from leaving. Once the plane landed, we did our best to get off as fast as possible, which took about fifteen minutes. After finally managing to get off our plane, we sprinted through the airport to our gate.
Around 8:00 a.m.
After quickly weaving through the airport, we made it to security. There was only one guy who had us put our carry-ons through the machine again. Then, smiled, and had us go on our way.We weren’t even scanned or anything. So much for tough security.
Now, at this point, I suddenly realized how utterly exhausted I am. The Xanax. I took that way too early. So, while we continued to sprint through the airport, my feet were dragging behind me and my vision was getting a bit blurry while my eyelids were fluttering more than usual.
We finally reached our gate and it was a relief when we finally got there and we were early too! Only then did we take a look around. Every single person in the airport other than the three of us had on traditional Muslim clothing, including niqabs and burkas. Hello, culture shock number one. For the first time in our lives, Matt and I were gawked at by everyone around us and we were clearly seen as outsiders.
While sitting and waiting for our next flight, I felt eyes on me, but also my eyes slowly closing. I was absolutely exhausted and wanted to sleep right away. After waiting about twenty minutes, we were allowed to board our flight.
Once we sat in our seats, I immediately fully relaxed and closed my eyes… and knocked out. I remember waking up at some point and turning to Matt, who now had the window seat, and said, “Did we take off yet?” to which he replied, “Marilyn, we took off an hour and a half ago.”
Xanax made me miss take off. Well, thank you ever so kindly!
I giggled, and fell back asleep. I remember waking up again at some point because an airline stewardess was badgering me and asking if I wanted anything to eat. I was so angry because I had been woken up, I just told her “no” rather angrily and shooed her away. And knocked back out.
I woke up with only an hour left in our six hour flight. I was ecstatic and actually felt well rested!
I looked out the window and noticed it was night time again. I then decided to do some cryptograms to kill the rest of the time. Eventually, the captain announced that we would be descending to Bangkok soon (I think, anyway. He did not say that in English).
Our plane touched ground at about 8:00 p.m. (again, the time really messed with my head, but this is the truth!) on October, 13th. Finally, we had made it to Bangkok, Thailand.