Day 112ish: All the way through

Day 112ish. It’s probably time to stop counting in days.

I am back in Bangkok. I am slightly hungover, damp from rainstorms, aching from having walked a million miles through the city in a single day, and happy all the way through.

From Vientaine we – the CELTA 5 – travelled north through mountainous Laos to breathtaking Vang Vieng, then still further north to Luang Prabang. In Vang Vieng we went tubing on the Nam Song the day after a rainstorm, the sky washed clean and the river golden brown and flowing despite the season; the following day we cycled to a shady lagoon, swam, explored a temple-cave, saw butterflies. In Luang Prabang we got up at dawn to watch the people of the town giving alms to the monks and visited pristine blue waterfalls. We also ate ALL the baguettes and were eaten by ALL the mosquitoes.

ImageTham Phu Kham Cave (Vang Vieng, Laos)

Rosa and I took a 2-day slow boat up the Mekong river to the Thai-Laos boarder. We crossed headed to Chiang Rai by public bus, ate Thai hot pot in an outdoor food court while ladyboys mimed the words to power ballads on a stage built for the purpose. Here Rosa and I parted company – I headed south to Lampang, a bustling little town chock full of Lanna-style buildings and a tourist attraction called “Numerous wooden poles”. Highly recommend. From there I headed further south to Sukhothai, almost slept through my stop but realised just in time, then on a songtaw to the old city met a girl who started my secondary school the same year I left. Finally, I headed back to sticky Bangkok to drink beer on a street corner with Tom of Cat Ba Quintet fame, and then 19 floors up in the Sky Hotel looking out over the city during a thunderstorm, and then the next day we got stranded in a zoo because of another downpour. I like Thailand in the rainy season – it’s unpredictable and exciting.

And suddenly, just like that, the travelling portion of this trip is over. Back to Real Life, where I have to be responsible and sensible and not be on the move and probably not have any adventures and have a job that will be busy and hard and keep me in one place for an entire year if it works out. Travelling makes me happy. I’ll miss it. I don’t really want to stop, in fact. By the time I get to pick up my bag and head out into the world again, I’ll be 30 years old.

I can’t bloody wait.

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Day 87: I went to Laos

You know what it’s like. One minute you’re overcome with joy and sweet, sweet relief because you finished your CELTA and definitely didn’t fail and have TIME on your hands and are FREE godamnit! and can swim guilt-free in the pool at the prison/resort you’ve been confined to for the previous month… then the next you’ve had a real-life job offer and are facing the prospect of living in BANGKOK for an entire year doing ACTUAL work like a real human being.
It’s a toughie. I did what anyone would do in that situation: I went to Laos.

Laos is, naturally, chock full of people who have finished a CELTA course and are now contemplating an ELT career that, until scant days ago, seemed to be a million miles away. The reason it seems this way is possibly because I am travelling with 4 of my CELTA compadres, survivors all, and because when there are 5 of you travelling together you really seem to fill up a place. I suppose there are SOME people out there who haven’t just finished a CELTA. There’s a gulf between us, though. You start to feel that these non-CELTA types are just fakers, the easy chilled-out movers and shakers. They don’t know what the rest of us have been though. How can they ever understand? Don’t they feel the urge to translate things into phonetic script at 2am, just for fun? Where is there inclination to split Life into the structure of a skills-based lesson: where’s their gist task, their scanning task, their detail task? What about freer practice? Most importantly, why don’t they understand – I mean really understand – the breadth and depth of that most sacred of questions: HAS IT BEEN RAINING?

I say it like one thing led inexorably to the other. It didn’t, obvs. That’s not how life works.

We finished our CELTA and had a day and a half to relax. There was a party on the balcony outside our resources room, and we presented certificates to our students, then went out drinking with our trainers. There was a relaxed Final Friday and an exceptional evening in which we watched an old Christopher Lee Dracula movie in one of the classrooms and made tremendously, appallingly, DELICIOUSLY geeky cards for our trainers. Saturday was celebration day – we left Vadara, had dinner with aforementioned trainers, drank, danced.

We, the CELTA survivors, went back to the hostel I’d been in before the whole mad thing had even started, hung out on the balcony at JJs for a few days. There was a glorious trip to Pai – a beautiful, arty, hippy town in rolling hills. There was a pedicure massacre. There was a LOT of applying-for-jobs. Individuals left for new lives, elsewhere. A month is a long time to live cheek-by-jowl with others, highly stressed, coping/not-coping, encouraging, persuading, helping. Strangers become family and it’s as if they’ve ALWAYS been there, coming to your room at night with food offerings to pep you up, tide you over, getting you to laugh yourself silly when you’re wound tight with tomorrow’s lesson planning. Sad to say goodbye.

But the next thing you know a bunch of you are on the night train to Bangkok, I bunk-beds rocking and rattling along the tracks towards the bright lights and INTERVIEWS of the hottest city in the world (appazza). Then you’ve had an interview, a job offer – what’s a girl to do?! It hasn’t been a week since your course yet; you don’t even have your grades, surely you’re not prepared? You’re professional façade clearly works a treat, though. Show no fear.

Then it’s Khao San Road for another goodbye, and you’re all on a train again, in bunks, fan-cooled and sticky, hurtling towards Laos with job offers and consequences all up in the air. You don’t know where you’ll be in two weeks, let alone two months. Commit or don’t commit?

Right now I’m in the bottom bunk in the Wizard dorm of Sihome hostel in Vientiane, capital city of Laos, tapping this tripe out on Libby’s Macbook Air – an incredible machine that my PC instincts can’t quite compute. Libby, Emma and Johnny are in their beds, chatting. Rosa’s on the floor preparing her bag for tomorrow when we head to Vang Vieng. I don’t know if that’s how you spell it but we’re going there anyway, balls to the spelling. Then in just over 2 weeks I’ll be back in Bangkok, about to start work with a reputable language company, signing a contract that’ll last a year. No idea where I’ll live or who I’ll be friends with. All I know is that I’ll be working my little socks off and using the qualification I worked so damn hard for.

It’s been 87 days since I left Leeds, and I’m in Laos. I’m pretty damn happy about that.