Along with all of the fun that comes with living in a foreign country — the surprises, the food, the culture, the language, the new people — comes a very drastic lifestyle change. I moved from Campbell, California to Bangkok, Thailand.
I was a public school teacher in a low-income neighborhood; now I teach millionaires in a private international program. I used to run 3-4 times a week on the gorgeous Los Gatos Creek Trail; now it’s a good week when I run once on a treadmill on the 5th floor of my high-rise apartment building (with an occasional run in a park thrown in). I used to be vegan (except for the occasional sushi dinner); now I eat a lot of fish and use butter for baking (because even our fancy grocery store doesn’t have non-hydrogenated soy-free vegan margarine). I used to be the only teacher in the room; now I’m one of four. I used to spend at least $100 of my own money on my classroom every month and held an after-school homework club for free; now my salary is a bit lower, but I spend 0 baht on the classroom, and I get paid more than $25/hour after school three days a week to essentially babysit two very intelligent children. I used to work 50-hour weeks plus at least 2-3 hours every weekend; now I work 22 hours per week (though I’m at school for 45) and I don’t even THINK about work from Friday afternoon to Monday morning. I used to have a long-distance relationship; now I get to live with the love of my life. I used to buy gas; now I don’t. I used to drink tap water; now I can’t. I used to have random conversations with random people; now I can’t. I used to see family and best friends all the time; now I don’t.
That last one is KILLER. I am a serious extrovert who has always relied on human interaction for every ounce of my energy and optimism, so it has been very difficult missing the people I used to rely so heavily upon. I’ve made some friends here, and don’t get me wrong — they’re really nice people whom I’m lucky to have met — but new friends cannot be a replacement for old ones. I’m all for adding friends, but I don’t take substitutions!
Not having a trail to run on has made me less of a runner than I’ve ever been, which is also quite depressing. Though I work so much less, I’m at work for such a long time that by the time I’m free to leave, it’s dark out. The treadmill is so boring, but this week it has been less of an enemy. I’m working on exercising more often…for the endorphins and the health benefits.
As for the veganism about which I was once so passionate….it’s tough being vegan here….which is why I’m not. But I’d really like to be. The problem is that with research out about how soy is killing me (see one article here) and with the lack of tempeh and seitan in grocery stores here, what besides beans can a girl eat?! Anyway, occasional fish might have to remain in my diet while I live in Asia, but Asia is as bad, if not worse, than the U.S. for their shameful fishing practices. I’m reading Jonathan Safran Foer’s book Eating Animals, and my passion for living a cruel-free lifestyle, as well as one that doesn’t make the Earth cry, is being revived. *sigh* Thank goodness for garbanzos.
So while living in Thailand has some major perks, like finally being with Sean, chipping away at my student loans and the absolute privilege of immersing myself in a new culture and being able to travel to places I never thought I’d ever see, there are some drawbacks. I miss you, my friends and family…and Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s.