Bangkok Diary #3: Heartbreak, A New Teaching Job And Going To Myanmar

Bangkok skyline The Lilac Road
Another view of Bangkok from my apartment, taken right before the storm

My last month in Bangkok has been the hardest to navigate so far in my expat life.

It certainly hasn’t been terrible, but challenging and emotional in ways I haven’t experienced before.

After a mind-and-body-crushing month working at a government school, I found a new job teaching English to young kids on Saturdays with a company that I have found to be very supportive and gives me time and freedom to enjoy & explore Bangkok. I realized that I was still a traveller and I didn’t want to spend my days working Monday to Friday for eleven hours at a time. While I am relieved to have found a more flexible job, I miss my kids from the government school. On my last day, one of the classes wrote me a sweet card and gave me a huge group hug. One girl started crying, and before I knew it, ten girls started crying too! I had to wipe their tears and tell them it was okay, but it was emotional for me as well, and I can truly say my time spent there was rewarding despite how tiresome it was.
While I do have more time now, it also means I am more financially stressed, but I am looking to break into private English tutoring now, securing clients and freelance travel writing on the side. I am lucky that Bangkok is not a difficult place to live in on a budget – fruit and street food come very cheaply, but some days I have to be extra frugal.

Keep calm and go vegan Veganerie Bangkok The Lilac Road
Brunch at Veganerie

Mostly though, it’s been emotionally straining. Living as a solo expat in a foreign country and attracting some really strange people has made me realize how rare it is to find people you connect with, respect and admire. I am so blessed to have friends and family back home who make me feel loved and supported even from a long distance, but I find myself craving that physical presence of friendship and intimacy which has been lacking so far. I have met some great people here though, and I know that quality friendships take time to build. My greatest hope while I’m here is to find meaningful connections and to leave having built friendships that I can cherish for a lifetime.
I think this is the reason why I have been struggling to let go of someone I met here a couple of months back. He doesn’t live in Thailand, but comes here for physical training. I had no idea what was about to hit me when I first met him, but I have come to appreciate and respect his intelligence, depth and playfulness, which to me is a rare and special thing to find. Someone once wrote that while saying goodbye meant that you were going to see that person soon, letting go was different because it held the possibility of never being able to see them again. I don’t like letting go, especially when I find something I consider to be of rare beauty. I am like this child who has been given this wonderful toy, and the father says to this child, “It’s not meant for you, it’s meant for someone else.” And the child weeps in distress at the thought of having to give it up. And the father tells this child that he has a newer, shinier toy to replace it. But even if there is, she knows that no toy, however expensive or beautiful, will compare to the one she loves in her hands right now.

Jenny Chang on the back of a motorbike taxi Bangkok The Lilac Road
Riding on the back of a motorbike taxi

I have a couple of things I’m really looking forward to, though. One of my good friends Luke has brought a ticket to Bangkok to come see me, all the way from New Zealand! I am overjoyed to have him here soon and to hopefully help him fall in love with the city as much as I have. I have already planned our itinerary and all the places we will see, eat and go, including an overnight stay at a beach town. I can’t wait!
I am also going to Myanmar in 3 days time! I need to do a visa run, and thought I might as well take a holiday in a country I have long desired to go to. I have heard nothing but amazing things about Myanmar and its people, and as you can imagine, I am so, so excited to be solo travelling once again.

Sunset Bangkok skyline The Lilac Road
Sunset from my room

Despite all of the challenges, which is why I feel especially homesick this month, life is still good. I still know how incredibly lucky I am to be able to wake up in such a cool city and do what I love, to have friends in New Zealand and all over the world who never fail to make me feel loved and supported, to be young and free to travel as I wish. I am living what I believe to be a full, meaningful life and I know that bad days & months does not equate to a bad life at all.

Rainy days in bed Bangkok The Lilac Road
Rainy days in bed
All images my own

Chase The Right Things

In between goals is a thing called life, that has to be lived and enjoyed.

So many people walk around with a meaningless life. They seem half-asleep, even when they’re busy doing things they think are important. This is because they’re chasing the wrong things. The way you get meaning into your life is to devote yourself to loving others, devote yourself to your community around you, and devote yourself to creating something that gives you purpose and meaning.
Mitch Albom

Do what makes you happy. Take care of yourself. Be carefree. We’re not going to live forever, and when you really think about it, it’s really not that long in the grand scheme of things. So live gracefully. Stop chasing towards material things and being someone that you’re not. Life is far too short to be anyone but yourself and to be doing anything that you’re not completely in love with.
The Power Within

Image via Hummbly

It Will All Be Worth It

Desk with lamp, iPhone and iMac

Sometimes it will hurt. Sometimes it will feel like all of your hard work is going down the drain. But that’s part of the whole experience of when you come out successful at the end. Everything will pay off, just stay patient.
The Power Within

It’s okay be to be scared sometimes. Life can be daunting, risky, and unpredictable. But you know what else? Life is full of unexpected surprises, acts of kindness, and moments to cherish. It may be scary, but it’s all definitely worth it.
The Power Within

Image via My Domaine

Be Afraid, But Do It Anyway

Be brave enough to dream

My whole life I’ve been telling myself, ‘don’t be afraid’. And it is only now that I’m realizing how stupid that is. Don’t be afraid. Like saying, ‘don’t move out of the way when someone tries to punch you’ or ‘don’t flinch at the heat of fire’ or ‘don’t blink.’ Don’t be human. I’m afraid and you’re afraid and we’re all always going to be afraid, because that’s the point. What I should be telling myself is ‘be afraid, but do it anyway.’ Live anyway.

Decide that you want it more
Than you are afraid of it.

Image via Pinterest

Bangkok Diary #2: Sexpats, Facebook Miracles And Becoming An Official English Teacher (And Unofficial Tour Guide)

Bangkok sunset from my apartment The Lilac Road
Bangkok sunset from my apartment

The last two weeks have been a complete whirlwind of exciting, challenging and unexpected events.

I feel emotionally and physically wiped out; I’m still deciding whether it’s in a good or bad way (or both).

First things first, God answered my prayers for a full-time, stable-income job! Funnily enough, I was scrolling through my Facebook (which I don’t often do), and I responded to an advertisement for an English teacher on a forum. I went in for an interview the next afternoon and got it the same night. I am officially an English teacher for a Thai school in the city! Today, I signed the contract and got to meet some of the other teachers who were so friendly and laid-back. I also brought some work attire, too; because the Thai king sadly passed away last year, clothes can only be in black, white or grey, so it looks like I could be working in a corporate office haha. I’m nervous, of course, but I’m also very thankful that I get the opportunity to live & work in a city I that love. I have been working weekends teaching English at a private institute, but I’ve been having problems with my boss, so I am so relieved to have found a new job. Isn’t it pretty interesting that for four months I have been looking and applying for jobs on TEFL boards (two out of three jobs which I did get), but my full-time gig was found through social media on a random, late-night scroll? The way in which the whole thing happened was so quick and natural, in much the same way that I found my apartment, that I know it was nothing short of God’s blessing.

A brewing storm in Bangkok The Lilac Road
A brewing storm

It has been very rewarding finding and strengthening the friendships I have made here already. I don’t know whether it is by luck or what, but I have attracted the best kinds of people in Bangkok, people who understand, appreciate and celebrate me and my achievements (Natasha, Celine and James, I’m looking at you.) I also had the pleasure of showing a Danish guy around Bangkok for a night, and it gave me a lot of joy to see him experience and fall in like with the city as much as I have. A fantastic girl I met through mutual friends in Auckland is also stopping by Bangkok in August and has asked me to show her around, which of course I happily agreed to. Full-time English teacher, part-time tour guide and passionate Bangkok ambassador? I think so.

At a vintage market Bangkok The Lilac Road
At a vintage market

It might sound I paint my life in such an idealistic way, and in some ways right now it is an absolute dream, but there have been days where it gets particularly challenging and lonely. I might have mentioned before that for the first time, I am ready for a relationship, but I have found increasingly that Bangkok is not an easy place to date. The men here are either expats who have girls on rotation simply because they are foreign and/or Caucasian, or are travelers passing through for a few days. I was recently talking to an expat for three weeks, asking him when we can finally meet, until I realized he was just leading me on to a dead end (I shouldn’t have let it go on for that long though). And when two travelers connect, what do you do? I knew when I decided to be an expat that I couldn’t have the stability of a relationship and be a frequent traveler at the same time. Sometimes all you can do when you like a guy is to hold the memories fondly and then let him go.

Beef and Shake Bangkok The Lilac Road
Beef and Shake (mine was a portobello mushroom burger)

I feel like I am adjusting so well to the Bangkokian lifestyle. I now know where to get shit printed. But seriously, I feel like I’ve settled into a routine I’m really happy with now, from morning rituals to the best cheap eats to knowing which markets to go to if I want vintage clothes. Can you believe it’s only been a month and a bit since I moved here? It feels like it’s been years.

I guess I’ve decided… I’m tired in the best way possible.

Jenny Chang The Lilac Road Bangkok
Exploring Silom
All images my own

An Update On Living As An Expat In Bangkok: A New Apartment, Freelance Writing And The Search For Avocados

Saphan Khwai Bangkok The Lilac Road
Traffic in Bangkok

As I am writing this, it has been almost four weeks since I moved to Bangkok.

When I first arrived, a lot of things were still up in the air: my job, my apartment, my visa situation and my freelance travel writing. In four weeks, a lot has happened – wonderful, disappointing, elating and challenging things – but what I feel most of all is gratitude.

After sending out close to a hundred emails to perspective schools and private companies for an English teaching position (which I studied and got a certificate for in New Zealand), I managed to only get two job interviews in Bangkok. One turned me down, but the other agreed to let me teach casually with potential to move to full-time in a month. What my current boss told me, and what I didn’t know until he did, was that when employers say ‘native English speaker,’ what they are ideally looking for is someone who looks Caucasian! Nevertheless, I am currently teaching some adorable kids at a private institute, and I am so thankful to have finally got a foot in the door after much effort. I am praying and constantly looking for a full-time and steady job, but I don’t feel worried about it at all – I know deep down that God has taken care of it already and I trust that he will provide an opportunity at the right time and place.

Songkran Festival Bangkok The Lilac Road
Songkran Festival, the Thai New Year where everybody water guns each other on the street

Something that happened to me while I was here was having my travel article on Bangkok published in Lucire, an established Wellington-based fashion magazine, and officially being made a writer for them! I was absolutely ecstatic and it was surreal to have all my friends and family back home celebrate that with me. Even though I was in a foreign country when I got the news, I still felt very loved from afar. Aside from Lucire, I am currently freelance writing for a couple of travel blogs in Europe and enjoying it. I find travel writing completely gratifying, and the bonus is that I get paid to do what I love.

Laptop and bed in Bangkok The Lilac Road
Nights spent writing in bed

After staying in Airbnbs for two weeks, and after consolidating with friends, I decided to take a risk and do things backward: find and rent an apartment without a full-time job. In Bangkok, you can rent a decent apartment from as little as NZD400 per month. It was a blessing from God, because when I decided to take that risk, everything fell into place. I contacted some landlords, looked at two apartments, chose the one I liked and signed the lease. It took only three days in total to find and fully move into my new apartment. How crazy and awesome is that? What’s more, God answered my prayer for an apartment that was modern, comfortable and affordable. I am also living in downtown Bangkok, an area which I really like. I am stoked with my new place and excitedly went to Ikea for the first time the other day to make my new space more cozy. Renting and decorating has really helped make me feel more settled; it truly feels like I am living here now, not just passing through like I am with so many other cities.

JJ Green Night Market Bangkok The Lilac Road
JJ Green Night Market, my favourite in Bangkok

The past four weeks have been full of beautiful, authentic and fun connections too. I’ve met lovely people through a church I am going to, had the immense fun of showing a couple of friends from Auckland around, met fellow Kiwis who shared the same love of coffee and food as I do and have also been introduced to locals who are well-connected and simply inspiring. Dating has been fun but also different; for the first time in my life, I am ready for a serious relationship, and instead of looking for short-term enjoyment, I am looking for something deeper and long-lasting. The many years of singleness, self-love and building this full and enriched life of my own has paid off; I feel so ready to invest myself and my love into a healthy relationship.
I am also in a space with God where all I feel is an immense and tender love from Him. His fatherly qualities have been coming through intensely for the past month: his protectiveness, his providence (“I’ll take care of it”) and his pride. What I did or didn’t do to deserve this, I’ll never know. It is a sacred intimacy I will never take for granted.

Brekkie brunch Bangkok The Lilac Road
Brunch at Brekkie
Market food at Rot Fai Night Market Ratchada Bangkok The Lilac Road
Market food at Rot Fai Night Market Ratchada

The challenges? Well, there are quite a few. I felt very lonely the first week I came here, not knowing anybody, not having a job and living out of a suitcase. You also have to risk looking foolish a lot of the time as you navigate and learn the ropes of living in a foreign city and culture; my embarrassment threshold is at a new high these days! Visa issues and work permits have also been nightmarish and something I haven’t quite figured out yet. Even the simple things that you take for granted back home can become bewildering, for example: setting up Wi-Fi in a new apartment (something that has been surprisingly frustrating) and where to pay bills, learning which exits lead you where at the metro station, how to shop at stores that don’t exist in New Zealand like Ikea and Tesco and trying to figure out where to go to buy a kettle, a rug or get something printed. Even trying to buy an avocado in Bangkok involves a Google search. But you know what? As cheesy as this sounds, they all feel minuscule in comparison to how much I love this city and how lucky I feel to be living in one of my favourite places in the world.

The ferris wheel at Asiatique Bangkok The Lilac Road
The ferris wheel at Asiatique

My friend was right; my time in Bangkok is filled with noise and colours and lights and madness. It’s been busy, but in all the ways that give me joy. Everyday I wake up full of gratitude and amazement that I get to call this incredible city my home, that I am using my strengths to do what I love and at the same time pursuing even bigger goals and that I am meeting like-minded people who inspire and nourish my soul. I am living my dreams. After six years of working, wandering and travelling, it feels so good to at last put my roots down somewhere. In Auckland, I always felt restless and out of place, but here in Bangkok, where the city thrives with energy and is filled with creatives, entrepreneurs and forward-thinkers, I finally feel like I’ve found my tribe.

Jenny Chang at Asiatique Bangkok The Lilac Road
At Asiatique
All images my own