By Sabrina Carter
Since getting engaged on holiday in Thailand in 2011, we dreamed
of leaving our London city jobs and immersing ourselves into a new life
in Chiang Mai. To realize our dream we decided that I would adopt a new
career as an EFL English teacher while my husband, Matt completed his OU
In our early days in Chiang Mai we found getting orientated challenging
as throughout our previous visit we stayed at the beautiful five star
Ping Nakara Hotel. Now visiting under less salubrious circumstances was
a bit of a reality check. The options for getting from A to B were; walk
or attempt to describe our destination to songthaew drivers in broken
Thai. Both options led to us frequently wandering around aimlessly and
feeling socially excluded because communication through smiles and nods
can only get you so far. In forty degree heat it felt like we were being
awoken from our dream of an exotic new life by someone chucking a bucket
of cold water on us, except the water was boiling hot and polluted.
Talking of dirty water, Thailand’s water festival, Songkran marked
somewhat of a turning point, where our feeling of isolation eased as fun
and laughter filled the streets and we joined in the party.
Many farangs cycle for fun, a concept which Thais find difficult to
grasp, especially when I turn up at school in my full lycra attire. As
experienced cyclists we both find cycling an enjoyable way to explore
new places. On purchasing a couple of cheap road bikes we were able to
become even more familiar with our host city, and following a near death
experience on a moped that left me sprawled in a muddy ditch, cycling
also became my preferred mode of transport.
Those who can, teach’ as they say back in England. So there I was after
nearly four months of freedom praying that I ‘can’. I’m thrown into a
whirlwind of tenses and pronouns, wondering, did I ever learn English at
school? My life revolved around studying and teaching practices, but
despite the nerves and exhaustion rising to the challenge gave me an
immense feeling of personal achievement.
After completing my training we found our little soi amongst the wonder
of the street food venders off Suthep Road. The vibrant mix of smells
and colour and the warmth shown to us by our neighbours is what makes it
home. On Suthep Road finding hidden gems is a fabulous daily occurrence.
One such gem is the ‘Magical Light Foundation Cafe’. An incident of
serendipity here threw up the chance for me to use my newly gained
skills to assist the foundation with teaching Burmese refugees English.
Teaching the Shan children will be one of my most treasured memories
from my time spent in Chiang Mai.
I have also been fortunate enough to work with Lukas Wyss who has
established a skills centre for therapeutic horse riding for children
with ‘special needs’. This work not only satisfied my love for all
things equestrian but filled my heart with love to see these beautiful
children experiencing just a jot of life that many take for granted. He
was very lucky to be able to use the land of Khun Sivaporn Vimolchalao
and gives many thanks.
On completing his degree Matt also needed to find a constructive way to
fill his days, as I wasn’t going to stand for him living ‘sabai, sabai’
style while I was bringing home the bacon. With a love for animals he
opted to volunteer for ‘Care for Dogs’, a charity that takes in
abandoned and abused dogs. In his first few weeks here this rewarding
experience has also gained us a new addition to our family, Rex,’ who we
have decided to adopt and take back the UK in November when we will
sadly be leaving Thailand. Not before we compete in the Thailand Ultra
Marathon through the forests and rivers of the north, where through this
we will be raising sponsorship money for Care for Dogs. http://www.