A Cambodia Bound Wendy

Many of our volunteers want to continue to travel whilst doing their volunteering work. The best and easiest way to do this is to visit the beautiful and historical country of Cambodia. Most of our volunteers will spend the weekend in this amazing country, giving themselves just enough time to see, arguably, the most famous city, Siem Reap. A few days really doesn’t do this magical country justice though so I really do try to encourage volunteers to spend at least a week in Cambodia if they have time available at the end of their trip.

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Tonle Sap Lake which drains into the Mekong River that runs through Phnom Penh.

A lot of people don’t really know much about Cambodia and what there is to do apart from see temples so I have put together a week long travel plan that will let you experience Siem Reap to the fullest. I have also made one for the capital of Cambodia, Phnom Penh and then a combined week long plan that encompasses the very best of both of these places.

There are obviously several other places to go in Cambodia that are beautiful, but if you only have a short time then I think that these two locations will offer you beauty, history and also some of the most famous sights of natural and historical significance that the country has to offer.

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Ta Prohm Temple, home to the famous Banyan tree seen in the Lara Croft movie

If you are thinking of volunteering with Starfish Volunteers and you would like to have some time in Cambodia then mention this when you book your trip and our wonderful staff in Bangkok will arrange for you to have the travel week of your choice added onto the end of your trip. This not only ensures that you will be able to see the very best of what is on offer but will also take the hassle and worry out of you organising it yourself 😀

Win, Win, Situation!

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Independence Monument in the capital, Phnom Penh

Visit the Starfish Website and the Starfish – Volunteer Thailand Facebook page to take a look at the different projects we have on offer, don’t forget to mention the Cambodia Extension when you book as well 😀

Once you have done that take a look at my own TwitterTumblr and Instagram pages to see what else I am up to on a day to day basis as well as what you can expect on each of our incredible projects!

Build. Protect.Teach. Care. – The Starfish Motto

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A Culture Shocked Wendy

After spending a couple of weeks on one of our projects, no volunteer wants to go home. I know I would rather wake up with a baby elephant in my back garden, playing with children who appreciate your love more than anything or helping those who are much less fortunate than myself, than spending 9-5 in a stuffy office worrying about staplers, invoices and work politics.

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Mr Incredible, certainly has a hard time adjusting to office life

Heading home is never easy when you have been having the time of your life for the past few weeks. In the same way that volunteers have to adjust to the customs and everyday life of Thailand, they also have to re-adjust to their lives back in their home countries. This is otherwise known as;

Reverse Culture Shock

I know that I had a really hard time when I first went back to England after being in Thailand. I found Thailand to really fit my personality and the way that I think that people should treat each other. Being back in England with a culture I am not fond of, weather that is bad to say the least and people who don’t treat each other as nicely as they do here, made me genuinely sad.

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When I visit Suvarnabhumi Airport I see a lot of people not looking forward to going home

I found it difficult to merge myself back with the routines and expectations of a Western county. For some people, they manage to slip back into their lives very easily, being only enriched with their time as a volunteer but some people however, myself included, find life lacking.

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Reverse Culture Shock can manifest itself in many forms from;

– Boredom

– Reverse homesickness

– Misunderstanding of your behaviour from others

– Feelings of alienation

– Negative feelings towards Westerners and

– Restlessness and being irritable

There isn’t anything wrong with feeling like this, but it can be very hard to adjust to going to back to your previous life after having such a life changing experience. The best ways I found to deal with Reverse Culture Shock was to just leave the country as soon as possible. I understand however that this is incredibly impractical for most people though so if you aren’t able to just up sticks and move then you can always try some of the following ideas;

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Talk About Your Experience

When you first get home, everyone you know will be desperate to hear all about your experiences and the adventures you have been getting up to. Embrace this time. Use it as a means to relive some of your most incredible, hilarious and meaningful memories. Sometimes just talking about what you miss will be enough to stop you missing it for a while; just be careful not to turn into the person that is always saying ‘When I was in Thailand…..’, ‘In Thailand…’, ‘That reminds me of when I did_____ in Thailand…..’. Your stories can become boring for people when you constantly tell them 😀

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Skype to the rescue; as always

Stay In Touch

Make sure to keep in touch with all of the people you met on your journey that mean something to you. Who knows when you might be able to meet them again. Losing connections with people that were involved in an important part of your life is terrible and something I hope never to do. Talking and keeping in touch with the people you met along the way is also a great way of reliving your experiences together so that you don’t ever feel too far away from your adventure.

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Scrapbooks or Photo Albums

I know this is definitely more of a girly thing to do but I can assure you, that if you pick up lots of small trinkets during your trip, like napkins from restaurants, cards from hotels, postcards or even something simple like leaves and keep hold of them, then you will be able to create something that you can look back on in years to come and smile at. I keep everything, so I have a lot of scrapbook type things, but if you aren’t the hoarding kind like me then photos, quotes or even written notes can have the same effect. Writing down hilarious things in the moment will ensure that you don’t forget them and when you look back on it in a year, five years or even fifteen years, you will remember that ridiculous moment.

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Stimulate Your Senses

A great way to get over Reverse Culture Shock is to eat your favourite foods from your trip. For me that would be any of the food I eat at Gois everyday, she has the best Goi Djab, Salads, Pad Thai and dishes I don’t think even have a name. If I went back to England and managed to find somewhere that could make those dishes I know that I would feel like I was back in Thailand; something that would definitely make me happy!

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Be a tortoise for a bit 🙂

Take It Slow

If you really are struggling to integrate back into your Western life then take it slowly. I know it can be terribly overwhelming to visit something as normal as a Walmart or an ASDA, when you have been used to living in the Elephant Village, or spending time with children who will never even hope to have access to such a large amount of food. I found it difficult to adjust to how much the Western world wastes in comparison to Thailand, here people make a living from recycling, where as in England people don’t really care too much about what happens to their trash. Don’t try to push yourself to adjust quicker than you feel you can and let people know that you are having some trouble so that they can help you as well.

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Plan Another Trip

This doesn’t always have to be back to the same place, for some, travelling itself it the thing that they miss. By having something to work towards that you know will make you happy will provide you with a distraction and also motivation; two things that will really help you with dealing with Reverse Culture Shock.

If you are wanting to experience our life changing volunteering projects for yourself then just take a look at the Starfish Website and the Starfish – Volunteer Thailand Facebook page, there you will find everything you need!

After that you can always relive your Thailand experience or get excited about your impending one by following my own TwitterTumblr and Instagram pages.

Build. Protect.Teach. Care. – The Starfish Motto

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A Fact Filled Wendy

After having so many ‘How To’ posts over the last few days I decided to do something different.

Thailand is a very beautiful country, parts of it are never seen by tourists or travelers and even now secrets are still discovered in abandoned temples. There is so much of this country that people just don’t know about so I thought that I would share a few of my favourite ‘little known’ titbits about Thailand.

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1. Thailand means ‘Land of the Free’ and is the only country in South East Asia that hasn’t been colonized by a European nation

2.It is considered uncultured to place your bag on the ground. This is because both the floor and your feet are considered filthy

3. It is illegal to leave your home if you’re not wearing any pants

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4. Thailand is one of the largest producers of pineapples in the world – good thing as well, as I LOVE me some pineapple!

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5. The Miss Universe pageant has been won twice by Thai contestants; once in 1965 and once in 1988

กรุงเทพมหานคร อมรรัตรโกสินทร์ มหินทรายุธยา มหาดิลกภพ นพรัตนราชธานีบูรีรมย์ อุดมราชนิเวศน์มหาสถาน อมรพิมานอวตารสถิต สักกะทัตติยวิษณุกรรมประสิทธิ์

6. Bangkok is the Western name for the country’s capital. It is in fact the longest country capital name in the world… Krungthepmahanakhon Amornrattanakosin Mahintharayutthaya Mahadilokphop Noppharat Ratchathaniburirom Udomratchaniwetmahasathan Amornphiman Awa-tarnsatthit Sakkathattiyawitsanukamprasit. The name itself is a story about Thailand, when translated into English can be read as;

The Capital City of Angels, The Residence of The Emerald Buddha, The Great City of Impregnable, The Gracefulness of the city is steadfast and thriving, The Grand Capital which is abundant with The Nine Noble Gems, it is a Pleasant Capital, The City is abounding with the enormous Royal Palaces that resembles as the heavenly abode where reigns the reincarnated God, Home of the Gods Incarnate, which was Erected by Vishnu at Indra’s Behest.

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7. Thailand has around 35,000 temples! Better get yourself some good walking shoes to see that all

8. One tenth of all animal species can be found in Thailand

That’t about 870,000 species!!!!!

9. It is forbidden to touch a Monk if you are a woman

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10. The Beach starring Leonardo di Caprio was filmed on Phi Phi Island

If you fancy discovering more of Thailand’s secrets then you should take a look at the Starfish Website and the Starfish – Volunteer Thailand Facebook page for projects that will allow you to experience this amazing country yourself.

Once you have done that then take a look at my own TwitterTumblr and Instagram pages to see some of the unknown sides of Thailand that I discover everyday 😀

Build. Protect.Teach. Care. – The Starfish Motto

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A Couple Of Wendys

I am always really touched when I see couples come to volunteer with us, to be able to share an experience as amazing as volunteering with someone that you love is an idea that makes me smile. I do know though that spending that amount of time with someone can become stressful and even cause issues. Even travelling with one or two close friends can present the same issues of always being with the same people and suddenly discovering several things they do that really irritate you; like nail biting, that’s a huge personal pet hate of mine.

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So as with the last few post I thought about things you can do to make sure that you and your partner or best friends don’t kill each other; killing isn’t good after all!

Laugh It Off

By laughing everything off, and making light of the bad situations you will drastically lower the chances of having arguments. Not only that but you will also find that things become less daunting when you make light of them.

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Me and two friends were attempting to walk home once in the middle of the night with pretty much no idea where we were or which direction we needed to go in, but as soon as we started to look at the funny side of everything it immediately made the whole experience a funny one.

Turn That Frown Upside Down

Everyone has annoying habits, whether it be nail biting (the bane of my life), knuckle cracking, picking your nose or chewing with your mouth open. The thing about habits is that they are always going to happen and you can’t do anything about it. You do tend to notice these habits in others when you spend a lot of time with them so when you discover that your boyfriend grinds his teeth or your best friend has a nasty habit of drumming their fingers on a table top, the best thing you can do is either let it go or make a joke about it.

Don’t let the small things people do irritate you to the point that it becomes unbearable. Not only will it make you upset and annoyed but chances are it will begin arguments as well. So just smile and make a joke out of it and you will soon find that it becomes funny as opposed to being annoying.

Have Your Own Time And Space

We all love our significant others and friends, that’s why we have them after all right haha But being in constant contact with them can become too much. Make time to do something on your own or with other people, whether it be going to different places for dinner, having an hour or two to read your favourite book or watching TV. This absence will give you time to enjoy your own company and not be constantly on each others toes.

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Absence makes the heart grow fonder and all that jazz right?

Work Together

When you’re in an unfamiliar environment doing something that requires you and your partner or friends to work together can enforce the bond that you already have. This can be anything from going hiking, undertaking something one of you is scared of or even just playing a simple but always competitive game of Pictionary. Working together will not only strengthen your bond but it will also give you someone who can push you to do something that you might not otherwise do.

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Being able to see this view was all down to the support from another

I went to New York with a boyfriend at the time and I had arranged for us to climb to the top of the Statue of Liberty, something which I had always wanted to do, little did I know that I am actually rather claustrophobic. If I had been on my own or with people I didn’t know then chances are I would have struggled a lot and might not have even been able to do it. Having someone who cared about me there, giving me the encouragement I needed, being patient and pushing me was the reason that I managed to make it to the top and see the incredible view.

As much as I dislike the guy now, if it weren’t for him I might not have ever done something I had dreamed of doing for a long time.

There Is No ‘I’ In Team

Sharing responsibilities and decisions can sometimes cause big problems for couples when they travel. One person is normally a natural leader in the relationship but when you travel the decisions you make are ones that you won’t normally face and can therefore be stressful.

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Sometimes they aren’t even big decisions but small ones like who gets to go in a hammock first or who has to go and buy the bus tickets this time. But no matter the size of the decision it is best to compromise and share the responsibility.

Many times when you are traveling you don’t want to make a decision in case it is not what the other person wants. Be clear on what you both want and remember that time when your other half gave up something they wanted to do so that you could enjoy something.

Don’t leave it to one half of the relationship to always make the decisions.

Remember Your Other Half’s Interests

When you travel you will probably already have an idea of a couple of the things that you want to do when you get there. Chances are you and your other half aren’t going to want to do exactly the same things, so there will be times where you might just need to suck it up and do something your aren’t interested in in order to make your other half happy.

I can remember booking tickets to see Wicked in the Gershwin Theater on Broadway knowing that my boyfriend at the time wasn’t that bothered about going, but agreed to as he knew it was something I wanted to do. The same goes for when me and some of the staff from our other location in Thailand were all in Bangkok and the boys wanted to go and see the newest Jackie Chan movie, something that I wasn’t fussed about but I still went as they wanted to.

You never know, you might end up enjoying yourself anyway!

Be On The Look Out For The Tired Face

Couples tend to fight more when one or both people are tired. Travelling is incredibly tiring at times and this makes you grouchy and not very much fun at all. We can all think back to times where we snapped at people we care about for no reason other than our being tired.

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Tiredness and frustration will bring the worst out of anyone so always keep an eye out for the ‘tired face’. When you see that your loved one is getting tired and frustrated make a note of it and try to be as sensitive as possible. Sometimes keeping your mouth shut can also be the best thing to do.

Alternatively you could just drink LOADS of Red Bull and not be a sour puss 😀

Don’t Be ‘The Couple’

Whilst traveling as a couple it is very easy to stay together. After all you already know each other and obviously enjoy each others company enough to be in a relationship haha The only thing is, when you stick together you begin to isolate yourself from other people. The couples we have had volunteer with us have managed a good balance of being together and being part of the group.

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Not always sitting together, going to bed at the same time or constantly being attached at the hip will make others feel more comfortable and socializing will become more fun as you won’t be ‘the couple’. Being able to spend time apart and with others will provide you with some amazing and beautiful friendships that you wouldn’t have if you had just constantly stuck together.

Don’t Forget To Have Time Together

Travelling is an incredible adventure that will give you some amazing memories, it can also be a tornado of getting caught up with meeting new people and discovering the unknown. So make sure to have some ‘couple time’ as well.

Go out for dinner, walk along the beach, get massages or even just have a movie night.

Having an hour or so to just enjoy the moment with the person you care about is something you should always make time for and enjoy, plus if you come to Thailand, it is a very beautiful country where it is hard not to find a romantic spot to sit down and remember all the things you love about your other half.

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If you and your other half are planning a trip away and want to make it something that will not only be an adventure but will also make a difference to others then you need to take a look at the Starfish Website and the Starfish – Volunteer Thailand Facebook page.

Once you have done that then take a look at my own TwitterTumblr and Instagram pages, I am always updating them will all the silly things I do and experience on a regular basis.

Build. Protect.Teach. Care. – The Starfish Motto

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A Questionable Wendy

Seeing as 99% of people who read my blog don’t know me and I am terrible at writing a bio I thought I would do one of those old Facebook question note thing instead 🙂 I found this on my own Facebook from nearly five years ago and cringed at the answers I gave 55

Enjoy 😀

Pick out a scar you have and explain how you got it – When my face gets wet you can see on my left check that there is a lot of scar tissue that came from a very bad ice skating accident with me being the only girl playing British Bulldog. Needless to say, I went about 6 feet on the ice, on my face, because a boy couldn’t face being beaten by a girl 🙂

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My resulting face – beautiful right

What is on the walls in your room? – I don’t actually have anything on the walls in my room at the moment, I am going to be filling them with all of my Thai language revision though

What does your phone look like? – It is a 64GB white iPhone 5 in a green edged case with a lots of blue heart stickers that Nikki gave to me yesterday

What music do you listen to at the moment? – I have developed a huge love for Thai and Asian music in the last few months

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Bodyslam, possibly the most famous band in Thailand

What is your current phone lock and home screen? – At the moment my lock screen is Rainbow Dashs’ cutie mark from My Little Pony, and my home screen is the reflection of water on a thatched roof at my friends lake house.

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My lock screen

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Home screen

What do you want more than anything in the world right now? – To be fluent in Thai

What time were you born? – I think it was some time in the mid afternoon

What are you listening to right now?Kook Kao by Cocktail (click the name to check them out, they are really good; I promise)

Are you scared of the dark? – I am scared of the dark when I am inside but outside doesn’t bother me

What colour hair/eyes do you like on the opposite sex? – I have no real preference but everyone knows how much in love with Asian boys I am 555

Coffee or energy drinks? – Energy drinks, but I would always choose an ice smoothie over anything else

Cats or dogs? – Dogs are number 1!

What is your favourite pizza topping? – I can’t get pizza in Thailand sadly, but my favourite in England was the Chicken BBQ with bacon, sweetcorn and onion with a BBQ sauce base and stuffed crust. God I miss pizza!!

If you could eat anything right now, what would it be? – Well now I am desperate for pizza

Do you speak another language? – I am getting pretty damn good at Thai now

What was the last gift you gave? – I bought my big brother a crate of beer the other night

Are you double jointed? – In my thumbs I am yes

Who is the person you call the most? – Nangfa

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Miss her face so much!!!

What annoys you the most? – That it isn’t ok in Thailand to tell someone when they are being prat; sometimes people just need to be told that!

What is your biggest weakness? – That I am probably the most stubborn being on the planet

What is your favourite Western and Thai holiday? – Oh this is an easy one, Western holiday has to be Christmas and favourite Thai holiday is hands down is Songkran – the worlds biggest water fight

What were you doing before writing this? – Writing even more blogs 🙂

What do you get complimented on the most? – Thai people are obsessed with my skin being white and girls are always telling me how jealous they are! Western people always say I have nice eyes

What do you want for your next birthday? – I would really love a pair of high tops, sometimes I get tired of wearing flip flops and want to wear socks

Who are you named after? – I’m not so much named after anyone, it was just that my mum never knew a Wendy. My Thai name, Rung, is because I always have rainbow hair

Worst habit? – Definitely that I stay up for way to long on an evening

Where is your second home? – My big brother, Dooks house

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My big brother Dook and his beautiful niece, Per-sia

What was your favourite toy as a child? – It would have to be my stuffed lamb, very aptly named Lambsy

Most treasured memory? – I think that it would have to be when my sister and her family and my best friend, Aron, and my mum came to the airport to see me off. Everyone was in tears and I have never not wanted to stop hugging someone so much. My sister gave me a note that I read whilst waiting for the plane that made me bawl my eyes out!!

Best live music you have seen? – Speed hahaha But I think it would have to be Atreyu, they were so good, and made a huge effort to talk and interact with so many of their fans

Do you have any pets? – I did have a beautiful puppy called Skylar for a month or so but then was told I wasn’t allowed to have her anymore, definitely one of the worst moments during my time in Thailand.

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I miss my baby, Skylar, SO much!!!!

What is your favourite colour? – Always has and will be, green

What was the last book you read? – I have recently read every Game of Thrones book, which makes it very confusing for me when I periodically hear about events on the TV show and knowing that far worse things happen later on

What was the last thing you ate and drank?-Me and a volunteer called Alice went to Swensens, a beautful ice cream company, for dinner last night. The last thing I drank was water 🙂

Who was the person you spoke to on the phone? – I am always on the phone with Nangfa!!!

Do you believe in love at first sight?– I believe in love at first sight with Thai boys haha

Best present you have ever received?  – Even though they came from an idiot, the best present I ever got was my CCM Ice Skates

Do you have any siblings? – I have a beautiful older sister called Emi. A younger brother called Josh and my Dads wife is currently pregnant with a baby girl 🙂

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Sibling in progress

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Baby brother Josh

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Big sister. Emi, and her son, Reuben

What colour hair do you have? – I have every hair colour!

What was the last thing you watched? – I have been obsessed with Jeremy Kyle lately haha

Summer or winter? – I adore Winter but now live in a constant Summer state

What is your favourite movie? – Tangled is by far the best movie of all time, oh and Josie and the Pussycats, and Robin Hood Prince Of Thieves!

Have you met any life changing people in the last year? – I think my two best friends in the world Aron Jackson and Anya Gartside would be at the top of that list, closely followed by my big brothers Dook and Tee.

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Aron on his recent volunteering trip to Africa

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My homeslice Anya

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My brothers, Tee, the one on the left, and Dook on the right

Morning or night? – Always night

What is your full name? – Wendy Ann Victoria Reece

If you could be an animal for a day, which animal would it be? – It would have to be a snow leopard as they are the coolest animal on the planet!

You get granted one superpower, what do you choose? – I think teleportation would be the best thing in the world, I could go to all the places I have always wanted to go!

What is your favourtie smell? – Bacon. Bacon and bacon.

Hopefully these silly questions will give you a bit more of an insight to me and my life and will mean that you understand my madness a little better from now on 😀

If you want to volunteer with a mad woman then take a look at the Starfish Website and the Starfish – Volunteer Thailand Facebook page.

You can also always check out my TwitterTumblr and Instagram pages for more of my silly antics!

Build. Protect.Teach. Care. – The Starfish Motto

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Wendy and Tuk Tuk

Last weeks blogs were all about the Elephant Project, what you will do, need and who you will meet there, this week the blogs will all be about our Childcare project here in Surin.

So before I get onto what you will be doing and where, I think I will first introduce you to your coordinator.

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This wonderful woman you see before you is Tuk.

She is amazing.

I Love Her.

And I promise you will as well!

Tuk is 32 and has been working for Starfish for 9 months. She is also the sister of our Elephant Coordinator Worn and cousin to another member of staff named Aow.

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Tuk and her cousin Aow at our Staff Meeting in Cha Am earlier in the year 😀

Tuk started to learn English when she was working for a company in Phuket that do high wire adventure challenges,  something that I find very strange as Tuk is scared of heights! The main reason behind her taking 8 and a half months of working with us to FINALLY get up and ride an elephant; even if it were only for 10 minutes haha

Tuk will never agree with me that her English is as good as it is, I prattle on at a mile a minute and she can still understand me; I don’t even have to change the complexity of what I am saying as you so often have to when speaking with non native speakers. She does have a pretty thick accent that even I ‘Tuk’ (so hilarious) one or two days to get used to. Once you get past that I promise you will think the same as me and have no issues talking with her.

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Using her expert knowledge to buy the best kind of fish for the pond at Childcare

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Just some of the children that Tuk takes volunteers to look after everyday

Tuk works primarily with Childcare, though does occasionally work with the Teaching and Elephant projects. She is incredibly adaptable and one of the hardest working people I know, she never shys away from any kind of hard labor, she actually loves getting stuck in and muddy more than she does being in the office!

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One of the 50 children Tuk looks after with volunteers everyday

Saying that, she is always asleep every time she is in the office…………………. you can tell her and Worn and brother and sister from their ability to sleep at anytime, in any place!!

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Tuk and Worn have legendary Napping Skills 😀

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This is the pond that Tuk single-handedly built in the Thai sun!!

Whilst working for Starfish Tuk has done so much more than her job, she has single-handedly undertaken the upkeep of a huge vegetable garden at DREAM Surin, dug and stocked a catfish pond and spent hours in the boiling sun fixing everything from water pumps to fences and roofs; there is nothing that Tuk can’t do. Not only has she been doing maintenance on everything and anything, she has spent her own time and money in further improving the school life and learning experiences of the fifty something children that regularly attend Childcare.

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The kids are so much easier to look after when they are asleep!!

Tuk is definitely the loudest member of our team here in Surin, her laugh carries from one side of Thailand to the next and her smile is incredibly infectious. She works so insatiably hard for every volunteer she has, she is the big sister of our group and often the mother for me. Tuk has looked after me and the volunteers more than I can ever give her credit for and she gets nothing but positive feedback from the volunteers because of all of the hard work she puts in everyday.

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Tuk, Me and Taryn – one of the many nights Tuk has looked after us all

For everyone that is coming to Surin to do the Childcare project you are going to have an incredible time anyway, but I can assure you that your time with us will be even better because of Tuk, she will give you anecdotes and memories to keep forever. Tuk has some of the most amazing one liners that even thinking about them now, cracks me up.

For example, me and an ex volunteer who came back to visit, were sat outside our 7/11 chatting to the staff and Tuk turns up, more than a little tipsy, on her moped and begins chatting with us. I notice that she has way too long a threads coming off her jean shorts so I pull off the ones that look ridiculous, this is then met by Tuk asking me

‘Why you take off my fashion? This is my fashion, you want, you buy, you no take from me ok???’

Both me and the volunteer I was with cracked up into fits of giggles as Tuk took the piece of thread from me and retied it back onto her jean shorts, hoped on her moped and left, shouting back to me that

‘Next time, you no take off my fashion ok??’

As always it is all well and good me telling you how wonderful I think Tuk is but it is better to hear it from the mouths of people who have actually had the pleasure of having Tuk, not only as their coordinator but as their friend.

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Tuk, Taryn and Denise (Sisaket) at the local Silk Village

‘Your life has just improved once you have Tuk. She is full of love, kindness,a wicked sense of humor & a passion for looking after volunteers. Her laugh & cuddles will stay with you forever! She will go above & beyond to ensure that you have the best possible experience in beautiful Thailand. The kids love her, the volunteers adore her & I know she is invaluable to Starfish. I miss my Thailand sister! Can’t wait to go back & see her!’ – Taryn Hayler

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Nick is the one with the sunglasses one

‘Real helpful and overall a cracking lady’ – Nick Port (Another very long and insightful quote from Nick there; typical Aussie)

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Esther with one of the elephants at the Study center we spend time at on the Elephant Project

‘The most beautiful laugh, that’s what you will hear all the time when you around Tuk!’ – Esther Meewezen

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Anya working as hard as ever with Tuk on the Elephant Project

‘Tuk is an incredible person to be around, she’s always enthusiastic and will never stop making you laugh x’ – Anya Gartside

To see more of what Tuk is doing then you can always check out her Facebook or her Twitter. I won’t lie, Tuk is not a computer person, she is a jungle girl so checking my own  TwitterTumblr and Instagram pages are probably the best way of seeing what she is up to on a weekly basis.

Make sure you look at the Starfish WebsiteStarfish – Volunteer Thailand Facebook page or the Starfish Tumblr if you haven’t yet signed up to hang out with Tuk  and you want a little more info about the Childcare project. You can always stay tuned for my blog tomorrow though as that will all be about a usual day on the Childcare project!

Build. Protect.Teach. Care. – The Starfish Motto

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Wendy, the Elephant and the Suitcase

Having looked at the what you will be doing on the elephant project and the wonderful staff you will be working with, it is now time to look at specifically what you will need to bring to the Elephant Project.

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Do you really need all that stuff for two weeks??

Speaking from experience, I know that I completely overpacked when I came to volunteer, I brought a lot of clothes that weren’t environment appropriate, toiletries that weighed my bag down a ton and didn’t leave nearly enough space to bring back mementoes of my incredible trip.

I know the feeling when you finally get around to packing, normally two days before you leave if you are anything like me, when you start to try and think about EVERYTHING that you might possibly need and you go out and buy everything that you don’t already have and normally don’t ever use. If you have done that, then I hope you kept your receipts as there is a much more efficient, environmentally friendly and economical way of getting what you need for your trip; no it isn’t stealing haha. It is all about buying locally in Thailand and knowing what you actually need to bring with you.

Lets start right at the very beginning, you are going to be working on the Elephant Project so what, really, do you need in order to make your time comfortable and easy?

Number One thing is obviously clothes.

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Who wants to look like a guy who eats animal poo?

Now when it comes to what clothes to bring with you I can assure you that you will not need anything fancy. You don’t need anything Bear Grylls endorses or anything from those speciality outdoors shops like Blacks. After all, Thai people don’t have any of those things and they work here everyday!

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Worn beautiful modelling the ideal outfit to wear whilst working

All you need for your top half is a bunch of vest tops, thin t-shirts and preferably one or two long sleeved shirts that aren’t too thick. Vests are easy to work with in the sun, they don’t get too hot and they are the best way to get a tan 🙂 T-shirts that have sleeves that completely cover your shoulder are fantastic for when you teach at the local school as you have to have your shoulders covered up, not only that but you also need something like this when you go to any sort of temple, place of worship or importance. Finally you will need a long sleeved shirt for the days when you are out collecting banana trees and sugarcane, the sleeves protect your arms from getting cut up from the leaves and also puts a barrier between you and the fire ants that are so very eager to eat you.

In terms of trousers I would highly recommend that you bring something that is either full or three quarter length for use on the project itself, it again protects your legs from scratches and fire ants. The best thing would be cargo pants or combats, they are durable and strong as well as lightweight which means you won’t get too hot. When you are riding the elephants I would also suggest you wear something that at least covers your knees due to the fact that when you ride the elephants back after swimming the water from the river stays in the hairs on their backs and with the movement of walking, can make quite the sensitive rash on your thighs. When you aren’t on project feel free to wear shorts, skirts, kilts, anything you fancy. Just remember that you will be living in a Thai village so wearing those Kylie Minogue gold spandex shorts you have in your wardrobe, might not be the most socially acceptable thing to do.

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Pretty sure these aren’t the most appropriate piece of clothing for anywhere, let alone Thailand 😀

Now when it comes to footwear in Thailand everyone wears flip flops, they are easy to clean, cheap and you have to take your shoes off whenever you enter somewhere so having huge lace up boots would be way too much effort. If you don’t currently own a pair of flip flops then I commend you to wait until you get here and then buy them. They are available everywhere, are incredibly cheap and by buying locally you are helping support the local economy as well. For on the project you will need something a little more durable, I myself wore walking type boots for when we actually when out to work, they keep your feet safe and mean that you can climb about everywhere because of the traction. Boots like this you will need to get in your home country, you can also wear trainers or sneakers but they don’t offer nearly as much protection and can get damaged very easily from the terrain.

With all of the clothes that you bring for the Elephant Project just make sure you don’t bring anything white, or light coloured, not only does it get dirty very easily but it also goes see-through when wet and the sap that you get from Banana trees stains light coloured clothes in seconds, whereas it barely makes a dent on darker clothing. Also if you are on the project for two weeks you need to bring enough or buy enough t-shirts for if you were here for three weeks. I promise you will be getting changed at least once or twice a day due to the heat and going swimming with the elephants so having one tshirt per day won’t be enough.

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Carolines shirt used to be white……..

If you don’t have anything that quite fits the above descriptions then I would recommend that you buy what you need when you get here. There are lots of second hand places in Surin, a night market at the elephant village and a big ASDA type shopping centre very close to your volunteer house. Why pay over the odds in your home country if you can buy what you need here where not only is it cheaper but it also helps the independent vendors who sell everything as well as the local and national economy.

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Thailands ASDA

The same goes for toiletries as well, you do not need to bring shampoo, conditioner, face wash, moisturiser, toothpaste, any of that stuff. Big C, Thailand’s ASDA, has all of this and it is cheaper than it would be in at home, plus it means you don’t have to use any of your weight allowance for the flight. When it comes to make-up I would say bring it if you want to, I did as a volunteer, I didn’t use it whilst on the project but when you are back in town for the weekend there are lots of bars and a club in town so why not be able to doll yourself up every once in a while 😀

The only toiletries I can think you might need from your home country is suntan lotion and mosquito spray. You can get both here but they aren’t normally as strong as the stuff you can get from specialist places at home, places like Boots do really strong suntan lotion and mosquito spray. When it comes to suntan lotion, I know a lot of people say they don’t need it and that they never burn but I can promise you, this is Thailand, it’s hot, the sun is incredibly strong, it isn’t like Spain or anywhere else in Europe. My first day on the elephant project I was riding on an elephant for two hours and managed to get such severe burns that I still have scars nearly a year on. Trust me; you need suntan lotion.

These are things that you will need specifically for the elephant project, you will obviously need all the usual things like chargers, pants etc, I will be writing up a comprehensive list of everything else you will need so keep tuned for that as well.

So here is a checklist of the specifics you will need for the Elephant Project;
– Vest tops, t-shirts, long sleeved shirt (no light colours)
– Three quarter or full length cargo/combat trousers
– Flip flops
– Walking/hiking/high durability shoes/boots
– Sunscreen (at LEAST factor 30+)
– Mosquito Spray (at LEAST 25% Deet)
– A hat (maybe not the most fashionable of things but really helps to keep you cool when working during the day)

Just make sure that you don’t bring anything that you wouldn’t ever want to get dirty, the elephant project is all about getting stuck in, helping the local community and working hard. You can’t work hard in this heat without getting dirty and sweaty so make sure the clothes that you bring are up to the same challenges you are.

To see some more pictures of what you will be up to or to find out more information about your project check out the Starfish WebsiteStarfish – Volunteer Thailand Facebook page or the Starfish Tumblr.

The most consistently updated places to find out about us would be my own TwitterTumblr and Instagram pages, click the blue button below for my Instagram 🙂

Build. Protect.Teach. Care. – The Starfish Motto

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A Very Speedy Wendy

I know this is super late but I have been crazy busy lately! Pretend it is New Years for me for a while and read this blog with that in mind 😀

Not only is today New Year’s Eve it is also my friend Kim’s birthday so it is looking as though tonight will be a rather splendid celebration indeed!!!

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One of my favourite couples ever!!

This morning Kim’s boyfriend Arm, who is also a coordinator with me, called me and asked for my help in organising her a surprise birthday cake, which I was more than happy to help with, even if the whole thing relied in part on me keeping a 6 year old quiet which was not an easy task!! Why is it that when they have to be quiet that they aren’t, but when they are doing something they shouldn’t then they are quiter than James Bond in a Russian Military Base??

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This cake was pretty amazing I won’t lie 😀

Me and Arm lit the candles on Kim’s cake and walked from my office to Arms house, which luckily is just around the corner, followed closely by Arms son Ing who was carrying Kim’s present. We got to the house and definitely surprised Kim with her beautiful cake and gift which Ing was more than happy to help open!

Later in the evening me, Arm and Kim met up with a friend of hers who lives near us and got a taxi, probably the only real taxi In Surin, to a very local Thai bar, where the staff and the customers were throwing cherry bombs and exploding sparklers everywhere; I do so love how much people are considerate of health and safety in Thailand 😀 One of the guys who worked there even got a slingshot from somewhere and decided that loading it with a lit cherry bomb and launching it in the air blindly was a marvellous idea with clearly no health and safety concerns!! Needless to say I had to be talked out of doing the exact same thing!

There is, at times, no health and safety in Thailand and luckily in my experience it has always led to some fantastic memories and meeting new friends that I otherwise might not have met; like the crazy cherry bomb guy.

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Look how amazing this straw is??? Who knew this was possible!

After crawling a few of the local bars me, Arm and Kim ended up in Speed 3, which I hope you all know by now, is my favourite night time haunt in Surin, and I can safely say that I have never seen any bar as full as it was on New Years; you could barely move for the amount of people that were there, I have two videos that I will post that show just how busy and mental it was for New Year. The manager of Speed 3 had put on a HUGE new show that my performer friends told me they had to practice 6 hours a day for two days to get ready for; and there is me who has complained about getting beaten up by a baby elephant!! It was certainly worth the 2 days practice as it was amazing and I even got to join in!! I wasn’t on the stage or anything (sadly) but my friend Beer who is the drummer with the house band, gave me his can of silly string and told me to let loose at midnight with the rest of the performers.

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The closest thing I could get to a full shot of the craziness that is Speed 3 at New Years

It is certainly a huge perk of my nightlife to be friends with the performers at Speed 3 as it means I get a lot of free drinks but also get to have them come and give me hugs whilst they are on stage, much to the distaste of the Thai crowd as they don’t get to huge the ridiculously attractive staff every night; at times is it the best to be the palest person in the room.

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Needless to say Kim had a wonderful birthday and I had an equally as wonderful New Year. We have already planned for a very big night out when I return from my trip to Cha Am for our Staff Meeting followed by my stay in Bangkok to pick up my first ever group of volunteers who I shall be taking to the elephant village. It should make for a very fun few days having my first ever group of volunteers who are properly relying on me to be their coordinator!! We shall see if it is as fun as I hope and if I manage to epically screw up this amazing job I have been so lucky to get.

Anywhom!!!

I am finally back in bed after my New Years night out and I am getting sleepy so shall post this and then get the videos up as soon as my Internet will allow me to; mobile Thai Internet is always amazing but sometimes my wifi decides that we aren’t friends anymore and refuses to let me so much as update my Facebook status; seems you just can’t keep everyone happy now a days!

I shall be getting the night bus to Bangkok tomorrow, well today actually I suppose, and it shall be a very long six to seven hour drive I can tell you, especially as I KNOW that Tuk and Al will have been celebrating New Years all day, and probably up until we get on the bus; many apologies to the poor Thai people who have to sit with us for the entire journey 😀

Sleepy time for Wendy!!!

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Here Comes Wendy Clause, Here Comes Wendy Clause, Right Down Wendy Clause Way!

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So these leggings are about as Christmassy as I will be getting over here in Thailand, becuase Thailand is obviously a Buddhist country so they don’t celebrate Christmas like we do in the Western world. At first I thought that this might be a bit weird as I come from a famiy that goes ALL out for Christmas, and I mean all out; real Christmas tree, same decorations every year, family traditions like having Christmas dinner on Christmas day and not being allowed to open any presents until breakfast was eaten and even then it had to be in turn with my sister so we could see what the other had gotten; but despite all of this I find myself not at all phased by the lack of baubles and turkey in my life.

Actually scratch that, I really want turkey and I would do several illicit things for a mince pie right now. Thailand has yet to experience mince pies and I don’t know how to make them, nor do I have the time either; turns out we are pretty busy in the Starfish HQ for Christmas. I still have one volunteer left who has two days left on the teaching project left to finish before she jets off to another fun destination, and for any of those that can count, that means I am working over Christmas Day, which again doesn’t really seem that strange as nobody here celebrates it. After that we have a few days off before heading out to our Annual Staff Meeting and then I have volunteers coming on the day we depart, so all in all I am pretty tied up 😀

A very easy way to tell if there is a farang (foreigner) living on your street is to see if they put up Christmas decorations or not; even though they have moved to a different country with a culture that is so far and beyond their own they still insist on decking out their houses with lights, tinsel and those freaky dancing angels and santas. My grandparents used to have one either side of their fireplace at Christmas and they used to scare the bejesus out of me and my sister, I remember them giving them to us one Christmas and I knew in that moment that after that Christmas they would never see the light of day again, forever living in my attic; that is unless my grandparents ever came over, at which time they would take pride of place in the living room 😀

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This does not instil Christmas joy of any kind in me what so ever

The one thing I am a little saddened by though is seeing how all of my friends on Facebook are all boasting about how lovely their Christmas jumpers are, how nice it is to come in from the cold winter air and have a hot chocolate with melted marshmallows, how beautiful their cities are with all the lights and how excited they are too see everyone they care about. As much as I can wear a Christmas jumper here in Thailand it isn’t really the same; especially as it is SO hot here that you can’t even put a jumper on without working up a sweat.
I don’t have to go outside and worry about slipping on ice or how much longer it will take me to get to work due to the snow though, all I have to worry about here is mosquitos and sunburn; neither of which I worry about that much anyway as ‘mosquitos gotta mosqeet’ and there is no sun strong enough in the universe in the real or video game world that can turn my milky white skin to anything darker than a grubby tone.
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Props for this photo go to Stuarts Photography, Leeds, if you don’t go to him for all of your photography needs then you are a fool 😀
I won’t lie and say I don’t care about Christmas becuase I do, I miss my friends back in England and I won’t get to see any of my family over the holidays like I have been so used to doing for the last 21 years. I saw a picture today of my niece, Pixie, standing infront of a bauble and just looking so amazed and happy and it makes me sad that I can only see wonderful moments like that in photos at the moment. If we had Christmas here it would be my face looking amazed and happy as I am all about Christmas and finding the perfect gift for someone and then seeing their face as they open it.
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 This is what happens if we are friends and you don’t agree that I am right 😀
I am especially sad about not being able to see my best friend Aron this year. We have known each other only a few months but are so far and beyond best friends that I can honestly say I can’t see life without his cheeky face in it. He was the reason I cried at the airport when I left!!! Like I have said before I am from a military family so I am very used to goodbyes but saying bye to Aron, after we had become so close, was honestly the only thing that nearly stopped me from coming out here in the first place. I speak to Aron pretty much everyday and as much as he does my head in sometimes with talking about FIFA or blabbering on about some ‘fit lass’, I can honestly say that he is someone I now couldn’t live without. So because of that I am going to be very sad on Christmas Day that I can’t give him a hug and tell him how much I miss him in person instead of over our 2 hour Skype calls every other night.
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Who couldn’t miss a face that steals your Star Wars Jedi dressing gown and sneaks into your mums room in order to have cuddles with your kitty after stealing your bed after work and spending the whole time snoring and stealing all of the duvet??
There are things I don’t miss though, like the idiotic people who feel the need to blame you and the rest of the world for their inability to plan Christmas shopping effectively and spend the last few days scurrying around town, barging everyone else out of the way in order to get to Sports Direct to buy a pair of ‘weeney good’ Nike Airs for their brother. I also don’t miss the stupid slush snow that you get after the beautiful snow has been trampled into the ground like a giant cockroach, you know the kind that seeps into your shoes and makes the 4 pairs of socks you are wearing cold and wet?? Yeah England can keep that 😀
Another thing I don’t miss is how superficial people become at Christmas, it isn’t about spending time with your loved ones or playing board games anymore, it is about getting drunk, wearing a teeny tiny santa outfit to a club and spending Christmas Eve necking off with a stranger and then opening presents that you probably don’t need or deserve. I just don’t like how much people put a value on objects. I can’t claim to be completely unsuperficial as I have an iPhone, an iPad, a MacBook Pro and countless clothes, but living in Thailand in a culture where your wealth is shown in the love you express and the family you keep, it makes you very quickly realise that you don’t need all of those things.
One of my BIGGEST pet hates for Christmas though is when people say it is all about Jesus’ birthday. If I see one more status on Facebook about how Christmas comes from it being Jesus’ birthday I might have to tear my eyeballs out! Christmas comes from the Pagan festival Yule which the Catholics felt the need to steal and make into something it isn’t; like with a lot of things they believe.
Anywhom, this is not going to turn into THAT debate!
It just makes me so mad that people are so simple minded that they don’t actually look into it all. If you only like Christmas on a non-religious basis then I have no issue if you don’t know it’s origins but if you claim that it ALL came from the Catholics then don’t expect to be my friend on Facebook for very much longer.
You know if I take you off Facebook that we really aren’t friends 😀
On another note though!!
I just want to wish everyone back in England, and anywhere else in the world, that I love, the very best in this holiday time, no matter what you celebrate. Know that I miss you all and that you had better be eating extra turkey and mince pies for me as finding mince pies here is harder than finding a unicorn; which is FAR harder than the Harry Potter books let on so don’t be fooled!!
Happy Holidays Everyone!!!
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My rather snow and ice covered face 😀

Build. Protect.Teach. Care. – The Starfish Motto

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