Tuesday, September 24, 2013

How to do what I do...

Thanks to the progression of social media and my own vanity, more and more people are seeing my pictures and asking me "Laura, how can I do this too?" Everyone has a dream to travel and see the world but it always only seems like just that, an un-accomplishable dream. So here's a few steps that I think will send you packing and on your way:

1. Register and get your passport. Getting everything together and taken to the post office takes no more than a day. You should have your passport back in eh maybe 2 months. It can be expedited for a little extra.

2. Sign up for Couchsurfing.com. Even if you decide you never want to stay at someone's house or vice versa, Couchsurfing is the best tool for traveling and will become your best friend. 

3. Decide where you want to go. Do extensive research: weather, currency exchange, cost of living, surrounding areas of interest, jobs you could do (usually teaching English). Use couchsurfing by joining the group for chosen city, write a post asking about the city in the group, message people that may have the same interests as you and ask them certain questions on a more personal level: nightlife, jobs, how the people are and just generally what they think of the place. Couchsurfing people are more than happy to help travelers and future expats and are usually more than willing to show you around the city upon your arrival.  

4. Find out if you need a visa for chosen place and begin working on the requirements for the visa. 

5. Save money!!! Really really cut back on partying and spending. Be super frugal and everytime you want to buy something at Starbucks, think about your trip. Trust me, this is the hardest thing for me but so important.

6. Sell your car. Not a necessity, but recommended! Especially if you're intending to stay abroad for a year or more. The extra money is great while you're trying to get settled into a new country, ie finding a place, a job, cell phone, all the start up costs. Plus, what are you going to do with it for a year besides think about it depreciating? Buy a new one when you get home.

7. Buy your plane ticket. Do this as soon as possible, but research all possibilities to find the cheapest route. So what if you're traveling for three days to save an extra 100$, trust me, it's not so bad. Even if you're alone: journal, read, meet new people, it's great. If leaving from Orlando, then layover in Dallas, then LAX, then PEK then you arrive 36 hours later? It will make you appreciate a hot shower and the land that much more! Generally, leaving on a Tuesday or Wednesday is the cheapest.

8. Save money!! Keep doing it. 

9. Start to pack for your trip, even if it's 2 months away. Start shopping and think about things you can't live without: tampons (never find them abroad!) medicines (tylenol, benadryl, PEPTO! imodium AD, any scripts you need, get the max you can get from your doc), hand sanitizer, garlic salt, lemon pepper. 

I think that's all the prep stuff. If I think of anything else, I'll add an addendum. If anyone has any questions, please email me...Laurafuhrmann305@yahoo.com. And by no means am I an expert on traveling or living abroad but there are a few things I can offer as far as advice! I always wanted to travel and never thought I could and one day, I said "I'm going to do this." Then I left 2 months later for Turkey and haven't stopped for three years (well, brief breaks at home). I love traveling and I want everyone to have the opportunity and not just dream and never do it and regret it forever ! That would just suck

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Lady Boy Entertainment

The thriving lady boy industry in Thailand is one to not be missed. If you love drag shows, theatre, dramatic entrances, lavish costumes and entertainment for not-quite-the-whole-family, check out one of the many cabaret shows. Generally following the loosely used term burlesque ideals, these shows can be often comedic and over the top. They're colorful and exciting and truly part of Thai tourism. Cabaret shows aside, the average lady boy can be seen all over Thailand and isn't necessarily a performer but maybe a sales clerk, waitress, or just a passerby.
Surprisingly, they do a very good job of tucking it back or in some cases they've had the surgery
because in the particular show I saw, I saw no bulges or any other penile evidences. These men without the organ switch-up surgery are known as "transvestites" while those having the surgery are "transsexual."Because this surgery is quite expensive (as you can imagine), most ladyboys are simply transvestites or she-males. The breast augmentation is found to be much much cheaper and therefore many opt for this type of surgery.      However, for the simple backpacker or not so informed tourist, this could set one up for an embarrassing or in some cases quite uncomfortable encounter. So be sure, foreign boys, before taking a sweet Thai "girl" to your bed, you may be signing on for more than you bargained. Additionally, some lady boys are incredibly beautiful! They can be very effeminate with amazing tits, banging bodies and flawless make up, some look better than most real girls.

Kathoey is the Thai term for this third gender. They are also known at Phyuing prophet song which means "a second kind of woman." The history of this lifestyle seems to date back to World War II, when in Thailand women were not permitted to perform in public, so instead men dressed in women's clothing and performed for the soldiers. These days Thailand is glittered with lady boys just trying to live their lives like any other woman. They want to be loved and desired, sexy and sought after.  When in the past, families would encourage their daughters to venture to Bangkok to work to make money to send back to their villages, now families are pushing their sons to Bangkok to live a life as a Kathoey in the Bangkok night life. 
 These lady boy shows are much more than a common drag show, which, don't get me wrong, are super fun no matter your sexual orientation. They are themselves a major contribution to the Thai culture and should not be missed <3 p="">

Friday, May 31, 2013

Kindergarten teacher moonlighting as a stripper

Kindergarten teacher by day, pole dancer by night. Fortunately enough for me, Chinese entertainment managers are always looking for foreign talent. And what I lack in talent, I make up in foreignerness! One night, while the roommates and I were scoping out some new night clubs and I was perhaps a tad inebriated, we wandered into a really cool, well decorated night club. Trees seem to grow up through the ground floor and flourish onto the fourth floor where all the action seemed to be. It was like a little indoor rainforest lined with comfy couches and sporting a pretty good DJ, who I would later know as Jay. Lit up in the center of this intimate discotheque like a holy grail of dance floors was an elevated small stage surrounding a shiny new stripper pole. Naturally, as the attention seeking, crowd pleasing girl I am, I lept up on this untouched mecca and rocked some of my amateur dancing and pole tricks. I was drunk so in my head, I was a limber and flowing Esmeralda. And luckily sitting across from this spectacle, was the owner of the bar who may have been as drunk if not more than myself. He beckoned over my friends and me and insisted we drink with him. Free liq? Don't mind if we do! So shot of beer after shot of beer, he begged me to start dancing at his club on the reg. Every night from 10pm to 1am I was to come to the bar, my friends invited, he would provide us beers and we were to drink with the guests. Then twice for five minutes each, I would perform some pole dancing, don't worry, no clothing removal, just dancing. Payment, 200 RMB a night. This is only equivalent to about 30 bucks but to hang out and drink and dance AND get paid? Come up! I do that for free all the time!
           So I started working there everynight. At first it was awesome, and the mates came along. And because I am NOT a dancer but merely a crowd pleaser, if people weren't watching or cheering I felt like a limp marionette being controlled by a lazy and drunken puppeteer. Most nights, when no one would go with me, I would sit by myself for 30 minutes or longer, bored and waiting for someone to call me to their table to drink along with them. A pretty foreign girl seen at their table cheersing and playing Chinese drinking games with them, the Nirvana of social status. Due to this part of my job description, by the time it was time for me to get up and dance, I was often quite drunk, affecting the crispness of my moves and ability to do spins and simple pole lifts. I turned into a messy blob of movement and looked like a toddler trying to walk for the first time. Additionally, drinking sometimes heavily everynight was not setting my body up for quick recovery from all the pole bruisers I was incurring all over my legs. I looked like I a soccer player that couldn't afford to by shin guards. I imagined this is what Nancy Kerrigan's legs looked like post Tonya Harding.
 Luckily, my kindergarten classes were scheduled for afternoons so I had mornings to recover. But as an almost thirty, not so in shape alcoholic, this job was killing me. I started taking more and more nights off and was desperately seeking the break from the pole when I left for Thailand. Not so surprisingly, I was thrilled when I came home from my two week Thai sabbatical to learn I was no longer employed at Eleven bar. I picked up additional kindergarten classes in the morning, which at my age, is more my style. And having recently gotten engaged (!!!), this was more appropriate. Some nights at the club, guys would ask me to be their girlfriend, try to kiss me and one night I even got asked to "make love." I told the guy I wasn't that kind of girl and I had a boyfriend...he didn't seem to care. He grabbed my head and tried to ram his slug of a tongue down my throat. I turned and pushed but he was too strong so instead I got a horse lick up the side of my face! Yuck! I felt like a baby kitten getting a bath. I left immediately after that feeling both violated and like I needed a shower, this was the last night I had worked at Eleven. And I was only happy to return for the easy money, after all I have an expensive wedding to save for. But when I was dismissed, I was relieved. I do enjoy dancing and people being excited about it, even if my audience is white girl wasted and the only way I look like Beyonce is through their beer goggles. Plus, I was really beginning to dread that job, dancing wasn't fun anymore. It had become work. Now I dance for free and it's fun again. So good bye stripper Laura. Welcome back drunken attention seeker!

Friday, May 24, 2013

Chiang Mai Vs. the rest of Thailand

In a post Hangover 2 world, I feel people only think of Thailand as a hot, smoggy Bangkok. And while early posts of mine talk the world of this City of Life, I can boast with confidence to future Thailand travelers to skip this bustling city of scam artists, tourist traps and more Europeans than the world cup and fly right into Chiang Mai. This crafty, quiet city has the charm of an old country city and somehow still the convenience of an international city. It's streets are littered with little massage boutiques, open air cafes and the occasional tattoo parlor and aside from the few touristy sites, less foreigners than most Thai cities. During the day, mopeds and pedestrians flood the simple streets and at dusk most venture to the colorful night bazaar or local lady boy cabaret show. The city hosts several elaborate wats (buddhist temples) and the only large buildings are resorts or hotels. Just outside metropolitan Chiang Mai lies stunning mountains and lush jungle. There is a tiger "kingdom" which is easily accesible by tour trips but I recommend renting a motor bike and following a map. The scenic drive is only a little hectic when first leaving the old city and soon becomes easier and peaceful once you pass the main highways. The whole trip seems to take about 45 minutes to an hour but is worth the time. Plus, when you find a place yourself and aren't accompanied by fellow tourists, the trip seems to be that much better! The tiger kingdom is worth the visit. Not overly expensive to pet and play with the debatably drugged felines and take trillions of pictures. The staff is incredibly friendly and the tigers don't seem to be treated poorly, with the exception of an obvious heroine addiction to keep them from mauling the tourists. Many times the tiger would snap out of his high and move a little to brisk for my
comfortability and I would quickly feel like a guest at Jurassic Park, but the staff knew how to bring the tiger back down so nobody was eaten that day.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Yangmei Ancient Town

          After waiting for other Yangmei destined passengers, our typical-of-a-day-trip bus finally takes off out of metropolitan Nanning and into China's countryside. The moment tires touch sand and banana trees and farmland creep around us, I am instantly transported 15 years into provincial China. The bumpy, yet incredibly scenic trek was a bit scary. The day was rainy and the sand roads wet and muddy. I knew our rickety bus would at any moment be the victim of tragic mudslide but still hoped for the best. Occasionally, we'd drop off a passenger in the middle of nowhere and I had to wonder where the hell they might be going.
            Finally after our two hour imminent-landslide journey, our bus arrives in what appears to be a brick-laden ghost town. The rain has stopped but there is still that mystical fog that hangs low like you see in ancient Chinese paintings. Walking into the town center, we see locals selling homemade pickled and spiced vegetables and they are kind enough to offer a sample! Which for those of you that know me, samples are one of my guilty pleasures :)
          You can't help but feel history seep from the dirt roads and through the brick walls that encase this centuries old town. This town was created in the time of the Ming dynasty and many of the sites were lodgings or meeting places for it's members. Free range chickens roam the streets and stray dogs wrestle in front of vendors. People still inhabit this village but live a much more simpler lifestyle than modern Chinese. Unlike most of China's "ancient towns," this one is not commercial and still operates as a legit town. We checked out several little temples and old buildings and then had lunch. We had a famous local dish of pork with the skin and fatty strip under the skin still attached, seaweed soup, and an egg, tofu, tomato dish. Lunch was lovely, hearty and fulfilling.  We walked around for another hour or so and boarded our death trap transportation back to Nanning. On the way, I kept telling myself that if these large construction trucks didn't slide in the mud and tip, the bus would be fine, that the driver was controlling and capable. Of course, 15 minutes into the journey, we see a giant truck tip over on its side that apparently slid in the mud! Great. Anxiety sets in and I try to divert my attention by talking to my friend.
        The town was absolutely lovely and truly historic. The ride there, although scary, was equally pleasant. It's important to get out of the bustling city limits and take a little time to reflect in a quieter and more humble setting.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Good Morning Vietnam

            Upon exiting a snug, yet somehow comfortable sleeper train, I am met with a slight cool, not quite crisp   and still polluted air. The streets are silent and empty with few wandering stragglers, us included. We trek away from the train station, carting only our backpacks in search of cheaper transportation. It's 5 am. Only the few street lights whisper dirty, run down roads and buildings. My first glimpse into Hanoi, this ancient and debilitated city, is it's quite quintessentially beautiful. The city feels venerable and exhausted, years of history taking it's toll.

           We grab a cab and head to a more lively part of the city. Even at 5 am, few shops are beginning to open, Pho is being served and is that coffee I smell??!! We duck into a place my traveling mates only know as "Mama's house," but I can only imagine this Pho cafe has a lovely Vietnamese name. Finally, the moment I've been holding my breath for! Actual Vietnamese food and Pho! Back home I easily spend 10$ for a bowl of these magical rice noodles, bean sprouts, lime and cilantro and now I can have it for 2$. Both delicious and economical!Mama is an amazing cook and extremely hospitable. She figures out the wifi for me on my phone and when I spend to much time on the interwebs and not enough on my soup, she pantomimes to my phone down and scolds me in Vietnamese to eat my soup. After my internet and Pho indulgence, she brings me the most fabulous and strong cup of coffee, necessary to be awake at 5 am.
          As I check one thing off my Hanoi list, we head into the old quarter, just kind of wandering around as I snap pictures of everything. I love going to a new country. Nothing is like that first time. The new smells on every corner, different writing on each sign, the inability to communicate with anyone, and of course the new food! The thing about being American and eating in other countries is we eat almost everything from every inch of the world in America. We can access just about any dish! So when you actually try a favorite culinary genre in it's motherland, your mind is blown. While you can enjoy that particular something while your visiting, it most likely is ruined for you when you go home. So I was a little hesitant to eat all my faves.

         The more we stroll, the more people fill the streets. The park near the lake becomes a recreational circus with older people dancing, younger people stretching, and strange people doing a bunch of weird exercises. Motorbikes angrily rampage the streets as if waking up from months of cave hibernation. Dodging them is a true art. There really are no little green men lighting up the cross walk telling you to follow them, assuring you its okay and promising you the world on the other side. You really just have to time accordingly, hold your breath and make a run for it while bobbing and weaving.

         We follow our feet into a busy corner where the foreigners seem to be multiplying, I can only guess that we have stumbled into some sort of tourist breeding ground and a new litter may hatch at any moment, we must find that nest. The streets are littered with t-shirt stalls and other kitschy "Vietnamese" wares. Ladies selling fruit and other things while performing a very tricky scheme to get you to buy there crap. If they put it on you, it's yours, give me money. Genius.

        Managing to escape these fruit cons with only a bag of pineapple, we land in our next guilty pleasure eatery...

Thursday, February 21, 2013


As I rapidly approach 30, I see my dreams gradually diminish into shadows, equally as fast. I am kicking hard to stay afloat but am only sinking further and further into cold darkness. It feels like  someone has me by the ankles and is pulling me deeper. I can no longer hold my breath! I open my mouth as if to gasp for air only to get a mouth full of water. I gasp again. The icy water has made its way down my throat and into my lungs. If only I had gills to separate the water and oxygen.
10 years ago, if you asked me "Where do you see yourself at 30?" I would have said a prominent editor in New York, married, perhaps with children...living the dream.
5 years ago, "Where do you see yourself at 30?" Just finished my first novel, married, some big city, probably still New York, no kids, but a booming career.
Now ask me. Gainesville, maybe at UF maybe not. Working at Outback, hopefully not.
Granted I have some really cool experiences, and I love everything I've done. I wouldn't change a thing. But if you want to know why I'm drowning....
Some days my own pressure suffocates me, I struggle to loosen its white-knuckled grip from my neck and try to think of something else. Today I slipped under a thick layer of ice and fought the resistance to knock on the ice to get out or get someone's attention. No one heard me and the pulling began. This time no surface in sight. Just ice and water and darkness.

I've been 29 for 2 months now. Of my 3 before 30 goals, I've completed one and a half and a tenth.
Teach in another country. Check!
Finish school (4 years). Half done. 2 years to go.
Write the next great American novel. Started, far from finished.

So in an effort to find some peace of mind and perhaps swim to the surface, I've revised these goals.
Finish school before I turn 32.
Finish the next great American novel before 35.

And if I never get married, I must not become a crazy, cat lady (redundant?) The good news, I hate cats!

Okay, enough of this pity party! Thanks for listening :)