Friday, January 30, 2009

25 Random Things About Rebel

I was tagged to do this on Facebook. Although I've recently been schooled on the difference between 'arbitrary' and 'random', so I actually wrote out 50 arbitrary things about myself then used a random number generator to create this list. And yes, I agree, I *should* have gotten first place in Dorktoberfest... take it up with Michael5000.

1. The beach I frequented in California is often featured in movies / TV / ads. I take personal pride in knowing that "my beach" is so photogenic.

2. I'm terrified of snakes... absolutely terrified. I've been known to run screaming from little 8" garden snakes. It's not funny... it's a phobia.

3. I miss Knit Night on Thursdays at Abundant. Yarn, gossip, chocolate... life was good!!!

4. I'm extremely sensitive to pain, I bumped into a door today, not even especially hard, and it hurt for like 5 minutes.

5. Drop Top Amber rocks my world.

6. Havarti makes me happy.

7. I'm a very tactile person and I love touching things... when I go to the store I just have to touch things as I walk past.

8. I had a crush on one of my students (so cute... sooooo cute!) but forgot to get his number before the course ended. =( He gave me really high marks on my evaluation, though. =)

9. I regularly ride side-saddle on the back of a motorbike with no helmet.

10. I went to Knollwood Elementary school, in Lake Hiawatha New Jersey.

11. I am the world's worst liar. Half the time I can't even come up with anything that's not true.... and when I do, it's absurdly easy to tell. I'm pretty good at omitting the truth though, and subtle misdirection.

12. I'm an unappologetic carnivore.... I'll eat fried chicken while staring down the chickens in the next yard.

13. I got drunk enough to try escargot one time but regretted it as soon as the snail was in my mouth. I didn't know what to do so I swallowed it whole and downed another glass of white wine.

14. Opiod-based pain medications give me disturbing hallucinations and make me go more than a little crazy.

15. I think Marquam Hill (Portland) is incredibly beautiful when it's misty and foggy.

16. I love optical illusions.

17. I'm a little bit of a drama junkie and love good gossip.

18. I hate Thai beer.

19. I suck at math and once nearly broke down in tears in the grocery store because I couldn't figure out which was the better deal 2 for $3 or 3 for $5. I love that my phone has a calculator on it for just these occasions.

20. My shoe size is 5 wide... it's incredibly difficult to find shoes that fit well, so when I find them, I'm not opposed to buying several pairs or spending a lot of money on them.

21. My sister and I have the same birthday, 6 years apart.

22. I'm not very good at telling when other people are lying, and I don't always get sarcasm. If I start staring at you like I'm retarded, it's because I honestly don't understand if you're being serious or joking.

23. One autumn, around my birthday I had a bad cold and wanted nothing more than those Dutch sugar cookies to have with my tea. I scoured the stores and couldn't find them anywhere. I was so excited when the Christmas displays appeared (the day after Halloween), and the stacks of cookie tins. I bought five tins.... just in case. I only managed to finish two before moving though.

24. I heart decoupage.

25. Every time I drove down Terwilliger I was overwhelmed by the beauty of the trees & moss & ferns. It's so otherworldly.

And now for the not so random analysis. I noticed that the things I wrote generally fell three categories 1. likes/dislikes about external things 2. completely neutral facts about myself or 3. things I don't like about myself. While the 'neutral' category outweighs the 'things I don't like about myself' 12 to 5... there's still nothing in the completely positive column. And in the 50 item list it was 19 neutral to 12 negative. Is this fucked up? Or is it just modesty? Or is it false modesty because the things I'm counting as neutral are really positive? I don't know.

Bunny is just about my polar opposite in some respects. When we were at the beach I made an off-handed comment appologizing for making them look at my thighs (and I hate making comments like that - I don't know where they come from, they just come out sometimes) she commented that the beach was really gorgeous and whenever she was in a beautiful place it made her feel like she was beautiful too, because she was a part of it. She's also said that her father told two things "One, I never lie, and two, you are absolutely perfect." Which explains a lot about her.

When I came home for the summer after my freshman year of college, my dad noticed that I'd gained the 'freshman 15' and called me a walrus. Ten minutes later he offered me ice cream. I think that explains a lot about me.

TAG: Code Fish Sauce.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Obligatory reflections on globalization

The thing about globalization is that it, by definition, is not a unilateral phenomenon. Full disclosure: I say this as I sit sipping a venti Vanilla Black Tea Latte & listening to smooth jazz in Rayong's one and only Starbucks (the one place where I can see not one shred of support for the following argument).

When a company goes global, it must necessarily adapt to the culture & tastes of the countries it wants to do business in. There can be no true cultural imperialism - the inhabitants of new lands (new markets) will pick and chose what they like and wise companies will adapt accordingly.

At McDonald's for example, I can order a Big Mac, fries, a Coke & an apple pie. But I can also order the Samurai Pork burger, Fanta, a tuna pocket, and a corn pie (corn is considered a dessert food here). I can dip my fries in catsup... or in sweet chili sauce (before I leave here I intend to send back a crate of sweet chili sauce in case I can't find it in the states). I've noticed similar changes at KFC. They don't serve biscuits or cole slaw (which broke my heart), but they do serve shrimp rings and terriyaki chicken with rice.

I understand that one of the downsides of globalization is that the cultures of smaller/poorer countries get squashed by the cultures of bigger/richer countries, and this is a valid concern. But since the invention of culture itself humans have been evolving and changing; adapting and being adapted by their environments. Exposure to other groups of people with different cultures (either through trade or battle) has always led to an exchange of information & ideas. Sometimes the exchange is more aggressive and one sided... but I think even the most aggressive conquerors learned and absorbed (stole) something from their victims. There has never been such thing as a "pure" or "authentic" unchanging culture of a people. (Although, at the moment, I feel myself strongly embraced by the pure unadulterated form of NW coffee culture.) I think the biggest change in this process of exchange is simply the speed & the scope at which it occurs.

It feels, sometimes as though we are moving more and more towards a kind of global homogenization of culture. But I just don't think that's what's going to happen. As long as there is human diversity of taste & opinion, no matter how uniform the dominant culture is, sub cultures and counter cultures will always exist. It just may be that geographical limitations stop being such an important determining factor in defining a culture. Kids in Los Angeles are hard core Korean boy-band addicts. Thai kids are devoted to Japanese Manga, German women sport Thai tattoos, Englishmen go to Buddhist meditation retreats, and I.... I may never be able to eat fries or an omelet without sweet chili sauce ever again!!!

And that's the kind of globalization I hope for - increased exposure to all the unique arts and foods and music and religion , and styles of the world, and the freedom to pick and choose the ones that suit me best. I realize this is a first-world luxury, and that some countries/religions/political ideologies prohibit such cultural experimentation. But it's nevertheless my hope that it becomes accessible to the rest of the world someday.

TAG: Code Watermelon

Monday, January 26, 2009

What do you think?

Having at least temporarily given up on the content-improvement portion of my blog improvement project, I figured I could at least change up the template. I'm sad to lose my signature 'blush and bashful' color scheme, but I think this looks cleaner and easier to read.

What do you think?

Don't mind me...

I'm just playing with the template.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Not too bad

So that whole plan of writing up my blog entries and trying to improve the quality of the content here.... not so much motivated to do that anymore.

There are two new teachers... a guy in his 40s we'll call Rex and a guy in his early 20s ... um Le Blond. Nothing too terribly exciting about either of them at the moment, decent enough people. I'm getting the feeling that there's a lot of staff turnover here. The upside to that is that you make fast friends. I met Le Blond on his first day & chatted with him for a minute. Later that night Bunny & Bobby & I ran into the head teacher at the store and she gave us all his number. Bunny & Bobby hadn't even met him yet, but naturally we were going to invite him to an ice cream party we had planned the next day. All three of us sent him somewhat rediculous text messages saying Hi & inviting him. He had not yet met Donny & Marie (Donny only works at our school on Saturday) but as soon as we found out that Le Blond was a jock, we were like - oh, you'll be friends with Donny. Sure enough, a week later he and Donny have gotten together to play sports like three times already. And we're not so subtly trying to hook him up with Marie.

As for Rex, we've been slightly shyer, because you know, he's a real grown up. And also he lives a bit out of town (near the beach) with a real family, and isn't like some lonesome kid right out of college. Nevertheless I told him I'd be near his place tomorrow and we might meet up for lunch or something. It's very easy to be social here, and I really really like that.

Unfortunately, there's not much to do in Rayong beyond going out drinking. And there aren't even any good clubs... or good alcohol. The beer sucks, and the whiskey is lethal. We all went out on Wednesday and I went from zero to wasted without knowing what happened. Well, I do know what happened. We went to Rayong's version of a strip club (the girls don't get naked, they just kinda dance around while wearing skimpy clothes). While it was far less offensive and disturbing than I would have thought (they don't really dance seductively, they just kinda bounce and wiggle a bit - I guess the guys go for it) I still decided I'd need to be drunk to really enjoy the experience.

And once I was drunk, I really did enjoy it... I just got a lot more drunk than I had intended. I started talking to some of the dancers in the bathroom, they were sweet. It was all a bit strange. Eventually the dancers were replaced with a boy-band, and that part was really fun, although you only dance at your table, there's no dance floor. Getting home was a bit of a challenge. I couldn't stand up, because I really thought I was going to fall over. So I basically got wedged between to people and was all but carried out the front door. I have no idea how I managed to get on the back of a motorbike... but I know I wrapped my arms around the driver and held on for dear life. Which is like... not appropriate. You're not supposed to cuddle with the motorbike taxi drivers & it wasn't even one of the guys I usually take. Oh well, mai bpen lai.

I had to teach 8 hours of classes the next day, my busiest teaching day so far. The worst part was that I was too drunk to sleep... just lay awake all night thinking "wow, I'm really drunk" and tossing & turning in bed. I just remember back on the CELTA course, that first week. I wouldn't go out for beers with the guys if I had to teach the next day... you know, for 45 minutes, in the afternoon. Now I can teach 4 back-to-back classes on no sleep & a bit of a hangover (less than you'd imagine actually). Not that I intend to do that again any time soon... but it's just strange how much I don't worry about things like that anymore.

Last night we went out to Jeb's girlfriend's sister's house for dinner. It ended up being a bit of a segregated affair as the farang don't really speak Thai and the Thai folks there didn't really speak English. But they let us help prepare the meal, cleaning and preparing everything in the outdoor kitchen area. It was pretty intense, I sliced pork and separated out like two heads of garlic for the different sauces, and then helped Bobby pop the heads & legs off the shrimp. Bunny, being vegetarian volunteered for veggie washing. It was quite a to-do, grilled fish (I don't usually like cooked fish, but this was delicious), BBQ chicken wings, and then the sukiyaki type thing. I've been told this is more of a Chinese thing. You prepare all the ingredients ahead of time, then cook the soup right there at your table. Or, you know, on a mat on the porch in our case. We cooked the soup in a clay pot over a thing of coals from the BBQ grill. It was really really good. It's nice to share a meal with people, it's nice to prepare it together. It was nice to be in an actual house, and not just a cheap studio apartment.

Today I had my crappy Saturday young-learners classes. Last week things went okay, but this week... not so great. I had a LOT of classes this week and between that and the getting wasted one night & doing the elaborate dinner last night - I didn't have all that much time or energy to plan for today. Which is not to say I walked in empty handed... I'd put a couple hours into them... it just isn't nearly enough for these particular classes. I hate it....I just hate the kid classes.

But there's an upside. Bunny and I went to the market near the school after class and this lady called us over to buy her weird little Chinese New Year cake things. Bunny asked if they were vegetarian and the woman said yes... and used the two different words we know for vegetarian and told us they were delicious. It was kind of exciting to understand what she was saying. So Bunny asked how much it was for one, but the lady was like "1 kilo" and we said no no no, just one cake. And the woman just handed us two cakes and then wouldn't take Bunny's money. It was all a little weird, but very sweet. Which is exactly how the little cakes were. They were pretty much just flour, sugar and water in some kind of gelatinous paste. We walked away and took a few bites before deciding we just couldn't eat them. Oh well, it was the thought that counts.

Bunny walked off to go to the internet cafe, and I headed home. I'd only walked about a block before my soup guy showed up on a motorbike. He stopped and enthusiastically offered me a ride, so I hopped on. It's so strange, I don't even know this guy's name. But he drove me the three more blocks home, and it was sweet. I think I might be easing out of stage 2. There are still things that I don't like about Rayong... and am cogitating a bit about my next possible steps, but there are also things I really like here. The people aren't jaded or closed off by dealing with tourists all the time. I rarely understand what's going on but I understand when people are nice to me for no reason at all.

TAG - Code Sweet Chili Sauce.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Out of the mouths of babes.

By sister sent this to me this morning, my niece and nephew go to Tulip Grove, but are not in this class.

Teachers & friends - Need to laugh??
Just in case you wonder what it’s like to teach kindergarten at Tulip Grove on Inauguration Day, these are bits of conversation I had yesterday. Words that are large & bold are words of kindergarteners. Small words are mine (and italics are Rebel's)– trying very hard to engage the children in this historical event.
(Ms. Wood is one of our Tulip Grove teachers who is actually in Washington at the Inauguration.)

When one of my students came in this morning, she stared at the television which was already on – covering the inauguration.
She said “Hey – I’m been watching American Idol at Home too!!”
You mean, you’ve been watching the news about the new president?
Yeah, for about 2 days.

We settled down to watch the ceremony. I let the children get their homework suckers to give them something to put in their mouth so that, maybe, they would listen.

When we began watching the ceremony –
Who’s that?
That’s President Carter – he was the president when I was a little girl. His daughter was the same age as me.
How old is she now?
She’s still my age.
How old is that?
Never mind

Where’s John McCain?
He’s not there – he didn’t win the election to be president.
Why not?
Because he didn’t.
I voted for him.
I didn’t - I voted for Barak Obama.

Hillary Clinton walks down the hall to go outside –
Hey that’s John McCain’s wife!
No – that is President Clinton & his wife Hillary. He was president before you were born.
Wasn’t she John McCain’s wife?
No – she ran for president too.
Did she win?
Then why is she there?

When the Obama girls came out –
How old are they?
Why aren’t they in school?

When Michelle Obama came out -
Is she gonna go & sit in the special chairs with her daughters?
Yes, she probably will.
Where is this again?
It’s Washington DC – remember?
Man - Why did she drive that far?

Look – those are the people that President Obama has asked to come & work with him. That’s called his cabinet.
Why does he need so many?
Because the United States is a big, important country.
Does he need that many people to help him?
Yes, he does

Looking at the thousands of people in the audience on TV –
Where’s Ms. Wood?
I’m not sure, she’s there someplace. I promise

One of the students pointing at the enlarged coins on the calendar wall –
Where are these guys?
They’re not here – they’re dead.

What about George Washington, where is he?
He’s also dead.

Where’s Ms. Wood?
I’m not sure, she is there someplace.
I don’t know there are a lot of people in that crowd, but she’s there.

Do you see all the flags boys & girls? Why do you think they’re waving the flags?
Because this is America!
That’s right.
Hey, I live in America!
I don’t, I live in Tennessee.
(so true ;) )
Those flags look like a million birds.

When Barak Obama came out
Where is his coat??? He should have a coat on!!
Yes, he should, but I’m sure he’ll be fine. (I was much more concerned about his poor ears - I'm sure his ears were frostbitten by the end of the day)

When Mr. Obama was bowing his head – I said
“What are they doing now?”
They’re prayin’
Yes, they’re praying for our country.
How come?
Well, I guess they want God to be with our Country

When the instrumental music started -
Who’s he?
His name is Yo Yo, he’s playing one of the instruments.
When was he president?
He wasn’t the president, he’s just playing the instrument.
What song is it?
I’m not sure, I bet it’s a special song.
Then why aren’t they singing any words?
I’m not sure – I guess they just wanted music this time.

During the song, Sasha Obama was talking, looking a little restless.
Look – she’s not being quiet like she’s supposed to.
Well, that’s a long time for a little girl to sit, isn’t it?

When the first lady speaker in the blue suit got up to speak (I believe it was Nancy Pelozi), I heard-
Who’s she?
That’s a lady who’s telling everyone that we’re about to swear in a new president.
Who is it?
Barak Obama, remember?
I voted for him.

When Barak Obama was sworn in –
Why is he copying everything he says?
He’s saying his promise to be a good president – remember?

After President Obama was sworn in & he began his speech I said,
“Oh, listen boys & girls, President Obama is thanking President Bush.”
Why - what did he do? (good question!)

During the speech –
Are you listening boys & girls? He’s telling people that the United States is going through tough times right now, but if we try hard, it can be even better.
Like, if we mind our mommas & daddies?
Yes, that would be good.

Listen boys & girls – can you hear the cannons? Those are big guns that shoot cannonballs.
Why are they doing that with all those people around?

And then, after it was all over -
So, who is the president now?
Barak Obama – Remember?

I’m tired – I’m very tired.

TAG - Code Apple Pie

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

My Country 'Tis of Thee kaa

I'm really sad that I don't get to be in America right now. I was afraid I'd miss all of the inauguration pomp & ceremony... what with my less than stellar internet connection and lack of any English language TV stations around here. But I got together with Bunny and Bobby for some ice cream after dinner and we decided to try to find it on TV anyway. To our surprise the inauguration was showing on a Thai news station, and we were able to follow most of it between the Thai commentary and translations. It was funny to hear a long string of Thai interspersed with "Kuhn Baraaack Obamaaa" (Kuhn is like "Mr.") and "My Country Tis of Thee kaa" (kaa is the polite participle).

It still kind of amazes me how much people in other countries follow American politics & current events. I was so isolated living in the States, you know, I knew virtually nothing about what was going on in ThailBoldand or even Europe at any given moment. But here, they devoted several hours of the newscast tonight to covering the inauguration. Could you imagine NBC covering the inauguration of another country's president? CNN maybe... but this was just the local Bangkok station.

TAG - Code Apple Pie
I'm still kind of homesick and the whole not being a part of history-in-the-making is making me very sad.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Technical Difficulties

My camera is broken again. I hate this camera. I need to try to get my old Kodak fixed - that thing was awesome.... not indescructable, but awesome. This Sanyo has given me nothing but grief.

And the other day right in the middle of a chat, my phone decided that I didn't *actually* need to be connected to the internet anymore. It's still not working - something about no packet data. I don't know what that's about but I'm going back to the store. I signed up for "unlimited access" not "intermittent access". Thank maude for internet cafes, even if I am surrounded by boys playing FPS games.

Oh, and my sink is broken. It's been broken for a while, in one of my first showers I made the mistake of putting my foot up on the sink so I could shave my leg, and it kinda dislodged from the wall a bit. D'oh! Not the highest of building standards here. Everything was fine for a while, but then it started leaking from the pipe where it connects to the basin. Everything's off set and it's gradually been getting worse - gravity and all. It's not a crisis since the shower drain is immediately below the sink - so it's not like it can flood. That's one advantage of the all-in-one bathroom design. But I finally got sick of it so I had someone at work write a note about it in Thai which I delivered to my landlord. She responded "I will tell my maid about this." - so apparently she speaks English! How did I not know this? I guess usually I deal with the receptionist/book keeper gal. Anyway, that's good.

TAG: Code Fish Sauce

Thursday, January 15, 2009

I need a waterproof computer

The other day at the beach I had ideas for about 3 different blog posts. I kept thinking "I should go home and write this up." but you know, I was in the ocean and I *like* being in the ocean, so I just stayed in the ocean. I often get like that at the beach, overwhelmed with a desire to do everything all at once. I want to sit on the beach and read, I want to swim, I want to write postcards, I want to float in an inner tube, I want to eat something, I want to nap, I want to stare at the ocean. I just can't seem to get enough of the whole experience.

While I live closer to the beach than I ever have, it's still not enough. Depending on my luck with the songthaews it takes between 30 min & an hour to get to the beach. And the songthaews stop running at around 6pm, so I generally try to catch one at 5ish just in case. I'd love to be able to see the ocean when I wake up in the morning, and walk along the shore before I go to bed. I want to be able to go swimming every single day. That would be nirvana for me... and I imagine that I would be infinitely more creative and positive if I could somehow make that happen.

Until then, I guess I should just try to take notes of all my deep thoughts... you know, like on paper or something. ;)

TAG: Code Sweet Chili Sauce - mostly life is good but last night there was a domestic disturbance next door that really freaked me out. I don't even know what was happening, just that it was all very loud and at 2am. =( Oh, and my camera is broken.... again.... =(

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Tender is the Beach

English books are a bit rare here in good ol' Rayong, and all the more cherished because of it. There is a used book shop in Ban Phe near the beach, but as you might imagine, the stock consists mainly of summer vacation books that people brought with them, but don't want to carry back home. There is one table of 'classics' an eclectic mix of Shakespeare and Vonegut and of course a couple copies of Keroak's On the Road (which I still haven't read). Due to this scarcity, you can't be too picky about what you want to read, and we tend to share whatever books we have. And this is how I ended up reading Tender is the Night, one of the books Bunny had brought with her.

Tender is the Night - F. Scott Fitzgerald

Plot: Rich expats flit around Post WWI Europe but can't escape their own internal battles.
Motto: All that glitters is not gold
Hmm... this book is complicated. The beginning was agonizingly slow with entirely too many characters introduced with only the barest of development. It took quite a while before I figured out that Dick and Nicole Diver were the main characters. I simply could not follow what was going on or why. It seemed like just a bunch of shallow snobs and the melodramas of their endless parties. Rosemary was too ridiculous for words.

The middle section got my attention though as it focused more on Dick & Nicole, their history and their secrets. I really started getting invested in them and wanted to know what would happen to them. But then the final section was a bit of a let down, Just when I thought I understood the characters, everything started changing and the whole story went down hill. The ending was...ugh...very unsatisfying in a very realistic way.

I don't know. There is a level on which I can appreciate this as a 'great' book, but I really didn't enjoy it. I don't get Fitzgerald's writing style - too much purple prose for me. Too many cultural references I didn't get. Too much randomness coming out of nowhere (the duel at dawn - why??? the dead body in the hotel room - huh???). The whole book was entirely too long (I could better appreciate The Great Gatsby because it was so short). But I understand that a lot of the book was autobiographical, and I can respect that the 'plot' and characters were kind of messy in the way real life is messy. The most enjoyable thing about reading this book was feeling at least some degree of connection with the characters as I am an expat myself at the moment. That and I read a lot of the beach scenes while I was lying on the beach. Rayong beaches are a far cry from the French Riviera, but you know... I like it when art imitates life however vaguely.

Next up - a reread: The Restaurant at the End of the Universe. I was itching to reread The Hitchhikers Guide to the Universe (even though I *just* read it again in like June or something) but again... can't be too picky here!

TAG: Code Watermelon

I miss Powells. =(

Tuesday, January 13, 2009


One of my resolutions for 2009 is to improve the quality of my blog, and I signed up with Sophisticated Dorkiness's project to keep me on track. I skimmed through a couple of the articles and can specify that I'd like to improve the quality of my blog's content, the design/layout, and I'd like to build a sense of community with and among you the readers of this crazy thing. At the moment my goals are really general:

* I've recently started doing this, but I'm going to continue to compose my blog in a .txt file before pasting it into blogger. The idea is two-fold; first I've learned the hard way that the formatting gets all wonky if I compose half my blog save it, add pictures, save it, etc. And second, composing offline gives makes it ever so slightly less likely that I will publish before running spell check. So my intention is to compose first, add pictures second & publish *after* at least a cursory attempt at editing. (of course spell checker isn't working at the moment.... the best laid plans...)

* Speaking of editing, I want to work towards getting a better quality to quantity ratio. Not every post needs to be a long & rambling stream of consciousness. ;)

* Finally I want at least some of my posts to be helpful to people who are planning to visit SE Asia or planning to teach abroad or anything like that.

* Which ties back in with the community aspect. I want to get more plugged in to the ex-pat / teaching abroad / traveling bloggers community. I've found a few interesting sites, but there have got to be more out there! And, I want to put this blog out where the people who might find my experience helpful might go looking for it. I know that when I was thinking about going abroad I actually only found a few relevant blogs and many seemed to be out of date or not updated very frequently. It's interesting/ exiting for me to read about other people's experiences and hopefully I can add my own perspective to what's out there.

So those are, loosely, my blog goals... or 'good intentions' for 2009. I'm sticking with the project and as relevant topics or tasks appear, you'll be seeing more about it.

There have been slight improvements in other areas of my life.

- My tummy seems to have settled - huzzah! You know, until the next weird thing I eat.

- One of the other teachers was eating "Cup Jok" today and it was really good so I got some for dinner tonight. It's kind of like cream of wheat, only with rice, and salt, and just enough chicken & green onion to give it a slight flavor, just add hot water. This could be a new breakfast / I don't feel good type of meal. Not a nutrient rich meal I'm sure, but the excessive layers of plastic packaging and freeze-dried nature of the "chicken" reassure me that it is quite free of e-coli & salmonela. Huzzah!

- I got new sheets and a bedside lamp (and a lightbulb, which obviously wasn't included with the lamp, nor carried by the store where I bought the lamp, but finally obtained nonetheless). Huzzah! This means I can read in bed (actual books - not just the interwebs!) Of course, I still don't have a bed-side table, but you know... I'm taking the improvements where I can get them.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Still in Stage 2

I've probably mentioned this, but I'm still hanging out in Stage 2 of culture shock... everything sucks. Not really, but I am homesick... and also sick sick.

I picked up a stomach bug in Cambodia but thought I had more or less kicked it. Alas no, it or some new bug has taken up residence in my digestive track making it, once again, unwise for me to be more than 50 feet from a bathroom at any time. I took some pepto... it helps for a little while, but ultimately I just need to let nature take it's course. On Saturday I was so pooped (pun intended) that I came straight home from class and was in bed before 5pm.

Today I didn't feel quite up to the beach so I went to the mall. I ate at McDonalds, which I know is both immoral and probably unwise given the state of my tummy - but sometimes you just need western food. A fair number of places offer "western" food - but it's always just a bit off, the mayonnaise is wrong, or the cheese is fake, or something. The cultural homogenization of McDonalds can be a welcome thing at times!

Especially when you're hanging out in Stage 2. I remember reading someone else's blog at about this stage, and I'm right there. Everything that was once new and amazing is just ordinary now... ordinary and somewhat annoying. I see elephants walking down the street on a regular basis. Seeing 5 people on a motorbike is not really a big deal - you know because two of them were kids and one was a baby so really - it's equivalent to like 3 adult sized people, and that's nothing at all. And when teenagers on motorbikes scream out to us "Hello - where you go?" it's no longer charming. My pathetic attempts at the language are no longer fun adventures, but rather another frustrating road block to accomplishing whatever I want. But the longer I'm able to function here without speaking the language, the less motivated I am to sit down and learn it.

Ugh. I'm homesick too... for a home that doesn't exist anymore. I want nothing more than to be back in my old apartment, sitting on my fluffy blue couch next to Sally under a pile of quilts, watching DVRed episodes of Ace of Cakes while munching on bakery bread & three different kinds of cheeses. Even though I was lonely and at times miserable... it was a comfortable existence. I'm tired of not having a comfy space here. I'm excessively tired of my whole bathroom situation - the shower over the sink and the lack of hot water particularly. It's finally getting 'cold' here, dipping down into the 70s or possibly the 60s overnight. Which I realize isn't actually cold - but the prospect of a cold shower is only even tolerable when the weather's been a consistent 80 something.

And as much as it's cool to say that I had Christmas in Thailand and New Years in Cambodia, I have never felt less of the holiday spirit than I did this year. The whole season has felt surreal and every Santa poster or Christmas tree display (which are still up for some odd reason) mocks me - they don't even believe in Christmas here! Don't even get me started on the morning wake-up brigade of dogs howling, cocks crowing, and the music blaring advertisement trucks.

I feel like my contract is too long, and my salary is too low, but I'm not sure what on earth I'm going to do with myself when I do decide to leave. Ye olde anxieties are back - I don't have much savings to speak of, and while I can live comfortably in Thailand on my salary, I'd have to be extremely careful (or stay here for quite a while) to save up enough to actually return to the States. And when I do go back, what kind of job will I be able to find - will I find one at all with the economy in the toilet as it is? Double ugh.

I'll stop here but suffice it to say I'm not doing especially well today. I managed to hang on to some level of the Honeymoon stage of culture shock for about 3 months. I really hope stage two doesn't linger quite that long.

TAG: Code Sticky Rice

Friday, January 9, 2009

I'm not an egg!

I've developed a fairly high tolerance for Engrish since moving to Thailand, if I see a sign or menu in English I'm pretty excited and I really don't mind getting "friend fries" with my burger or "baccon" with my eggs. But there have been some things that just crack me up and inspired by Michael5000's latest post, I figured I should show them off a bit.

Exhibit one is my favorite: LOVE DWARF BEAR Well, I like egg fries, but I' m not an egg. Oh my god, anybody who can pick me up from this egg basket?!

It's just so perfect. Anytime I say something like "I like the beach" Bunny will respond "But I'm *not* the beach!" And I regularly find occasion to interject passionately "OMG anybody who can pick me up from this egg basket?!"

Exhibit two actually has no grammatical errors (that I can spot), but it is nevertheless an amazing example of English you just wouldn't find in an English speaking country:

This is our noodle.... ooh...ooh

This is the noodle we'll remember forever and ever

It means to you what it means to me

So from this moment on....

Super Jumbo! Noodle Gang

I feel good! Wow!

We know this is our noodle.

Our noodle ooh....ooh.

Now, this one absolutely *begs* to be sung... I challenge any musicians out there to whip up the tune. And actually, I found this in a 7/11 right after our big Christmas dinner (with you know, plenty of wine) and it just felt very significant at the time... riding our motorcycle taxis down the street we called out to each other "This is *our* noodle!"

TAG: I didn't have class today, had an American breakfast and hung out at the beach all day which is essentially the definition of a Code Mango kind of day.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

So, yeah... it's 2009 now.

Happy New Year!

Now that my vacation is over and I'm starting to get back into the groove, it's time to do a little navel gazing about 2008. Kind of a big year for me. ;)

If you'll recall, about this time last year I was still just exploring the idea of taking the CELTA and moving abroad to teach English as a foreign language. I got a very fortuitous fortune cookie. That fortune is currently under my left wrist... taped to my laptop, which is sitting on my bed, in my apartment, down the street from the school where I teach English, in Rayong fucking THAILAND. =) And yes, I am actually enjoying this trip to Asia.... not every second, but overall - very much so.

Let's look more specifically at what I had hoped to accomplish in 2008.

1. Study a foreign language (or two, or more), learn enough to handle basic greetings, shopping or travel.
2. Travel outside the United States, for a vacation if not for a new job.
3. Leave my current job for a more satisfying one.
4. Find an enjoyable & non painful form of exercise or physical activity.
5. Finish my Flying Geese quilt.
6. Learn a new craft or skill.

Obviously goals 1, 2, and 3 were meant to go together ... and honestly 4, 5, & 6 were my back-up goals in case the moving abroad thing didn't happen... so let's go in reverse order.

6. Learn a new craft or skill.
I meant this as a practical skill or craft (wood-working / pottery) it didn't happen, and I don't really care. Grade: We'll call this a W for 'withdrawal'

5. Finish my Flying Geese quilt.
Nope, this lovely UFO is sitting in Castle5000 patiently awaiting my return, I actually don't think I did a single thing to it in 2008. Grade: F

4. Find an enjoyable & non-painful form of exercise or physical activity.
I joined a bowling team, and although it's not exactly high-impact cardio, it is a form of physical activity and I really enjoyed it. Unfortunately, I've only gone a few times since moving here. I have gone swimming quite a bit though... and love it here. My proximity to the ocean will allow me to make swimming a semi-regular part of my life, which is awesome. Grade: B+

3. Leave my current job for a more satisfying one.
Yay!!!!!!! I finally quit that job that I hated with a blinding passion for so long. That was a gigantic step for me. My current job is far from perfect, and I don't feel comfortable enough with my teaching skills to be particularly satisfied yet.... but I think I'm heading in the right direction. Grade: A

2. Travel outside the United States, for vacation if not for a new job.
Yeah baby! Not only did I move my whole life to another country and manage to get a new job and everything.... I threw in a bonus country at the end of the year, 'cause that's how I roll! Grade: A+

1. Study a foreign language; learn enough for basic greetings, shopping or travel. I haven't been formally studying Thai, but I have picked up enough for basic greetings and shopping (and more importantly EATING) - the travel part not so much. I can say "I want to go...." wherever, but I don't know how to say 'ticket' or 'train' or 'late' or any of those really helpful phrases. I really thought it would be easier to take a language class here, and that I would be more motivated to do so. But honestly, I've been slacking off, I've been here over four months and I still don't have the alphabet memorized. Grade: B

But wait! I'm gonna give myself a little extra credit here.

Although I haven't really learned a skill that I'll be able to take back to the states with me, I have learned to haggle for prices in the market. I'm not great at it, but I don't pay the first price they offer. Also, I've learned how to ride side-saddle on the back of a motorbike - 'cause I'm classy. Two bonus points for #6.

And while I barely touched my flying geese quilt, I did finish a few other small projects. Santa Squares, Pink Lemonade, Broken Dishes (from entirely free materials), and Thousand Pyramids. I think that earns me 4 bonus points for #5.

Then, you know, there's the fact that I live in Thailand, and I had to use a squat toilet (while drunk) on my birthday... so I get about 80 billion bonus points for that.

Overall grade for 2008: A+

Although I've been wanting to go abroad for a while, making these resolutions and putting them out there where the world (and I) could see them in black & white really helped me to accomplish them. I had more than a few roadblocks along the way... or rather the same roadblock repeatedly (that non-existent CELTA course I kept trying to take). And when everything fell apart back in April/May it was the fact that I'd resolved to leave the country that really kept me going. Towards the end of May I was thinking "We're almost half way through the year and if I don't make something happen *now* I might not make it out of the country by the end of the year." All hail the power of the resolution!*

So that brings me to this year... what exactly do I want to accomplish in 2009?

1. Say yes more and continue to have new experiences.

This will be tough to quantify, but in general I want to keep this in mind all year, to say yes more, to try new things and have new experiences. But in all this experimentation the goal will be to find things that I enjoy, that make me happy. So, you know, no sticking my hand in the crocodile cage just because being bitten would be a new experience. ;)

2. Replenish my savings account.

I'm feeling a lot of anxiety about my lack of a safety net. I make plenty of money to live nicely in Thailand, but in $US it's less than half of what I used to make. I'm going to try to save about 10,000 baht a month (<$300)

3. Develop an exit strategy.

My plan continues to be to stay in Thailand as long as I'm happy, but my contract will be up on October 1. I want to actually think about what I want to do next and really research my options. This is an area I really need to work on (6+ years in a job I hated - why???). So when my contract is up, do I go look at another school, another country, am I ready to go back to the States? I need to spend a little time thinking this through, so that if I stay here it will be by choice and not by default.

4. Research, plan and go on one last trip before leaving SE Asia.

Honestly, I've never been especially interested in Asian history or culture (aside from the FOOD!), but I'm here and there is a lot to see. I'm going to devote some serious time and energy learning what there is to see & do around here and figuring out what I'd really enjoy / what I'd regret not seeing once I left.

5. Improve the quality of my blog.

If you can't tell, I rather enjoy blogging. It's mostly a journal for myself, but I like it when other people read it (and comment!), and it makes me really happy when people say it was helpful in some way or other. So I'm going to participate in Sophisticated Dorkiness' Blog Improvement Project, and see how that goes. I may even start editing down my posts to something shorter than a Russian novel. ;)

6. Get my head sorted out.

More on this one later... or maybe not.

These goals are not quite as earth shattering and exciting as last year's... but I think they'll keep me headed in a good direction. Wish me luck! =)

* But I think it has to be something you really want to do and have been meaning to do for a while. Resolving to eat more rutabegas is not going to make me eat more rutabegas.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Cambodian Adventure: Hints & Tips

I know a couple people who've visited this blog are also planning on traveling to SE Asia, so if you want to go to Cambodia - here are a few ideas based on what I was glad we did / wish we'd done differently.

* Fly in, don't drive it. If you must drive in, check out the Wikitravel article about whichever border crossing you choose.

* Get your visa in advance, you might not get overcharged if you do it from your home country.

* General advice for travel: bring tissues, handi wipes, some snacks & chewable pepto tablets. You will not regret it.

* Spend a full week in the country if at all possible. We rushed and probably missed a lot of good stuff (Mekong river tours, elephant excursions etc. etc.)

* Wander around & eat at least one meal in a hole-in-the-wall restaurant where actual Cambodians are eating. (Make sure you have the pepto tablets with you!)

* Do your research in advance. This is the number one thing I think we failed at. We planned everything kind of at the last minute, and although we did some research...more would have been better. Read up on Angkor Wat so you know which temples you want to spend the most time at. Study up on some Hindu imagery so you'll have an idea of what you're looking at. Also, decide in advance if/when you want to explore the Killing Fields / Khmer Rouge aspects of Cambodia history. I felt a little guilty for avoiding all of it. Make this decision in advance & schedule it in (or not). But it sucked to kind of have that hanging over our heads "we should go..." and yet not do it.

* Just do it! For all the ups and downs, I'm glad I went. Cambodia is not for the faint of heart, but Angkor Wat is really amazing. If you've ever dreamed of going... just do it!

Je suis malade.

I'm back in Rayong, in the crappy little apartment I call 'home' and just completely worn out from the trip. I have a headache, a fever, my eyes hurt, my throat is either showing the first signs of catching the cold Bunny & Bobby are getting over or protesting the amount of dust & pollution I've inhaled over the last four days, I picked up an intestinal bug in Cambodia, my legs & knees are *still* sore from Angkor Wat, I have a heel blister from hiking all over Cambodia (and last night Bangkok) wearing flip flops, and I have a foot fungus I'm pretty sure I picked up back on Ko Samet a couple of weeks ago. Needless to say, I'm in pretty pitiful shape, and have opted out of the final two days of the vacation plan. There's no way I could handle traipsing around Bangkok and Ayuthaya in this condition.

So, I'll be hanging out in bed blogging and trying to make sense of this whole Cambodian adventure. Brace yourself for some very very long posts! For now you get one picture to prove that I was really really there.

TAG: Code Coconuts

Cambodian Adventure Day Five - back to Bangkok

Day 5 was devoted to R&R, which is good because I woke up with stomach problems. We had a luxuriously long breakfast at yet another tourist restaurant along the riverside. We didn't have a fantastic view of the Mekong because there's some kind of sewage system upgrade project going on and there are a lot of walls put up around the river. But being near the river nevertheless provided us with a very comfortable breeze. The small part that I could see had a very nice green space along it, which reminded me, ever so slightly, of Portland's waterfront.

While wandering around downtown someone had handed us a sheet advertising a couple of documentaries about Cambodia - one about Pol Pot & the Khmer Rouge and one about Landmines; each offered in French and English several times a day. We decided to watch the one about the Khmer Rouge. It was, oddly enough, the first movie I'd seen in a 'theater' since leaving the US. The 'theater' was over a restaurant and consisted of several rows of chairs in a medium sized room with the movie projected onto the far wall. To be honest, it wasn't exactly PBS quality. There was a lot of random news reel and stock footage of Cambodia that didn't necessarily match the narrative, and at the end when they showed Pol Pot's death & cremation they played oddly (offensive really) sentimental music. But it did add a bit more to what I understood about the Khmer revolution & genocide, so I'm glad I saw it.

All the tuk-tuks lined up on the tourist street.

After the movie we ducked into yet another street market. This one was far less touristy, with a lot of clothes (jeans, t-shirts, rhinestone encrusted flip-flops, etc), oddly- several hair salons, and of course, food.

A market's a market, and I love me some street markets!

And a word about the 'traditional dress' of Cambodian women. I started noticing this in Siem Reap and saw it several times looking out the bus window. A lot of the women wear PJs all day (most wear jeans & t-shirts... but I saw lots of PJs). If you think about it, it's just patterned capri pants and a matching short sleeved button down shirt... but really... it's pajamas! Most of the older women wear floral patterns, but some of the younger women wear Doremon or some other cartoon character. They're clean, neat, and a nice blend of comfort & modesty... but it just totally struck me as odd. Must be how the British felt when they first went to India all dressed up in their tights and pantaloons.

Buying, perhaps, bananas in her Pajamas?

We still had a few hours before our flight, so we just walked around. There was a massage parlor (as opposed to a "massage parlor") on the street offering $10 massages so we said why not? It was, yet again, a surreal experience. The other girls asked for an exfoliating body scrub, but I asked for the Swedish massage. First one lady came and washed our feet & offered us flip-flops, then another lady led Bobby upstairs. We waved goodbye somewhat melodramatically. Next she came down and led both Bunny and I up to the same large room divided up by curtains.

There was a row of mattresses on the floor each with a nicely folded towel and a batik sheet on them. We pulled the curtains closed, got undressed and I wrapped in the towel and lay down on the bed under the sheet. The masseurs come back up - whip all the curtains back and then proceed to remove my sheet & towel. I was glad I'd decided to keep my undies on, but really it didn't matter - she massaged wherever she saw fit anyway. At some point she did lay the towel back on me, but they just have a whole different concept of modesty here! The massage itself was okay - we all ended up getting something approaching Swedish style - (there was no exfoliating of Bunny or Bobby), but it wasn't nearly as good as massages I'd gotten in the states. On the flip side, it wasn't nearly as painful as the Old Lady massage I'd gotten in Chiang Mai, so you know, not a terrible way to spend an hour.

In the afternoon we took a tuk-tuk out to the airport for our flight back to Bangkok. Compared to the trip into the country it was a piece of cake. Of course there was an extra $25 "airport tax" that we had to pay before we could catch our flight... but I guess that kind of thing is just par for the course here. Getting on the nice big clean airplane was exciting. The Thai staff greeted us with a wai and a "sawatdee kaa/kap" which we returned cheerfully. About an hour later (I think it was even less), we arrived in Bangkok, waited in the long-ass line at immigration again, showed off our spiffy re-entry permits and waltzed right through.

OH! Did I mention that on my blog? Before our trip I needed to go with my boss to immigration (a local office) to get my non-immigrant visa & work permit extended (it's a year long permit but you have to check in to get it renewed after the first 90 days... which was for me - today). The three of us also needed to get re-entry permits for our trip, to prevent our non-immigrant visas from getting changed back to tourist visas when we crossed back into the country, so we all went together with our boss that day. Unfortunately, the entire packet of information & signed documents for the extension of my visa was accidentally left on top of the car when we drove off.

We got the re-entry permits, but we were unable to do the extension (thankfully my passport was on my person at the time & not in the envelope with all the other documents, which was subsequently run over by about 500 motorbikes before it was finally recovered). So as of today... my visa is expired and technically I'm in the country illegally. I'm holding onto the ridiculous hope that I won't have to pay the 500 baht over-stay fine since we were actually in the office well before it expired, and my boss explained to them about the papers flying off the roof of the car etc. But tomorrow we go, and if I have to pay, I have to pay.

Once in Bangkok we took a taxi to our guest house (got overcharged, again, but significantly less than in the past). The guest house was awesome, with an actual shower area with a depressed area of tiles so that the entire bathroom floor doesn't flood when you shower. Livin' it up I tell you! Then we met up with the Howie, the Vietnamese Frenchman Bunny & Bobby had met on Ko Samet. He does some kind of research on dengue fever for a pharmaceutical company or something like that. I wasn't totally clear. He seemed really nice & friendly... and didn't yet have the sense of entitlement that a lot of guys develop while living in Thailand. Unfortunately the Mexican food place we wanted to go to was closed - but there was an Indian place a few doors down. I wasn't really up for eating... but I did indulge in some garlic naan, and actually, eating made me feel better than not eating.

After dinner Howie took us back to his apartment, and we nearly died of amazement. This place was NICE. It was a two bedroom, two BATHROOM apartment with a kitchen, living room and actual furniture! And it was on the 13th floor of a pretty nice high-rise off of Sukhumvit. I'm sure he paid a ton for it, and when I asked him if was being paid in Baht or Euro he replied "Both - shhhh don't tell, I get a double salary." While I'm sure if I wanted to, I could afford a nicer place than where I'm staying right now, I think he probably pays close to my entire salary for his apartment. He took us up to the roof for a look at the city lights. Yeah... amazing! I got a pretty strong sense of vertigo standing close to the edge, but even standing back and looking around was just amazing.

the view from the top of Howie's apartment

The sticky part was when we were ready to go back downstairs, he realized he couldn't open the door again. Yeah, in sit-coms it's hilarious when this happens, but in real life it's a bit scary. However, still not as scary as the three hour Cambodian taxi ride over unpaved roads (my new measure for these situations). And fortunately we live in the age of cell phones, so he just called his landlord who called the night guard who came up and let us in again. And the three of us went back to our guest house.

In the morning the girls were going to hang out in Bangkok shopping & getting haircuts etc. before going to Ayutthaya with Howie on Saturday. Unfortunately, when I woke up I was still feeling fairly rotten, so I just took a bus back home. And here I am. Slowly but surely recovering from all my travel related ailments, and rather quickly actually unloading all the crazy experiences from my brain onto this blog for your general amusement.