Tuesday, March 31, 2009
I was doing my taxes today, and I just realized how much I miss Portland, the rain and the misty skies, tri-met and the slow predictable routine of living somewhere that I actually understand. I'm tired of the sun and the heat, I've gotten my fill of the beaches and am not sure I could choke down one more plate of fried rice.
Nope... today is the day. I'm booking a flight to Tennessee. I'm going to spend a few weeks... maybe a month or so with my family, maybe get a job to save some money for a bit before going back to Oregon. It's time. I hope you enjoyed reading about my little adventures, and misadventures, as much as I enjoyed having them.
Monday, March 30, 2009
This weekend both Jonathan from Chronicles of the Next Floor, and Cate from Cate's World Kitchen were in Bangkok. There were vague plans for a blogs-colliding kind of meet up, but the logistics didn't quite work out. I did manage to meet up with Cate & her husband for drinks and some highly delicious hummus - which was nice. They pretty much sold me on moving to Bangkok. It was the food. Cate gave me the full run down on the food situation in a few different neighborhoods. The idea of being able to find more than just Thai food is really appealing.
It was so appealing in fact that rather than do any sight seeing on Sunday, I spent the whole day at Paragon (the really high-end mall) eating. Well, in the morning I stayed in my hotel room watching the Discovery Channel and National Geographic in English. I watched a whole program on venomous snakes solely because I could understand every word of it. Very exciting. I also popped into some English language bookstores ... that was fun too. But mostly I was all about the eating. For lunch I had a salmon bagel with a green salad ... it was so delicious. And I followed it up with a double chocolate cupcake that actually tasted like chocolate. Amazing. All in all, a pretty good day.
So I guess the new plan is to start looking for a job in Bangkok. I've applied for one, but I need to get serious about it. Maybe that'll be my project for tomorrow. Ugh. I hate job searching. I hate interviews... I hate all of this. Blah. But I'm also done with Rayong, I need a wider social circle... I need more things to do... I need cheese.
TAG - Code Watermelon
Thursday, March 26, 2009
First off, they put meat in just about everything. Even if it's not a meat dish, it'll be seasoned with fish sauce, shrimp paste and oyster sauce.
Second of all... they just have totally different concepts of being a vegetarian. There's 'jay' which is a diet that monks occasionally adhere to. It's a purifying diet that omits meat and eggs, but also onions and garlic... and beer (the horror!). There's a 'jay' festival for 9 days every October for the purification of the soul. Many people participate in this and there are big community meals put on by the temples. So while people might understand that a person is 'jay' - they might wonder why they're 'jay' when it's not October, or why they're 'jay' and drinking beer. Then there's 'mon saw erat', which I think has fewer religious connotations. But it's also not quite as strict. Oysters and Oyster sauce are fair game for a 'mon saw erat' diet because (as explained to me by a student) oysters don't have blood.
Finally, if you want to eat a vegetarian diet, at some point you're going to need to find some alternative form of protein, which involves asking for tofu or eggs to be added to your food. This requires learning enough of the language to make yourself understood. Bunny has really given this the old college try, and often gets tofu added to her food, even if she has to say the word about 7 times in 7 different ways.
Vegetarian or not, ordering meals is always a bit like Christmas morning. You never know what you're going to get, and there's a good chance it's not going to be exactly what you'd asked for. Yesterday was, however, an epic fail. We went to a Japanese restaurant at the mall and she asked what on the menu was 'mon saw erat'... one dish was pointed out... then Bunny proceded to ask if tofu could be added to it. She said the word several times but the waitress looked confused and ultimately said 'mai mee' (don't have). Which was just not the case because we'd eaten there before and Bunny had somehow managed to obtain tofu. The waitress asks if she would like egg on the dish, and Bunny agrees while looking at the menu. Finally she finds a dish that has tofu in it and shows it to the waitress saying 'tofu tofu' in Thai. "Oooooh... tofu" the waitress replies... sounding exactly like how Bunny had said it. We can't hear anything properly here. I ordered a few pieces of sushi and tempura to share. Rex tried to indicate that he'd like the same thing I ordered. Bobby, smart lady, ordered something that had a picture next to it.
Bobby actually got what she ordered, and I guess I did too. But Rex didn't get any food as the waitress assumed we'd be sharing what I'd ordered. Bunny though, got two dishes.... one big bowl of tofu soup (yay tofu!), and another big bowl of some kind of rice dish.... with fish dumplings on top. FAIL! There was also a bowl of miso soup that no one remembered ordering. Bunny tried to dig into her tofu soup, but only chopsticks had been provided. When the waitress came back to check on us Bunny indicated the spoon in the miso soup and attempted to ask for another spoon. I wondered why she couldn't just use the spoon in the soup, but apparently she avoids using utencils that have touched meat as well and there was probably some kind of fish product in the miso soup. But you know what happened don't you? Did we get an extra spoon? NO! We got an extra bowl of miso soup.
All the extra food was fine though, as Rex and I were sharing the four pieces of sushi I'd ordered. So we also split the rice dish with the fish dumplings. It was good. Eventually the waitress brought Bunny a spoon so she could actually dig into her food. Nom nom nomming commences.
All is well... right? Oh no. Bunny notices a bit of crunchiness and looks down.... there's a bug in her spoon. Well, half a bug. EPIC FAIL! She's horrified, but starving, so she disposes of the bug and continues eating... until she finds another bug... and another one. We showed the waitress, who just kind of looked at us oddly, but didn't really do anything. At this point we start to wonder if it was an accident... or a seasoning. You know, it bothers me so much that I have to wonder about this... but seriously there's a cart full of garlic-fried grasshoppers at the food court where I get my dinner more often than not. So it kind of blurs the line between when it's okay to find bugs in your food and when it's not. But it also makes me wonder if bugs are considered 'mon saw erat' or not.
We left the restaurant and headed to the safe-have that is Starbucks. I ordered a hot cocoa (they set the AC so cold in there!) and Bunny orders a caramel creme frapachino something other and begins to feel better about her day... until she looks down at the beautiful white and swirly brown beverage in her plastic cup and sees... a hair.
TAG, on Bunny's behalf: Code Coconuts.
Sunday, March 22, 2009
12:01 - 12:20am I'm at a bar - sitting at an outside table, waiting for a boy to show up. MUCH whiskey (and beer, and vodka) has been consumed. Most of my friends have left, LeBlond, Bunny and I are the last ones standing. There's a table of Korean engineers and their Thai friends/girlfriends right next to us and we start chatting with them. The drunkest of the Korean guys comes over and starts hitting on LeBlond. Our waitress is a katoey. We discuss, in limited English, the fact that homosexuality is not culturally acceptable in Korea. To LeBlond's dismay I inform the Korean guy that he's no longer in Korea, he's in Thailand, so mai bpen lai!
An elaborate plan is covertly hatched (ie in English) that LeBlond and I will switch seats. I walk over to his side of the table. But instead, he takes my hand and we start dancing in the parking lot. The Korean guy grabs Bunny to dance with her (I'm not sure if I ever mentioned this, but Bunny is a lesbian). After a few minutes of this, the Korean guy edges over like he wants to dance with LeBlond... I run interference and dance with him for a while, Bunny & LeBlond dance for a minute then sit down. After another minute or two I deposit the Korean man back at his table, where his friends start appologizing. I'm like "Mai bpen lai" I mean, I'm pretty shit-faced myself.
Sitting back down at the table, I begin to doubt whether boy will ever show up so we pay the bill, finish up the whiskey and head towards the taxis. It becomes important that Bunny decide who does the best cartwheels - me or LeBlond. I was the clear winner, but suddenly become very very sad that we're going home and start crying all over Bunny.
12:20-12:25 Crying all over the back of a motorbike taxi driver on the way home. Bunny is wedged in behind me trying to make me feel better by saying the taxi driver probably gets cried on all the time.
12:25-12:30 Phone call from boy who *finally* made it to the bar. Rebel practices a few Thai swear words.
um.... 12:30 - ??? Hystrionic texting and messaging on facebook. Eventually pass out.
7:30am - wake up to the @$%ing chickens down the street crowing. Hung over... mortified by previous night's behavior. Decide that life will improve greatly with the application of western food and salt water.
8:30 am - catch songtheaw to Ban Phe
9am - attempt confess to waitress at Christie's pub, in Thai, that I'm hung over. She asks what I drank last night and I say "whiskey" she looks surprisingly judgemental given her place of employement. I order, and fully enjoy a bacon cheeseburger with fries.
9:30 am - wander through used bookstore and pick up Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, and the Jungle Book.
10am - ferry to Ko Samet. I get the good boat with the beach chairs on the top deck and am rocked comfortingly by the ocean and soothed by a warm breeze for the next 45 min.
11am - arrive on Ko Samet and check into my room.
11:20am - am parked in a beach chair under an umbrella and have liberally applied sunscreen to my face and neck. Swim, nap, read, swim, nap, swim, stare at the horizon, notice a smaller island that I swear wasn't there when I came in February, nap, read, swim. Decide life isn't quite so bad afterall.
1:30pm - lunch, crab fried rice... rather crunchier than I'd like, I wish they'd do a better job removing the shells. After lunch, read, nap, swim, nap, swim, read. At around 4pm watch the local kids set up a couple of soccer nets and play a game on the beach as the tide goes out.
5 pm - dinner, high hopes for a western sounding ham and cheese baguette... not horrible, but just not quite right. Watch the sun go down, feel a bit sad. Does not help that they're playing cheesy covers of depressing western ballads.
6:30pm - pop into the internet cafe to feed my addiction.
7pm - off to bed. Read, try to sleep, read, try to sleep. Think very seriously about going back to the states, actually contemplate going to live with my family in Tennessee. Miss my mommy.
9pm - much welcomed text from Bunny- call her and chat for a while.
9:30 - 10pm - read, try to sleep, read, try to sleep.
10ish - even more welcomed call from Mistress J. Feel significantly better about life the universe and everything.
11ish - finally fall asleep for reals.
TAG: Code Fish Sauce.
Thursday, March 19, 2009
Overall, I'm feeling a lot more experimental, a lot less black & white. I'm rethinking a lot of things. I'm intentionally doing things I never thought I'd do, just to see what will happen. I can't quite express how radical of a departure this is from my usual way of thinking. It's not necessarily easy... like my brain still has the same initial reactions... and I definitely have all the same fears and insecurities. But it's like, that's the American part of my brain, and the Thailand part of my brain is like "mai bpen lai."
I don't know... too much navel gazing these days.
TAG: Code Sweet Chili Sauce.
Sunday, March 15, 2009
Jeb and I just played pool with LeBlonde & Donny. I actually sunk three balls and we won!
Friday, March 13, 2009
And actually I haven't even done that. I've learned the names of the letters and the words that go with them "A-apple, B-ball, C-cat..." or rather "Gor gai (chicken), Kor kai (egg) ... Hor honok hoo (0wl)" I can recite them while looking at the picture flash cards in order. I haven't tried to recognize them out of order yet. But I have managed to sound-out highly useful words like 'crocodile' and 'bread snack' by just looking at the letters. Not too shabby!
How, you may wonder, have I managed to make such mind-boggling progress with my language acquisition plan? Let me tell you... no, better let me show you:
Uber-awesome flash cards... complete with bright pink carrying case!
One set of cards has the letter & a picture for the corresponding word on the front, and on the back they spell the letter word, and show a few other words with pictures for that letter. The other set of cards just has the written letter, and the word that goes with it - but no pictures. On the back there's room to practice writing the letter. These are amazing.
The only drawback is that in order to get started, you have to know the sound of each letter & the word for each of the pictures. It's difficult if not impossible to figure this out on your own, but it hasn't been too difficult for me to find Thai people help me. The cleaning lady at the school likes to sit in the teachers room and ask me questions about English... so I had her help me learn a few of the words. And I've brought them out on the songthaew once or twice to moderate success. But recently I've made the most progress by bringing them along on my drive to my off-campus class. Of course I nearly caused an accident today when I said (essentially) "P-penis" instead of "B-buffalo" today. Good lord this is a dangerous language!
But indulge me while I whine.... why couldn't I have found these back when I first got here??? Back in October & November I had those long awkward drives with someone who spoke no English and this would have been perfect. I might actually be able to read now if I'd had them back then! I'd even tried writing out my own flash cards, but that's kinda putting the cart before the horse - trying to write the letters before I can even say them. These are perfect. Oh well.... no use crying about it now.
The next step of course is paying attention to the actual letter, trying to recognize them out of order and all that. And if I ever want to be able to read, I'll actually need to spend some serious time studying. But one thing I know about myself is that I'm not at all good at self-study. Hopefully I'll get another off-campus class after this course is over, so I'll have some enforced study time.
It's all a bit silly actually, that I'm finally making progress learning Thai right when I'm thinking about leaving. But every new word I learn seems to help at some point. Yesterday in class a student was trying to describe a particular fruit, and when someone said it in Thai, I knew what it was. It is nice that I'm understanding more and more of what's being said around me... even if it is just 2 words in 100.
TAG: Code Watermelon (aka deng mau)
Wednesday, March 11, 2009
One error I've been noticing more and more is "I ever go to Bangkok." "I ever go to the movies." Weird. The first couple times I heard it I thought the students were trying to say "I never go..." which is something we teach in the starter class. But no... I've been hearing the misuse of the word 'ever' in more and more contexts and finally called a student on it. We were going through adverbs of frequency -never, occasionally, sometimes, usually, always- and had the students give me sentences. When "I ever go to Bangkok" came up I corrected him and told him he could say "I went to Bangkok. I've been to Bangkok. I occasionally go to Bangkok." etc. But not "I ever go to Bangkok."
Then I went to the board and illustrated that we use the word "ever" in questions only (I'm sure there's an exception) and most often with present perfect: "Have you ever been to Bangkok?" but never in the short answers "Yes, I have." / "No, I haven't." or in the positive form of the sentence "I have been to Bangkok." or in the negative forms of the sentence "I haven't been to Bangkok." / "I've never been to Bangkok." Most of the students were diligently copying down notes, like this was actually helpful information for them. But one student kept throwing examples at me.
Student: "Can I say 'I ever been to Bangkok'?"
Student: "Can I say 'I ever had...'?"
Me: "No." pointing up at the board where I've clearly shown that we only use 'ever' in the question form.
Student: "Can I say 'I ever do...'?"
Student: "But, I hear people say it a lot."
Me: "Me too! And it's not correct!"
Ugh. I can appreciate that he's trying to work out the rule for himself. But this particular student seems far more interested in testing me, and showing off how much English he thinks he knows, than in actually learning. And it's tough because there are six other students in the class who are willing to trust that I speak English well enough to be an authority on the subject. I don't like leaving them to watch me go back and forth with the other student. I haven't yet figured out how to do it.
I feel like this tangent, although it took a fair amount of time, was worth it to the student's overall understanding of English. But I've got to be careful... they've only got two weeks of class... then they're going to Singapore. I want to focus as much on things that will actually help them. Not, like the other tangent where the student wanted to know if it was okay to say "10 grand" instead of "10 thousand" and "why? why? why?" Arg!!!! Just fucking say "ten thousand" because that's what the book says and you're not in a fucking gangster movie!!!!
I ever need a drink.
TAG: Code Sweet Chili Sauce
*In the middle of this post I started to write "It's like the first time they'd ever heard of it." FUCK. I never think of the exceptions until like a day later. =/ Now I'm debating whether or not I should teach them "The first time I ever..." or if that would just confuse them and get them back to saying "I ever go to the market." etc.
Curse you English Language and your endless exceptions!!!
Sunday, March 8, 2009
The aquarium is in Ban Phe, although in a different area from the beach I usually go to. It's right next to the ocean, just past a little fishing village.
It's a small aquarium, and not the most technologically / environmentally advanced one I'm sure. But it was fun. There were several medium sized fish tanks highlighting different species. There were seahorses and crabs and little Nemo fish... all the usuals. There was a tall cylindrical tank that we could walk around as we descended to the lower level... and at the bottom, we could actually go under it and look up through the Plexiglas ceiling. That was pretty cool.
But the star attractions were in a much larger tank towards the back. There was this um.... something-ray? There were signs, I just forgot to take pictures of them.
So that was that, not bad for 35 baht. The really funny thing was all the tour buses that were visiting from Bangkok or who knows where. There were just crowds of people all herded around by their tour guides. Le Blonde and I seemed to have been the only ones who just walked in. I think it must be just one stop on a trip around the coast or something. I can't imagine making a whole trip just for the aquarium.
Saturday, March 7, 2009
My internet has been buggered all to hell. And yes, I did just say buggered all to hell. I'm not even sure which country's slang that is, but I figure I'm in international waters or something, so it's okay. I have spent ungodly amounts of both time and money in the past week trying to get my internet to work - only to have it stop working again like two days later. For some reason, my computer did not believe that it had a modem. Or something. I kept trying, tried futzing around with settings etc. I did my super-secret-magic-tech-guru-trick (aka 'the reboot') which usually fixes things... but it did not. After spending hours going round and round I finally decided I would need to take the computer back to the shop and stopped trying to connect until I could do that. Until tonight. Tonight I had a brief moment of insanity (vodka induced insanity) and decided to give the internet one last try. And, as you can see... it worked. WTF?
In other areas of insanity... I'm having issues. Vague existential issues. The kind of issues that have me thinking in circles until all I want to do is kill off the offending brain cells with vodka... that'll teach 'em! Alas, once I sober up, the issues are still there. And they come with their buddies: hangovers, incriminating photos, and unforgivably - memories of what actually occurred while drinking. That's not fair... that's just not fair at all.
TAG: Code Sticky Rice
Wednesday, March 4, 2009
I have angered the gods of the internet again.... I don't even want to talk about it other than to say that trying to get technical issues fixed in a foreign country is it's own special brand of hell. Fortunately the abundance of internet cafes are keeping me from going completely insane.
Sunday, March 1, 2009
My Saturday kid classes are becoming tolerable. I'm using the same book for both classes (different units though). And imperfect as it may be, at least I'm not having to improvise entire 3 hour classes like I did before. And my teaching schedule in February was my lightest so far, so I haven't been particularly stressed out or anything.
Oh! And the thing that has radically changed my outlook on life, the universe and Rayong ....
THERE'S A NEW COFFEE SHOP!!!
It's clean, it's adorable, it has a couch & a comfy chair, the bathroom gets a solid A for cleanliness and supplies, the beverages are decent and cheap, and it's within walking distance from our house... oh and the owner speaks a little English. So instead of spending between 40 - 100 baht (songthao or motorbike) to get to Starbucks, then spending 100 - 200 (and up) on drinks and snacks, we can walk to the coffee shop and spend 30 - 40 baht per drink. It's also close enough to the school that we can drop by even if we only have an hour or so between classes. I cannot even begin to tell you how much of a difference this has made in our lives. We have someplace to HANG OUT!!! I love it!
Today it was raining when I woke up, not big scary monsoon rain, just normal even rain rain. It was even cool out. As I literally burnt out on going to the beach in February I didn't feel the usual obligation/obsession to go today. I hung out in bed reading Questionable Content archives (my new addiction) then went for a late breakfast/lunch. I actually got to wear my hoodie today and felt mildy wintry... you know, as much as you can when you're still wearing capris and flip-flops. In any case it was nice not to be absurdly hot and sweaty by the time I got to breakfast. Then I wandered over to the coffee shop and Bunny & Le Blond were already there, Scrabble board out and ready for action. Soon enough Donny & Bobby came by too.
I drank an Iced Cocoa... which is really just a bizarre combination of chocolate syrup, a little water and a lot of ice. Seriously. After our first round I was feeling frisky and decided what I really wanted on my day off was beer. Now... here's where living in Thailand is starting to rub off on me. In the States, we would relocated to a bar, because of COURSE you're not going to bring beer into a coffee-shop, that's just not done! But here, mai bpen lai. Especially since one or more of us patronize the place pretty much every day now, it's not like we're freeloading. Anyway Le Blond and I got up to go buy beers but when we got to the 7/11 we realized it was not the appropriate time to buy beer. Apparently you can only buy it after 5pm or something, and possibly at noon. I really don't understand the rules. But by feigning ignorance (I totally understood that the woman was saying "can not") and handing over money they let us buy the beer anyway.
So it's like 2 in the afternoon & we're sitting in the coffee shop drinking 'illegally' purchased beer and having a pretty good time. Le Blond is Canadian so we played Canada Scrabble ... you have to make sentences relating each word to Canada. This is always fun (usually we play Cedric Diggory Scrabble) and I was pleased to get a few bonus points for the sheer awesomeness of "aboot." But after a while we decided to relocate to someplace that actually served beer so we wouldn't have to make more trips to 7/11. We also decided we wanted to play cards. So Bunny went home to get cards and we regrouped at The Dive - the restaurant near the school.
I don't like the beer they serve there, so again, I picked up beer at a store nearby and drank it right there. The owner didn't even blink (I should add he was rather inebriated himself) ... he just took the bottle and walked it over to the bottle opener to uncap it for me. We got lunch and played Hearts. Now... gambling is illegal in Thailand and apparently playing cards is frowned upon. But we figured since we weren't playing for money it was no big deal. We're just playing and drinking and eventually eating, for a good long time. After like a couple hours the owner finally comes over and in scattered Thai and English tells us that we can't play cards, it's against Thai law and the police will arrest us if they see us. We made a small attempt at explaining that we weren't playing for money, but put the cards away anyway. I didn't mind being 'naughty' but, obviously, we weren't interested in getting in actual trouble.
Bunny and I ended up going to Le Blond's apartment and hanging out there for several more hours. Le Blond plays the guitar, quite well actually, and had a whole notebook of lyrics to the songs he could play. So we had a drunken sing along, smoked a couple of cigarettes (yes yes I know - it's a filthy habit I picked up in the far east), exchanged a few drunken deep thoughts and just generally enjoyed ourselves. All told, it was a fairly awesome way to spend a rainy day off in Rayong. And when I think about all the things I never would have done in the States, or that I wouldn't have had the guts to do here even just a couple of months ago, it's all just a little crazy.
I'm still toying with the idea of leaving Rayong for either Bangkok or another country. Bunny & Bobby will be leaving at the end of April, and Le Blond is looking at a job in Bangkok right now as well. I'm not sure I want stick around to get to know the next crew. Still cogitating though... still cogitating. Cogitating, and hoping my camera gets repaired soon so I can actually upload some pictures for you kids.
TAG: Code Sweet Chili Sauce