Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Amazing Thailand

This weekend was one of the reasons I keep this blog. So I can have a place to record some of the amazing things that happen here. I'm so afraid I'm going to forget everything, that two weeks after returning to the States it'll all just be a big blur.

Monday, was a Thai holiday, and Sunday is my normal day off work. So I had an actual 2 day weekend, and more than that all the other teachers and I had the *same* day off. And believe you me, we all made the most of it.


On Friday Bunny, Bobby and Jeb all went to Bangkok for various errands. Even though I'd been to Bangkok earlier in the week, I was jealous because - being the only one with Sunday off - I'd spent the better part of the trip alone. In any case, on Friday I taught a morning kids' class but then learned that my normal evening class was canceled. I called Bobby to see if I could meet up with them in Bangkok for dinner, and it turned out they hadn't left yet. They were at the mini-van station set to leave in about 10 minutes. I got there just in time and had the pleasure of having people to talk to on the 2+ hour drive. Once we got there, we split up for a bit - I went shopping and found some cute shorts that actually fit - yay! Then we all met up to do some more shopping at MBK. I found a scandalous shirt to wear on our trip to Phuket... then we all went out for Mexican food for dinner.

It was AMAZING. Yes... that was just the beginning of the amazingness of the weekend. Our enchiladas took on nearly mythic proportions of deliciousness once combined with two pitchers of fresh icy limey margaritas. Heaven. The ride home was slow... but having friends around makes all the difference.


Saturday was the one less than amazing interruption of an otherwise amazing weekend. We all had to teach. But it was Jeb's birthday so afterwards, we all went out again. The margaritas were swapped out for whiskey sodas...and enchiladas swapped out for garlic shrimp and cashew chicken. No complaints. Then, as we were sitting there I got an unexpected call from the boy from last Sunday's post. As dinner was ending and our party was disbanding, Bunny, Marie and I decided to meet up with Mr. Maptaput and his friends at the club down the street.

We had fun... it was interesting to hang out with new Thai people our own age. Usually the only Thai people I hang out with are Jeb's girlfriend or the office staff (and then only at work). There was a fair amount of awkwardness... I'm not good at meeting new people in the best of circumstances - let alone with a language barrier thrown in. But their English was good enough, and Bunny's Thai was adventurous enough to keep the evening entertaining if nothing else.


But the real fun came on Sunday. One of the teachers, Rex, lives with a family near the ocean, and he'd invited us all over for a party in honor of the holiday and Jeb's birthday. Also this was meant to be an informal, but highly authentic Thai cooking class for Bobby and I. Since everyone had the day off... it was going to be quite the do. Even LeBlond came in from Bangkok to celebrate.

I puttered around in the morning, and actually picked up a cute Thai-style dress (modern & cute ... not traditional silk or anything) to wear with my new shorts. I was excited to start blending in a bit more fashion-wise, I even have blinged-out flip flops & a Micky-mouse purse. Then in the afternoon we met up with Rex and his girlfriend Tiny (it's her family that he lives with) at the market. They'd already picked up veggies and meat but I decided I wanted to make my own specialty dish for the party and started gathering up ingredients for salsa. Tiny tried to dissuade me from getting more tomatoes (we have some already) and peppers (we have many at home), but I was not to be deterred. I take my salsa seriously. Thailand is mysteriously devoid of lemons, but they had limes aplenty so we finished up our shopping and headed to the house.

My camera, naturally, is broken again so forgive the extra thousand words as I describe the place. I say they live near the ocean, but I guess it's more precise to say that they live *on* the ocean. The family owns a series of three or four houses in a row (I think they rent two or three of them out)- from one at street level to one clear out over the ocean (currently empty). It's on stilts, low tide = sand underneath, high-tide = ocean below. The houses are Thai style... not western. They're pretty bare - and look a bit more like a rustic cabin or tree-house than anything that would pass building codes in the US. But there was running water and electricity, plenty of fans and even a CD player. There were two clean bathrooms - but both unfortunately had squat toilets.

In the main house there's a big open area downstairs for living, gorgeous wooden couches, a TV, some cabinets that sort of thing. Then there's another big open area for cooking. In the kitchen there's a counter with a sink and prep-space and one gas range with a big wok on top. Then there are a whole bunch of small ... I don't know what to call them... like a good sized terra-cotta flower pot, but you put charcoal in it and use it like a BBQ to grill food or stick another wok on.

Bunny and I were put to work washing vegetables while Tiny started showing Bobby and Marie how to make fish cakes. Too many cooks spoil the soup and all... so I decided to stick to my salsa rather than crowd around the wok. It was really nice. I feel so incompetent so much of the time here... but salsa... this is something I know I'm good at. And I was really excited to share it with the Thai family. Most Thai people have never tried Mexican food, and while I'm hardly an authentic representative... I felt like I could give them a taste, literally, of something new.

Tiny's mom was really friendly, directing us to do this or that and chatting with us in a mix of English and Thai (Tiny speaks English really well actually). And I had a fairly hilarious exchange with her as I made her taste the salsa. I started telling her what it was in English but she said "Poot passah Thai!" (Speak Thai!) aaah! She asked "What do you eat it with?" (or something) and I explained "Put on 'chips', don't have 'chips', put on rice... eat with rice - can!". "Is it delicious?" she asked very slowly and clearly "Yes." I replied "You like to make it?" again, slowly and clearly "Yes." Then smiling happily"Qeld adsflkp oidsfu adl foi e aoiuw alklu t alkwe utahn ldfa doit jalkdfout." "Uh.... uh....don't understand!" And we had a good laugh.

With Jeb's girlfriend's help (I can't remember if I gave her a nickname already... let's go with Gum.) I roasted some peanuts and cashews using the fire-pots. At one point Tiny's mom came by and gave us some mango slices. You know from the mangoes that grow in their garden. Amazing! Bunny, Bobby and I ate the mango with my salsa... it was really good. I really really enjoyed the camaraderie of being in the kitchen with all the women, you know... one of the universals again - sharing food, working together, laughing, it was beautiful. Of course the boys were all upstairs drinking already... it didn't so much bother me that we were doing the girls work - boys have fun thing until they came down and were reluctant to help us carry stuff back to the beach house. "In a minute..." Gah! What are you, like 12??? When a bunch of women have just spent hours preparing an awesome feast for you the least you can do is offer to help set it up. It's a little too easy for guys to develop a sense of entitlement here.

With all the cooking done we headed over to the beach house, eventually bullying the boys into helping us. There wasn't much in the way of furniture in the beach house, just several mats and a table for the drinks & CD player. But honestly, the fact that we were literally *on the ocean* watching the tide come in and feeling the sea air blowing on us more than made up for anything we lacked. We put all the food in the center of the mats and sat down to eat. Oh man... it was amazing. You know, if you've ever cooked a holiday feast how awesome it feels to sit down and enjoy the fruits of your collective labor. And I told our Thai hosts, repeatedly, that "Wan nee mee quam suk... mak mak." (Today I am very very happy.) Everything was delicious. The farangs devoured my salsa, and even Tiny's aunt ate some with her rice (which I feel allows me to now refer to my salsa as 'world renowned') ;). Rex and Bunny invented a new drink - essentially a Mojito but made with Thai brandy instead of rum... we called them Mosquitos of course, and they were the perfect compliment to dinner.

After dinner we played "two truths and a lie" a game I suck at, but still thoroughly enjoyed. We even managed to get some of Thai family to play along. There were two little kids there, running around and climbing on everyone...adding to the overall silliness of everything. Just being there was amazing, and it was amazing to be with such incredible people. I just couldn't stop acknowledging how amazing everything was. And moreover couldn't stop saying "We're in fucking Thailand. We are in fucking Thailand!"

We talked and listened to music well into the night, then the Thai family went back to their house while 6 of us farang teachers all piled into one bedroom. There were a lot of blankets and mats just laid out on the floor so we all just lay down and had a giant sleepover. You know, in a cabin over the ocean!!!!! There was silly chatting and giggling and playing 20 questions well into the night, and if you've ever been to a sleep over with me, you know you can hear me finally breaking down and begging "PLEASE... go to sleep! I need to go to sleep now!!!" which, of course was ignored... so I played along for a while and finally we all went to sleep, or tried. I couldn't sleep, just lay awake listening to the sounds of the people around me. For someone used to living alone, it's difficult for me to actually fall asleep with other people around, but I do still like it. I like being in a big group of people like that.


Roosters started crowing at around 7am, as the sun came up over the water. The sun got up to window level around 7:30 and I could no longer pretend to be asleep. I got up and got dressed. Bobby was already up taking pictures of the ocean. Eventually Bunny and Marie got up and joined us. The boys, naturally stayed in bed (after their hard night of not cooking). Before long Tiny's aunt came by and asked "Gin coffee mai?" Bobby's Thai is probably the weakest of all of us, but even she could understand "Do you want to drink coffee?" and we all followed her back to the main house. She'd set up some coffee on the table in front of the house... I told her I didn't drink coffee and she brought me some milk. So we sat there, enjoying the amazing hospitality of our host. The houses across the street all had little shops out front - selling seashell 'curtains' you know, you can hang them up over a doorway, or maybe as a shade block on your patio. The ambiance was incredible. So warm, so Thai.

Shortly after our coffee, Rex and Tiny came out and invited us to go look at the family's garden. When I'd heard they had a garden, I imagined a small plot on the side yard or something. No... what they actually have is an orchard. We piled in the back of Tiny's pick up truck and headed out there. They have a nice sized field, a grove of mangoes, bananas, and jackfruit. There were passion-fruit plants and even a thai-pumpkin vine trailing around the ground. Again, I'm just wandering around an orchard thinking... this is Thailand, this is amazing. Then hop back in the back of the pickup truck (an amazing way to travel when it's hot out... getting all of the breeze, seeing everything) and off to a beach I hadn't been to before. I think it might be my new favorite beach. There's a longer stretch of sand between the restaurants and the ocean.... which makes it significantly cleaner... and the water was so clear it was unbelievable. I hadn't put on my swimsuit, so I just walked along the waters edge, soaking my feet in the calm warm water. Amazing! A-mazing people. Amazing!

After our trip through the orchard and stroll along the beach we learned that Tiny's aunt had finally gone in and woken up the boys to go eat breakfast. We headed back towards Ban Phe and met the boys at Christie's Pub... the place I love to go to on Sunday for my weekly western food fix. Again, it felt like I was back in college, with all my friends heading to the cafeteria for breakfast. It was so good and we lingered forever, some of the guys having two breakfasts - you know having worked up an appetite *not* hiking through the garden and not swimming. =P Regardless, a good time was had by all and we decided to call it a day... an amazing day... and go back home.

But it wasn't even over yet. We still all had the day off, so after showering and changing and attempting to nap, I met up with Bunny, LeBlond, Donny & Marie at a coffee shop, followed by an early dinner at the German restaurant. It was so nice. Soooo nice to all have a full weekend together. And getting to eat dinner when it was still light out was such a treat(we usually get dinner at like 8:30 or 9pm when we finish classes). Bunny and I enjoyed a leisurely walk home in the twilight and I was in bed by the time night fell. I was asleep before 8pm I think, and slept hard! Exhaustion from amazement is a good feeling.

It's Tuesday now, and my first class is at 6pm, so I've been lounging around at a coffee shop, listening to the rain and catching up with old friends on Facebook. I feel so good right now. I know it won't be long before the day to day rigours of Thailand catch up with me again... but for now... I feel amazing and am so full of happiness I'm overflowing and am so glad to remember why I came here.

TAG: Code Mango. Life is good baby, too good to be true!


Anonymous said...

That sounds like an absolutely fantastic weekend! The daily grind can get a little old, but it's so nice when things come together and you realize how lucky you are to be over here. I love it!

And that's awesome you found shorts that fit. I was buying pants and the lady said they didn't have a size big enough for me :(

Melody said...

Good thing you didn't come home last week ;-)

Rebel said...

Oh Cate that's not fair - you're not big at all!

Melody - so true... so true!

Batty said...

What a great experience! I'm so glad you decided to get up and go. If you'd stayed home... well, you would have missed all this.

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Rebel said...

Yeah, Batty - I'm glad I went too.