Thursday, July 30, 2009

The end is nigh...

According to a series of ones and zeros in various points of cyber space... I have a plane ticket home! Yup. The end is in sight.

I finish my teaching contract at the end of September. When trying to figure out exactly when to come home, the date November 12th popped into my mind and just kind of stuck. It gives me plenty of time to travel and still gets me home in time for Thanksgiving. I'm not gonna lie... I simply could not tolerate the thought of another Thanksgiving without stuffing, gravy & turkey. Seriously!

I'm flying into San Francisco, and will spend some time with a friend there* before heading up to Oregon on the train. I will be spending Turkey day with a friend in Salem (I've spent this holiday with her family before and am confident that the appropriate trimmings will be provided). I'm not entirely sure how long I'll spend with her, but the general idea is to be back in Portland around the 1st of December.

At the moment I'm trying to plan out what I want to see & do before I get home. I know I'll be going back to Chiang Mai at some point. It will be awesome to go back to my old stomping grounds now that I actually have half a clue what's going on. And I know I want to spend a good long time on various beaches... but beyond that... no idea. Any suggestions?


TAG: Code Sweet Chili Sauce


*provided this friend actually still exists....cough cough... J!

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Rayong

My mood has been on a steady upswing the past couple of days. While culture shock definitely played a part in my last grump-fest there were some physiological contributors as well. After getting back on my thyroid meds, rearranging my furniture and making an attempt at getting some level of exercise (ie - not immediately crashing on my bed as soon as I get home), I'm doing significantly better.


Today was an easy day, only one class from 1pm - 2:30. My five year old student. Private lessons with kids haven't been as horrible as I had anticipated. It is a bit like baby sitting, which isn't that much fun, and the 5 year old can't sit still for very long. But the books are okay. One of them comes with a CD of songs, chants & dialogue. Basically we sing and dance to two songs in the beginning, do a lesson that includes listening to and repeating what the CD says, do a craft or fill in some work book pages, play with the flash cards, do some actions (get on the bus, sit down, stand up, get off the bus), then it's snack time. In adult classes, when the staff brings coffee in I just keep teaching, but with the kids, I just let it be snack time. Then another game or work book page and it's time for the clean up song & goodbye song. As annoying as it is to have the clean up song stuck in my head "It's time to stop, clean up. It's time to stop, clean up. It's time to stop, clean up. Put our things away." the songs eat up a good 10-15 minutes of class time, which is just fine with me.


Having a later class allowed me to go to the B&B for a leisurely breakfast of a Thai omelet, rice & soup (it's like a chicken broth or similar with cilantro and some other herb type thing in it). And finishing early meant that after class I had some time to sit at the coffee shop reading through my guidebook and getting some ideas for my final tour.


The coffee shop owners were watching TV, a surreal, but highly entertaining, experience for me. At first I wasn't paying attention, but then I noticed that I kept hearing vaguely familiar songs that seemed strangely out of place. It turned out that the Thai soap opera they were watching was using songs stolen from the soundtracks of other movies. Some background music from Amelie for example, something from one of the Jane Austen adaptations (Emma, I think, but it was over before I could totally place it), and most bizarrely... the theme from The Simpsons Movie. While each piece seemed at least moderately appropriate to the scene in the drama, hearing such recognizable and disparate songs all thrown together like that - it was like someone had just selected a "soundtracks" playlist and set it to shuffle.


Next was a talent show for kids. Two different groups performed lip syncs to the Wonder Girls' song "Nobody", which...I'm not even sure has made it outside of Asia (the band is Korean) ... but it is HUGE here. At the end of one of the performances, the host interviewed the girls. One of the girls sang a bit of the song in Korean - impressing the host and audience alike. But then he asked her "Kow jai mai?" (... do you understand it?) to which she responded "Mai kow jai." (don't understand) and I cracked up.


It was such a treat to be finished with work while there was still daylight, so I had an early dinner then decided to walk to the park. Something I always mean to do, but never get around to. I'd been once or twice, but always at odd hours. This was the first time I'd come at prime-time. Apparently EVERYONE goes to the park after work. I have never seen a park so completely crowded with people before. There were tons of games going on - basketball, badminton, soccer, and even ta-kraw


video

Ta-kraw is like hackey-sack on steroids. The idea is to kick the ball into the net.


In one area of the park I saw some people practicing Ballroom dance - seriously, I think it might have been a waltz. In a nearby area a man was practicing a fan dance. Across the park in another corner there was a step-aerobics class going on. Surrounding the soccer field was a walking/jogging track and there was an absolute shit-load of people on it. I couldn't believe it... actual traffic, like you really have to watch before you step into the flow. I'm not much of an athlete, and I wasn't quite dressed for exercise - in a button down top & flip flops, a purse flung across my chest, but walking I can handle. I was having a good old time walking around, completely absorbed in people watching and delighting in the idea of all these people who stop off to exercise together between work and home. Until I looked down and noticed that somehow 3 of the 5 buttons on my shirt had come undone. LOVELY! Fortunately everyone on the walking track was going the same direction, so it's possible that not everyone in the park saw me flashing my pasty white stomach.

Having swiftly but casually redressed myself I continued walking. I was watching people jogging with their toy dogs, granddaughters copying their grandmother's stretches, couples chatting, when suddenly I heard the beloved sounds of my native language. Someone was talking about ice cream. And sure enough, demonstrating the small-town nature of Rayong, the person speaking was an English teacher who works part time at my school. I'd only chatted with Annie (a Filipino woman about my age) a couple of times, but she'd always been friendly. I joined her and her sister and we walked several more laps together.

As much as I enjoy my alone time, it is nice to run into a friendly face so casually. Even better, she started complaining about her phone service... she's always calling her family back home & she keeps running out of minutes. I asked her if she had an unlimited plan and she said she did... but that it kept getting used up after two weeks. I asked her if she had DTAC and yup! She's apparently got the same "unlimited" plan for phone calls that I have for the internet. It made me feel sooooo much better to hear that I wasn't the only one who had had problems with their concept of "unlimited". But I told her what I'd learned about how you need to have the money on your phone the day *before* it expires in order to continue the plan and suggested she call the call center to get sorted out. I cannot even express how much better I felt knowing that it wasn't just me being retarded about my phone.

So that was my day. And it was a good day. Now that I've sorted out when to go (& what not to wear) to the park... I'll be going again.


TAG: Code Sweet Chili Sauce.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Craftiness

In response to all my whining Melissa asked a very good question:


What I have often wondered is: do you miss crafting at all? From what I can tell you haven't done any sewing or knitting this entire year. Just curious.


Yes, yes I do miss crafting. Tremendously. Intensely. Heart-achingly. I miss my quilts, I miss my fabrics, I miss my yarn*, I miss my needles, I miss my hatboxes full of crafty odds & ends. I miss Peggy (I had only just started breaking her in!), I miss all of it. One day Bobby was hanging out in my room and I made her look at pictures of each and every quilt I'd made... every hat, sock or scarf I'd knitted... even several works in progress. She was an amazingly good sport about it.** I miss my crafts a lot. I am consoled only by the fact that my beloved stashes & WIPs are well protected in the highest tower of Castle5000, presumably encircled by briers and guarded by a dragon or two... or you know at least the cat and a couple dust bunnies.


My life in Thailand is not especially well suited for textile crafts. Although I have a fair amount of free time, without a couch or a TV I just can't get into my knitting zone. As for quilting - I don't even have a bookshelf, let alone a closet to store any kind of fabric stash. Then there's the heat/humidity factor. I can not get inspired to make anything even remotely 'cozy' in this climate. If I were living here indefinitely, I would have made more of an effort to create a good crafting space... but for a year, it just wasn't worth it.


Which is not to say I haven't tried! Check it out:


The world's simplest dishcloth pattern, garter stitch corner to corner.




These were intended as Bunny & Bobby's Christmas presents, and I actually started the first one after Thanksgiving (back in OR they wouldn't have taken more than a evening in front of the TV each) but I only just finished the second one.... last week. =/ I'm telling you, it's hard to get into a good comfy knitting position without a couch!!






But my lack of quilting / knitting doesn't mean I haven't been creative. I've done a little decoupage***:





I'd tried hanging up curtains with stick-on hooks - half of which fell down, and double sided sticky tape - which wouldn't hold the fabric, and finally thumb tacks which were murder to pound into the frame and didn't hold up the fabric either. And finally resorted to cardboard. The idea was to make a bunch of pretty pictures to block out the screaming 6am sunlight ... but I gave up after I realized they wouldn't even cover the entire height of the window.







This tin holds a bunch of stickers, stamps and colored pens. I was using it for postcard writing but it's not exactly a practical item to bring with me every time I go to the beach. =P






Finally, I've tried to do a little drawing and painting. *Tried*. You know, the Thai education system may not be up to Western standards in many areas, but let me tell you - they kick our pasty white asses in the arts department. The first time I asked my students to draw something, I was blown away. I had been quite proud when my crudely sketched figure came out with the appropriate number of limbs and digits. But their pictures were manga quality, complete with shading, facial expressions and interesting poses. It was hardcore. Even the younger students can draw all kinds of cartoon figures. Of course, this is something they do for fun (and often when they should be paying attention to a grammar lesson!), but the kids really do take drawing, painting, dance and music classes. It's almost as if Art were an actual discipline here. What a concept!!!!!!!




I, on the other hand, had minimal training in art. I'm so disappointed in my limited abilities. There's just so much inspiration, the teal green ocean, palm thatched bamboo huts, golden temples, tropical fruit trees, elephants in the street! There's so much I want to capture and I just can't. My brain doesn't know how to translate the three dimensions I see onto two dimensional paper. My hand cannot accurately produce the shapes I do see. I'm unfamiliar with the tools, the materials of these art forms. Why would you use watercolors vs acrylics vs oils? How do you create the reflection of sunshine on the ocean using just pencils? Why are my circles always so lumpy? I'm completely out of my element. I've vowed to take a painting or drawing class when I get back to the states. It's a sin to be someplace this beautiful without at least a little artistic skill.





Nevertheless, I have not and will not let lack of talent stop me from playing... from creating *something*. Because the only greater sin would be to not even try.


The top three are on Ko Samet, Sai Kaow beach. The bottom two are from the mainland looking out at Ko Samet. Signed prints are not yet available... but I'll keep you posted. ;)

TAG: Code Watermelon







* I actually brought two skeins of dishcloth cotton, and a few skeins of sock yarn with me - including one skein of Socks That Rock in the Knitters Without Borders colorway. I'd had this profound plan of making a scarf or socks or something- knitting on it at various tourist sites, then bringing home my well traveled FO and regaling everyone with my tales of knitting without borders. Very shortly after arriving I realized it was a bit of a lost cause. I'm just not that kind of knitter. But Sheila, the only other woman on my CELTA course turned out to be a knitter from Australia, so I gave the yarn to her. I may not be a knitter without borders, but I am and will always be a stash enabler. =P


** This may be because I told her she could use my computer to check her email as soon as we were finished. ;)


***in my mind 'decoupage' translates to 'gluing magazine pictures to anything not currently breathing'

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

WTF was I thinking?

I've decided that there's nothing wrong with my life that the judicious application vitamin V won't cure (Vodka that is). Nevertheless, I have decided to go forth with more whining.

WTF was I thinking? Seriously folks... what was I thinking? Can anyone tell me why I thought I'd enjoy spending a YEAR abroad? And in fact, I don't have my plane ticket yet, but if I stick to my current plan, I will have spent a full 15 months abroad. Basically I left when I was 33, I'll be returning when I'm 35. WTF?

Half my (female) friends have either had babies or will have babies by the time I get back. I'm not talking one or two... at last count there will be something like EIGHT new babies in my various circles of friends when I get back. EIGHT!!! One friend started grad school, two got married and another one just got engaged. (edited to add... my point is not that I'm jealous or that I wish somehow I were doing this instead of being here.. my point is that my friends are having important life events and I'm missing them. I would have liked to have gone to the baby showers etc. Sorry I was totally unclear in my whining here. ;) )

While I absolutely needed to go abroad, and I wanted to go for long enough to really get a feel for a place... a year is seeming like a mighty long time. I think I hit my stride at about the 8-9 month mark...I was looking good, feeling good, drinking a LOT, basically having a good time of things. It's been dragging a bit since then... mostly because Bunny & Bobby are gone. They were replaced by two guys who don't seem the least bit interested in making friends with anyone. One is a fairly young American guy who's basically lived in Thailand since he graduated from college. He's quite settled, speaks Thai fluently and is barely cordial. He comes in five minutes before his class, grabs his folder and off he goes. The other new teacher is a middle aged German guy whose conversation skills leave quite a bit to be desired. He seems nice enough but I get the impression that he's one of the guys who came to Thailand because he couldn't get laid in his homeland.

With such an unsatisfactory potential social circle, things have gotten fairly boring. As one office gal's boyfriend so aptly put it when the girls first left "You're sad. You have no friends."

I know if I really needed to, I could break my contract and just leave... but I don't really have anything specific waiting for me in Portland so it's not like there's any real rush for me to return either. I'll stick it out. I'm just going to need a lot more vodka.


TAG: Code Fish Sauce


Monday, July 20, 2009

blah blah blah

I have a lot I want to talk about but I just don't know what to say.





My internet access ran out again today.... so much for the unlimited plan I fairly *begged* to have reinstated last week. After nearly breaking down in tears in the middle of Starbucks I called the call center and figured out how to (in theory) have unlimited access for the next four months (as long as I intend to be in Thailand). I nearly had an anxiety attack walking back up to the DTAC office upstairs. You have no idea.... no idea (I mean, unless you've tried to do something beaurocratic in another country where you don't speak the language) how stressful this whole thing has become for me. But I think *I THINK* I've got it sorted now. We'll see. And now I've officially spent TWICE as much as I pay in rent on internet access this month. Ahhh... the price of addiction.





I'm having intestinal crisis #478 this week. Not entirely sure what I did this time since it's the opposite of my usual problems. I've got myself a couple liters of water and a box of All Bran though, so wish me luck. =/ And honestly I do know what the problem is. I've been more than a little irresponsible with my prescription drugs lately. Somehow I feel like old medical problems don't count in Thailand and stopped taking my thyroid meds when they ran out a couple months ago. No lectures... I went and got some more today.





I hate that everything is a chore here. The first time I tried to get my thyroid meds filled the motorbike taxi guy took me to something like five different pharmacies before we found one that actually had them. And the next time I failed pretty hard at trying to pronounce the name of the pharmacy and ended up walking quite a ways to get there. This time I got lucky... sort of. I showed the taxi guy my empty pill bottle and asked for the "kah yah" (pharmacy) and magically they knew which one I needed.



Once there, I showed the pharmacists the bottle, one of them grabbed the box of meds and consulted with each other for a minute.* They asked me how many pills I wanted... so I asked how much they cost. They said 10 baht, but I wasn't sure if that was 10 baht per pill or 10 baht per sheet of 10... I'd neglected to go to the ATM before we got there so I wasn't sure how much money I had on me and I just about had a math anxiety attack trying to figure the whole thing out. It ended up being 10 baht per sheet, so I could have stocked up... but I just got enough for the month. I don't want to think about next month.





I'm having food hallucinations. Every once in a while I smell something like fresh made bread, or bacon and eggs. I'll be sitting in the middle of class and can almost taste a corn muffin. The most common hallucination is toast.... like *good* toast, homemade sourdough bread toast with butter. It's so odd. They *have* bread here... it's just not that good. If it's not plain white sandwich bread (ala Wonder Bread), it's too soft and too sweet. Oh man... I don't even want to talk about it.





My hair is growing out... slowly but surely. I still hate it. I hate it almost every single day. It's just so.... bizarre, so unevenly cut. Even after two attempts at repairing it. Ugh. Half the volume of my hair is just below chin length, most of the remaining amount is somewhere between chin and shoulder length... then I've got like this scraggily thin layer of fairly long hair in the back. It all bounces up into ringlettes once it dries. It is hands down the most bizarre haircut I've ever had. God I hate it.





I've been watching pirated copies of Battlestar Galactica. Is it just me or did the whole thing go to hell in season 3? And has anyone listened to the podcasts / commentaries? I have never heard such a bunch of self-congratulatory egomaniacs in my life! My lord and if I hear them talk about the 'texture' of the show again I'll scream!**





I managed to convince my bank to reactivate my debit card and I actually tested it the other day. So I'll be buying my plane ticket soon... still trying to figure out exactly when. I haven't saved nearly as much money as I'd hoped (see internet fiasco above) so I'm not sure how long I can afford to travel. Given my current mental state, I'm not sure how long I *want* to travel.





Um... yeah. So that's life in Thailand.




TAG: Code Fish Sauce










*One thing I love about Thailand is the way pharmacies work. You can't buy much more than throat drops or Tylenol in the grocery store. But several maintenance-type medicines that would require a prescription in the States are available without a prescription at official pharmacies. I've been able to get both my thyroid meds and my asthma inhaler without seeing a doctor or worrying about an expired prescription. And when I had foot fungus I just showed my foot to the pharmacist and she gave me a good anti-fungal cream. So you can't just pick a bunch of meds off the shelf and try to self-medicate. But neither do you need to pay for unnecessary appointments with a doctor for routine ailments. It seems like just the right amount of control to me.





**Naturally I will be picking up season 4 next time I get paid. Don't judge me! I need to know how it all ends.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

love is in the air

Last night I was at a fellow teacher's house - not one of my usual haunts - so when I got a motorbike taxi home, I wasn't totally sure he knew where my apartment was. As we were driving there was some 'discussion' about where I lived. And by discussion I mean I told him the wrong way to go and with much pointing and appologizing got him turned around again. The whole time he was asking me questions telling me something to which I could only respond "mai cow jai" (don't understand).

As we got near my apartment he said (in Thai):
"You stay here?"
- "yes"
"Do you stay here asdfaoiyuiy ?"
- "what?"
"Do you stay here with aoiyuiy?" he repeated, pulling over beside the gate.
- "Oh, no, no, stay here one person." I replied as I climbed off the bike.
"Do you have a boyfriend?"
- "No no no... don't have a boyfriend, only one person." I said fishing through my purse for some money. As I handed him his fare he made his move.
"I love you." he said (in English) and smiled hopefully, bringing his hand up to his ear in the universal sign for 'call me'.


Gah. I really need to learn to lie... or at least how to say "Yes, I am married and my husband is at home polishing his gun collection right now." in Thai.

TAG: Code Fish Sauce

Friday, July 17, 2009

Progress Report: Language Skills

I've been here a while now, and I have to say, I'm disappointed by how little Thai I've learned. I had intended to take a class, and when that didn't happen, I promised to devote an hour a day to actively studying the language. Well, I broke and remade that last promise a dozen times. Despite the different books and resources I've purchased I am just *not* disciplined enough for independent study. I guess I'm not so much disappointed in what I've learned as I'm disappointed in myself for not devoting more time & effort to it. But even lacking any kind of formal study, I've managed to pick up a basic survival level of Thai.*

I can:

Greet people and exchange a comment about personal well being:
"Hello, how are you?"
- "comfortable / not comfortable / hot / cold / hungry / drunk"
- "I'm sick / I have a cold / I have a stomachache."
- "happy / sad"


Exchange a word or two about the weather:
"It's hot / It's very hot / It's raining" (really all you need to know to discuss Thai weather!)


Get where I need to go:
"Where are you going? / Where do you want to go?"
- "to work / home / to eat rice / to the beach / to Bangkok (other cities / stores etc.)"
"wait here five minutes"
"go straight"
"turn left" (interestingly, I never have to say "turn right." All of the places to the right of my apartment are well known by name. I only ever need to give directions when I want to go home again and I'm using a taxi driver who doesn't know my apartment building.)
"red light"
"go slow slow!"
"go fast fast!"
"Where is the bathroom?"
"here / there"



Make plans:
"I want to ..."
- "swim / walk / dance / eat / buy / speak"
"When?" (but I only understand the answer if it's a day of the week, yesterday, today or tomorrow, or a matter of minutes. I can't ask or understand the answers to "What time?" because times of the day are counted differently here.)
"Sunday is my day off."


Spend money:
"I want / I need / this one broken"**
"have / don't have"
"How much is that?"
- I know the numbers 1-20, and how to express tens, hundreds and thousands of baht.
"Expensive!"
"Pink / red / blue / green / black / white / big / small"
"big / small / a lot / a little bit"
"skirt / shoes"
"don't put" (... it in a bag)

Observe the local wildlife:
"What's that?"
- "elephant / cockroach / dog / chicken / pig / horse / rabbit / crocodile / tiger / cat / mouse / snake / water buffalo"
"Crocodile, don't eat me!"


Impersonate a kindergartner:
- read the alphabet (A-apple, B-ball) as long as I have a picture chart or flash cards to look at***
- sight-read and write the words "Rayong", "Pharmacy", "Chicken" and "Egg"



Communicate the depths of my ignorance:
"Say again?"
"not correct"
"cannot"
"I don't know."
"I don't understand."
"I don't speak Thai."
"I'm sorry!"


Eat!!!
"What would you like?"
- "Fried rice with pork / seafood / grilled chicken / sticky rice / plain rice (directly translated as "beautiful rice") / thick noodles / thin noodles / papaya salad with one chili and no crab / curry, not spicy / fried egg / omelet"
- "iced tea / hot tea / water with ice / Pepsi" (say what you will about globalization but it's nice that I don't have to learn the words for Pepsi, Coke, beer, or whiskey)
- "one plate / one glass / one bottle / one person / Yes damn you, I am eating alone. Do you have a problem with that, mutherf*#$er?" (ok, I can't actually say that last part in Thai, which is probably a good thing.)
"Delicious!"


Discuss politics:
"I'm an American person. / You are a Thai person."
"Obama is very smart."
"I don't like Bush."
"good / not good"
"it doesn't matter"


Have brief but meaningful conversations about the nature of romantic attachments:
"Do you have a girlfriend / boyfriend / friend with benefits?"
"Tell the truth!"
"Man has two women, not good"
"Want a good man, handsome, good heart"
"Kiss kiss"
"A fun game"
"Finished?"


Pose existential questions about the universe:
"Why?"



Yeah, it looks respectable when I type it all out like this. But I'm sitting at a cafe, and have been listening to the folks at the next table chat for a good hour and the only words I've been able to understand are city names, numbers, and the word 'person'. If I decide to travel abroad again I'll make it a point to take at least one formal class in the language before I get there... or maybe only travel to countries that use the Roman alphabet!


TAG: Code Watermelon


* survival level for someone who spends a good bit of each day surrounded by English teachers, English students, or the English speaking Thai staff at my school.

**You may notice the paucity of nouns on this list (with the exception of food items), it's surprising how seldom you really need to use them. When I buy something, I either take it off the shelf, point to it, or bring the broken one with me to the store.

***consonants only (there are 44!) I don't know the vowels by name (there are dozens) but know the sounds of two or three when I see them in a word I know.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Sweet land of liberty...

I got hit by a car again. It was just pulling out into the road so it was barely moving and I wasn't hurt at all, but still - as a pedestrian I may as well be invisible.


One of my students went to the US for a training in Pittsburgh. At our first lesson back I asked him a lot of questions about his trip. Where did he go? What did he eat? What was the weather like? It wasn't the most spectacular of trips, but he said he had a good time. He enjoyed going to a hockey game, and he drank plenty of Budweiser. He got to see some waterfalls (he said it was Niagara Falls but unless my geography is off - that's unlikely). And of course, he ate at a Thai restaurant nearly every night. He didn't have any particularly strong opinions about anything he'd seen or done. But when I asked him what he thought of the people he lit up a bit.


"When I go to the street... to walk across the street... the people in the cars, they stop for me. I thought - oh very good! I walk across the street, every car stops."


"Yes." I smiled, a tear of pride forming in the corner of my eye. "Yes they do."




TAG: Code Apple Pie

Friday, July 10, 2009

a three hour tour

Last Tuesday was the beginning of Buddhist lent. This marks the three month period when most 20 year old men become monks. I have nothing insightful to say about that, I've been woefully negligent in exploring the religion here.


But it meant that I got the day off work. In addition, my classes were canceled on Monday so I got an unexpected three day weekend! A few other teachers and I decided to go to Ko Samet for some R&R. One thing that we all wanted to do was go on a mini-cruise around the island. For 400 baht ($11.50) you get to spend the day sitting in well worn deck chairs on a delightfully decrepit boat, do a little snorkeling, visit a fish farm, have lunch on the boat and basically just chill out. I'd been wanting to do this for a while, but didn't quite have the guts to go alone so I was really looking forward to it.


Our more or less sea-worthy vessel.



The first inkling that we had that it wouldn't quite be all we'd hoped for was when we were delayed for about an hour by a rainstorm. No problem, we sat in a cafe sipping on cha yen and watching the clouds roll in over the water. I really enjoy storm watching, I have to say. And the monsoon winds were refreshing in the 90F heat. There was no talk of canceling the trip due to bad weather... something I love about Thailand (and Oregon too for that matter) - you just go for it. And as soon as it dried up a bit we were on our way.




Not far from the pier was our first stop - the fish farm! Now I'm not sure if this is supposed to be some kind of aquarium, or if this is where the island's supply of seafood comes from or what. There were some ugly looking silvery big headed fish, a sea turtle, and an impressive leopard shark.

I failed to get a single decent photo of the fish - that you can see anything at all in this picture is a tribute to Microsoft Picture Editor. =P



Back on the boat we began our three hour tour. Well, the weather started getting rough, and our tiny ship was tossed. There was lightning in the distance and watching the dark clouds roll in against the lighter skies on the other side of the island was quite spectacular. With a mighty ba BOOM the rains started again. Between the waves we were crashing into and the rain blowing into the boat I decided it was not the best environment for my brand new camera. You'll have to take my word for it... it was something!



It had let up a bit when we made our first snorkeling/swimming stop. Several of us took a flying leap off the side of the boat to go for a swim. It was actually warmer in the water than it had been up on the boat. Naturally ... the rain started up again, but we thought- what's the point of getting out of the water? We were already as wet as we were going to get... so we just stayed bobbing in the waves and screaming into the pounding rain. It was really really really fun. If you've never gone swimming in the rain, I highly recommend it. Yeah yeah... lightning and all... but you only live once.


They called us back on board for lunch - chicken kebabs, fried rice and fresh fruit. Yummy! Poor Marie wasn't doing that well. Even when the rain stopped the winds and waves were pretty strong (for the gulf of Thailand anyway) and she ended up yakking over the side of the boat. Never a dull moment!


When we stopped for the second snorkeling opportunity of the day the weather was substantially better, but the water was so cloudy we couldn't see anything. In fact, I was right on top of a coral covered rock and didn't realize it until I turned around and there it was, two feet from my face - and still so blurry it wasn't worth looking at. So again we just swam around, and jumped off the side of the boat a few more times.

A member of the fearless crew.


All told it was a lot of fun, and very relaxing. I would like to go again when the weather is calmer so I could actually see some fish. But any day I can be out in the ocean is a good day for me.



Especially if that day finishes up with a few drinks at the bar. =)
TAG: Code Sweet Chili Sauce

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

cranky pants

I'm cranky... there's nothing wrong really... I'm just cranky. In fact I had a pretty fantastic weekend. But I'm cranky now.


All I wanted to do today was sit at my favorite coffee shop and write but it just didn't happen. I had uninvited company. You know, sometimes it surprises me how much of an introvert I am. I mean, I get lonely and I like to spend time with friends - but I generally only want to be around people whose company I enjoy. I almost never want to be around people just to be around people. But it seems that my social group now contains people who *do* want to be around people just for the sake of not being alone, and it's taken me off guard a couple of times. Someone asks "What are you doing tomorrow?" and when I answer "I'm doing xyz." they immediately respond as though I've just invited them along. Now that I know they won't wait for an invitation, I know I'll need to say "I'm doing xyz ALONE tomorrow." But wow... I was completely blindsided... twice!


And at work I found out that I've been assigned not one, not two, but THREE new private classes with children. Two of the classes will be five days a week. So I will now be teaching children six days a week. I cannot adequately express how unhappy I am with this situation, although the office staff unfortunately got a taste of it. A word to the wise... if you need to deliver bad news to someone, do not do it as soon as they walk in the door after being out in 90+ degree heat, and while they are still carrying a 20lb backpack. Give the person a chance to get settled and sit in an airconditioned room for a minute or two. Gah! I seriously (although briefly) considered quiting over this, but once I did get to sit down for a minute in the teachers lounge I reconsidered. I'm only teaching here for another three months. Still.... three months with kids... I don't know. We'll have to see how this week goes.


Also my internet connection is acting up again, surprise surprise. =/ I think it's my phone this time, it disconnects whenever it or the USB cord is jostled in the slightest. I swear just removing my hand after pressing the 'on' button is enough to dislodge it sometimes. Don't get me started on what happens when I actually start typing. It would be one thing if it were just a matter of rejiggling the phone to get it to connect again, but once it disconnects I need to wait for my computer to acknowledge the device, then dial in again. I've had to reconnect about five times since starting this post. GAH!

Ok... that's enough of the crankiness. I have to be ready for bright and smiling children first thing tomorrow morning, so I'd better get to bed now.


Grrrrrlkjda adflkfdaf kids.


TAG: Code Coconuts

(it's not actually that bad, but I honestly have been browsing for flights home)

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Independence Day

It's the fourth of July... and here that's all it is. I'm not going to lie. I'm sad. I'm really really sad. This is my favorite holiday. I am an unapologetic patriotic sap. I love the BBQs, I love the fireworks, I love going to minor league baseball games and heckling the outfielders. I regularly entertain myself by singing the National Anthem or America the Beautiful. I am very sad that I don't really get to celebrate it this year. Even if I wanted to, I don't really have any American friends here to celebrate with. The other American teacher called today and when I wished him a happy 4th he replied "oh, yeah, I forgot." without even a "yeah, you too"





So this year, I'm going to throw myself a pity party and tell you what I miss about grand old United States of America and why you shouldn't take them for granted.





1. Freedom of speech and freedom of the press.


There are topics I'm about bursting to write about here but simply won't. Yeah, there's a 99.9% chance 'the authorities' would never find out about it, but if they did there would be a genuine risk of being sent to jail. Not a risk I'm willing to take.





Censorship isn't as bad in Thailand as it is in many countries, but it is noticeable. Certain websites are blocked if they are considered 'immoral' or if they are disrespectful to the royal family. I've tried looking up things about Thailand on Wikipedia - an arguably neutral source - and run into road block after road block. There are all these protests going on right now and some significant speeches have been posted online... but I just can't access them. Certain movies have been banned, I'm sure a number of books have as well. Obviously there are ways around all of these censors... but still, it's such a shock to this American girl that I can't say or read whatever I want to.





Very nearly as important as that:


2. Western toilets. Toilets that don't require squatting, or a bucket of water to flush them. The ability to flush toilet paper down the toilet instead of collecting it in a foul smelling garbage can beside the pot.





3. Hotdogs in hotdog buns. You can get hotdogs, they are actually quite abundant here. You can buy them at the market, skewered on a stick and attractively snipped along the sides. You can also get them at 7/11. The clerk will helpfully slice them up, dump them in a plastic bag, cover them with sweet & sour sauce and hand you a stick to eat them with. I know they have hotdog buns here, I've seen them. I've just never seen them within fifty paces of an actual hotdog. Do you know what they do with them? They serve ICE CREAM in them! I swear to maude I am not making this up. I walked down the street and saw an ice cream vendor carefully placing two scoops of vanilla ice cream in a hotdog bun and handing it off to a delighted customer. OH THE HUMANITY!





4. Cheese.... I don't want to talk about it.



5. TV. I admit it. I admit it. I miss So You Think You Can Dance and Extreme Makeover Home Edition, PBS Documentaries, Lost, Food Network, all of it ALL OF IT! Yeah, of course they have TV here, but it's all in Thai. I've been stuck watching DVDs, and it's just not the same. If I were home right now I'd be parked in front of the TV and I'm just fine with that.


So you know, if you're lucky enough to be in the States right now go enjoy a hotdog (in bun), munch a bit of cheese for me, flip on the boob tube, go ahead and critique the president, and tonight when you sit on your porcelain thrown, know you're doing so in the greatest nation on Earth.


Or .... you know... at least my favorite one.

Happy Fourth of July everyone!


TAG: Code Apple Pie