26 May 2010

Random Musings on Thailand

Thailand is just an overall funny place. The following are some random musings I've observed that really make me love this country.

  1. There is one 'major' stoplight between my house and main street in San Kam Paeng, Chiang Mai. Going into town, the red light is burned out, so you have to remember that when no lights are illuminated it means stop. Going out of town, the green light is burned out, so you have to remember that when no lights are illuminated it means go. The chances of either light ever being fixed are as good as a regnant ice age hitting Southeast Thailand. I just hope I can keep my directions and light failures straight so that I don't become the first ever pancake to be made in Thailand.
  2. The mopeds here are ridiculous in so many ways, like quantity, carrying capacity, and frequency. The moped is integral to a Thai lifestyle, like spouts are integral to teapots or 'ens' are essential to 'beginnings.' I have seen whole families of four on a single (albeit squished) moped, and whole produce sections on a moped, complete with about 20 different kinds of Asian vegetables. The ability of riders to adjust their motorcycles to meet their exact needs is truly astounding. Side carts are taken to a whole new level as people fit all sorts of things into them, such as an entire fruit smoothie station or a sausage cart in full.

21 May 2010

Historic Heat

Well, my undercover blogging is probably not necessary anymore. The lockdown has been lifted, the red-shirts went home or to jail, most (physical) fires have been extinguished, and the attention in Thailand is turning back to mangoes, mopeds, monasteries & monks, massages, and marsupials. (I threw that last one in there just because I wanted to see if I knew how to spell it.) I went back to my school (Ban Nag Kuak School) without my fellow farang (Caucasian/Westerner) who is engaged in his second day of sickness. 'Like knives to the stomach' he describes. I taught my little Thai babies how to count to 100 and beyond, what the color purple was, and how to form basic sentences such as "The teacher is purple." Hehe, I love messing with their minds. Just kidding- they are too precious to mess around with. These kids are great. They run up to you and shout "Hello! Good Afternoon Teeeeechir!" and stick their hand out for you to shake.

19 May 2010

Lockdown in Thailand

How to pass the time when your in lockdown during a civil war... Let's see here... I could count the teats on the cows in my backyard since I can see them from my window; I could name the creatures living in my bathroom (actually I already have- Milli the millipede, Carl the cockroach, and Gary the gecko); I could locate my passport under mounds of melted chocolate and Thai coins- in case of imminent departure; I could pick up a new sport that can be played indoors, such as lampspeed, a fast-paced game that combines intellect, speed, water, electricity, and a little bit of luck; or I could find the most uncomfortable position on my bed. Those are just the few things that have come to mind in the last fifteen minutes or so. Or I could pretend I am a high-profile news blogger in the throes of the action with pertinent information that must be disseminated. Thailand is a mess right now! Everyone is angry, except where I live in San Kampaeng! The only indication of a change I have is an increased police presence at the market (it went from 0 officers seen in 5 days to 2 officers seen in one day!) and a truck full of men that I speculated was headed to Chaing Mai for some action, but it was only speculation. I have been told to pack up my things, cease my internship until further notice, and be on the ready to evacuate at any moment. So now I sit, wait, read, and blog.

18 May 2010

My First Day of School

In the contiguous states I am David. In the Hawai'ian islands and England I am Wallace. In Thailand I am Steven. Here's how I got my Thai nickname, 'Steven.' It happened when I was introduced to the teachers at my school, all who are shorter than a giraffe with no neck or legs.
Me: Sawadii Krap. I am David.
Them: Steven?
Me: No, David.
Them: Steven?
Me: No. I am David.
Them: Steven!
Me: Let’s try this again. My name is D…A…V…I…D (saying it slowly)
Them: S…T…E…V….E…N (Saying it slowly) You have Thai nickname?
Me: Yes, Thai nickname is Steven…
I’m not sure if Steven is a Thai nickname or not but that seems to be what they think my name is so I guess I’ll just roll with it. Now I am David, Wallace, or Steven depending on the continent. I really am turning into Jason Bourne.

13 May 2010

My First day in a Chiang Mai Suburb

To be honest, I'm not quite sure where I am. I am not in Chiang Mai, but rather some suburb of it. I don't know how far I am from the city. Heck, truthfully I'm not even sure if I am still in Thailand! I'm pretty dang sure I'm not in America, though. The evidence: no one here speaks English (then again, there are whole parts of America where no one speaks English- I'm looking at you Minnesota) and everyone here has dark skin and bad teeth. But, the Thai's are extremely friendly. When we ride our bikes past them they wave, stare like we were made of gold, and flash us their gigantic, toothless grins (one per person). We really do turn heads here; I have only seen one other American in this small town. It's rural here.
I have three geckos and a long centipede as bathroom-mates (they are always in there and despite me asking for some privacy, they just won't leave!) and we have three sickly cows as backdoor neighbors. There is also a rooster that works perfectly well as an alarm clock, except that he is hard to set. Very consistent though. I think he may have been on my tin roof today. Something was up there walking around at an early hour anyway.
Riding bikes in this town is an experience hard to describe. Because we are treated like royalty no one gives us a hard time, but still I think we get in the way a little on the roads. They are so narrow that if there's a parked car we have to pull into traffic, generally with 6 inches of space on either side of our bikes between the parked car and the cars zipping by. Very thrilling, and if you get stuck behind a truck- good luck!

12 May 2010

My Introduction to Chiang Mai

I have made it to Chiang Mai. It is a "three days' journey" from my homeland, but I am here safe and sound. I don't know what it means to be 'sound' but I think I am that. I am sound and hearing all right. I am staying with a Buddhist host family that speaks less English than I speak German: "Die affe spielen die klavier." (Translation: The monkey plays the piano.) That's all the German I speak. I think my host family is friendly because they brought me a fan and they fed me when I pointed at my stomach. How else would you define friendliness?
My bathroom is very interesting. The bathroom is a one large room so that I can shower while I sit on the toilet and brush my teeth. Not that I would, but if I was in a huge rush I might.... Okay, I tried it just for fun yesterday. The drain on the sink follows some PVC pipe down the bathroom wall and then just ends. When the sink water leaves the piping it just goes down the same drain as the shower. It makes me wonder what the purpose of the overflow drain in the shower is for. So what if the drain overflows? It's all going the same place anyway. I made a little game seeing how long it takes for me to spit in the sink and then for the toothpaste to make it to the drain. I think my record so far is like 4.5 seconds. It's just hard to rush it along, you know? It's also really fun to shower with the geckos.

Travel To Thailand

I have spent the past three days travelling from Boston to Thailand. It has been a long three days, with over 23 hours spent on an airplane and over 14 hours spent at an airport between flights. But, I made it to Chiang Mai- the Rose of the North. I would like to tell you why I love the Japanese. I spent four hours in the Tokyo Narita airport between a 12.5 hour flight and a 6.5 hour flight. While I was there I wanted some water. Approaching the nearest vending machine I found a bottle of water inside labeled "Narita's Sweat." There are lots of aquatic nouns that would make me want to pay 1,000 Yen for just a taste of the sparkling deliciousness- cascade, flowing river, and waterfalls all come to mind. Plus, I don't know how much 1,000 Yen actually is so I wouldn't know if I was getting scammed or a steal. Anyway, sweat is not one of those words at the front of my thirst brain. I opted for the water fountain.
While waiting for my plane in the terminal, another reason to love the Japanese came to mind: their persistence. About every four and a half minutes a small, little airline employee would come by and say- right in my ear- "Last call for United 3405 to Houston!" I smiled and shook my head. She would go walk around yelling the same thing and then come back to me, "Last call for United 3405 to Houston!" She seemed absolutely astonished that I was an American and I wasn't on the flight going back to America. Really, she seemed absolutely shocked. I tried to explain that I had just come from there, but it was getting through. Thinking there as no way that I wasn't supposed to be on that flight except that maybe I didn't understand her broken English, she said again- pointing to the sign- "Last call for United 3405 to Houston!" Again I smiled and went back to my book. In utter frustration that I wasn't getting on her plane, she walked off yelling the same thing. Then five minutes later another vertically challenged Japanese woman would come by, "Last call for Delta 2901 to Portland!" and the process would repeat. It was great. I learned that Japan does not have equal employer opportunity laws. Not once did I see a male airline employee associated with a Japanese airline. Every flight attendant was female, all the ticket agents were female, and I think I even saw a ponytail on the baggage handler. Amazing. Where are all the men?
I have only been in Chiang Mai for a few hours, but when I get more accustomed to what's going on I'll write again. I can't post pictures because I have an ADSL internet connection and it takes ten minutes per picture.

I'd rather write.

03 May 2010

My Issues With Plastic Army Men

I was playing Army-Men last week, having as delightful a time as one can have when pretending small, green men are alive and hostile towards one another. I was impressed with the composure of the generals as they boldly directed their troops, and at the flag bearers who held strong while waving their colors (green and green, from both sides) proudly. The bravery of the front line soldiers was commendable and the mortar soldiers fired away as if they their lives depended on it- and really, their lives did depend on it.
But then I saw a soldier that really addled me. While all the comrades surrounding him were valiantly defending their rights and freedoms, this soldier was looking for loose change! He had his nifty little metal detector and was vigilantly perusing the dirty battlefield for gold, silver, nickle, or whatever else might elicit monetary value. I was supremely offended at his disrespect for his fellow soldiers fighting so courageously while he tried to make some extra money. I made sure that he was eliminated fairly quickly by the opponents. He was taken out by a bazooka, in fact. I guess all I'm saying is that if you are called to go to war, may you be blessed, and please don't go out trying to make some extra money from extra change. That's just not cool.
Please note that the perpetrator in question is the man in the fourth row, third column. Everyone else appears to be hard at work while he is looking for gold!