30 November 2007

December Begins...

This is going to be short but effective - I got paid yesterday! Please let the trumpets roar, the bells ring, let people shout and cheer because December is going to be a busy one now that this girl is rich with baht! Today, we are heading off to Pattaya for the day. Now, if you think Bangkok is the sex capitol of the world (which it is, no doubt about that), you haven't been to Pattaya because apparently this beach town is the crown jewel of it all! Nesrine's brother-in-law has the grand opening of his new restaurant there tonight and yours truly is on the V.I.P. list!

Next weekend, I am headed off to Ko Samet - one of Thailand's many, many gorgeous islands then it will be lots of cheesy Christmas shows at school (complete with lots of singing Christmas carols!) and Christmas shopping, then 2 weeks off over Christmas where I will be headed to Chiang Mai in the north to go elephant trekking, Ko Samui in the south for more sun and finally back to Bangkok for New Year's!

I am following through on my promise - my life will get a lot more interesting! I will post lots of goodies from Pattaya and stuff later this week! Hope all is well with everyone, and enjoy the snow for me while I bathe in the sunny 80 degree weather here! A special shout-out to my Grandma - I am praying for you G'ma and love you very much!

25 November 2007

Loy Krathong

What a week of craziness - beauty pageants, theatre performances, teaching, immigration runs, the works. Not to mention, my first Thai holiday, Loy Krathong! Held every November under the full moon, Loy Krathong is a beautiful tradition dating back to the Sukhothai period. Children, parents and people of all ages apologize to the water gods for treating the rivers, canals and lakes poorly while asking for good luck in the coming year. Literally meaning "float" (loy) and "lotus-shaped boat" (krathong), Thai people offer their forgiveness by floating lotus-shaped boats lighted with candles along waterways. Needless to say, it was one of the most beautiful, lovely sights!

Suzi, Lauren, Nesrine and I headed to the local temple where all the Saimai residents were out and about, krathongs in hand! Food stands selling everything from dumplings to good ol' meat on a stick lined the streets, loudspeakers had someone jabbering away in Thai (I have no idea what was said there!) and stands selling krathongs made from flowers, bread or anything biodegradable (the Thais are very conscious of global warming) makes this one of the happiest holidays in here.

I had to get myself my own krathong, which cost me nothing (only 20 baht = 60 cents) so I could apologize to the water gods myself, seeing as I am going to be a resident of here for another 4 months! A proper krathong has 4 parts - the boat, incense sticks, at least one candle and a coin (usually 1 or 5 baht - the water gods can clearly be bought with money). Here is me floating my krathong along the canal!

However, the best part about Loy Krathong is not the boats or the meat on a stick or even the fried bananas (which are delish - you must try!). The best part about Loy Krathong is the week's festivities leading up to the holiday, which at Sarasas Witaed Saimai School includes kindergarten beauty pageants, dance competitions (including a teacher skit featuring moi) and an all-school beauty pageant. Oh yes, let the good times roll!

The week started off like any other although Loy Krathong fever was in the air. Walking around school, I caught peeks of On (a Thai teacher who is fabulously gay) teaching kindergarteners how to walk in high heels about 10 sizes too big for them, young girls practicing their singing for another upcoming competition and girls trying on their beautiful Thai silk outfits for the pageant. (***Note: These Thai silk dresses and skirts are absolutely gorgeous!) I just knew I was going to like Loy Krathong.

Finally, Friday hit - the big day. Unfortunately, the school also decided Friday would a good day to ship me off to the Ministry of Labour (to pick up my work permit) then shuffle me over to Immigration, where I had to update my visa status. So, needless to say, I was a bit crushed because I missed most of the Loy Krathong activities. However, I arrived back at school just after lunchtime to catch the results of the all-school beauty pageant for grades 1-3! Yes! Dolled in their Thai silk, ornate headdresses and slathered with make-up, these girls looked like little dolls up onstage. Take a look for yourself!

Pimmada (the little girl who I hang out with on Wednesday nights) won 3rd runner-up, then Pichada (the girl who's mom picks us up to bring us to school every morning) won the entire thing, so my girls did me proud! They were so cute!

On Friday night, I also performed in a small teacher skit at a local university which was holding a dance competition for Loy Krathong. So, right smack dab in the middle of beautiful Thai dancing as well as more modern dancing (just like out of a U.S. dance recital), I performed a small skit about Loy Krathong in front of hundreds of people! The funny part is it was more of a advertisement for the school more than anything else, but I think I definitely got my big break. The scouts are calling me non-stop now - Hollywood here I come!

Okay, maybe not, but the good news is that even though I won't be starring in any major movies anytime soon, I get paid on Friday, and I got my 12 mile run out of the way this morning. So, things are looking up regardless. My life is going get a lot more interesting on the blog once I get paid, promise! Alright, well time to head out but I hope all is well back home and take care everyone. Happy Loy Krathong!

16 November 2007

This and That

This post is deservedly called "This and That," because I have a great collection of tidbits from this past week! Again, the weeks seem to be flying right by me! The kiddies - although wildy rambunctious and raucous, not to mention the fact they love to hear the sound of their own voices way too much - make for some great stories.

However, first, me and my great spur of the moment ideas have decided to run a marathon. Yes, run 26.2 miles for no apparent reason other that to put my body under stress and pain like it has never before felt. The Khon Kaen Marathon (http://www.khonkaenmarathon.com/) is apparently "the greatest marathon of Thailand." So on January 27th, you can find me in northeastern Thailand running my little heart out! It's something I have wanted to do, so I figured, why not in Thailand? It makes for a much better story!

Another funny tidbit...this week the students of grade 1C had a spelling test on "Animals." Pet animals and farm animals to be exact. Well, #4 was the word horse. Little Supicha (seen here in possibly one of the cutest pictures ever) racked her brain for the spelling, and instead of h-o-r-s-e, came up with w-h-o-r-e-s. Yes, whores. But with a face like this, who really cares?

Another funny side note...I have slowly but surely been discovering all my student's "nicknames" or "English names" (refer to previous post for explanation). I am going to prove to you all how much the Thais (and myself included) love 7-11. I kid you not, there is one every 50 feet and am convinced the only reason 7-11 as a business is still afloat is because of Thailand. In addition to that, parents even name their children after the convenience store here! It is true, Attakan's (my little pelvic thruster) nickname is Seven.

Here is just a nice little shot I took from the top floor of the school - which looks out over a series of beautiful, green rice paddies to southwest. If you keep going this way, eventually you will run into the heart of downtown Bangkok!

Other shenanigans from the week? Well, this week in English we are working on "Clothes," and one of the vocabulary words is underwear. With each vocab word, I had the students point to someone with that article of clothing on. We got to underwear and to hopefully avoid a compromising scene, I said (with an air of firmness), "Now, don't show me your underwear!" Clearly, I should have known better because before I knew it, half the boys in my class were already prancing around the classroom, showing off their Superman and Batman underwear. I didn't know what to do, so I laughed and prayed nobody from administration would walk by at that moment. Which, thank the Lord, they didn't!

Other than that, it is the same ol', same ol' in the classroom - mass chaos, pelvic thrusting, lots of talking and me, hoping that at least one child in my class is learning something. Anything. Unfortunately, Lauren and I are still living on a budget, although last night I accidentally blew about half my week's budget at Big C - the Thai equivalent of Target. It's the things like Big C that make you feel right at home.

The plan for today is up in the air - probably going to the pool (free!) and getting myself a proper tan, since I am in 90 degree weather in the middle of November! This girl needs to start taking full advantage! We also need to pay our electric bill, which you can do at 7-11 (I tell you, you can do anything at 7-11 in this country!), and I have a big 11-mile run tomorrow to rest up for! Unfortunately, nothing super exciting for you all, but I will leave you with Pam and I - making the face that we always make toward one another. Enjoy!

10 November 2007

Veggin' Out

I am going to have to apologize to you all beforehand - I have gotten pretty good at making this whole Thailand experience look like an adventure, which it has been, don't get me wrong people. But this weekend, well...I don't think any amount of exaggeration would be able to make it seem interesting, haha! It was one of those weekends which confirmed that no, I am not on a perpetual, 7-month vacation here, and yes, I do work and live here. Key words being work and live.

Friday night we headed to go to Central Ram Inthra - one of a million shopping malls in the Bangkok area - to see "The Playbook," (the new movie with The Rock) only to find that it was only in Thai - not English. Slight problem. Then, instead of shopping, I spent over an hour browsing Boots - the British pharmacy which has transplanted itself in Thailand!

Yesterday, I bummed around Saimai - went for a run, did laundry, hung out by the pool for a couple hours, went for a pedicure (you are never too poor for a 100 baht=3$ pedi!) then walked around Wongsakorn Market, which is the biggest market in Saimai. Here is a lovely shot of my main market's entrance!

The best part of the day was definitely our Thai feast! Us young, female teachers - Suzi, Joanne, Lauren and I - went to Suzi's house, ordered a plethora of dishes from the local restaurant and stuffed our faces with all the deliciousness, including my favorite - Som Tum Polaimai! It is fruit (guava, pineapple, pears, grapes) and vegetables (green beans, tomatos, carrots) in a slightly spicy sauce - the BEST! We also had suki and Som Tum (spicy papaya salad), along with other soups, noodles dishes, fried fish and of course, rice and khai dao (fried egg)! Oh man...now this is good Thai cooking!

After dinner - fully stuffed like a Thanksgiving turkey - I was actually pretty tired. I think all this teaching, running around and flitting about from here to there caught up with me, because I slept for like 12 hours last night! Now, I am ready and rarin' to go - although, I think it might be another veg out day in Saimai. Oh well, we are probably going to need all the energy we can get for the kiddies this week. As for next weekend, Lauren and I are thinking Buddhist meditation retreat...going to see if I can make it happen!

08 November 2007

Classroom Craziness

Oh…the first full week back teaching after break is coming to a close. Thank the Lord! I started off so patient with the children – lovingly guiding them to the correct answers on worksheets, giving them praise for coloring jobs well done and overall, boosting their self-esteem so they could feel good about their English skills. Then, I lost my patience. It is nowhere to be found at the moment. here are the little rascals actually behaving in the classroom, in somewhat of a rare moment.

My kiddies in grade 1C are still rambunctious, but the good news is that this semester, I lost two of my most out-of-control boys, so the class has quieted down a bit. And I mean, a bit. I also started teaching after-school, which is pretty much one hour from 3:30 – 4:30pm where you babysit the children until school is out. On Mondays and Tuesdays, I have six girls, and they are so much fun!

Pornpawee is my fave – she is short, chubby and just about the sweetest little girl in the world. In Thailand, children are given their Thai names by a Buddhist monk when they are born (in other words, Pornpawee’s parents are not to blame for their daughter’s name). Their parents give them a nickname or English name, which is used by family and friends. Well, I asked little Pornpawee what her nickname was and she said quite simply, “Pam.” Yes, her English name is Pam, and she is totally, 100% a Pam. Little Pammy is the one in the bottom right hand corner.

Also this week, I have had Attakan singing Maroon 5’s song, “This Love” all week on top of Pavin drawing suicidal people jumping from buildings into cars (We are in our environments unit, and he was asked to draw a city environment. That’s what he came up with). Today, I wore a white, flowy dress, and now all the girl’s in my class are coming up to me, rubbing my stomach and saying “Baby! Baby!” Yes, my students think I am pregnant. Great ego boost for me.

An even bigger ego-boost happened today at lunch. I was walking from the canteen to get lunch from the teacher’s lunchroom. The Thai gym teacher, Chanon, happens to teach gym between those two areas, and he was teaching grade 7 boys soccer. Well, as I was walking, the ball came towards me so I thought, “Hey! Let’s show these boys that the cool American teacher can play soccer too.” So, I went to kick the ball, completely slipped on my gold ballet flats, was hurtled into the air and landed smack dab on my right elbow. Not only did I flash 10 grade 7 boys in the process (remember the white, flowy dress?), but now I have an elbow the size of a tennis ball. No joke. Friday cannot come soon enough.

Now, I have one more class left before the end of the day, then after-school class, a little Internet and then off to the gym tonight, although no lifting with the injured elbow! Hope all is well back home! Sawatdee kah!

03 November 2007

Moopin' Around

We are back, back again in Bangkok...but this time, with a visitor! Our dear friend Steve-O - who we acquainted ourselves with on the long, treacherous lurching bus ride through Laos - happened to swing by this crazy metropolis before he leaves back to England today, so we were able to reunite with our British mate! Since Steve had yet to properly see Bangkok, it was only natural that Lauren and I bring him to only the best sights. Clearly, our first stop was crazy Chatuchak Market!

Now...if you look closely at this picture (I guess you don't need to look close because it is pretty obvious) you will see a lovely mural of the King Rama IX plastered on the side of the building! One of my favorite things in Thailand is that a majority - and I definitely mean more than half - of the buildings here have ginormous King murals on multiple sides of their building. This one happens to be in Queen Sirikit Park, which is situated just outside the chaotic consumerism that is Chatuchak Weekend Market!

Another note...the King is currently in poor health - I mean, the man is going to be 80 years old this December for heaven's sake (which is a national holiday and a vacation day for moi!). Let's hope for a quick recovery because supposedly, this country is going to descend into widespread craziness if he passes away! You can also get jailed for saying anything bad about the royal family, so I am going to refrain from telling more. As much as I would love to spend seven years in Thai jail, I am going to keep quiet! King Rama IX is not only the world's longest reigning monarch (take that Queen Lizzie!), but he has done loads of community development work. One example, he is helping out poor hill tribes earn money by promoting local artisan crafts. What a King!

After navigating the maze that is Chatuchak Market (which, miracle of miracles, I did not buy one thing at yesterday!), we brought Steve to another Bangkok trademark - Siam Paragon! I think I have mentioned that Paragon is by far the nicest shopping mall I have ever been in - Gucci, Versace, Armani, Dolce and Gabbana - they have it all!

They also happen to have a most delish gourmet food market - which much to my delight, I discovered yesterday! With a large supermarket, bakeries, fruit stands, restaurants and stands selling local delicacies, it is a cross between Whole Foods and Kowalski's. Heaven, I'd say! Littered with free samples, the three of us spent hours browsing everything and got much of our dinner for free! Having a built-in radar for finding sickenly sweet sweets, I discovered the Thai dessert roti. Oh man...after turning the dough so it is literally paper thin, they fold it up into a circle, fry it on a large griddle with butter, then proceed to chop this flaky delight up into pieces, put it in a cute little Tupperware container and drizzle it with milk and sugar. I don't know what else to say but perfecto!

After finally leaving Siam Paragon following our 2-hour eating samples binge, we headed back out to Silom - where we continued the market extravaganza with the night markets! Bootlegged DVD's, designer clothes & purses, lamps, shoes, belts, clothes, food - you name it, they've knocked off the originals! This is a really fun area of the city to browse, not only because of the shopping (I am slowly learning that Asia is one big consumer society!), but because Silom is the area where people go out, party at night and all that jazz.

Which means...knowing Bangkok and the fact it's pretty much the sex capitol of the world, Silom is one of the centers of the sex show industry. Enter the moop. The moop is a new term - coined and hopefully, in the future, trademarked by Steve, Lauren and I - to signify the presence of what they like to call, a ladyboy. Wherever you walk, you are accosted by men offering you invitations to shows featuring scantily clad women - ping pong shows, banana shows, sex shows...I think you get the picture. However, you may find that many of these "women" are not in fact real "women," but instead, ladyboys or more properly speaking, transvestites. So, everytime we saw one, we'd say "Moop!" Now, there are different varying degrees of the moop - dependent upon the degree of the ladyboy - but all you need to know is that the moop looks something like this...

Overall, we clearly had quite a lovely day in Bangkok showing Steve around! Now, it is Sunday once again, and our agenda for today? Maybe a little pool (the rainy season is gone!), a little massage (there is always enough money in the budget for a massage), definitely a work-out, then relax before the school week starts all back over again tomorrow! So far so good at school, here's to another good week with the kiddies!