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Thursday, December 30, 2010

Glad to be Plaid

Last weekend our make-shift Christmas was a complete success, there was a lot of baking, some Uno, a dip in the rooftop pool (first time I've ever gotten a sunburn on Christmas Day!), and a lot of relaxing with our friends.  This week has been yet another chaotic, busy week at school with night classes for the students seeking entrance to the English Program next year, and the students have been rowdy because they're so excited about today's New Year festivities - they have no class and free reign to party all day long.  They've brought in a ridiculous buffet of goodies and decorations and it looks like it will be quite the throwdown.  My boss just walked out of the office with two bottles of red wine for the EP staff - no big deal that it's 9:30 a.m. - wine is something special in Thailand, it's rare to find it on a shelf.

Last night the school had a New Year's party for all of the faculty and staff at Sa-nguan Ying and the theme was....COWBOY NIGHT.  It was legendary.  I've never seen so much plaid, leather, fringe, and 10 gallon hats in one place in Thailand, and I doubt I ever will again!  Everyone was so cute and super into the theme, I rocked an American flag scarf my mom had conveniently shipped my way a few weeks back and some serious pigtails.  There was (loud) karaoke all night long with a set-list that included Dolly Parton and a raffle featuring prizes such as rice cookers, fans, a washing machine, and a refrigerator - I took home some new Tupperware - lucky duck!

This weekend we have Friday and Monday off for the holiday and Nell and I will be packing our bags and heading for the train station...destination unknown!  We're hoping by some miracle to make it up to Chiang Mai but we've been told the buses/trains are all sold out - so we may end up anywhere in Thailand or even across the border in Laos.  Cheers (Choc-tee-ka) to exploring the unknown! : )

Happy New Year to all, welcome 2011!

Friday, December 24, 2010

Merry Christmas!! (สุขสันต์วันคริสต์มาส และสวัสดีปีใหม่)

Merry Christmas!! สุขสันต์วันคริสต์มาส และสวัสดีปีใหม่ !

While I'm very sad to miss out on the Rall family's celebrations in Zurich, Switzerland this year...

I'm also looking forward to enjoying the Holidays in Thailand.

This week I introduced my students to "Elf" and played many rounds of Christmas BINGO where they flipped out over the candy canes they took home as prizes - Thanks, Em!  Our school hosted a lovely Christmas lunch this afternoon with Thai food and pizza, it was very cute and much appreciated that they put on the feast for us even though the staff is mainly Buddhist.
95 Degrees on Christmas Eve!

Tonight Nell and I will be celebrating by watching Christmas movies, blasting our air conditioning so that we can wear sweatpants and sweatshirts and drink hot chocolate, skyping with some lucky folks back home, and enjoying some imported cheese and prosecco! Tomorrow morning I'll head into Bangkok to enjoy a Christmas service at an international church before I join 6 of my friends in a hotel penthouse suite that features an oven (nonexistent features in 98% of Thailand homes)...I'm so excited to do a little baking, I'm thinking some of these and these.  
It's been a rough week with some drama inside and outside of the classroom so I'm grateful for the opportunity to unwind and focus on something cheerful!

Merry Christmas to all! : )

A little Glee "O Holy Night" action for you: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=797PEUAIiAk

Merry Christmas from the pig at our local dalat (market) 
Pretty sure Santa gets around by Tuk Tuk here!

Monday, December 20, 2010

The Dog Days Are Over

I've always had a fear of dogs.  It's not that I don't like them.  It's just that they make me nervous and I always think they are going to attack me.  Thailand has done absolutely nothing to assuage this lifelong fear.  The streets of Thailand, and Suphanburi especially, are teeming with stray dogs, and while occasionally a cute one will come along, for the most part they appear to carry a wide variety of diseases and they are not so nice.

Which brings me to this story... Nell and I stuck around Suphanburi this weekend to get some things done and take a break from our whirlwind travels. On Sunday we decided to head to the Suphan train station to attempt to buy tickets to Chiang Mai for New Year's break (sold out! Fail).  The train station isn't an active stop from what I can tell, but they do sell tickets, so we hopped on a songtow and after asking a few people for directions, we turned down a moped ride and took off by foot down a rather deserted road.  We were walking along train tracks so we knew we were headed the right way.  Initially there were other people along the way, however, we soon found ourselves on the road by ourselves in between two rice paddies - with the train station in sight in the distance.  As we were walking along we noticed an abandoned shack with a makeshift metal fence, and then before we could react we saw three very large, very angry dogs sprint through the fence and run right up to us.  I'm pretty sure my heart immediately stopped beating.  It was a total face off as they stood at our feet and barked viciously.  As Nell and I freaked out, I had visions of our flesh being torn to shreds and I considered giving in and letting them eat me, but we decided to stay very still and assess the best way to go (not to the left or right since that would be into the rice paddies).  As we considered backtracking we looked back only to see 5 more dogs sprint up the road towards us and join in the chorus of barking (possibly rabid) dogs at our feet.  Being surrounded by 8 barking dogs is literally my nightmare.  My heart was pounding, I started praying, my voice was shaking, and Nell and I both thought we were going to die on a dirt road and never be discovered.  Nell said she decided she would take the first bite since she was able to get rabies shots before she left the States, but I don't think it would have mattered, once they bit one of us they probably would have eaten us both!

I'm not sure what the best strategy is in this situation, but the one that worked for us was to stay very still for a few minutes, show the dogs that you're not going to hurt them, and then walk backwards away from them before turning and then speed-walking away.  Needless to say, once we escaped and made it to the train station, we did not take the dirt road back! We cut across the train tracks and walked alongside the highway back into town.  All of the farangs here seem to have different solutions for dealing with the dogs - I have 2 friends that have already been bit - one that required the 6 rabies shots and the other just left a big bruise - and I think we have all decided that the days of dog as man's best friend are on hold while we're living here.  I might try to go get some fire poppers to scare the dogs should this situation ever occur again, hopefully not!

The Dog Days Are Over: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iWOyfLBYtuU

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Happy Constitution Day!

Last week was an odd one, we had no class on Monday for His Majesty The King's birthday - a very, very big deal in Thailand!  Then, Tuesday to Thursday, I had no class with my M.3's because they were all away at Scout Camp - also seemingly a very big deal in Thailand.  Friday we had yet another public holiday, Constitution Day, where Thai people show gratitude to the monarchy for allowing them to take part in governing the country - fun fact: Thailand has had 17 constitutions and charters since absolute monarchy was overthrown on December 10, 1932. (Thank you, Wikipedia.)  To mark the holiday, I took off for Kanchanaburi and its mountains and waterfalls to meet up with some fellow CIEE teachers.

Friday evening once we all arrived we walked around town, checked out some of the markets and took in the World War 2 and Jeath War Museum near the Bridge over the River Kwai.  The museum was basically a collection or random artifacts, rusty armour, bizarre sculptures and a Kimodo dragon out front to add a little excitement.  It was certainly not your typical war museum.  

The next morning half of the group took off for Erawan Falls, which I've already hiked, so Nell and I planned on hitting up the Hin Dat Hot Springs instead, but when we got to the bus station we realized that due to the lack of planning on our part we wouldn't have much time to enjoy the springs since they were a 3 hour bus ride from town.  After staring at a map of the province for a bit we decided to check out Sai Yok Noi Waterfall in Sai Yok National Park.  Once we arrived we quickly realized we were garnering as much attention as the waterfalls as several tourists pointed their cameras at us rather than the falls, I guess Sai Yok is more popular with Thai travelers than tour groups, they were excited to see song farangs! (2 white people!)  The waterfall was not huge but impressive nonetheless and the surrounding area was very beautiful.  We followed signs around the park to a bat cave, but they really just led us into an open field with a Thai mountain man and his cattle.  We did eventually stumble upon the entrance to the bat cave that required kerosene lamps, but since we were the only people there, and the Park Ranger was passed out and snoring in his stand, we decided to save that adventure for another day.  We made it back to town that night and grabbed dinner and drinks with our friends before calling it a day to head back to the Soup early the next morning.  

Now I'm back in the Soup and back to teaching, in the past 2 days Suphanburi has decided to become an unofficial sauna, every time I walk outside I feel like I'm getting a steam-bath, so much for that "cool season." Apparently, it's over and hot season is rolling in - I hope I survive!

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Things I never thought I'd say...and then I moved to Thailand.

  • Do you have any smaller bills? I only have thousands...
  • I have 13 mosquito bites on my left ankle.  Hmm...maybe I should start taking my malaria meds.
  • This dessert is way too sweet.
  • It's so cold this morning! It feels like it's almost 80 degrees! Where's my monogrammed school letter jacket?
  • Thank you, geckos in my bedroom, for eating all the flies.
  • I should probably buy another pink collared shirt, I only have 2.
  • 200 Baht (6 Dollars) for a ridiculously good Thai meal? Yeah right, that's way too expensive.
  • Bummer that you're sick, but I love your jewel encrusted surgical mask.
  • I love that ladyboys outfit, so adorable!
  • This soap opera is so good, I love the 10 minute death scenes in the woods that happen every episode, I just wish I could understand what they are saying.
  • I love drinking my coke and iced coffee out of a plastic bag.  Cups are so last year.
  • I know it's only been a week, but I already need another Thai massage.
  • I can't believe I've only eaten rice once this whole week! I mean, I know it's Monday, but still, that's impressive.
  • Pineapple is so much better when you dip it in this salt/sugar/chili pepper mix.
  • I wonder what karaoke song I should sing at tonight's party: "When You Say Nothing At All" by Ronan Keating or "Barbie Girl"?
  • Hey look, a white person! They must be lost. 

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Beach Club Asia

Back from yet another weekend of traveling - this time to the Deep South - in Thailand that means...Phuket!! This was no ordinary trip, it was also a Studio 911/ Kairos 67/ Beach Club reunion!

Nell and I were giddy all week looking forward to the arrival of our BFF Lauren or "Seyf" as we know her.  Seyf is studying in Singapore this semester as she finishes up her Masters in Public Policy from Georgetown (she's a smart one!), and after her final exams she decided to come visit us. On Thursday, we picked her up from the airport and brought her back to the Soup to show off our hometown. I think Seyf was surprised how remote our city is - I'm not lying when I say we live amidst the rice paddies! Seyf was able to come to school with us on Friday, meet the kids, enjoy our favorite lunch spot, and sample the best iced coffee before a mad rush back to Bangkok to catch the overnight bus to Phuket.  (Side note: the overnight bus services have vastly improved since my previous experience with my brothers in 2004, aside from the ridiculous Thai movie they showed- as Seyf said "Why is this happening to us?", it was a smooth ride.)

Once we found a nice hostel in Patong, we hit up the beach where we lounged for the afternoon (hello, sunburn!) before checking out the market in town, relaxing with a 1 hour Thai massage ($6, NBD), and enjoying some Pad Thai for dinner.  The next morning we had an early wake up call for a full day tour of the Phi Phi islands by speedboat.  The islands are stunning with limestone cliffs, white sand beaches, and water that is a ridiculous turquoise/teal blue too beautiful to be real.  We were able to swim at a few points, take some jumping shots on the beach, and check out the underwater life while snorkeling.  It was an awesome adventure with 2 of my favorite people in the world - who else wants to come visit?!?

We finished off the trip with a delish breakfast on the beach that consisted of Thai iced coffee, fresh pineapple and mango, and warm muffins and croissants.  We then said a teary good-bye at the airport as we flew back to Bangkok and Seyf took off for a week in Cambodia - jealous!

As a footnote, I was curious to see what the lasting effects of the 2004 Tsunami would be, especially since the last time I visited the Phi Phi islands was in April of '04 before it happened, but beyond a few signs noting a tsunami evacuation route, I really didn't see any evidence of the tragedy that had occurred.  I always expect a place to be deeply marked by a disaster like that, and while I'm certain the people all have stories to tell, I was surprised not to see any physical remnants. Thailand really invested in getting this tourist hot-spot back in order - apparently with help from European governments donating to the cause as a thanks for the Thai response towards European citizens on the ground in the immediate aftermath.   It's especially impressive to me since my favorite US city, New Orleans, is still so far from the finish line in its own rebuilding efforts after Hurricane Katrina.

New pics on Facebook here:

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