Monday, December 27, 2010

A season of friends

The holidays for most people mean getting together with family. This was my fifth (i think, correct me if im wrong mom) Christmas holiday spent away from my family. I know some people will say but your Jewish! Thats true, but I did grow up spending this time with family, and in America even for a Jew this season makes you want to spend time with family.  I'm not sure if we have spent Thanksgiving together in a while either... dont get me wrong, we still get together and celebrate but we do it on our own time, Christmas in January! I almost think I like that more, we pick the day when we get together.
It can be hard though when everyone around you is getting together with family. I have been extremely lucky to have an amazing friends who always take me in and let me join their families for the day.
This year was actually easier than being in the states and away from my family. In America you cant forget Christmas is coming. In fact it seems to come earlier every year! Back home we are surrounded by people getting ready for the holidays. I like this time of year back home, its fun and festive, and I like trying to find the perfect gifts for people. But when you are surrounded by Christmas you cant forget its Christmas. Since Thailand is a Buddhist country your not reminded at every turn its Christmas. It just feels like a normal un-festive time of the year and, for me at least, that makes it much easier not to be around family because it just doesn't feel like the right time of year.
I forget how important this time of year is to people and how much they want to be with family. I felt like a fly on the wall watching my friends experience their first Christmas away from home. I know it was a hard day for them but for me it was a great day. I spent Christmas eve with Jeff and our friend Ashley, we went to Sizzler for Christmas eve dinner, splurged on steak and a bottle of wine and then walked around an open air market. Christmas day was spent in a tiny beach town, where we met up with a few more friends. We found a local 'farang' bar where there was Christmas lights and Christmas music playing. Ashley brought her computer and we all took turns skyping home to spend Christmas with our families. For me it was perfect, good food, good drink, and good friends. I love my family but we are always going come back together, for me i dont need a day to tell me to do that. Family is family, but friends are the family you choose.
I know there are going to be many more Christmas seasons I will not spend with my family, but for me this season has kinda become a season of friends, and I sure do have amazing friends!

These pictures are what we found of Christmas in Thailand. 

A condom Santa at this awesome restaurant in Bangkok.
Everything was condom and safe sex themed. Majority of the
proceeds from there go to raising safe sex awareness around 
the country. The food was really good too!

There was this huge Christmas display outside of a mall in
Chonburi. These little girls were dancing around on this huge 
fake keyboard.  

Again in Chonburi. Merry Christmas!  

Christmas eve dinner. It was super good! Its so hard to find
good American food over here.

Merry Christmas! Me and Ashley messing around Christmas 

Christmas on the beach.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Stranded on a Dessert Island

Dreaming of Oregon

We went to Koh Chang last weekend for a much needed - and deserved - break. It was kind of a pain to get to; lots of traveling, late nights, early mornings, crappy hostels and ferry rides. But believe it, when we got there we all agreed it was well worth the hassel. Absolutely beautiful, most picturesque, stereotypical tropical island you've seen, and far from a desert. As Francesca already said, Koh Chang is Thailands second largest island - behind Phuket - which felt just enormous compared to Koh Samet. There are also some 40 odd smaller islands peppered all around Chang.
People always say "stranded on a desert island", but do you ever really picture a desert? I always picture tropical for some reason (like Castaway), but I don't know if that's just me.

Although I found myself on this gorgeous island a few hundred km from home and work, enjoying an amazing relaxing vacation, I couldn't help but think of Oregon. Don't ask me why, but everything was reminding me. The second morning we were there, we sat down at the outdoor restaurant at our backpackers bungalow to have breakfast, and there were storm clouds rolling in over the ocean and a breeze blowing inland - which funny enough made the temperature really nice - and I could even feel the hint of raindrops (it monsooned later that night). But as I sat there staring at the grey ocean, something clicked and I was suddenly missing Oregon very much. Not just any one thing, but all of it. Sitting on the coast on a grey day drinking a delicious Oregon beer and enjoying a big fat cheeseburger with some Tillamook cheese. I miss seasons. I actually do miss the cold and the rain, and did I mention not crappy beer. I can't explain it, despite the picturesque setting, I think I would have given anything to be sitting on the coast of Oregon, not Thailand, right at that moment. It was weird, I felt stranded, but in paradise.

Don't worry though, we rented a kayak that day and paddled out through the amazing warm and clear water out to one of the islands off Koh Chang, and cleared those Oregon sentiments right up... Paddled back while the sun was setting and swam in the ocean till after it went down, it was amazing. And we didn't even get a chance to hike around the national park that takes up the entire center of the island.
I think we'll be back to Elephant Island, still so much to do there.
(Koh in Thai means island, Chang is elephant.)

Pulling into the pier, early morning at Koh Chang.

Our beach hostel.

Josh and Francesca

Hermit crab

Mistranslation? Not sure what this sign was doing on a tiny island you could only paddle to.

living for the weekends

Wow. We have officially been here two months on the 13th. That date when by without even a second thought. It has been a blur of a 2 months. On one hand it seems like time is flying by, I mean we are already almost at mid-terms that’s one half of our first semester here done. It is almost new years (Christmas is just not that big of a date in a country where no one celebrates it) and a new year just seems crazy, good bye 2010 hello 2011! Weird.

Lately I’ve been going a little crazy, everything has been bugging me, the other Thai teachers, the students, the people on the street who walk at a SUPER slow pace and somehow take up the entire side walk, and even the food, I mean come on, cant you eat something other than rice!? But the weekends here have been amazing and that is making it all worth it, we just got done with two three day weekends in a row so we were able to travel a bit further than normal. The first 3 day weekend we went to a beach town about 3 hours south of Bangkok called Hua Hin. It was awesome! It I high travel season right now and it was a 3 day weekend but this little beach town was not very crowded, and the first place I’ve seen in Thailand that has been relatively clean! We were able to find some non-Thai food there (thank god) and it was real good. On Sunday we rented some motorbikes and drove about 60km out of town to this beautiful national park. Normally for tourists the fee to get in is 400bht (and since we don’t have our work permits yet we are still tourist) but because it was the kings birthday all the parks all over the country were free! Happy birthday to the king! The waterfall was beautiful (we posted some of the pictures on facebook) and the drive was a really nice drive through the countryside.
The next weekend was spent on an island paradise called Koh Chang. It is the second largest island in Thailand and in the north bay near Cambodia so it is not as popular with the tourists. It was kinda a bitch to get to but so worth it. The water was warm and clear. The beaches were not crowded. We had our own cheap bungalow right off the beach and the place we stayed at had an awesome restaurant. The best bacon cheese burger I have found in Thailand so far! We spent two lazy days on the beach soaking in the sun and playing in the water. On the second day Jeff, Josh and I rented a kayak and decided to paddle out to one of the small islands we could see just off Koh Chang. It was a really fun, I actually didn’t kayak they only gave us two paddles so I just sat in the middle and let the boys do all the work! (I offered to paddle but they turned me down) One more day on the island would have been perfect, it was hard to leave.
I think those longs weekends were just what I needed. Im feeling a bit more cordial to the Thais around me. I know there will be more that drives me nuts throughout the year, but as long as the weekends continue to amaze me, and Jeff can deal with my bad moods (which he has wonderfully so far!), I think everything will be just fine. 

    some good beer with a our good friend Ashley

    the water fall was packed with tons of Thais celebrating
    the kings birthday and fathers day

          our island paradise--Koh Chang

    Sunset on Koh Chang...not the best
    because of the clouds but sill beautiful 

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Motorbike Fsho

Okay, so it's time to freak out the worry worts (you know who you are)... drum roll please... we got a motorbike! And it's freaking sweet.

Not really much to say other than it's awesome, it's only 3 months old, it's pretty, it's fast-ish (all 110 cc's of it.. :/ Francesca made me get the smaller engine) and it's red and grey, and it's a Honda. We motorbiked to work this morning, which was awesome cause we got there in like 5 minutes instead of 12 - a new level of laziness.
It was 30,000 baht - which is a lot for us, but if you think about that in USD, it's still ridiculous how cheap it is for a brand new motorbike - but we only paid 5,000 to start, and we are leasing for 1600 baht a month. We would eventually own it if we wanted, but the shop owner knows we are leaving the country in 10 months, and he said we could sell it back to them. So we are renting, sort of... but we get a really nice bike for less than it's worth, plus we get to sell it back for near the same price at the end of our 10 months, so it is a good way for us to save a chunk of money for right until the end of our time.
And by the way, our Thai coordinators at school helped us do all this - probably couldn't have communicated all this to the shop without them.

But now we can explore our region more, give us freedom and cheaper ways of travel. And new ways to entertain ourselves if we get bored. We can go visit friends in other cities. Needless to say we are very excited. Don't worry though, I am safe, and there are tons of motorbikes in Thailand; cheapest, easiest way to get around.

And PS I'll post some photos of it... maybe.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Independent Woman

Now, I consider my self a fairly well traveled person, pretty smart and pretty able to figure things out and get by. Now this is not bragging just an observation of (what I think at least) myself. The women we work are amazing nice women who obviously care, however a lot of the time I feel like they are treating me like a small child who knows nothing, about anything! Every time I cross the street with them they grab my arm and hold on very tight, like I am going to run a way or get lost while crossing. They do not do this to any of the boys. We eat lunch everyday directly across the street from our school at a little market. Now as Jeff has said earlier, Thai’s are about the nicest least malicious people I have ever met so it is a very simple outing to eat lunch. These women are absolutely terrified at the thought of me going to eat by my self, while they and other Thai’s do it all the time! I needed to buy shoes for the parade we were in, they told me to go across the street to the market to look there for shoes. When I said OK I would go after work I got a firm grip on my arm and a “who are you going with?” accompanied by a look of “YOU are going to go by your self?” I said Jeff would most likely come with me and I got a sigh of relief and an “ok good.” Another example if this is all the high school girls were given their outfit and jewelry for the parade a few days before the event. I was not. I was told “I will hold on to this for you, don’t worry.” Now I know they are just trying to be helpful and considerate but it feels incredibly condescending. I get they are worried about me not knowing the area and not speaking the language, but this was holding on to things for gods sake! No language required!

I guess they are just his way with the girls who come work for them. There was a girl before me who came on her own, they smothered her more than me (probably because I came with a boy) and she ended up leaving after two weeks! Its hard to deal with a lot of the time. I appreciate their help when I ask for it or even useful information of places to go or avoid, but it would sure be nice to be viewed as a smart competent woman once in a while… just have to remember TIT…


When it comes to teaching, there is a balance between good feelings and bad; much like the idea of karma in Buddhism, where life and energy seeks balance. (I would like to know if "real" teachers feel the same way).

There are so many students to so few teachers here, it's sort of inevitable that you are going to have bad classes, and it helps to keep your cool if you remember that your oldest student may be 16... But on the other hand, some days it's hard not to get discouraged; some days it feels like your students hate you, they are all mocking you behind you back (or right in front of your face) in Thai, you're not getting through to anybody, they are acting like little punks. Some days every one of your classes goes so bad you wonder "what am I doing here", you straight up want to quit - true story. But then you see that one student - sometimes they aren't even yours - that is sitting all by herself in the breezeway, and she bows to you as you walk by and says "good morning teacha" with a cute little smile on her face, and that seems to outweigh the 100+ students you just had that filled you full of anger, or frustration, or depression. The number of bad students compared to good seems to be very high, but when you do talk to one of your good students it seems to make everything okay. I don't get it, three bad classes in a row - very bad classes - and for some reason you'll have one good class and that outweighs the rest? It's like the universe is always seeking balance, the good feelings sometimes seem fewer and farther between than the bad, but the good feelings are so much stronger.

There other day I gave an assignment to one of my classes towards the end, I told them if they didn't finish, it was home work. Most students were diligently working so they could have no homework - duh right - except for a group of boys in the back screwing around all period. Right at the end of class, as I was trying to leave, they scribbled some crap down (most of it just being what I wrote on the board as an example, or instructions). I said no, and showed them other students work, and said "you need to write more, more more more, you have homework"; they said "no teacha, I do"; "no, all classes you were not working." Back and forth like this for a while, me telling them I need more, all the while students are standing right behind me mocking me saying, "mo mo mo". Students were trying to come up to me and drop the paper in my arms and run away so I couldn't tell them more, they even tried to have their friends give me the same paper when I had handed it back to them. Mostly I was just dropping these papers on the floor, but a few got through (when I saw these later while I was grading, they got zeros). The whole time this shit-show was going on, I had a boy - that wasn't even my student - standing behind me poking me with a 2x2 piece of wood saying "teacha teacha, bang bang" over and over again. When I turned around he said "teacha, gun, bang bang", he was hold the piece of wood like a rifle and was thrusting it at me; he must've been able to tell by the vein on the side of my head popping out that if he didn't turn tail and haul ass he was going to regret it, cause he immediately turned around and took off giggling. Although as I walked away I could still hear him behind me, "teacha, bang bang". I fantasized about ripping that 2x2 out of his hands and whacking him in the side of the head with it...

Not really sure what that story has to do with balance, but something must've made me feel better, because there was no teacher-student murder later that day at Benchama. Anyway it's one more thing to keep in mind here, things seem to have a way of righting themselves.

Monday, November 15, 2010

A Lesson in Thai Lesson Planning

So I realize I just posted, but this will be a short post.

First of all and most importantly, you have to be ready to improvise at any moment. (I don't know if it's the same way for all you other teachers out there). But for a small example, the school assembly ran long today, so my first period got cut short from 50 minutes to like 17 minutes. And you're being generous if you say the classes are normally actually 50 minutes. Anyway, so much for my lesson plan, I basically had enough time to take roll and let my students get a head start on their homework, and this is with a class that meets once a week... Even though I'm in my 4th week of classes - but because half of my classes only meet once a week, and the school likes to spring random days or periods off on you at the last minute - I have only seen some of my students two or three times, and one of my classes only once! How are you expected to teach them anything?

I have grades M2, levels 6-10; and M4, levels 1-8. The M4's meet once per week, and the M2's twice a week. There is such a knowledge difference between the concentric levels of my two grades that I basically have to create different lesson plans for each one, otherwise the material is either way over my students heads and they are board, or they don't understand what I'm saying and within one minute they've tuned out and are now talking. The problem with this scenario being that I'm expected to teach the same material to all of the M2's, and all of the M4's...
So what ends up happening is I usually dumb down the lesson plan to the basic vocabulary that I put into a game - usually hangman - and I try to attempt some sort of lesson for the "smarter" kids (as a side note, the little shit-machines love freakin hangman). In the end I will have to create a standard test that will inevitably be too easy for some students, and way too hard for others. Normally those students would fail, but since they quite literally can't fail their english classes, I have to give them some lame assignment worth all the points in the class so that can get a 50 percent and pass. This is a sneak peak into a melting pot of serious issues that go deep into the Thai education system, and a discussion for another post...

Ethically, what's a teacher to do?

This Is Thailand

I was discussing this concept recently with one of the teachers that lives in the apartment below us; 'This Is Thailand'.

For those of you who have seen Blood Diamond, you may start to understand more what I'm referring to... in the movie they talk about Africa in a certain way, the way the people act, the way it is living there, the inevitable truths about the continent that you can't really avoid. Leonardo DiCaprio's character and Djimon Hounsou's character (Danny and Solomon) have an acronym they say to each other when they are in one of these situations... TIA - this is Africa. Replace 'Thailand' for 'Africa' - you get TIT, made me giggle when we first said it - but it still holds true. When Danny and Solomon would have something happen to them in the movie that they couldn't really avoid, or that was sort of typical Africa, or just "one of those things", they would say to each other "T.I.A - this is Africa". Something you sort of get when watching the movie, but you don't get as an experience.

The funny acronym aside, the same holds true for Thailand. You don't get exactly what you ordered at a restaurant, and get charged extra; you get hassled like crazy in Bangkok by Tuk Tuk and Taxi drivers, or street vendors; you have to take a 6 hour, 3rd class, open-air train to visit some friends; it's 85 degrees outside and there's no AC in your classes; you ask somebody a question, they start rattling something off in Thai to their friend, and somewhere in the middle you hear 'farung' and you think "hey I heard that, I know you're talking about me"... well, this is Thailand. It's not that any of these things are necessarily good or bad, or that the people have a malicious intent - just the opposite in fact, almost 95 percent across the board, Thai people are the nicest people you will encounter - it's just that if you let these things start to get to you, you'll drive your self crazy. So it's just one of those things you have to tell your self occasionally, and that we say to each other, and sometimes it just helps you calm down and deal with a situation. It's sort of a way of telling yourself that it's no big deal, you're in Thailand, things are different - you have to go number 2 in a squatter and there's no tp, hey, this is Thailand.

Obviously Thailand is nothing like Africa, but it still helps. And it's definitely a lesson in tolerance.

This weekend we hade a "this is Thailand" moment; we went to visit some friends, and we went out to dinner one night (keep in mind this is a locals place, no white people there but us), they messed up the order of a couple of us and we got charged extra, we had suspected in the beginning of the meal but we thought the waitress said "okay" and we started eating the dish, by the time dinner was over and we got the bill we realized what happened. The bill was 1000 baht, wich isn't bad for a dinner for five people with mixers. But the people who got charged extra were trying to discuss the bill with people who didn't speak english (understandable enough though, you don't really want to pay extra for something that you didn't like...). They ended up reducing our bill 20 baht (which in the grand scheme is nothing). So, especially in a situation like this, no malicious intent at all, just miscommunication; and in Thailand, when you get the wrong dish and you eat it, you don't get your money back, just the way it is, this is Thailand.

Now, I really hope if our friend happens to read this, they don't think I'm raggin on them, not at all - cause this is essentially like a journal we're sharing with the world; we are all learning how to deal with the things we encounter here, and if we were in the United States I probably would've done the same thing, but... this is Thailand. Friend, you are awesome. And I think we all just brushed this off our shoulders, and after all is said and done we had an amazing time with our friends; motorbiking around the countryside, temples, and waterfalls.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

dogs and days off

When I get home and get a good real job the first thing I’m going to do is give a big check to the SPCA and the Human Society. There are sooooooo many stray dogs in Thailand. Many of them are so pathetic looking and are just hanging on to life. Its so sad. They are super thin and mangy looking with a ton of scars all over their bodies. You feel so bad for them but at the same time you just want them to go away. At night the dogs come out in full force. You can hear them every night fighting out side our apartment. It is so loud and brutal.  If you go out walking at night you have to be carful of where you walk. If you walk in an area where dogs out number humans you need to carry a big stick and a rock. The boys who live in the apartment below us were telling us about a teacher last term who was bit in the leg pretty bad by a dog. Apparently it was no big deal to the Thai teachers, I guess it happens a lot. So crazy. This also makes me appreciate Bob Barker a lot more! Have you spayed or neutered your animal yet? That is one thing this country could use big time! Every animal here is not only a stray but is defiantly not spayed or neutered. Surprisingly I have not seen a big stray cat problem.  I’m afraid to ask if its because of all the stray dogs…
So yeah, a big check to the SPCA and the Human Society when I get home. You don’t realize how much they do till you go to a place where there is no organization like that. Or how much an organization like is needed, not just for the animals wellbeing, but for everyone in society as well.

Thai schools are so weird. There are little things in American schools you take for granted. Not only how nice they are, but how organized they are. Remember back in high school when you would be late for class because of something related to school? You would walk in late and say I was doing such and such with so and so teacher. Your teacher would say oh yeah I got the memo about that, with all the names of the students who were doing it. Here there is not such system. I had a few students walk in to class 30 min late and they said they said they were playing an instrument (band).  I just have to take their word for it, I didn’t even know there WAS a band here. It never meets at the same time and you don’t have a list of students who are in it so they could be lying. You’ll never know here. Another thing is cancelations. We ended school early last Friday but we had no idea that we did until half way through the day, when someone finally decided to let us know. And again this week, no school Friday but we didn’t find out until today! I mean I’m not complaining about not having to work but it would be nice to know these things. It makes planning lessons kinda hard when you don’t even know when your meeting or not!

Ok I think that’s it for my two little rants. No school Friday, so I think we are gonna go up to Lopburi, in central Thailand to play with the monkeys!

Sunday, November 7, 2010

a little about our school

Ok so it has been about two weeks since we have been in Chachoengsao. A lot has happened. For starters we have now officially been teachers for two weeks. This has been an interesting experience so far. Thailand apparently spends 25% of its GDP on education, you would not guess that by looking at our school. The class sizes are 46 students in one room and the rooms them selves are the biggest dumps I have ever seen! Holes in the walls, trash all over the place, broken desks, and broken chalkboards in every room! It is hard to see how students can focus and learn anything in these rooms. Also the system in places really hurts the students, they can not fail. There is no fear of repercussions for their actions so they stop caring. They know they are going to be passed on and don’t care to learn that material. The grades are broken up into levels 1 being the best and 10 the worst (up to 14 in the higher grades) so the students know they are bad if they are in the higher numbers and know that people don’t expect anything from them so they do expect anything from themselves. Its really sad to see. I have grade 1-6 through 1-10 and 5-11 through 5-14 so the worst of both grades. It amazing to see how much they don’t know and don’t care to learn, Jeff has the 4-1 and they have a clean classroom with computers in the back and about half the numbers of students in the class. The differences are amazing. It is going to be a very interesting year teaching in the Thai system.
On a more fun note, we went to Koh Samet last weekend with two friends, Ashley and Susan.  It was awesome! It is a small island right off the coast in the gulf of Thailand. It’s the closets island to Bangkok. We stayed at this little backpackers bungalow resort right on the beach called Jeps. It was nice a bit more expensive than we wanted to pay (650 baht a night) but everything else was booked up. We had dinner on the beach the first night and then went down the beach to this club where they had fire limbo going! It was pretty crazy, while the bar was still high everyone took turns running under the flaming bar, us too! As it got lower we left it to the bar staff to show off, and show off they did. On guy light his cigarette while he went under when it was about eight inches from the ground! It was pretty crazy to see!
The next day we walked around from one end of our beach to the next, it was beautiful. We decided to do something other than lay on the beach all day so we booked a tour of three tiny island next to Samet. It was a private tour, they took us to Koh Ku Dee a small island next to Samet where we got to snorkel around it. It was a lot of fun! The water was pretty clear and there were some cool looking schools of fish and some coral to look at. Not as pretty as some but still pretty cool. We then docked on the island and got explore it. There were about six wooden swings right on the water in the beach we could play on, it was so pretty and completely deserted, just the four of us. We then took a hike to the top of the island and had an amazing view of Samet, the mainland and the other small island near us. When we got back to the boat we took a quick tour of the other two islands and then went to the far side of Samet. There is a fish and sea turtle farm that we got to visit and feed the fish. It was so cool! It was a bunch of wooden planks suspended way out in the water on top of some 50 gallon plastic drums. The water was a bit rocky so we didn’t take our cameras out with us in case we fell in. it was a good thing we didn’t taken them because a few times we ended up crawling the waves were rocking us so much. It was so worth it though! We got to shake hands with a giant sea turtle and pet a tiger shark!  Later that night we went and had an amazing seafood dinner sitting on the sand on the beach. We had crabs and scallops and clams and mussels, and then a whole red snaper. All of this was fresh caught and grilled. It was so good. We walked along the beach after dinner and saw more fire dancers this time instead of limbo they had a giant flaming hoop to jump through. Jeff decided it would be a good idea to take a turn and jump through it! I got a picture so you’ll all be able to see he did not get burned. We went back to the club that had fire limbo the night before and tonight they decided on fire jump rope! Not just plain old jump rope, but fiery double dutch! I don’t think anyone tried that except for the bar guys, im pretty sure they have been burned so many times they have lost all feeling! The next day we started our trip home. So that ends our Halloween weekend trip in Thailand!

More has happened but ill let Jeff give you his point of view and fill you in on the rest later.

Friday, October 22, 2010

a bit more...

So here’s a low down of what have experienced since we left the states. Jeff talked a bit about some of the same stuff so bare with me...

On the flight to Bangkok I realized that we had forgotten to write down the name of the hotel we were staying at in Bangkok! Kinda something we were gonna need! Not something I could do while on the plane… when we got to Japan I tried to buy internet to look it up but it did not work. I kinda was having a bit of a melt down in the waiting area. Thankfully this girl took pity on me and said she was in the same program and said she had the name and we could all taxi there together!
So having the name of the hotel was a good thing however it really helps if the taxi driver knows where he is going! We drove around for about an hour in to the center of Bangkok. All the time the driver kept acting like he knew where he was going but kept suddenly changing directions. In the end we found it and it was right next to the airport! We finally got in about 2 in the morning and had to be up for orientation at 8am.
The next day was nice got to meet all the Americans who are teaching here for the year and we got our first lesson about the Thai language. We found out this is going to be a very hard language to learn…
On the second day here we went on a trip to the Grand Palace and Temple of the Emerald Buddha. That was awesome. Beautiful. Anything I say cannot capture how beautiful everything was. We took lots of pictures so we will post them either on here later or on facebook. The Emerald Buddha was actually kinda small but up on such a large and impressive shrine he still looked so magnificent. You have to take off your shoes to enter the temple, so we did that and went in and gave the traditional 3 deep bows of respect to the Buddha. Such a uniquely different experience than anything I had ever done before.
When we got back we went out to dinner on the street by our hotel. It was so good! The food is amazing here! Here food=happiness, this is my kind of place!
At dinner the 6 of us each had a meal and we shared a three-liter tower of beer and it only cost us 21 bucks. For ALL of us! The food here is not only really good but really cheap.
Orientation its self has been kinda boring and repetitive, but we have gotten to meat a lot of really cool people and have learned some interesting things about Thailand and Thai culture.
One night we went to Kho San road, which is the backpacking district where all the tourists hang out at night, it has lots of bars and touristy things. Jeff, Susan, Ashley and I went there and got some amazing Pahd Thai from a little old lady cooking it on a cart. We then went and got a beer at a bar named Club Fish Gallery, it's named that because when you order a beer you get 5 minutes of a free fish massage! You get to go stick your feet in a tank and have tiny little fish come up and eat the dead skin off your feet. It feels exactly like you would think it would! The down side to the backpacker district is that there are tons of little kids trying to sell you things, kinda like in Mexico. Jeff pissed of one of the boys trying to sell him a rose. The boy tried to get him for a bout 5 min to buy one then he said “Fuck! You no boy, you lady boy!” for those of you who don’t know, a lady boy is one of the boy prostitutes who dresses like a lady. So it’s the ultimate insult here. We all laughed it was just so ridiculous. The funny thing was the boy who was selling the roses had bright pink nail polish on!
The next day we had all heard about the Thai massage. So we decided to go and get one. The massage parlor was not far from our hotel maybe 5 min walking. When we looked out side it was raining but we thought we would be ok in it, I mean we’re from Oregon what’s a little rain! We had our rain jackets so we went for it. Within a minute we were soaked! This was a tropical down pour it would not let up. By the time we got to the massage parlor the street was a lake. A tiny bit earlier I tried to jump a small puddle up on to a curb. That did not go so well…I slipped and fell and cut up my leg. I caused quite a commotion when I walked in to the store. Dripping wet muddy and bleeding! They were so nice washed my leg and disinfected it too. To get in to the massage parlor we had to wade through 8 inches of water to get to the door, after my earlier miss hap there was no way I was gonna try and jump it! The massage was well worth it though. They not only massaged you, they also pulled and stretched you every which way. It was awesome.

Ok so on to the elephants! They are some of the coolest animals I have ever seen. They are majestic. There is just no other way to describe them. We started out sitting on a bench chair on the back of the elephant while the driver sat on the head of the elephant. He only stayed there for a minute then he jumped down and had jeff sit on his head! Jeff was there for a while and then we switched and I got to sit on his head. It was so cool! We had a pretty small elephant and he was rather hairy but he was very talented, he was on of the elephant in the elephant show we saw. After the ride we got to take pictures with the elephants and watch an elephant show. They dunked a basketball, twirled a hula-hoop on the trunks and shot darts at balloons. As Jeff said he also got a massage from an elephant I have video and will be posting it because you have to see it to appreciate it fully!

So here we are in Chachoengsao, our new home for the year. It is much bigger than Monmouth and bigger still than Corvallis. I think it has a kind of Corvallis feel to it though. It’s big but it has a kinda small town feel to it. Especially coming from Bangkok.  Our apartment is nice, its kinda a large studio apt with two rooms attached with large sliding door. Ill post pictures of it. We live above a Thai bookstore and there is tons of little carts to eat off of up and down the street we are on. There is also a large park down the road where we can hang out. We met with our school coordinators yesterday. They are super nice, but I think they are very worried about us or think we are just not that smart! They drove us all over town to show us where everything is and how to get around. We wanted to go to Big C, which is kinda like a walmart so they said they would take us there. We told them it was ok we would be fine to get there on our own. They insisted. We kept trying to tell them we would be ok on our own (we felt bad they kept paying for everything and driving us around) so we finally got them to leave us there. We made it home safe and sound but forgot to call them and let them know that! So an hour later we get a call wondering where we are and if we are ok! They are so cute and super helpful.

right now we are trying to figure out what to do this weekend. we have a long weekend so we want to travel but a lot of the country is flooded. Thailand is having one of its worst flood years. so we think we found an isalnd to go to but now we just have to see if we have the time to get there and back before school starts. we'll keep you all up dated. :)

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Welcome to Thailand

The last week and a half in short...

Bangkok (Krungthep)

So straight away I have to say, YES, we're okay. And second drivers in Thailand are CRAZY. Now everything else: our first night in Bangkok - which by the way Thai people call "Krungthep", which is short for the real name, which is in the Guinness Book of World Records for the longest name of anything in the world, it's long - we got to our hotel at about 1:30 pm after driving around Bangkok for and hour and 15 minutes with a taxi driver that knew about 5 1/2 words in English and didn't know where he was going; he kept stopping and reading our little sheet of paper with the directions written on it, turning around, stopping again, reading, turning around... you get the picture. A little bit sketchy for our first hours in Thailand after traveling for like 36 hours on basically no sleep. But we did finally get to the hotel and everything was okay, but the taxi driver waas trying to ask how long we were going to be there, and gave me his card so that we could call for his services again... oh thank you so much mr. Thai taxi driver, cause that's exactly what I want to do on my next taxi ride through Bangkok; struggle to communicate, get lost and overcharged, and listen to 90's slow-jams for an hour and a half.

After that night most of orientation was fairly uneventful - comparatively, we're still in Thailand - and mostly it just poured while we were there. Mostly it was lectures about teaching and Thai culture and language lessons. The latter was cool, and difficult, we're only getting a few things down. We got to meet our school coordinators one night. But we did get to go see the grand palace in Bangkok, pretty touristy but very cool. It's the kings palace and also has the temple of the Emerald Buddha. I took pictures and will post. We did have a couple fun adventurous nights in Bangkok, but I think I'm going to let Francesca tell you about that.


We spent the last night and day of orientation here. This place was beautiful and we stayed at this amazing resort hotel that was all open-air. At night we saw the "bridge over the river kwai", which isn't as big as I would have thought, and is still in use. The next morning we woke to sun, and Kanchanaburi was beautiful, picture huge green mountains haloed by clouds, perfect tropical green jungle. We woke up early and headed off to ride some elephants. That's right, elephants. This was pretty much indescribable, we were actually riding elephants; huge, amazing, smart animals, it was incredible. I rode on our elephants head (there are pictures I think). We all hung around the elephant place for a while after our rides and fed the elephants, took pictures with them, got kisses from them, watched an elephant show, got an elephant massage (true story, not very fun though, the elephant hit my nut with it's trunk). After the elephants there was a bamboo raft trip that wasn't as cool as the elephants, but the water felt nice. The trip to Kanchanburi was amazing to say the least, we're going to go back for sure. We did the 3 1/2 hour bus trip back to Bangkok and our original hotel where we were picked up by our coordinators and made the hour and half drive to Chachoengsao (pronounced chach-en-sow).


And now we're here, in our home for the next year. Chachoengsao is no where near the size of Bangkok, but still feels pretty big, and busy. You can definitely see that there isn't much tourism in Chachoengsao though, we pretty much get stared at every where we go here. They call white foreigners farung. We got to go see our school, which is also big and overwhelming. We are living with two other english teachers though, that are in the second half of their year, but their on vacation or something right now cause their not around, we're eager to ask them questions, and talk to someone who can explain something to us in english. We start teaching on the 26th, who knows what going to happen or what it will be like.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

a trial post

hey! here goes, our adventure teaching English begins. i hope in this blog we can keep everyone updated on our year in Thailand. thanks to my wonderful friend Amanda this blog has a super cool name rather than something generic like "my year in Thailand". if you say it out loud it begins to make sense...
so, its the night before and of course jeff and i are up and packing till all hours of the night. its kinda weird packing your life up in two bags. it really makes you think about what your really gonna need for the next year.
tomorrow we are off to the airport for a day and a half of travel. really not looking forward to that part!
well here's to hoping we can actually keep this up to date.