Friday, April 29, 2011

Mi-LO and Dr. Dre

It was a like a revolution happened over night.  My host mother asked me the other day over my quite delicious and refreshing cup of “Milo” or, if you are Thai, “My-Low”(A rather nice chocolaty drink with, what I gathered from the picture and my host father’s explanation, “veet-a-meens”) that if I had time she wanted to learn English.  I kind of giggled which I think offended her.  The giggle was not meant to have been at her expense it just made me happy to think that the relationship we have means something to her, so much so that she would like to learn to speak my native tongue!  After the giggle, I told her that if I was at the house I would gladly attempt teaching her English.  Little did I know she spent what I can only imagine to be hours on writing over six pages of Thai words that she wanted translated to English so she could study during her free time.  I sat down and we began.  The problem is the word has to be translated three times, I have to be able to understand the Thai, then I have to write the correct English word down, then she has to hear it correctly enough to transliterate the word to Thai.  To make a long story short, we finished what we could.  After a long day on the farm she came home and sat down to watch the family favorite soap opera.  A baby appeared on the screen and proudly my host mother states, “naa-rak” (the Thai word for cute) followed by what she presumed to be the English word for cute, “eat”….
My English teaching ability is obviously awesome….Thank you very much as I bow, “I will be here all night and all month and all year and the year after that”.

I also got my first “village” hair-cut.  What is interesting about a “village” haircut is nothing.  But when a foreigner gets a “village” haircut it can be interesting…I guess…at least it was to the ten people outside the shop watching and talking about it for a good thirty minutes.  The barber was careful to be precise when cutting every piece of hair on my head.  The fact that I chose his house to get my haircut he thought was a nice gesture and of course I needed the cut fairly bad.  The bad news is, if you know about me and my barber shop/salon experience I do not have any.  For some reason when I go to the salon or barber in the States I freeze up, like they are speaking a foreign language.  I say what I think is correct in salon language, “taper the sides, thin the top, they usually use the razor guard #8”, ect. Ect.  Then I stop talking.  It is uncomfortable I can feel it, I know they feel it too.  The person cutting my hair must think I am a mute as I answer all the usual salon questions with one word and a smile.  I cringe with each snip of hair because I know what the end result will be no matter what I say.  No matter what, I come out looking like a 12 year-old boy that has his fresh new hair cut and his ball cap with his piece of bubble gum in his mouth that he got for sitting so still in that big scary chair. 

Hopefully you know where I am going with this.  If not, just wait longer (dumb and dumber reference anyone….yes, no, is this thing on?).  So I am scared of the barber, scared of requesting, scared of talking, scared of the end result.  A “village” haircut was so easy…  I walked to the house, I asked in broken Thai, “is that guy who cuts hair here?” and he said, “I am that guy” then I sat down and he cut my hair.  He did not ask what I wanted, he did not ask where I was from, he did not ask what I studied in college or what I did for work.  He just wanted to cut and let me tell you, cut he did.  He cut until I was Thai….and now, Thai I am, shaved sides and goofy top.  But all is good.

I also had a fishing experience that brought some memories back of when I was little and me and my best buddy Donnie Crawford would got to the pond with our bb guns, our fishing poles, a bucket-o-worms and our 4-wheeler.  Man did we get up to no good, but it was always a good time.  I was invited to go fishing with a man from the convenient store just up the road; the convenient store is generally a house and the residents sell things.  I had to of course explain that I could not ride a motorcycle (peace corps policy), so he loaded up the truck with all of the essentials…energy drinks and fishing equipment…and we were off.  Once again I felt like I was incapable of doing even the things I was capable of doing back in the states.  The man I was with pulled at least 10 fish out of the river compared to my 0.  I felt like I was back at home, 9 years old, and my buddy Donnie Ray tied on a lure that had broken hooks so he would easily beat me in our competition.  I began to think what could possibly be the difference (because surely it was not the operator, I mean I am awesome J).  I looked at the rod, the reel, the lure, the hooks, all the same.  I began to lose hope.  I figured if I did not catch a fish before the sun went down I would surely not be invited back, something I desperately wanted, fishing is great stress relief for me.  At last I pulled out 1 fish.  Just in time.  It felt so good, the fight of a fish and the excitement of finally catching one is something that, for me, cannot be compared to anything.  The sun had gone down and we loaded up the truck, we shared laughs although I do not know what they were about and when we arrived back in the village my new fishing buddy gave me five fish and an ice cold beverage that may or may not have contained alcohol.  The wrap up is, I did not feel like the only American person in the village for one day.  It was refreshing, I felt comfortable and I hope that continues. 

Also and update on the eating because that is always an experience and people generally like to hear about it…
Dinner with some teachers from the school:
Stir Fried Veggies
Fish Soup
Cow Brains
Baby Chicks….Somewhere in the explanation of what I was eating they asked me what we call them in English.  They explained to me that they were not quite chicks but they were not eggs either…”Fetus”, I said, “you are eating a chicken fetus”…and they went right along “ChiCK-Hen Fee Tuuu”….yes chicken fetus…

I also saw that Dr. Dre is making a comeback…It looked scary and gangster and stuff

I listed some things that I would love from back home if one was to make a care package.  I hear some people wanted to do so and for that I am very gracious and thankful.


Sunday, April 17, 2011

Songkran: A Thesis...and stuff with research

Once one inherits a farm or decides to be a farmer there are a lot of things one must prepare in order to obtain yield from one’s crops or livestock.  One must buy food, spend hours giving the plants water and build structures to house livestock and plant seedlings.  An outsider would look at an organic farm and smile.  Most likely the afternoon air is still and clean, one feels alone with the land, the beautiful and serene landscape.  One can pick delicious as well as gorgeous fruits and harvest succulent vegetables from the trees and the ground.  But what one does not realize until one has attempted farming is that one must deal, hourly, with feces.  One must be willing to step in feces, be willing to clean manure from the structures one has spent hours building and from the shoes one has spent upwards of 100 dollars buying.  Handling droppings of multiple origins is also a must while planting. 

I have written this just because I, myself, did not know just how much farmers have to deal with poop until now.  I have tended to several pigs over the last week, I give them water, I give them food, I shower them and they shake their heads and the stench from the drops of water that go flying from their pink bodies fills my clothes, similar to the way a dog shakes after have been given a bath.  I have also attempted to herd cattle, three of them.  In addition to hitting my hand with a mallet whilst trying to pound a stake into the ground, I also had to chase one of them for more than a mile through dried up rice fields, trees and many Thai laughs.  I have also fed the chickens and attempted to herd them to boot, after I accidentally let them get into the barn and consume the majority of their food supply; feathers did fly, as did curse words.  I also “learned” how to “catch” fish with a net.  While my host brother pulled nets full of huge fish out of the pond, my host mother applauded me when I pulled out anything that was not mud and sticks. 

 At the end of the week, after tending to the farm, it was time to celebrate the Thai New Year:  Songkran.  It was an absolute blast and man did I need it after all that #2.  Everyone in the village got out their ceramic pots, filled them with water, and sacrificed their version of toilet paper in the form of water and a small bowl to celebrate by throwing the water in the faces of motorcycle riders as well as walkers alike (similar to previous posts, yes throwing water in the faces of motorcycle riders is the safest option I could think of too).  Through the five days of my baby powdered face, my prickly-heated neck and my soaked from head-to-toe body I could not help but ponder as to why we do not celebrate such a wonderful holiday in the states.  Then it hit me in the face again like Thai toilet paper during Songkran.  I am going to start the tradition as soon as I return home, bet your bottom dollar…..or your top one…I am not sure really what the difference is…I would need my mom’s “phrase origins” book that is located on the upper end of the toilet in the guest bathroom back home…If you have been to my parents house you know what I am talking about, that bright yellow book gleams at you like a unblemished jewel and you cannot help but read.  It is like the ring in Lord of the Rings…and stuff 

Basically what I am trying to say here is that there is a little bit of a parallel with my life right now as I know it.  I think I am going to have some hard work ahead.  Things are not going to come easy.  There are some days where I am going to have to step in some cow, chicken, pig or all of the above, dung. There are some days when I will have to plant seeds with doodoo in order to harvest a better quality veggie.

 It is harder than I thought it would be to be in another place, get to know people that speak another language and have an entirely different culture.  The days are filled with wondering if I really understand or if I am assuming the totally opposite meaning.  For example the other day I thought my host mom said that I could go to the market when she answered my question with “dai leei” but in fact, she said “dtie leei” which meant that she did not want me to go because she thought I would die (from the heat). I digress…They are also filled with repeating the last couple words of the other person’s sentence and then putting on a really cheesy smile as if to say “I obviously do not understand but I am going to smile and hope you at the very least think I am a good-hearted person that does not understand”. 

And for the love of all that is holy if anyone knows a song that is easy to Karaoke that Thai people have in English on these dang machines please let me know…I would rather crap the bed than sing “If Tomorrow Never Comes” by Garth Brooks one more time.

At the end of the week all of this muck does not mean a thing because there is always Thai toilet paper ready to clean it all up!  There is also baby powder to make you smell all better and usually there is a smile or two that make you helpless but to smile back.  And in a few months the rain and the sunshine comes to the aide and those vegetables you planted start to grow and there are no worries…”Mai Pen Rai”

I am proud to say that throughout this post, counting #2 as word, I did use eight different words for feces…
I am not sure if “doodoo” counts because Word gave it one of those annoying red squiggly lines.  If this was the public school system in the United States they would do away with that red color because of the damage it could do to one’s self-esteem.  I have to say I agree, my feelings are hurt.  Until next time!

Good Love,