Sunday, May 29, 2011

Titles Have To Do With The Content

It's May in Yasothorn, but it is almost June and you know what that means?  That means that June is going to be a lot like May.  It is most likely going to be hot with a chance of rain at night time which means there is a chance of 2,000 flying ants to enter my room at night.  It also means that I have experienced one more month in this beautiful country going on several vacations, some of them unintended, and I have also spent more time getting to know how to live and work successfully in a place where all things different.  So this is where my post starts, right here sitting in my office where the teachers are all wondering why I haven't said an English word for three hours but I am supposed to be an English co-teacher...If anyone knows how to say "I just want to observe for the first two weeks" that is more effective than this thai transliteration:  "Pom yak ja do chuei chuei atit nung gap atit song, gaw pom chuay soon pasa Engrit", please let me know.  Ahhh, now that you are all impressed by my Thai skills let me show you how terrible my English has become by writing several paragraphs of grammatically incorrect blog content.

So my last blog I of course updated you on how awesome I am:), but I also left you after saying that I was headed to Ayuthaya, which is my original home here in Thailand.  The vacation was fantastic and much needed.  I will give you a brief rundown on the things I received/the things I was taken to do because it is ridiculous how much love I feel when I go back to stay with my host mom:
1.  They mowed my name in their yard
2.  They served me all the food and drink I could ever want
3.  Bought me pizza
4.  Bought me FRIED CHICKEN (4 straight days of delicious fried chicken)
5.  Took me to the Grand Palace in Bangkok (and bought me lunch and dinner again)
6.  Took me a party at the temple (and almost made me be the "angel" in a buddhist play)
7.  Took me to buy peanut butter
8.  My host mom rented a pesonal van to send me 8 hours back to Yasothorn and she rode 8 hours back to Ayuthaya the same night after buying me 16 cartons of milk, some ramen noodles and 30 eggs to gain some weight.
9.  1 week later I received a package with 5 new short sleeve shirts, 3 sets of bed sheets and 4 pairs of boxer shorts
10.  A call later to see if I wanted to go to China on vacation in a few months

All in all, my host mother is a ridiculously nice person.  If you told me I was going to have a person stay in my house from another country for 3 months, you didn't tell me anything about them and you told me that they would not speak my language, I would have told you that you were crazy to think we'd be as close as we are.  To say the very least the visit was great and overwhelming!

I got back to my house where things were just the way I left them, I love my little house here in Issan, my hammock especially.....And as I sat there in my hammock I got a call Friday night from my supervisor at the local education ministry.  She explained that she had a party for me to attend close to her house.  I obliged, not knowing what this "party" was going to consist of.  In the end I attended a dance party on a stage, a traditional Thai dance show, a Thai concert, and finally, Boon Bang Fie (which translates to Rocket Festival) where there were large rockets being shot off every twenty minutes or so, people being thrown in a pond and others with mud being slung all over their bodies (me included, everyone wants to get the farang).  Little did I know that after this Rocket Festival there was going to be another Rocket Festival in my village followed by another one in the village next to mine...all in all 3 Rocket Festivals and they are not yet finished.

After the trip to Sai Mun I realized that after 2 straight months of being with only Thai speakers that it might be good to see if I could still speak English.  I know when I talk to friends and family on skype it is hard for me to communicate, not to communicate but just to be myself.  I wasn't sure if this was because my English language speaking skills had gone out the window or if I was always around Thai people so I was scared to talk into a computer screen, worried about what they might think or do.  It seems like there are one of two reactions to skype.  They either run away from my screen or they won't stop staring into it.

Back on track;  So I thought spending some quality time with Peace Corps volunteers would not only give me a break from the daily grind but also give me a chance to practice my English with some other native speakers.  I had the chance to do this in a place called Mukdahan, which is on the border of Thailand and Laos.  It is the most happening place close to all of us in Issan so we made it a group gathering.   At first it was my mission to get a big juicy burger, maybe some fried chicken and a giant order of french fries and ice cream, but after all of that stuff and a fairly painful stomachache I realized all I wanted was some Dtom Yum (Thai Soup), some Som Tam (Papaya Salad with Fermented Fish Sauce) and some delicious Kao Neow (sticky rice);.... maybe I am not fully integrated, but I am getting there!  The Mook was a blast and I got the chance to watch the Barcelona vs. Man U game at 2 o-clock in the morning with the band that was playing at a local pub...little did I know I was going to go to Mukdahan to hang out with more Thai people!

All is well on the home front, I am so fortunate to be in such a beautiful place.  School is starting which I though would stress me out considering I haven't really had to work at all. I don't know if it is something they put in the water or if I am just a changed man, but I am virtually stress free...what a wonderful feeling.  Life is good.

I will attempt to put up some pictures on the blog but in case that does not work please see facebook for some pretty sick vids and some other good pics of all of my happenings on.

Also congratulations to Mr. and Mrs. Mattiza....Got some pretty frat video updates at the reception...I would like to give a shout out to my boy Grant for absolutely dominating the dance floor and to TJ for sporting that sick cowboy hat all night!  Proud of you guys and I can't wait to see you functioning as a married couple when I get back home....In the meantime I will be busy beating Mattiza in fantasy baseball!  Halla!

Tuesday, May 10, 2011


Hello blog...
I love you and the way you let me write in your window of composition.  I like the fact that you have three options on the bottom of the composition screen that allow me the choice to "publish post", "save now" and "preview".  But does anyone really "preview" because the writer has already "viewed".  Technically you cannot preview because that would mean you were predicting the future.  Only T9 on your 1999 Nokia cellular telephonic device can predict the future.

I have settled into my new house and I knew that if history were to repeat itself (and in fact, it does...sometimes...but not exactly because nothing can be EXACTLY replicated...and other philosophical thoughts...but in this case history proved to kind of repeat itself, I mean the historical events and prior knowledge gave me a hint as to what was to come) I was going to be in for a few more adjustments in my journey.  The house that I was given the option to live in is close to one of the schools that I work at but it had not been lived in in over two years.  Of course it smelled, looked and had everything living in it that you can imagine a house that had not been lived in for two years would have.  The first few nights were a ferocious battle of man vs. insect, reptile and mammal.  The man brought out some of his favorite fighting weapons in the form of rat bait, shoes, brooms, aerosol cans containing any kind of liquid that might be deadly to insects, bathroom cleaners that might kill things and ect.  The fact is the king of the other animals sent too many troops and they have unlimited supplies.  It is a battle that cannot be won by either side.  Unless of course the king of the animals sends some sort of poisonous beetle or another dangerous weapon that gets to man while he is sleeping, doubtful.  Man has set up a fortress in the form of a net, nothing can touch him!

So all literary genius aside, (because I am obviously such a talent) I am living in a house that has a lot of bugs and stuff.  I have decided I cannot win and that living with them in a non-social but interactive manner is best for me and my living partners.  So when Thai people ask me if I am living on my own I am no longer going to answer yes.  I am going to tell them that I live with ants, beetles, lizards, mice and cats to name a few.  Then they are going to respond, "why are you living with all of that food in your house".  Then I will respond "where I am from it is not considered food".  Then they will respond "oh...".  Then they will ask me how I can live on my own without going crazy from all of the ghosts that must be living in the confines of my household.  Above anything else, Thai people are the most afraid of ghosts.  You could throw some kind of poisonous snake at their face and they would not flinch, but ghosts, yes ghosts exist everywhere and they are obviously very harmful as they have caused several deaths in the last few days (this is what we call in the English language "sarcasm").

Anyways....School has started up at one of my two schools.  It feels great to be back in the classroom and around kids and students again.  There are a lot of things that are different in Thai schools than that of America.  There is obviously a very different structure, there are different activities as well as social norms and language.  The language barrier is one that is hard to hurdle.  I cannot get a feel for how kids are, their personality ect. and they cannot read me either.  This is a challenge that is immediately recognizable but I have faith and hope that with time we will reach mutual knowledge of each other.  I am just observing for now, getting a feel for how the classroom operates, what is expected of Thai students and what is expected of Thai teachers.  It is tough because obvious general school rules in America may or may not exist in Thailand.  For example one of the teachers bought a new car. He wanted to treat the local government officials as well as the principal and his co-teachers to lunch in order to create merit and a blessing for his new car.  So, in true Thai fashion, he ordered in the raw meat (side note, the raw meat seems to be a regularly occurring thing for special events, you know the ones they always invite me to; lucky me), the whiskey, the rice whiskey and the beer and some vegetables and other stuff.  Wouldn't you know they had lunch right there in the school cafeteria...the preschoolers, the kindergardners, the first graders and of course the adults pouring each other shots of bourbon.  I found myself in a rather odd social and cultural situation.  Drinking in front of children and especially at school is not something I condone nor would I usually participate in but when offered adult beverages especially from local officials it is culturally insensitive not to accept.  And now you may or may not have interest in what my decision was but I am not going to tell you either was just an odd situation to deal with and I thought you might be interested.

Another thing I found different about Thai culture that is different from what I am used to is that everyone shares what would be very confidential information in the U.S.  I have a the very least three instances.

1.  Teachers at the school share and laugh at each other about the amount of debt they have accrued.
2.  Teachers know everyone's salary that works at the school.
3.  Students' names, grades and test scores are posted publicly for the whole community to see.

The list potentially goes on but these are a few.  I also have realized that exceptional students are often treated very differently from the other students.  It has been pointed out to me that at least three students are mentally disabled which is something that usually isn't directly pointed out in the states.  There is also one little boy that I myself, without being able to speak the language, could diagnose as autistic.  I am not sure if people here have studied or know about how to assist the students that have these differences.

All in all life is good!  I have now eaten 10-15 fruits I have never seen nor tasted, I meet at least three new people everyday and I learn a new aspect of beautiful Thai culture everyday.  My host family here has invited me to be a part of there family and help on the farm on a daily basis.  The community has started to accept me more an more which is very exciting and helps me to feel like a normal person, not just the only American.  I also have the opportunity to see my host family in Ayuthaya in a couple of days which should be exciting.  They have planned a party in advance for my return...Thai people; too generous!

Pom Yak Ja Hai Kwam Suk Mak Mak,