Sunday, October 31, 2010

I'm here!

So, I have arrived safely in Bangkok.  I slept a lot.  My host met me at the airport, and we climbed into a Malibu Barbie pink taxi for the trip to her home.  I ended up with two checked suitcases, a carry on suitcase and my laptop bag.  All within weight of course.  Winks, looks left, looks right...phew.  No one double checking bag weight.
Upon seeing my bags, which I must say yes I packed too much, but not bad all things considered, my host proclaimed, "Why you bring so much clothes?  Clothes are cheap in Thailand!"  Oh well.  Maybe at some point I can take the traveler's advice I read somewhere for lightening the load: sell your jeans.
I tried some new fruit - longkong.  The outside skin looks like very small potatoes, you cut the skin and peel it off.  Inside are 5 or 6 clear white citrus sections.  It is sweet, not sour, and has seeds you need to spit out - about one seed per section.
I am staying with my host, and I feel very spoiled because she had air conditioning installed in my bedroom (and her bedroom also, less guilt) before I arrived to make sure I would be comfortable.  She was worried about Americans not being used to the heat in Bangkok.  I must say, I greatly appreciate it.  I think that also means I'll just stay here for awhile, sounds good to me.  The bathroom is a lot like the one in my apartment in Italy - water gets everywhere when you shower.  Also excited - western toilet.  You cannot flush toilet paper, you place it in the trash.
This morning we went to my host's temple to make merit.  On the way she purchased food from a vendor to give to the monks.  Apparently, the vendor was surprised that I was American - they expected Americans to be more fat.  At the temple we took off our shoes and placed the food in bowls the monks had.  We placed the bowls on a towel (you can't hand things to monks directly as a female), and poured water from a silver vessel into a silver bowl while the monk prayed.  My host then took the water in the bowl and threw it on a tree outside.  She explained the food and throwing the water on the tree was to honor deceased relatives.
On our walk to and from the temple there were many dogs.  Apparently stray dogs are quite a problem, and my host sometimes carries a stick to hit them if they try to attack her.  Noted.  Near the temple there were also several roosters roaming about, I think they belong to the temple and don't roam the city quite as freely as dogs.  I saw one Siamese kitten begging by the food stand.  I refrained from petting her, but she was cute.  The food vendor said she is hungry.  I suppose if I were a street kitten in Bangkok, I'd hang out by the grilling fish and chicken too.
My host has given me the text books for the classes I will be teaching.  I'll look over them some more, but it seems pretty straight forward.  Apparently a different foreign teacher taught computers last semester and didn't like it.  I'm to talk with him about what the students learned last semester.
I've learned that this school has several foreign teachers, from the following countries: Germany, Holland, South Africa and England.  I will be the token American.  According to my host, some of these teachers are quite interested to meet me.  My impression is that all of the foreign teachers are in their 20s, three are male and one is female.  I suppose if nothing else, I can help the gender balance.
I will have about 32 students in my classes, which is a little better than the source I read that said I could have 40 students.  Classes are 50 minutes long.  School begins at 8 am.  My host lives far from the school, and Bangkok traffic is terrible.  She says we will wake up at 5 am to get ready, and leave at 6 am to get to school on time.  I'm definitely glad I brought my travel alarm clock.  I may have to develop a coffee habit - or at least a strong tea habit.
My host helped, and basically did a load of laundry for me.  The washing machine is definitely different - it has two tanks, one for wash and one for spin.  It has text in Arabic on it as well as Thai and English.  A pipe for draining broke some time back, so water just drains across the floor.  As I expected we hang laundry to dry in the sun.
We've watched a little TV, including some Korean pop music videos, a Thai Zodiac game show, and a fair bit of some sort of Christian sermon and Christian kids show in English.  I have to say I liked what I can only compare to MTV featuring Asian pop best.  I think they call it 'Bang.'
I have plenty more stories already, but I need to go and eat.  I think we are also going to a mall later.  Not sure.  Tomorrow I will be opening a Thai bank account so the school can pay me.  Sometime in the next week or so I will get a Thai cell phone.  My host said she might have a student take me to go get it - I'm not sure if she means middle school student or a university student, since this school is affiliated with a university.  I think maybe university student?  I guess I'll find out.
My host has also mentioned inviting my students' families to host me for a weekend outing-advertising my help with English in exchange for sight seeing.  Sounds good to me.  OK, I'm off to try roti - which is Indian and her neighbor just brought home with her from her vacation.  Also is mentioned in the book Sold.  I'll report back on what it is like.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Taipei Airport

I have landed safely in the Taipei, Taiwan airport.  I have one more flight to Bangkok, Thailand.  This week has been a whirlwind.  I'd like to thank my friends and family that stepped up to help me prepare.

A few highlights from the trip thus far:

Good flight from Indy to Salt Lake, and Salt Lake to San Diego.  Nice ladies next to me on both flights.
Really cool view of Salt Lake and SNOW coming down - probably the last snow I will see for awhile.
Got to spend time with my best friend in San Diego :-)
Visited the Japanese Friendship Garden in Balboa Park, and gawk at koi the size of NBA player's feet.
Tried Filipino entrees and pastries - yum!
Saw a cute toddler with light up shoes (dancing to make them light up of course) at check-in.
Was saved from excess baggage weight charges by a very nice, (very cute!) ticketing agent :-)
Listened to the musings of a four year old waiting to board on: how to mix lemonade and chocolate milk, how people don't eat seeds because those are for flowers (I was eating seeds).  In the middle of this exchange I was summoned to the desk and asked to change seats to an exit row (phew, OK - not that they decided to charge me extra for my luggage weight or put me on standby) and when I got back, to answer "why I was going to be in an exit row?" I explained about how I was superwoman because I ate seeds, and I would have to save everyone on the plane if it was going to crash.  I enjoyed his reaction to that one.
Saw an advertisement that seemed the direct inspiration for Bill Murray's character in the movie Lost in Translation - down to the way the actor in the ad held the glass.  "Make it Santori time..." flashed through my mind.
Apparently the 2010 Taipei Floral festival is going on - complete with lucky charm plant leprechaun mascots everywhere.  They also remind me of Pikmin, the Nintendo video game plant people.
The Taipei airport is coming alive as I sit here and wait for my connection.
Ads for Swarovski crystal and other duty free wares for sale - modeled by a Caucasian woman.  I'm not sure if I'm allowed to be bothered by the westernization of the east as a white, western woman.  But I don't particularly like consumerism on the whole, either.  A large part of why I never went into advertising graphic design - I knew I would hate it simply on principle.
We are definitely getting closer to boarding as the waiting area is beginning to buzz with activity.
I watched the sunrise across the terminal here - and oddly, my first thought was - that building looks like it was dropped straight out of the movie Blade Runner.  Triangular windows, somewhat a pyramid and somewhat a weird trapezoid - Someone that's seen Blade Runner back me up here.  All that's missing is the flying cars.
The relative quiet is gone as it's a more reasonable hour of the morning and more people are preparing for boarding, so I'm going to sign off for now.

Monday, October 25, 2010


As the clock ticks down to my departure, reality is sinking further in.  I've chosen to uproot myself and move half way around the world.  I know one person in the city I am moving to.  I know how to say hello in Thai, and that's about it.  I got by in Italy with pointing, the phrases "Senza latte?  Senza formaggio?  Quanto Costa?"  They even asked me if I was a Spaniard when I lapsed into Spanish.  I don't think I'll have that crutch to fall back on in Thailand so much.
My apartment clutter is dwindling down into boxes, small appliances are finding new homes through Goodwill and sweaters are going into storage.  Friends have helped pack things in bubble wrap for me to come back to someday.  This is my last night sleeping in this apartment - I'm going to miss it a little.
I'm going to miss a lot of things, I would imagine some things I haven't yet thought of.  But I won't look back and think, I wish I had gone and taught in Thailand.  I am actually doing it.  Wow.
I'm thankful that I looked at the airline regulations sooner than later, because as it turns out my airline is following domestic weight regulations for their international flights.  So both my bags need to be under 50 lbs.  Woohoo!  That's alright, I'm working on carting less stuff around.  Also decided to get a travel luggage scale for good measure, I mean I'm going for a year after all.
Oh, so on the airline note - I have my flight confirmation numbers!  *Huge sigh of relief*  I have my visa and my plane tickets - this is really happening.
In other travel ready measures, I'm glad to find out my Mac computer does not require an electricity converter, just a plug adapter, it can accept currents from 100 to 240 volts.  So I have one less thing I need to buy/pack.  And I don't have to worry about frying my computer (Phew).  The only other thing I would need a converter for is a hair dryer or other hair styling tools - not worth it, I can just buy one there or do without.
That's really all I've got for now.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

One Week

In approximately one week, I am leaving the United States for Bangkok, Thailand, where I will be teaching English and computer applications to 7th, 8th and 9th graders.  On the one hand, I have been working with 6th, 7th and 8th graders for about one scholastic year now.  On the other hand, the paradigm shift I am about to encounter will involve many cultural, language and culinary firsts.

Many people have been asking how I am feeling.  To sum it up, I'm feeling a mix of about 20 emotions jockeying for first position at any given moment.  Excited, yes.  Nervous, yes.  Glaring at my dishes trying to will them to pack themselves into boxes: nope, still doesn't work.  I am quite certain that once all the loose ends are tied, everything is packed and the boarding pass is in my hand I will be on cloud 9.

Some things I've learned about Thailand so far, in no particular order:
  • Thailand has never been colonized.
  • The capital is known as Bangkok to foreigners, however the local name for the capital city is Krung Thep - which means "City of Angels."
  • Bangkok is 14 degrees north of the Equator.
  • There are three New Years celebrations in Thailand: The Western New Year (Dec 31/Jan 1), The Chinese New Year (Jan or Feb, varies by lunar calendar) and the Thai New Year in April (Songkran water festival).
  • It is considered rude to point your feet at anyone or anything, and shoes must be removed before entering homes or temples.