Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Stolen Moments on a School Computer

The internet is addictive, and I'm in withdrawal.
A tangential entry before "proctoring exams" resumes.
Today's dessert: bread cubes, plus a syrup resembling a runnier version of pepto-bismol and a cupful of ice. I ate the plain bread cubes, which puzzled my Thai colleagues - who urged me to pour on the pepto and ice. I proceeded to describe the main dish as delicious, and shake my head at the "dessert."
Since it's exam week, school lunch is a bit better than can usually be expected. Some sort of stir fried wide noodle, egg, pork or beef (most likely pork but I have no idea), some leafy green veggie and of course your options of fish sauce, granulated sugar, crushed red peppers and some sort of vinegar with larger chillies. These four condiments are like salt and pepper in the states, present with nearly every meal. Depending on the meal there are a myriad of other assorted condiments as well (such as lemon or lime juice, or extra pepto for today's dessert).

"Balloon angioplasty" was on my M.3's health exam today. M.3 is 9th grade. Other highlights: hypoglycemia, hyperglycemia, diabetes, pectorial angina (sp?) and other things I'm sure are reserved for college courses or vocational medical training in the states. Well, I suppose we talked about diabetes sooner.

Today I sampled the delights of a Fanta soda slightly darker than antifreeze, that brought up a nostalgia for some unknown artificial flavor from elementary school fundraising carnivals and the state fairs of childhood. A plate of coca-cola, one green and one orange (or pink?) fanta, all brimming with ice, was brought around to the exam rooms for the teachers. I've been trying to avoid soda, but graciousness and my curiosity for the green stuff overcame that. Proctoring the exams has meant little more than passing and collecting papers, signing my initials various places, sitting and reading a book at the head of class. I'm thankful for my upstairs neighbor's generosity loaning me Love in the Time of Cholera, which is not something I would have picked up on my own, but I'm finding an addicting read. Though as it's set in the Caribbean and is translated to English from the original Spanish, I find myself craving good Mexican food - though the book has little to do with Mexico itself as far as I can tell.

Yesterday I received my first letter! I have not published my address because it is six lines long and I've been uncertain about what order to write the names of various districts - as here postal code includes county, district and subdistrict on top of everything else, and names here are all at least 4 syllables long. Postal mail has lost its charm in the states (for me at least), where I came to dread tripping over the leaflets of junk mail in my studio with a mail slot and would sometimes go a week without checking my mail box in my most recent apartment for dread of the stupid flyers - especially the pizza ads, I mean honestly. Here, no junk mail, not even a mailbox - literally my first piece of post in two months. And it was glorious. I was skipping around outside the apartment building, I was certain the landlords thought I was crazy.

Also discovered you cannot run the shower and the air conditioner at the same time in my apartment - the air conditioner and the water heater are both too energy intensive. Though I'm surprised I didn't figure this out sooner, and thankful that the electricity turning off did not stop the water itself - since I was mid shower at that juncture. The people that run my apartment building are great, and the girl at the office just kind of laughed when I came down in pajamas with my wet hair wrapped in a towel and asked "were you in the shower? was the air conditioner on?" Oh. Duh. Mai pen rai, mai pen rai - a phrase I've come to loathe and use frequently, often sounds more like mai bel lai - should be printed on the money (thought that's the place for the King) - don't worry, don't worry. Thankfully, we have old school breakers (just like the computer lab!) so it only took the flip of a switch to correct.

I am now the proud owner of a microwave oven. I will not even elaborate on the full scope of operation microwave - I have one now. I finally purchased one at Tesco Lotus - the Thai version of Walmart, and trucked out to hail a taxi with my arms full of microwave, toilet paper, and a few other necessary items - including a pole for a shower curtain. Not really the best planning, but it's difficult to set up an apartment when the greatest limiting factor is how much you can carry in one trip (and the finances, but that will be a post in it of itself much later) - and how willing you are to sit in traffic again for another venture.

I've also discovered that some of the best pronunciation coaches are cab drivers - most of them are friendly enough and are anxious to help you learn if you are making an effort, though as anything else that can't be made as a blanket statement. Free Thai lesson for the price of the cab ride that was necessary to transport a microwave (I'm all about using the bus over a taxi, but I'm not that delusional).

An afternoon of reading, I mean proctoring awaits, and my favorite activity of trying to get answers in the land of Mai Pen Rai, Mai Pen Rai. No word on the progress of my computer yet; I'm thinking they shipped it to Singapore to the Apple Repair Hub of Asia.
Paperwork, miscommunication, and "that's not my fault," here at school - because trying to get a direct answer is presuming the person you're asking is at fault - and just like all criticism is done via third party gossip to allow everyone to keep face - answers must play telephone, which gets quite confusing with the translation gap on top of it, especially when more than half the parties involved don't speak English, and the answer is not at all clear to begin with. What on earth am I talking about? You'll have to wait until I myself, know that answer; and even then, I'll only have a ghost print of the true story.

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