June 2003 Archives

Parents in Alaska

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My parents just got back from a cruise in Alaska. I have heard a lot of wonderful things about Alaskian cruises, and from the reports I am getting from my parents, it sounds like a great vacation.

My parents (60-somethings) decided to make the trip even more exciting by driving all the way from their home on the east coast of the US to Seattle to catch the boat. Very impressive!

My Dad recently sent me an email that I thought I would post here, in the spirt of sharing travel stories. It's a good one. Am I allowed to be jealous?

"Had a great time--you are not the only one in this family who sees some neat stuff. We went through Yellowstone, Grand Teton, and Mount Rainier National Parks on the way out to Seattle and thought we had seen enough spectacular scenes for a lifetime, but then took the 7 day cruise to Ketchikan, Juneau, and Skagway, AK and Victoria, BC. About all we did was eat, sleep, and watch the mountains and glaciers from our stateroom balcony. Took a jet boat from Ketchikan to see humpback whales, sea lions, seals, and more bald eagles than I had seen in my whole life put together. Went sea kayaking in a beautiful bay near Juneau. Took a train ride up into the mountains at Skagway, and a bike tour around Victoria. Whew!

"Then on the way back, we went through Glacier National Park (which I enjoyed about as much as anything else we saw) and parts of Canada. Went high points in ND, Indiana, Michigan, and Ohio. Were going to the one in KY, but just ran out of time. Went to the 8,000 or so foot level on Borah Peak, the high point in Idaho--too far to go to the top--at around 12,000 feet if I recall right. The trip to the high point in Michigan was a real treat. We took a different route out than the one we took into the woods. Fun, fun--definitely needed our four-wheel
drive--could not have made it through several places if we had not had it.

"All in all, a super trip. Got to start planning the next one. We'll probably wait a couple of years to do another cruise, but we want to take one through the Panama Canal from Miami to somewhere in South America--Montevideo or somewhere, then fly back to Miami."

Wow! Now if I can only get my parents to start their own weblog!

Day Two in Kanchanaburi started with a cold shower and a delicious breakfast at our river raft hotel and then a one-hour kayak ride down the river to another river resort. On the way we (Piyawat and I) stopped to explore a small cave in the limestone cliffs rising from the river.

We eventually docked at the river resort, turned in our kayak, and headed to another nearby cave. This one, called Tam Lawa was actually quite impressive. The inside of the cave was more or less lit by lightbulbs every 100 feet or so through the tunnels. There was a lot of impressive rock formations and a few huge caverns. I love spelunking, so I had a lot of fun. (Plus, I just like saying the word "spelunking"!)

On the way back to Bangkok tonight, we stopped by some Khmer (Angkor-style) ruins called Prasat Muang Singh. They were small in comparison to those in Isaan, presumably because they were so far away from the heart of the Khmer culture to the east. In any case, the surrounding park was very beautiful and well-maintained. Definitely worth a side trip.

It rained the whole way back to Bangkok and so our two-hour trip became a four-hour trip. The weekend was very enjoyable, but it was also very nice to be back home.

Piyawat arrived at my apartment very early today to take me to Kanchanaburi. Also in the car was his younger sister and her boyfriend. The two hour trip west from Bangkok was uneventful, although we did make a nice rest-stop at the temple in Nakorn Pathom to see Thailand's largest Buddhist monument.

When I say "uneventful", I mean downright boring. We had to drive through Ratchaburi province, which I think is the most plain and boring province I have ever been in. But eventually we were in the beautiful green mountains of Kanchanaburi.

Once in Kanchanaburi we stopped at "The Bridge over River Kwai" which was built during WWII by forced labor from Allied POWs. The bridge itself is not impressive, but the idea of thousands of people dying from being overworked was sombering, as was the large military cemetery holding the remains of over 6,000 Allied soldiers.

After lunch at a roadside restaurant (five delicious dishes and four waters for 100 baht -- US$2.50) we contined west along the river to the dock of the River Kwai Resotel. We then took a 30 minute boat ride to our unreachable-by-car hotel.

We checked in to our hotel, which is actually rooms built on rafts in the river, and headed to visit the adjoining Mon village. The Mon people are originally from Myannmar (Burma) but many have moved into western Thailand. Even though they have been somewhat assimilated into the Thai culture, many Mon still hold on to their customs such as their dress and their language.

The village we visited was obviously created for tourists (it was clean and well-organized) but at least the people living in the village wear the traditional clothing (sarongs for men and women and powdered faces), practice Mon dance (similar to Thai, but much more athletic and fast-paced), and speak the Mon language. We visited an elementary school where the kids were taught in Mon. The teacher didn't even speak Thai!

In any case, I welcomed the opportunity to learn a little bit about the Mon people. And I appreciated the "get back to nature" atmosphere. Our rafts have no hot water and no electricity. But the food is delicious, the Mon dance show was educational and the setting is peaceful. Perfect for a nice weekend get-away.

Latest Lao Pics: Krangsi Waterfall

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I am finally posting pictures from my last trip to Laos, which took place two months ago. Shame on me for taking so long!

Included are some great shots of my trip to the Krangsi Waterfall (which inspired me to add a category for all of my waterfall pics) as well as my 8 hour boat ride down the Mekong River.

Check 'em out in the Pictures of Luang Prabang, Laos Photo Album. Or, check out the new waterfall pictures.

New Lottery

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(I've never found a good use for the BLINK tag, but this is about as good a reason as any, isn't it? Now, back to the original post...)

When I lived in San Francisco, I bought at least one lottery ticket every week. Sure, the chances of me winning millions of dollars with my $1 "bet" were close to zero, they still weren't zero. So I played and dreamed.

I have seen a lottery here in Thailand, but I am not sure how it works. Also, I have been told that it is an "underground, illegal" lottery. (Some things in Thailand are supposedly illegal, but you see them out in the open. It is a matter of which laws are being enforced and which aren't.)

But now the government is sponsoring a new legal underground lottery. Doesn't "underground" mean illegal? I'm not quite sure of the logic, but apparently, starting on July 17, we will all be able to buy lottery tickets at 600 post offices around Thailand.

And yes, I just might find myself blowing a few baht there.

Contact Me

Going along with the communication theme of my last post, I have finally added a few ways to contact me through my website in the left column (in addition to posting comments, that is).

MSN Messenger

Ok, I am a bit embarrased to do this, but here's fair warning that I am about to rave about a Microsoft product. That's right, rave, not rant. (And it's a MSN Internet product, no less).

I love the new MSN Messenger.

There I said it. I wish someone else (Yahoo) would be able to do better than Microsoft, but they haven't come close.

Seriously though, I downloaded it to my office computer yesterday and have been playing with it today. Cool features include being able to stream my webcam to multiple chat windows, include a still picture of myself in the window (actually, I don't care to see my own picture, but I like seeing a picture of the friend I am chatting with), and make my own background pictures.

But just now I found the coolest feature of all: If I have a friend who is not online, I can send an SMS message to their mobile phone through Messenger. They of course can do the same for me. So if I am on your MSN Messenger list and I am not online, shoot me an SMS. I think this feature has been there for a while, but now that I live in a country where people actually use SMS, I just now discovered it.

Supposedly you can send SMS with Yahoo messenger as well, but I haven't been able to figure out how to make it work. The MSN Messenger set up took me all of 5 minutes and it worked perfectly. Yahoo also allows multiple streaming cams, but they annoyingly open up in multiple windows.

Along the same lines, I hear that the new iSight and iChat products from Apple are impressive in their own right, but since I don't have a Mac, I guess I can't try them out.

Swimming in the Rain


I was back swimming in the pool last night after taking most of last week off trying to get over a cold. It was a little bit different this time, however, as rainy season is in full-swing in Bangkok. Last week I used the rain for an excuse not to swim. Wouldn't want to get wet, afterall!

But last night I went for it anyway. I must admit it was a strange sensation to feel the falling rain drops on the bottom on my feet as I flip at the wall, or on the side of my face as I breathe. Or to push off on my back underwater and look up at the small circles of splashing water above me.

Ang Lee


A surprisingly cool breeze was blowing through the falling rain as I left the MBK movie theatre last night. My friend Toon wrapped his arms tight around himself and complained about the cold through his chattering teeth. I'd say the wind chill was about about 70 F, but I was sure Toon was going to get frostbite any minute. I guess that's what happens when you live in balmy Bangkok all of your life. How do my Thai friends back in the states (especially the ones in Chicago and New York) ever survive?

We had just finished watching Hulk, which we both thoroughly enjoyed. I'll even go so far as to say it was better than Matrix 2. The effects were fairly good, the characters and storyline were interesting, and the cinematography was stunning. Ang Lee added a lot of nice little touches with panning and zooming camera tricks, split screens and intelligent uses of the color green throughout the movie. For a mainstream Hollywood flick, it was quite artistic.

Speaking of Ang Lee, I read a quote of his in the Bangkok Post last week that really hit home with me. He said, "I want to keep jumping and moving around. I like to keep myself nervous and put myself on the edge and stretch. I don't want to get used to any routine or rythym or formailty... I have to keep doing things that I don't know how to do... Its a little sadistic, but I think you have to go through the tortuous and nervous process to get the best out of yourself."

What an articulate way to say what I often feel living in Thailand.

Teacher Gifts


"Thank you for giving me an A."

"You gave me a B+ instead of an A. Mai bpen rai (no problem)"

"You gave me an F. My GPA is low. Can you please give me a D?"

Over the past few weeks, my students from last semester have received their grades and several have come to talk to me about them. I am glad that they care about their grades, but I don't understand why the attitude is always "Thank you for giving me" or "Why did you give me..."

Of course the proper phrase is "I earned" not "you gave". I just dont know if it is a language issue or something deeper in the psyche of Thai students. From what I can tell, it is the latter -- it's just the way the students look at the situation.

I'm afraid I can't delve too deeply into this issue without coming down too hard on Thai society in general. So I think I will let it go, for now...


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I had the hardest time getting out of bed this morning. Not to mention I have been fighting a cold for about 2 weeks now. I think I will have to postpone my visit to the Karen village until later and will stay home and rest this weekend instead.

Apologies for a boring blog this week. Looks like all my posts are just bitches about grading math papers. I have more papers to grade today, including yesterday's 80 tests. Lovely.

Speaking of the word "lovely," after being in Thailand for 10 months, my working vocabulary seems to have been cut in half. I seem to be losing my knowledge of English grammar as well. And yes, sometimes I catch myself speaking English with a Thai accent. (Too bad I cant type in a Thai accent, or I would!). At the same time, there are words that I know (but didn't use very often in the US) that I catch myself saying all the time because I am subconsiously imitating the way Thai people speak. For example: lovely, delicious, and already.

Thai person: Have you eaten?
Me: I eat already.
Thai person: How about it?
Me: Very delicious.
Thai person: Lovely shirt.
Me: You like? I buy Siam Center.

Actually, if I had this conversation today, it would go like this:

Thai person: Have you eaten?
Me: gin lao
Thai person: How about it?
Me: aroi mak krub
Thai person: Lovely shirt.
Me: Chawb mai? I buy Siaaam Centaaaa.

So my English is getting worse (actually, I think this website is the only thing saving it at this point) and my Thai is getting better. Soon, I will sound uneducated in two languages!

More Grading

Last night I spent another 3 hours grading papers at Coffee Society. Ugh. I at least finished the ones that the students will be tested on today, but I still have a big stack of papers in my office to go through.

Luckily, though, this time I was joined by Por (a fellow teacher). He worked on a powerpoint presentation while I graded, which made my task a little easier to handle. (Misery loves company? :)

So what can I do to encourage myself to slog through these assignments? What if I promise myself I can take a nice trip this weekend if I am done. Yeah, that's a good idea! Maybe a road trip to Chiang Rai to visit the Karen hilltribe village will be on the schedule for this weekend.

Bad Math Papers


This weekend was mostly mellow and somewhat productive. I spent most of my Saturday afternoon at Coffee Society on Silom grading math papers. It was quite a depressing experience because my students don't seem to be doing that well. It's not that I take it personally, I just want them all to get good grades. The class is not that difficult if you put a little effort into it. It certainly shouldn't be difficult to pass the class, but I know several won't.

The rest of the weekend I spent with two friends who were visiting from Vietnam. It was nice to see them again, but it meant that unfortunately I didn't make as much progress on the grading as I hoped. Looks like it's going to be a busy week in the office.

Thai Terrorists


My parents are currently on a vacation. so hopefully they haven't been paying attention to the news. And if they have, hopefully they haven't seen the story about the terrorist arrests in Thailand. I am guessing they haven't, since I haven't received any emails from them telling me to be careful.

There are a lot of Muslim people in Thailand, especially in the southern provinces near the Malaysian border. My parents (my mother especially) has been very worried that I will be a victim of someone wanting to take Bali-style revenge on Americans. I have never really been afraid of that, but I still think about it now and then. Denial perhaps?

But now that some suspected terrorists have been caught, does that make me feel better because they were caught, or worse because they existed in the first place?

Soft, Kinda Gushy


Ok, I now have word by email from a reliable source about what crickets taste like. Wanna know? See the comments on a post from a few days ago to see what my friend had to say about it.

My Past Life


Sometimes there are silly websites that attempt to tell your future or describe your personality or rate your purity (among other things). Of course, they can never be believed.

Or can they? There is a website that asks you to enter your birthday and it tells you where you spent your last life. It told me:

"I do not know how you feel about it, but you were female in your last earthly incarnation. You were born somewhere around territory of modern Tailand [sic]. Lesson that your last past life brought to present: to learn discretion and reasonability and then teach others to do that. Your life will be happier, when you help those who lack reasoning.

Hmm... and now I am teaching Algebra (logic and reason) to college students who failed their math entrance exam in Thailand. How fitting!

But then, I realized I put in the wrong birthday...

Jomtien Again

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I just returned from my second trip to Pattaya in three weeks. This time was a little different, as I went with several friends from Bangkok, including Mark and Tri and 5 of the 6 guys I met at Ko Samet last month.

Ton and I arrived at the Ekkamai bus station on Saturday night just as the bus to Pattaya was pulling out. Once we got on, we found out the 2-hour ride only cost 80 baht (US$1.90) instead of the 90 baht it cost me a couple of weeks ago. What luck! Unfortunately, we also soon realized that we were on one of the infamous "local" busses, which meant we did not take the express tollway and we stopped every 15 minutes or so to pick up and let off people. The two-hour ride ended up being three. Ugh. I have GOT to figure out how to find the FAST buses!

The highlight of the quick weekend (go Saturday night, return Sunday) was dinner on Saturday night. We ate at the Moon River restaurant in North Pattaya while listening to live music and drinking beer out of 5 litre containers. The band was awesome: 2 singers (a guy from Taiwan and a girl from Malaysia), an African (-American?) drummer, a keyboardist and a (Thai?) guitarist with a redish-pink mohawk ponytail.

The sets were made up of the usual English-song playlist that I hear all the time in Thailand: Hotel California, I Will Survive, Dancing Queen, Celebration (Kool and the Gang), Thank You (Dido), Hero (Mariah). They also threw in two of my karioke favorites: Bohemian Rapsody and Madonna's La Isla Bonita.

Today we sat and slept on the beach under umbrellas watching the beach volleyball games before driving back to Bangkok tonight.

Mmm, Crickets

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Again this morning, Reuter's "Oddly Enough" has an article about those "odd" Cambodians. This one makes a clever joke about Cricket Season in Cambodia. No, Cricket Season in this part of the world does not mean bats and bases and Englishmen in silly white uniforms. It means hunting crickets and other insects. To eat.

I have seen roaches and crickets and grubs and even scorpions fried and offered for sale to eat on the streets of Thailand. I have yet to taste the delicacies, but as soon as someone who I trust can PROMISE me that it will be crispy and crunchy and not soft and gushy, I will try.

According to the article: "2003 looked like a bumper year, although oversupply had sent cricket prices tumbling from about 1,000 riel ($0.25) per kg to just 200."

Crickets for five cents a kilogram?! I'll take two kilos!

Caught Up


Ok, so I cheated a bit and went back and posted a few daily entries that I had missed this past week. I'll try not to slack off again :)

Deal to Bangkok

After a glut of visitors the first two months of the year, no one is coming to visit me in Bangkok any more. I won't take it personally, since tourism in general in this part of the world is taking a severe beating.

Traveling when no one else is leaving home is a great idea. I just got an email today from Cathay Pacific advertising a round-trip flight from San Francisco or Los Angeles to Bangkok for US$599. Gotta buy before June 30, 2003 on the Cathay Pacific website for travel in July-September.

That's not a bad deal at all, is it? Of course once you get here, food and accomodations are cheap. So, click on over and come visit!


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Wow, I have been a real slacker in updating this website for the past week or so. Right now the last post was from May 27, 2003 -- a week and a day ago. Shame on me.

Even though I haven't written, the last week has been fairly interesting for me. First, I was in a bit of a weird mood after reading the book and watching the movie for The Pianist and living with my friends at the "Jomtien Commune" for a weekend. Neither the book nor the communal situation was particularly comfortable for me because both were so far outside of my own experience and view of life. My opinions and "knowledege" were severely challenged, to say the least. So for a week or so I felt a bit disconnected and ungrounded.

The math class I am teaching this summer exacerbates the situation. I have to teach algebra 10 hours and grade 160 assignments every week. I feel like I am never able to catch up. Plus, I decided to dive in and really concentrate on learning to read, write, and speak the Thai language. My friend Ton has met me for one-on-one tutoring three nights in a row now. I think my head will explode soon.

So that is my excuse for not posting in a while. The past week flew by, but I did have a few notable experiences so I will try to go back and fill them in later. Until then...

Long Day, Long Swim

Mondays and Wednesdays are tough on me, since those are the days that I teach 5 hours of math to kids who really don't want to learn it. So tonight I was supposed to study Thai with Ton again (for the third night in a row), but I just didn't think I could do it.

But he came over in any case armed with some flashcards he had made for me. Once I was home and in more comfortable clothes I felt better and ended up practicing with the flash cards for about 30 minutes.

Then I headed to the gym for a long swim. Tonight I went farther than usual: 2000 meters. My goal is to get up to 3000 meters a few nights a week. By then I will be ready for the swim meet in San Francisco in August.

Leaving Class Early


A very strange thing happened in math class today. I gave a quiz for the first 20 minutes or so and was planning to let the kids do exercises for the rest of the time to practice their skills. What I said was: "Instead of doing homework tonight, we will do the problems on page 24 in class so that I can help you."

At this point, thirty of the forty students in the class stood up, gathered their belongings, and walked out of the classroom.

I should have stopped them, but I didn't. I was too shocked to do anything. I wasn't sure if they misunderstood me or if they were just being difficult and unruly or if they had jsut decided that they had had enough and didn't need additional practice. So I stood there and let them go.

I realize now that I handled the situation poorly. It was a simple case of not making myself clear. I should have demanded (in a nice "Thai" way of course) to sit back down and get to work. I hear my mother saying (as she was wont to do): "Live and learn." Next time I will not be caught off guard!

Grey is the New Black

Unfortunately, my new apartment doesn't have laundry facilities. When I first moved in, my friend Nui helped me find a local laundry place on the other side of the klong from my building. They charged me 600 baht (US$14.40) for 60 pieces. They even offered to pick it up and return it to my apartment once a week.

Not a bad deal, I thought, but the very first load contained a pair of black pants that came back a few shades lighter. I don't know if the detergent was too strong or the washer was too rough. In any case, I wasn't happy.

Last week I washed my 60th piece and Nui and I went back out to find a new place to do laundry. We found one fairly quickly just down the soi from the first. The deal was similar: 130 peices for 1200 baht, plus delivery. We'll see what the quality is like next week...

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This page is an archive of entries from June 2003 listed from newest to oldest.

May 2003 is the previous archive.

July 2003 is the next archive.

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