August 2004 Archives

Like most Americans, I have always been a big fan of the Summer Olympics. One of the best experiences of my life was attending events of the 1996 Games in Atlanta with my family and Paul.

This time around, unfortunately, I didn't get a chance to watch much of the Games. I did get to see parts of Thailand's "Best Games Ever" as their female weightlifters from Isaan pulled in 2 golds and 2 bronzes. Thailand won a national record 8 medals with additional victories in boxing and Taekwondo. You can see Thailand's full results on the Sports Illustrated site.

Of course those 8 medals seem puny compared to the dominating 103 medals won by the US. But I started thinking to myself that medal count alone doesn't tell the whole story. The US is a much bigger country than Thailand, so of course they should win more medals. Then I realized that the US is also a much richer country, so again it should not be surprising that they won the medal count. Sure enough, thanks to a Google search, I see that I am not alone in my thinking. For example, there is a site that ranks countries according to medals won per capita. (The Bahamas comes in first on that tally, while the US is #34.) And there are others that suggest that medal count should be done as a function of the country's GDP.

And then to top it all off, almost all of the sports are Western ones. One article I just found suggests we give Olympic medals in drum dancing, hand fishing, wood chopping, and camel riding.

In any case, Thailand is hoping to capitalize on its success by planning to apply to host the 2016 games. The Straits Times has an interesting article about this idea, along with the story of the Thai boxer who won gold.

Manus, who had urged fans back home to watch him fight on television at his family's home to encourage the spirits of the house to help him win, built up a lead in the early rounds and protected it in the fourth round.

And now, on a more personal note, one of my best high school friends has been living in Athens for the past 2 years. Last week, his experiences at the Olympics were written up in our hometown newspaper. The best part of the article relates his accusation that Sheryl Swoopes' kid stole his American flag at one of the women's basketball games.

And finally, on a really personal note, I got an email from my father today in which he said, "I always like watching the Olympics--always have regretted not being able to make the team in '64--just wasn't good enough, but it was really fun trying." That year, he competed in the Olympic trials in three (yes, three) sports: the marathon, fencing, and Pentathalon. Of course, making the Olympic team would have been really cool, but I think going to the Trials was a huge accomplishment. I am very proud of him!

New Bangkok Governor

While I am in Finland, I am a little out of touch with what is going on in Bangkok. Or at least I would have been before the days of the Internet. Luckily, Piyawat has started updating his blog again and can fill in the gaps about life in Thailand this week, especially concerning the recent Governor's election.

Update (1 April 2006): Unfortunately Piyawat's blog isn't up any more.

Helsinki Afternoon: Tex-Mex and Finn Beer

Another layover in another city means that I can do some more exploring. This time, I have just flown to Helsinki and will take the train to Joensuu later tonight. But for now, I am free to see the sights.

Unfortunately, though (as I expected), there aren't very many sights to see. Let me just say that the highlight was going to a public swimming pool and swimming a few laps, and sitting in the sauna and steam rooms. It was very refreshing after so much walking in Vienna this morning plus 13 hours of flying time so far.

The other highlight was eating at a Tex-Mex restaurant. Yes, I know it sounds silly to fly to Finland for a burrito, but as soon as I saw the place, I couldn't resist. I washed it down with a Finn beer, if that makes it a little more authentic (or more wierd, take your pick).

So I left Bangkok last night, spent the morning in Vienna and now the afternoon in Helsinki. It's been quite a trip so far, but I won't arrive at my final destination until tomorrow morning when my train will arrive in Joensuu.

Morning Layover in Vienna

There was no way I was going to spend my five hour layover in Vienna sitting in the airport. No offense to the airport, but once I found out that the city was only 15 minutes away by train, I practically sprinted to the station.

It took me a while to figure out the train system and the routes, but soon enough I found myself in centuries-old Vienna on a bright, cool Sunday morning. I spent the next 4 hours wandering the streets and marvelling at the architecture. I was all alone, sharing the streets with only a few pigeons and a random youth or two stumbling home from a night of partying.

The city was eerily quiet. It was so quiet, in fact, that every hour I could hear not only one church bell ringing the hours, but usually three or four different churches. To add to the ambiance, the sun was slowly rising and was casting a beautiful yellow glow on the surrounding history. It was a very special experience.

But, after 4 hours, I started to get hungry. Apparently Vienna has hundreds of cool little sidewalk cafes and apparently exacty zero of them are open on Sunday morning. I could only find one place in the entire city to eat -- and again I hate to admit it -- but my first meal in Austria was at McDonalds. Sigh.

Now, it's time to fly to Helsinki...

Europe Bound

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In a matter of hours I will be on a plane over... India? Russia? Who knows. I'm definitely excited for the trip and looking forward to attending an interesting conference. I don't know if I will be able to make updates to this website as I go, but I will defintely be keeping notes and I will fill in all the gaps when I return.

Wikipedia

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Every now and then I find an Internet site that blows my mind. The site (or sites) for this week are all part of the Wikipedia family. I have been a regular user of Wikipedia -- the Internet's free encylopedia -- for some time. It is a fantastic resource that I highly recommend.

The coolest part about Wikipedia is that anyone (and I mean anyone and everyone) has the right to edit its content. Think about that for a minute. If you know a lot about some subject, you just go to Wikipedia and write the article for the world to see. Likewise, if you see an article that you don't agree with, you can change it! It's a radical concept, and apparently a wildly successful one. The homepage today boasts that there are 334,501 articles written. Wow.

Last week I was looking through the Wikipedia pages, trying to learn more about how it actually works. That is when I discovered there are several "Wikimedia" projects that are very cool.

For example, there is now a Wiki Travel website. So instead of spending a lot of money on Lonely Planet books or spending hours researching destinations on the web, you can go to one source for tons of free information. I think I will print out a few pages on Helsinki and Vienna for my upcoming trip.

And again, the coolest part is that anyone (even I) can create and edit pages on this website. Maybe I have some tips on things to do in Bangkok or want to add to the Thai Phrasebook. (Actually, I did edit this page a little bit. It was so much fun, I'm afraid it might become addictive!)

Another cool editable Wiki site is the Wiki Books site. Basically, the idea is to create free, open-source textbooks. Makes sense to me! As I sit here and plan to teach my classes, in the back of my mind I am thinking "How many textbooks does the world need for Introduction to Computers? How many different ways can you explain how to print a document?" It just seems to me that there is basic knowledge that everyone should have free and open access to. There is no need for a student to buy a $100 textbook to tell them how to print or send an email. Perhaps I can contribute to some of these books as well.

Anyway, long post here for a little Wiki-Evangelism. Check it out!

Rogue Wave on iTunes

Apple Computers play a major role in my life. No, I don't actually one one (yet) but:

  • I read enjoy reading about them.
    ituneslogo.jpg
  • I use iTunes on my PC laptop to play my music.
  • I've been seriously considering buying an iPod for the upcoming cross-country drive.
  • I am eagerly awaiting the new iMacs that will be released next week.
  • I even bought some Apple stock a few weeks ago.

As my collegue Terry just told me a few minutes ago, I am slipping over to the dark side. Actually, I think I might be escaping from the dark side, but only time will tell.

In any case, every Tuesday I download iTunes' "Free Song of the Week". This week, I was very shocked to see the single was from Rogue Wave, led by singer/songwriter/guitarist, Zach Rogue, aka "Zach my ex-cubicle mate." We even got laid off from our dot-com Project Mangement jobs on the same day.

roguewave.jpg

Whereas I took my freedom from the dot-com world and ran to Thailand, he took his and started a band. And from the huge amount of publicity he will recieve from iTunes, he might be on to something big. I certainly hope so!

(If you have iTunes, you can download the FREE song by clicking this link.)

More on Thai Buddhism

I have written about my struggles to understand Thai Buddhism several times (most notably here and here and here). As I have said before, Thai Buddhism is a confusing mix of Buddha's teachings, Hinduism, animism, and respect/offerings/worship of ancestors and kings.

A couple of weeks ago, I found an article from the Online Irrawaddy called Buddhism and Spirit Worship in Burma and Thailand that talks a little bit more about the interesting mix. Again, I think it's facinating stuff.

I am in a bit of a rush this morning with the week-long international trip quickly approaching, so I will just leave this small post and the link for your reading pleasure. Enjoy!

As I have mentioned here a few times, I am working like a dog (and feeling like a lowdown soi dog) but it's all good, because I have an exciting week ahead of me (even though the week ahead has been part of the problem).

I'm not sure if I mentioned it here before, but this weekend, I am flying to Finland. I made it official yesterday by plunking down the 35,000 baht for the ticket. Ouch. Why Finland? To attend a geeky conference called the International Conference for Advanced Learning Technologies, or ICALT 2004 for short.

Leaving my classes for a week has caused an incredible amount of extra work for me. Once the trip was approved by my boss' boss' boss, I had to 1) send a letter to Personel to tell them I wouldn't be clocking in and out every day, 2) use the school website to reserve rooms for one class, 3) talk to the computer center to reserve the lab room for the other class, 4) write a letter to my boss to tell him my makeup class times, 5) fill out 2 separate forms for each of the 6 classes I will be cancelling/making up. (The amount of paperwork that is needed in this country amazes me sometimes.) All of those things are, of course, in addition to all the other things I have to do like booking a flight and finding hotels.

But now, everything is set (I think). Finland, here I come!

Another reason I have been thinking about my life B.T. (before Thailand) was because I am planning on visiting America over my fall break in October.

When I originally moved from San Francisco two years ago, I wasn't really sure how long I would stay in Thailand. In fact, I figured I would just travel in Asia for a few months and then come back to a rebounding American economy and start working in the Bay Area again. Well, two years later the economy is still a mess. Luckily, I am really enjoying my new life on the other side of the planet.

So since I wasn't sure when I was returning, I left all of my belongings in boxes in a friend's basement. But now, I don't see myself going back to SF any time soon, so I am thinking that maybe it would be better for my stuff to be at my parent's house instead. Problem is, (according to Mapquest) they live 2640.7 miles away, which Mapquest kindly suggests will take me 40 hours and 49 minutes to make the drive.

Whew, that's a long way! I have driven across America two times before, and it was actually kind of fun, especially with a good travel partner. (Paul joined me the first two times). So this time, I am trying to convince Piyawat to join me.

The problem is, though, that Piyawat is a Thai citizen, and ever since 9/11, it is very difficult for Thai people to get visas to visit America. He has started the lengthy visa process, which looks something like this:

  1. Turn in the following to the U.S. Embassy:
    • Two passport-sized photographs
    • Five-page Visa Application
    • Round-trip airline ticket reservation that shows you will be coming back
    • Letter from your employer stating that you have a job and you will be coming back
    • Letter from your bank showing that your account balance is high enough to want to come back. We�re not sure how much is enough, but from what we can tell, it�s at least 100,000 baht (US$2,500)
    • Non-refundable 4000 baht (US$100) for visa

  2. Wait for 4-6 weeks.

  3. Have a personal interview

  4. Get the answer. Of the three friends I know who have tried to get visas to visit America, all three have gotten an answer of NO.

Let's compare that with what I have to do to get a Thai Visa:
  1. Get on a plane and fly to Thailand where I automatically get a free visa stamp in my passport.

Just another one to chalk up in the "Life is not fair" category, I suppose.

Ok, I just posted two more posts from earlier this month -- both of them about the new student orientation at my school (Sleepless Supanburi from August 7,2004 and Farang Advice from August 8,2004. Now I am caught up on all of the "things I did" postings. I had a few other ideas for posts, but I will save them for daily updates this week.

So, what else is going on? Well, to be honest, the last month or so has been a little difficult. I feel like I am working a lot. It is true, I have been spending a lot of time with my laptop. But, on the other hand, I do have two jobs and so the decent income should keep me from complaining too much.

But my mood today is affected by not only the heavy work, but to a few random events over the past two days. Allow me to explain.

On Friday night, I had a craving for one of the BBQ pork sandwiches at the new restaurant near my apartment. That place always makes me think of my two favorite BBQ places in America: Craig's BBQ in Brinkley, Arkansas and Rendevous in Memphis, Tennessee. Those memories in turn always start a flood of other thoughts about my family and friends back in the States.

Yesterday, I received an interesting email from Ofoto. It said that since I hadn't bought any photos from them in a long time, that they would be deleting all the photos I had stored there. What? I completely forgot that I uploaded a bunch of pictures back in 2000-2001. And since I was still mouring the loss of my laptop with all my digital pics on it a few months ago, I was very excited that perhaps some of them would be retrieved.

So, I logged onto the two Internet photo services I remembered using: Ofoto and Shutterfly. And sure enough, there were lots of photos I took with Kenley: a road trip to Mendicino, a hike in Lake Tahoe, and a trip to Hawaii. There were also a bunch of pictures from the night that I was laid off from work. In an act of solidarity, the entire company (50% of whom were now unemployed) went out for a Kareoke "wake". It was definitely an interesting snapshot of a day that changed my life forever. I saved all of them all of the pictures to my new laptop (mental note: back up to CD soon, even though the quality isn't great) and spent the next hour or so looking through them and fondly remembering.

After another long day at work yesterday, Mark wanted to go to the BBQ place for dinner, so I ended up there for the second night in a row. And again, the thoughts of America came back.

So, combinations of working hard and not getting much free time, daily trips to eat delicious American BBQ, and seeing pictures from my life in America 3-4 years ago has made me a bit nostalgic. I wouldn't really call it "homesick", as it doesn't really make me want to go back, necessarily. Instead, it is just some memories of good times gone by.

Backtrack Started

Ok, I have finally started to go back and fill in some of the posts from the last three (!) weeks. Shame on me for being slack on the website!

Today's postings include: Two Year Anniversary from August 1, 2004 and Hua Hin Recap from August 4, 2004.

More to come tomorrow...

Yes and No

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Yes, I am still alive.

No, I am not still in Hua Hin two weeks later!

Yes, I have been incredibly busy the last two weeks with the start of the new semester at my school in addition to having to re-write my online course because a new edition of the textbook came out.

No, this does not mean that other interesting things haven't happened, I just haven't written about them. But today and tomorrow, I should be able to find some time to fill in the gaps...

Last night I did something I almost never do. I have to say that I'm not very proud of it. In fact, I wish I hadn't done it at all. I used to do it a lot in college and have done it a few times since then, but I don't think I have ever done it in Thailand. But let me tell you, I am paying the price for my foolishness today. My whole body aches and my head is spinning and all I want to do is lay down and feel sorry for myself.

Have I piqued your curiosity? What deviant act have I done? It's probably not what you are thinking, but I must completely confess: I pulled an all-nighter last night.

That's right, I finished up my work around 4:30 AM this morning. Ugh. I had a deadline to update my online class and it just took much longer than I expected. Luckily, my favorite coffee shop on Silom is now open 24 hours a day. When the bars closed at 2, it got a little crazy, but by 3 I had the place to myself.

It wouldn't have been so bad, if I didn't have to work today. But then again, today's "work" consisted of getting on a bus with all of the new foreign students and taking them northwest of Bangkok to Supanburi province. Needless to say, I slept the whole way there and back.

Supanburi was actually quite nice. I packed my Lonely Planet to read on the way, but there wasn't any information about the province at all. It's a shame too. We saw a lot of interesting temples and temple ruins from the road. Also, apparently a recent Thai Prime Minister was from this province, so when he was in power, a lot of money was flowing there. Thanks to the money, the streets and sidewalks are wide and beautifully landscaped. Very nice.

The day consisted of visiting Wat Sai Ngam, then lunch at a powerful, rich politicians house (he wasn't there), then on to the Buffalo Village to see a show with trained buffalo, and then a little shopping for Thai snacks. It was a good day, and I actually got a few good pictures that I will share (hopefully) soon.

Now it's time for bed!

My Advice for Farang Students

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I walked into the room and was shocked at what I saw: A sea of blonde hair! Since 99% of the people around me have black hair, I really did a double-take when I walked into the room full of exchange students from Finland, Germany, the US...

Today we had the student orientation for the nakrien farang (foreign students) at my school. After the students went around and introduced themselves, it was the ajarn (teacher's) turn. We were also supposed to give a little bit of advice about living in Thailand.

The advice from the 10 ajarn was actually quite interesting. Christian started off by telling a story of seeing one of the students taking a picture of the traffic that morning. His advice: "Don't worry, you will have many many chances to take pictures of traffic in Bangkok!"

Much of the advice went along the lines of "Have patience" and "Learn the meaning of mai bpen rai (no problem/no worrries)". We also told them, "Talk to your teachers. Ask the questions that the Thai students are too afraid to ask."

And what was my advice? "The best thing you can do in Bangkok is to get out of Bangkok. Thailand is an amazing place. But the most amazing parts of Thailand are outside of the city limits. Go to the beaches. Visit the mountains. Learn about the hilltribes and the rice farmers. Don't be afraid to be the only white face in the crowd. Go to an Isaan folk concert and let everyone stare at you for 10 minutes and then watch them knock each other over to share their food and drink with you."

But perhaps the most interesting bit of advice came from Ajarn Gary. He read a few passages from a book on Buddhism. He has been on a bit of a crusade (poor choice of words, perhaps) lately to try to convince his lazy students that Buddhism teaches people to work hard. Not only that, but Buddhism teaches that you should honor your parents and your teachers by learning as much as you can. Families and teachers are making investments in the students' futures, and the students should then, in turn, show respect by actually trying to learn something. Now that is some good advice!

My little trip to sleepy Hua Hin is over. Even though there wasn't much to do there, I still would have enjoyed another few days.

It was the Buddhist Lent holiday weekend, so most of the hotels were sold out. I did manage to find two different hotels for the two nights I was there, and can recommend both. The first is called Peony Hua Hin Hotel. It is across from the historic Sofitel. As opposed to the Sofitel, though, it is very affordable at only 1000 baht (US$25) on a regular weekend. That price includes ethernet jacks in every room and free breakfast. Can't beat it.

The second night I stayed at the Jed Pee Nong Hotel, across from the taller and (again) more expensive City Beach Hotel. Rooms there were also 1000 on a regular night, with free breakfast, but no Internet. Oh well. Still a pretty good bargain.

One highlight of the weekend was visiting the sprawling Maruekkhathayawan Palace just north of the town of Hua Hin. Built entirely of teak wood in 1923 by King Rama VI, it is a raised structure with lots of long walkways and open rooms which allow for the ocean breeze to keep things cool.

Finally, no trip to Hua Hin is complete without a trip to the Night Market. Being a holiday weekend, the daily street fair was packed. We had to wait quite a bit to get our orders of pad thai, but it was well worth it.

So, all in all it was a great trip. It was definitely worth a few-hour drive to get away from Bangkok and visit someplace a little quieter and a little slower, even on a "busy" holiday weekend.

Two Year Anniversary

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Happy Anniversary to me! Happy Anniversary to me! Happy Anniversary to me..., happy anniversary to me! (And many more... ?)

Today marks the second year anniversary of my move to Thailand. It is hard to believe that two years have gone by already. And it is even harder to believe that I have chronicled most of it on these pages.

Here are some statistics that give some idea of how I have been spending my time doing over the past two years:

3: Number of apartments I have rented in Bangkok.
7: Number of different University courses I have taught
9: Number of Asian countries I have visted
35: Number of Thai provinces I have visited (out of 76)
532: Number of entries in my weblog
616: Number of pictures I have posted to my website
4,878: Number of pictures in the "My Photos" folder on my laptop

Whew. Makes me tired just thinking about it. But, the longer I stay, the less I want to leave. It's been a wonderful two years and I hope for at least a few more.

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About this Archive

This page is an archive of entries from August 2004 listed from newest to oldest.

July 2004 is the previous archive.

September 2004 is the next archive.

Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.