Thursday, November 27, 2008

Don't Panic

I know Bangkok has been in the news quite recently and some of you might be a little frightened for me. Don't be. It might sound like a huge deal but day-to-day life goes by relatively normally. The Thai people are strangely detached from politics. For anyone who thought Americans were apathetic, you ain't seen nothing. In all honesty, I went for a walk after dinner and there was apparently a coup at the same time. I'll have to check the papers tomorrow to see if anything really happened but it was just like any other Thursday night. For those who don't know I'll give you a quick summary of what's going on. The People's Alliance for Democracy are protesting the current govt because of their ties to the corrupt and deposed ex-pm Thaksin, and claim the new guy is just a proxy. But they don't just want a new PM they want to totally overhaul the govt and pretty much disenfranchise voters in the rural North who they claim aren't qualified to make decisions about government. It's pretty much like if after the '04 election people threw a coup and tried to make it so people from the rural South couldn't vote anymore. In any event, there's really nothing to worry about. Some people warned me against wearing yellow (PAD colors) or red (PPP colors) but it's not nearly as big a deal as they made it out to be, especially for me. If I wore a blue shirt around NYC, no one would seriously think I was in the crips.

As far as this airport thing goes, most of the people who were indifferent (and there were a lot) or even sympathetic to the PAD are pretty upset by this stunt. The letters to the editor in the Bangkok Post were all very similar: 'You don't like the government. We get it. Go home so we can get on with our lives.' People are mostly mad at how this reflects so poorly on Thailand which maintains its image as "the land of smiles". Just keep your eyes on the papers for any new details and I promise it's not as bad as it sounds.

Happy Thanksgiving!! I would have preferred to start with that but what can ya do? Thanksgiving here is certainly not the same. I miss everyone terribly and was feeling pretty homesick for most of the day. My dinner was very delicious though. I went across the street to "Mama's Kitchen" which is where I go most days. She has a nice combination of Thai and Western dishes. I got a chicken breast in a cream sauce with vegetables and delicious mashed potatoes (my one dinner stipulation).

My contact with I Can Read! doesn't start till Dec. 13th so I have some extra time and was thinking of a vacation up to Chaing Mai. Maybe some elephant riding through the jungle? I'm pretty excited about this and can't wait to make it a reality.

much love and turkey!

Sunday, November 23, 2008


The job training process is pretty much all about the observations of classes. The Aussies who developed the program think it's super important to do things a certain way which isn't a problem with me. The different grades aren't split up by age but rather by ability which is so much better. The lowest grade is about building vocabulary and getting them used to English words and comfortable in the school. The next level is about the letters, the sounds they make, and identifying first sounds in words. Next is identifying all sounds and blending them as well as segmenting words into their individual sounds. The next level is the one where they finally do some reading. So far I've observed only 1 of the advanced levels and several of the earlier ones. The early ones are great with plenty of games and activities. The one with the reading is the most important one and the one where they make the most progress but it doesn't leave much time for games and the students can get pretty restless. They're working on ways of integrating games but the ones who developed the program are hesitant to alter anything just because it has proven so effective already. One thing that is so so great is the names some of the children have. Today I sat in a class of 4 students where 3 of them were named Nom. There's a lot of funny/weird names but my faves so far have to be Ice, Korn, Earth, and Santa

My training was almost all day today and yesterday. I Can Read is a private institution with classes once a week so weekends are the busiest days (also almost impossible to take weekends off! so if you're planning anything, let me know as soon as you can so I can see about a day or two off) Now I have all week off until next Saturday when I'll be doing more observations at the Sathorn offices. I had been traveling to the main office in Pinklao which is quite a ride and to have it be that much closer would be awesome. Pinklao is great though because the offices are in a tower full of offices that rises up off the top of a mall. I've been hitting up the food court for lunch each day then hitting the arcade. Winning eleven is huge here and eventhough there's 10 or 12 tv's to play it on, there's usually a line. They also have guitar hero! There's something very cool about playing guitar hero in a suit while little kids look on with reverence.

There was something truly extraordinary that happened to me on Saturday at Pinklao. I was with my roommate Ryan (who also got a call from I Can Read and will be working in their Bang Na office!) and we were heading back to the elevator after lunch. All of a sudden, from out of this dark hallway walks a giant wolfman wearing gladiator armor and wielding medieval weapons (This is true). He was followed by other similar creatures who were clearly all in league together as well as five others who were unmistakeably dressed as a form of power rangers. They were on their way to some event upstairs and they had people up ahead clearing the way and making sure they were on the next elevator. I leaned in to Ryan and said "There's no way I'm not getting on that elevator." When the doors opened, the wolfman was perched ready to scare the unsuspecting people waiting to get off which was good for a laugh. The offices there are pretty busy so there's was a large crowd waiting for the elevators. The trainers waved the power rangers and monster men onto the elevator which pretty much filled it all the way up. There were a few people in front of me who were perfectly fine with waiting for the next one and missing this golden opportunity. I politely moved past them and found my place on the greatest ride of my life. I was only going 5 floors but the doors opened once before we got there as people waiting to go down stared in wide-eyed wonder at what certainly must've been a sight to behold. I was trying to play it casual and not act like this was in anyway weird but I cracked a smile as the doors shut again. A few floors later and waved them goodbye. For all they had given me, it was the least I could do. The super weird thing is that after I was done with training that day (only like 1.5 hrs after), I went up to the floor 15 (of course I checked where they were headed before I got off) and there was absolutely nothing up there. I checked everywhere. There was only one business that was even open and there was no sign that the characters had ever been there. Weird! It makes this whole experience that much cooler.

So good so good

ps snow pics plz

Thursday, November 20, 2008

I Can Read!

Not only is this a true statement on my behalf, but it's also the name of my new place of employment. Day one of training was all about the history of the program and the basic philosophies of I Can Read! Rather than get way in depth I'll just send you a link to their site. There's a lot I like about this job. The first thing and what motivated me to go to the interview in the first place (I was almost sure I was taking a different job at that point)is its proximity to my front door. It's literally a 5 minute walk. This is fantastic because the the skytrain and metro station is a 15-20 min walk in itself, and don't get me started on taxis. It usually takes at least an hour to get anywhere. So that's great. Another thing is that the max class size is 8 students. The program starts early (2.5 !) and has many different levels, but they're always 8 or under. The salary is 40,000 baht a month which isn't a lot of $ but it's more than enough to live comfortably here and I've already begun the transition to a 'baht state of mind'. If I convert everything into dollars before I buy it, I'll end up buying a lot because it's so cheap. I need to start realizing that $2 (70 baht) for a Pad Thai is simply outrageous. I Can Read is also very professional and not like some of the fly-by-night organizations I interviewed with before. They are internationally recognized and have grown exponentially. They have centers all over SE Asia and only really started 8 years ago. There's more reasons to like the place too that go beyond just 'the people there are really nice' (which they are!)

More importantly for you, dear reader, is that I finally have somewhat of a schedule. I know some of you have been thinking about visits and trying to plan vacations around time I could take off. Well now I have an idea of when that is! I get days off around xmas/new year and then again for Thai new year (mid april) as well as about 3 weeks of of other days that I get to use as I choose. Don't get all excited about a return home just yet..I need to stay with the company a while to get them. There's more to tell but once again I'm out of time. I still have a lot of getting ready to do for day two of training. I apologize for not getting this up sooner but the internet has been a real jerk recently and it seems the only time I can get online is early in the morning. We'll try again tonight.

much love,

Wednesday, November 19, 2008


I have some good news and some bad news. The good news is that I landed a sweet job! It's the best one I interviewed for and the one I was holding out for which makes me really excited. The bad news is that I have to go to my first day of job training right now(!) so I don't have any time to write all about it. bummer.

So much more to come.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Wiwa Las Wegas

There's nothing particularly earth-shattering upon which to update, I just figured it had been a while and it seemed like a good time to post a few random observations and experiences. One thing I did do on my last night in Pattaya and cannot believe I forgot to mention is see "Asia's #1 Elvis Impersonator". It was awesome. He, like most all Elvis impersonators, resembled the later Elvis with his iconic sequined suit. He was movin' and shakin' and workin' up a sweat. He mixed in some great non-elvis songs as well including 'proud mary' and 'sweet caroline' which I really got into.

Some Thai behavior is very bizarre. One thing I've experienced is that Thai people have a different view on skin color. Instead of striving for the Western idea of a perfect tan, they try to get as white as possible. Just like fake tanning creams, they market 'whitening creams' and wear long-sleeved shirts to the beach (swim in them too!) Let's just say in all my years in the states I've never seen as many parasols as I do on any given Sunday in Bangkok.

Thailand is in a state of mourning right now. The King's eldest sister died and everybody has been wearing black. Someone told me she actually died like 5 or 6 months ago and they're just now observing it. As some of you know, the Royal family is wholly and unconditionally loved. There are pictures of the King in just about every building and everyone wears yellow (the royal color) on Mondays because the King was born on a Monday. We had to follow the custom and in the quest to become Thai citizens we got a picture of the King for the apartment. It's a black and white one of him jamming on a saxophone. Classic cool.

much love

Tuesday, November 11, 2008


I'm here. I moved into my new apartment in the Sathorn area of Bangkok with my buddy Ryan. We're splitting a two-bedroom on the 7th floor of Villa Suan Phlu. It's great. I came up last Saturday and spent the majority of the afternoon getting unpacked and just admiring both the size of our living room and the fact that I was now a Thai resident. (An British girl was taking surveys of passerby today for her project on Bangkok tourism, and I got to politely say 'oh, I'm sorry, I live here.)

That night we went to dinner with Lannie who lives here now too, and Kat who came up for a little vacation. During the meal I got a call from another employer who saw my resume online and wanted an interview first thing the next morning. For some reason the people looking at these resumes think that everyone is just sitting around all day waiting for their call. The interview was planned and the next day I got into my stylin' new suit and a cab. I asked where the place was on the phone the night before which was stupid since I have no idea where anything really is nor could I understand her. She told me just to call the next morning and hand the phone to the driver. It worked but part of me felt she didn't want to disclose where the interview actually was since it was over the river and on the fringe of the city (about 30 min and 120 baht.) The place seemed nice but they desperately wanted me to start that Monday. I wasn't too pleased. Someone must have quit at the last second and they needed a filler (I mean, they called me at 9pm on a Saturday..) I told them I had other interviews that day and I really wanted to look around before I sign a giant contract but I did agree to go on Monday and teach for that day to see if I liked the students/school/distance from home.

The kids were great. I taught from 8:30 to 3:30 in 1 hr blocks end ended up teaching the equivalent of grades 1-5 with an hour for lunch and a double dose of second grade. They took a while to warm up to me, but we were able to have some fun by the end. I did more or less the same thing in each which made the second half of the day much easier. I introduced myself and went over the different things I liked (favorite movie, food, etc) then we went from there. The school was pretty nice and ranged from 1st grade through high school. The problems were 1) the time it took to get there (I may as well be working in pattaya!) and 2) the pressure to start immediately without testing the job market. I would love to work there if it was one of a couple options, but I just put up my resume and I feel like I need to explore at least a little. I called the head office and told them basically what I just wrote and that if they need someone right now they should probably look elsewhere.

Anyway. I'm getting all settled in to my new place and checking out the city on foot which feels kinda like I'm back in Madrid. I walked down to the park that's only 15 minutes away and checked that out today. It's similar to Retiro in a lot of ways except that it has gigantic lizards strolling around(!). Seriously, I think there's Komodo Dragons living down the street from me. Very cool.

And... to reward your patience while I was getting wi-fi here, new pictures are up!

much love,

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Bangkok bound

Tomorrow morning I'm gonna be moving up to Bangkok. My buddy Ryan and I are splitting a 2-bedroom apartment in the Sathon area which is sort of in the middle and has easy access to most of the city. I'm really excited. I feel like such a bigshot now because it has a pool and a gym and is across from a park. Fan-cy. I'm spending most of my afternoon walking around and taking pictures of Pattaya. There's a lot to dislike about it but even after just 3 weeks I feel like it's home. Sorta like Worcester.

I don't know how long it'll take us to get the wi-fi situation sorted out in the new apartment so this might be the last post for a few days though I'm sure I'll find an internet cafe somewhere as I look for a laundromat, grocery store, or any place else you might search out.

till then,

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Of all the days!

Well I woke up this morning at around 5:45 to tune into election coverage and see how the polls were doing. Everything seemed to be going as planned but by 7:30 they were only making their usual guarantees with still just <1% of polls reporting. Around this time I dozed off and when I awoke my tv was turned off, as were my lights and AC. I walked down to the street to see just exactly what was going on and someone told me they were doing service to the power lines and there'd be no electricity till 5 that night. whaaa!? On the one day where I actually wanted to watch tv and go on the internet the power is down in almost the whole city. Unbelievable! So I started my day by buying some cereal to use up the milk in my fridge, then I began the long trek off the grid to find an internet cafe that still had juice. It was there and then, at ten past the hour of noon, that I saw Obama was our next president. So good. My buddy Mike just posted about the election in his blog and I have to echo some of the same sentiments. "If I wake up tomorrow and John McCain is my next president, i might break my promise to my mother and never return "home" from Japan. I'm sorry, but it's been 8 years of utter bullshit. If we not only fall victim to, but ACTIVELY SELECT 4 to 8 MORE years of it, then i'm sorry but America can no longer be a representative part of my identity. That's not an America I want to be associated with."

That's why today I'm proud to be from a country that chose hope over politics of fear. One that will hopefully steer itself off the rocks and back into respectable standing in the international community. I see myself as more and more of a world citizen and when people ask me where I'm from it's nice, after these long years, to finally say I'm from the USA with my head a little higher.

Thanks to all who voted.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Koh Chang

We had to leave pretty early for Koh Chang but it wasn't bad because we had a 4 hour car ride then another half hour on a ferry so I still got in plenty of napping. The ferry ride was great. Car ferries are more or less the same all over the world, except for the view. For some reason or another I didn't consider this to be a tropical island; I guess I thought they only existed in the South Pacific and Caribbean. Well Koh Chang certainly was. It had white sands and palm trees and the water was really warm. Almost too warm, it felt very unnatural. So the first day, we arrived around 11am and we were told we had the day all to ourselves until dinner at 7. A few of us went for a walk down the beach to explore. The beach stretched around like a C shape and we could see some giant rocks out on the point that we needed to investigate. The beach was lined with hotels but there weren't that many people (considering it was the first day of 'high' season). Lots of them had swings, not like the ones over the river in Laos, these were for relaxing. So we eventually got to the giant rocks which took some doing. We had to cut through a fancy resort where we definitely stood out in our cheap 'pattaya beach' bathing suits. There was a system of little wooden ladders to climb up the main rock and from there we could see a way to get down to the water between them. The water was fantastic and actually very deep. We climbed out on to some of the other rocks and dove in. (don't worry, we carefully checked for anything below the landing zone.) The rocks did have their fair share of barnacles though and I got a little scraped up. Nothing too, too serious except there's one on my left heel that’s kinda deep and has a band-aid on it now.

For dinner we took our car up the coast to the northern part of the island and walked along the beach looking for somewhere good. We eventually found a place that was alright.. it didn't seem any better or worse than the surrounding ones, we were just starving. The cool thing is that almost every restaurant offers a 'fire show' where people come out and twirl a giant stick with a fireball on each end. We watched the one next door while we ate which was pretty impressive. The fire-twirlers associated with our restaurant weren't that great. After dinner we walked down the beach to see what we could find and we stumbled upon a tremendous fire show. You could tell that this was the premier restaurant/bar on this part of the beach because it was packed and all the rest were starting to close down. Their fire show had 5 different guys, plus three hula girls. One of the fire guys seemed particularly crazy. He had a long ponytail and wore big aviator sunglasses even though by this time it was 11pm. My favorite part was when he started spinning two fiery orbs on the end of chains like a buzz saw in front of him, and then somersaulting over them. Then he got up on another guys shoulders (standing) and spun them wildly while the guy on the bottom ran around the beach or 'stage'. I thought that was pretty crazy, but then he sprinted into the crowd and ran a lap around us. The whole time the guy on top was ducking under tree branches and screaming wildly. Most were terrified but I thought it was really cool.

The next day we checked out of the hotel and went on a hike to a waterfall. It's a pretty popular place, but the path was still difficult to traverse. We finally reached it and got to go for a swim. Despite its popularity, only about half the people were going in. Most were just taking pictures and leaving. The water was great. It was cooler and a lot more comfortable than the bathwater in the bay from the day before. We did some more jumping in here. Then, before we left, we moved down to the next tier of waterfall pool where there were almost no people. There was a little restaurant as we left that had the most delicious chicken I've had in a while. It was fresh of the spit and you ate with sticky rice which just means you clump the two together, dip in a sauce, and enjoy. Sensational! We ended up eating a lot and I educated them on proper bone tower etiquette. The trip back was fun. We saw a sign that offered 2.3 acres for sale which I briefly considered.

So now I'm all done with courses I'm fully in the job/apt hunt. I posted my resume online and have already got a couple offers which is nice. I'm still trying to find a perfect one though. There's one that sounds really nice but it's a little too far removed from the city (which might not actually be a bad thing). Also AUA is looking for applicants and they're the best language school in Thailand, says Jam. So things are looking up. I had a little problem with my bank but that got resolved and now I'm right on the precipice of moving to Bangkok. I don't know whether to find a good apt and get a job nearby, or to try and live near work. Getting around in Bangkok is tough and I'd like to make it as painless as possible.

I didn't bring my camera to Koh Chang (doh) but others did and the pictures are fantastic. I'll put up some of Laos kayaking in the meantime.

Be excellent to each other!