Friday, January 23, 2009

Why So Secretive?

Another Thai culture note: Almost all Thai people cover their mouth when they talk on the cell phone. I know this isn't anything really earth-moving or in anyway bizarre but I just noticed it a lot today. They don't talk quietly or anything, it's apparently just the polite thing to do. It looks like they're afraid of someone hearing their conversation, only that the spy would be watching them through cctv. Talking on a regular telephone is totally fine but there's just something about cellphones that prompts the secrecy. Don't get me wrong I don't think it's weird at all and it wouldn't hurt for more people to do it worldwide.

One thing that apparently isn't rude is to talk about other people when they're standing right there. I am of course talking about me. I don't speak Thai very well but I can pick certain words out of a conversation and the easiest one to hear is 'farang'. (I'm not sure if I said this but farang is the over-arcing term for any Caucasian foreigner). Now granted, they might not be talking about me but it seems strange that I happen to walk past so many conversations right in the middle of a farang anecdote. I don't know if it's just not considered rude here or what but I feel like it's only happening under the assumption that I don't know what they're saying. I say this only because I've heard of other incidents where Thai people start talking about a farang unscrupulously only to have the farang turn around and speak to them in Thai which would prompt a flurry of embarrassed apologies followed by despondence for having lost face. I'm not learning Thai just so I can listen in on conversations and nail people when they talk about me. Not at all. It's just something that kinda disappoints me to have Thai people (at least in Bangkok) think that farangs can't, or won't, speak Thai. I say won't because most English-speaking people would have no problem getting around in Bangkok without a word of Thai. A fair percentage of locals here speak passable English and the most typical reaction I get when speaking Thai to someone is "why?". Don't bother learning our language, we're already committed to learning yours. I like learning new languages, which is probably the biggest reason I'm studying like I am, but I can't help but feel that part of my learning is an unconscious effort to correct this feeling of obligation on the part of the Thai people. You don't have to learn my language, I'll come to you. Haha, although at the rate I'm learning it would probably be better if we met in the middle somewhere.

Much Love

Monday, January 19, 2009

I'm Back!

Hey everybody. I'm so sorry I haven't posted anything in a long time. I've been sorta waiting for something big to happen or at least lots of little things that would warrant a legit blog but I remember that's totally not what a blog is about. I've just been having so many rad experiences since I started this that I'd almost be letting you down with a post that didn't involve exotic locales or monsters in an elevator. Now that I'm working regularly, not a whole lot is happening in the way of extraordinary adventures. Having been teaching for over a month now, my students are used me and even better I'm used to them. I know which kids are good, which ones are smart, which ones have ADHD, etc. So I guess now my blog will shift more to smaller stories, cultural observations, and just general musings, which is pretty much what a blog is supposed to be..right? So here are just some stray thoughts..

My Thai is progressing nicely. The language is pretty weird. It's tough to nail the tones and a lot of words sound very very similar which is hard but a lot of the grammar is pretty intuitive. Spanish has a different word for everything. Spending so much time learning Spanish I forgot (and pretty much took for granted) all the compound words in English. I first realized how much I forgot about them when I asked some park ranger on Koh Chang how to say 'waterfall'. He told me it was just 'water' then 'fall'. Oh man! Cool! That's so simple! How come English doesn't do that!?...doh. The Thai language is filled with compound words. You pretty much picture what you want to say and then build a description with other broader words. For example student is 'nak-rean' which is something like 'person-learn', while pilot is 'nak-bin' or 'person-fly'. See? it's fun. My favorite is the word for barber which translates to something like 'hair mechanic'. Rooms in the house are all easy: room-food, room-sleep, room-water, and my fave room-sit-play(which makes just about as much sense as 'living' room)

There are a lot of cultural differences that I'm getting used to. There are the ones I expected like the emphasis on saving/losing face, but there are other smaller ones that seem weird or a little silly to me. Moles are lucky. Not the animal, but the growth. And the longer the hairs growing out of them, the luckier you are. It's not very common, but every now and then you'll see someone with 2" hairs growing out of a mole. That was gross and I'm sorry. In any event, another thing I see that is kinda silly the the Thai elevator experience. I wouldn't say this is 'cultural' per se but: you know those buttons in an elevator that open and close the doors prematurely? The Thai people use them as if the doors wouldn't open and close without them. Whenever anyone gets in an elevator, they turn push the button for their floor and then hold the door close button. Then as they're leaving they press the door open button on their way out. If you're standing near the buttons it becomes your responsibility to operate them for others getting on and off. It might just be my limited experience with elevators in the states but I can count on one hand the number of times I've seen a person use those buttons for something other than to hold the door open for someone rushing to it. Now it's every time. The weird thing is that I'm doing it now. That extra one and a half seconds waiting for the door to close now seems like an eternity. And I hold the button sometimes if I'm leaving after other people which might come from some paranoia about the doors closing on me. These doors do not gently touch you and open back up again if you're caught, they crunch down on you. Nothing bone-crushing, but still pretty jarring. And again I have no real frame of reference for how long it takes before they close because everyone's always using the buttons.

Well that's about it for now. I promise I'll never go that long without posting again and I'll keep my mind open for more stuff. To reward your patience there's some new pictures up!

much love,

ps happy inauguration day!

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

A Look Back

As 2008 came to a close I began thinking more and more about it and how good it was to me. I tried to think of all the things that made it so special and was simply overwhelmed by just how many there were. So here's a quick list of some of the things that made 2008 so good, so good. And keep in mind that this list is far from exhaustive. I'll probably end up forgetting some of the bigger things that gave me the idea for this list in the first place. Well, here it goes..

I guess we could start the list by saying 2008 started the same time as my second semester of senior year. There really isn't a need to elaborate on that sentence at all but I'll outline some of the more righteous singular events. The first one that comes to mind is February's blue ribbon performance of 'Seven Car Pileup' which was without a doubt the funnest hundred bucks we ever made (not just the actual performance but all the preparation too). The St. Patrick's party was another event that was great equally for the preparation (balloons!) as well as the fulfillment.As graduation day got closer and closer the smaller things got more and more meaningful. Knowing that I would be soon saying goodbye to such great friends made all the time we spent together that much more important. Even hanging out. Especially hanging out. There's no way to measure the number of hours spent laughing at late-night youtube videos, Captain N episodes, or just the absurdity of things at 38 Florence.

The handing in of my last paper was immediately followed by a wacky road trip to PA that was great for the reasons listed above as well as the fact that I had just handed in my last paper(!). Graduation was awesome. The dinner the night before in Groton and then the dinner with Mum, Steve, and Maegan during Celts/Cavs game 7 are probably the best back-to-back dinners I've ever had (considering company, cuisine, and circumstance).

Then Spring became the Summer. I had already declared it to be my greatest summer sometime around Labor Day but I'll see if I can pick out some of the events that made it so. I'd have to point to working with Roger as one of the huge factors in making summer '08 so fun. Nights and weekends can always be great, but having a good time while working is unbeatable. The summer had the mainstays that are guaranteed fun like the trip to Keoka, and the Knut the Reaper Festival. BW was, as it is every year, the best one ever with events like the the raising of the tree and the fireworks display. Aside from those, this summer also had the Beijing Games which led to an unprecedented number of amazing contests as well as wild shouting in living rooms from Chatham to JP. It also held the marriage of Spencer and Amy which was an experience that felt so weird (friends getting married) and at the same time so right (come on, it's spencer and amy). All these things against a backdrop of frequent trips to 'the island' as well as beach days that turned into wing nights.

The final month before my departure might've been my favorite part. The birth of my beautiful niece, the trip to Fenway, and the get-togethers with friends and family that were simply some of the best times ever.

The rest, as you've read, has been tremendous. The trips to Angkor Wat and Laos were just cherries on top of this incredible journey sundae. The entirety of moving away to a foreign land, starting a job, and making new friends and memories is such an unbelievable end to this year, even for me! As I've said, these things are just some of the highlights of 2008, and it's hard to fully explain the little things in between that made this year so great. 2008 was, without a shadow of a doubt,my favorite year.

I apologize for taking so long in between posts and I'm also sorry if this came across as very corny. I would just like to send a big thank you to everyone who was a part of my 2008. You made it great.

much love,