Tuesday, February 24, 2009

River Kwai

My dad was here for his final days in SE Asia last week and luckily enough so was my cousin Margaret. It was during my 'weekend' so we took a day trip to Kanchanaburi which is due west of here just about in Burma. This is where they built the bridge on the river Kwai of movie fame. They had a bridge there(obviously) but it wasn't the original. Still it was pretty neat to walk across. It's starting to get really hot and humid here and the noon-day sun this day was particularly bad. After the bridge, we checked out a couple museums. One was about the history of the railroad and all the suffering that went into it, and another was about the history of the Thai military. They were pretty interesting but I enjoyed the view from the rooftop the best. We didn't stay super long because we weren't feeling well and other points of interest were outside the city limits quite a ways. We also wanted to rush back and see a Muay Thai fight since it was Tuesday night, but teh bus ended up making several more stops than anticipated and by the time we were back in Bangkok, we were already late. We decided to skip and just go to the night bazaar instead. Still pretty righteous. Then I took them up to a restaurant/bar on the top of one of the tallest buildings in the city, which is only about a 10 minute walk from the apartment. It's about 60 floors up and completely open air. You could see the whole city which was a treat because sometimes the smogginess reduces visibility.

It's been a good week.


Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Dor Deg, Dtor Dtao

My Thai learning is coming along pretty well and I'm more excited about it than ever. I credit this to my new approach. I've started learning the Thai alphabet and been trying to write out the words as I learn them. It's actually very difficult to do but I'm making progress. (I actually just wrote 'Happy Earth Day!' with only one mistake!!) The Thai alphabet has something like 45 letters but far fewer sounds, which means there's a bunch of repeats(I'll check on the exact numbers). This means that when I write something I have to pretty much guess as to which letter is the one making the "S" sound. There are ones that are more common than others but it's still kinda deflating to find out I spelled a word almost perfectly except that I had to use some crazy ornate "y" rather than the "y" used everywhere else. Consonant sounds are actually the easy part. The Thai language is all about the tones and so there are dozens of vowels and they can be behind the consonant, in front of it, above it, below it, maybe two spaces ahead of it, or in front of it but used in conjunction with one behind it. There's short and long vowels, but there's also a distinction in how long you say them. (ex: moon vs mooon). And on top of all of that, the words have tone marks which are supposed to guide you as to how to pronounce them (high tone? falling tone? etc) but when I ask what tone means what, the response is pretty much 'I don't know'. It seems to change from word to word. It's pretty crazy. But our hero laughs at the Herculean task before him and bravely dives in, knife clenched between his teeth.

It's actually pretty helpful. Because of the differences in alphabets, there's no proper way to write a Thai word in English and you can end up with something written any number of ways. I live off Sathorn road. I've also seen it spelled Satorn and Sathon. The 'h' is never pronounced but thrown in there to sorta guide you. You gotta breath a little bit as you say it. As for the "r", well the Thai people are taught to speak the queen's english so when you're reading a sign you gotta say it that way. I'm not sure I explained that well.

Anyway, the reason it's helpful is because if you see something written with the Roman alphabet, you can't be sure that's the way to say it so now I can check and see. An example would be the Metro stop that's "(something) Toei" but the voice on the PA sounds like it's saying "(something) Doei". Well I checked and sure enough it's spelled with a "Dtor Dtao" which is the a Dt sound. (The Thai alphabet has extra sounds that include a Dt and a Bp among others). The word for crab is bpoo, but I've seen it as boo and poo. And going back the other way, I've seen it on menus re-written as crap. Excuse me, but I won't be ordering the fried rice with crap tonight.

Also the letters aren't simple like a, b, c. instead they all have words associated with them. It would be like reciting the alphabet as "a apple, b boy, c cat..." I think this might be because they have so many repeats and it would probably confuse them too. Some of them are so obscure. There's one that is literally "h - collared Scops' owl" Collared Scops' Owl!? That's the most commonly occurring word that uses this letter!? You can see how it gets a little frustrating when I misspell a word because instead of using the ultra common 'h' that's in everything, I should've used the "h - collared Scops' owl". But my will remains as strong as ever. I read every sign that I see and, although a rare occurrence, I am thrilled when I can read and identify a word. It helps a lot to have an idea of what they're saying (a dentist's sign will have the word for tooth on there somewhere, right?) It's great. Also, I took an adventure to Kanchanaburi and the river Kwai yesterday with my dad and cousin Margaret but that's a post for another day!

much love,

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Lunch Time

Just a quick post for now. Since I'm using the internet only at work now, I have weird hours of operation. Updates will pretty much rely on when I have time between classes (or in this case, lunch). This is mostly to address the people who've been attempting to Gchat with me since I've left my email open on my computer during class. I would love to talk to you, chances are that you just missed me. Here's the way my schedule shakes out:

Saturday: I come in early (8:30) but I go straight to class and don't have time again till 12:30 when I get lunch. During Saturday lunches I'm typically wolfin' it down and also socializing with the part-time teachers who are here. They're only here Saturday. Sunday's are similar except I get lunch at 12:00 and am by myself so there's plenty of time for internet. That's why I'm able to sneak this in. On both of those days, I have class after lunch till about 3:00 or 4:00 (depending on make-ups)and then a little internet time till I get to go home (5:30ish) - weekdays are different. I have to be in around 12:30 but typically don't have class till around 3 or 4 (kids still in regular school till then). So on those days I'll be using the internet earlier, but actually it's around the same time. In case you're wondering, I'm exactly 12 hours ahead of EST so if you're hoping to catch me actually here, a little after midnight is the best time. Also Monday and Tuesday are my days off where I won't be here and consequently don't have internet. So don;t be coming on Sunday or Monday nights looking for me!

I have a lot to talk about but I don't want to rush it and try to fit it in before class so I'll see if I can find some time after (make-ups!) If not, it'll have to be on Wednesday.

So just so you know, I really appreciate the attempts at live contact. Even seeing little messages is great! I'll keep leaving email open during class and I'll get back to you as soon as I return. (Don't worry, I understand leaving email open is foolish but the people here are great and I'm not concerned at all.)

Happy Valentine's day to all!

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Recent Days

Alright, we've got a lot to get to so let's not waste a second! First of all, let me address a couple questions I got about the super bowl. I was able to watch a live feed from (what I assume was) the NFL network, so all the commentary was in English. We also got to see the halftime show which I thought was wildly entertaining. The only Thai I encountered was briefly at half time when they threw it back to the 'local' analysts for "Super Sport Satellite Channel 4 - Thailand!". They two analysts looked pretty surly/bored and the guy in charge of the discussion had one of those ties that tries to fit all the NFL team logos on it. High comedy. It didn't quite match the laughs had over the piercing insight of football "expert" Don Johnson when I was in Madrid, but still pretty good. Especially when the camera first cut to them. It was abruptly in the middle of a rebroadcast of Journey's pre-game concert and I'm pretty sure they were watching it too because they seemed just as surprised as I was. When I say abrupt, I mean like mid note. "Somewhere in the niiiiiiiiiii-" "..uhh..Sawahdee krap". In any event, the game was pretty thrilling and as someone with no real investment in it I was satisfied.

The next morning, I woke up super super early to catch a bus to Cambodia. Why? Apparently I had overstayed my visa and was racking up huge penalties every day I stayed in the country. Ugh. So I boarded a bus at 4am for a quick visa trip. A lot of foreigners have this visa problem and have to leave the country every 90 days. It doesn't say for how long, it just says you have to leave so there are tons of places that organize day trips to the border and back. I went to Cambodia because it was the easiest/quickest option. I would've liked to go to Burma or somewhere that hadn't already stamped my passport but what can you do on such short notice. The bus took us to a casino right on the border. Cambodia is pretty cool. We were discussing how it's a lot like the Wild West. I was tempted to play something but I didn't understand any of the games. I thought one looked like blackjack, but had some different rules. I could see myself sitting down and confidently betting on a 'sure thing', only to lose everything and have to walk away in shame. So I mostly stuck to my book and the free OJ at the buffet.

I gotta go! The last thing I wanted to talk about was how I'm no longer gonna pay for wifi at the apartment and will just use it when I'm at work. Now it's almost 5:30 and everyone's dying to go home but i'm holding them up! It stinks that it's gonna be this way but the wifi is super slow and too expensive. The worst part is that recently I've discovered new ways to keep in touch with people back home and have conversations in real time (facebook and gmail chat) which was very cool. No internet will be good for me too. I'll do a lot more reading and get a lot more done. Well, I really REALLY got to go now so I will.

Much Love,

Sunday, February 1, 2009


A couple days ago, I received a call at the center where I work. It totally caught me off guard but made sense since we're technically not supposed to have our phones in the classroom and also because I lost my phone a while ago. Anyway, it was Ryan informing of a national soccer match between Thailand and Iran that was being played right in Bangkok! I was super excited. I really want to go to a national game in National Stadium even if it was only a qualifying match against Iran. By the time I'm out my last class, I hear that it's actually in a different venue that's farther away so I rush home to change and then to meet Ryan at our friends' place which is near the stadium. By the time I throw on shorts, battle rush hour foot-traffic to get to the subway, ride to my destination, get lost finding the apartment, regain my bearings, arrive at the wrong building and wait around, the game was already half over. (In my defense there's two apartment buildings named 'chateau' right next to each other). So we settled for watching it in a small, one-table 'restaurant' with the owner. His TV was really small and it had that double-image thing going on. It was great. If I couldn't actually be at the game, I feel like that was the next best thing. Thailand played to a draw which I guess is alright. It was exciting and Thailand was probably lucky to get out with a point. Hopefully they advance and host a big game. I would really love to see one.

In other news, I was gonna post about maintaining radio silence until I could watch a re-broadcast of the Super Bowl, but I stopped in at the pub on the way home from phone shopping to see if they had a February schedule yet and the guy told me they were actually gonna open their doors at 6am tomorrow so I can watch it live. So that rules. It's gonna be way different than in Madrid. The game didn't go on till about 11pm then and the place was packed with Americans. I'm not expecting a ghost town tomorrow, but I really don't feel like it'll get the same turnout.

I'm sorry if you were expecting this post to be about my personal endeavors in exercise. I did buy a basketball and on occasion go down to the little sports park on Sathorn. I'm out of shape as it is, but running for 20 minutes in this air make you feel like you just climbed Everest. I'm also sorry if you were expecting a post about Huey Lewis and the News. Maybe I'll get to that later.

much love,