Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Day 2: Daily Routine

  Sight of relief! Today was much easier to handle compared to all the confusion yesterday. I only had two writing classes with the same teacher, before and after lunch. We talked about the same worksheet that covered 'connecting words' (and, because, if, or, although). The sheet involved some fill in the blanks and lines to create original sentences. My co-teacher was ten minutes late for the second class so I had to take on sixty kids by myself for a bit. I managed to get them to read aloud as a class until the teacher arrived. I never bothered to question why she was late. I suppose she was making copies of the worksheet. So, that was the most difficult part of my day today. Not bad. Luckily I recovered from my terrible stomach ache before school today. I won't go into detail, so I'll just say that something I ate did not agree with my stomach yesterday, yielding fiery results. Not sure what food did the damage, but I've heard that it's a common illness during the first couple weeks of being in Thailand. Hopefully that's the end of it. 
  Not much else to report on today. Going out for dinner around 7pm, ideally somewhere new!
Just to report back, we went to an upscale Thai restaurant a few blocks away from the school. It was a small indoor restaurant on the side of a house, with more tables outside on a patio. Although the weather was nice and cool, we decided to eat inside because our group was too big to seat everyone together outside. There was a power outage, and somehow the air conditioning could function independently without the lights. Dinner by candlelight sure set the mood, though. I ordered rice and pork soup, which was similar to any light rice-based soup in America. Rather than slices of meat, the pork was prepared in a meatball form. I really enjoyed it, especially because it was nice to have a different meal besides noodle dishes. 

Song of the Day:
New on my playlist, an electro remix group from Boulder CO. They have some fantastic house songs that should be on your dance mix. Thanks to Paul Kelly!
Savoy - 'We No Speak Americano' (remix)

Monday, May 30, 2011

First Day of Classes

  Made it through the first day of classes in one piece! The teachers weren't kidding when they told us to go with the flow here. Schedules and information are ambiguous to say the least. It's natural for anyone from Loyola to become frustrated because we were used to very structured agendas in America. Already there have been so many dilemmas that complicate a daily routine. Not to complain, but just to give you an idea of how the school operates, I'll summarize the day. Woke up around 6:45am, visited pancake lady for breakfast, met my two co-teachers, went to my first two writing classes from 8:20-10:00am, had a break from 10:10-11:50am because of a schedule overlap with another Loyola teacher, lunch consisting of coagulated blood soup, classes from 12:50-3:30pm, look for teacher meeting, get lost, teacher meeting cancelled, sweating profusely. 
  This schedule seemed so strange to me because my day consisted of running around with my head cut off between moments of clarity and understanding. During classes today I mostly introduced myself and answered any questions that the students had about me or America. By American standards one would say that the students are both extremely respectful and extremely rude. They politely show their respect for teachers by kindly gesturing a slight bow upon greeting, answering a question, or interacting with a teacher. But during class most of them talk loudly, and mess around throughout the entire class time. The teacher usually has difficulty controlling them and much of class time is wasted by attempting to quiet them. The female teachers I shadowed today found a balance of kindness and seriousness, leaning toward a more casual learning experience because they know that they cannot make every student behave. The students near the front are more serious about academics, while the back few rows talk away. I think the male Thai teachers are more intimidating to the students. My last class today was instructed by a very strict male teacher who had complete control over the students. This dichotomy will be investigated further. 
  In other news, I willingly drank my first ice coffee and enjoyed it. I bought it from a street vendor for 30B. They use a sweet creamer that overpowers the charred coffee taste. Hopefully the school day tomorrow will be a bit less hectic!

Song of the Day:
Great video, great song.
The Black Keys - 'Tighten Up'

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Walking & Sweating

  Before I talk about walking around town today, I should briefly describe my movie-going experience yesterday. We took a cab to Siam Paragon mall to see the Hangover 2. This place was incredible. Biggest mall I've ever seen, which was basically four malls combined. There were even Lamborghinis on display in the center of the fifth floor. Here is the wikipedia link to learn more about how enormous this mall is: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Siam_Paragon
The movie theater was just absurd. I need to go back and take more pictures of the complex. The theater itself was larger than any I've seen in America and the seats reclined. Some people from the group accidentally bought tickets to an even more exclusive showing that had reclining seats with pillows and blankets. So, they paid more money than a regular movie just to fall asleep for a few hours. I think the average ticket costs 200 baht. I was in awe of how impressive the complex was compared to American standards. I really enjoyed the movie, seeing as I was a bit hungover while watching the Hangover in Bangkok. I blame the wine. I was tired all day. 

When we got back from the movie everyone passed out for a while and woke up around 10pm to prepare for good times on Khao San Road. The event for the night was the Champions League final of the Barcelona/Man U game, so we wanted to join the crowds for the intense match. Our group posted up right next to The Club to watch a projection of the game on the side of a building. Since I love Messi I had to support Barcelona. I got the chance to talk to an Australian hippy guy and a young woman from the French part of Switzerland. Needless to say there were all kinds of people on the streets. The game started at 1:45am so it was a long night. I think we got back around 4am. Always good times on Khao San Road.

Today I woke up around 10am and walked around town with a bunch of people just to explore. I bought some papaya from a street vendor and walked through town admiring the sights. We walked through a few parks, near a few royal palaces, and passed by the Bangkok Zoo. The zoo was enticing, but rumors were that it was overpriced and that the animals are treated poorly. So we basically walked in a giant circle and came back to campus. Shortly after we got back we walked to get lunch at the same place that Nathan showed us on Friday night. No idea why people insisted on going back to the same place again, which I found irritating, but if you can't beat em', join em'. I'm hoping for a new dining experience tonight. Right after lunch I walked with three other people to Khao San Road, which takes about 20-30 minutes. It's a long walk, especially in the brutal heat. Sweat seemed to pour out of me. Being outside involves a constant state of sticky sweatiness that makes you feel soaked all the time. I constantly drink water outside because I sweat it all out; it's easy to get dehydrated. On the way to Khao Sen the four of us bought some cheap imitation Ray Bans for 200 baht.  I also bought a t-shirt that has a Buddhist symbol on it, also around 200 baht. It's so tempting to blow all your money on everything you want because it's all so cheap. We walked down the road and back, while Thai store owners chased me down the street trying to get me to buy a tailored suit from them. It's something I plan on doing eventually, but not when I'm sweating in a puddle of myself and exploring with my friends. We complained so much about being hot and sweaty that we took a cab back to campus to avoid the discomfort. I'm doing my best to limit my air conditioning usage in order to decrease the energy bill. The fan seems to be doing the trick. 

Song of the Day:
It seems fitting to post a thievery corporation song every day because this place is so exotic, but the songs don't always reflect the feel of the city. Here's a great remix by RAC. The three letters stand for Remix Artist Collective, with three members contributing great remixes of alternative and indie songs.
Delorean - Stay Close (RAC mix) 

Friday, May 27, 2011

The Hangover: Thailand

  If I pick up where I left off, a group of us went to the mall to go shopping. We crammed into a hot rickety bus and sped over the river to a shopping center. It seemed more Western to me than I anticipated for some reason. I didn't see the same stores that are in a typical American shopping mall, but the place seemed include the Asian equivalent of American stores. For example, there was an eyewear store that reminded me of Sunglass Hut, and the department/grocery store looked like an Asian Target store. I guess I expected more of a culture shock with unfamiliar stores in a foreign language, but many of the stores had signs and advertisements in English. So, I bought my little cell phone and some clothes hangers because I didn't want to carry too much on the bus going back to campus. I should go back and get a laundry basket and toilet paper... Anyway, we were all feeling pretty tired at this point and most of us wanted to get back to campus and sleep before dinner, but it was already near 6pm when we left the mall. 

  We showered up and walked to a Thai restaurant close to the school. One of the American teachers here was nice enough to guide us to both the mall and to dinner, so that was a big help with communication. I can't remember exactly what we ordered, but I recall a few rice dishes, a noodle dish I recognized that has wide, flat rice noodles in a thicker soy sauce, and a pork dish that I believe was marinaded in lime and spice. Overall, I enjoyed the authentic Thai dinner. It was very different than the Americanized version, as I knew it would be. I'm looking forward to trying new food! 

  After dinner the group stopped by a 7-11 to pick up beer for pre-gaming. I accidentally bought a bottle of wine instead of beer because I couldn't read the label. It was sold right next to the beer in a similar capped glass bottle. When we got back to campus we went to the rooftop of the dorm to drink outside for a while. The weather was perfectly cool and the skyline of the city was visible through the haze. It was one of those moments when you really take it all in and realize how fortunate you are to have this kind of experience. It was great to talk to the other people in the group and know a little more about them. I can tell that some close friendships will be made in our time here. 

  We gathered around 11pm to travel to the most popular part of Bangkok to go out to the bars. Although it was far, the destination was within walking distance, so I decide to trek with a few people to get a feel for the streets. The sidewalks were devoid of people, but we encountered some interesting creatures like a giant unknown bug, a gecko, and a few boney stray cats. The city suddenly came alive as we neared the famous street we were looking for; Khao San Road. It felt like everyone in the entire city was gathering there. I can't compare the hustle and bustle to NYC, but the energy was incredible. The street was lined with clubs and restaurants, all overflowing into the road with people, many of whom I thought to be American, but soon realized that they were actually European. I really enjoyed being the minority there. It felt overwhelming at times because of the language barrier and the fact that most Asians at the bar or club are shy, but very fun and nice people when you get to know them. More on this soon. So of all the myriad places to go to on Khao San Road, in Bangkok, Thailand, we go to an Irish Pub. I don't know why and I initially objected, but we ended up having a great time.
  The place was full of Thai people anyway, I just wanted more of a unique experience at a local place. I think I still got what I asked for because I found a new appreciation for Karaoke. First, a note on Karaoke - Americans typically think that Karaoke is lame. They should. American Karaoke is usually just a teleprompter with lyrics accompanied by a simple melody of the song. So, people feel like they have to sing awful power ballads like Creed to inspire other people to sing along and improve the experience. I heard that Karaoke was great in Asia, and I was totally blown away by the talent I heard. Back to the story. There wasn't open Karaoke for the patrons of the bar, but there were live performances of cover bands that I want to call Karaoke cover bands. I don't know if that's a proper title because they had obviously rehearsed the songs and played them very well, but the band members had the music sheets and lyrics in front of them as they played. Maybe just a cover band. Anyway, they were spot on and we had a blast singing to Lady Gaga and Beyonce. After many drinks we rallied to hit up The Club. That was actually the name of the club. We only stopped by for a few minutes, so I need to go back there again. It was dark, packed full of people dancing, and played great electronic music. That was the last stop on our night in Bangkok, which leads me to the appropriately titled post you are currently reading. I had a headache when I started writing this morning that slowed me down. Probably the aftermath of that wine. I think I will be fully recovered by the time I see the Hangover Thailand movie today.

  As I finish this post I should mention the source of my rejuvenation. There is an adorable old lady who sells bite size pancakes at her skillet cart outside the gate of the school. She melts a bit of orange icing into the pancakes and serves them on a wooden skewer. I could probably eat those every morning for a year. They cost 10 baht for five or six of them. 100 baht equals about $3 USD, so I'll let you do the math. It is still strange dealing with this new currency. Every time I hand someone a 20 baht bill, I feel like I'm handing them a $20 U.S. bill. Maybe this is a good thing so I don't spend too freely. But I can't deny that I feel like a rich man for the first time ever!

Song of the Day:
I chose this song to express the energy of the city. 
Thievery Corporation - 'Warning Shots'


  Well, I made it! I think I spent at least 20 hours in a plane with my ass hurting the whole way.  Luckily there were plenty of movies and narcotics to keep me entertained. I think I watched 5 movies and a tv show, while occasionally slipping in and out of consciousness. The ride was exhausting. Sitting in one place for so long makes one susceptible to cabin fever. On the plus side, I am not as tired as I thought I would be today. We arrived at St. Gabriel's last night around 2am and I got to bed shortly after, about 2:30am. Pretty sure the time difference is 12 hours, so I thought adjusting to Bangkok time would be difficult. Everyone else seemed to wake up terribly early today near 6am, so I guess I was lucky to sleep till 9am. By the way, facebook is blocked during certain times of the day so that means very limited use. 
  Today we took a short tour of the school with St. Gabriel students as our guides. I believe our guide was in 10th grade. He led us through the campus as the younger children were running around doing different things. Some were dressed in little robes and swim caps to go to the pool, and others were going to the cafeteria (canteen) for lunch. All students except the swimmers were dressed in the school uniform of black shoes, white socks, light blue shorts and a white shirt. It was funny to see so many loud little kids in uniforms being herded by teachers. I won't be doing any of that. The tour took us through the courtyard (with a small soccer field) into the cafeteria, up to a few museum exhibits of ships, insects and sea creatures, and then by a few classrooms. The school is very nice and well maintained. 
  We received our assigned courses to teach! I was given a computer class to teach, so naturally I was frustrated. Thankfully someone volunteered to trade schedules with me so I can teach reading and writing to tenth graders. As an English major I believe I am also going to help with the interview process as more students are accepted into St. Gabriel's. More information on this to be determined. At 4pm we are going to the store to get any necessary items like cell phones. Gotta drop 1000 baht to get one, which sounds like a lot of money, but 1000 baht = $30 USD, so no big deal. Off to the store, tune in later!

Tuesday, May 24, 2011


  This is my first attempt at blogging. Here goes nothing! This will be the introduction to the blog, seeing as I'm writing before the trip actually begins. I leave tomorrow afternoon from JFK around 3pm and fly straight to Hong Kong. As you can imagine it will be an extremely long flight of 16 hours. What makes this ride even more intolerable is the fact that I injured my tailbone, which is still incredibly sore. Sitting in a plane for that long will be torturous, but luckily I have plenty of heavy narcotics to keep me in a vegetable state for most of the ride. Hopefully the internet will work during the ride so I can continue to ramble my stream of consciousness to pass the time. We'll see how the narcotics effect my writing. When I arrive in Hong Kong there is a short layover until a 3 hour plane ride to Bangkok. After all that sitting I expect my ass to be either in extreme pain or comfortable numbness. I'll report back on that. 
  I hope that anyone on facebook will forward the link of this blog to other mutual friends so that I can create a decent following. With every post after this one I will include a song of the day at the end. This is partly to satisfy my need to publish music-related articles after my work at WLOY, and to constantly introduce friends to great music. Stay tuned for plenty of tunes and wild adventures!