Thursday, July 31, 2008

One Week of Classes Left

I've been here for about five weeks now. We only have one more weeks of classes and then we're loosed upon Thailand. I may go to Phnom Penh for a few days before Owen gets here on the 17th, then it's a 29th birthday celebration for me in Bangkok. I can't even think of what I'd want to do. I should imagine something amazing, but all I want right now is a bagel with cream cheese. I don't even really like bagels.

They burned the rice fields by my house. Apparently it is not the year to harvest rice. I have lots that I want to write about this, but I am completely distracted by the American speaking on Skype next to me. He's relating how it was to see the new Batman movie in IMAX here, which I did last week.

Anyway, here are some more photos.

Me and Rung in Bangkok

The band we saw in Bangkok last weekend.

Us, again, watching the band.

Ugh. This computer is cutting in and out and it's taking forever to upload photos. Now I log off!

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Apartment Khunpa

Yesterday I attended an Indie Rock concert with a girl from Mahidol. Her name is Rung (rooo-ng), which means rainbow. I think I mentioned her in a previous post, but she is my new--and only!--Thai friend. We left Salaya at 10:00 am, taking a songtaew to the bus stop for the 124 bus, which goes directly into Bangkok, near the river. When we got into Bangkok we visited the National Gallery. There was a very very small collection of traditional art (I think a lot of traditional art remains in temples and palaces, where it--you could say--belongs). But the contemporary art section was pretty good. I have a few photos that I'll try to post in the next few days. Something I've noticed here in Bangkok is a sort of Occidentalism concerning American Indian culture and representation in Thailand. I've seen so many American Indian t-shirts, car decals, and yesterday (at the museum) paintings. I wonder how that came about.

Anyway, at around 1:00 pm we caught another bus to Jatujak market (which I've written about before) where the Indie Rock band (Apartment Khunpa) was scheduled to play. We got lost about three times, but eventually found where we were supposed to be, and after walking around the market for a few hours, we returned to the subway station where the band was setting up. Oh, also, I got to eat a ton of tofu yesterday. Many street vendors sell fried pig of all kinds (did I tell you about the waffle I bought, only to find it was stuffed with a HOT DOG???!!! AUGH!) but I found a street vendor that also sold friend tofu. Yum. So we went down into the subway to listen to the band play. Rung wanted to sit front and center, and because my eardrums protested I stuffed them with toilet paper to block out the noise.

I have to run, but check out the band's website below.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

I'm ready for my close-up Mr. Kon-Tai

I just wrote this in an email, but I must reiterate. It is 8:11 pm in Thailand, despite what my blog tells you. I sat in my room, arguing with Moby Dick, then decided to take my homework to the coffee shop inside the Tesco Lotus. After eating some kao pad sai kai gap pak (fried rice with egg and vegetables) I ordered a ridiculous chocolate smoothy drink and proceeded to do my Thai homework. A student who lives near Namthong Sikalai where I live came into the coffee shop and we spoke in very very slow English and very very slow Thai. I told her, in Thai, twice, that I lost my umbrella at the coffee shop yesterday. She then asked the coffee shop if they had it (which they did! umbrella recovered!). Then, check this out, my new friend, whose name is Ruung (it means Rainbow. adorable), got really distracted. Behind me was a Thai superstar! A famous singer. She looked like it too. She was very pale, and thin, and was surrounded by an entourage of tattooed men. The whole group looked to be half farang, and maybe they were. Sadly, the more "Thai" you look, the less beautiful you are. Most actors, if they're protagonist actors, look Chinese or European rather than darker like Khmer people. "Suai diiiiiii....." Ruung sighed. "She is so beautiful." I didn't know what to say. I was excited to be near a Thai celebrity, but why? I don't even know who she is.

I went back Namthong for suad-mon, which is the chanting/prayers that occurs at 6:00 every evening. I've been trying to relax myself by doing this. It's chanting for 35 minutes and then sitting meditation for ten minutes or so. I try to breathe in relaxing feelings, letting-go feelings, and breathe out all my attachments to the positive and negative things I create in this world. I've been having a lot of anxiety about myself as a grad student and the negative things that occurred this past year. But instead of only elevating my good accomplishments, I've been breathing out my attachments to any of them, trying to see the essence of these things as empty. It feels good.

When I step out of my room, of my Tesco Lotus Namthong Sikalai home, I feel a transformation. My tongue gets heavy with foreignness. My body begins to emit a bright light that shines everywhere I go. I glow with whiteness. I beam out otherness. People stare. Why shouldn't they? They stare and talk about me and honk and laugh. There's nothing funnier than a white girl on a bicycle, unless it's a white girl walking alone. HILARIOUS. All my movements, whether I'm walking, scratching a mosquito bite on my leg, or riding my bicycle, are amplified into a performance. This life is no longer mine, but I am an actor in the lives of the people around me. This is their home. This is their life. I'm an awkward extra, a member of the chorus, struggling to dance correctly, trying to smile even though I don't know the words to the songs. I'm the comic relief. A clown. But I don't feel human. And it's not that I feel endangered at all, it's just that I feel completely, vastly out of place.

This is a very different experience than I had in Thailand the first time, and a different experience than most farang have. To really know what it's like you have to leave Bangkok, leave the islands, come to a small town that has nothing special to offer but the usual markets and temples, convenient stores and food stalls. You have to go where all the signs are in Thai script and no one understands more than three words of English. It's overwhelming and exhausting. It's a privilege.

But it's certainly lonely.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Ko Samed and More

Here is the view of the pond in front of my little room at Mahidol University. It was raining really hard out and I thought it was pretty. You can sort of see the rain.

And now, onto Ko Samed. Ko is pronounced Kaw and it means island. We caught a boat at around 6:30. This was a family sitting in front of us.

This is the view from the guesthouse on Ko Samed. You can see the ocean out there if you look through the palm trees.

We rented motorbikes and rode about halfway around the island (the other doesn't have roads or the roads are too rutted and sandy to try to traverse).

Restaurant on the beach.

The beach. The water was perfect.

The best way to demonstrate how white the sand is.

This dog was sleeping on a shrine at the base of a huge Buddha statue (see below).

I wanted to see if there was a temple on Ko Samed. There was, indeed, but the monk who we encountered was sort of sketchy. Monks aren't really allowed to handle money or talk about it, but he asked us to give him money. Anyway, we did our prostrations and moved along.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

More Photos!

Alright, so these aren't new photos, but hopefully I will get those uploaded soon too. I really should've brought my laptop with me, despite the weight of it and its ridiculously incapable battery. I believe I finished the last photo post with Suk 11. So let's continue.

On the roof of Suk 11 there are chairs, tables, plants (of course) and old bicycle rickshaws. Thailand has a mad love affair with the engine, so now you never see bicycle rickshaws on the streets. They are all retired on the roof of Suk 11. You see motorcycle taxis, tuk-tuks, regular taxis, air-con and fan buses, subway trains, and trains, but never a bicycle driver to hire.

Self-portrait on Suk 11 roof, with bicycle rickshaw. There's a shower stall behind me. Why? I don't know.

Lemon soda. Mmm.

My first weekend in Bangkok I decided to take the skytrain and the boat to the backpacker side of town, Banglampu, home of the (in)famous Kao San Road. The boat is a nice way to get around Bangkok. The Chao Praya river runs through the west side of Bangkok. Everything west of the river is much more "Thai" than everything on the east side. When I ride the bus from Salaya to Bangkok it is strikingly obvious when we've crossed the river. The population becomes instantly spectled with non-Thais.

On the boat with my fellow farang.

I don't remember this bridge being here when I was in Bangkok in 2002-2003. But I didn't spend any time on the river then.

A view from the boat.

Another view from the boat.

The beginning of Banglampu. Tuk-tuk, sad dog, and street vendor. With the smells to match.

Som Tam and meat vendor, with farang. Som Tam is so tasty.

In Banglampu everything is in English. This fruit shake is a hefty 60 baht ($1.80). I'm not being sarcastic, either. That's a pretty high cost for street vendor food. Normally it's closer to 15-35 baht.

Ah, farang! Kao San road in its mild, daytime manifestation. Cheap clothes, cheap Buddha images (imported from Nepal, oddly enough), internet access, fake ID stands, booze, Western food (McDonalds, Starbucks, Burger King, AND Subway!), and anything else a Western/Australian traveler might desire while traveling in Asia.

The same day I went to Banglampu I went to the huge weekend market on the north side of town, called Chatuchak or Jatujak, depending on how you transliterate Thai into English. This market is incredible. I wrote about it in an earlier blog.

Alright, I think that's going to do it for now. I have all these photos and more uploaded on flickr. From now on I think I will just give those photos captions and let you all look at them there. Here's a link to this first set of photos. If you put your mouse over the photo, an "i" appears. Click on the i and it will show descriptions of the photos.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

That Devil That! When the Bus Gives Birth

I spent the weekend in Ko Samet, an island about 3 hours south east of Bangkok. The beaches are like flour--completely white with sand so fine it squeaks against your feet. The weekend was fun: lots of body surfing in the waves (the water was the perfect temperature), meeting some new people (although, the older I get, the older I am when I travel. Ha. Most backpackers are the age I was when I went to Thailand for the first time and I can't really get into the loud music and over-the-top drunkenness. But I guess I wasn't into those things when I was 22-23 either. Maybe I'm not old, just quiet--? Too bad there isn't a backpacker culture--meaning affordable--for people who would prefer listening to the waves than techno, who would rather fall asleep to the sound of the crickets than repetitive reggae bass lines) , eating high-priced island food, and--once again--sweating my face off. Overall it was a good time, though I think I spent a bit too much money. I'll try to get the photos loaded soon to make everyone immensely jealous.

Many of the guest houses in Thailand that cater to foreign guests show movies in the restaurant area. The guest house I stayed at on Ko Samet, Naga, (for info on the three-headed snake, Naga, check out shows movies three times a day. Last night at 6:00 it was Fight Club and at 8:30, the Bourne Ultimatum, or, as the sign outside the guest house read, and which I prefer, "The Boultimatum." So the Boultimatum began, and all the ex-pat teachers on the rains retreat holiday, the tourists, the German backpackers, and me, gathered to watch the movie. Since the restaurant was open to the outdoors and had horrible acoustics, it was necessary to turn on the subtitles. When the subtitles began, it was obvious--not so much painfully obvious as HILARIOUSLY obvious--that the movie was a pirated copy that had been subtitled by someone whose first language was not even remotely in the same linguistic family as English. It was as though Babelfish had translated the Thai subtitles into English, then back to Thai again, maybe once to Japanese, Spanish for good measure, then back into English. "What the hell!" was translated to "That devil that!" And Jason Bourne instructs the soon-to-be-sniped reporter to "Get off to the when the bus gives birth! He/She not get on. He/She doesn't listen to It" (It being Jason Bourne). Operation Blackbriar was translated into "Operation Black Girlfriend." Needless to say, this provoked outrageous laughter at the many cultural faux pas made inadvertently. "Black Girlfriend is Dangerous! Does he/she know of Black Girlfriend?" The French guy and his English friend in front of me, and me, were laughing so hard I think we all had tears pouring down our cheeks. I couldn't handle it. It was one of the funniest things I've seen in a long, long time. I want to find a pirated copy of that film on Sukhumvit just to bring it home to show everyone how hilarious the subtitles are.

Anyway, I am back in Bangkok for the night. Luke and Kelly are still on the island, but I thought it would be nice to head back into the city where the food is cheaper and where for 50 baht less a night than my rustic island Bungalow (lizard excrement covered my mosquito net) I can sleep in an air-conditioned room and take a hot shower when I wake up. I can't even imagine! A hot shower! I am staying at Suk11 again, which I prefer to Banglampu (the area we've been staying in lately when we come in to Bangkok), even though it isn't as old. I like its international quality. Women in full burqas, delicious Indian restaurants, people from every side of the planet you can imagine, and of course, all the Thai staples. And Suk 11 itself is a nice retreat from Bangkok's insanity. Its gardens, its quiet little cove.

I'm fourteen pages away from finishing Salman Rushdie's The Ground Beneath Her Feet. I really like it. Rushdie weaves all sorts of post-colonial, post-modern, post-Bakhtin theory into his novel, so it doesn't feel so much like a mindless indulgence as a support to all the theory I've been reading in grad school. I strongly suggest it. And if you're not interested in any of that theory--and who can blame you if you're not?--then you should know it's also about rock and roll and pop music and super-stardom.

Classes at Mahidol are going pretty well. My Thai vocabulary is slowly increasing, though there's still an endless journey ahead. Maybe in another life, or in this one if I decide, I'll be a linguist. I'd like to know several languages fluently. Thai, Spanish, French, Chinese, Japanese. Is it too late to start? Being here is nice but I have begun, once again, to question my future. What kind of career am I searching for? Is academia really for me or am I awkwardly stuffing myself into something I won't ever fit inside? I want to study sound effects in Thai movies. I want to study representations of midgets (little people?) in popular culture, globally. I want to study the way people slide in and out of cultural identities, the way they defy locational and temporal logic, the way everyone is displaced from some place. And I don't want to write papers about it that people will read in scholarly journals (or do I?); I want to create something out of it, something that means something and that allows me to be creative. I want to put myself into it as much as academics' subjects unwittingly are put into it (or do I?).

Monday, July 14, 2008

As Many Photos as I Can Load Caption in Twenty Minutes

My plane for Tai Pei left LAX at 1:15am on China Airlines. There were hundreds and hundreds of people crammed together because part of the seating area was being remodeled. Also, there was a kitten caught somewhere in the roof. Its mewing was desperate and heart-breaking. Here I am waiting at LAX.

Tai Pei International Airport. I didn't see much of Taiwan. My layover was three hours. I slept for about eight hours of the flight, which is more than I thought I would. I should thank my lucky neck pillow. The flight from Taiwan to Bangkok was another three hours or so.

My first squat toilet of 2008! This is in the Taipei Airport. They have both Western and squat toilets. Of course I chose the squat.

If you can't read it, the cup says "Bless you for being so thoughtful and generous." See, coffee does love me. Taiwanese coffee is the kindest coffee you'll meet.

BKK. Bangkok International. The airport is only a few years old. I boarded an Airport Express Bus that would (should) have taken me to Thanon Sukhumvit, Soi 10. Alas, it dumped me out early because the traffic was too intense. I took the Skytrain the rest of the way to the hostel.

Here is the front of Suk11, the hostel recommended by Georgina, where I stayed my first four nights in Thailand before I went to Salaya, where the university campus is.

Suk11 is like a little haven in the chaos of Bangkok. There are tons of plants, little ponds, etc. Very pretty.

Alright, my time is up. But you've seen the first few days of my trip. I just need to catch you up all the way to week three.

What a Blog Should Be

I have been in Thailand now for two and a half weeks, which is plenty of time to adjust to the time change (I am fourteen hours in the future), not quite enough time to adjust to the food (stomach cramps and their accompanying pleasures), and barely enough time to learn a few awkward and mispronounced Thai phrases (I say “no pork!” when they’ve asked me “should we add shrimp?” or I smile, shrug, and shake my head when someone asks me a question in Thai that goes beyond “how are you?” and “what is your name?”).

Thai class is fun. Our teacher lived in Austria for thirty years before she returned to Thailand where she teaches English to Thais and Thai to us at Mahidol. She speaks impeccable German, incredible English, perfect Thai (of course), Italian, and probably eighteen other languages that she has not told us about. She is patient. I’ve learned (though not yet been able to memorize) questions, prepositions, passive voice, helping verbs, and other things that I can barely name in English. I can say “I am surprised by the dinosaur on the boat” and “are you excited to eat ice cream and iron your blouses?” and other useful phrases such as these.

I’ve written about the food a little bit, but I think it deserves more attention. In the U.S., when we go to Thai restaurants we get the basics, right? Pad Thai; red, green, yellow, and panaeng curry; Pad Si-Iu (if we’re feeling adventurous); and for dessert mango with sticky rice. Easy, tasty. We love it. We love it so much it makes us want to go Thailand where we can eat Tofu Green Curry to our hearts’ delight, right? And if you stay on a Euro-Australian-American trail of Bangkok’s Kao San road to Ko Phangan, and maybe stop in Chiang Mai or in a charming little meta-authentic long-neck village up north, you can probably eat all the Tofu Green Curry you could ever want. But you should know: this is not what Thais eat.

I cannot name any of the dishes I’ve been served here on campus. They are good, yes, but much meatier than anything I’ve ever eaten. Today, for example.
Breakfast: grilled pork atop white rice served with a little bowl of sweet, salty, star-anise flavored porky juice to be spooned over meat. One glass of cold water.
Lunch: very spicy fish that had been deep-fried to a crispy/chewy texture that one must rip at with the teeth. Big bowl of soup with oyster mushrooms, a green vegetable, and huge pork bones with lots of fat on them. Pork bones were covertly served to three dogs drooling under the table: Dzem-Sai, Pet (means spicy in Thai), and Bo. Pork Larb (pronounced like Lob with an umlaut), which is ground pork and spices. For dessert papaya, big green things that taste sort of like grapefruit, and watermelon. You’ve heard already about the blood cubes in previous blogs, so I won’t describe any other meals. I just wanted to show you what Thai food is ordinarily, and that curry plays a small role, and when it does play a role it is never tofu, and never simply curry.

Despite my focus on the gastronomical, there is much more to talk about: where I live, for example. I live in the dorm block about 2km from campus, designed for the monks who come to study at Mahidol. There are seven or eight buildings and Kelly, Luke, and I have our own building, building 5. Or, in Thai, Rong Haa. When I step out of my room and look over the railing, to my left is an enormous, new Tesco Lotus ( a British superstore comparable to a Super Target or Walmart, with a level dedicated to computers, scooters, a movie theater, a food court, and several restaurants, coffee shops, bakeries, and ice cream parlors (I think there are three ice cream parlors, including a Dairy Queen). When I face the fore I see a pretty pond, lined by well-groomed bushes and flowers, with fish, turtles, and frogs croaking, splashing, and flopping against the water. Beyond the pond, past the two guards’ stations, there is a highway. It is loud, fast, and disconcerting. But I do not hear it from my room. To my right and behind me there are yellow-green rice fields, lined with coconut palms and mango, banana, and papaya trees. Rice fields are beautiful. The color, the texture, the moisture. I want to walk the perimeter of the fields and watch the lizards scurry around, fearful for their lives. I want to stare at the enormous centipedes as they gently wobble by. I want to wade through the streams and forget about the Tesco Lotus and the highway, pretending that there is somewhere in the world where people slowly wait for their rice to ripen rather than rushing from place to place to buy buy buy buy buy. Alas, that place is not Thailand. At least not central Thailand.

Every morning at 4:30am the bell behind my back window begins to ring, waking the monks for suad-son (chanting and prayers), then their alms-rounds. For those of you who may not know, in Theravada Buddhism the monks will not eat after noon, and their breakfast meal is obtained at 6:00 by walking door-to-door asking for food. They are not seen as beggars; rather, to give a monk food is incredibly meritorious and may help you secure a better rebirth in a future life. A monk is the highest person in Thai society. For every Thai word I learn, there is a more formal word to use when speaking with monks. To say hello to everyone but monks, you say “Sawadii Ka”— Ssawadii krab if you’re a man—but to say hello to monks you say “Namasakan” (derivative of the Sanskrit/Pali Namaste or Namaskan). The word for dog is maa, but there’s a different word for dog when you’re speaking with monks. Luckily they are all very young and forgiving, and politely correct me when I dare to speak in Thai. Mostly they practice their rough English, and I help correct their pronunciation and word use.

Every evening at 5:30pm the bell rings again. At 6:00pm the monks assemble together again for evening suad-son, which I have joined twice now. For about thirty minutes we sit on our knees and chant in Pali. It’s beautiful. Not one voice sings off-key. Throughout the chants there are times when we all bow down to the ground, and the monks chant into the ground. This makes a deliciously muffled sound of the chants in various rhythms and meters vibrating against the floor. For fifteen minutes we do sitting concentration meditation. Samatha, I think it’s called. My mind wanders to every agitated and anxious place it knows, untamed by my years of neglecting it. When I practiced meditation more often I could reach a state of calmness. Now, however, my mind feels fixed and rebellious. I must remind it how to sit still.

Which reminds me—I don’t talk much. I have begun to try to do things more on my own, to give Luke and Kelly space and try to speak Thai on my own (Kelly is virtually fluent because she spent all of last year here). So this weekend when they went to sleep in Bangkok, I stayed behind and tried my hand at communicating, and when that was a flop, at silence. The brain can chatter on forever about anything. It can find worthless anxiety to cling to, it retells itself horror stories, it insults and compliments, it writes poetry then smashes it to pieces, it remembers movie lines and criticizes culture. The brain is critic and beloved. And it refuses to shut up. But the more I let it work inside me, the more it exhausts itself it lets me enjoy the moment from time to time.
There have been a few times of awareness that feel almost blissful. Last night I was reading in my room, when I heard fireworks outside. I felt giddy by the sound, so I ran as fast as I could to the other side of the second floor, and looked out in the direction of the sounds. Nothing. So I leaped up the stairs, two at a time, and ran to the other end of the third floor, chasing skittish lizards who believed me to be a predator, until I saw the tiny bursts of color in the distance. The sky here at night is a reddish-gray, and the blue, red, green, yellow, and white fireworks were modest, but exciting none the less. When the show ended, just moments later, I began to hear splashing sounds from the pond. So I ran back over to my side of the building and squinted over the railing to see if a dog was taking a swim. The fish were flinging their bodies out of the water, then smacking their scales, fins, and gills against the water as they fell back in. Over and over. Sometimes several would throw themselves into the air at once, sometimes they’d do it one by one. The Tesco Lotus’ parking lot lights reflected off the pond, while its fans, air-conditioners, and traffic hummed. The scene was beautiful and sad. I want the rice paddies and the ponds, but they are accompanied by glowing signs and corporate jingles.

More to come.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Photos! And a nickname!

I'm not sure if I mentioned this yet in a post, but most Thai people get a nickname that is one or two syllables and easier to say and remember than their given name. Na-ta-lie is not too hard to say, which is why I pronounce all the syllables when I say my name to people who do not reside in the United States. Regardless of how easy or hard my name might be, I need a nickname. Kelly wanted to call me Kai, which means "egg" because our Thai teacher, Ajan Matarot says that I am like a "freshly peeled egg," a German expression that means bright-eyed and well-groomed. Yes, a surprising descriptor for messy me. Jake back at UCR apparently calls me a "good egg." So, Kelly thought Pii Kai (big sister Egg) suits me. But it's sort of weird to be called an egg. So today one of the monks suggested Naa Naa, which means field. I like that better. Plus, I get to keep the N part of my name. Naa Naa it is.

All the photos I have go back to the day I left LAX, so I guess I'll just start at the beginning and narrate as I go.

Alright, so the computers here are reading my files strange, so instead of posting lots of photos in order, I'm just going to post one from yesterday. More to come.

Meat. The little ghosts flying over the raw meat are plastic bags attached to strings, attached to fan blades to keep flies away. There is an abundance of raw meat. Raw fish. Raw de-feathered ducks (with the expression still on their faces).

Friday, July 11, 2008

Day Trip to Bangkok

For 8 and a half baht I take a bus from my town, Salaya, to Bangkok, about an hour away. At first the bus is reasonably empty. I get a seat near the window and admire the photogenic sparkling chrome of the sealing, with old dusty fans spinning in circles above our heads; I admire the lights above the drivers head--yellow, red, green, blue. Only the yellow one lights up when a passenger pushes the stop button, so I don't know what the other three are four. The bus begins to fill. A teenage girl with baggy camouflage shorts and a long t-shirt sits next to me, and as the bus fills up we're pressed against each other and the place where our legs touch is sweaty--probably from me. I try to stick my arm out the window, but the window is a bit too far in front of me so it is an awkward position. My bag rests on my lap, the cool water bottle inside reminding me I should've brought a straw. Most Thai people don't drink water the way Americans do, pouring the water directly into our mouths from the opening in the bottle. They drink it with straws. Likewise for soda from a can. And beer they drink with a bucket of ice near by, dropping ice cubes in the beer cube-by-cube to keep the beer cool before they finish it. It is rude to show the bottom of your bottle to someone, so even though I'm hot and thirsty I don't drink from the bottle on the bus.

I take the bus to the end of the line, by the river in Banglamphu, the backpacker side of town. It is 9:30 when I arrive so many of the farang are eating yogurt with muesli, scrambled eggs and toast--things that you just don't find in Salaya. In Salaya for breakfast you eat chicken on rice with a bowl of chicken broth to wash it down. You drink instant coffee or ovaltine. Banglamphu is comforting for the foreigner, myself included. However, instead of eating a $4 Western breakfast, I opt for pad si-iu (commonly known in the U.S. as Pad See-Ew), which I now know translates literally to Fried Soy Bean Sauce. The word "pad" means fried, so Pad Thai--fried Thai. Kao Pad--fried rice. Etc. Pad si-iu comes with egg and veggies, so I get many of the same ingredients of a Western breakfast for less than one dollar.

Americans LOVE to talk about how much things cost. The American professor and I sat during lunch yesterday and chatted for an hour about how much things cost. Why is that so satisfying? It really is, though. "My plane ticket to Japan a few years ago was only $500 round trip," I brag.
He replies "Yeah, I got a one-way ticket from San Francisco to Bangkok for $500 a couple months ago."

Anyway, it's time to sign off. Banglamphu is waiting for me to become disgusted by it yet again, and I may take a boat down the river to go to the big bookstores at Siam Square. I am ravenous for books here, and I consume them at an alarming pace. And since we're on the topic of money, the books are my most expensive indulgence here.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Thus Week Three Begins

I decided to brave the computer lab. Good thing I did. I had no idea that I could, for free, access the internet for as long as I please, load files onto the computer, etc.

Unfortunately today I have to go meet someone in the library in five minutes, but I just wanted to check in with all my fans (ha!), to let you know that I'm still alive, still eating nauseating portions of pork (yesterday for lunch there was green curry with--I kid you not--coagulated blood cubes in it.