Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Different Faces, Different Places

I have noticed an interesting trend in my day to day life here. When walking with my classmates (e.g. to the Chemistry room) I often end up in front. I don't try to do this, but somehow all my attempts to stride along safely in the middle of the pack are thwarted and I am seemingly unconciously thrust out in front. Now, I don't mind leading - some might say I enjoy it really - but there is one big problem about my leading the way in these situations.

I have no idea where I'm going.

But it's alright. I have learned the skill of walking so slowly I'm almost stopped until one of the students near me takes the lead.

In other news, I have now eaten Durian. My parents lied to me when they said it was gross. I think the infamous smell is actually very pleasant, though the squishy texture takes some getting used to but I look forward to eating it again.

The food here is still incredible. The other night I had this curry-esque dish made with Chiang Mai sausage. It was a creamy, spicy ambrosia of love. Maybe my Por will teach me how to make it... :)

And again on the subject of food, on Sunday a group of us (Nicha, Mai Thai, Aya and I) went to Nicha's house. While there, we learned how to make traditional Thai sweets/desserts. One was rainbow candy, made with layers of coconut milk and coloured gelatin. The other type was hot coconut milk with either bananas or pumpkin. I prefer the one with the bananas. But I have recipes so maybe I can treat you all when I get home.

Today I will teach you some Thai. Meuan means "the same" or "similar". Gan is used to say "each other" and lae is used for "and". Putting mai in front of a word or phrase makes it negative. Thus Bprated Thai (Thailand) lae Canada mai meuan gan ka. Te chan chob Bprated Thai mak mak ka.

Got it? Kidding. For those of you who don't speak Thai, I said - or tried to say - Thailand and Canada are not the same. But I love Thailand a lot.

Next week will be interesting. I don't have school because it is Semester 1 exams, and then the entirety of October is a between-semesters break.

In Canada this would be a SUPER YAY!

Here, it's more what am I gonna do?

And maybe if I'm lucky, some of my Thai friends will invite me to hang out with them.

Also, I have some Rotary events lined up for this month. October 6th to 9th is RYLA (Rotary Youth Leadership Awards, for those of you who do not speak fluent Rotarian). All the exchange students in my district will be there and I hope to meet some cool Thais as well.

Then from October 18th to 25th.I have... wait for it... CENTRAL TRIP. It is going to be LEGENDARY! We're going ton Bangkok and other places, and I very well might just post my itinerary up in next weeks post (too lazy to do it now).

A quick side not, if you are not on Facebook and thus do not get the joy of seeing all my lovely photos, you can e-mail me at or

But back to the story telling. It seems as though every week some new, interesting thing is going on at my school. This week, it's been presentations about the different parts of Thailand. So on Wednesday, us White Chicks ambled over at lunch and watched some extremely sweet and innocent Thai girls dancing to music filled with, uh... suggestive... noises. And by suggestive I mean à la restaurant scene in "When Harry Met Sally". It's times like that, or when I see girls with Playboy brand purses and other such paraphenalia, that I wonder if they really get what it all means. :/

So that's what's new in my life - not very much, I know. My life is in essence pretty average. Why are people reading this anyways? Jk, I love you all.

Until Next Time


And yes Becky, I did steal the title of this post from a Between the Trees post. :) Thought of you.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

If I Should Die, It's Because of Muay Thai

This past week I started normal classes. This means that instead of Mai Thai, Nicha, and I standing around in a group, confusedly watching what the Thai kids were doing as we moved from class to class, we were split up and put into real, normal classes. Now don't get me wrong here - we're happy about this. It actually took a great deal of fast-talking to convince the teachers that we wouldn't be bored out of our minds - and that our Thai would fare better if we didn't just talk to each other day in, day out.

And thus began the saga of my time in 5/5. M5 (Maw Ha) is the Thai name for grade 11 and the /5 is my class number. All the /5 classes at Satit (My School) study French as well as English - probably not a shock that that is where I was placed.

I have many friends in my class, but to be brutally honest I can't remember most of their names. However, they are all super nice and take very good care of the white chick who is now a part of their everyday lives. Gee, the girl who sits beside me, went to the U.S. on exchange, and so she translates for me if/when I need it. The English teacher finds it amusing that I give her answers in class that she couldn't have otherwise known - such as idioms.

On a side note, I realized how stupid most English idioms are when I was forced to explain them to my Thai pals.

So school is fun - Mai Thai, Nicha and I still eat lunch together; a nice compromise between being with them all the time and never seeing them at all. And every Monday and Thursday we leave class early to go to Aerobics and Weight Training.

I never, EVER, thought I would say this, but Aerobics is really fun. And I actually use the treadmill in weight training. (I know, I know! Who am I? And where's Jocelyn?).

On Wednesday I went to my first real Muay Thai session. The best way to imagine ridiculously out-of-shape me attempting to do intense Thai kick-boxing is kind of like this: imagine a person who has never gone swimming in their life and who has only a vague idea of the theory behind it attempting a Channel Crossing as their first swim.

I floated, then I flailed around like a squid having a seizure, and then I died.

And I was only there for 2 hours.

I almost fell asleep at dinner that night, but it was good fun. I go back again this week so wish me luck (if you haven't already realised, I desperately need it).

Thursday was an interesting day. Every Thursday the boys have military training. This training allows them to opt out of mandatory service at 21, but leaves the government with enough well-trained, able-bodied young men should they ever go to war. Because of this training, I do nothing until the mod before lunch. Then I have a class that consists of sitting in an air-conditioned room, watching American TV shows on a big projector screen. Last week, it was Castle; the week before, Prison Break.

After lunch, we were told the M4's were to be putting on a play - Snow White. So Mai Thai, Nicha, and I decided to go. We figured that even with the language barrier we would get what was going on.

We were wrong.

For starters, the entire show - EVERYTHING - was lip synced to what I think were recordings of the kids (maybe). But that wasn't the really weird part.

It started off with groups of kids dancing (& lip syncing) to popular songs - but only for about 1 minute sections of each song. O.O Then - and I mean after many confusing dancing performances, Snow White started.

There was a teacher telling his class that Snow White was their assignment of the day and then it began. Snow White's costume was one of those little girls' princess dresses pinned to the front of her uniform. She and some 'birds' danced to "A Happy Working Song" from Disney's Enchanted. Then the 'dwarfs' danced to what I assume is a Thai or Korean pop song.

There ended Snow White.

The final performance of the day was a short & sweet Cinderella in which everyone save for the step-mother and -sisters wore traditional Thai clothing. The step-mother was played by a lady-boy who was way more feminine than I am.

Now, my description may sound slightly disparaging, and I don't mean to convey that spirit. The entire entity of these myriad performances was made deeply enjoyable by the gusto with which the Thais immersed themselves in every part. The actors had worked hard and were having fun - and the audience was having a blast. It was incredible to see how they enjoyed the plays for what they were, rather than sitting there, disappointed because of what they could have been. I thing Canadian teenagers could stand to learn a thing or two from the Thais.

Friday, I went to a party with my host sister and a bunch of girls from my class. Essentially, we had delicious food (and TONS of it) and then just sat around singing, playing guitar, and having a generally good time. I met a very nice American University Student named Ted who is here on a study abroad program. Good times were had by all.

On Saturday, Mai Thai and I went for a mosey around the city, and ended up in this busy market street filled with stores selling beautiful Thai silk hangings, and clothes. I almost managed to restrain myself and ended up buying a small ring. And shaving cream. Funny story about that.

So we walked into this tiny little drug store, probably about 40 by 40 feet that had about 80 Thai people in it. And lots of shelves. Essentially, it was almost impossible to move. But I was on a mission. I needed to find shaving cream. So I approached a kindly store attendant - who spoke about 4 words of English. After having her show me about 10 different variations on Nair (hair removing cream) I finally gave up and threw my dignity to the wind (like it hadn't left forever ago...) and I made aerosol noises and patted my hands against my face - mimicking a man putting on shaving cream and then shaving. So now I own Nivea (For Men) Shaving Cream and some random Thai lady probably thinks I shave my face.

On Sunday, I went to the Chiangmai Zoo with Aya (from Japan), Nicha (you know who she is), Isabella and Lorena (from Brazil) and Nicha's host sister Pim (and friends). I'll post photos up on FB but it was AWESOME! I fed an Elephant, saw about a billion kinds of fish, two white tigers, 3 pandas (one of whom, Lin Ping, is apparently famous), and tons of other animals. It was so cool. I think the last zoo I went to was the Melbourne Zoo when I was 9 (I was a neglected child), and the Chiangmai Zoo is to zoos what an old-fashioned Nalgene is to your average water bottle.

Before I sign off I'd like to give a shout-out to Julilla Paul, who always comments and makes me feel loved. To the rest of you, I'd loved to know if you're reading. If you can't figure out how to comment, send me an e-mail or write on my wall. If you're a Rotarian, I give you permission to just tell Gwen on Thursday morning and make her contact me :) (isn't that what counselors are for?).

Last, but most certainly not least, I'd just like to say this. As many of you are no doubt aware, my Grandma passed away on September 7th. I just want to thank you all for your love, prayers, and support as I deal with this loss.

Yours in Love and Rotary,

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

I Think Therefore Siam

I tried to convince MaiThai to name her blog that. Apparently she didn’t find it as amusing as I did (I mean, c’mon guys, you miss my terrible puns).

I’m sorry about taking so long with this post – I’m so tired when I get home from school that I just lay on my bed in a semi-comatose state.

Speaking of school, it’s a pretty sweet place. Essentially, I do almost nothing because we’re not in normal classes. However, the other two girls and I have convinced our teachers to put us in normal classes starting next week.

So far, I’ve gone to art (which I’m really bad at), Thai Dancing (where I stand like an idiot and wave my hands around like a hyper child armed with pool noodles), French (which is just like sitting in an English class), and a few other random classes that we just get suddenly thrown into. Also, the other day I went to Chemistry class. It was so awesome! They were studying Hydrocarbons (i.e. what I studied last year), and they use the same nomenclature as we do in English and draw their diagrams the same, so I was able to understand. In fact, I even gave one of my Thai friends the answer at one point (go White Chick!).

The kids are really nice – though they rarely approach us farang when we’re all in a group. I have learned how to ask people to speak Thai to me, and (just as importantly) how to ask them to speak slowly.

I can now almost read Thai (kind of). There are maybe 7 vowels that I don’t know, and that’s because they are combinations of other vowels but don’t actually mesh those sounds together, as you might assume. Instead, these combinations make completely different sounds that are completely illogical. Not to mention, as soon as I think I’ve learned all the vowels a new one leaps out of nowhere. I swear. It’s as though there are these awkward vowel sounds just lurking in the shadows for whenever I start to feel confident about my reading capabilities.

But now when people come over to my house my Mae has me read for them (yeah…). It’s actually pretty cool, because Thai people continue to be extremely supportive of my struggling attempts to communicate.

The first day, before school, we went to go feed the monks. This is actually a really cool part of their religion, in my (not so) humble opinion, because the monks will eat only what they are given in their morning walk up to wherever they go (I think there’s a temple higher up the hill up which they all walk each morning).

Everyday driving through the city in the morning you can see the monks coming from all over and all eventually converging on the passage up this hill. And they are all barefoot, which is pretty intense – especially in a place like Thailand.

But onwards and upwards, my friends, to the world of Blazers and Banners, Sergeants and Presidents, and rooms filled with primarily middle-aged Thai people.

Yes indeed, I speak of none other than the marvellous world of Rotary club meetings.

The first meeting I went to, there were three Japanese businessmen visiting from the club of Tokyo North. They and my club (Lanna ChiangMai, for those who care) have raised I believe about 30, 000 $ to go towards building dams in some 3rd World country (I didn’t catch the name) which will re-hydrate multiple dried up springs and give water to many needy people.

I’m not gonna lie, I didn’t catch a lot of that presentation – but the gist was that I met cool Japanese people. My Mae warned me in advance that they would be there so I was able to prepare and bring an extra banner for them.

They were very kind, even going so far as to compliment the three stilted sentences I managed to spew out in barely-remembered Japanese. I thought it was really incredible that already I am making connections through Rotary – it truly made me feel like an ambassador of not only Canada, but of Rotary Sunrise Lethbridge and Rotary Youth Exchange in general.

Right now, I am at Orientation. It’s a pretty great time. All the kids here are really nice and we’ve been having a lot of fun. Hopefully I’ll be able to update you all on the entirety of this experience sometime in the coming week.

And, as you can see, I have incorporated pictures of my new shoes (goal 3 - COMPLETE)



P.S. I start Muay Thai next week! =D