Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Central Trip

Okay, this is really late. I go on Northern Trip in about 2 weeks...

Anyways, Central Trip was a blast! I hope I never forget how incredible it was. But, quite honestly, even now I don't remember everything we did. I made the decision to write this post because even though it's ridiculously late, I figure I will at least be able to enjoy the reminiscings as I age and my memory fades.

Day One: Had to be at the hotel to catch the Bus at 5. As in, 0500h., 5 a.m., Dtee Ha. Whatever you call it, it sucks. 5 in the morning is not a happy time. But it wasn't that bad because I at least got to sleep on the bus.

This bus was pretty cool. It was one of those massive, Asian, double deckers with the living room and bathroom on the first level and the seats on top. The upholstery was patterned with rainbow pot-leaves and they gave every person a blanket to use for free! (Which already gives them a leg up on Air Canada).

Then we went to the Sukothai Historical Park. It was really beautiful and over 700 years old! That evening we stayed in a hotel comprised of adorable little bungalows.

It was a good day.

The Second Day was much better. But it's not really a fair fight because I didn't have to wake up at 3:30 the second day. But that day we went RAFTING!

It was LEGENDARY. I mean, first we were all crammed into these two little super-sketchy cattle cars for like an hour over very bumpy roads. Then we got to the river, and climbed down the rather steep embankment. Waiting for us was a large bamboo raft and a lot of life jackets. We put on the latter, got on the former, and were off!

Rafting ended up to be more swimming than rafting. The water was just cool enough to be refreshing but still warm enough to be nice and we all just drifted along with the current. The scenery was gorgeous - think Forrest Gump in 'Nam and the sun was scorching hot. It was one of the most chill moments I have had so far in Thailand.

For lunch that day we got burgers. Not very good burgers. But burgers all the same. Chantale, my Californian friend, found Thousand Island dressing and got ecstatic. (Something about this Californian fast food place called In-n-Out...)

Then we went to our hotel, had dinner by the ocean, and hung out on the beach that was directly in front of our hotel until curfew.


Day 3 was pretty sweet. For some reason that I don't remember/didn't understand, we didn't have to be ready to leave until 11. So Chantale and I walked around, found some awesome shops, including one that kept disappearing! I bought contacts (though the whole putting them into use took about 3 more people and was...well...long and drawn out...and very interesting).

We went to visit Buddha (cause it's Thailand). It was awesome (cause it's Thailand). And then it rained (cause it's Thailand). So instead of going to the beach :( we went to a mall. But that was okay because we found EPIC pins for our Blazers with pictures of the King and Queen on them.


We went to a night market that evening. Bought a sand bucket. Ate at a restaurant that said the translation of it's name was Bird Chili. Our Golden Oreos told us the truth: it really said Mouse Shit Chili.

Why you would name a restaurant Mouse Shit Chili is beyond me. But maybe it's kinda like Ratatouille....

The Fourth Day we went to this super old wooden palace. The summer palace of King Rama VI. It was pretty cool, but they had tons of rules (like not wearing shoes) to help preserve the wood. And I definitely felt like the 100+ year old wood was just gonna give up while I was standing on it :/

We went to a floating market that was kinda stinky. But they made this coconut candy that reminded me of maple sugar candy... It was really good and I ate way too much of it.

The ride to our hotel was... fun. Not. Because I'm pretty sure our driver usually drove something a lot smaller than a bus. He kept on trying to take us down these tiny little side roads that our bus was about twice as big as. Maybe he was a tuk tuk driver in a previous life...

That evening we went to go see fireflies on the river. But it rained instead (cause it's Thailand). Instead a bunch of us hung out in my room and we watched a super-cheesy 90's chick flick. (Drive Me Crazy, if you were wondering).

The fifth day we woke up at 5:30 so that we could feed monks at 6. But that was pretty cool, cause the monks rowed up to us in little boats and we put food in their bowls.

Then we went to Bangkok (Or GrunThep, as it's actually called). We visited the Grand Palace, saw the Emerald Buddha, took lots of pictures. Then we went to the Rotary Center in BKK.

After that we went to our weirdly sketchy hotel. I say weirdly sketchy because it looked really swanky. But there was a pack of condoms on the nightstand, 90s slow jams in the CD player, and a card advertising the 24 hr massage service. Prices were as follows: Thai massage 400 baht/hour, full body massage 1,700 baht. Can you spot a happy ending when you see one?

Day 6 we went to this teak palace that had ridiculous security. As in, there were super-armed guards everywhere and you weren't allowed to bring cell phones (or really anything) in with you. I had to go through a metal detector and then pass through a door. Between the door and the metal detector there were two thai chicks. Who felt my butt and thigh as I went past to make sure I wasn't sneaking anything in. And after all that, it was kinda ugly. They had painted over all the gorgeous wood with ugly paint.

That night we had our night cruise, which was really pretty and fun. And I avoided buying the rather unattractive, way over-priced, tourist picture. Because my daddy taught me well :D

The seventh day was so amazing. For our last day we got to do... anything we wanted!

We just had to follow our generic Rotary rules and be back at the hotel by midnight.

So we went to the area with all the malls - and saw crazy Thai people waiting in line for literally hours just to buy some Krispy Kreme donuts. We went to a bookstore, and I got a hardcover set of the Chronicles of Narnia in Thai for 60 bucks (go me!).

We also went to JJ market - it was HUGE! I bought some awesomely sweet watches and a 7-11 shirt. Because Thailand has TONS of 7-11s (everytime there's a traffic jam in Bangkok, a 7-11 gets its wings).

Central Trip was great. I loved hanging with the other Inbounds. I'm so looking forward to Northern Trip, and everyone should go check out photos on FB!

Lots of Love.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Over the Hill - Wait! That's my Mother

Just kidding Mom. I love you. Please don't put coal in my stocking :)

So I’ve told you guys all about RYLA.

(By the way - the answer is: you put a little booger in it!)

The week after that was also a lot of fun. From October 11th to 14th I ended up going to a Hill Tribe village to help build a school. I went with my exchange student friends Aya and Lorena (Lorena’s host Dad being the one who organized this for us). We worked on the school (actually, we were renovating an old building) with students from Chinese International School (Hong Kong) and Concordian International School (Bangkok). We painted, fixed shutters, painted, put tables and benches together, painted those benches and tables. And when we thought we were all done, we painted some more! I kept my paint-stained work gloves and pinned them to my Blazer :) Now, the students from CIS and Concordian stayed at a camp a good 20 minute drive away from the work site. But us Rotarians were special. We got to camp out in a tent right beside the school. Which meant just on the edge of the village. Which meant we were woken every morning at about 4:00 a.m by a rooster. A rooster who was blessed with enough lung power to crow continuously for about 3 hours. And, of course, the village people woke with the rooster. So about 30 minutes after the rooster began his incessant noise-making, the trucks would start rolling through the village. My guess is that the truck drivers were engaged in a vicious competition to see who could honk their horn in the loudest and most annoying fashion. And let me just say: they were all in it to win it.

But that rude awakening was just the start, because after we woke up, we had to shower. (Thais shower obsessively: every morning and evening, and any other time they change and/or have time). When we first went looking for the showers, I thought the person we asked for directions was confused; he kept pointing us towards the toilets.

Oh, toilets in Thailand. The infamous squatty potty. Now, having been raised by a Father who took me hiking and canoeing in places where toilets were a laughable idea and having said Father also take me to Japan twice, I was well familiar with the act of squatting before I came to Thailand. But the Thais have taken it to a whole new level - because they don't have flushing mechanisms, they have large buckets of water beside the toilet with small, handled buckets floating on the top of the water inside. One uses the small bucket to draw water from the large bucket and then pours the water into the toilet so that the pressure of the water makes the toilet "flush". Going to the mountains, I was expecting this. What I wasn't expecting was for the same room (SCRATCH) stall to be our shower. But it was.

We showered by drawing water from the big bucket with the small bucket and then sloshing it over ourselves. So imagine this stall. About 5 by 4 feet, entirely concrete, roof not really connected to the walls. Two nails above the door for clothes and towel, a squatty potty (about 1 ft x 6 in) and a bucket the size of a rain barrel filled with water (and a few drowned bugs). Not a lot of wiggle room. And when you splash water on your self, it tends to spray in the other direction. So to keep my towel and clothes at least somewhat dry, I had to essentially straddle the squat toilet while showering.

But I did it - I even washed my hair. And I know now that wherever I go, whatever I need to do: I can handle it.

Now, all joking aside, it was really hard to see the type of abject poverty these villagers were living in. I mean, a two-room school for 60 students isn't much - but for them it was an incredible luxury. And the collection of stuffed animals we bought for them wasn't large - but it was huge to them. It killed me to think that I probably had a similarly sized collection in my room growing up - and I would scream and fuss if someone tried to take even one away.

I think this experience was good for me. I mean, I'm not an idiot - I've always known there were people in the world in such situations, but there's a big difference between watching the Unicef ads on TV or buying something at Ten Thousand Villages and actually being in a poverty stricken hill-tribe village in Northern Thailand.

Did I mention that the last night of our stay there we had an impromptu dance party and I taught a little 5 year old boy how to "raise the roof"?

Sairung Out.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Wow I've Been Lazy

Okay, it has been longer than I thought since I last updated this blog... no wonder everyone's been getting on my case. :)

I blame my lack of writing on the AWESOMENESS that was the month of October. Seriously, it was really good.

I'm going to go back in time and just work through my month, but I'll do it in multiple little posts. That way, if you're using Google Reader you get more exciting notifications. If you're not using Google Reader, well, find your own way to be super-duper-happy about the lack of one monster post.

Now, as some of you may already know, October begins on October first. But for me it really started on October 6th-9th: RYLA!!

RYLA Camp was mandatory for all Inbounds, and for all Thai students wishing to be Outbounds. There were also a few kids hanging around who had already been on exchange.

Despite the fact that it took our bus 9 hours to get from Chiang Mai to Uttaradit (the return took 4 1/2???) it was well worth the lengthy ride.

Getting to hang out with the other Inbounds was, as always, fantastic.

Staying up til 3 in the morning talking with people - part of which involved an hour long conversation with my Californian friend Chantale about burgers - hanging out with a whole group of new Thai kids, trying to teach Thai kids how to Soulja Boy... It was all a blast!

There were many, many presentations - but three of them were truly memorable.

The first of these memorable presentations was having a total BO$$ old Thai guy (seriously, he wore his shades inside and drove a super old Mercedes) showing us a PowerPoint presentation that included: happy jumping M&Ms, Dragon Ball Z animations, and a Harry Potter clip. And then he sang "Smile, and the World Smiles With You" to us and led us in a chorus or three of "If You're Happy and You Know It".

The latter of which involved the verse "If you're happy and youn know it, Rotary!" At which point we all shouted ROTARY! (Or, really, Lotalee) and triumphantly fist-bumped the air above us.

The second, oh so memorable presentation was by a monk. Yes, a monk. A monk who did stand-up comedy. And showed us video of cats falling and running into things, as well as... wait for it.... Charlie Bit My Finger!! Yes, I witnessed a MONK show an auitorium full of teenagers a random, funny YouTube video.

Even if the rest of RYLA had sucked, that would have made it a totally worthwile weekend.

The last memorable video was very, VERY memorable. And not in nearly so pleasant a way as the other two were. This video was of a woman giving birth. And not the whole woman or anything like you get in Bio 30. No, this was just a close up of the -shall we say, critical area... Actually, when it first popped up on the screen I thought the guy had actually opened the wrong video by mistake... Because it was truly just a close-up of the woman's vagina and I (and apparently most of the other YEs) thought that he had opened porn by mistake.

I wish I could forget this video. It was gross. And there are some parts of it that did not look at all like what we learned about happening in Bio 30....

Apparently, this video was to show us how grateful we should be to our mother, because of what she had to go through to give birth to us.

Don't worry though Mom, I don't have some appreciation-guilt-complex now. I know you copped out and had a C-section. :)

So RYLA was great, the team-building exercises were pretty fun, and all in all I had a way better time than I thought I would.

Now, as for: PICTURES!

The first is a pretty great story: I was hanging out with my friends Chantale and Dominique. But I went back to my room at about 11:30/Midnight to shower and put on PJs before we stayed up talking super late. I was sharing said room with my ADORABLE Japanese friend, Aya. I knocked on the door and when there was no answer I assumed she was either asleep or off in someone else's room. I walked in, turned on the light, and found Aya. She was curled up on the bed, still wearing her clothes from the day, with her towel and PJs lying on the bed beside her.

So I booked it to Chantale and Dominique's room and made them come see how CUTE she was.

And then we took pictures. :D

The second is of me and Chantale, after she used her Thai costume lipstick to give me a rather obvious kiss on the cheek.

The third is of a bunch of the YEs. Not all of us. There are about 30 of us. So that for sure wasn't all of us. But it's a cute picture anyways, eh?

I need to go to school now. So I will sign off, and leave you all in breathless anticipation of my next scintillating update.

And the answer to this question:
How do you get a Kleenex to dance?