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47 posts categorized "*Thai Culture"

Courtney's View #4: Assume Change

Teaching’s almost over really. The time was flying by anyway, but things kicked into warp drive when I found out that though my contract ends in March, the last day of school is February 9th. What cultural thing is this? I don’t know. But I get paid for a month a half of navel gazing. Much wow! 

This news aside, I’ve taken into account Unexpected Days Off as a highly possible bi-weekly or even weekly occurrence. The reasons are usually both creative and official. For your vivid understanding, I have curated these reasons into a list:

  • “There is a competition that you must watch this morning. You will have no class.”
  • “There is a holiday on Tuesday. And on Monday.”
  • “There is a festival in the afternoon. Maybe there will be no class.”
  • “It is sports week. There is no class.”
  • “The students are playing football. Maybe they will not come today.”
  • “The students have a test. Maybe they will not come today.”
  • “The English Department has decided that today they will not work.”

Truly, this type of surprise is perfect for a rookie teacher like me. The extra time to plan lessons or write my family a letter is welcome. Any chance to slow down is usually one to be grateful for.

There’s another side of the burger, too. The unpredictability of schedule can also mean that my day becomes one extra wild goose chase. It’s easy to feel jerked around but it’s important to understand that’s not the intention. Of course, there's a language barrier among other uncertainties that get in the way of communication. I’m relearning that even though I like to be in control of my day, sometimes that’s simply not the point. “Mai pen rai” is how they call it in Thailand. “Don’t worry, whatever will be, will be.” 

Below: Some well spent free time of preparing a Christmas succulent! 


The One With The Trip To Pai

    I don't normally give advice about Thailand because everyone experiences it differently but there is one piece of advice that I know to be absolutely valid- EVERYONE SHOULD GO TO PAI.

    There is no other place in Thailand that is quite like Pai. It's a popular area but not over-crowded. It's a city but it's doesn't have insane traffic, unless you count the reckless driving that takes place on the 762 hairpin turns in the road you take to get to and from Pai. There is so much to see and do there that you need at least a 3 day weekend to really take it all in. We will definitely be back before we leave. 

    Pai is notorious for it's laid-back atmosphere and hippy vibes. After working for a month and a half we were ready for a mini vacation, so we took an extra day off and spent 4 days there, best decision so far. 

    We rode our bikes to the bus station in Tak at 11:30pm, took the midnight bus to Chiang Mai and arrived at 4:30. We then took a 6am van from Chiang Mai and after the many twists and turns we arrived smack dab in the middle of Pai's famous "walking street." It didn't take us long to find all the different foods Pai offers that our province doesn't (Mexican food)...(so much Mexican food). We then dropped our bags off at our hostel and began walking around and getting accustomed to the new area. 

    We stumbled on a booth selling tours and since we knew it would be a very expensive and probably unsuccessful journey trying to seeing the hot spots ourselves, we decided to sign up for the full day tour. The tour was of 5 different locations, it covered transportation and lunch and the company picks you up at your hostel the day off. We left at 10am and were gone until 6pm and it was so beyond worth it. It cost 500 Baht (15 USD) to see a view point at the top of Pai, a guided cave tour which included a bamboo raft ride through the river inside, a stop at the hot spring, followed by a waterfall and last but absolutely not least the Pai canyon at sunset (which may be my favorite thing we've seen in Thailand so far). 

    It would have been incredible if the tour was just that, but the group of people we spent the day with were the most awesome, genuine, hilarious and fun people to ever be grouped with. We got off the tour truck, looked around at each other and decided we weren't done hanging out. We found an amazing restaurant with delicious food and a rooftop setting and ate lunch followed by a few drinks around Pai. We made plans to hang out the next day with everyone and got each other's contact info so we could keep in touch.

    That's the amazing thing about the backpacker community, you meet so many awesome people. We met another girl at our hostel who we also loved and went to dinner with and honestly by the time it was time to go we were having a really hard time saying goodbye to both Pai and the people we met there. 

    So for those reasons and about a billion others, I fully stand by my opinion that if you come to Thailand YOU HAVE TO GO TO PAI. Trust me. 

Tour: Pai Let's Go Tour (pailetsgo.com) 

Restaurants worth trying: Moonshine, The Wine Bar, Bom Bowls, Earth Tone...plus all the street food vendors

Bars worth going to: Sunset bar, Paradise Bar, Yellow Sun

Hostel we stayed in: Pai Circus Hostel and School 



The One With The Nightly Dinner Routine

    I honestly didn't know what to expect when it came to what meals would be like in Thailand. I knew markets and stands were common and that pad thai was probably abundant in the country. I didn't know that when I got placed in my apartment I would not have a kitchen of any kind, aside from a refrigerator. When I first heard this I won't lie, I sort of freaked out. My inner monologue went something like this "HOW THE F AM I SUPPOSED TO FEED MYSELF WHEN I DON'T HAVE ANY WAY TO MAKE FOOD?!" Except in my head "F" was very clearly spelled out. 

    After the first few days here we realized we weren't going to be able to survive with just a fridge, so we rode our bikes to the nearby store and purchased a water heater, which is essentially just an electric tea pot- we have them in America too and I'm obsessed with mine. We use that to make a lot of different things so we can theoretically survive without buying every single meal outside of our apartments. 

    The great thing about Thailand is that every. damn. thing. is cheap. Meals are rarely more than 300baht, the equivalent of 10USD and that's honestly when you're splurging or in a more urban area. Where we live has significantly lower prices than say Bangkok or Chiang Mai. Our average meal is between 30 and 60Baht (1-2USD). 

    We have been here for about a month and a half now so we officially have our "spots" and are on a first name basis with some of our favorite vendors. In fact at one of our favorite restaurants in Tak, the cook brought our rice out in the shape of a heart the other night. We knew we had officially been promoted to "regulars," which is a pretty awesome feeling. 

    While we do love that restaurant, our go-to meal is Pad Thai (how cliche, I know) and a papaya salad. Our nightly routine looks something like this: 

    Around 6:50pm one of us texts the group and says "night market in 10?" 

    7:00pm we ride our bikes about a mile to the river where several vendors set up stands to sell various amazing foods

    7:10pm we stop at the pad thai stand and get a serving to go

    7:15pm we go to the papaya salad stand and get an order to go and say "mai phet" meaning "not spicy" -I will never be able to put into words how DELICIOUS  papaya salad is, if I am able to recreate it when I get back to the U.S. I will cry tears of joy. 

    7:20pm we ride our bikes back to our apartments with our food in our baskets 

    7:30pm stage dive into a pile of bomb pad thai and papaya salad while constantly saying "I can't believe I'm not sick of this yet!" 

The convenience aspect is slightly missing because we do have to ride to the river to get the food, but the meal is always so, SO worth the effort it takes to obtain it. 

IMG_5996 IMG_5995

Courtney's View #2: Pinned & Squirming

The wonderful hotel I’m staying at while I get my Non B Visa provides free breakfast. It’s not your average continental breakfast of Ho-hos and Ding Dongs. There’s a big pan of fried rice, plates of papaya and dragon fruit, pancakes, eggs, cucumbers, shredded carrots, and small sausages. There’s even a coffee maker that spits out Americanos which I return to in a sneaky tip-toe three or four times a morning. I go noticed 100% of the time.

The employees are very kind and helpful. One might say that they are unwavering and ever present in these respects. They are instantly available to get you a plate and gesture at the buffet. They are the quiet, smiling sentinels of breakfast.

My wallflowerishness sadly makes me unappreciative of this immaculate watchfulness. To me it just equals intentional, paid staring. As I approach the buffet, I feel a cruel combination of skittishness and hunger. I try to move along the buffet in a way that conceals the quantities of food I’m taking. I’m not sure what is acceptable and I don’t want to be disgustedly judged. The water glasses are rather small and I’m thirsty so I loiter by the drinks and down three waters in a row. The concierge stands steady, watching. A bug manages to fly into my fourth glass. The concierge stares. I want to fish out the bug but he’s watching. I don’t want to look even more slobbish. I drink the bug with a twitchy swallow.

Hastily, I walk to my table with a plate of pancakes and a bowl of fruit. Blast, I forgot to put syrup on my pancakes. I dread returning to the surveilled buffet to get the syrup. Surely, I will look like a fool. I will have to wait at least 15 minutes to avoid this, hopefully enough time for the concierge to have forgotten my stumbling performance. Wait I do. With my perceived clean slate, I assume a casual air as my curiously still-existing pancakes accompany me back to their mecca. The concierge raises his eyebrows. I slouch a little and spoon my syrup. He must have thought I took my pancakes for a walk to gently break the news that they’d be eaten and inquire about their last wishes. Oh you’d like Syrup to accompany you to the Grey Havens? As you wish. 

When I return to my room, I flop face down on to the cloud-like bed in a despondent heap, run through by the force of a thousand imagined judgements.                                                                                                             


.... P.S. If you want to avoid major Visa stress, do as CIEE recommends and don't travel before the teaching program starts! I was stuck in Vientiane, Laos for almost 3 weeks and came out of it with a big fat "VOID WITHOUT PREDJUDICE" stamp in my passport and no Visa. I had to travel back to Laos to try again and was thankfully successful! If you do travel beforehand, Savannakhet, Laos is the absolute best place to get your Non B Visa. There was a total of 20 people getting processed on the day I went, as opposed to nearly 1000 in Vientiane. That being said, I loved traveling beforehand and would do it again - I just underestimated the Visa scene!

Below: A picture of me over-thinking stuff and knowing it. 


The Infamous Sports Day

As promised, this next blog post is about Sports Day and all the craziness that overtook our school for 5 days. The activities took place about 2 weeks ago, but since I have a million and one pictures on my phone of students dressed in crazy and extravagant outfits, I felt I'd be doing them an injustice if I didn't write a poorly timed blog about it, you know?

On Tuesday November 14th, Kaitlin and I showed up to school to find hundreds of students decked out in Traditional Thai costumes with faces full of makeup and heavy hair accessories atop their heads. One teacher said that some students got to the school at midnight to start to prepare. Meanwhile, we rolled out of bed at 6:50 am and showed up wearing our Sports Day polos and workout pants looking like sweaty trash cans next to them.

We were told there was a big parade through the school that would end at the sports field, where everyone else would be watching the competitions throughout the day. All five color groups (blue, green, pink, yellow, purple) had their own separate theme and story to tell in their parade, and each section of the parade took about 15-30 minutes. 

Our high school has a pretty strict dress code for students. Uniforms, haircuts, etc are all determined by the school (or the government? idk). But either way, all of that went out the window for this occasion. Girls were wearing platform heels and dresses you would never expect to see in a school setting.The Thai school system will never cease to confuse me.

In the parade, some people were carrying simple items, while others were actually carrying other people (as seen in my previous blog post). The students looked so glamorous, and it was really cool to see so many different cultural outfits, accessories, and props in one place. I felt really bad for the girls casually wearing 6 inch platform heels however, because they had to stand and wait for the parade to start, and then they had to walk a long way to the sports field, around the track, and had to wait again for the parade end. So without further ado, here's a small selection (literally I have so many pics on my phone) from Sports Day.



To say that Sports Day was not what we expected it to be is definitely an understatement. How naive we were to think that they would simply be playing sports for a day or two!? We were really in awe of the creativity, time, hard work and overall beauty that must have taken place to create that parade. It was definitely a pleasure to get to experience it!

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Courtney's View #1: The Big Fat Reality Check

Until I came to Thailand, I was living in a hip-college-mountain-town in Colorado. The town is full of Trustafarians who wear those ruggish, biblical ponchos that are meant to signify enlightenment. Perhaps my college can owe it's 1988 accusation by USA Today of being "the worst dressed" town in America to these types. My town is full of world class mountain runners, kayakers, mountain bikers, and skiers. There are many organic food stores and much environmental awareness. People wear lots of Patagonia and rock that classy sandal-sock combination with $100 Chacos, the finest and most durable of sandals. What I'm trying to say is that my town houses a distinctly earthy yet privileged population and I am very aware of this. 

I’ve been in Thailand for 4 months now. As for any Westerner, there many new things both shocking and delightful I've gotten to get accquainted with:

-a high power distance culture

-seeing an average of 3 helmet-less 2 year olds per sputtering moped

-a general lack of catalytic converters on vehicles

-a pacifist yet intensely opportunist driving culture that is very fascinating

-the delights of spicy food

-multitudes of garbage fires containing burning plastic

-legions of street dogs and cats

-groups of orange robed monks walking the streets for alms every morning

Coming from my super PC and health obsessed town, all of these things elicit a confusing array of responses like, "Wow! What's that? What's this? WOW! Yum! Oh no! huh? Eeek! Uggh. Ooo shiny! Oh dear. Tasty! But how? quick-hold-yer-breath!"

For me, there is a lot of learning to be done. I have diva-ishly sought out "staples" like nutritional yeast, organic shampoo, real coffee (as opposed to instant), single track running trails, and mexican food. With a little effort, some of these things can be found, but I am forced to shrug my shoulders for many others. My apartment has no sinks, just faucets sticking rustily out of the wall. It appears that my water source is a big cement tank that I have seen some questionable items floating in. My backyard features a wonderful sewage ditch that wafts fragrantly through my apartment. I call it the "spicy Thai breeze". Enter water filters, bleach, candles, and a super-chill mind. This lack of many things I consider "staples" of my life has been a big fat reality check that makes me wonder if I have "Privileged" written 100 times on my face.

What I'm learning is that travel is probably the best teacher of open mindedness. I have always considered myself to be broad minded but that's an easy label to give myself when I'm back at home comfortably sipping on a green juice and watching a peloton of $10,000 bikes whiz by before comfortably walking to my comfortable job where I comfortably communicate AND relate to nearly every person I encounter. Discomfort is what tests me. Travel often gives the gift of wider contemplation through the deprivation of comforts I take for granted. 

My goal for my stay in Thailand is to not only be grateful for the comforts I've previously had, but to truly take joy in what Thailand has to offer. This might be genuinely looking forward to a cup of instant coffee, really getting to know my students and fellow teachers, and reforming to the simplicity of no furniture and living from the contents of a carry-on size bag. 


Below: Taking time to serenade our favorite street kitty Jacqueen.


Below: Moped specimen.



The Cha-Cha Slide Makes a Thai Debut

The passing of Thanksgiving back in the states has gotten me thinking about my recent momentous life change and all the new beginnings it has presented that are worthy of my gratitude. When I think about all the blessings I’ve already accrued in my short time here, my students top the list by a landslide. I spend my school days on a tumultuous roller coaster of emotion that ranges from anxiety to adoration to frustration to impressed awe, but regardless of my mood’s flavor of the day, when I hop on my bike and head home my students have left me in stitches, and feeling very, very loved. During our teaching certification course at orientation our aggressively British facilitator asserted again and again: “Thai students are not nasty, they’re naughty”, a prophecy that has been decidedly self-fulfilling. The Thai education system is known for it’s dry plug-and-chug format in the classroom setting, in which students are inundated with lecture-style information. I strive to keep my classrooms interactive because it not only sustains my students’ motivation, but also makes them genuinely excited about the material and class in general. I know what you’re thinking. Is it a bird? Is it a plane? No it’s Super Teacher! Fully equipped with engaging, activity-based heroism!

 Well you, dear reader, would be absolutely incorrect. As with most things in my life, I have an affinity for conceptualization but leave something to be desired on the execution front. Enthusiasm is a double-edged sword as it’s sometimes manifested in the form of craziness. It’s not always cute Thai child craziness as my social media presence may suggest; sometimes the scales tip and it’s rabid hyena craziness. Albeit, Hyenas in cute matching boy and girl scout uniforms, but ravenous dogs nonetheless. The high road no longer exists in my reality, I’ve tried every classroom discipline technique in the book with varied success, the most effective being mercilessly peeling a star sticker off of the troublemaker’s name with the eye-contact of a wild west gun fight and the slow motion drama of Neo evading bullets in The Matrix. The kids sulk as if I have just taken one of their limbs. Calling out students in front of the class for unruliness used to be my chosen class-quieting move, but was ultimately unsustainable because I couldn’t maintain an angry teacher façade while yelling at Tigger to sit down (an actual name of a friend’s student). Scolding desk mates Boom and Boom-Boom for wreaking havoc with Cannon and Ball, or getting the attention of Arm, the tiny, Thai, toothless, parka-wearing Gandhi, simply cannot be done without a smile. However, I realize that sometimes these kids just need an outlet to release their quelled energy. Thus, Super Teacher’s™engaging activity based heroism occasionally devolves to watching Scooby Doo youtube videos in class, and that’s okay! Much of my job is just showing these children the encouragement, affection and support that they don’t always receive in other parts of their lives.

Now re-read that last sentence, and replace the words “encouragement, affection, and support” with “abject ridiculousness and hilarity”. I’d like to reintroduce you all to my aforementioned intimate friend: the chasm between intent and execution. I absolutely love playing and joking around with my students. When I’m having a tough day, nothing lifts me up quite like hearing them brutally butcher the pronunciation of ‘parallelogram’ on a repetitive loop. In return, I also have my students teach me a word in Thai every day, to continue breaching the gap and better relate to them in the struggle of learning a new language. The students get incredibly excited to watch me word vomit all over their nuanced tonal tongue. Last week I requested that they teach me how to say the date in Thai. There’s a good chance I celebrated 40th birthday while the “teacher” I called up to the front breezed through the infinitely syllabic sentence. The class blinked at me emptily, waiting for me to repeat it, so I hissed and gargled and rolled r’s in a nonsensical order until the elusive bell finally rang. I think next week for payback, I will give them English tongue twisters.

I also love dancing with them. In fact, Emily and I may have unintentionally created a cult following for “the cha-cha slide” amongst our primary students. We fully anticipate a turf battle breaking out against rival gang, “the Macarena” fanatics, any day now. Queued up I have the Electric Slide and The Cupid Shuffle. When things get really dire, I will teach them Gangnam Style because desperate times do in fact call for desperate measures. I take solace in the knowledge that the students already inexplicably worship Ed Sheeran at a golden alter, so any music I bestow on them couldn’t confuse their taste any further. Channeling the students’ energy into dancing at the beginning or end of class has been a useful tool, but has not completely eradicated the inherent classroom insanity that comes with teaching little ones. My overweight second grader with a penchant for shaking it everywhere, on everything and everyone, all the time, comes to mind. He couldn’t say a sentence in English if held at gunpoint, but suddenly turns into a gyrating Miley Cyrus on all available windows, desks, doors, and even backs when I’ve turned to face the whiteboard. It goes without saying - I love him. Independently of the stellar joke material my students’ anecdotes facilitate, I am so lucky to love and learn from these clever, vivacious kids each day!

Until next time!


Teaching and What I Wish I Knew


    I have been teaching in Thailand for the past two weeks. I can’t believe that it has already been two weeks!! Besides learning the ins and outs of my village and adjusting to a new way of life, I have been working on lesson planning and grading. If you have never taught before, this may be more difficult and time consuming than you would expect. However, when the kids grasp the concepts being taught, their faces show so much happiness it makes it all worth it.

    Being in Thailand for almost a month has given me some culture shock in and out of the classroom. Below is a list of five cultural differences I have experienced so far (more will come as I stay longer).


1: The Respect of the Students:


    The students in Thailand respect their teachers much more than those in the U.S. Yes, the students still talk in class, but what middle school student doesn’t? When I ask them to be quiet they show respect by almost immediately quieting down. The students thank me after each class and even those I have never met still say “Sawatdee Kha” (“Good Morning”) and bow their heads to me. Even though the students in Thailand have more respect; how the school is run seems to be slightly more disorganized than in the U.S.


2: Thai School Systems:

            The school system in Thailand is more laid back and little less organized than in the U.S. For example, students do not always come to class on time. This can be because they do not want to, or because they were in a meeting with someone and you did not know, or because they were simply taking their time on the way back from lunch or recess. If they are tardy there is an expectation that they will bring the teacher a late slip explaining where they were, but that doesn’t always happen. Another example can be when an entire class doesn’t appear. Other teachers may assume the impacted teachers have been told that a class is on a field trip, but that isn’t always the case. Adaptability is key and you learn to go with the flow. You realize that receiving information at the last minute about your class, such as them not being in attendance due to an event, is not that unusual. Some of this is due to the language barrier, but some is simply the way it is. It has been two weeks and I am learning to live “Mai Pen Rai” – which basically means, “it’s okay.”


3: You will Never Stop Sweating:

    You will never stop sweating no matter time of year it is. Currently Thailand is starting their winter and it is still 80 degrees everywhere with about 70% humidity, if not more. Walking to and from school causes my hair to expand and frizz because of the humidity, even at 7:00 am. You will never stop sweating. I hope to eventually get used to the heat, despite having other travelers tell me it’s difficult. On the plus side, a lot of restaurants have outdoor seating, and the fans help cool everything off. I am also glad there is air conditioning where I live. And, I’m grateful I’ve arrived in October, as it is the beginning of winter. I’m hoping I will adjust before summer. My recommendation for travelers: wear clothing that breathes and is loose fitting, and bring deodorant. 


4: Food Stores and Restaurants: IMG_2260

    I live in a village that is well off, so there are stores that sell western foods as well as Thai foods. I have been able to find goldfish, peanut butter, Doritos, and Oreos. A lot of food stores also have potato chips, but many of them are interesting flavors: seaweed, sushi, salmon, and other seafood flavors, just to name a few. Pizza is not as hard to come by as one would think. I have found one place that makes decent pizza, and it’s within walking distance. KFC is located at almost ever corner but some of the menu items are spicier than in the U.S. The Thai restaurants have amazing foods. I don’t know what I am ordering most of the time, but Thai owners and employees are really helpful in explaining the items and letting me know if it’s super spicy or not. I have loved 90% of all the Thai foods that I have been eating. There are some that are not good at all; unfortunately I don’t know what they are called.


5: Squatter Toilets and Toilet paper:

    Coming over from the U.S. I was used to having toilet paper in all public bathrooms and toilets that were off the ground. What I have found in Thailand are squatter toilets in about 75% of public bathrooms and bum guns, a.k.a. bidets, in every bathroom (some did have toilet paper but not many). I have used some squatter toilets but am still getting used to them and the bum guns. If you use them incorrectly you get your pants all wet – consider it a learning situation.

Even with all of the cultural shocks I am so excited to be in this wonderful country! I can't wait to make even more memories and experience it all! Stay tuned for more! :D

Mai Pen Ra...Wait Where is Everyone?


Danielle: 3

Kaitlin: 3

I think our reflexes are getting quicker and they’re getting a bit scared that of all their friends keep dying…

Ok so I have too much time on my hands because I’m blogging far more often than I expected. But I guess that happens when you’re in Thailand and you’re constantly waiting for things to happen or people to show up. If you haven’t heard of “Thai Time,” it’s real…and unsurprisingly, it takes some time to get used to. If you’re considering coming to Thailand, then this blog post is for you. I swear I’m not trying to diss the Thai culture - really, its me, not you Thailand.

If you haven’t been forced to realize what it is over the past few weeks, Thai time is just another way of saying that things move slowly, and being late is not a cause for concern. It seems that my school is trying hard to prove this to me. Maybe one reason for Thai time is because the locals live by the “mai pen rai” way of life, which basically means everything is going to be okay and/or no worries (cue the Hakuna Matata song?). If your bus doesn’t show up…mai pen rai, there will be another one. If classes start 15 minutes late…mai pen rai, just make some stuff up and pretend you aren’t totally thrown off. If you’re given no information about what you’re really supposed to be teaching in your 14 classes but you’re expected to teach anyway…mai pen…you guessed it…rai!

Kaitlin and I haven’t been working at our school long but we’ve already come to the realization that we’re going to be hanging around a lot more often than we thought we would. We work at a large public school with 2700 students, and most of our classes have 30-50 crazy energetic Thai kids in them. The classes are supposed to be 50 minutes long, but they rarely start and end on time. As a bonus, this past week the kids had “Sports Day” so if they didn’t show up to class it was totally normal. And apparently no one bothered to tell us this before we were ditched by most of our students. But alas…mai pen rai.

Everyone says to embrace this go-with-the-flow lifestyle, and I plan to, but I’m not quite there yet. In theory, it’s a really nice way to live life, because Thais don’t want to sweat the small stuff (not including the 5 pounds of literal sweat a day) and instead just enjoy things and not get stressed out. And honestly, in this heat and humidity, I can understand why people move slowly. I’m surprised I haven’t keeled over yet from heat stroke. Hopefully I live to write my next blog post about the end of Sports Day and all the extravagance and ridiculousness that came with it. Sneak peak below:


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Spicy? Only a little!

I imagine much of the followership of this blog is comprised of other potential program members, so I’m going to start this post off with some accommodation-based tips. First, let’s talk about roommates. Learning to live with a new roommate from a different region, with different mannerisms can be tricky to navigate but I’ve found that tolerance and patience are the keys to coexisting peacefully. Take my roommate for example. He has eight eyes, about 17,000 limbs, a thorax about the size of my fist, and isn’t much of a talker. Initially, our differences greatly concerned me; how could we possibly make this work? Luckily, over time we’ve found balance and adapted to each other’s lifestyles. During the day while I’m at school, my roommate has the place to himself, a time that he valuably uses to eat some of the ants around. When I come home and slam the door, he is quick on the social cue uptake, returning to his portion of the apartment behind my bathroom mirror. But tread cautiously, this brings me to my second tip: not all roommates will be so accommodating. In these situations, stand up for your own self interest! My other, smaller, multiple-limbed roommates are far less conscious of my boundaries. They take up the entire bathroom, refusing to leave when it’s my turn, and inviting friends over at all hours of the day and night. They have moved in in such hordes that I have begun operating by a trust no freckle philosophy. So, driven by necessity, I forcefully evacuate them daily by spraying them with the bum gun attached to my toilet, and get some target practice with the drain at the far end of my bathroom.

Despite my pesky, uninvited roommates, my apartment has pleasantly surprised me. It has most of the modern amenities I’m used to including air conditioning, a real toilet, and WiFi that functions whenever the mood befalls it. I’m willing to overlook the fact that my “shower” is a haphazardly hung faucet without walls (that inevitably soaks everything I’ve ever owned when I rinse off) because I actually have warm water - an absolute blessing for this anemic weenie. Even my stone-solid mattress has become tolerable, I’m not sure I’ll ever wake up not feeling as though I was hit by a small bus in the middle of the night. We decidedly will not part as friends, but for a prodigious night-thrasher I have adapted better than expected. My apartment feels very safe with two keys required for entry and a security guard posted out front at all night hours. The guard is lovely and a great resource for practicing my Thai. I ask his name, he asks mine. He asks where I’m from, I tell him. He says other words, I smile blankly. We have this interaction anywhere from three to five times a week; I can’t help but be impressed that we are already reaching such existential topics this early in our blossoming friendship.

Predictably, my apartment complex is not the only place I have run into this barrier to communication. Ordering food is either a terrifying brush with the unknown or an exciting opportunity for discovery depending on what kind of person you are. Though there are some restaurants, street food stalls are more common and economical. The stalls don’t have menus, or more alarmingly, pictures, so we have had to get creative with the ways in which we ask for food. At first, our chosen method was to walk up, look into the stall owner’s eyes, and confidently say “one” in Thai. This was usually met with a confused look or an indiscernible follow-up question. This would prompt me to re-plant my feet, puff up my chest, and firmly insist once more, “one”. At this point the stall owner would usually take it upon himself or herself to give me the whitest thing they offered. Then, I would usually turn to Emily and say, “This is going well don’t you think! Should I ask what their name is?” The answer is no, it is not going well, and yes, I will try to ask their name anyway. The effectiveness rate of this probing question, and I’m rounding up here, is about zero percent. According to simple adapt or die philosophies, we have since improved our food ordering mechanisms. We now know how to ask, “Do you have chicken?” (or pork, or beef, etc.) and though this has improved our confidence interval, we still don’t know how to specify further. Thus, I can order chicken but it’s still an unnerving game of poultry roulette. The stakes are high: if I win, I could get delicious chicken breast or leg, but if I lose I could get feet, liver, neck, or a multitude of other mystery parts. The next phase in our evolution was to learn how to ask for food that is only a little spicy. This was an overt waste of my time. Even food that is only “a little” spicy is hot enough to make me salivate fire for several hours. I try and pull back my lips when I eat, effectively looking like the Grinch, to avoid a searing lip burn. If I’m over-zealous with my use of lip, the aftermath looks like I’m wearing red lipstick, or was stung on the lips by a bee. Or a swarm of bees. Actually, make them bloodthirsty wasps, attacking repeatedly. Yeah my palette is only a little Irish, why do you ask?

Thanks for your patience with my rapid succession posting as I try to make up for lost time. Happy hump-day from my home to yours!


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