Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Durian Video 2

Due to the comments on Facebook I thought I'd give it a try.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Me Eating Durian (with vid)

The video says it all! If you want me to eat a bigger chunk, leave a comment!

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Pirates of Bangkok

I decided it was about time I went to the mall... and I'll admit, it having a movie theatre was the deciding factor. I wanted to see Pirates of the Caribbean 4. I also needed to get a phone. I asked one of the girls where to catch the bus to Mall Bangkae and there is a stop about a block from my house. As it turns out the bus is the most affordable method of transport I have found yet that doesn't involve walking in 36 degree Celsius heat, just 6.50 Baht was my fair. Armed with only the knowledge that Mall Bangkae was 7 floors high and had a waterslide on the roof, I set off. As it turns out the waterslide is not visible but there are tents and foliage on the roof. There is also a huge sign that reads "Paradise at the Mall" with a giant pink flower. I only counted 6 floors of actual mall but perhaps the waterslide on the roof is considered a floor. On top of all this is another 4 floors of offices. The fourth floor, where I spent most of my time is home to 2 arcades, Karaoke rooms, clothing shops, a food court, a bowling alley, a fitness centre, conference rooms, and movie theatres... oh and one of the arcades just happens to me in a mock village called "City Walk" and includes a flying pirate ship tram that runs along the roof. There were at least 4 Japanese restaurants alone on this floor (and more on other floors). There were also all manner of other restaurants and food vendors. One of the Japanese places had the rotating sushi bar, so I will be back to sample that when it is less busy. Lunch looked not too busy but when I came out from my movie at 4:30pm there was a huge line of people waiting for seats.

A few notes about seeing movies in Thailand. First of all you get to pick your seats in advance so you can buy your ticket then shop until 5 minutes prior to the movie and still have a good seat. It cost 140 Baht, so that is just a bit less than I would pay in Canada but very expensive by Thai standards. Concession food was overpriced just like in Canada. They don't sell butter with popcorn but they have salt or cheese. When you go in to take your seat there is a security check point to make sure you don't have a video camera or food that was not purchased at the Concession. They also will keep any bulky bags safe for you. Before the movie there are lots of credits but also a time when you must stand to show respect for the King. If you know anything about Thailand then you will know this means you MUST stand. Pirates of the Caribbean 4 was in English with Thai subtitles. I thought it was funny that the guy at the counter stressed to me "English Only!" when that was the language we were conversing in. I chose the non-3D version because 3D often makes me sick because my eyes try to correct to normal. There was a stand outside the theatre that sold Pirates t-shirts and notebooks. And you could buy the Pirates combo and it came with an action figure of Jack Sparrow on the lid of the drink. I just stuck with popcorn. The movie was excellent. It was about 2 and a half hours long.

Before heading home I bought a phone and then took a peak at each floor in the mall. I think I will be back just because if I take the stairs and walk around it will be good exercise and also it is air conditioned. Now that I know how to use the bus this opens up more possibilities for travel. The bus on the way back cost more. My tickets said I paid 14 Baht but I paid 8. I only had my address card for the school on me so they dropped me off at the market instead of the stop near my house. This was okay, except I was dressed in my green summer dress which has no shoulder straps and my neighbourhood is ultra-conservative. It felt like my skin was burning with all the stares, and I am used to stares being a farang. I went home to change before going to get dinner because I didn't want to cause more offense than I already had.

Friday, May 20, 2011

BIF (Bangkok it's Friday)

Another productive day... or not. As usual the highlight of my day was going to the market. The market I go to most often is about 3 blocks from the apartment complex. On Fridays it is bigger and better than any other day (although I cannot vouch for Saturday yet as I have not been there on a Saturday. This will be my first full weekend in Bangkok.)

Let me give you the run down on the Friday Market. It starts with my walk to the market. This is a leisurely stroll in the 36 degree Celsius evening air. It was about 5:40pm when I left the apartment complex, and I was sure to stay to the edge of the sidewalk/walkway to allow motorcycles (and heaven forbid, cars) to get past me without running me over. There was the occasional bicycle that passed me too. I nervously looked in all directions before crossing driveways and alleys to further avoid being hit my a fast moving vehicle. They can come out of nowhere. I weaved around obstacles: phone booths, poles, shrubs, street-dogs, and their droppings. Closer to the market motorcycles are parked along the walkway making the way even narrower. The good news is once inside the market there are no motorcyles. The area is further congested with heavy foot traffic: anxious mothers with hands filled with bags of goods, smiling fathers holding small children, school age children still in school uniforms.

A huge square tent serves as a roof over the area that sells foods of all sorts. You can get raw or cooked foods, spices, produce, fish, bulk items, candy, desserts, and drinks of all kinds. It is legal to walk around in public with open alcohol so this is not out of the question. One popular stand sells bubble tea and drinks with slabs of jello in them. I gaze at them curiously, but unable to order these drinks with ease due to the set up of the stand and my lack of Thai, I move on. Other booths sell juice, pop, and mixed alcoholic drinks with ice in clear plastic bags. There are tables sprawled with fresh vegetables and fruits, some that I have no names for.

(I suggest if you are squeamish or vegetarian that you skip this paragraph.) There are tables with fish on ice, and others that are stainless steel with fish and eels wriggling on their surfaces gasping for air. A particularly strong looking Thai woman is standing next to them with a cleaver. Crabs are sitting with their claws held against their bodies with elastic bands. Whole squid soak in tubs of water. I gaze into a huge bowl covered with a net to see some of the yellow toads that live in the apartment complex breathing shallowly. Disgusted, I move on. A woman is chopping up bits of animals I don't recognize. Goose necks hang on strings. Some booths sell whole chickens. Other chickens lay with the meat taken off, organs exposed on the skeletons. Other tables have salted and dried fish. Hot dogs, meat balls on skewers, crab skewers, and sausages wrapped in bacon cook on grills. Meat marinated in more types of sauces than I can name are sold on skewers as well.

Vats of bubbling soups and curries assail my nose with delicious smells. Stir fried mixtures sit in tub after tub, each one different. A woman sells meats, eggs, and vegetables over noodles or rice. 10 Baht. Another woman sells noodles of all varieties mixed with delicious looking vegetables. 12 Baht. I did in my wallet, pointing to what I want. She points at parmesan cheese, then chili peppers, and hot sauce. Do I want these? I decline the hot sauce knowing there is about a 75% chance the food is already very spicy. (It would be more likely 95% had it been a stirfry type dish.) Two women sell round cakes of sticky rice of different colours. A man stands by what looks like a row of candy machines filled with bulk items. Women sell bags of spices and condiments out of tubs. "Sawadee krab" my favorite fruit man greets me as I eye his ripe rambutans."Sawadee ka" I return, sad that I must not buy anymore fruit until I finish the last of my yellow mangoes. Another woman selling noodles greets me also. There are pots of corn on the cob boiling. Steam from huge metal rice steamers washes over me at waist level, as I walk further I am hit by a cool breeze from a fan. The market is packed because it is Friday. I wrack my brains for the word for excuse me but it has slipped my mind. I feel foolish and have to wait for people to move on their own. The people behind me are not impressed and pass me as soon as they can. There is a man selling fresh spices and strange looking funghi. Eggs from unknown animals are also sold. I am slightly surprised not to see any bugs. A few women sell doughnuts, cakes and pastries. Other women sell puddings and custards in squares.

There is a woman singing. I am not certain but I think she might be blind. She has a beautiful singing voice. Every night she is there. Another woman walks around selling lottery tickets. A man with a prosthetic leg sits on the ground, begging. I am sad but do not give him money. Often there are people who drop off people with disabilities and profit off whatever money they make that evening. If I could know this money would actually go to this man I would give him something.

Out in the open air smaller tents are set up, and tables without even an umbrella. One sells goldfish in plastic bags. Another sells showerheads. One sells belts and hunting knives. Many sell clothes for men, women, and children. 10 Baht for a pair of underwear one sign displays boldly. A large stall sells laundry detergent, paper towel, and other cleaning supplies. Other stalls sell jewellery, and still more sell candles, incense, and little Buddhas. There are pots and pans, cooking utensils, spoons, forks, and chopsticks. There are teapots and pitchers for iced tea. There are cds and dvds and stands playing music. Merchants call after me, trying to sell their wares. There is everything you could want or need. Having found food I head back towards the apartment. Families are sitting in the grass between the walkway and the busy highway enjoying picnic dinners of items from the market.

The sun is sinking low in the sky and the clouds are a vibrant pastel peach colour. I stop for a green tea latte over ice at a vendor outside the gates to my complex. A few small vendors sell their usual items from in front of the 7-11 a block down. Motorcycle taxis with drivers in purple or orange vests wait to take people home. I smile at the two boys of the security guard, sitting in the little booth by the gate still in school uniforms. They babble at me excitedly in Thai, which I wish I could understand. I walk past the swimming pool and the water filling station. Past the meditation area and the main office. Some of the other teachers are playing outdoor table tennis. The basketball court is empty as usual. I walk across it to my building.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

There Was an Old Woman Tossed Up in a Blanket

There was an old woman tossed up in a blanket,
Seventeen times as high as the moon;
Where she was going I could not but ask it,
For in her hand she carried a broom.
"Old woman, old woman, old woman," quoth I;
"O whither, O whither, O whither so high?"
"To sweep the cobwebs from the sky,
And I'll be with you by-and-by!"

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

To Market, To Market

Being back in my apartment means a desire for fresh fruit. This morning I found a vendor who sold me fresh pineapple for just 10 Baht. It made an excellent breakfast but I knew I wanted to go to the market in the evening to get something more exotic. The market sells everything... food prepared or unprepared, clothes, electronics, cutlery, footwear, religious items, toys, shower-heads... seriously anything. Mostly it sells food and clothes. The night markets near my apartment differ from the ones in Hua Hin in a few ways... first of all, they are in big vacant lots instead of narrow streets. Second, they are less of tourist traps and more functional. Third, they are way less expensive. I bought myself some dinner for 12 Baht and dessert for 10 Baht. Then I went in search of fruit. Fresh yellow mangoes were only 25 Baht a kilo. Langsat were 40 Baht a kilo at the cheapest booth. Good deals all around. My hands are still sticky and smell of the tangy Langsats despite my washing them. Tomorrow I will take a mango to B's for breakfast. She has a bigger menu now that school has started so I will be having lunch there if the cafeteria is not running yet. She also has peach iced tea now.

At school I finished my bulletin boards today and made an icebreaker worksheet that is designed like a celebrity interview from a Teen magazine, except the students get to be the stars. I thought about playing Human Knot but Thai people have a lot of etiquette around space-bubble issues so I thought maybe it would not be so wise. I thought I was meeting my students today but it turns out it was only Kindergarten start. Tomorrow my students will come. Many of the Kindergartens were bawling downstairs while I was working on the bulletin boards. And it was funny to watch them all in a line with their hands on the railing going down the stairs. That is a lot of stairs for such small children. Hopefully by the end of the week they will be settled into the school routine.

I realized in the market today I needed to learn a few more Thai phrases, so below are the words/phrases I will be working on this week:

I'm sorry = Ko-Thod-Ka (if female), Ko-Thod-Krab (if male)

How much? = An-Nee-Tao-Rai

1 Neung
2 Song
3 Saam
4 See
5 Haa
6 Hohk
7 Jet
8 Paet
9 Gaao
10 Sib
20 Yee Sib
30 Saam Sib
40 See Sib
50 Haa Sib
60 Hohk Sib
70 Jet Sib
80 Paet Sib
90 Gaao Sib
100 Neung Roy

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Sa-wa dee

Sa-wa dee, hello. Back in Bangkok. It is important to stretch out the syllables in Thai because as a farang (foreigner) they have difficulty understanding you.
It is one heck of scorcher out there today. I am hoping it decides to rain soon to cool it down a bit. Rain is inevitable but not always convenient. Rain hardly ever lasts long than 20 minutes in one go and it often comes out of nowhere.
I am feebly trying to grasp on to some Thai phrases to ease transactions at the market and the 7-11. You may think 7-11 is an odd place to go when in Thailand but the 7-11 will save your life... seriously. There is one about every 2 blocks usually. They usually have an ATM outside and are willing to give you change for big bills that the street vendors can't handle. They also sell the 2 liter bottles of water I am always talking about, and as a farang in Thailand you should never go anywhere without your giant water. If you dehydrate you get all sorts of weird ailments you can't even imagine. I felt like I had pins and needles all over my body for a day and a half and then broke out into a rash on my belly before I managed to get enough water back into my system. It is advisable you drink 2 big bottles of water every day. I am lucky now I'm back in Bangkok that I have a free refill station and I can save $1+ CAD a day on water purchases. Big bottles of water range from 13-20 Baht depending on brand, which averages at $0.50 CAD per bottle.
On top of the need for hydration you must intake enough salt to counteract the sweating for someone who watches their diet as closely as I do back how this is not easy. I have to intentionally buy junkfood in order to get enough salt. I find I do not like a lot of the Thai junkfood because it is too salty or too sweet. I bought orange juice at breakfast today and it was seriously like tang with added pulp... and I think the pulp was actually orange rind. They sometimes even sweeten fresh fruit, although it usually doesn't need it because it is so fresh compared to what I am used to in Canada.
After purchasing something you should say kob-khun-ka (if female) or kob-khun-krab (if male), which means thank you. That is sadly about the extent of my Thai so far. I can definitely sympathize with immigrants to Canada who have to learn English. It is very overwhelming to be immersed in a new culture and language all at once and try to figure out how to do everything associated with moving on top of learning to speak to people around you and not do something that offends someone. It really is terrifying, and excited, and sometimes it is just too much and you can't take the over-stimulation.
Tomorrow I will meet my class and finish decorating the bulletin boards (hopefully).

Monday, May 16, 2011

The Elusive Garden

So today I thought it would be nice to kick back and relax... but of course I have little practice in that area and turned out not to be any good at it. I decided to go looking for some butterfly gardens that were supposed to be across the street from the King's palace... shouldn't be too hard to find right?! Well I found the King's palace no problem but after wandering around in circles and asking people, who tried their best to be helpful, I decided it was a lost cause. The King's palace is heavily guarded and there is supposed to be a viewing area for tourists... I couldn't find that either, or the supposed temple nearby. Hot and bothered I stopped at a nearby shop for some cold pineapple-guava juice.
I then began the long walk back into town. I knew I had managed to sweat off most of my sunscreen and was burning but the sun was nearly directly overhead and there was nowhere to go to hide from it. When I finally got back into town I was starving and needed to find somewhere cool and shady to sit. I also needed to replace some salt so I headed for the local McDonalds. Now normally I don't condone eating at McDonalds, even in North America but it was an air conditioned building and I wanted to take a picture of the wai-ing Ronald McDonald. In Thailand a wai is a sign of respect. There are huge etiquette rules about who wais first and how low, etc.
In the afternoon I walked down to a used bookstore. The owner is a Kiwi and he is quite an interesting gentleman. Being the intellectual sort we hit it off well and he invited me to join him for sushi after he closed up. I was very sad to decline because I already had another dinner obligation.
At 6pm a group of students from my University headed down to the pier for what turned out to be an absolutely wonderful meal. My mouth is burning just thinking about the spicy squid and sea mimosa salad I ate. It came in a little bit spicy, medium spicy, or too spicy. I really like spicy foods but the medium spicy was even a bit much for me. I thought the roof of my mouth would break out in blisters any moment. After dinner we road up the glass elevator to the 17th floor of the Hilton hotel, the fanciest hotel in Hua Hin. There we sat in the outdoor bar overlooking the city. The view was spectacular. The margaritas were okay, but not their specialty. There was a weird guy walking around performing some sort of acrobatic stunts with a teapot... the teapot had the longest spout I have ever seen. He then poured tea out of the pot he had practically been juggling! It was something to see.
Finally, we finished off the evening at a little gelato bar. The lady did not like my 500 Baht bill even though she clearly had enough change in her cash register. I did not have any smaller change so she took it grudgingly. The coffee flavoured gelato was truly excellent but I think nothing can beat the goat's milk gelato I had in Kelowna when I went on the wine tour with my friends. Tomorrow afternoon we head back to Bangkok and Wednesday I will meet my class!

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Monks and Monkeys

Yesterday I went on an elephant ride. It was 1000 Baht for the morning, during which we also visited a temple and fed giant catfish. The transportation to and from our hotel was included, as was fish food, and a snack of water and pineapple. Of course they still sold us a basket of bananas for 100 Baht to feed to the elephants and the professional photos of us on the elephants were 200 Baht each. They tried to sell us two different ones but I only bought one. The elephant ride was thrilling. Most of the time we sat on a sort of saddle-seat but we were able to ride it bare-back for photographs. It is very scary when elephants walk downhill... it feels like you will come toppling off.
The tour took us through the farmstead of our guides. It was hard to see how they lived, in pieced together shacks with no walls. As we walked by on the elephants I was able to see a baby sleeping in a hammock, and a paddock full of cattle that were all skin and bones. They had chickens also and there were many dogs because there was a dog shelter nearby. I even saw a white cat sitting on a rock. There was lots of construction going on to fix the statues of the nearby temple. One statue had all scaffolding around it. After we trekked out of the farmstead we went through the jungle. I saw some bright red beetles and some trees with huge thorns on them. We walked down through a pond.
When we went to see the catfish some were 3 feet long and there were other fish too. Some were really ugly. There were turtles and a lot of hungry street-dogs which we fed some of the fish-food to.

Today I decided to go see the monkeys at Monkey Mountain. I was given bad directions but a motor-taxi picked me up and took me the 8km. The motor-taxi driver was crazy. He drove in the wrong lane to get around traffic and laughed like an adrenaline-junkie, which probably was not too far off the mark. Still, it is safer than the van-taxis and makes me less motion-sick. I am yet to ride in a Tuk-Tuk (3-wheeled taxi). The ride was pricey but still a good deal by North American standards. I spent about 2-3 hours taking photos of monkeys and visiting the 2 temples on the mountain. I then began the long and arduous journey back to the hotel. The motor-taxi driver had suggested I go along the beach, but I was unable to find a way down there. It is about a 7-8 km hike back to the area of Hua Hin where my hotel is, much confused by the fact that the sign will claim that 5 streets in a row are all Road 88 and the like. I need to get to Road 46. The heat was intense and I stopped at a 7-11 (which are plentiful in Thailand) and bought a 2 Liter of water. The whole trek took about an hour and a half and caused me lots of looks from the locals. Normally someone like me would take a taxi, I guess. The roads were quite safe except that some of the power-lines hung down low over the sidewalk.
I was relieved when it rained for a bit, but soon it was hot again. I thank my SPF 60 for only getting a sunburn the size of a loonie on my arm where the sunscreen must have worn off because of my watch. My feet are very sore and I am thinking tomorrow I will check out the used bookstore a few blocks down or perhaps get a massage.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Hua Hin (with video)

The night markets in Hua Hin are amazing. You can buy anything from toys to music to clothes to ice cream shaped like eggs and you can haggle on the prices of anything that is not already marked. I finally found postcards for 5 Baht each. I hope I bought enough. I didn't do a thorough job of counting. I can always go back and get more another night. I also bought a pair of fisherman's pants to wear to the temples and a turtle shaped bag for the beach and for hiking to Monkey Mountain... I have also heard it called Monkey Island, which is hilarious.
My plan was to hike to Monkey Mountain tomorrow. There is supposed to be a Buddhist Shrine and also a place that gives wonderful massages. And there are lots of monkeys. However, perhaps that is a plan for Sunday because a group of us is headed elephant riding tomorrow! We are getting up bright and early and busing to the riding location. More details to follow!
This morning I oriented myself with the town. It is relatively small but busy and touristy. The beach was decent. My understanding is you need to watch out for jellyfish. I did not swim today because I had not brought my swimsuit down to the beach. There are also horses to rent, which might be fun. I spent the midday heat indoors, gecko-watching and lazed around by the pool until dinner. We went to a small restaurant called Bam Bam. It doesn't look like much but the seafood is superb.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Mai Pben Rai

There is an expression in Thai, "Mai Pben Rai" meaning "It's all good" or "It's okay." This expression can be frustrating to foreigners because it becomes more than an expression, but a lifestyle. It was explained to me as follows: In Thailand there is an abundance of everything. People do not have to work hard to get food or water or any necessities. As a result there is little need for schedules and things are quite flexible. Plans change unexpectedly and people adapt easily to any situation. Westerners get frustrated when plans continuously fall through but there is no use being angry because Thai people do not know how to act if you get angry and it will not get you any results. If you get angry with a Thai person they will probably laugh it off. It will be a nervous laugh, but you will get nothing for your efforts except more frustration. When a Thai person laughs like this it means they have lost face and they are trying to come to terms with it so they will be embarrassed and beyond that not respond to your criticism. There is no reason for them to change a system that has worked well for them up until when you came along.
Don't be offended. Thai people are some of the nicest and most friendly people you can meet anywhere. I have had no trouble at all here. They are wonderful and gracious hosts. But you need to work like you are on vacation all the time. Things take longer than expected. Plans change like the weather. Mai Pben Rai.

Life in the Marketplace

Last night I could not go on the water-taxis because the person who was taking us had his turn with the jet-lag fever. Instead I went to Carrefour, the department store to get laundry soap, a little trash can, and some sandals. In order to get to Carrefour I had to cross the Petkasem Road, the busy highway in front of the apartment complex with 3 lane traffic in each direction. Now by North American standards this might not seem hard... but once you see how these people drive you would understand. I kept to the sidewalk until I came to the footbridge over the road. I must point out that during this 10 minute walk to the footbridge I almost got ran over by a car that decided to drive on the sidewalk. Motorcycle traffic on the sidewalk is common and possibly legal but cars not so much.
In Carrefour I got a taste for what it would be like for an immigrant in Canada. I felt completely disoriented. I could not tell laundry detergent from fabric softener. I walked around aimlessly and almost bumped into a few people.
On the way home from Carrefour I stopped at the outdoor market for dinner. I saw a woman frying fish on a grill so I bought a bag of fish and mixed vegetables. One of the vegetables was a white, round root that tasted rather starchy. It was interesting. The fish was very spicy because it was mixed with chili peppers. I also bought a package I speculated was rice but it turned out to be raw meat mixed with onions. I think it is either pork or dog, but no way of knowing since I can't read Thai. Finally, I bought the rambutans that turned out to be quite tasty... just as well because I have to eat the whole bag before going to Hua Hin tonight.
Hua Hin is famous because it is the site of one of the King's favorite beach houses. It is not the most spectacular beach in Thailand but it is one of the safest. We spend 5 days there over the Coronation Day weekend as there is also a Buddhist holiday this weekend.
What you don't know is that the apartments where I live are smack dab in the middle of a market. Also there is the morning market and the night market. In the morning I can buy coffee, fresh fruit, and waffles. In the evening I can buy meat skewers, and slushees, and fried plaintain. (Among other things.)
Here are a few pictures of the classrooms in the school. It is truly amazing!

May 10, 2011

Nothing much new to report for today. I had intended to take many pictures and buy some sandals. My jet-lag had other plans. I managed to sit through the morning with a headache so bad I couldn’t see straight. I must have wrote all of 3 sentences and managed somehow to sit through a meeting on Thai culture. The rambutan was out of the question. I went home at lunchtime and slept away the afternoon and right until 11:00pm. It was too late to hit the markets so I have confined myself to my room. I will go back to bed after I finish unpacking and writing a shopping list. Tomorrow after school we are going into the downtown and taking a water-taxi up the river to take in the view.

I did learn some new things. First of all, everyone here knows about the flooding back home. Most of the Canadian teachers are from Winnipeg and read Winnipeg FreePress online. I was hit with many questions about that at breakfast. Second, often Thai people don’t want you to speak Thai. (Probably because we butcher it.) Third, Buddhist monks are not allowed to touch a woman. There is a story about a monk long ago who watched a woman drowning because he was not allowed to touch her. Other things include it being inappropriate to rest leaning against a desk, there are bathrooms adjoining every classroom because we should never leave during the day, and shoes are not to be worn in classrooms. This is the hot season and it is the coldest hot season on record for 35 years and that it rained yesterday bothers locals. It does NOT rain during the dry season.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Thailand, an Intro

First of all, Thailand is amazing! I have never made a better choice than coming here. Not all of my group is as adventurous and me and honestly they are missing out. as a result the people I am becoming friends with are mostly the Canadian teachers who have come over here to teach for a year or more and are really into the Thai lifestyle.

Yesterday morning when I woke up I was very confused as to what to do. No one was in sight. As it turns out the 3 others at Campus 1 slept in, perhaps jet-lagged. I found a student from the University of Manitoba who had been here a week. He showed me the quickest way to walk to the school. 10 minutes later, having navigated the street-side vendors, and detoured around a Buddhist shrine we arrived at the copper-coloured school building. I think it is 7 or 8 floors high. The numbering is a bit strange. The staffroom is on the 5th floor and it looks like something out of a police show. It has whitewashed walls and a desk with a computer for each teacher to work individually. Interactions are usually only with those in your general vicinity. To offset this police station feel guests sit on plastic lawn chairs as they are much cheaper than office chairs. This first week is for planning. The students will arrive next week but I will not start teaching them seriously until the 23rd. This weekend is a long weekend due to Coronation Day and a Buddhist holiday. The first week of class the students go to Ethics camp to learn the correct way to behave in school. I will see them only for introductions during this period.

My class consists of 4 grade 6 students and during English and Social Studies we join with the grade 5s, making 16. The students in the program which I teach are paying extra for 85% English immersion rather that only 50% English immersion. This results in smaller class sizes. Everyday I must be at school from 8am until 4:30pm. Class starts at 8:40am and goes to about 3:30pm. After this, students who pay extra go to Homework Club where they have help with the mandatory 30 minute daily homework. the day starts out with Candle Ceremony, which I will describe more once it is explained to me. I teach core subjects from Manitoba curriculum: English, Math, Science, and Social Studies. Students do not have recess apart from lunch recess. As a result they have time for extra classes. They take Thai language, Ethics, Music, Gym, Swimming, Computers, and Scouts. They have to learn Canadian history but also Thai history. They celebrate Canada Day. There are two pools inside the school for swimming but they don't swim past October because it is "too cold."
Teachers are greatly respected here because of the hierarchy. It goes Buddha, then the King, then parents, then teachers.

The teachers here hardly ever cook. We can buy food at the street vendors, usually for less than 30 Baht (~$1 Canadian). For breakfast I had scrambled eggs and toast for 30 Baht. For lunch I had Thai Chicken Curry for 30 Baht and a big glass bottle of Pepsi for 14 Baht. Dinner consisted of fried plantains in Carnation milk caramel sauce for 20 Baht. Once school actually starts I will have the option of free lunches. Tap water is not safe to drink but a 2 litre bottle of water costs 14 to 20 Baht and there is free filtered water at the school. I drank 3 litres and a 1 litre Pepsi yesterday.

Most streets here are narrow and lined with street vendors. People drive motorcycles mostly and even drive them on the sidewalk. Children as young as ten can be seen driving motorcycles and sometimes whole families sit on one motorcycle. Other people drive cars and public transport consists of buses, trains, and taxis.

Oh and it is safe! Women can walk alone at night here, although groups are still suggested. My apartment has 24 hour security. To walk into my apartment it goes as follows. First you enter through a big metal gate guarded by a security guard. Next you find the correct building, to get in it requires a fingerprint scan and password. Providing you are able to complete this there are high quality locks on both my apartment door and bathroom door. (By the time you figure them out I will have escaped out the window!) No stalkers, please!