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Things have changed pretty dramatically here. I write this from the one coffee shop in Bang Pa In with wifi (there’s no wifi in my house). I had a little time after completing my TESOL course in Chiang Mai so a few friends and I went to Chiang Rai Friday morning. We had a great couple days exploring the area on motorbikes and meeting lots of friends of Michelle (our TESOL teacher who taught in that area). Chiang Rai seemed like the median between Chiang Mai and Pai in the mountainous area it’s in, population, and size. On Sunday night I said goodbye to everyone and took a 12 hour overnight bus to Bangkok and then a 1.5 hour van ride to Bang Pa In. Although I was dreading the ride it was surprisingly comfortable and went by very fast; I slept most of the time. Travis, my agent’s assistant who had my job last semester, picked me up at the station on his Hello Kitty scooter. He took us back to our house (more like a multi-floor apartment) where I chose the room with windows opposed to the one with air conditioning (I made sure to immediately buy a fan from the next door restaurant owner’s brother who gave me a “special price”). There’s a big Jewish star outside my door it’s so bizarre. I have yet to meet a Jewish Thai person.
After settling in for a bit I decided to explore the area. I quickly realized that whoever told Google that there were 73,630 people living in Bang Pa In was surely mistaken. I think there are maybe 5,000 people in my town. I walked around the grounds of a
Buddhist school and on the way back to my house I decided to make a detour through a small market. As I walked through I heard someone say “how are you?” in English. I came back to see who spoke in English and was invited to sit down by a group of Thai people talking and drinking Hong Thong (Thai Whiskey) at 10 am. We barely understood each other but I spoke what Thai I knew and they spoke what English they knew, and we taught each other some words. They kept giving me whiskey and random food from different plates and asked me if I wanted to “sing song.” I had no idea what they meant so I said sure, and they took me by motorbike to their friend’s restaurant. Before I knew it there was American music blasting throughout the restaurant and they told me to get up and sing. My tone-deafness must not translate to Thai ears because the whole time I sang “Baby You Can Drive My Car” by The Beatles they were clapping their hands and shreaking. One song wasn’t enough so I sang “A Day In the Life,” “Killer Queen,” “I Love Rock and Roll,” and some American songs I had never heard before. Every time I would sit down another person would grab me and have me dance or sing or meet another one of their friends, I felt kind of like a circus monkey! I also could not believe how much they were drinking- three big bottles of whiskey were finished between six people during the five hours I was with them! They also wouldn’t let me stop drinking, and besides constantly filling my glass they would go as far as pushing the bottom of the glass over my mouth to force me to drink. They also gave me free food at the restaurant which was awesome. As much as I felt paraded around, I truly felt like they liked me and wanted to look after me. The man who spoke the best English (and happened to be in the Thai Air Force for 30 years) said that they all loved me and wanted to care of me while I am here. I had only met them a few hours earlier and they already felt that way, it was unbelievable. I gave them my phone number and I’m sure I will see them again soon. People here are very nice and although it is scary being alone and far from people, things will be OK. I also have three friends (Chuck, Lauren, and Loh) teaching in Ayutthaya which is only a 25-30 minute ride away.
Tuesday morning I went to the school I will teach at (Watchumpon) and met some of the faculty. I planned to demonstrate an English lesson I had already planned in my TESOL course in front of the Principle and English directors. Once I got there they told me to do a science lesson since I will be teaching math and science. I opened the Pratom 1 Science coursebook and decided to teach about animals with and without legs and tails. The whole “mai pen rai” attitude of go with the flow was pretty apparent here. I figured it out on the spot and the lesson wasn’t too bad! I made up a song at the end of class about “Mr. Snake” having a tail and no legs that didn’t rhyme at all (like usual) but was fun enough to keep everyone engaged.
I went to Ayutthaya to go over some administrative stuff at my agent’s office but had all day, so I decided to explore on the motorbike I just rented (1500 baht a month, I can dig it). Ayutthaya is a pretty cool city, it’s an island separated by three rivers. They must’ve built way too many temples when Ayutthaya was the capital because there are ruins everywhere. It’s pretty awesome.
I rode around for a few hours and heard some drums and gongs being hit nearby so I investigated. Turns out the music was coming from a Buddhist temple and one of the monks told me to come and join their prayer session. They haulted the session just so they could get to know a little bit about me and how I happened upon this temple. Everyone in the congregation was so welcoming and appreciative that I wanted to be there and experience what they were doing. Living in Thailand for only one month I am not yet fluent in Thai, so he told me to sit cross-legged, close my eyes, and breathe deeply through my nose while everyone chanted in Thai. Right before I left one of the monks gave me a slip of paper with the Temple’s information and told me to come back whenever I wanted. I’ve never done something like this in the states but I wonder if it would’ve been as well received.
And Tess booked her flight to Thailand! I could not be more excited for January 15!
Sorry for rambling, I’ll stop writing now. Here are some pictures of Chiang Rai.