Thursday, December 20, 2012

eventfully uneventful

Monday: So this past weekend we stayed local and didn't do much of anything. We went to Nan Friday night for a birthday party where the theme was to dress in a costume that started with B or X (in honor of those people whose birthdays we were celebrating). So Caitlin, Kristin and I went as Blind Mice and Ethan went as Xenophilious Lovegood from Harry Potter (Google it if you're confused). Of course there isn't much that we do here that doesn't involve some sort of drama and this day was no different ....on the way to Nan our motorbike pretty much stopped working. Ethan would try to accelerate, but the bike would just putter along and then stop. We opened the gas tank hoping we had just run out, but that wasn't it. We puttered our way to a gas station that we knew was near with our fingers crossed that they had a mechanic or knew one close by. They put some gas in and then did everything they could to fix it (including taking things apart), but they didn't have the proper tools to remedy the problem. They were all so nice though and we are super thankful for them. When they finally decided they couldn't fix it, they put me on the back of one guys bike, while Ethan drove ours and two kids followed behind him. They took us to a house nearby where presumably the owner fixed motorbikes. They spoke a bunch in Thai and then the guy started taking apart the bike. We just crossed our fingers and hoped that he knew what he was doing and that it could be fixed. We used our time there wisely and made some parts of our costumes (Ethan's wig and my tail...the family probably thought we were nuts). So about an hour later (after the guy had completely dismantled the front end of the bike and put it back together) he wheeled it out, took it for a spin, brought it back in, replaced the cover and handed us the keys. All in all it cost us about 2 hours of our time and 100baht in repairs (or a little over $3). No too shabby!
blind mouse and mr. lovegood

So we get to Nan and go to the party thinking everything is cool. But then Ethan starts to feel weird. A little while after he mentions it to me I notice he is gone and when he comes back he tells me he just threw up and feels like crap. Seemed like we weren't going to catch a break on this event filled Friday. We went back to our hotel when everyone left the party to go to the bar and Ethan spent the night mostly with his head in the toilet. Poor guy! We determined he either got food poisoning or some other weird bug from some pork on a stick he ate for dinner. It was a rough night for him and an even worse morning when we woke up to see the incredibly disturbing and horrifying news about the shooting in Connecticut. We were overcome with a feeling of homesickness that we hadn't felt yet since being here. I think it was just not being able to talk about it with our families and friends and not seeing it plastered all over the news everywhere was what made it so strange (not that we'd really want to watch sensationalized stories about mass murderers, but just not hearing about it at all is really strange and sad). Our hearts go out to all those who died and those who lost loved ones in the tragedy.

Saturday we did nothing all afternoon and went out to dinner with the Pua gang and a couple other people. Ethan's stomach was feeling better, but we still called it a night earlier than everyone else. Sunday we did nothing as well. "Did nothing" is a bit extreme... I cleaned and we did laundry and we ate food. But that was the extent of our movements that day. It was a very chill day that I think we both needed. We had lots of time to recharge, talk about our upcoming vacation plans as well as reminisce on our past travels together and our wedding. It was the perfect way to start the week. :]

On a side note, it is really cold here at night and in the morning! I slept in sweats and a hoodie the other night and this morning I could see my breath. We definitely don't hate it (its actually really nice), but it sure is strange to wake up and want to jump into a hot shower in Thailand. I don't think the Thais like the cold very much though, because they all wear scarves and sweaters and shiver all morning.

Wednesday: On another side note, Ethan got sick again yesterday (Tuesday). More of the same symptoms from Friday :[ It started early in the afternoon and lasted until late evening. We have no idea what's causing it, but if it happens again I think we'll be making a trip to the hospital. He's feeling better today and staying away from any unknown/weird foods. We're also preparing for our upcoming vacation during which we will be visiting Chiang Mai for a few days and then traveling south to the well known island of Koh Chang (Thailand's second largest island.) We just booked accommodations at both places and have our train/bus tickets booked (for part of the trip). We're very excited to get out of Nan Province for a while and spend some time relaxing on the beach. We are in the midst of planning what activities we'll be doing in both places, but we have a few ideas. Our ideas include, but are not limited to motorbiking to Thailand's highest peak, visiting the Chiang Mai zoo, visiting an elephant camp, visiting a temple on Doi Suthep (Google it), kayaking, snorkeling and chilling out. We will have wifi at both places so we'll probably be posting photos and what not. We leave Friday at 9:30pm for Chiang Mai! Aufwiedersehen (see you later) Thawangpha!!

Saturday, December 15, 2012

The land before time: Sukhothai

We made full recoveries from our leech bites last case you were wondering. And neither of us got sick! Hooray! It was a pretty easy week in terms of school. We had Wednesday off for Father's Day (the King's birthday). Tuesday night we went to Pua to eat dinner and hang out with the Pua gang. We stayed pretty late, which ended up changing our plans for our day off.

We were going to go to Nanthaburi National Park for the whole day, which is 25 km from Thawangpha. But we didn't get around to doing anything until about 1 o'clock. We decided we needed a day to relax anyway and it felt pretty good just to be lazy most of the day. After we finally got ourselves together we headed out to the park just to check it out. We wanted to see how hilly the road was, how long it took to get there, and if it would be worth a return trip. It seemed like it took forever to get there even though it wasn't as far as Doi Phu Kha. The road was very winding, but not as steep or high as the road to Doi Phu Kha. After we had gone about 25 km we decided if we didn't find it in 3km we would turn back, but it was only one more kilometer away. The road into the park was the worst part of the whole ride. It was muddy and pretty hilly, which isn't a good combo on a motorbike. I had to get off the bike once so Ethan could get it up the steep hill leading into the parks headquarters. The park was really pretty and perched fairly close to the very top of the mountain. There is supposedly a trail that you can walk that will take you all the way to the top. We tried to figure out if you can motorbike up, but I don't think we got our point across. We tried to take the bike up the road anyway, but ended up getting stuck on a particularly steep/slippery hill. We parked the bike and tried to walk, but decided to try again another time. We really didn't know how far it was from where we were and I was in no mood for exploring. We headed back down the mountain and called it a night. (E- We also didn't even know if we were for sure on the right mountain or if we needed to motorbike down the main road some more to get to Doi Wow. That's Thailand for you. You never have the information you need/want.)

Friday afternoon we left school a little early to catch a bus to Sukhothai. Our friends, Shannon and Alexis, decided not to make the trip as the bus schedule wouldn't give them enough time in the city. We were pretty bummed about it, but are hopeful that we can see them over a different long weekend or maybe even in March. Anywho, we boarded the bus around 4:30 and were slightly surprised when we got on. There was a motorbike parked in the very back in front of the last row of 5 seats. We didn't quite know what it was doing there or whose it was, but we didn't really have a choice but to go around it and sit in the last row. There were no pairs of seats available... I guess everyone wanted two seats to themselves. The ride was a bit uncomfortable because we could only lean one way (against the window) and we were positioned right above the rear tires so it was probably the bumpiest bus ride I've ever taken. There was also the motorbike right in front of us so we couldn't really stretch out our legs. (E- People used the motorbike as a seat and literally rode their entire journey perched on the motorbike. I used the front basket as a foot rest for a while as well.) No one was snoring though, so we were thankful for that. Along the journey we stopped at random places on the side of the road and at bus stations to pick up/drop people off. It was a bit unorthodox and made the journey go fairly slow, but eventually we made it to Phitsanoluk. From here we needed to catch a bus going to Sukothai. Here's where things get interesting....(as if they weren't already!)

waiting. waiting. waiting
We hopped off the bus, hoping beyond hope that we could get a ride to Sukhothai. We asked one guy who told us to go to another window, that person directed us elsewhere, and those people directed us back to the first guy. Finally, we asked information and they directed us to the first guy. One of the people we talked to said there was a bus, but not until maybe 1am. I was not willing to work with 'maybe', so we ended up at the first guy. He said there was a bus at 12am. Phew! We're saved! So 12am rolls right on bus. 1am. Still no bus. At 1:30 I asked him again what time the bus would come. He says (nonchalantly) "Oh bus late! Maybe 2am!" LORD HAVE MERCY! So 2am rolls on by and at 2:30 I was almost (key word here) in tears. Ethan decided to take matters into his own hands. He sees a bus that says Bangkok to Sukhothai Historical Park on the side pull into the station. A few minutes later a Thai boy who was sitting in front of us, and had followed Ethan, came back to tell his girlfriend they were going to Sukhothai. I looked up at him and said "Sukhothai??" He nodded and I bolted for the bus. Ethan was just coming back for me when I got over there and said we could take this bus to Sukhothai. There are two parts to the town, new and old Sukhothai, which are about 9km apart. We had no idea which part we were going to, but decided we could figure that out later. So after being at the bus station for 4 hours, we were finally headed to Sukhothai. Thankfully, we put Phitsanoluk to our backs.

We rolled into Sukhothai at about 4am and got off the bus. We didn't actually know what part we were in but luckily (or maybe not so lucky?) there were "taxis'' there waiting to take sleepy passengers to their hotels and guesthouses as well as make them overpay for a ride. Ethan was convinced we could walk, so when a driver told us it was 80baht for a ride we promptly said no and started walking. He relented though and gave us a ride to a guesthouse for 50baht. It actually turned out to be a good thing that we got a ride because the driver woke up the owner for us so we could get a room. Thank Jesus. They only had a room with two twin beds, but seriously we didn't care one bit. It was hot anyway. We jumped in bed and went right to sleep. It was glorious.

UNESCO World Heritage Site
In the morning, Ethan woke up and couldn't go back to sleep, so he tried to figure out how to walk to the bus station, while I continued snoozing. He ended up figuring out that our guesthouse was really only a 5 minute walk down some side streets and a dirt road from the bus station. He's so good at finding ways to save money! When he got back, we got ready for the day and headed out to find some breakfast. The place we had in mind wasn't open yet, so we headed to old Sukhothai where the ruins of old temples are hoping to find a place that served some American breakfast food. Lucky for us there were about 6 or 7 "Thai/European" restaurants within walking distance of the historical park where we were dropped off. Whoop Whoop! They seemed to be relatively the same so we arbitrarily picked one. After breakfast we rented bicycles to get around the park and got our tickets to get in They were 100baht each plus 10baht for each bike! Yowzas! (E- That's under $4 a person to see a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Not too bad, but it also translates to 7 plates of pad thai. Hmm.)

one of the many beautiful ruins
The Sukhothai Historical Park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, which means it's pretty cool. If you want to know what it "really" means then Google it. (E- Sukhothai calls it a "Memory of the World," which is yet another great Thai translation.) Anyway, we were super excited because the ruins are really super dooper old (some of them have been reconstructed to a certain degree, but we don't know when it was done or what ruins have been reconstructed) and supposedly really beautiful. So we rode our bikes into the park and the ruins really were very cool. The only thing we didn't like was that it was so out in the open. We were kind of expecting them to be more in the forest and and have like vines on them, but they were really out in the open and made for tourists. There were some trees and a few motes and ponds, which added to the ambiance. We walked around a few of the bigger temples in the central section (the park is divided into 3 sections, central, north and west). (E- All 3 sections require a different 100 baht + 10 baht bike fee) We ended up taking a break at one of these larger temples and actually ended up falling asleep under the pagoda. It wasn't a very long nap, but it was just what we needed to finish exploring the park. We stayed at the central part for a bit longer, then decided it was time for lunch. We grabbed some food and headed out to the western part. We only ended up exploring one temple on account of the fact it was a longer bike ride than the map made it look and to get to that temple we had to climb this strange rock wall path up a big hill. So by the time we got back down I was pooped and we headed back. The bike ride back was much more enjoyable because we took a different route that took us by some more temples and through the woods. We were super drained when we got back so we had dinner at a place called Poo Restaurant (Thai people have the best names for places. So creative!) and called it a night.

Ruin at Si Satchanalai 
In the morning we weren't really sure what we wanted to do, but ended up catching a bus to another historical park about an hour from Sukhothai, Si Satchanalai. The "bus" was actually a mini-van that was taking other people to the park. I was a little nervous that we might not actually be going to the park, but there were also several other people with us so that made me feel better. We did make it to the park eventually after the driver stopped about 6 times for various reasons. We were super hungry so we got some lunch that ended up being not very good, after which we rented bikes to tour the park. There were only two parts to the park and we only explored the second, bigger one. We ended up exploring it with a Canadian named Kate. We got to talking with her at the bike rental place and she asked if she could tag along. Of course!! The more the merrier!! So the three of us biked around and looked at the various temples for a few hours. We really enjoyed this park...even more than the one in Old Sukhothai (they are actually part of the same park). It was in a more natural setting and there were a lot less people. It was just really pretty and serene, which made for a very relaxing afternoon.

The bus that goes back to Sukhothai was supposed to pick us up at 4, but didn't get there until around 5:15. Slightly annoying, but not nearly as annoying as where we had to sit. There were no seats left and all the standing room in the usual seating area was full, so we (and several others) were forced to sit in the luggage hold. I get motion sickness from sitting in the back seat of a comfortable, air-conditioned car. So this was about to be the worst ride ever. Luckily, Ethan was asked to stand in the stairwell and the ride wasn't that long, so I switched places with him. Like I said, the ride was short, but it still wasn't very fun having to stand. We also had to stop and let people off and on, so I was constantly in the way. Ethan made friends in the luggage hold though - two girls who were in the same program as us, but had been here since May and Fabian from Germany. (E- One of the girls was a former die-hard Avalanche fan of the late 90s. We relived the glory years of the Aves-Wings rivalry and were able to keep our gloves on. This is by far the BEST RIVALRY in the history of sports. I enjoyed pointing out that the rivalry died because the Aves suck now and the Wings are still thriving.) When we arrived Kate, Fabian, Ethan and I decided to meet up for dinner later. And later we met up at the Chopper Bar - a place that supposedly had good food and a rooftop deck. The deck was full, but we got a seat kind of outside. Anyway, we had a really great time chatting with Kate and Fabian and talking about life in Thailand as well as our home countries. After dinner Fabian took us to the Night Market (that was closed), we got some roti, and finally ended up chatting for a while on the porch of Fabian's hotel. It was a really great night and we really enjoyed hearing about their experiences in life. (E- We got tore up from the floor up by mosquitoes. Quite literally, our ankles were destroyed.)
riding in the luggage hold. normal

We went to bed as soon as we got home - so tired, so sleepy! In the morning we got some breakfast at our guesthouse and caught a bus to Phitsonoluk. We had really hoped to not have to return to this dreadful place, but hoped the experience would be better given that it wouldn't be the middle of the night this time. When we arrived we figured out that the next bus back home wasn't until 2:30. It was around 12 so we decided to try and find a place to get an infamous Thai massage. We walked around the bus station until we finally found (on the last street we checked) a place that did Thai massages and foot massages. Ethan had been wanting a massage for a while so that's what he went with, but I chickened out and only got a foot massage. I can't say it was the best foot massage I've ever had, but it did feel good after having been on my feet for two days. (E- for an hour long full body massage and an hour long foot massage the grand total came to be.. dun dun dun dunnnn... $10 USD) When we stepped out of the massage place I looked up at a passing bus and saw Kate looking out the window at us - what a crazy coincidence.

Anyway, we grabbed some "lunch" from 7/11 before we headed back to the bus station, which consisted of a microwaved mini-pizza and a ham and cheese croissant (which were both strangely delicious). The bus actually arrived early, which made us really happy we were there early to snag seats because there were a ton of people standing on this bus. Unfortunately, we chose seats behind a guy with THE WORST dandruff I have ever seen. Just huge flakes everywhere and his hair was greasy and he kept scratching his head. Why?!? Why does this always happen to us?? Ugh. I tried my best to ignore him and when I finally had all but forgotten about him...he started snoring so loud. And it wasn't normal snoring, it was nasty, head congested snoring with all sorts of snorts and gurgles. My stomach was lurching for an hour. Fortunately, he got off the bus like half way to Thawangpha. Thank Jesus. (E- He looked like a thumb. The worst thumb you could imagine. Like slamming your thumb in a car door and then immersing it into a pot of boiling water. That bad. No joke.)

We got back home around 8:30, grabbed some dinner and headed to our apartment. It was a great weekend and although getting there was a bit rough we really enjoyed the parks and whatever we had to endure on the journey was well worth it (except for dandruff guy...that was too much for me).

Monday, December 3, 2012

Doi Phu Kha

In my previous post I could not remember what had happened Friday afternoon, but Ethan kindly reminded me that we did have a somewhat eventful day. We decided a while ago that we wanted to go to Sukhothai, which is one of the old capitals of Thailand. It has a bunch of ruins and other cool things to see and we were planning on meeting some friends from orientation there (Alexis and Shannon who teach near Bangkok). But we still had to figure out how to get a bus there and how to buy the tickets, so we spoke to Kru Rin who told us where to buy them. We headed out to get gas first and then go to the ticket agent. After we left the gas station we heard a strange noise coming from the motorbike and it bouncing a lot. I looked down to see the back tire completely flat. We had no idea what to do, but luckily there was a car repair shop within pushing distance. We pushed it up there and managed to communicate that we needed air in the tire. They also managed to tell us where we could get it repaired. Unfortunately, the place was closed and we had no idea what time they opened on Saturday morning. The air the put in the tire lasted until we got a few hundred yards from the school, so we walked the bike to the school and left it there. We decided we just needed to talk to Kru Rin about what to do because we didn't know if anyone left at the school would be able to help. So we borrowed Kru Rin's bike from Caitlin and Kristin and rode over to her house. She said that there was a repair shop in town that we could push the bike to (no thanks!) or we could wait until the guy down the road from the school opened in the morning. She was almost positive that he opened really early so our trip to Doi Phu Kha would not be cancelled. We really had no reason not to trust her, but there was definitely an air of uncertainty.

Saturday Ethan woke up fairly early and pushed the bike down the road to the repair shop. Turns out there was a whole in the inner tube that the guy was able to patch for only 30baht! After he got back we got ready to head out to Pua (We never made it to the bus ticket agent, which was annoying, but more about that later). We were going to Doi Phu Kha national park with the Pua gang and were super excited. Right before we left Caitlin found a seriously nasty scorpion outside her room so naturally Ethan messed around with it for 15 minutes before we left. I seriously hoped we didn't run into any more over the weekend.

B.E.A - utiful! 
Doi Phu Kha is a national park about half an hour outside of Pua. It is home to the highest mountain peak in the Nan province and provides some incredible scenery. The drive up to the park was amazing and the higher we got, the cooler the temperature. It felt really nice and it smelled even better. Surprisingly there are pine trees the higher up you get and they smelled so good and reminded me of home. Our motorbikes are manual shift so we kept having to shift down to 1st gear when going up hills. It made for pretty slow going and Caitlin and Kristin (who are riding Kru Rin's really old motor bike) were forced to stop a few times. That motorbike has seen better days and did not do well with the steep hills. Eventually we made it to the waterfall that is just outside the park. We hopped off our bikes where we hoped there was a trail down to the fall. The trail was muddy and slippery (Caitlin slipped in the first 10 feet) and there were prickly plants (I got my hair caught in one). It was treacherous, but we eventually made it to the waterfall. We ate our lunch then the boys and Kristin explored the falls and climbed all over the rocks. The water was cold and I was still exhausted from our Loy Krathong excursion so I opted out.
the falls that claimed Ethan's ring :[ 

After a while, we noticed that the guys had been in the same spot for quite a long time. We wondered what they were doing. Then Ethan came down with a strange look on his face and held out his left hand. I realized immediately that his ring was gone, but Ethan likes to joke that it's lost all time. So I didn't take him seriously at first, but he definitely wasn't joking. He had slid down a rock and it slipped off into the water. He felt (still feels) awful about it, but there was nothing we could do. It could have been anywhere. The boys had been looking for it that whole time and came up with nothing. I was sad, but it also was only $30 and easily replaceable, although the sentimental value might be lost forever. :[

We were bummed, but weren't about to let it ruin our weekend. We trekked back up to our bikes and after driving through a teeny tiny hill tribe village, headed to the park. We checked in at the park headquarters and decided to rent two bungalows for the night. (Ethan- There is usually a 200 baht entrance fee for farangs, but we brought our work visas with us and got the 40 baht local price. SCHWING!) When we pulled up to the set of bungalows I was pleasantly surprised. They were relatively modern and really clean. They consisted of one big room with 4 twin sized beds (two were pushed together to form a "double bed" a toilet room, shower room, sink area, closet, and refrigerator. There was also a shared patio area that overlooked some really awesome views of the park. We decided to chill for a while and catch the sunset before we headed back down to the restaurant in the park for dinner. We had a delicious meal of chicken fried rice and stir fried veggies.
giant moth! Ahhh. 
After dinner we hung out at a larger common area that had picnic tables and everyone, except me, got fairly inebriated. It was a pretty entertaining evening and we met a Thai man who had lived in England for 20 years. His name was David and he spoke perfect (albeit British) English as well as Thai. We also met his family and friends and ended up chatting with them for a decently long time. After a series of failed attempts to get everyone to bed I gave up and passed out.

In the morning, it took everyone a pretty long time to get it together, but eventually we did. We ate lunch at the restaurant and then headed out to hike the nature trail. We didn't know anything about this trail other than it was 4 kilometers long. While I wasn't too happy about hiking that far, I was excited to explore the jungle. That excitement quickly faded after the first few hills, but it didn't get terrible until we figured out that there were leeches everywhere. At first, we thought they were just weird worms because they were so tiny. After we continued walking I felt something sort of sting my foot. I looked down and attached to the back of my ankle was a tiny little leech. I flicked it off, but then wondered if any more had gotten stuck on me. I took off my shoe and there between my toes was a leech getting fat from sucking my blood. I screamed and flicked him off, but it was too late. Blood came pouring from my foot and wouldn't stop. It was so gross. I started crying and told Ethan I didn't want to keep going. I was wearing my Keen sandals that have holes all over them and just couldn't keep walking in the leech infested jungle knowing that they were just going to continue sticking on my feet. (We had been told that they can carry diseases as serious as AIDS in places in Thailand and had been warned that there might be leeches in the park, but that the likelihood was slim, so we didn't take it seriously). After I gathered myself, I borrowed Kelly's socks to help protect my feet and made it my mission to get out of there without any more leech bites.

LEECHES!! Everywhere!! 
The rest of the walk was long and filled with many stops to check for leeches and scrape any off that attached themselves to us. It was a huge bummer that we didn't really get to enjoy the trek because we were scared of the leeches. In reality, I'm sure there was nothing for us to worry about, but they were really gross and being leeched is not fun. Ethan ended up getting about 18 bites and by the end of the hike his feet were very bloody. We cleaned them out as best we could at the lodge and then again when we got home and put Neosporin on them just in case. We're also taking antibiotics that would hopefully kill any infection they might have been carrying.

Ethan's wounds! Only a quarter of them... 
The ride home was a lot faster and just as beautiful as the ride up. We stopped in Pua to eat dinner with the gang, played a game of bananagrams and then headed home. Overall, it was a great weekend with a couple unfortunate events. We definitely learned a few lessons and will never enter the jungle without proper footwear again!

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Loy loy krathong, Loy loy krathong

Monday and Tuesday were quite a blur in our preparations for Loy Krathong...nothing really exciting happened. After school Tuesday we packed and got a snack so we could eat a late dinner on our way to the bus station. The bus didn't leave until 9:30, so we were taking a chance with food places being closed, but we didn't want to have to go all the way back to our apartment. So we waited around until 8ish, but that turned out to be poor choice because it started pouring down rain halfway there. We ended up having to pull over under an overhang in front of a pharmacy. The guy inside surprisingly spoke decent English and let us hang out inside with him until it stopped pouring. When it did, we busted outta there and made a quick stop to get our lanterns to release at Loy Krathong. We also stopped at 7/11 for some snacks for the trip. We tried to get dinner where we normally eat, but they were closed. Rude. So we got noodle soup at this place that was randomly open... it ended up only being 20baht so Ethan was happy. After that we dropped the motorbike at the police station and met up with Caitlin and Kristin at the bus station. We also met Felix there. Felix is a German foreign exchange student who goes to our school. Kru Rin decided that he was going to come with us and told us about it on Monday. Despite being slightly annoyed that she expected us to chaperone him, we were excited to talk to him about his experiences in Thailand.

We boarded the bus in a complete down pour, but fortunately the driver had an umbrella to hold over you as you walked to the door. Thais are so thoughtful...most of the time. So the bus wasn't as big as I thought it would be, but it was air conditioned and modern. The seats were seemingly comfortable, except they recline wayyyyyy too far. Seriously, if you are sitting in the upright position and the person in front of you is reclined all the way back, their head is in your lap. Not even joking. So if the people in front are reclined, everyone is reclined. It was nighttime so being reclined made sense, since we were going to be sleeping, but I can't say that I look forward to any day trips we might take. Another frustrating thing about the reclining is that the seats aren't made for people over 5'6". If both of the people in front of us had been reclined Ethan would have had to put his legs in the aisle. Luckily, the guy in front of me wasn't reclined so we took turns sitting behind him. So we were semi-comfortable and finally settled in when we heard it... the most obnoxious snoring in the entire world!! This guy was sawing some serious logs and it was completely outrageous. We were livid. In all our travels we have never encountered snoring this hideous. I wish we could have recorded it. We both wanted to smack the guy upside the head, but we decided that wasn't socially acceptable in Thailand. Anyway, it just went on forever. I fell asleep a few times, but I honestly don't know how. I will never go on another bus in Thailand without my headphones. Never. Again. It was 6 hours of straight up torture.

We pulled into the Chiang Mai bus station at 3:30am. It was very strange being in a foreign place in the middle of the night, but we saw a McDonalds on the way into the station so we felt like we were in civilization. We debated about taking a tuk tuk or one of the trucks with benches (songthaew) for a while because we were certain they were trying to rip us off, but we finally hopped in a truck and the guy dropped us at our guesthouse. Ethan had been emailing the woman who owns the guesthouse and told her that we'd be getting in late. She said she would have someone waiting for us with keys to our rooms. Well she lied. We walked up and no one was there. Not a single person. We had no idea what we were going to do until this guys walks up and asks what were doing. Turns out he was staying there too and after explaining our situation to him he opened the gate to the "lobby" area. There were tables and chairs so we plopped down and tried to decide what to do. We just didn't understand why they hadn't left a note or something. Ethan finally sees that he got email from her saying that our keys were at the 3rd building across the street. So we walk over there, but no one is there either. We do see a guy sleeping in the corner with a mosquito net over him so we debate about whether or not to wake him and eventually we just did it because none of us wanted to sleep outside (Ethan- I was fine with sleeping "outside." Especially if that meant we didn't have to pay for it.) So he wakes up and speaks no English and is really mad at us for making noise and waking him up, but eventually he goes and gets someone who shows us where the keys are. Was that so hard? No. It wasn't. He was not happy, but if the owner had been more explicit with us, it never would have happened. I decided at this point that I didn't like the place and never wanted to go back. Rational? Yes.

Giant chedi ruin
So we decide to try to wake up around 10 (it's now 5am), which came way too fast due to the fact that A. 5 hours just isn't very long AND B. the sheets were dirty so I slept in my sweats and hoodie on top of the sheets, which just doesn't make for very comfy sleep for me. Another reason I am highly reluctant to patronize this place again. Anyway, we got up, got breakfast (PANCAKES!!!!) and walked over to one of the gazillion temples in Chiang Mai. It was actually one of the coolest ones I've seen in Thailand. The chedi (the pyramid type things that are usually gold at temples) was HUGE and made of brick, but it was super duper old so a bunch of it is missing. It was really neat to look at and I really liked it. (E- It's the biggest structure in the Old Town part of Chiang Mai) After that we decided to rent bicycles to get around rather than pay for a bunch of tuk tuks all day. So we hopped on our bikes and headed out to another temple. This temple was in the forest and it had tunnels under the chedi. It was pretty cool and you can walk in the tunnels. I don't remember what they were for but it was pretty neat. There was also a big fish pond, where you could feed the fish. This also attracted a lot of pigeons, so it was slightly terrifying because there were hundreds of pigeons in this really small area. I was mostly afraid of getting pooped on. Ew.
In the tunnels 

Felix had informed us about this big mall that had all sorts of awesome places to eat, so after the temple we made it our mission to find this mall! After a few stops for directions we finally made it. The mall itself was pretty cool, but the best part was the food. They had Pizza Hut, Subway, DQ, Auntie Anne's and all sorts of American food joints. We ended up at The Pizza Company thinking it might be cheaper than Pizza Hut. It was delicious and I loved it. We shared a pepperoni pizza, even though I could have eaten a whole one myself. The only problem with western food in Thailand is that it's expensive. Let me explain... It's cheaper or sometimes the same price as it would be in the US, but that pizza was equal to almost 12 plates of pad thai in Thawangpha (we usually share one plate of pad thai for dinner). While we make a decent amount of baht, in order to save money for traveling after we definitely can't eat like that all the time. That is one reason we are glad we aren't in a big city. We have zero self control when it comes to food, so we're really glad that western food isn't there to tempt us every day. After pizza we got some DQ ice cream then headed back to the guesthouse and were going to check out a market on the way. Unfortunately, Caitlin got a flat tire so that nixed our plans for that. She got it fixed and then we had to go get bus tickets back to Thawangpha for the next day. It was slightly irritating because we had to go all the way back to the station and the line was horrendously long, but we got McDonalds so it was worth it.
Ethan gives Ronald the Royal Wai

releasing our krathong 
When we got back from the station we chilled at the guesthouse for a bit, then headed back out for the main event: Loy Krathong. This festival attracts tons of people every year and there literally were thousands. It was crazy. There was a parade and fireworks and people were already starting to send their lanterns into the night sky when we left for the river. There were people everywhere and several streets were closed to traffic, but completely full of people walking toward the river and setting off their lanterns. We decided to head to the river to float our krathong that we bought on the way. It was beautiful to watch all the krathongs float lazily down the river and to see people really getting into it. You are supposed to be giving back to the river and also letting go of things that you have been holding onto. (E- It is also believed that if you send one off with someone else, then you will get together with them within the next year. However, if you send one with someone you are already with, then you'll break up. So I let one go on my own and Skye opted out of buying another. We didn't feel like tempting our fate in Thailand.)  It's a really awesome spectacle. After that we decided to send off some of our lanterns. We each had one so Ethan and I did one and Caitlin and Kristin did one, so we had two left for later. We watched a few other people light theirs first and then decided to give it a go. It was actually a little more difficult than expected, but once we got the thing in the middle fully lit, we just had to wait for it to fill with hot air. Once it feels like it will float, you just let go! It was fully awesome! And seeing thousands of lanterns floating into the sky was awesome and arguable one of the most amazing things we've ever seen. We watched lots and lots of lanterns float away then decided to get some dinner. (E- Although this was the official Loy Krathong day, the main floating lantern night is Saturday night to mark the start of the Yee Ping Festival. Everyone lights theirs at the same time and a signal is given when to release so you literally get 1000s upon 1000s of floating lanterns released at the same time. If we're in Southeast Asia again, we'll be attending this night.)  We ended up getting some market food down the river a ways, then made our way back into town to catch the end of the parade.
floating our lantern 
After the parade we got some banana roti. Yep. You heard it. Banana. Roti. It's normal roti, but stuffed with banana slices and covered in chocolate syrup. It was a truly heavenly eating experience that I can't wait to have again. I loved it. We kind of wandered around for a while after that and then Ethan found a really cool spot to set off our other lanterns. The old city used to be surrounded by these huge brick walls, but they're mostly ruins now with some corners and spots still standing. So he led us to the corner closest to our guesthouse where you can walk up to the top and look down on the streets below. (E- I had found this place in the morning when I walked around a little to kill time while the girls were getting around.) We set our lanterns off there and then hung out for a while before heading to bed. It was a very long, but very magical day in Chiang Mai. Loy Krathong was so cool and I would love to see it again some time in my life.
thousands of lanterns. magic! (doesn't do it justice)

The next day we got a pretty late start and the group decided to split up. Ethan, Felix and I checked out a market, the soccer stadium and a couple of (sub par) monuments and got Mexican food for lunch (it was Felix's first time eating Mexican!), which was D-E-licious and so very satisfying. After that we kind of just milled around until we had to drop our bikes off at 6. We found a place that made paninis so we ate dinner there, then we decided we had plenty of time to walk to the bus station, which was about 2 miles away. The Loy Krathong celebration was in full swing still, which made the walk slightly frustrating because we had to fight through crowds of people. Eventually we made it though and hung out at McDonald's until it was time to board the bus. The bus left at 10:30 and while there were no obnoxious snorers, it was an incredibly uncomfortable 6 hours and we had to be at work at 8am. We got in at 4:30 and were in bed by 5:15. The alarm went off at 7:15 and Friday was a complete blur. I took like 3 naps and aside from getting paid I really don't remember much of what happened that afternoon. (E- somehow I didn't take a nap, maybe because my breakfast was an M-roi haa sib (M-150,) which is an energy drink more potent than anything in the States. I went to first period completely exhausted, but full of energy from the drink (oxymoron?) and was expecting to just sit there because my coteacher said he would teach the class. I get there and he says, "Ethan, you teach. You teach. Today, you teach." Well thanks dude, I have nothing planned, but figured it out...)

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Yee sib haa: Thaigiving and my birthday

The end of last week was pretty great.
almost all the food we had for 1st Thaigiving
Thursday we went up to Pua to have Thanksgiving, or Thaigiving as some of us called it, at Colin's. We stopped at the grocery store and got cheese bread and Choco pies before heading to Colin's house. It was quite the dilemma deciding what to bring because Thawangpha and Pua don't exactly have many western foods around. We had to get creative. Caitlin and Kristin made green beans and this pumpkin dish that was really good. It was chunks of pumpkin stir fried with oil and egg. We were impressed. Colin brought apples and peanut butter, as well as a head of sticky rice. The peanut butter was amazing, but apparently it's quite expensive so I don't think we'll be getting any anytime soon. Tristan and Kelly brought pineapple, chicken and some other Thai dishes. Altogether, it ended up being a really great meal and we were all stuffed when we left. I also ate three Choco pies, so that might have had something to do with my fullness.

Friday after school, the Pua gang met us at our place and we headed out to Nan for the big Thaigiving feast. We came unprepared to this meal as well so we had to go to the grocery store again. We decided to get a whole cooked chicken - smaller than the rotisserie chickens from Meijer - and dinner rolls. We really weren't sure what to expect other than there were going to be about 20ish people there and we knew what a few people were bringing. I have to say that the meal exceeded what little expectations I had. It was awesome! Daylan made macaroni and cheese that was incredible! There was also mashed potatoes (and gravy of course FROM KFC), fried potatoes, salad, several varieties of chicken, pumpkin pie, cookies and no bake cookies. Everyone who cooked did a great job and everyone who brought stuff made excellent choices. Aside from the food, we also had a really great time chatting with friends and sharing more teaching stories. There are quite a few Thai holidays coming up so we got a chance to hear what other people are doing or where they are going. It was really fun and we really feel that there is a sense of community among the group... we are also really glad to be a part of it. We really like Thailand and Thai people, but knowing that you have friends who can understand you and would help you out if you needed is pretty awesome. Anyway, most everyone decided to go out to the bar after dinner and we went for a bit, but decided to head in early. Ethan wanted to go to the hilltop temple to watch the sun rise at 6:30 in the morning.
Ethan with his Thaigiving meal

sunrise at temple
Saturday morning was rough. I was rudely awakened by the roosters in the neighborhood at 5:15 and became extremely irritated very quickly. Thursday night I had not slept very well and I was hoping to get a good rest Friday night. Well that didn't happen and then getting woken up by the loudest rooster on the planet was the last straw. I lost it. The tears started and would not stop. Ethan wasn't sure what to do because he really wanted to watch the sunrise at this temple. I ended up going, but I cried the whole way and most of the time we were there. We ended up having a good talk at the temple once I gathered myself. I determined that I was upset for several reasons. 1) I was exhausted. 2) I was homesick. 3) I was frustrated with my teaching situation 4) I was (still am) severely constipated. Half of these things, we determined, we could do something about. I would get a good night's sleep that night and I could figure out the constipation thing somehow. Unfortunately, the other two things are big things and obviously I can't go home. The teaching thing still has us stumped, but we think we have a plan. My frustration comes from the fact that they have me teaching math and I hate math. Plus I am downright terrible at math. I am often learning how to do the problems I am supposed to be teaching the kids right before class. Also, sometimes I am asked to give examples or explain something in the middle of class that I don't know how to do or wasn't warned about. It's embarrassing. So my plan is to try harder to be upfront with the teachers about what I do/do not understand and make sure I know what we are teaching and what is to be expected of me. Ethan knows first hand that this is much easier said than done given the language barrier. So if this plan doesn't work out, we'll have to consult with Kru Rin. She has a much better grasp of the English language and might be able to translate my issues to the teachers better than me. Anyway, the point is that the breakdown was a big one, but we worked through most of the issues and I am feeling much better. :]

Ethan at the top! 

Saturday afternoon we went back to the caves, but this time with Tristan, Kelly and Colin. Tristan and Kelly had never been and we also wanted to hike up to the view point that we were too tired to check out last time. The hike was kinda long and really hot and Ethan had to take an emergency poop under a tree. He had to use a was hilarious and traumatizing all at once. Fairly close to the top there was a little pagoda that we decided to eat lunch under. The boys decided to make the rest of the trek to the top, while the girls hung back. It was way to damn hot and they weren't sure if there was really a path up to the top. The boys figured it out though and were back after a while. The way down proved to be almost as tough as the way up since there were so many leaves on the ground. I kept slipping on the leaves when the ground was slightly slanted. It was a little nerve racking, but we made it. Tristan and Kelly wanted to check out the caves so Colin, Caitlin and Kristin were there guides, while I took it slow and Ethan did some exploring. I was exhausted and had already seen the caves so I really couldn't be bothered to do all that hiking again. Ethan explored a little and made a video of himself climbing through one of the caves. When we got back to Thawangpha we grabbed some market food and ate it down by the river. Colin showed us how to order sticky rice from the vendors. The teachers always have it at lunch, but we never see it at the market. Turns out the keep it in giant thermos containers behind their counters. Aha!! We're really excited about it because sticky rice is filling and cheap. Woohoo!

my birthday "cake"
Saturday night we both passed out at 10 and didn't wake up until 8. It was glorious! Ethan got breakfast Sunday morning and we took our time getting ready to celebrate my birthday at one of the waterfalls near where we live. We grabbed some market food and met the Pua gang along the way. This waterfall, called Tad Luang, was much cooler than the one we visited with the vice director and his family. It was clean and there were actual falls. There were also big rocks that you could chill on. At first I was nervous to go in the water. I don't really know why, but I was. Ethan went right in with the other guys and pretty soon they were sliding down the big waterfall. It look terrifying and slightly painful, so I held off on that for a while. Below the big falls there was another set of rocks and a pool that the guys figured out you could slide into. It looked much less intimidating than the big one, so after some coercing from Ethan I finally did it. It was fun, except the current was pretty strong one side of the pool so I had some trouble getting out. Fortunately, Ethan was there to help :]

Ethan on the "big slide" 
After we ate lunch, Ethan surprised me with a box of 4 slices of cake and a cupcake with candles. He stored the cake in the under seat storage on the motorbike and snuck away to get it while I was distracted. It was really cute and the cake was delicious. Tristan, Kelly and Colin brought me a birthday "bread krathong." It resembles the krathongs the Thais float down the river for Loy Krathong. We're still not sure if you're supposed to eat it, but it tasted OK so I ate some. After I had mastered the "intermediate" waterfall slide I was feeling confident so I worked up the courage to do the big one. It was fun, but it hurt my butt and I leaned over pretty far so I got a nose full of water when I splashed down. I wasn't sure I could do it again. After a trek up to the higher falls, a near death incident involving slipping on a rock and almost sliding into a very dangerous looking crevice, and an attempt to float a pretty large log down the river, I got up the courage to do the big waterfall slide again. And again, really cool, but painful. This time I leaned over even farther so my chest slammed into the water - right one took the full's still sore.

so much fun. so much pain. 

A little while later this guy came up and starting talking in Thai to us. We all just stared at him and tried to understand what he was saying. After a whole minute of watching him talk and mime things to us, we just decided it was time to go. We still don't know if that's what he wanted, but he left shortly after us (we know because he passed us on the road), so we think we're right. We got some dinner at a place on the way back, then went our separate ways. It was an awesome day and I have to say that birthdays Thai style are pretty cool. However, nothing compares to being with my family and I really missed all of them. I think it will be a while before we spend any more holidays in foreign countries. :] Oh and "yee sib haa" means 25 in Thai.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Ask and you shall receive...eventually

Mid-week Update

So in a previous post I talked about our plan to ask the principal if we could go to Loy Krathong. Well, finally after numerous attempts to speak with this seemingly elusive man we found him. Kru Rin and I went to his office yesterday and by some huge stroke of luck he was there. And by another stroke of luck, he said yes to our proposition. I thanked him repeatedly as we left and grinned ear to ear. :]

On top of that, the electrician FINALLY came to our apartment. We got a wall fan, a new shower and new lights. I never thought I would be this excited about a shower (those of you who know me even in the slightest bit know how much I detest showering), but when I'm hot and sticky all day long showering is awesome. And having a brand new one (that actually gets hot) and not having to go upstairs to the dirty, gecko infested one is even better. We still don't have a sink, but that was the least of our worries. We need screens over the doors and over the vents in the bathroom still, but the amount of bugs/geckos is still slim to far.

In other (good) news, we thought we were going to have to attend a mandatory conference this weekend, but apparently it got moved or changed to an unspecified date. Hooray! We're trying to plan something special this weekend being that it is my birthday, but so far we aren't sure what were doing. We were invited to a Thanksgiving feast with our friends in Nan on Friday, so we'll probably go to that instead of trying to make one ourselves.

So far it's been a great week full of great news. We are hoping that it continues that way. We also hope everyone has a safe and happy Thanksgiving!! :]]]

English Camp & Pha Tup Caves

Saturday morning we woke up at 7 and prepared for English Camp. We had no idea what to expect other than the very limited agenda we'd been given and the lessons they told us we needed to teach. Ethan and I would be teaching about the nations of ASEAN (Association of South East Asian Nations)  as well as American holidays, while Kristin and Caitlin were to teach the "greeting" and "thanks" traditions of the ASEAN nations as well as American holidays.

Napping before camp 
Some of the staff came to get us around 7:45 and we got to the Nan Valley Resort around 8:30. They took us to our rooms and told us they'd be back at 9 to get us. We tried to take a nap, but it didn't quite work. They came back and got us and led us to where all the kids were. There were about 100 kids of varying ages and about 15 staff workers. They were all assembled in the banquet room and the head of the camp was talking to them in Thai, while we received our camp shirts (none of which were in the sizes we asked for). Also, while they were talking the staff informed us that we wouldn't have a projector for our presentation. This wouldn't have been a problem, but our presentation was a powerpoint. They had a white board, but neither of us brought our computers so we couldn't even see our information to write it on the board. Luckily Kristin brought hers and let us borrow it.

Teaching in the room with a/c
So the day was split up into 4 "rotations" or class periods with about 25 kids in each rotation. They tried to have both of our presentations in the banquet room, but then realized that we were yelling over each other so they moved Ethan and I outside. It was incredibly warm, but there was a breeze and I didn't have to yell. The first rotation was not as smooth as we would have liked but the second was better. After a wonderful lunch, they moved us to an air conditioned room, which felt like heaven. The next two rotations went pretty well even though one of the students corrected our information (slightly embarrassing) and I had to take an emergency poop break.

ASEAN Show / Costume Contest
After our last rotation we got a very long break, while the other teachers helped the students with a show they were putting on later. We really didn't know what the show was all about or what to expect. After a lengthy nap, we ate dinner then headed to the room for the show. It was awesome! They split the kids into 10 groups, each one representing a different ASEAN nation. Then two kids from each group dawned the traditional dress attire for each nation (made by the kids from paper). Ethan and I were asked to host the show, which turned out to be a fashion show of sorts. Each nation was judged based on their confidence, their costumes, their speech and their ability to say each nations greeting correctly. So the four of us and some other teachers were the judges and in the end Indonesia took home first prize. It was really fun watching the kids parade around in their costumes and cheer for each other.

Everyone wanted a pic with the tall goon
After the show we played some games and taught them the Macarena. It was pretty hilarious without the music. Then they showed a slideshow of pictures from earlier that day. The kids would randomly scream and cheer at different pictures. I think they were cheering for the cute boys, but who knows. After the slideshow it was time for bed, but some of the teachers were hanging out so Ethan and I decided to join. It ended up being really fun and they asked us a bunch of questions about English and the US, which is always entertaining. They had a seemingly endless amount of snacks too, which was awesome except they were all pretty salty so I felt like a blimp the next day. (Ethan- They also had a seemingly endless supply of adult beverages. Every Thai seems to know the trick on how to open a bottle with another unopened bottle. The vice director of the school tried teaching me. The first two bottles didn't go well and he had to take over, but on my third attempt and the final bottle of the evening... SUCCESS!)

Christmas group with our snowflakes
Sunday morning came way too early because we'd stayed up pretty late. But it was a short day. We only had to be with one group to teach them about Christmas. So we showed them some pictures of Christmas trees, Santa and Jesus and then taught them to sing Jingle bells. We also taught them how to make huge snowflakes and made three or four to present to the whole group. When everyone was done the whole group got back together for presentations. We were supposed to make the kids present in English, but making the snowflakes was complicated enough so I did the talking while they demonstrated. Then we sang jingle bells for everyone. It was cute. We had lunch once everyone had presented and then headed out to the caves.

Going into a cave. It was a tight squeeze!
Ethan and I had been to the Pha Tup caves the weekend before, but didn't have the proper attire for such a venture. So Kristin and Caitlin came this time and we wore proper clothes and shoes. It was really close to the resort that camp was at, so we had the teachers drop us their rather than go all the way back to Thawangpha. We explored as many of the caves we could find, as there was no accurate map of the park. We basically just hiked until we saw a sign or an arrow. Some of the caves were small, while others were huge. They were not at all what I was expecting and I actually really enjoyed it - even though there were bats and disturbingly large spider webs everywhere. One of the caves even had some Buddha statues in it. We hiked pretty far into the park when we came to a square lake with a tree on an island. It was very strange and not very pretty. We kept going past it to another cave and once we made it to a point where we really didn't know where to go and didn't want to get lost we turned around. On the way back we checked out a pretty large cave that we thought we could climb out of and get a good view from the top of the hill it was on, but Ethan climbed up to no view. We decided it wasn't worth it so we headed out. The cave did have an interesting dragon "sculpture" in it though. The caves were pretty cool and as far as I know they're the only real caves I've ever been in. I really disliked the bats, but they didn't bother us so I think my chances of visiting caves again are pretty good. :]

Ethan climbed to the top! 
Stay tuned for an update from this week, Thanksgiving and MY BIRTHDAY!!

Monday, November 19, 2012

Loy Krathong??

Happy (almost) Thanksgiving!! It is so weird being in a country where no one cares about getting together on the fourth Thursday of November and eating a bunch of food. We're a little sad about it, for sure, because we will miss spending all that quality time with our families and eating all that D.E.licious food. Alas, it's the price we pay for going on this crazy adventure! :] We're also planning on having a Thanksgiving "feast" (we haven't quite figured out what it's going to include) on Thursday, which should prove to be interesting. So far we've decided to buy a whole chicken, sweet potatoes and pumpkin. That's as far as we got. Hopefully we can come up with some other things, but we probably won't eat too much since we do have to work Friday and we don't have the luxury of a day to sleep off our turkey "hangovers."

So this week went by quickly somehow. Maybe we are finally getting used to being here and our daily grind. Who knows? Regardless of how it happened it did. Even though it went by fast there are definitely some notable stories.

Skye and I helped make som tum (papaya salad)
Monday went by without much happening, but Tuesday was Caitlin's 22nd birthday! She said she felt old, which made us feel really old. We tried to plan a surprise birthday song in one of her classes, but it didn't work out. But we did eat lunch with the English department who bought her a cake and we got to sing then. The cake was delicious and we ate wayyyyyy too much of it. We have also recently discovered that we like a lot of Thai sweets, so that on top of the cake has made us feel like we are gaining a few extra lbs. That night we went to one of our favorite places to eat in town called The Living Room. Thais have very creative names for their restaurants. Anyway, we ate some food and Ethan drank some strange rice wine in Caitlin's honor. We also got to talking about the upcoming Thai festival Loy Krathong. We were told a few weeks ago that it's not a public holiday, so we still have to work, butttt we decided that night to hatch a plan in the hopes of making it to this most glorious of festivals.

Loy Krathong is a festival that takes place on the evening of the full moon of the 12th month in the traditional Thai lunar calendar. So this year it falls on November 28th. Unfortunately, this is a Wednesday and Loy Krathong, as I mentioned, is not a public holiday in Thailand. BUT we have heard amazing things about the festivals that are held in Chiang Mai and believe that if we missed it, we probably would never ever see it again. Two of the big parts of Loy Krathong are making a krathong (a little boat made of leaves and flowers with a candle) to float down the river and sending a big lantern into the sky. How cool is that?? So our plan was actually pretty simple although, admittedly, we made it out to be much more complicated while deciding what to do. We decided on two options. Option 1: Ask for Wednesday and Thursday off to go to Chiang Mai with the possibility of using sick days to compensate. Option 2: Ask to miss the English Integrated Studies conference that is mandatory (even though I'm certain we will get nothing from it) on the 24th-25th of Nov to go to Sukhothai, where they celebrate Loy Krathong on the weekend too. The 25th also happens to be my birthday so we decided to throw that at them if need be. This is also the reason I volunteered to be the group spokesperson. So we had our plan! And our doubts. It seemed unlikely that our coordinator would be OK with Caitlin and Kristin missing so much class because they don't have co-teachers, but we had to try.

A giant spider web, I promise. Tilt your computer if needed.
So Wednesday morning went by with a few missed opportunities to talk to Kru Rin about Loy Krathong, but finally my moment came. I started talking to her about other things, mostly our bathroom (or lack of bathroom I guess) and school things. Then I asked about Loy Krathong. It was like ripping off a bandaid and I honestly don't know why. I executed flawlessly and when I finished my speech I sat back and waited for the bad news. But it never came. She said that she understood why we want to go and said that we should go, buttttt (here's the iffy news) we had to ask the director first. So the first part is done with and she seemed confident that he would be OK with it. So now we are still waiting for a chance to talk to the director, but we are still hopeful that our Loy Krathong experience is still out there waiting for us!

Wednesday night I was feeling really great about life, but Thursday morning I was brought down from my little high quite quickly. The day started per the usual, except we forgot to get more yogurt from 7/11 the night before for breakfast. We had bananas though, so I thought this would be enough for me to take my antibiotics with, butttt I was sadly mistaken. We were sitting in the math office on our computers when suddenly I started to feel nauseous. At first, I thought it was just a random occurrence - it happens occasionally when I don't eat enough - so I brushed it off. But then it came back, but worse. At this point I was 65% sure I was going to vomit, but for some reason decided to try and make it go away. It didn't work. It was going to happen. I got the keys from Ethan and walked as fast as I could back to our room. I was NOT about to toss my breakfast in one of the squat toilets at school. So I'm walking and sweating and looking at every tree and bush to see if I could just go behind it, but there were too many kids. They had just been released from the morning assembly and they were EVERYWHERE! I kept my head down so none of them would say hi to me. I felt bad because they always say hi, but I just couldn't look up. I got to the apartment and there were some kids behind the stairwell cutting class I assume. Well... I hoped the sounds of barfing wouldn't gross them out because you can hear everything in or around this apartment and there is not enough time to tell them to leave!  I got upstairs and flung open the bathroom door. But I got nothing. Nothing at all. All that work and sweating and no vomit.

Buddha statue at our school
Well I suppose it was a good thing, but I was still feeling terrible. I sat in front of the van trying to gather myself for a few minutes. I just felt awful and knew I couldn't sit in a steaming hot classroom for an hour. So I walked back and told one of my co-teachers to tell the teachers I was with that day that I wouldn't be there. Ethan walked me back to the room and then went back to tell Kru Rin, but she already knew. She offered to take me to the hospital, but Ethan assured her it was unnecessary. I stayed at home all morning and Ethan brought me crackers and Sprite for lunch. After eating I felt much better, but stayed home the rest of the day just in case. :] I officially learned my lesson with malaria antibiotics - always eat more than a banana!!

Thursday night we made plans to go to Pua and have dinner/ hang out with Tristan, Kelly and Colin. I was feeling loads better so we hopped on the motorbike and made the 20 minute journey. We had a big dinner with them that was super delicious. A bit on the spicy side, but very satisfying. After that we went to Colin's house to hang out for a while. We had a great time swapping stories and talking about strange animal behaviors with them and before we knew it, it was time to go home. We got home pretty late, but the next day was Friday so we weren't too worried about it. (Ethan- Colin has it made in Pua. He lives in a 3 bedroom tree house type thing with an open air hang out spot. It puts our studio apartment to shame.)

Friday went by fairly uneventfully. Instead of watching a movie before bed, like usual, Ethan and I decided to chat about things. This is good for us to do occasionally because we get really wrapped up in the moment sometimes when we're deep in an adventure. We have to take some time to talk about life and our plans to make sure we're always on the same page. And if we're not on the same page we have to figure out how to meet on one of the pages in between - or at least try :] Anyway, it was a good talk and we made some plans for when we leave Thawangpha. We are very excited to travel southeast Asia! We got to bed as early as possible because English camp started bright and early the next day...

The view from the far side of the football field/grass track looking back at the school

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Her Majesty, spiders, roti and caves

After our trip to Nan we were exhausted and the week went by painstakingly slow, yet again. I even feel asleep in the math office one day – we were both on the struggle bus pretty much all week. The good thing about the week was the youngest princess of Thailand was coming to the school on Friday, so everyone was highly preoccupied with her arrival and didn’t notice how much we were slacking (at least we hope they didn’t notice). (Ethan- Skye should speak for herself. I'm always on my A game. Rule #76: No excuses! Play like a champion!)

Nothing too thrilling happened until Friday with the exception of us going to Pua (which really wasn’t that exciting, but it was different) and finding nasty spiders...more on that later. On Wednesday I was feeling particularly homesick and ended up almost in tears at school over it (lame I know, but being overly tired and hungry all the time gets to me after a few days). We had been trying to live on 100baht per day (about $3) between the both of us and that severely limited what we could do/eat (we decided on that budget because we realized we were getting low on baht and the ATM charges didn’t seem worth it). So we kind of gave up on our budget and went to the grocery store in Pua to get some snacks and checked out the town. We ended up with 6 banana muffins, 1.5 liters of orange fanta, oreos, and 4 bananas. We wandered around Pua a little until we found a pretty cool, indoor/outdoor market that sold the usual goods like clothes, shoes, toys, and purses. We got dinner after that and then headed back to our apartment. Like I said, it was not that exciting, but it got us out of our apartment and we got some things that remind us of home. Those things can really help when you know you won’t be going home for a long time. Not very healthy, but they sure do boost morale. :] 

When Friday finally arrived we were super relieved that we wouldn’t have much to do. We were supposed to have morning classes, but mine was cancelled. Ethan ended up having to teach one class that he was late for because they had to check our temperatures and give us a sticker that proved we didn't have a fever, but after lunch all attention was paid to Her Majesty’s arrival. The school had been given the royal treatment, which involved a bunch of really random improvements and some decorations. They also put up a bunch of tents over the areas where the Princess would be going, which was great because you were shaded pretty much everywhere you went. We still aren’t entirely certain why she was visiting, but we do know that she was there to see the doctors and nurses from the hospital, but the hospital is tiny, so they have her come to the school and all the nurses and doctors come here. So by lunch time the school was full of a bunch of random people, army men, policemen, firemen, first aid people and us. It was a bit chaotic, but we didn’t have to do anything so we didn't mind. 

When the Princess got here she made her way through the school grounds and during this time all the students and teachers had to sit outside on the ground under the tents in the walkway. When she passed where you were sitting you had to stay silent until she got close then you had to bow as she passed and say something in Thai three times. It took about 2 hours for her to get through the whole thing because it started down pouring in the middle of the whole thing. It was great for us because it created a breeze and brought the temp down a little.  We got a little wet, but it felt good. It was bad for the procession though because the tents were all separate so rain was just pouring between the tents and I think the Princess had to stop a few times. After she went through the whole thing we had to get our picture taken with her as a group, which was cool, but not the most pleasant experience we’ve ever had. First of all, we (Caitlin, Kristen and I) had to wear blazers over our shirts because we didn’t have teacher uniforms (there may have been another reason for this, but I’m not sure. Ethan had to wear dress pants, and a tie). Secondly, the pictures were taken in the schools open-air auditorium. And finally, we had to do a practice run and when it came time to finally take the picture we had to sit on the concrete floor for 20 minutes listening to her and another guy speak in Thai. After the speech the teachers and doctors/nurses sang a couple of songs too and we also had to bow a few times.

Here are my issues with this situation. It was about 98 degrees outside and I get sweaty in my loose fitting clothing already, so having to wear a blazer was pretty close to torture for me. Also, the auditorium is open-air, but here in Thailand there is rarely a decent breeze. So a couple hundred people sitting on concrete in 98 degree weather with no breeze – need I say more? Didn’t think so. Sitting in a skirt in Thailand is also no easy task. You can’t sit Indian style, but you also can’t sit with your legs straight out (pointing your feet at people is rude, especially to royalty). You have two options; sit on your legs, or sit with them out to one side with your feet behind you. Neither of these positions is even remotely comfortable, especially when you aren’t used to sitting that way. It was a long 20 minutes and after we finally took our picture with her I could barely stand because my knees were so stiff.  The coolest part of the day, other than being in the presence of royalty was watching the helicopters lift off. I’ve seen them in movies a gazillion times and always wondered what it would be like to be that close when they landed or took off. It was cool and the breeze (or wind I guess) felt lovely.

Her Majesty leaving the school
Overall, we enjoyed having the afternoon off and, while the heat was torture, we enjoyed watching the staff and students get to see their Princess. It’s hard for us to understand what having royalty at your school is like, but I’m guessing it’s pretty awesome for them. As much as I hated being stuck outside in a blazer for hours I have a lot of respect for the staff and students for doing their best to make the Princess feel welcome and appreciated.

Positive spin: good chance of becoming Spider-Man
Friday after school we cleaned our bathroom, which finally received a normal toilet on Tuesday and cleaned the apartment. I guess the guy that put the toilet in went to our coordinator when he was done and told her he had finished. When she told us the next day we were like “Ummmmm no. There is still no sink or shower in the bathroom. There are also no screens on the doors, no ceiling fan and no light in the bathroom.” She was mad at him, but we don’t expect anything to be done about it any time soon. That’s just the way things work here. At this point, having no screens on the doors or over the vents in the bathroom is probably our biggest concern. This is the bit about the spiders I mentioned earlier.... Since last Sunday we have encountered 4 enormous spiders. They are probably one or two sizes below full on tarantula size. One of them was on our makeshift curtain a few days ago, but Ethan and Kristin bravely killed it. I was too terrified to help. The next day we found one in the third floor apartment’s bathroom…while Ethan was showering and I was brushing my teeth. We killed that one too. I found one in our kitchen area, but decided to leave it (a poor choice in hindsight). We killed the fourth one when we got back from Pua. It was on the first step going up to our apartment, way too close for comfort. So Ethan smashed it to smithereens with a bottle of water. It literally exploded. Ew! We are at war with the spiders now and currently await their next move. We know their weaknesses (they're no match for shoes and water bottles), but they are tricky and cunning. I believe if we continue to be constantly on our toes we can kill more spiders and send a message to all the spiders lurking around waiting to strike – their presence is unwelcome and will not be tolerated! *I really hate spiders and will be highly grateful when someone finds the time to install some screens in our doors.*
Outside of the market in Nan
Saturday morning we woke up unpleasantly early, but decided we’d head out to Nan early. The long boat championship races were in Nan, so last weekend we decided to come back. We did some laundry before we left and headed out around 10. We made a reservation when we were there last weekend, but when we got to the Nan Guesthouse the lady spoke no English. I’m still not sure if there was any point in making a reservation, but whatever. We got a room and then headed out to the huge market by the river that we visited the previous weekend. We knew our friend Josie was going to be in Nan as well as some of the other people we had met, but weren’t sure where they were. We wandered around the market looking for food and checked out the boat races for a few minutes. It was probably the hottest day we have experienced in the north so far and you would think being under the shade of the market would help. I think it actually made it worse because the stands blocked what little breeze there was and turned the market into a sauna. It was torture. After we made a full loop around the market we kept going in search of a place to eat. Luckily we ended up running into Josie, Daylan, and two other people who live in Nan. Hooray!! We exchanged information, walked for a while with them and eventually decided we’d meet up with them later at the soccer field. After they left, Ethan bought a pair of fake Ray Bans for 50baht ($1.75ish) and we visited another one of the temples in Nan. Unfortunately, it is one of the temples that have a dress code so we couldn’t go in, but it was pretty.

In front of Wat (temple) Phrathat Chaehang (spelled differently on every sign)
When we got back in to town from the temple we got some food and then met up with Daylan, Josie and some others for some futbol. I didn’t play because that’s way too much work and sweat, but I chatted with Josie and the couple who lives in Pua, Kelly and Tristan. After Ethan got very sweaty playing futbol we headed back to the guesthouse to shower and meet the gang for dinner. It’s really funny when we all go somewhere together because half of us are on motorbikes and the other half are on bicycles. It’s obnoxious and all the Thai people stare and laugh. After dinner we all went to the guesthouse where we were staying to hang out on the roof. It was really great to chat with other people and get to know them. As was well for quite a while, but the more drinks people had the louder it got and eventually the staff threatened to call the police if we didn’t keep it down. We took that as our cue to leave. I was pretty tired though so I stayed back and finished reading Catching Fire (the 2nd book in the Hunger Games series) and started Mockingjay (the 3rd book). I also walked to 7/11 for my new favorite snack called roti. The walk was slightly terrifying given the number of stray dogs around there, but I didn’t see any in the two-block walk there or back. Lucky me. Unfortunately, the roti guy was gone when I got there, but I got some Dewberry cookies (short bread cookie sandwiches with cream and a drop of blueberry or strawberry jam) and these delicious peanuts covered in some crunchy sugary substance. Roti is our newest obsession here in Thailand. It is a desert made from dough that is fried in oil and coated with condensed milk and sugar. It is the greatest most delicious treat I’ve discovered so far. It’s like an elephant ear, but with out the cinnamon. It is probably horrible for us, but we’ve decided we don’t care. When in Thailand!

Ethan got back at about 3:15am. I tried to fall asleep before he got back, but that didn’t happen. The dogs in the area were apparently on crack because every time one of them howled the entire neighborhood of dogs and cats would start barking, hissing, meowing and howling for about 5 minutes. It’s very hard to sleep through and incredibly creepy. This happened twice before Ethan got back and one more time at about 4am. At 8am the roosters next door woke me up and I couldn’t get back to sleep. I’m beginning to really despise all the animals in Thailand. I woke Ethan up at 9 and we ate breakfast across the street again – he had an egg pancake and I had a banana pancake – and it was delicious!

Our plan for Sunday was to check out some caves nearby, but we didn’t exactly go to Nan prepared for a hike. The caves are located in a forest park on the way back to Thawangpha, so we figured we could check them out and if it was too much for sandals we’d come back. Turns out the caves are along a trail that winds its way up a “mountain.” You can’t really call it a true mountain because it’s really not that big, but the trail was steep and I decided after the first cave that the trail was indeed too much for my sandals. The first cave was small and creepy and had bats in it so I didn’t go in, but Ethan did. He also checked out the second one, while I sat at a pagoda in the park. He deemed the place cool enough to come back so we left it at that.

Ethan in the creepy little bat cave...
We got some lunch before we got back and as soon as we walked in we both passed out for a few hours. It was another great weekend spent with some cool people. We’re really glad we checked out the caves, and will definitely be making a trip back. This coming weekend we have been recruited to help with English camp in Nan. We are a little nervous about it, but excited to be doing something other than teach math and science (and we get paid for it!). Wish us luck and stayed tuned for the next post!!