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!! 

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