Monday, October 16, 2006
I think my homesickness was brought on partially because the longest I've ever been away from home was 3 months and its almost been 3 months since I left for Thailand. But mostly I think it was brought on by the fact that I got a cold and I am a HUGE baby when I'm sick. I hate it. Not that everyone doesn't hate being sick but I don't seem to be able to handle it. Plus the electricity went out in my room (but the lights and A/C miraculously worked) so all the food in my refrigerator went bad, I couldn't use my computer, blow dryer, hot water heater (so no water for cooking), or toaster. Essentially, I was S.O.L. because I was too tired to walk anywhere in the heat and I had no way of cooking any of the food that didn't spoil in my refrigerator. Yeah, it was not a good weekend.
Today was supposed to be a work day for the foreign teachers (the Thai teachers and foreign teachers have different vacations for some reason) but when we got there everything was locked up so there was no way for us to do any work. I was hoping that the lady that manages the apartment would be there today so she could help me with my electricity but I found out she was on vacation with the Thai teachers. BOOO. So I had to bust out some crazy Thai language skills to talk to some of the people that work maintenance at the school. Basically, I was saying "Light no have room" "Room light no have" or any combination of those words to try and convey my meaning. Its so frustrating because yeah, o.k. sorry I don't speak your language but can you not look at me like I'm a frickin idiot?? I'M TRYING PEOPLE! Generally, Thai people are very nice but sometimes you just can't ignore the feelings of disdain and hatred you know that they feel for you. Whatever.
After getting my electricity back I felt almost human again. I decided to go to the mall to do some grocery shopping. While I was there I saw a dental clinic and decided to get a check up because its been too long since my last one. I also ended up going to the laser skin clinic to get some crazy lazer light treatment to lighten the appearance of my freckles. Thats the great thing about Thailand. Medical services are so cheap and available here. Everywhere you go you see dentists and dermatologists and you don't even need insurance because its so inexpensive. I'm fully going to take advantage of this while I'm here.
Let me just say that Thai women are generally obsessed with two things when it comes to their appearance: their skin and their weight. Thai people (and Asians in general) or obsessed with white skin. They love it. So opposite of Westerners who are always trying to get the perfect tan. I guess you always want what you can't have, right? Every skin product has whitening agent in it. Facial wash with whitening. Body lotion with whitening. Whitening cream. Facial moisturizer with whitening. Body wash with whitening. Its good for me because I've always been whiter than white. Here I don't have to worry about being self conscious about it.
But while I'm not really self conscious about my weight in the States I feel like a giant here. These women look anorexic, like they haven't eaten since 1985. I'm only 5'3" and about 115 pounds (o.k. I'm baring my soul to you all) and when I go shopping here I can't even get the biggest pair of jeans to go past my thighs. And forget shopping for a bra. I tried asking the sales clerk for help with my size and she looked around and said that they didn't have any bras that would fit me. Keep in mind, I wasn't shopping in a small boutique, I was in a frickin department store with hundreds of bras around. Surely, one of them has to fit me??? The problem is that the circumference (I dunno, waist band...chest band??) of the bra is so tiny that it looked like it wouldn't fit a 10 year old girl.
As if that weren't enough to give me a complex, the people here are so blunt about talking about weight. One day two of the Thai teachers working in the library were talking in Thai and I could tell that they were talking about me and all of a sudden one of them so graciously translated for me. "She said you fat" as she made bulging cheeks and a gesture to her belly. I could barely eat for two days after that.
Sigh. This is why I long for the United States. At least people will generally act like you expect them to and you know how to act with people. Here its always this fine line of worrying whether what you say or do is offending someone and then trying not to get offended at the things they say and do to you. There aren't these mysterious rules of conduct to follow and no mind trips of whether you should take something personally or not. But then again, its so fascinating to realize what our unconscious expectations are and thats really why we travel, right?
Tuesday, October 10, 2006
Sorry I've been so lazy about posting here. Bangkok has a lot of distractions! Everything has been fine since the coup. You would never even know that there was a coup; they moved out the tanks and selected a new interim prime minister. Oh and they also suspended the legislature, made politcal parties illegal and are censoring the media...soooo, well even if there was some unrest I would never know. The Thai people generally seemed to welcome the coup. The old Primie Minister was very unpopular and there were many assassination attempts against him before the coup so I get the feeling that Thailand is a safer and more stable place without him. Then again, Thai people are very shy about saying anything negative about their government. It's actually illegal to say anything bad about the King and the Thai mentality towards authority is totally different than the Western mentality. If an elder or someone with authority says they have to do something they will do it without asking questions, at least from what I have noticed. I'm sure there are a lot of ambiguities I don't see but my general impression is that Thai people value harmony and unity more than freedom of speech or democracy. We thought about going to take pictures with the tanks before they left but I always forgot my camera. I should really invest in a camera phone while I'm here! The worst thing that happened during the coup was that we got the day off of work and had to go to the movies instead of school. Terrible, huh? I started thinking they should have coups more often.
It has been raining here a lot lately. I love it when it rains because that means that its not that hot (80 degrees is chilly). Its not just normal rain though; its super monsoon rain. The sky opens up and buckets of water come pouring down and there is lightning and thunder that shakes you right to your bones. When it rains really hard the streets begin to look like canals and if you get stuck out in it you have to pull your pants up to your knees and practically swim to dry land, if you can find any. Luckily though the drainage system works really well here. One night it rained so hard that they had to close my street because there was about 3 or 4 feet of water. A couple of hours the water was completely gone and you would never even know that it had rained.
The students just had their midterm exams and we're on vacation now. Exams are a big deal here, way different in the states. I don't remember taking any sort of hardcore test until maybe I was in middle school. These students have 3 days of exams...keep in mind that some of them are as young as 7 years old. I almost lost my mind because people expected me to be psychic about a lot of things. My Thai partner teacher (who I just want to kill) would ask me "Have you turned in your exams yet?" Ummm....no? No one told me I had to turn in any sort of exam. I figured I would give them an exam if I wanted to. And they have this crazy grading system that I am supposed to magically know. Apparently during the first midterm, 20 points go to the accumulated marks (homework, seatwork and behavior) and 30 points go to the final exam. But that is only in the first semester, in the second semester 30 points go to the accumulated marks and 20 to the final exam. And that is only for some subjects. Other subjects are 25 total but are split with another class so its like 12.5 points for the exams and oh I don't know. Haven't these people heard of the 100 point scale? You know...makes things way easier.
I got my first hair cut here not long ago. It was amazing. Well the haircut was just o.k. He cut it shorter than I would have liked, but it was super cheap and they had these awesome chairs you sit in when they shampoo your hair. They reclined all the way back so you were so comfortable while they were doing their stuff. They probably washed and massaged my hair for about 30 minutes before they cut my hair. Thats the thing about Bangkok. It can be so much nicer than the U.S. in so many ways and in some ways the U.S. is way nicer than Thailand. For instance, the movie theaters have these huge cushy chairs that recline when you sit in them and you get movie magnets everytime you see a movie. I don't know why I get so excited about the magnets but I really fricken love it. But at the same time the air is so polluted and I seem to always have a hard time finding a nice restaurant with good food. Oh well, you can't have it all I suppose.
Promise I'll try to be less lazy about posting here. Especially after I write about military coups and all that stuff. Oops. :) Sorry.