Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Buddhist Bling
This is an interesting article about the current trend of wearing Buddhist amulets. I got a kick out of it because I see them everywhere and they seem to be getting bigger and bigger. Sometimes they look so big you're convinced that they are wannabe Buddhist rappers. They are worn to provide luck and protection; I've read stories of people being magically unscathed by a gun shot because their amulet protected them.
After reading this article I started realizing that Thai people (some, not all of course) are really superstitious. For example, just yesterday one of the students was cleaning the windows standing on the cabinets and fell out of the window. Our classes are on the fourth floor but luckily there was a ledge that she fell onto. Regardless, it was a very dangerous thing to do but Thais in general don't have the same ideas about child safety that we do in the States. There are some negatives and some positives for this. The positive side is that when a kid falls down they will pick themselves up without missing a beat. No crying. No whining. They just walk off the pain. I've seen some pretty gnarly falls as they run down the halls. But on the other hand, they put themselves at risk for much more serious injury, i.e. falling out of windows on the fourth floor.
Later that day I heard that another child in the school broke his arm. Coincidence? Oh I think not. :) I then heard stories that the lady who cleans that school in the morning reported hearing voices of children playing at 5:30 a.m. Now, everyone is convinced that our school is haunted and they are going to have a monk come to the school to check it out (who cares if its a Catholic school?).
Let's just hope that the ghosts don't try to throw me out of windows before I leave Thailand.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Happy Monday Everyone! I had quite a productive weekend. I finally got myself to a Thai Boxing match and I'm so glad that I did. Let's start from the beginning.

As I think I've mentioned before, one of the things that had been stopping me from going to a boxing match was the price. If you are Thai it's not that expensive, only about 200 baht or $7 dollars. If you are a foreigner on the other hand the price goes all the way up to 1,500 baht or about $40. We were thinking since we live and work (and pay taxes) in Thailand we might be able to get in for the Thai price if we could appeal to the mercy of the ticket agents. Of course, I don't know what I was thinking. They just kind of laughed at us and the thought that we might ever be considered Thai so I sucked it up and paid the price for being a foreigner.

The tickets we bought were for the second class seating as opposed to the ringside seating. There were a few reasons for this. A) It was cheaper by 100 baht which is not really much of a reason B) I had watched Thai boxing on TV and had seen how in between the matches they point the camera on the people (mostly foreigners) sitting in the front row which would make me terribly uncomfortable. C) I wanted to be in the back to see all the action of the match, including the gambling and antics of the local Thais. D) I didn't want to be sprayed by sweat and/or blood if the fight got too heated.

All this said, I had no idea what we were in store for when we got to the second class seating. I was dismayed looking at the rickety old bleachers that had the lovely stench of piss and you know what and which looked as if they might collapse at any moment sending you into a pile of vermin. I momentarily regretted my decision but we sucked it up and found a seat where we could lean against the fencing. It probably wasn't too bad of a choice after all because we could get up and move around unlike those at the ringside and you had a more elevated view of the fight instead of having to look up and over someone else's head to see the fight.

I was glad that I had watched the movie Beautiful Boxer before going because I had a sense of the life that they fighters lead at their training camps and some of the history behind the sport. If you are interested in Thai boxing or Thai culture, I would definitely recommend the movie.

Before the fighting begins the fighters go through some sort of ritualistic dance where they pray and pay respects to their coach and the other fighter. Interesting to watch the first couple of times but when you are watching 10 different matches it can get quite tedious to watch.

The fight started with the youngest fighters, probably around 9 or 10 years old. My heart went out to those young boys who were kicking the crap out of each other. They were much feistier and less inhibited than the older fighters, making the fight more lively and exciting to watch but you really couldn't get over the guilt of watching children engage in this sort of activity. The older fighters weren't as quick to make a move, probably because they were more experienced and were planning their attacks more.

The rules are that there are no rules (oh dear, that sounds so cliche now). Well, not as far as I could see. You could kick or hit anywhere but the preferred shots were knee kicks to the kidneys or a roundhouse kick to the face. Ouch! We could hear the smacks of the kicks all the way where we were (it's a fairly small stadium) and it didn't sound pleasant. The first match ended when the one boy fell to the floor and the other boy delivered a knee to the face resulting in a knock out. More than one fight ended with one fighter being carried away on a stretcher. It felt like watching a game of Street Fighter.

I tried to take lots of picture but alas my camera is dying a slow and painful death and doesn't take great pictures anymore. I'll post some of the ones that I took as soon as I can manage the patience to uploading on my slow Internet connection.

In the meantime, have a great week!

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Oh the end of another weekend. Boo! I didn't manage to do any of the things that I wanted to do before I leave Thailand but I did manage to accomplish the following:

1) Saw the new Transformers movie and was surprised that I was actually entertained for the first half. Bangkok has some awesome movie theaters; my favorite part is that you get to pick your seat when you buy your ticket so there is no rush to get into the theater so you get a good seat. We should really consider doing this in the States. But unfortunately, like in the States, there are about 20 minutes of previews and commercials...oh yeah and also a tribute to the King where everyone has to stand and watch pictures of his life while listening to same patriotic song. The annoying thing is that the commercials never change. They are still playing the same commercials that they were playing when I came to Thailand a year ago. And those were the same commercials that they were playing the year before that when my friend came. I don't know why we don't go later to the movie cuz we already have our seats. *Note to self. Go to theaters later.

2) Went to the doctors. I love the doctors here. Bumrungrad Hospital is a great place for people watching too. It's like half mall/half hospital, fully equipped with a Starbucks and a McDonalds. They are so cheap, I just want to go all the time. I'm not even sick but think of all the preventive stuff you might consider doing if it were easy to get appointments and dirt cheap. I haven't seen Sicko (the Michael Moore movie) but us Americans have to get our shiz together when it comes to health care. There's just something wrong if I'm scared to go home because I won't have health insurance.

3) Went shopping at Platinum Mall. If you're in Bangkok and you want to find cheap clothes, you need to go to Platinum Mall by Pratunam. Soooo cheap. Six floors of nothing but shoes, clothes, bags, accessories, and anything else you could wear. I probably spent about $100 and I could barely carry all of my bags.

I was determined to make my way home by public transport instead of taking a taxi because I hate those taxi drivers and I was trying to save money. I recognized one of the bus numbers and was excited that it could be so easy so I asked if it was going in the right directions. Of course it couldn't be that easy and they said that I would have to cross the street to go the directions I wanted to go. So I cross the street and wait. And wait. And wait. I waited for a full 45 minutes, just knowing that as soon as I left the bus would come. Finally I gave up and decided I might as well make the trek to catch the boat.

Canal travel is such an interesting way to travel Bangkok. You definitely get a more "exotic" view of the city as you see all the back alleys and tropical vegetation. The problem is that they smell like raw sewage and the boats can be terrifying to get into because you imagine yourself falling into the "klong" which would probably kill you. If you've ever seen Roger Rabbit and remember that stuff that they used to kill the cartoons...I really can't remember what its called...I imagine that that is what is in the klong. If it touches you, you will dissolve. Scary stuff.

Next week I'm going to take my camera around with me and try to catch some pictures of everyday life around here. Maybe I'll even get a shot of the klong!