Saturday, October 24, 2009

Bangkok 2

We are done with orientation in Bangkok and will head out of the city tomorrow for a 2 night excursion to Kanchanaburi, about 2 hours from here. The plan is to visit a Thai orphanage, ride elephants thru the jungle and take a bamboo rafting trip down the local river. It will be a full 2 days and we are looking forward to getting out of the city for awhile.
The past few days have been packed full of trainings on Thai language, culture and preparing to teach English for 5 months. Learning survival Thai has been the hardest part hands down. To give you a taste of what we are trying to learn, get this. The Thai language has 44 consonants, 22 vowels, 5 tones and 21 separate sounds! For example, the word “mai” which can mean “not, new, not?, wood, or burn” is tricky because the tone with which the word is said determines the meaning. So, mai mai mai mai mai, can mean “new wood doesn't burn, does it?” if said with different tones. Basically, if you are not born and raised here, mastering Thai is nearly impossible. However, we have picked up a few key phrases to avoid being completely helpless, but we have a long way to go. We have found that taxi cab drivers and the wait staff at restaurants are the best teachers as they love to exchange Thai lessons for English lessons and everyone has a great laugh.

We got to visit the Grand Palace a few days ago. Thailand has a king and this is the home away from home for the royal family. It is absolutely incredible, the grounds are immaculate and the architecture is very impressive. Built in 1782 by King Rama V, it reminds me of the Palace of Versailles in France, but in an very eastern sense. Look at the pictures, everything is covered in gold leaf and the pillars are tiled with beautiful stones and gems. Inside the palace are a number of temples and one of the most famous is The Emerald Buddha temple. We were able to go inside and sit quietly gazing up at the extraordinary Buddha made out of jade, it was mistaken as emeralds when first discovered because of the brilliant blue/green color. The walls and ceilings of the temple are painted with numerous scenes from previous Thai dynasties and the detail rivals that of the Sistine chapel in Rome in my opinion.

The other night we had a welcome dinner and were able to meet with the school coordinator that will be our point person at the school we are teaching at. Her name is Sasi (sauce-e) and she is married to a American gentleman named Dick who also came with her. Sasi did not speak much English, but Dick was quite helpful in bridging the language barrier. He filled us in on the school and our living arrangements, which should be quite interesting to see. Sasi kept saying that we “camping living”, but Dick cleared it up saying we were living in cabins in a campground, we don't know what to expect! He also warned us about the pack of wild dogs that lives outside the campground, now its getting interesting! All in all though, we are still excited to go and will be sure to buy dog biscuits to pay the toll I suspect the mutts will charge us to pass-by.

The last two nights we ventured into the ex-Pat (westerners now living in Thailand) quarter of Bangkok. It was interesting to meet a few of the ex-Pats and get their perspective about living here. We had pizza and pasta tonight as our stomachs were asking for a night off from the spicy Thai food we have been eating for the past week. A walk thru the markets is always fun and I tried my hand at bartering with a couple of vendors. Thai people love a good bartering session and actually hold much espect for those that can do it well. I was able to get a vendor laughing, slapping my back and eventually cutting the price in half for a soccer jersey I wanted, she told me I was “A-ok number 1 deal man”, by far the best report card I have ever received!

The heat and smell of the country is hard to imagine, but tonight it dawned on me that describing it might be accomplished with this analogy. It is like putting on a sweater, winter coat and snow pants and then sitting in a sauna for 30 minutes while someone cooks a steak on a diesel engine that is leaking urine. Vivid, huh? Needless to say, leaving Bangkok for the jungle doesn't seem so bad even if there are 20 some poisonous snakes in the country!

We will update after we get settled in our “cabin”in the town of Dan Chang!

1 comment:

  1. So good to hear from you guys today! What an amazing adventure. These are the times when you really get to know eachother. TAke care of eachother. Listen and love i am so happy for you two. We miss you!