wander process


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Smile Camp at Khao Yai

Every year, the school hosts multiple-day camp for the younger students called Smile Camp. I’m not exactly sure why it’s called Smile Camp, but I figure that reflects poor and awkward English translation/word selection more than anything else. Anyway, I volunteered to go and be a “babysister” for Smile Camp from the 19-22. (I tried patiently to explain that the word they meant was “babysitter,” but I don’t think it ever sank in.)

I wanted to go because this would be the last time that I would see many of my students. The camp was also held near Khao Yai, which is a beautiful national park in Thailand and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. One of our activities during camp would be hiking in Khao Yai (“Khao Yai” translates to “big mountain”). Plus, I had spent all of December in Bangkok so I thought it would be a good (& free, & paid) chance to see more of Thailand.

The activities of the camp were varied. There was a walk rally (I wasn’t so sure what this meant, but it was basically six stations with different fun activities to participate in and teams went around to each one and competed against each other – I was an official part of the green team). There was meditation and praying. There was art therapy. There was singing. There were skits. There were copious snacks and delicious vegetarian food (since the retreat space we used was mostly used for Buddhist meditation retreats, the food was vegetarian). There was even a wonderful puppy named Bomb who the kids took great delight in teasing and feeding. I forgot to take a picture of him! I surprised the kids on the first day when they were all standing around looking at him but not touching him. I scooped Bomb up into my arms and began rubbing him. Ohh, puppies.

Onto pictures! I only brought my Canon S95, but a fair amount of the teachers at the school are really into photography. At least 5 brought DSLRs and snapped pictures the whole time. Usually, 3 or so teachers would be looking over the kids and the rest of the teachers waited around and took glamour shots of each other. It’s funny to witness.

Student-teacher relationships in Thailand are totally different than they are in the US. We all stayed in rooms with our students and everyone hung out in their pajamas together. Strange stuff.

This is the game where I learned and was told that I can use chopsticks better than most Thai people. Points for me!

Bobbing for apples, Thai-style. O is soaked.

We all love how spacey the little kids are.

where I got my "chocolate-flavored milk product"

I teach the kids the silliest faces I know.

pouty during meditation time

We did art therapy - the mushroom is mine.

I was roped into being the elephant in a skit. I didn't understand the whole jist of it, but "bad boys" threw plastic balls at me and a danced to a song at the end while everyone else sang in Thai.


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Friends in Bangkok

I am roughly 8,000 miles away from home, and if you are reading this from America somewhere, you can give or take 1,000 miles to that 8,000 to figure out how far away I am.

Even though Thailand’s a major tourist destination (which, believe me, has both major advantages and drawbacks), the cost of visiting is fairly prohibitive. Especially for a two week vacation. I was lucky that in the past week, I had not one, but two friends visit! (One, Adam, wasn’t really a visit – he moved here!)

Therefore, I had to take advantage of having people I hold dear while I have them here! Abby, a friend from International Honors Program, came and visited me in Bangkok. I had visited her a few months earlier down in southern Thailand, so now it was time for her to visit me on my home turf. I’ve been eager for awhile to show someone around Bangkok. In the four months that I’ve lived here, I’ve started making the city my own. I have a pretty decent sense of direction around the city and as I spend time around various places now, I can point out lots of places I’ve visited. I made roughly 4 different lists of different places around the city that Abby and I could visit. I wanted to make sure that there was a mix of both major cultural essentials and places that are hidden and special to my own experience. I think we ended up doing a pretty good job.

My list of things we did in Bangkok (crafted to fit Abby’s interests and reflective of what I love to do):
Wat Pho
Sri Mariamman Indian Temple
Kathmandhu Photo Gallery
Taksura Restaurant
Cabbages and Condoms Restaurant
Bee’s Nest Restaurant (a small but delicious place near my apt good for pineapple curry)
food court in Siam Paragon (what food court dreams are made of!)
Chatuchak Weekend Market
Terminal 21
Khao San Road (just to show why Bangkok is DEFINITELY best to visit when someone shows you around, rather than going by yourself)
bead shops on Charoen Krung
+ a body scrub for Abby (I drank tea and read in the lobby)

We had a jam-packed four days.

Here are some pictures of our time together.

I always find some way to get enchanted by the bead shops on Charoen Krung.

These garnets, this color combination reminded me intensely of my Grandma. Grandma loved to travel and always brought interesting things home from her trips all over the world. I found it fitting that I should find a reminder of her in a gem shop in Bangkok, a city she had visited some 20 years prior.

Especially when there are kitties involved!

I don’t remember their names in Thai, but I remembered that the names translated to “Socks” (I guess unoriginality spans across cultures) and “Going to Die Soon.”

Abby picked out beads for a gift (as I had done a few months ago) and I played with the kitties. As my dad and I would say it, the kitties were the right age to get up to all sorts of “good kitty hijinks.” One of the kittens found himself in a plastic bag and started making laps around the shop while wearing the bag. There was chasing. There was pant-leg rubbing.

At one point on Friday, we made our way to Banglamphu, another old area of Bangkok. Banglamphu is famous for Wat Pho and the Grand Palace/Wat Phra Kaew (If you google images of Bangkok, images of these major points of interest will pop up), and the backpacker destination Khao San Road (you already know how I feel about that).

Tired from kitties, we made our way to Ethos, the smoothie shop near Khao San I went to a few weeks ago with Lena and Emma.

Not as hungry as we were thirsty, we chose to order two smoothies each. Ethos has a pretty innovative menu of smoothies and I was eager to try something new. As I often do, I was thinking about the passion fruit and beetroot smoothie I had seen last time I was there. Abby and I both decided to order one. It was too beety for Abby and not quite beety enough for me. I love beets. The smoothie was good though!

We then ordered a second – I got the basil and pineapple smoothie that I ordered last time. I was burping basil all afternoon.

Onto Wat Pho – just a short walk away! Getting temple-d out is easy to do in Thailand, so we decided just to hit up Wat Pho and not the Grand Palace, mostly because Wat Pho was 50 baht and the Grand Palace was 300 baht. And Wat Pho has the giant reclining buddha! By the time we got there, there were very few tourists and no ticket taker. Free entrance! We got to wander around as the sun set and enjoy both the traditional Thai architecture, as well as the (relatively) cooler weather.

stupa-fying

The next day brought us Chatuchak, the weekend beast of Bangkok. It was as crowded as ever! This was my fourth time there and so I took less pictures. I had picked Adam up from the airport in the wee hours of the morning so I was tired and he was semi-delirious. Abby had a chance to finish up shopping and Adam had a chance to be thrown into the hectic life of Bangkok.

What time is it? It's pug o'clock!

there's always money in the banana stand

And the next day (Abby’s last in Bangkok!) we decided to do brunch. I coerced Abby and Adam (who was now running on less than 4 hours of sleep in 3 days or something like that) to see Sri Mariamman and Kathmandhu Photo Gallery, which is right across the street. Then we went to After You, which is a dessert cafe that I’ve had my eye on for awhile now. Out of the two locations I’ve seen in Bangkok, there’s always such a long line, which usually speaks well of the food.

I had honey toast! I did it all for the maple syrup.

death by maple syrup

After that, Abby and I went to Terminal 21, the most kitschy mall in existence. We had Abby’s last meal in Bangkok at Cabbages and Condoms (related to my new place of work!) and then Abby scrubbed all of the grime accumulated on her (just part and parcel of living in Thailand).

I had such a wonderful, exhausting 4 days and it was a real privilege to show Abby a city I have truly come to love. I’m looking forward to showing more people around in the future – let me know if you OR anyone you know is going to Bangkok. It’s a much better place to visit when you explore with someone who knows and loves the city – otherwise it will seem like such a hard-to-navigate mess.


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สุขสันต์วันคริสมาสต์

Merry Christmas from Bangkok! Have a wonderful time with family and please stuff your face with Christmas cookies for me. I’ve been seeing these little stuffed Christmas trees around and they’re pretty cute. It almost seems a little silly and futile, trying to make Christmastime in Bangkok like it’s Christmastime in central Illinois. Nevertheless, I’m singing “Step into Christmas” in the elevator (one of my favorites!) and finding fun things to do in Bangkok for Christmastime. This weekend, I’m planning on going to a restaurant owned and operated by the North Korean government, going to watch the Chulalongkorn University band play Christmas songs, going to a Christmas Eve service, buying myself a huge present – a gift that will keep on giving, and I’m even going on a Christmas jazz buffet nighttime cruise down the Chao Phraya River. I figure I have to keep things exciting and different.

Here are a few of my favorite Christmas things anyway.

Christmas Lights above Thayer Street

Our little demonoid pup

The annual Christmas cookie baking extravaganza

She's always cute, but she's not always sweet

What Christmas Means to Me – Stevie Wonder

Now go enjoy yourselves and your family!


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Thai Winter Wonderland

cold weather is relative

Winter has officially hit Thailand, just in time for Christmas. Everyone’s been talking lately about how cold it is outside. My roommate, Nina, and I are just glad that sweat doesn’t ooze out of every pore when we go outside. I think I’m adapting (I can usually adapt to different climates pretty easily) because I’ve been sleeping in long pajama pants and the fleece that I purchased right before coming here.

It’s so strange, because never in my life have I thought that 79 felt a little brisk. But Thai weather does strange things to the body.


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Soi Graffiti

One of the reasons I thought São Paulo was so wonderful and unique was the graffiti culture that covered all manner of public spaces. Advertising was outlawed and art reigned. I’m living in a very different megalopolis now. Maybe I don’t go to the places where I would see it often, but I find myself yearning for graffiti. Every once in awhile though, I find a gem.


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Life Lately

Today is Constitution Day in Thailand, and is my second consecutive Monday off. I’ve decided to fight off impending sickness by listening to Christmas music and avoiding leaving my apartment. I realized when I was laying in my bed doing nothing but “resting,” which, as we all know, turns quickly into napping, that I hadn’t done a post lately.

Life has been a bit humdrum and very average (average, at least, for a 22-year-old American girl living in Bangkok).

Here’s a little of what I’ve been up to since last weekend.

I set aside Saturday to wander around like crazy. I came across some truly cool things – a high class art auction, an antique map and print shop that I would have to sell my first-born to afford one of their pieces.

I found this on a soi off of Charoen Krung (a street that I have mentioned many times by now). I love Charoen Krung with my whole heart and I often wander up and down because it’s full of everything that makes Bangkok wonderful in my eyes. If you come to Bangkok to visit me, I promise I will drag you here and we will eat street food and gawk at Thai architecture.

I went to Chatuchak Market again in hopes to finish up Christmas shopping but the only thing I ended up with is a chocolate-covered frozen banana á la Arrested Development and this picture:

I followed this women through the swarm of people at the weekend market for at least 10 minutes. I was enamored by this pug. It’s not that I even like pugs that much. They just seem to be coming up in my (internet) life a lot lately.

Plans get flooded

The next day, I made plans with friends Lena and Emma to visit Koh Kret, an island on the Chao Phraya river, an hour or so north of Bangkok. We took the bus there from Victory Monument, where buses are birthed in Bangkok.

Dear Lord, have I mentioned how much I will miss the colorful taxis in Bangkok?

We caught our bus, the 166, I think, and made our way up past Nonthaburi. We found the dock without a hitch. But there’s always a hitch. Turns out, all of Koh Kret was flooded. What could we do but discover strange nuts with a mustache-like casing?

I still don’t know the name of the nut.

We headed back to Bangkok on a series of buses. We sat in traffic. We admired the shirt of a road worker that read “YO HABLO ESPAÑOL.”

We somehow ended up in Banglamphu, near Wat Pho and Khao San. Khao San Road, if you ask me, is one of the worst places in Bangkok and should be avoided at all costs. We went to a little bakery/restaurant full of backpackers who were attached to their computers. I had a really wonderful basil-pineapple smoothie that I would have again. I had kombucha for the first time – basically a fermented, yeasty, bubbly tea. I am making it sound way worse than it actually tastes (sorry, kombucha).

I saw this on Khao San and I can’t explain it and don’t want to talk about it.

My food desires get a little stranger

Last Monday, I went to Dasa Books near the Phrom Phong BTS to sell a few books I had with me (to lessen my load ever so slightly when I move next month).

I sold my books and found myself wandering into Emporium (one of Bangkok’s many, many malls) before getting back on the BTS. I discovered that Emporium has a truly great food area on their top floor, almost like Siam Paragon on a smaller scale. I found these macarons for a ridiculous price and I must confessed, I purchased them. I justified my purchase by saying that I would soon be very, very far away from anything but Thai food and I might as well get it while the gettin’ is good. So that’s how I ended up eating a wasabi macaron by myself on a lonely Monday night.

Then, because I am a lame duck employee, I did a whole lot of nothing at work all week. My Google Reader is finally under 1000, finally. But probably not for long.

Fun for FREE

I am broke as a joke these days, since I’m trying to conserve money for my big ticket purchase of 2011 (a new camera!). My coworker Aon suggested that we go to the mall on Friday night. She knows a teacher/education specialist/tarot card reader who was just getting into the tarot card game and was giving free readings. Plus, he had studied abroad in Canada and spoke English well. Maybe I did the opposite thing of what a good cornfed, Midwestern Christian would do, but I figured ‘what the heck?’ I knew I’d never actually pay money for something like this.

The setting: mall cafe, Central Rama II, Bangkok.

I had some “choconana cake,” which came highly recommended by Aon.

Crazy side note – Thailand has party bras! I thought this was a swimsuit but noooooo. Upon closer inspection, it’s definitely a bra.

Back to tarot though…

So when it was my turn I plopped down into the mall cafe booth with the biggest smile on my face. “I’m Jordan!” “Do you believe in tarot?” was my card reader’s initial question. “Nope! But this’ll be fun.”

“Do you have any questions?” he asked me. “Any questions you want to learn more about through the cards?”

“Uhhh, I guess I’m wondering about graduate school in the future and stuff like that.”

I was concentrating so hard I had to shut my eyes

So that was that. I had my tarot cards read. It was a surprisingly hilarious time. I guffawed (seriously, I hate the word ‘guffaw’ but I don’t know if there’s any other way I can appropriately identify the sounds that came from me), when, in the first round of cards I flipped over, the DEATH card showed up.

Don’t worry, everyone! Apparently, I”m not going to die anytime soon. I was told it had to do more with career interests. What can I say? I’ve always had a fascination with death and destruction.

For the sake of not revealing too many personal details, I will say that the cards looked good and my professional career looks bright and shiny and successful.

The most hilarious thing, however, was this card:

I won’t go into it, but it had me laughing and I was telling the story to a few friends on the internet later on that night and it had them laughing too. So if we skype in the near future, ask me about and I will be much obliged. (this is also just a call for people to skype with me. I’m spending Christmas away from my family. 😥 ).

My final impression – funny at the time. I wouldn’t say it said anything I didn’t already know, and it seems super easy to read the cards in so many different ways. Amusing, but I’m glad it was free.

Saturday lunch

I often dig into khao khu ka pi (shrimp paste rice) on Saturday mornings before I take the bus to the other side of the river. This Saturday, it made me horribly, horribly sick and let me tell you, I almost had an accident in Siam Paragon, the FANCIEST PLACE IN ALL OF THAILAND. I made it though. I’ll spare you the details. No more khao khu ka pi for me for awhile though.

I then proceeded to get a haircut, which can be a silly little blog post all it’s own. In this forthcoming post, I will reference a term popularized by Annie and her friend Becca – “Disastercuts.”

Gulp.

Another time though.

I think I woke up on the wrong side of the bed that day. I was real grumpy. I got my bad haircut and started and finished Mindy Kaling’s book in one day. It was just one of those days.

Sunday Funday

Sunday morning, I went to church downtown. I hadn’t been in awhile and I dearly wanted to sing Christmas songs communally, since I had already been singing them to myself since the day after Thanksgiving. So I went and had a wonderful time singing Christmas carols, listening to the message and thinking about how political I consider my faith today. Then someone started speaking in tongues and that weirded about half of the congregation out. The other half was unfazed. I was one of the fazed ones. I left thinking that I need to find a church where the pastor doesn’t seem so full of himself.

I then went to BKK Bagel Bakery near the Erawan Shrine downtown. It fills my life with non-rice carby goodness. It doesn’t touch Bagel Gourmey, but it suffices. This was the second time I had been in a week.

Sunday late afternoons are so great for spending time in the park. Like, it’s the greatest time. Why don’t I do it more often?!

Some algae I’ve been admiring for the past few weeks. It’s right outside the entrance to the park.

I was walking around the walking/running path taking pictures with both a digital and an analog camera. I found this. Chair storage on the side of a building at KMUTT. So strange and so great.

I met a new friend. A kitty friend.

streeetch

Lots of people played badminton while I jealously watched from afar. I used to kill it at badminton when I was in high school. At least, I was great in my head. And I had a fun time taking on the freshmen as a senior.



And that brings me to today. Constitution Day. I can now reveal the lameness that pervades my life on days like today.

I rested with André, my stuffed bulldog (who else am I gonna hug here?!). I read Mormon blogs. I mindlessly ate a lot of my Christmas chocolate. OK, not that mindlessly – I savor those Ghirardellis.

Right now, I’m trying to rest to not get sick and to enjoy Bangkok while I still have it. It’s off to the boonies soon.


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Outings

To quote a great poet, Ludacris, “What in the world is in that BAG, what you got in that BAG?”

What DO I have in my bag?

Now, to be fair, my bag contents today look cooler than they normally would.

I have:
-leather backpack (gifted to me from my Momma, when we were rummaging around a thrift store in Sherman, IL)
-Pentax K1000 manual 35 mm film camera (on loan from a student’s parents)
-6 rolls of film (2 Ilford, 2 Kodak, 2 Fujifilm)
-wallet (that I left on a table at a street food stall tonight! thankfully, it was returned to me in seconds. I wouldn’t know what to do without my wallet! I’ve had it forever – maybe 8 years or so?)
-ginormous strawberry lipsmackers (I haven’t used this in awhile, but everytime Annie uses hers, people think she’s a psycho who’s applying a gluestick to her face)
-iPod classic (I can’t handle anything smaller. this one, like all of my others, has my dropped so many times. it’s currently spinning lots of Christmas music and outsider music)
-phone (no, it doesn’t have internet. at least I don’t know how to use the internet nor do I need a data plan)
-kola plastic color things for photography (mentioned a few posts ago)
-tais fabric pouch (purchased in Timor, holds my Canon S95, my fun-sized flash drive, and extra SD cards)
The Hotel New Hampshire by John Irving (gifted from a friend. John Irving and his writing is so weird and warped in the best way and appeals to my sense of humor in a way that many things can’t)
-leatherman juice pocketknife (if my momma taught me anything, it’s that no girl can go without a good pocketknife!)
-tissues (because public bathrooms in Thailand more often than not don’t have tp – an important thing to know if you visit)

A lady never lets people see what’s in her bag, but I’m no lady. Also, my bag contents would normally be without the Pentax and with my kindle instead of a book. And maybe my Nikon, depending on how committed to photography I feel that day. Other notable exceptions are a small graph paper moleskine for jotting down directions and notes, my little Thai phrasebook that I take everywhere and hardly ever use, pens, and, of course, hand sanitizer.

Work has been dull this week. I’m a lame duck employee and I haven’t done much. I needed some mental stimulation, so I took the film camera I’ve had on loan since September and finally set out to snap some pictures. When getting caught up in everything else in life, it’s easy to forget how wonderful and right it feels to be fiddling with aperture and shutter speed, and to hear the click and wind, click and wind. I need to get another 35mm that’s mine pronto (actually my/my mom’s college graduation present camera which are one and the same is acting up. I would love to have it working again).

This is just to say that sometimes it’s good to remove myself from my surroundings a bit, or at least the current preoccupations, and apply myself creatively.