wander process

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Buriram Life

Lately, my job has consisted/will consist of:

  • weathering massive, destructive storms
  • thinking a lot
  • tripping my way through 12th century Khmer ruins (Buriram is famous for them! I’m with my coworker, Hannah, at Phanom Rung)
  • tripping on non-historical rocks with an armful of books, landing myself some skinned knees
  • learning about the life and death of ants
  • drinking so much coconut water on visits to villages
  • frantically traveling all over Thailand, making friends with taxi drivers when I can
  • trying to persuade (unsuccessfully) visitors to eat crickets
  • being told by many people that my voice I use when speaking Thai is “cute” and “lovely” (unfortunately, my voice is cute but my grammar and vocabulary are atrocious)

The hot season is upon us in Buriram and I am dreaming of faraway (cooler) places! If it’s 80 degrees here in the morning, I start to feel giddy because of how cool the weather is.

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Wizard Milk

Let me be open and honest from the beginning. While you can usually count on me to eat wild and crazy things (or anything, really, for that matter) there’s one type of drink that I’m very picky about, and that is MILK. I will not drink whole milk, I will not drink 2% milk. I don’t even like to think about drinking them. I don’t particularly like the smell of them. While I haven’t made too much of a foray into non-dairy milks, suffice to say, I’m skeptical of how thick they are. I tried soy milk once and I was less than impressed.

So for a country on a continent that isn’t known for its lactose tolerance, I’ve noticed that there’s a milky drink that Thai people love. I noticed it the first time around but never got around to trying it out, since the area where I am least adventurous in the food department is with milk. This time around, I was similarly skeptical. I honestly thought everyone in Thailand was drinking palm-sized bottles of soy milk. I’d find them littered around my classroom in Bangkok, dried milk stuck to the bottom and various classroom supplies shoved in the bottles.

I finally got around to asking Nina what in the world these small milky thingswere. “Oh,” she told me, “it’s just milk with bacteria. Like yogurt milk. It’s lemon-y tasting.”

You might think I’m joking when I say this, but I was sold at this point. I love all of the weirdest things an milk with active cultures was no exception. I purchased some the very next day. I was (and still am) completely and totally hooked. The taste is tangy, but it’s not from any lemon flavoring. It’s from the bacteria. Normal bottles are very small – maybe only 2-3 inches tall. It’s full of Lactobacillus casei and probably isn’t meant for large quantities of consumption. You know what probiotics can do to you, I won’t go into details. I love it so much, however, that I would start buying it ginormous bottles (which are still smaller than your average soda bottle in the US, but soda isn’t filled with pribiotic bacteria either).

Nina would tell me, “Jordan, I don’t think you’re supposed to be drinking that much of it.”

But I’m keeping it up and the novelty still hasn’t worn off. It’s not the morning anymore unless I drink my bacterial sludge. During my last trip to Bangkok, Adam and I stopped in the Tesco Express before making our way downtown (I don’t think I’ve ever made the trip downtown without buying some sort of drink first). I walked along the wall of refrigerated drinks and selected a medium-sized bottle of Betagen (my favorite brand). “You’re drinking that wizard milk?” Adam told.

I couldn’t help but laugh. The bottles do have a funny little wizard man on them (that’s how I know they’re my favorite).

This just goes to show that even I am scared to try foods sometimes. Even foods that soon become my favorite things. You can read more about this magical, bacterial sludge by reading about Yakult, which is the original bacterial sludge drink. You should be able to find it it specialty food stores too. I challenge you to find some and try it, and tell me what you think.

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On the Occasion of an Anniversary

Today is one of those rare Wednesdays that happens to also be a public holiday.

Makha Bucha Day, to be exact.

So you can imagine my surprise when I was woken by a knock at the door.

The Teleflora man! With beautiful flowers! For me!

Just kidding. No one sent me flowers. But it was nice that Makha Bucha Day fell on a very special day for me. Today marks 6 months since moving to Thailand.

And what a special, amazing 6 months those have been.

So I thought it would be in order to snip a few blooms from the ever-present bougainvillea bushes to jazz up my living quarters.

After completing my cat-sitting duties for the morning, I used my trusty pocketknife (an essential for every girl! I don’t leave home without it.) to find the brightest assortment of all of the bougainvillea colors.

I made sure to be careful for thorns. I filled up a bottle of soda water (a new introduction into my life, thanks to Nora. I use it to add some bubbles to my veggie juice).

And now they’re sitting happily on the table in my room, a reminder of the small things that sometimes make me the happiest.

Here’s to more beautiful months with you, Thailand. You’ve treated me well.

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If you’ve been keeping up with me in real life, then you have probably already figured out that my blog is waaay behind on things that are actually happening with me. So I’ll take the time to explain it now.

I moved to Thailand because of a teaching job that I took. I knew however, that teaching was more or less the opposite of what I wanted to be doing with my life. Through some meetings and networking in Bangkok, I was granted a meeting with one of the world leaders in health and education, Khun Mechai Viravaidya (he even won a Gates Award for Global Leadership!). Khun Mechai (khun is a word you use in Thai to denote respect for an elder) is the founder of the Population and Community Development Association. He’s the man responsible for massive amounts of change in the Thai birth rate and for his work in HIV/AIDS prevention. He’s more commonly known as the founder of Cabbages & Condoms Restaurant.

With a combination of luck and hard work, I landed myself a job working for the Village Development Partnership and the Mechai Pattana School in Lamplaimat, Buriram Province. I’ve been living here since early January. While my work description has been still kind of fuzzily defined, I’ve managed to keep myself busy. I’ve been researching different types of progressive models of education, I’ve helped write grants, I’ve been doing video work. I’ve also had the opportunity to meet some really cool people and philanthropists. Soon, I’ll be hopefully writing case studies on microfinance or possibly helping with the development of a health curriculum. Who knows?!

I’ve been helping the school out by teaching English 2 hours a week. There’s a striking difference between the rich, educated children I taught in Bangkok and the plucky, rural students I teach here. We’ve managed to talk about some funny things though – everything from planking to drug dealers to porcupines.

Here are a few videos from the organization (that I did not make, for the record) that’ll give you a better idea of the organization I’m working for and the surroundings I live in.

Life is rural, a far cry from how I lived in Bangkok. Since I live 10km from the nearest town, I spend almost all of my time around the school.

I’ve come to treasure my routine though. I wake up around 6:45 these days. I go to bed by 10 or 10:30. I like the early to bed, early to rise schedule. It suits me. I read a lot. I watch too much TV (still under 1/3 of the US national average – I checked – but I have extremely mixed feelings about TV in general). I work out every night. I don’t have internet where Iive, which makes motivation for working out much easier. I listen to a lot of podcasts (nothing new really, just the 4 or so that I’ve always listened to). If you have any kind of culture related suggestion that you feel strongly about, then share with me, please! I’m always looking for new books to read, music to listen to, podcasts to enrich myself with.

The air is clear here. The nights are generally quiet, save the sometimes deafening buzz of the cicadas.

The most stressful things I deal with are the geckos. I sincerely hate them. Imagine me trying to watch a show at night, in my pajamas, when a stinking gecko is rustling around in my luggage! I haven’t felt that much adrenaline in a very long time. I hopped from bed to bed with my Thai-style broom, flipping my suitcase around, trying to get that darn lizard out. Sometimes I forget that he was probably more scared of me than I was of him.

Yesterday, while sweeping out my room (which I do multiple times a day, Mom!), I found a dead gecko. Gross. Just gross.

I’m fine with the quiet lifestyle though. I value all of the time I have to read things I’ve wanted to read for awhile, watch the TV shows I never watched before because I always felt like I either didn’t have the time or had something better to do. The highlights of my weekends are skype chats with friends and family who keep me, me. What would I do without skype?

While the thought of moving back to Bangkok is enticing, I really appreciate the time I have here to live on my own terms (kind of, I still don’t have transportation, really). It makes visits with friends that much more special. I’m truly grateful that I have fun people I can see in Bangkok when I do! Sometimes trips to a big city are totally welcome, both in terms of hanging out with people and giving my system a little break from rice (I bet I’ve had more rice than you this year).

Pictures will unfold soon. Granted, they may not be as exciting or busy as the ones from Bangkok, but this is my life now. I haven’t taken pictures of my room yet since I hadn’t confirmed if I will be moving my room or not (I’m staying put).

I have plenty of post ideas in my head – of the bamboo architecture, the bougainvillea, the fruit, and of course, tons of food. Until then, enjoy the work-related videos and feel relieved that you finally know where I’m working and what my job is!

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Into the Heart of Isaan

It has been a shamefully long time since I’ve made a video to share with you. I made one of my trip to Luang Prabang, but there were sound issues with it that I never figured out how to resolve and I was too embarrassed to post it here.

Nevertheless, here is the video of my trip this past Sunday, from Bangkok to Buriram province on the train (now available in HD for your viewing pleasure!).

The whole 8 hour journey cost me 63 baht (or US$2.07). Only 3rd class seats, no air conditioning. I loved the feeling of air on my face the whole day. Until, of course, I tried to start to rub the dirt off of my face. Then, I wasn’t so enamored.You don’t want to see the kleenexes I used to wipe my face.

It was a pleasant journey, and a relaxing way to enjoy the views of Bangkok, Ayutthaya (check out that old-school stupa around 2:00!), Khao Yai National Park, Pak Chong Reservoir, and Khorat. I didn’t actually film up to Lamplaimat, simply because the views out my window were pitch black.

Before the train took off, I sat in the train at the station. I was pleased that had I paid so little for this journey. I was happy I had the time to soak up the experience of train travel again (my favorite way to travel!). I felt joy that this is my life.