wander process

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Love, Thai Style

News of my coworkers’ impending wedding came in April or so and knowing that it would be in bad form to not invite coworkers, I eagerly awaited my invitation.

When the invitation finally came, I could not have been more pleased. Getting the invite was great enough. The greatest part, however, was the realization that I was about to attend a Hello Kitty-themed wedding. Hello Kitty holding a bottle milk (that conveniently read “MILK”) was emblazoned all over the background of the wedding invite. It was like a bad stereotype come true.

Thai weddings are reserved for people close to the family, so all of the coworkers met up at the wedding reception, which was held at a large building on the edge of Lamplaimat. I slapped some make up on my face and put on my fancy beads that weigh roughly as much as a small child. I met up with Stephanie, an intern at the school for the summer (you will see more of her in the coming posts), and we set off to congratulate Ouey and Op and celebrate their nuptial bliss.

I gave Ouey a big hug and told her how beautiful she looked on her special day. Some things don’t change across cultures. I also slipped them a little money. Wedding gifts in Thailand are almost always money. And money that you give has to be an even amount, otherwise it’s bad luck or something.

We strolled into the reception hall and were confronted with what might be the most ridiculous thing I’ve even seen at a wedding. A larger-than-life-size banner of Ouey and Op in their wedding clothes, looking all cutesy and pointing at each other.

It seems like elaborate table set-ups are a given, no matter what country you go to a wedding reception in. This one, I was told, was Chinese-style.

All of the tables were provided with cheap, flat, watered-down alcohol. I was sitting around a table with my coworkers, and we saw that some of our students were also attending the wedding reception. They bashfully came over to our table, said a quick hello, gave us the alcohol from their table, and promptly left.

For the next hour or so, there was a lot of sitting around and enjoying/trying to identify the food. Here are some shots of my lovely coworkers:

Bell, Kum, and Oi

Nat, Nim, Nim’s boyfriend, Add

Ty, me, Stephanie

At one point in the night, I was coerced into trying to catch the bouquet (I was surprised they even had the bouquet toss). There were not many single ladies attending the reception, so it ended up being me and a handful of the other teachers. I didn’t want to be the strange, bouquet-snatching white girl at the reception, so I hung back a little and let my coworkers battle for the bouquet. Oi emerged the victor.

The bride and groom made their way through the guests, stopping to take pictures with everyone. Then came time for our crew.

And then it was time for the final picture of the night before the jet-legged Stephanie and I made our way back to our rooms. I wasn’t sure what to expect going into the reception, but I suppose like all wedding receptions, it depends on the company you keep. And my coworkers were a blast to hang out with.




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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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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!