"Not all who wander are aimless. Especially not those who seek truth beyond tradition, beyond definition, beyond the image."

Saturday, September 27

Say what you mean & mean what you say

My morning cup of coffee:

My 9th grade English teacher once told our class to "write what you mean and mean what you write". It was a good lesson in writing--one that I carried with me to my days at Rice--but the adapted form is the one that really stuck. For the last few years, since that class, I have been trying to "say what I mean and mean what I say". It's powerful in its simplicity. How many times do we utter out hurtful words when we don't really mean them--or fail to utter loving ones? As much as this simple phrase has shaped much of me (thanks Mr. Horal), I find it ironic that I've landed in a place where "saying what I mean and meaning what I say' is a near impossibility. Welcome to the tonal Thai language. A language that doesn't give a crap if I'm tone deaf. Lets, for instance, take the word kow. A word that, depending on your tone, can mean rice, mountain, or white. The blank stare at the food stall when I ask for 'mountain' reminds me that I need a new phrase because clearly, I'm not saying what I mean. And, until I develop more of an ear for these tones, I've decided to stay away from the confusion of such words as glai---which, at mid-tone, means far but at a falling-tone means near. I'll just take a taxi, thanks.

Friday was my last day of teaching this term and I spent 15 minutes of my lunch break lost (and loving it) in translation. I visited with 'my homeroom' teachers (Mee, Ning and Kan)--none of whom speak English. For 15 minutes, we played pictionary (by the makers of necessity, not Milton Bradley) and nearly peed ourselves laughing. They tried so hard to speak English and I tried so hard to speak Thai (the sound of which, with all due respects, mirrors the sounds you may hear in a special-needs class) and every now and then, we'd recognize a word. Completely and utterly out of context, but a word nonetheless. 15 minutes, 3 words, an aching stomach and watery eyes later, I realized the full power of a smile--the full power of laughter. It's something that is multilingual--knowing no borders--and luckily, no tones. So, while our Thai fluency may be forever a work-in-progress, one thing for sure--Rach and I know how to laugh and smile---and by Buddha are we!!

Because work wants to give me a month off AND pay me a 1/3 of my salary, we're Bali-bound! We're flying to Indonesia on Wednesday, Oct. 1st and will spend 2.5 weeks exploring another country--another culture--. 2 of my BFFFFL's from Rice, Ashley (better known by readers of my blog as "hussy from houston" :) ) and Cait, will be meeting us in Bali on the 14th and I CANNOT wait! I know it's going to be an amazing trip and I can't wait to see my girls again. And yes, Ashley mommy dear, I have researched Indonesia and you can be assured that we will be smart travelers. So the mommy's out there can sleep peacefully, I've registered with the US embassy and have made them aware of my plans to travel there---so no worries, the US government has got my back!! haha.

Because several people have asked: Rachel and I are both working at a place called Fun Language. The majority of my classes are 4-6years old but I have 1 older class of 11 year olds. Fun Language pretty much acts as a middle man and sends us to different schools. I have 4 different schools...and several hundred students in total. Other than a few bad days here and there, I LOVE my kids--love my schedule--love it. Rach will start training on Oct. 2oth and then will be assigned to schools. It's a perfect set up because, while we'll be working together, it's very unlikely we'll be working at the same schools. So our jobs will be our own space, but we'll have all the same holidays/term breaks, etc. Everything else is going well. We have survived our first month of living in a 2x2 box (ok, so it's not THAT small...) together and show no signs of converting to the "I'll just shove you in the closet and lock it if I get sick of you" contingency plan!! We have been meeting a lot of people--Thai and foreigners alike and are just soaking up the culture of this place. In true Elizabeth Gilbert (Author of Eat, Pray, Love) form, I've made a "you teach me Thai, I'll teach you English" arrangement with the women that work at our apartment building and Rach made a similar arrangement with a woman that lives in the apartment building next door--hopefully commencing upon our return from Indonesia.

Skype: The internet in our apartment slows significantly when there are a lot of people online. Because of that, I'm only able to get a Skype connection early in the morning or late, late at night. Which, is ok with the time difference. But that's why I haven't been on too much lately. Hopefully it will get better. Thanks to everyone who has downloaded it...it means so much that you can still only be a phone call away.

For anyone who remembers/knows my forever friend Randi, send good thoughts her way! She's walking down the isle on Sept. 27th!! Congrats Rand--I'm there in spirit. Love you.

Friday, September 19

Top 10: You know you've adjusted well when

(in no particular order...)
Instead of gawking at the adorable baby elephants walking down the street, you get disgusted at the people using them to make a buck.

You're not from 'the States', not from the 'USA', not even from America....you're from A-mer-ee-cahh!

The occassional splurge on Western food makes you ill

A meal costing over 150 Baht (5 dollars) is reserved for special occasions

You may be an English teacher, but proper English grammar is out and local pidgin is in---with a special focus on tones

You've started applying baby power to your face in hopes that it will make your skin look half as good as the theirs

The workers in the local market not only know you, they know what you want to eat and how you like it cooked/made

You've graduated from 'mai ped' (not spicy) to 'nit-noy' (a little) and are happy your taste buds are adjusting

The Thai kids you teach are amazed by your 2 Thai phrases and automatically think you are fluent...not only in Thai, but also in Chinese...

You've started giving the 'asian peace sign' in pictures...

and one for good measure:
The locals call you up and tell you (in above mentioned pidgin) to come play futsol...and luckily, you've mastered 3 of the most important words in soccer: chi, chi (YES, YES....soccer translation: GIVE ME THE FREAKIN BALL), mai chi (NO...soccer translation: DON'T YOU DARE PLAY ME THAT HOSPITAL BALL), Yiing (SHOOT....soccer translation: FREAKIN SHOOT)