Monday, August 31, 2009

Thai Dreams and Mee-Baan’s! (Pronounced: May-bons)

I am learning a lot from my Thai Instructor, Ruang.  Aside from the language, she teaches me about all things Thai.  Recently we discussed Thai dreams and this is what I learned.  If a woman dreams about snakes it means she will meet her soulmate/lover that day.  If the snake is a white snake then maybe the woman’s soulmate/lover will be a Farang (Westerner) and this makes a Thai woman a very happy woman!  If a Thai person dreams about “poo” (as in fecal matter) it means that you will become very rich.  Thai people always want to dream about “poo” apparently.  Thai people take their dreams very seriously and truly believe in them and their significance. 

So with that being said – this weekend Joe and I went out to dinner at an Italian restaurant called Limoncello.  All the Americans here rave about this restaurant and we wanted to try it out.  We were definitely NOT disappointed – the food was delicious!  So when we arrived we did not have reservations so they seated us in a back table near the kitchen that turned out quite nice.  They had a wood fire oven in which they prepared the pizza’s and there was a counter right there and I could clearly see the chef preparing all the pizza’s – highly entertaining.  They have every pizza you can imagine – thin crust too.  You can create your own combination or order one they have on the menu already created.  I ordered a Rustica – mushrooms, Italian sausage and sliced tomatoes.  Joe had a stuffed pork cutlet that was quite good.  We got an appetizer that was cooked spinach with Parmesan cheese mixed in it and melted on top – yum!  Oh and Tiramisu for dessert!  So the best part was when we arrived at the table next to us was another couple – an older man either Australian or British but I think Australian AND a beautiful young Thai woman.  You see this all the time here.  Shortly after we sat down, I heard the man say to the woman, “Do you even remember my name?”  She responds, “Peter!”  He responds, “No, it’s John!”  Anyhow, at some point they get up and she goes to the restroom and he goes out for a smoke.  Joe leans over and says to me, “I think she dreamt of a white snake covered in poo!”  We both got a good laugh over this one.  I told my Thai instructor, Ruang, about this today and she was laughing so hard she was almost crying.  The couple was very nice though – they spoke to us a couple times as I ended up ordering the same pizza as they did and they were commenting on how good it was and wanted to know my thoughts.  Then they were admiring our dessert too. 

So as I am writing this, my new mee-baan (Maid) is cleaning our apartment.  It’s quite nice I must say and I am afraid this is going to really spoil me.  At first I wasn’t sure I wanted a mee-baan but the Thai’s really do look down upon you if you do not get one.  The management office workers here at our apartment complex were starting to make some comments to me about it so I figured it was time.  Our mee-baan is Khun Raksi and she is from Burma.  She has worked for other embassy families for years and currently does part-time work for two other families – we will be her third.  She will work for us on Mondays and Thursdays from 1pm to 5pm.  She will clean all the floors, bathrooms, kitchen, do laundry and ironing, clean the balconies, water the plants on the balconies, dusting, run errands (dry cleaning etc), grocery shopping and cooking.  She is older than us – probably in her 40’s and has two grown children.  She lives with her mother and helps take care of her.  She was very happy to learn that we would be in Thailand for three years as this means she is gainfully employed for three years so long as she does a good job.  She is very nice, neat, clean and polite.  Today is her first day and she asked that I be here the first week in case she has any questions about what to do or where to find items.  Fair enough.  So I am sitting on my butt writing in my blog while she is hard at work.  It is quite nice! 

I have many pictures to post, as I have not updated my blog for a while.  Hopefully those are soon to come.  It’s been so long that I am not sure I remember how to post the pictures!  I have been on a number of adventures – Walking tour with the women’s club was one big highlight – included a trip to the Golden Mount in Thailand, watching people make monk bowls, the Giant Swing etc.  Last week I went on another walking tour thru China Town.  Tomorrow I am going on a private tour of the Counterfeit Museum with the women’s club.  Later in the month I will take a one-day Greek cooking class and I hope to eventually take a Thai cooking class too!  Oh and I must take a picture of my Thai writing and post it – that is on my to do list.  Ruang is teaching me how to write my Thai numbers – she gave me an A+++ and was amazed at how well I did.  Apparently many American’s have difficulty with this.  She gave me quite a high score and was highly impressed but it was “yaak maak maaaaaaaaaak” (difficult very, very).  But everyone keeps asking about them so I’ll have to take a picture of my artwork to post.  I call it artwork because it is basically drawing if you ask me.  She asked me if I was a talented artist and I laughed.  I normally have issues drawing stick figures! 

OK think I’ll go do a little reading now and try to put a dent in my current read, “Shantaram,” as it is 1000 pages long and I am only on page 200!  

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Walking in Bangkok

So last week Joe had to take the car in for inspection at the embassy.  When he drove it home after working it was 5pm.  We live about 3 miles from where he works.  The traffic (rot-dtit in Thai) was terrible – it took him almost two hours to drive 3 miles home!  He hasn’t driven the car since then and I am still too afraid to drive it here! 

No driving means LOTS of walking for me, which results in calloused feet.  I went to the spa and had them work on my calloused feet.  Today was my second visit in about a week or two.  Every time I have visited them to work on my feet they have had two-hand towels worth of dry skin in the end.  The Thai ladies cannot believe it!  My feet hurt all the time so I now go once or twice a week for a one-hour foot massage.  I just ordered a pedometer online as I am curious how much walking I do in a day here.  On Monday, Wednesday, and Thursday I have Thai language class.  I always walk to it and then walk to Joe’s office to meet him for lunch.  If we are lucky we will see Bubba while walking to lunch.  There is a pond near Joe’s work and Bubba lives in the pond.  Bubby is a fish that is truly the size of a loveseat.  No lie – we originally thought it was just a legend – but we have seen Bubba with our own eyes – he is enormous!  After lunch I usually try to go walking until dinner – so I get a good 5 hours of walking in each day.  Otherwise, if I go home, I will sleep all afternoon because Thai language is mentally exhausting.  So we’ll see what the pedometer tells me in the end.  Speaking of walking, last Friday I went on a walking tour of Bangkok with the American Women’s Club (AWC) of Bangkok.  They sponsor monthly walking trips somewhere within the city.  They pick a specific neighborhood and we tour it.  I must say this was a lot of fun even though it was a long day and we were all quite nasty afterwards due to sweating and rain.  We all met up at Starbucks and then the drivers took us to the port to meet a water taxi.  We took a water taxi across the Chao Phraya River to some park.  It was absolutely amazing and hard to believe we were still in Bangkok.  It was very green there with lots of interesting trees and flowers in bloom.  It was somewhat marshy like in some areas and they had all these concrete walkways around the park and area just around the park.  These concrete walkways actually go through people’s homes – a number of them had little convenience stands set up along the way for people to buy water or snacks.  The homes were like little shacks and the people there live very simple lives.  Our guide was this guy Frank who migrated here in the 1960s with his family and has been here ever since.  He was a very funny guy who reminded me of Joe’s Uncle Fabio for some reason!  Anyhow he is starting up his own business doing walking tours of Bangkok.  He will take groups large and small and passed out his business card to all of us.  On this trip though it started raining the minute we left Starbucks.  The seats on the water taxi were soaked so we all were pretty wet by the time we got to the other side of the river.  The rain stopped and then it was just muggy, hot and humid.  We walked for about 5 hours total and had a lunch break at Au Bon Pain.  After lunch we went to Kakao Chocolate Factory for a little take home dessert.  I then walked about 20 minutes back to the BTS to go home.  I was sore all weekend from this walk. 

I rarely see Thai’s sweating here and one of Joe’s coworkers told us that Thai’s have calculated at what rate they should walk to avoid sweating – I am guessing that is why they all walk VERY slow and are NEVER in a hurry to get anywhere.  Meanwhile all the Farangs (Westerners) are dripping with sweat.  I did learn something that does help with the sweating – duh deodorant!  However, apparently it is not just for underarms!  Basically you can use it on any part of your body that sweats a lot and it works.  Well it doesn’t mean you won’t sweat – you just won’t sweat as much!  But it does make a huge difference.  When I learned this I did try it out right away and when I realized it actually does work I laughed and told Joe I was going to bathe in deodorant daily because my entire body sweats!  Because of the sweating, I have cut back on how much makeup I wear.  I do not wear eyeliner or eye shadow anymore at all.  I usually just put on foundation and maybe a little blush and waterproof mascara and that’s it. 

If I am out walking for any length of time here my hands and feet swell up real bad due to the heat and humidity plus the Thai food has a LOT of salt in it.  I can no longer wear my diamond ring and may end up ditching the wedding band too.  There is a local jeweler who offers great discounts to embassy personnel and she told me that your ring size goes up an entire size here in Bangkok because of the swelling.  I think my wedding band is a size 9 (yes I have fat fingers) but here she measured me as a 9 ¾ - YIKES! 

When walking you need to keep your eyes on the ground for various reasons.  You never know when there is a cat-sized rat lurking.  Joe and I saw an entire herd of them one night.  Another excellent reason though is that the sewage line runs under the sidewalks.  You need to be careful of holes so that you don’t step in the sewage but also of loose cement blocks in the sidewalks.  If you step on a loose block you sometimes get sewage water shot all the way up your shorts/skirts etc.  I have yet to have this experience and hope I never do! 

I am always amazed at the shoes that the Thai’s wear here.  Usually they are in little itty-bitty pointy heels and I do not understand how they walk in this city in them without tripping and breaking every bone in their body.  If they aren’t wearing heels then they are wearing flip flops – I have actually seen people wear flip flops with a nice business suit – not just for their commute to work – no they actually are at work wearing flip flops with a nice business suit. 

So a few weeks ago Joe and I met up one morning with our friend Jackie to go to brunch at Crepes & Co.  We had these young Thai girls/students dressed in uniforms approach us and ask us if they could take our pictures and they wanted to be in the picture with us.  Then they had a questionnaire in English that they wanted us to complete.  I assume it was for some school project so we were happy to assist them.  I think they thought we were tourists though but their English was not great so I did not try to explain that to them!  Anyhow they just asked where we were from, how long we were visiting Thailand, if we like it here etc.  They were very simple and basic questions.  They were very excited though and took LOTS of pictures. 

Tuesday I plan on studying all day as I have a huge test on all of Chapter 1 for Thai Language on Wednesday – and we covered a LOT in that chapter.  The rest of the week is wide open and likely I will do some shopping, exploring, reading and pool time!