So the laundry place at the university had been closed all last week and I ran out of clothes. One day I walked outside and saw the group of Pilipinos (who are living in the international dorms too) hanging laundry outside. So I decided to join them. I pulled up my sleeves and washed my clothes in my little bathroom sink and them hanged them out to dry. I was very proud of my self. It took two days for the clothes to dry and when they were dry they were super wrinkly and smelling…darn. Luckily, the laundry place opened up. I gave them three loads of laundry and early the next morning the laundry was clean, dried, and folded…So how much do you think I paid for this service? 90 baht ($3). That’s right. It costs $1.75 to use a washer and dryer on one load of laundry…and you have to do it yourself. I love this place…and I’m going to come back even more spoiled than I already am.
Thursday, May 22, 2008
Okay, so apparently you can't be in a foreign country without getting some sort of weird sickness, right? Well, I am praying that this is the worse I get...but about a week and a half ago weird bumps started appearing on my lips. I thought it was cold sores from all the pineapple I was eating, but then the bumps spread to the skin all around my mouth and then my mouth started to swell. Weird and gross. The picture doesn't show it very well, but it was pretty sick. We finally decided that I was allergic to something and that the weird bumps were a rash and not cold sores.
Jul drilled me on what I had eaten the past week. Fruit, rice, fish sauce, coconut milk, and a bunch of other stuff. She still seemed puzzled. "Did you put anything strange on your mouth or peel anything?" Earlier in the week I had put on lip plumper that is rumored to contain snake venom to irritate the lips so they swell. Jul wasn't convinced that the lip stuff (made in America and approved by the FDA) was the cause. "Hmmm, well I peeled a mango with my teeth a few days ago." Jul's eyes widened, "That's it!" Apparently mango peels have some kind of acid in them that can cause skin irritation...on top of that, I didn't wash the mango before I peeled. Oh Madeleine Mahoney: where was my old roommate, who is obsessed with washing fruit and veggies, when I needed her?
Posted by ~alyse at 6:21 AM
This was one of the coolest things I've ever done. Last Sunday night was Buddha's birthday, the anniversary of his enlightenment, and the anniversary of his death. Starting at 7:39pm (9 is a number of good fortune) thousands of people began climbing a winding mountain road up to the Wat Doi Suthep (a 17-mile hike). We started at 9pm and I guess my adrenaline kicked in because I had tons of energy going up, but it still took me 3 hours. Vendors lined the road selling rice, noodles, water, candy, corn, fruit, and marajuna (even though there were tons of signs with an anime characters giving 'thumbs up' saying "No Smoking Alcohol"). Old women dressed in white, children, teenagers, adults, monks, g'toies (transvestites--very popular in Thailand), rich people, poor people--the crowd was very diverse in age, social status, and cultural beliefs. However, everyone was Asian...that is, of course, except for us. We stuck out like sore thumbs.
I was pretty proud of myself when I finally made it to the top of the mountain. I thought the hard part was done; now all I had to do was ascend the stairs...turns out there were 300 stairs up to the top of Wat Doi Suthep, and to make matters worse thousands and thousands of people were trying to go up to the Wat. I have never seen anything like it in my entire life. People were squished right up to each other trying to push through the crowd to worship in the Wat. Half way up I couldn't handle it any more. I jumped over the side of the stairs into the jungle and climbed up the steep hill leading to the Wat. I grabbed on to vines, branches, and anything else I could get a hold of to keep me from falling to my death. I wasn't the only person hiking up this way, but I was definitely the only white girl--everyone was laughing at me. It took about an hour to get up the steps.
So I made it to the top. Wahoo! Once I walked into the Wat I joined a procession of people circling around the sacred pagoda in complete silence. Old women were asleep under sacred statues. It was a once in a life time experience.
Posted by ~alyse at 5:37 AM
After the Butterfly Farm and Snake Farm we went to the Monkey Farm. When we walked in there was a monkey sitting with a man waiting to greet us. I have no idea what kind of monkey he was, but he was very cute and nice. In order to make sure the monkey didn’t escape the workers put an iron chain around his neck…As I looked out over the farm there were 30-40 monkeys in a large cage and they all had chains around their necks. To make things more depressing, over the loud speakers a sad sappy Thai song droned throughout the park. There were a lot of people who had a hard time at this place because it looked like a prison. We were fine with snakes in the cages, but because monkeys are so human-like it was difficult not to feel sorry about their imprisonment.
Posted by ~alyse at 5:33 AM
Wednesday, May 21, 2008
Okay...This place was super cool! It was located in a small run-down, kind of "sketchy," cement building. Old cages housed pythons, king cobras, alligators, and lizards. A lot of the cobras were feisty (I have a feeling they were made to be irritated so they would give a better show). One of the king cobra's kept striking at us as we goggled him. They metal cage between us and him protected us from his deadly bite, but it bruised and cut up his face with every strike until blood dripped down his nose...it was kind of sad; never thought I'd feel sorry for a king python.
After walking around the farm we were privileged to witness the infamous "Chiang Mai Snake Farm Show!" The theme from Rocky rang through the open air facility. We excitedly took our seats on the rough wood benches preparing for the show of all shows. The emcee spoke some scripted English with a heavy Thai accent. Every time he said anything he would turn the music all the way down: that part alone was pretty hilarious. Then this super attractive Thai boy (probably 15 unfortunately) came out and threw two king cobras to the ground; they immediately started hissing and cussing (okay, they weren't cussing, but they would have been had they been allowed to speak). The cute Thai boy knelt down and poked them with a stick and jumped back every time the snakes got super mad and started to strike. All the girls sat on the back row of the stands. We were squealing and folding up into contorted positions in order to protect us just in case the snakes decided to jump 20 feet into the air and attack us.
Now I know what some of you might be thinking...they took out the poison and the fangs so the snakes weren't dangerous...but the emcee informed us that NO, the snakes still had poison and fangs and they showed us through some random demonstrations. Side note: did you know that a drop of King cobra venom will kill an elephant in one hour...yes ladies and gentlemen...an elephant. Be grateful I survived.
The next snake they showed us was a jumping snake. It was in a wooden box at first. The snake people poked at the snake and you would see his tail flip up and then his head...and then with out warning I saw the snake fly across the room in slow motion! His teeth gnarling, venom spiting from his mouth, his body ready to strangle the neck he fell on. Luckily the snake landed on Brighten who was sitting right next to me...and luckily the snake wasn't a snake, but a rope. All of us girls screamed and flew into the fetal position while the snake guys and guys in our group laughed and laughed...ugh boys.
So all of that was pretty cool, but the coolest part was that I, yes me, got to hold a real live python! They wrapped it around my neck and it immediately started squeezing. I could not relax. I just squealed and laughed uncontrollably, but you try holding a python. It didn't help that the cute boy had a two-pronged something that he pricked into the back of my leg...ugh boys.
Posted by ~alyse at 5:47 AM
On Friday we went to a lot of touristy places. The first place we went to was the Butterfly farm. This place was really beautiful, but it was anticlimactic compared to the Night Safari the night before. They had rows and rows of hanging orchids; the roots dangled two feet below in the open air. The butterflies were kinda cool, but seeing butterflies out in the open is more exciting than seeing them in a cage...that is all butterflies except these monster butterflies. They were huge!...and disgusting. They looked like a tarantula with wings.
The coolest part of the place was their gift shop. They took the actual butterfly wings or orchid petals and put them in lacquer and then made necklaces and earrings. They were awesome! I definitely think I am going to get some before I leave. If anyone wants me to get them a set I'd be more than happy to do so...
Posted by ~alyse at 5:33 AM
This was by far the coolest zoo I've ever been to in my entire life. I was expecting the night Safari to be located out in the boonies: a run-down "sketchy" cement building where bugs, dogs, and lizards roamed freely--this was the common scene I had experienced of Chiang Mai thus far...However, this was not so with this night safari. At dusk we drove into a large gated property. Deer casually grazed on the beautifully manicured lawn. Lights highlighted the gorgeous architecture complete with pagodas and intricately designed statues of elephants and dragons.
As soon as we got there we were directed to an open air trolley which drove us around the park to see lions, tigers, bears, deer, hogs, alligators, and cougars as they roamed in their large caged-off habitats. That ride alone satisfied our craving to see exotic animals, however, as soon as that ride was finished we were ushered off to a second trolley ride which led us to observe animals of the savanna: elephants, zebras, giraffes, hippos, and rhinos. The zebras roamed freely about the park. About fifteen of them blocked our road. We got to see the animals up close as they slowly moved to let the trolley through. It was so cool because all of the animals were out and about (most are nocturnal). Even the lions, tigers, and bears were visible, unlike zoos at home where the animals hide in their cheap plastic caves during the day.
One of the best parts of the night was our tour guide. He spoke English, but it was adorned with a thick Thai accent. He expounded on the ferocity of some of the animals warning us that if we were to leave the trolley and jump the electrical fence we would "die--forsure." As we looked at the black bears he explained that black bears will attack the first moving object so we must be very still if we ever meet one in the wild. However, if we meet a mama bear with her cubs we should run or we would "die--forsure." When we drove up to the large white tigers we oohed and awed and awaited the tour guide's explanation of how to avoid being eaten alive were we to meet a tiger in the wild. "If you meet a tiger in the wild, you shouldn't run away; you should just let him eat you because if you try to run away you will die--forsure."
I thought we were done with our night safari, but as I was adoring the beautiful open air marble women's bathroom I heard the theme from "Star Wars" blast through the park. Jessica came running in and told everyone in the bathroom to hurry out because something was going to happen. We ran out to the park's sparkling lake and lo and behold--A gigantic water screen projecting night safari images across the sky. Whoa--wasn't expecting that one. After the dramatic introduction the screen expanded, fountains started bursting out from the depths of the lake, colorful lazers and lights filled the dark purple horizon as the lake transformed into a breathtaking light show. We all laughed as the colorful swashes danced to the them from "Mission Impossible." I couldn't believe that the park chose to give this amazing presentation even though there were only 30 or 40 people in attendance that night. How do these guys stay in business?
So I thought that the light show was for sure the end of the Chiang Mai night Safari, but no...that's right...there was more! We walked through a third section of the park that highlighted more animals including fish, birds, snakes, tigers, porcupines, and hyenas. One of the coolest parts of this section off the zoo was when we disturbed a tiger. One of the big cages held two gorgeous white Siberian tigers. We were so close to them that I could have reached out and touched one. No flash photography was allowed because it bothers the animals and Jon said that if the tigers got mad enough they could easily jump the 15-foot walls holding them in...but you can't get a good image if a tiger is crouched within a dark cement cage. So what did I do? I gave my camera to my friend, Zach, and told him to take flash pictures of the animals while I hid behind Jul. He willingly obliged. The animal got angrier and angrier until finally he had had it with all the flashes. He crouched his gigantic body into an attack position and then "pounced" against the cage wall which sent a loud rattling echo throughout the park; Jul and I took off running and screaming...and can you believe it?--all of this for only 250 baht ($8).
Posted by ~alyse at 3:06 AM
Last Friday we started the day by hiking through a jungle to explore some beautiful waterfalls. It was super slippery and humid; bugs were everywhere. However, we hardly noticed because we were transfixed with the unique foliage that we rarely see in the States. As we were hiking I asked if there were tigers in this particular jungle. My facilitator said "probably." Ooooh...Okay, so we didn't see any tigers, but we could have...and that's the cool part.
Posted by ~alyse at 2:54 AM
Wednesday, May 14, 2008
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Monday, May 12, 2008
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Saturday, May 10, 2008
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When we got picked up from the airport Jon, our facilitator, had us ride in a rot dang. A rot dang is a red flat bed truck with benches, sidewalls, and a ceiling installed. The back stays open. Its really cool, and it only costs 20 baht (66 cents) to go anywhere in the city. These vehicles are how we are going to be getting around for the next three months.
Posted by ~alyse at 1:52 AM
I traveled with Jessica Halsey, a girl who will also be teaching English. After riding on Delta from Salt Lake to LA the two of us were really impressed with Singapore Air. When you walk onto the airlines dozens of smiling faces are there to meet you. I don’t know for certain, but I’m pretty sure that winning a beauty contest is a requirement for being hired onto Singapore air. The only people who interacted with the passengers were female. All of these stewardesses had on matching traditional dresses (with a very complimenting slit up the side). They all had matching blue eye shadow, maroon lipstick, their eyeliner followed a similar shape, and their hair was pulled back into matching French buns.
On the plane we watched tons of movies and they fed us two meals, and served us ice cream and other snacks. The prescription sleeping pills I think were also contributors to reason why the flight was such a pleasant experience. I say next to this lady from Tokyo who noticed my thumb was injured and helped me during the flight.
When we finally made it to Singapore airport, Changi. Wow. This airport is posh. The picture above is from the airport. There are indoor gardens, a movie theater, cafes, massage salons and chairs. Everything is super clean and fancy. It looks very modern. Everything is in English. I think English is one of the official national languages.
One funny thing though, with all its modern-ness, when we ordered a cinnabon from a café we noticed that bugs were crawling all over the food. I guess that’s not that big of a deal here. We were there for 5 hours and we were tired. We slept on red plush velvet armchairs—pure bliss.
A little later in the airport Jessica was chewing gum and I told her to spit it out because its against the law to chew gum in Singapore (they are very clean). A few minutes later three soldiers walked by with AK-47s in their hands and sabers in their back pockets. Jessica turned to me and said, “It’s a good thing that I spit out my gum.”
Posted by ~alyse at 1:37 AM
Thursday, May 1, 2008
However, Ralph’s stamp of approval lacked the sufficient enticement I needed to convince me to participate in an internship half way around the world that would require me to fly over an ocean (my worst nightmare). But despite my lack of substantial reasons for going, I did have three main reasons why I didn’t want to go to Thailand. First, I was convinced that I would die (terrorism being the obvious cause, of course), second, it didn’t really relate to any of my career ambitions, and third, it meant that I would for sure be spending one more summer single. Laugh all you want, but I saw this internship as a possible death sentence, an irrelevant resume embellishment, and a marriage-inhibitor (listed in increasing order of importance).
In order to help me with the impending decision, I sought my Uncle Tom’s fount of knowledge. Instead of admitting that spinelessness was the real explanation for my hesitancy to participate in the internship, I made my uncle endure an hour montage of shallow justifications disguised as a noble deference to reason.
Tom listened politely and commented here and there, but when I was all finished he merely replied, “Gather ye rosebuds while ye may.” Suddenly I was standing in a marble hallway with vaulted ceilings surrounded by a dozen adolescent boys garbed in gray school uniforms listening to Robin Williams declare, “…we are food for worms lads…believe it or not, each and every one of us in this room is one day going to stop breathing, turn cold, and die…Carpe Diem. Seize the day…make your lives extraordinary.”
My uncle’s point was well taken. I began thinking, “My lack of a husband and a steady career are the reasons why this opportunity is even a possibility. This is my time to soar, to take chances, and to explore my capabilities. Destiny made the internship fall into my lap at the precise moment when I had no financial restraints, when I knew I would be free of educational and occupational obligations, and when my prospects for marriage were all but dried up. This is my time to step out into the unknown and seize the day!” I was excited, invigorated, ready to give three months of my precious youth to a mysterious Southeast Asian adventure…Or at least I thought I was until I went home and read the rest of Robert Herrick’s rosebud poem and realized that he wrote it to young virgins encouraging them to get married before their beauty decayed.
Frowny face. My enthusiastic bubble burst and was once again replaced with dramatic irrationality. Angry Thai revolutionaries, soup kitchens for the unemployed, and Sherry Dew haunted my dreams. But, in the end I have decided to participate in the internship mostly because my intense fear of not landing a successful job in the rat race, or worse, becoming an old maid at 22 revealed to me a simple truth: I have been in Provo way too long.
So off I go to visit the other side of the world, and what lies ahead is a secret waiting to unravel. This will be the coolest capstone to my major in Sociology! What better way to evaluate the struggle between individualism and social structure than in a society I know nothing about?
Although I’ll be teaching English without pay, Ralph and Jon insist that our purpose is not to offer “service” (meaning they don’t want us to engage in self-righteous attempts to impose western ideals on unsuspecting Southeast Asians), but instead to learn about and learn from a culturally rich society. That’s not to say I won’t try to help the people that surround me, but this internship is not supposed to be a self-serving vehicle used to flaunt a belief that American’s are better than Thai’s, but rather an opportunity to exchange and embrace truth across global frontiers.
I have been promised that if I allow myself to open up to these people and accept their idiosyncrasies I will awaken a deep appreciation for God’s children throughout time and space. Their idiosyncrasies will help to chip away at my narrow definition of reality and shake my ontological foundation. I suspect that by the end of my visit to Thailand I will realize that their “idiosyncrasies” are no more idiosyncratic than the “natural” and “normal” social elements that have characterized my life thus far.
With my social bearings awry I will be forced to reach outside my limited perspective, grapple in an uncomfortable sphere of relativity, and then finally discover a common thread that ties the eastern and western world together. Thank you Sabrina Packard!
Posted by ~alyse at 9:38 AM