Monthly Archives: January 2019

Construction

If I had a life motto, I think it would be “There is more than one way to skin a cat.” 

The saying feels particularly applicable here in Thailand. Mainly, I mutter it to myself while walking to school when I discover at some point in the night they tore up the road again. 

I live about a 35 minute walk away from my school. The trip includes a ride across the river on a water ferry. (Price: 3.5 bahts, or less than 2 pennies.) It took me a few days to find the best route but I’m now fairly confident in my ability to get from Point A to Point B.

Or at least I am when an actual road exists. Either Thailand really likes repaving (admittedly terrible) roads, or it is construction season, or I just happen to have found the exact stretch designated for redevelopment. Maybe all three. But my route to school changes almost every day because someone took a backhoe and tore up the side walk. 

This may seem like a minor inconvenience, and in a way it is. Sometimes I dash across the traffic heavy street and just walk on the opposite side. Sometimes I hustle past the construction zone and hope nothing drops on my head. Most often, however, the construction completely blocks the road I planned to turn on and suddenly I find myself stranded. 

When I find my route blocked, I either retrace my steps, follow a random stranger who looks equally put out, or blindly start walking and hope I’ll find my way again. It makes for an adventure.“There is more than one way to skin a cat.” Incredibly, I’ve yet to ever get seriously lost. But I’ve also never seen construction like this. It isn’t orderly. It is shouting and dust and maybe one machine with mostly men and women doing manual labor. Things get torn up and left torn up. Then, just when I’m about to give up…wallah! The sidewalk reappears. 

At least, sometimes it does. 


Canceled Classes

While back home my formally homeschooled sister celebrates her first snow day, I am celebrating my first…pollution day! The air quality here is so bad they’ve canceled two days of school. 

Besides the fact that I do not need to trek to school tomorrow, this also means that out of my 5 classes, I will have only had 1 this past week. 

I have never attended a school where professors canceled classes so frequently. I do not know if this is a common thing for Thailand or just coincidental. But every one of my classes has been canceled at one point or another. For at least two of them, they’ve been canceled twice! 

I think it feels worse because we only meet once a week. If we met two or three times a week, canceling once or twice wouldn’t make much of a difference. But when everything revolves around one three hour session…

I am sure once the makeup dates start coming I will feel less bewildered and more annoyed to have my schedule thrown off. For now, though, I’m going to enjoy yet another 5 day weekend. (Where I will probably do very little since I’m waiting for my student loans to kick in…an action continent on Wisconsin surviving the Ice Age.) 

 


Two Steps Forward, One Step Back

After three weeks of classes, I finally possess a Student I.D.

Sort of. A temporary one, at least. 

Unfortunately, I also learned I am still not registered for classes. And because the office took so long to register me, I now need to ask the professor’s permission to join their classes. * sigh *

They gave me the Student I.D. and did not say a word about the overly nosy form they formally said I needed to fill out. So I don’t know what happened to that. 

In summary…I am just going to keep showing up to classes. At least now I can access WiFi! 


Whatcha Reading…? 1/28/2019 Book Update

Back in 2016-2017, I used to do an occasional “Whatcha Reading” update. Basically, when I find myself buried in avalanche of current reads, I like sorting them out on here. 

Now, I know what you are thinking! “BUT WHAT ABOUT THAILAND?!” I promise I’m still here. The thing is, due to certain circumstances, I spent the weekend at home. And really, the most exciting thing I accomplished was laundry. I’ve strained my brain to make laundry an entertaining story, but mostly it involved me lacking the correct change and making strategic visits to the convenience store to get more. Mostly I read. And as I’ve decided to tackle several rather long books courtesy but my new Kindle, a “Whatcha Reading” update is the best way I can describe my weekend.

Without further ado, I present you my current reads: Summa Theologica by Thomas Aquinas, Ethics by Aristotle, The City of God by Saint Augustine, Pamela by Samuel Richardson, and Letters to a Diminished Church by Dorothy L. Sayers. (And lest you think my reading involves only intellectual works, I must confess I recently finished To Catch A Bad Guy by Marie Astor, Chocolate Chip Cookie Murder by Joane Flunke, and The Cinderella Deal by Jennifer Cruise – all as horrible as they sound.) As you can see, I’m working through the As on my Kindle. 

Summa Theologica by Thomas Aquinas is 95,666 pages long. I’m 1,520 pages in –  about 1%. I do not plan on finishing it this year…or next…or maybe the year after. But the work played an instrumental role in developing Western thought so I figure it is worth the long term commitment. 

Ethics by Aristotle…I am not sure what I think about this one yet. Obviously, I’m familiar with Aristotle’s theory of virtue as the mean between two extremes. He jumps around quite a bit, however, between personal application of virtue and civic virtue. His explanation of justice I found particularly intriguing. Mostly I feel like I miss as much as I understand. But I find his method of explaining things helps me better understand Aquinas. (Similar formatting of arguments.) 

I purchased my copy of The City of God by Saint Augustine instead of getting the free version and I am amazed the difference a good translation makes. I am not particularly far into the book but I’m quite intrigued. It begins with a seeming history lesson about the barbarians who sacked Rome but did not touch the Christian churches. Amidst this strange beginning, Saint Augustine weaves several points about human suffering. 

Pamela; or, Virtue Rewarded by Samuel Richardson was published in 1740 and I’ve been dragging myself through it since last July. Though a remarkable literary achievement for its time, I find the entire work slow and irritating. But I’m also stubbornly determined to finish it since it was a ‘first’ for many literary tropes we use today. (And Jane Austen read it.) 

Letters to a Diminished Church by Dorothy L. Sayers is incredibly good so far. I find it easier to grasp than her work about the trinity, The Mind of the Maker. In this book, she tackles Christian doctrine. She continues to emphasize the creativity of God and the importance of creation for human identity. I’m convinced this one will end up an immediate favorite. 


An Object of Curiosity

Initially, I thought people stared at me when I walked past because of my red hair. (The closest I’ve seen to another redhead in Thailand is the Scotch pin-up girl plastered to the outer wall of a local bar.) 

Then I thought maybe they stared because of my hat. It is quite noticeable. Only tourists wear such ridiculous things, and I rarely leave the house without it. (No sunburn for me!) 

Then, of course, there is the fact that when feeling warm my entire face goes beat red. So maybe they stare in concern, convinced I might collapse at any moment.

My latest theory, however, is simply that I look absurd every time I leave my apartment. Besides my hat, sunglasses, and long sleeves, I’ve started wearing a mask because of the high levels of pollution. 

In short, I perpetually look like I could rob a bank.


My Arch Nemesis: Lids

My apartment is quickly cluttering with unopened jugs of water. I can’t get the lids off of them. I twist with as much force as I can without the slightest success. It makes me feel silly to go out and buy more water with them sitting there, but I can’t get them open! One of these days I will work up the nerve to lug them to the lobby and see if I can convince a random person to open them for me. Either that or I will only buy bottled water from now on since bottles are easier to open than jugs. 

I think trying to open jars and lids is the biggest challenge of living alone. 


The First Day

Of course, looking back, I realize my first 24 hours in Thailand were not the traumatic events they seemed. In fact, they represented quite normal inconveniences of travel. But I was running on 3 hours of sleep at best…so I can only make that my excuse. 

For starters, I got off the plane and could not find my ride. I paid extra for someone from my hotel to pick me up. But – while dozens of signs littered the exits in all different languages – none of them said my name. I know, I walked up and down a dozen times staring at each one. I walked for 45 minutes. I kept stopping people to ask if they knew of the guesthouse where I had reservations. No one knew. 

Finally, I admitted defeat and went in search of a taxi. Now, I may not have done much research prior to coming to Thailand, but one thing repeatedly came up: do not accept a flat fee from the taxi drivers. Always, always use the meter. So when I walked up to the taxi stand and the driver offered me a flat fee to take me to my hotel, I instantly said no. He looked put out but agreed to use his meter. 

I then asked if he took credit card. In my wanderings, I somehow forgot to pull out any Thai currency. (By this point, it was closing on 2 am in Thailand.) He waved away my concerns. Then we hit the first toll. Apparently, I was expected to pay for it. I protested that I had no cash. He demanded the toll money. I again repeated that I just arrived and did not have any bahts. He paid, but maintained an icy front that clearly conveyed his opinion about travelers who did not carry cash. 

We pulled up to my hotel and he demanded that I go to the ATM and pull out cash. But not another problem hit me. How much cash? I had no concept of Thai money. I know now that 1 Thai baht is less than a U.S. penny. At the time, his charge of 3,000 bahts felt outrageous. I was furious and overtired and when the ATM machine spit out a 5,000 baht, I handed it over and did not get any change from him. My irritation grew. I didn’t want to fight it, but I also felt like I was being taken advantage of. 

I managed to crash for about three hours before getting up for orientation the next day. Surprisingly, orientation went fairly well. I stayed awake, at least. In retrospect, they did not orient us on anything useful. A tour of the school, for example, would have gone a long way. 

I then needed to catch another taxi to my apartment to collect my keys. This time, the concierge flagged down a taxi for me. Or at least, he tried to. It took six or seven tries before he found one who knew the address. He then quoted a flat price to me. Foolishly, I decided to take it.

My landlord was 20 minutes late and I spent an awkward hour or so dawdling in a Starbucks trying to stay awake before I got my keys.

Then I needed to flag another taxi back. Once again, I went through the rigmarole of showing the address and getting turned down. I don’t think any taxi driver here uses GPS. I finally did track down a driver and he used the meter without me even having to ask. My trip back cost 2/3rds less than my trip there. Once again, I felt frustrated at being taken advantage of. 

And that was that. I don’t really recall the rest of the day. I suppose I forced myself to stay awake till 8 pm before collapsing (and promptly waking up at 5 am the next morning.) All in all, I cannot say my generally negative attitude towards taxi drivers has changed much. If I ever get data on my phone, I plan to try Grab Taxi (which is like Uber here.) But getting the phone thing sorted out has been more complicated than I expected!