Did you ever play the game telephone? Everyone sits in a long line and the person at one end tries to send a message to the person at the other end, but usually it gets terribly convoluted along the way?
Today I went to a Chinese church and that is how it felt.
The pastor spoke in Mandarin. A Vietnamese guy then turned and translated in English to my friend whose native language is Karen.* She then turned, giggling, to explain it to me.
I think the sermon was about the Holy Spirit.
The only part I did understand was a video of an Indian man with a heavy Australian accent talking about Pakistani refugees. Quite interesting.
Overall a strange but fun experience.
*I apologize if Karen is not actually a language. She is Karen. I’m assuming her native language is Karen as well, but the internet tells me the Karen people speak at least 3 different types of languages depending on where they originate so I’m not sure “Karen” is a language.
“And we had an exchange student in our group and he showed up in sweatpants! The professor asked him why he wore sweatpants to a presentation and he said ‘this is what I always wear.'” My Thai friend shook her head in disgust and I took her words to heart.
Presentation = clean up good!
Today I had my first presentation here at Thammasat. I opted to go full uniform (buttons, belt, etc.) because of the story my friend told me about the exchange student who dressed like a bum left an impression on me. Not that I planned to wear sweatpants to present, but it sounded like students approached presentations the same way they did midterms.
Except…not. Most people presenting wore jeans. One (Thai) student wore sweatpants. Another guy wore the same outfit he wears every day. And I do mean the same outfit. I’m starting to wonder if he owns anything else.
I do not think this is a Thai thing. I think it is a public university full of undergraduates thing. It still made me laugh. Even wearing a uniform I stand out!
I have noticed an interesting difference between my Thai undergraduate classes and my law classes in Wisconsin. At first I thought it was just one class, but now that I’m well-past the midway point of the semester, I am convinced it applies to every class I am in.
In Wisconsin, the professors begin with the basics and build on it. At first everything seems easy. But by the end, you realize you covered a lot of ground that you did not even realize existed week one or week two in. In other words, at the end of the semester you look back and say, “Wow, look at all I learned.” You start with X, hit Y midway through the semester, and conclude with Z.
Here in Thailand, the first few weeks the professors present an overview of everything and spend the rest of the semester breaking it down. At first, everything seems super intimidating and hard, but as the semester goes on (and I presume by the end this will prove more true), you realize that everything you learned was just a more specific version of what you learned the first week. Or in other words, you start with XYZ and spend the rest of the semester looking more closely at X, Y, and Z individually.
I am not sure I prefer one style over another, but I am curious if the difference is cultural or simply grade-level. Did my undergraduate classes in Tennessee begin with an overview that broke down over the semester? Or did we learn things one by one? I can’t remember! It seems easier to learn the undergraduate way, but I also think that reflects the nature of undergraduate classes instead of law school classes.
As much as I am challenged by my current course load (I went in knowing nothing of international business law and most of my classmates know a great deal since this is all they study), I am starting to feel the “undergraduate” nature of them. Which just makes me further curious about the teaching style! Is it me? Is it them? Is it all in my imagination?
Today on Weird Problems I Did Not Expect When Moving to Asia…I cannot find body lotion that does not contain a whitening agent. Think tanning lotion but in reverse. And if there is one thing I do not need, it is whiter skin.
In an ideal world, I am looking for lotion that won’t clog my skin with chemicals, but I’ve recently decided to broaden my search out of just plain pure desperation for some lotion. And yet even with a broader search, I keep running into the whitening stuff! It is even in sun screen!
Sooooooooooooooooooooooo, it is March 27th and I completed my yearly reading goal.
Not that I expected to only read 119 books this year. I just did not expect to read 119 books in 3 months.
After all, it took all of 2017 for me to read 119 books. Here I am two years later already there.
Or in other words, the nearly 31,000 pages I’ve covered means I’m halfway through the total number of pages I read last year (61,000) and last year’s page numbers included textbooks. This year so far does not.
What does it all mean?
Well, it goes back to something I posted about last year. The more my life feels out of control, the more I default to books. I can control books. I can control what I read, how fast I read, and how quickly I achieve my reading goals. Achieving a goal I set for myself can feel like a little pocket of serenity amidst the unstable whirlwind of life.
I often feel like I lack control here in Thailand. And I’m learning to embrace it. Sort of. Slowly. In the meantime, I read.
Now the real question, do I set another goal? (I mean, obviously I’m aiming for 365 now. But do I make it official? I feel like no.)
“Excuse me, is this a papaya or mango?” I ask the store clerk as I hand her the unidentifiable green fruit. If a papaya, I just found a delicious fruit on sale. If mango…well, I just found one of my worst allergies.
“Mango,” she informs me.
Regretfully, I tell her I do not want it and hand her my other purchases. She shouts something in Thai but I’m too busy counting out my change to pay much attention. And then someone walks over with a huge green fruit and hands it to her.
And that is how I ended up buying an organic papaya the size of my head.
*(For clarity, I mean coffee, not hot Americans. But they’re nice too)
I have yet to find a decent, hot Americano here in Thailand. Most people drink their coffee over ice. In this hot culture, it makes sense. But between over-air conditioned classrooms and pure American stubbornness, I like my morning cup of coffee hot.
The problem is, unless I make it myself, hot coffee tastes terrible here.
Iced Americanos? No complaint.
The same barista making a hot Americano? Spit-it-out. (Don’t even get me started on espressos, lattes, or mochas.)
And you know it is bad because I am not a coffee snob. I learned to drink coffee by consuming Folger’s instant. I can grow to appreciate almost anything. Except…maybe this.
It is such a little thing, almost too little to bother writing a blog post about, since I just make it myself most days. But it struck me forcibly this morning after I ordered my hot coffee and repeated the “hot” part to the puzzled barista about three times. Maybe the problem isn’t the hot coffee itself but that almost everyone drinks their coffee super sweet here? I don’t find the same problem with unsweetened, iced coffee, though!
What’s better than fake American-Mexican fast food in Thailand?
Well, just about everything, truth be told, but my friend and I could not resist swinging by on our way back from church today.
It is a much, much, much more limited menu than I am used to and everything comes spicy already. But it was good! Salty and spicy and different from any Taco Bell I’ve had in the States, but worth trying.
They gave me (the obvious Westerner with low spice tolerance) one sauce packet and my friend (who can pass for a Thai) two sauce packets. (We run into little thing like this frequently, but usually it is panhandlers or taxi drivers only approaching me and ignoring her.)
These packets are big compared to their American counterparts…and only come in one kind:
The funniest part of Taco Bell was this sweet old lady surrounded by (presumably) her kids and grandkids. They all looked so wholesome and happy with their inter-generational meal that I felt like I walked into a Taco Bell commercial or something.
On a somewhat unrelated note but on the topic of weird food, today I tried this:
The first sip is all “Hmmm, Coca Cola” and then you get the aftertaste and your brain is like “Coffee?????”
Very weird. Don’t see it becoming a hit in the States.
HAPPY WEDDING DAY, JORDAN AND ASHLEY!
I am shouting because I want you to hear me all the way from Thailand. Turns out, this is the closest thing I have to a picture with both of you and Jordan is not even looking at the camera.
But that happens to be the day you two met (in person) so I consider it a particularly worthy photo.
Ashley, I am grateful for our many high school adventures, from slaying Calormen in Narnia to adventures at Old World Wisconsin. I even found a picture of the first time we met! (Such babies.)
Also, while looking for photos of us, I found one of the time we stalked that couple’s wedding at Old World Wisconsin. Good times.
I hope you have a lovely wedding day without high school girls stalking you from above!
Jordan, no visit to Iowa feels complete without visiting you! From Thanksgivings to iGovern East to adventures with other Gen Jers, I cannot imagine the past decade without your friendship. You’ll always be one of the family–I hope you and Ashley will come visit often!
Congratulations and Happy Wedding Day…TheRealist and Coolweather!
Your friend, Bucky Bookworm
I have now been to a couple of Bangkok’s massive, multi-story malls and many of them come with a Twinings tea places. It looks like a super fancy coffee shop, but just for tea. And not just any tea, but fancy people tea.
I decided to treat myself today.
The lady gave a tight smile when she saw my jeans and t-shirt but let me in. (Everyone else looked like they were millionaires out for brunch, even at 4 in the afternoon.) Her smile looked even faker when I ordered the large tea pot. (Like those silly single-size pots give you more than a cup or two!) I then settled in and enjoyed the royal treatment.
No, seriously, every time I set my tea cup down someone appeared to refill it. I could easily do it myself as the pot sat six inches from my hand. Either the staff was very well trained, very bored, or very embarrassed by me and hoped to get me through my tea and out the door fast.
I enjoyed it immensely, however. Nothing like a proper tea to boost morale!