Monthly Archives: March 2019

Multi-Lingual Telephone

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. 

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Group Presentation

“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!


Teaching Styles

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? 


Whitening Lotion

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!  


2019 Reading Goal: Complete

Sooooooooooooooooooooooo, it is March 27th and I completed my yearly reading goal.

Whoops.

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.) 


Papaya v. Mango

“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. 


Hot Americanos*

*(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!