Author Archives: holtfan

Thai Time

Especially for the first week after I arrived, Thais and non-Thais alike frequently warned me about “Thai time.” Thais have a much more relaxed understanding of time. If you schedule a meeting at 9, it might start at 9, or it might start at 9:20. It isn’t considered rude to start at 9:20. I also learned that students frequently come and go from class as they please and it also isn’t considered rude. 

I have witnessed this somewhat over the last two weeks, particularly with students walking into class halfway through the lecture, or never bothering to return after a ten minute break. 

Yesterday I was running a bit behind. The clock showed two minutes after 9 and I all but ran into my classroom. I felt very apologetic and embarrassed about arriving late. Up until then, I’d shown up to every event at least 30 minutes early! 

Much to my shock, I discovered only one other student in the classroom! No professor in sight. I double checked that I was in the right room and sat down in some confusion. Ten minutes passed. A few students trickled in. Fifteen minutes. No professor, a few more students. Twenty minutes…twenty-five…by this point, I felt my incredulity growing. No one seemed in the least bit phased by the wait! If this was the United States, we’d all have bailed after 10 minutes…And while I expected students to come whenever, I could not believe the professor would come just whenever! 

Finally, at 9:30, the professor strolled in without an apology and got things started by 9:35. I turned to my companion in amazement. “Doesn’t this class start at 9?”

“What do you mean?” she asked. “All morning classes start at 9:30!”

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Student I.D.

I said yesterday that I felt like I was missing something and possibly would discover I wasn’t registered for classes. I still kind of feel that way. Namely because, I remain without a student I.D.!

I was told in order to register for classes, I must have a student number. The student number would then get placed on a Student I.D. and allow me to access such perks as the university WiFi and the library. I dropped by the study abroad office today to inquire about when I could expect to receive my I.D.

The lady behind the front desk responded to my question as if I just insulted her mother. Student I.D.?! I should not expect it for weeks yet. Furthermore, (unspoken but implied) who did I think I was?! Asking for a student I.D. indeed! 

I apologized and started backing hastily away. Apparently our conversation reached one of her colleagues in the back, however, who immediately started saying something in Thai, followed by “Uh-me! Uh-me!” 

Assuming this meant me, I waited. Yes, he did want me. They had my I.D. almost ready! I just needed to fill out a brief form with some questions. 

The “brief form” took 20 minutes and mostly involved me demanding to know why the the university wanted to know the income of my parents or the number of my siblings yet in school. None of their business! After a great deal of hemming and hawing and conversations with others in Thai that might have involved me or might not have, we finally compromised and I submitted the form. 

Almost at once, an error page appeared. My handler looked at it for a few minutes and finally informed me,

“The website is down. Come back in a few days.”

“A few day?” I asked in surprise. Not like, 20 minutes? No, a few days. 

Before I left, though, there was the small matter of a photo to be glued to my I.D. Did I have one with me? I handed him a passport size picture. 

No, no! That was far too big. He needed a picture the size of my thumbnail. I told him I neither had such a photo nor knew where to get one. 

He looked shocked! Did I not have a picture of myself in the school uniform? 

Now I looked shocked! What school uniform? I was told I did not need one!

More conversations in Thai with the others in the office. More hemming and hawing. Finally, he concluded with “Come back in a few days” and all but shut the door in my face. 

So here I am! Still no access to WiFi or the library. I wish I knew if a few days meant “Friday” or “Monday” or some other time yet! Based on the attitude of those in the office, I am sure I will get it wrong! 


Classes!

I wrote yesterday’s post while half asleep. You can tell because I forgot to tag it with anything. Today, I am much more alert! But instead of continuing my ramble about the trip over (I promise I will get back to it!), I will tell you about today!

Because after being in Thailand for almost two weeks and attending classes for one of those weeks…I officially registered for classes today

Yes, it took this long. For comparison, I would have registered for classes if I stayed in Wisconsin back in…November? 

I feel a bit more official now that professors know to look for my face. Unfortunately, the class I was really looking forward to (Law of the Sea) got canceled because of lack of interest. I know, right? Who would not want to take Law of the Sea?! We were told that if we got 4 students, then maybe the school would let us continue. Alas, only 3 showed up. So close, so far. 

I am almost afraid to officially list the classes I am enrolled in because I feel like I am missing something. But, barring anything unexpected, I am taking: 

  • Fundamental Rights
  • Natural Resource and Environmental Law for Business 
  • Law on Information Technology 
  • Law on International Business Transactions 
  • International Investment Law

(For those who have been privy to my back and forth debate about taking Constitutional Law, I decided that even the comparative opportunity of learning about the Thai Constitution could not make up for the fact that the sophomore level class fairly bored me to tears. After studying Locke, Rousseau, and Hobbes at Oxford, it is hard to take an entry level class about their works.)  

I’m looking forward to exploring these classes!


The Flight Over

My flight to Thailand proved remarkably uneventful. With the government shutdown, I thought security might slow me down, but I got through in record time. In fact, I only went through a metal detector, making my international trip far less ‘secure’ than just about every flight I took last summer! 

My neighbors on my flight to Hong Kong (where I had a brief layover) spoke English poorly and were much more interested in conversing with one another. (I think in French.) My neighbor on the flight from Hong Kong to Bangkok just wanted to sleep. I spent most of both flights attempting to sleep.

I did watch two movies though! The first was Oceans 8. I found it disappointing. Despite the incredible, star-studded cast, the plot was actually quite boring. The second movie I saw was The House With A Clock In Its Walls. If my siblings have not already seen it, they will love it. They love anything starring Jack Black. I mostly thought of them throughout it.

The airline food was mediocre at best, but served in large quantities at random times. (Like, 11 pm. Which in Bangkok time meant lunch, but not in Amy time.) 

The best part of the flight, however, was one very arbitrary flight attendant, who would walk up to a passenger and demand they open the window shade or straighten their chair, and then walk past several other closed window shades or reclining chairs without a word. I never did find a method to her madness, but it proved excellent entertainment.

Otherwise, besides the usual nerves and lack of sleep that accompanies an 18+ hour trip, not much happened until I arrived in Thailand. But when I did arrive…well, I’ll write about that tomorrow. 


Initial Thoughts

I leave the air-conditioning of my apartment and stand out on my 16th story balcony. Bangkok stretches out around me. I can see for miles, though farther out the tall buildings fade into haze. I am surrounded by color and people. Buildings come in pink and cream and bright blue. Narrow alleyways snake through cramped apartment buildings stacked high with humanity. Some – like my own – look modern and sleek. The majority look little better than slums. I look down on tin, gray roofs, triangular, red temples, and heavy, navy awnings over little market stalls. I see tropical, green trees and black birds in flight. And the cars. The cars come in all colors, especially pink. Taxis, buses, and motorbikes zip past at all hours of day and night.

Bangkok still feels a little impossible to me. Impossibly different, impossibly strange. But I am learning. Slowly but surely, I’m learning to know these colors and this horizon. I’m learning to appreciate impossible. 

 (my view in the very early morning)


Hello From Thailand!

Greetings from Thailand!

I apologize for the onslaught of book themed posts. I wanted to give myself a few days in Thailand to acclimate before I started blogging again. It was the right decision…a post from jet lagged Amy would most likely involve paragraphs about wanting sleep and nothing about Thailand. (See what you were spared?)

Jet lag hit me hard. Although perhaps more correctly, jet lag + exhaustion from months of going going going + exhaustion from handling a new, unfamiliar environment hit me hard. I read a great deal and thought a lot about sleep.

But now I’m back! And mostly awake!

This isn’t truly a proper post (more of a hello) but I wanted to let you all know I arrived safely, am nicely settled, and will spend the next few posts catching y’all up to speed.


2018 Reading Challenge: Best Cozy Mysteries

The books didn’t make it high enough to rate 5 stars and it did not feel right to stick them in Honorable Mentions…but I read several great detective books (and series) this past year. Here are a few that especially stick out:

Agatha Raisin and the Quiche of Death by M.C. Beaton

So, this book did not actually get a particularly high rating from me. But it deserves a spot on this list because I found the heroine so fascinating! It is a mystery about a career woman who retires young and moves to a rural, English town. She wants to impress her neighbors, so she buys a quiche to enter into a homemade quiche making contest…but her quiche ends up poisoning the judge! Usually detectives in rural, English villages are the sweet, Miss Marple type. Not Agatha Raisin. She is a horrid person and I loved it. It was so nice to read about someone with such a unique personality! And with the hint of romance at the end, I might have to go find the sequel… (The mystery itself was okay, nothing to write home about.)

The Thin Woman by Dorothy Cannell

Reading this book felt like drinking a brisk cup of tea. Every time I sat it down, I wanted to go do something practical and efficient. Which is kind of a weird reaction to a book…but it made the story memorable. I went in expecting a whodunnit and found instead a Very British mystery/romance/adventure. It was good but not quite what I had in mind. Still, engaging story with solid characters that I found mostly memorable for the writing.  

Mystery Series:                                                                                          

Haley Randolph Series by Dorothy Howell

Imagine the heroine from Confessions of a Shopaholic developed a habit of stumbling upon dead bodies everywhere she went, and you have the Haley Randolph series. Haley is self-centered, bad with money, and always hunting for the next designer purse. But you cannot help loving her. No matter how many times her work ethic makes me physically cringe, I want to keep reading. I think I love this series because it is so random. Plot points come from every direction and rarely actually fit together. You would think that would make the books annoying, but instead it makes them engaging. Anything could be important. Add a heavy dose of humor and multiple attractive guys floating around with minimal romantic angst, and you have a fluffy series I really enjoy.

Miss Fortune Mystery Series by Jana Deleon

Where is a CIA assassin with no family to go when her cover gets blown? In the Miss Fortune Mystery series, the answer is: the bayous of Louisiana. While Fortune – the heroine of this series – is enjoyable character, the real show-stoppers are the crazy old women she runs around solving mysteries with. I love the characters, the setting, and the humor of these books. Highly recommended.

Amory Ames by Ashley Weaver

Amory Ames is a glamorous, wealthy society woman married to a notorious playboy in the 1930s. While the mysteries are interesting, the setting and relationship between Amory and her husband are really what keeps me glued to this series. At the beginning, the couple is estranged and contemplating divorce. However, as the books go on, they begin to work more closely together and rebuild their marriage. I love both Amory and her husband. If you like Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries, you’ll probably like this series.