Tag Archives: Thai


Most of the signs around my apartment complex are in Thai. However, there is one in English and it very clearly reads: “Don’t throw trash off your balcony or dry laundry on your balcony.” 

It is a harder rule to obey than you would think. I air-dry everything. At first it was because I could not figure out how to use the dryer because the directions were in Thai. Then I realized the washing machine did a good enough job destroying my clothes without the help of a dryer. I think the main problem with the washing machine is that it washes everything in hot water. But again, all the directions are in Thai and I cannot find anyone willing to translate for me so I do not know if cold is even an option. 

Thus, I hand-wash almost all my clothes. (Or at least the ones I like and don’t want destroyed!) It takes all day and leaves me with an entire wardrobe to air-dry. But not on the balcony! 

At the moment my entire apartment smells like detergent and damp clothing. I will not miss this part of living in Thailand.

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Finals: AKA What Is Going ON???

Honestly, I do not know how anyone manages to graduate from Thammasat University. I am told the other departments do not run as haphazardly as the legal department. But really, I don’t know how any of the students keep track of anything. My entire finals experience has been nothing but chaos! 

I am taking 5 classes. Allow me to briefly summarize my experiences: 

Class 1: The professor announces that any student who wishes to write a paper instead of taking the final may do so. I tell him I want to write a paper; we select a topic; I do initial research. A month before the final, I check in to ask if he wants an outline or draft before I turn in my final work. He looks surprised and informs me he did not realize I was writing a paper; no one is writing a paper; I should just take the final instead. I protest. He insists. I end up taking the final. 

Class 2: The professor gives out a syllabus at the beginning of class and another one a few weeks later when she makes some scheduling changes. Both clearly state: midterm = 50% of the grade, paper = 40%, final = 10%. As I review for the upcoming final, it occurs to me we never did write a paper. I ask my classmate. She says the final is worth 30% of our grade. I ask what happened to the remaining 20%. She sort of shrugs and after digging through my notes I see we had an in-class presentation. Apparently that was worth 20%. 

Class 3: The professor strolls into class and inquires how the take-home final is going. We all stare at him blankly. Take-home final? Now he looks surprised. Did the office not send out the final like he asked? No, no the office did not. Oh, well, if one student will provide their e-mail, he will send the final to that student and the student can distribute it to everyone else. Except guess whose e-mail that student does not have? Mine. I managed to get a grainy picture of the final from someone who took a shot of it from their phone. Exactly how we turn in the final once we finish remains unclear. Apparently the office will contact us.

Class 4: The office sends out a list of in-class finals with rooms and times. I ask my classmate how she is studying for it since we’ve had at least 6 different professors for this class. She says only one professor is testing us and it is a take-home exam. I say it is not a take-home exam; the office clearly put it on the list of in-class finals. She says the professor changed his mind. I flip through my notes. Sure enough, he told us a take-home. I ask where we get the take-home. She says he hasn’t given it to us yet. I ask when we should expect it. She doesn’t know. I ask another classmate. She thinks we might receive it Monday. Maybe Tuesday. It will be due in June. When in June? Uncertain. 

Class 5: I don’t know how to study for this final. Because the office kept scheduling another class at the same time, I only attended about half the courses we are being tested on. The professor responded to my e-mail for more information brusquely and basically told me her portion of teaching is done. I assume this means I can expect no further clarification. If I had a friend in this class, I could ask for notes. But far from being friendly, the students did their best to ostracize me. [And if you think I am being paranoid, allow me to inform you they actually switched their conversations from English to Thai when I walked by trying to find a discussion group to join because my group members all bailed. The professor saw and yelled at them and they designated one person to converse with me in English while they continued their conversation in Thai. My designated conversation partner spent the entire time looking miserable.]

In summary, I am a law student who might fail a freshman level course because I cannot figure out how any of this works.

The Trip Back From Mae Sot

Of course, even the best laid plans go awry and our trip back from Mae Sot proved no different! After another adventure plunging down the mountain in the back of a truck, we headed to the bus stop…only to find out there were no more seats available on the bus to Bangkok! We were told to grab a bus to a different providence, with the possibility that we could get tickets to Bangkok from there. 

So we got on a bus to Tak province. 

Unlike our bus ride to Mae Sot, however, this was not a smooth ride. The police kept pulling the bus over. Or maybe they pulled everyone over. I’m not sure. All I know is that every hour or so, the bus got pulled over and everyone had to bring out their passports and show their visa to the masked cop. 

It interrupted any attempts on my part to nap and put me in a very ill humor with the Thai police. 

Not that they actually showed much concern for me. In fact, compared to my friends, I barely got any notice from the police. One glance at my white skin (or even worse, syllable from my English speaking mouth!) would send them hurrying away. But the others underwent stricter scrutiny. Thailand is a very racial system. 

While sitting on the bus, one of the attendants walking around asked who wanted to go to Bangkok. (At least, I assume she asked that. Thankfully, some family/friends of Mae Sod’s were also traveling to Bangkok and able to translate a little.) We said we wished to go and the lady demanded a certain sum of money. She then scribbled on a piece of paper and told us to present it at the bus stop!

It was not the most formal way to transfer buses, but thankfully it worked. Once we arrived at our destination, they whisked us onto the next bus to Bangkok. We got back around midnight. 

By this point, neither Mae Sod or I had working phones. No buses run that late. We decided to bite the bullet and take a taxi. With great trepidation, we got into the one hailed for us. Our last driver made us fear for our lives. This one…was absolutely a gem!

He spoke very little English but cheerfully did his best to maintain a conversation. “Thailand very hot! You try food? Is spicy?” 

We originally planned to drop her off first and then have me either stay the night or hail another taxi. However, we liked our driver so much we asked if he would be willing to take a “second” trip. He did not know my address, but thankfully I could direct him from that point. He was definitely an answer to our desperate prayers! 

None of Them Speak Thai

It sounds like the start of a joke: a Vietnamese, a Chinese, a Burmese, and an American travel to Northern Thailand. 

None of them speak Thai.

And yet, that is precisely what my friends and I did last weekend! Though to be fair, only I spoke no Thai. (Despite much coaching by everyone, I have yet master ‘hello’ or ‘thank you.’) The others could ask a few basic questions. But all things considered, we traveled with a language barrier. 

The next few days I will post a bit about our trip, but first let me introduce the characters:

Mae Sod. She studies with me at Thammasat University, though in a different department. We met on the Lampang trip and became friends when she asked if I wanted to join her at church. She is Karen and was raised in a refugee camp here in Thailand, but her family later moved to the United States where she became a U.S. citizen. We visited her relatives at Mae Sot. She is smart and super kind! She loves Jesus and encourages me with her calm reminders to pray in stressful situations. 

Phuc. He is Vietnamese and attends a different university here in Thailand. He speaks several different languages – including Mandarin, English, and Italian – and loves his WiFi. This posed a problem as the village we visited had only limited access to WiFi! We all met at church and his zeal for the Lord is evident in everything he does. 

Sunny. She is Chinese and a classmate of Phuc’s. She also attends church with us! Her sweet smile and kind heart makes every moment around her a joy. Even when her English fails, her love for the Lord shines through! 

Amy. Me! Slightly clueless but (hopefully) good natured American who loved almost every moment of the trip and really appreciated the passion and joy of her travel buddies! 

Exchange Student

My Fundamental Rights professor does not know what to do with me. About three weeks into class, he finally walked over and asked if I was one of the students. As I sit in the front row every week, I found this question somewhat surprising. I said I was. He said, “Ahhh” and slowly backed away. 

Two weeks after that, he again walked over and asked if I was taking the midterm. I said I was. He said, “Ahhh,” and backed away. 

Finally, last week, he asked if I knew how the take-home process worked. I said I had no idea. He walked me through it, apologizing repeatedly for his poor English. 

I am still not sure if he knows I am a student like everyone else. 

It is funny the way different professors act to having an international student. Some immediately come up and talk to me; others pretend I am no different than anyone else and ignore me. Some go out of their way to explain concepts to me; others occasionally lapse into Thai when trying to explain a concept. Some call me Amy; others refer to me “your international colleague.” Or they avoid calling on me at all. 

It is an interesting dynamic and one that has made me vastly more sympathetic for all the international students in the classes I previously attended. I am glad I will have one more year of law school when I get back so I can make more an effort to reach out to them! 

Lampang: Day 2

Day 2 began with another temple visit:

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Image may contain: one or more people (I swear this cat thought everyone came to worship it. It just sat there and did not move)

After the temple, we went and saw…elephants!

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We got to feed and pet them.

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That particular elephant kept trying to eat my hair. 

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Then more amazing food!

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Afterwards we participated in local cultural activities. We cooked…

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(I managed to confuse coconut milk with batter.)

Cooked some more…

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(After several in competent attempts at folding the banana leaves into triangles, my Thai buddy and the kind woman helping us took my triangle and did it for me.)

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We made “flags”

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(I like to think I behaved semi-competently with this one except I must admit my Thai buddy did the initial folding and cutting for me.)

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Some people made flower bouquets (I avoided because they used real flowers.) 

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And then we “weaved” baskets using bamboo, which I apparently did not get a good picture of. At any rate, the 90+ year old lady assisting us quickly realized how incompetent I am with manual tasks, wove me a fish, and sent me on my way. 

It then HAILED.

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But thankfully cleared up in time for the night market that evening. I made a few purchases and discovered I am terrible at bargaining. (The people pleasing side of me comes out.) 

Thai Elections

Apparently, Thailand is the midst of a general election. I love election season. I must admit, though, I have no idea what is going on. 

First, there are these trucks that drive around all hours of the day blaring music in a perpetual parade of one. They even drive slowly. I can’t imagine that wins them votes from the other drivers! The truck usually has the candidate’s face on the side. And increasingly, instead of music, I hear speaking. Like, the truck drives around and plays speeches? It is all in Thai so I do not know what is being said. It seems singularly unproductive to play speeches that no one can hear the entirety of because the truck is moving…but apparently it works. 

Second, almost out of nowhere, candidate banners appeared everywhere. They are all about 8 feet tall and I do not think there is a tree or pole for miles around that does not have one. What I find fascinating is that they seem to change fairly regularly. It makes me wonder if people take down the opposing side’s banner and replace it with their own, or if there is some form of sharing happening? ‘You take the tree Mondays, I’ll take Wednesdays.’ At any rate, I took pictures of some of them to share! 

(These guys look like ambulance chasers.)

(Not a candidate, I don’t think, I’m just super confused why this banner was in the cafeteria.)