That Bangkok Year

“Part of the urge to explore is a desire to become lost.”


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Enough About Me, Let’s Talk About Coup. The 8 Biggest Challenges About Living Through a Military Coup

The military has staged a coup in Thailand. We are now under martial law, and have a 10 o’clock curfew for an undetermined length of time. This is a historic crossroads in the history of Thailand, and has so many political angles to it that it would be a waste of time for me to go around in circles discussing it at you. You might be more interested to hear about the most challenging hurdles and questions my foreign friends and I living in Thailand are facing right now, so that’s what I’m going to address with you in list format.

#8: Coup Puns

If there is one thing that I know has been keeping my friends and me up at night since General Prayath Chan-Ocha pulled the trigger a few days ago, it’s that we haven’t come up with the best possible Coup pun. Here’s what I’ve got so far: Coup Let The Dogs Out?, Coup and the Gang, If the Coup Fits, Coup! There It Is, Coup Do You Think You Are?, Coup Done It?, One Flew Over the Coup Coups Nest, Coup Chip Stocks, What I Like About Coup… and something about coupons. Please comment below or contact me if you’ve got one you think is a winner. I coup really use some help.

#7: Having Enough Beer

Due to something Buddha said thousands of years ago, alcohol is not sold at stores from 2-5 o’clock here in Thailand. Coupled with work and other life stuff, that leaves us a small window to make sure we’re prepared to party on our rooftops deep into the night. Living in Thailand, it’s almost guaranteed that your fridge isn’t nearly big enough to rise to the challenge of holding a significant amount of beer. This used to be a problem easily mitigated by going to a bar, or frequent 7/11 runs. Speaking of 7/11…

#6: 7/11 Being Closed

This is a multi-faceted issue. Everyone takes it for granted that Thailand is the land of smiles. But are Thai people truly as naturally friendly as they seem, or is it just because they’ve lived their whole lives with four 7/11’s within a five minute walk from their homes capable of catering to their every need? I’m afraid to find out. To be clear, they only close from 10PM – 5AM, but that’s like 7/24ths of the day! And forget Thai people, what if I need a toastie at midnight! How am I going to satisfy my late night craving when 7/11 is closed and my fridge is crammed with beer! If the serious riots some are predicting really do happen, we’ll know what the real underlying cause was…

#5: Where Am I Going to Sleep Tonight?

Imagine this scenario: You’re having some drinks with your friends after work friday afternoon. You teach some of your buddies how to play your favorite card game, you shoot a few rounds of pool, you go get a delicious hamburger, and then you glance at your pocket watch and it’s 9 o’clock! Well shit, the BTS train to take you home has already stopped running. Looks like your either taking a cab home and missing out on the rest of the night, or you’re going to have to answer the title question. Luckily everybody is in the same boat, and most people aren’t opposed to offering up a couch, floor or a spot in their precious bed. We’re all in the same boat, so I encourage all foreigners to do the right thing and share your bed with a stranger. For the good of humanity.

#4: How Many Days Off Work Are We Going to Have?

When the Coup happened, all Thai schools were immediately cancelled from Friday May 24th through Sunday May 26th. As a teacher I was excited to not have to teach Friday, and I doubt any of my co-workers felt any differently. But are three days off school really enough? Especially when two of them are Saturday and Sunday? In January lots of schools cancelled school over a several week span, and that was just due to some measly protesting. I’d really appreciate it if the schools I teach at coup let me know now when they are going to reopen. That way if it’s going to be awhile, I can try to escape all these hardships with a bucket in my hand on the beach of a tropical island.

#3: Mixing Up Martial Law, Marital Law, and Marshall Law

This one might only apply to me, but come on this stuff’s confusing. A few days ago when my mom texted me at 6 in the morning Thai time asking me about martial law, my sleepy response was: “I’m not applying there”. And when you think about it isn’t Martial Law basically just imposing unwritten marital law on everybody? You think there isn’t a 10pm curfew for married people? Imagine you’re married and you try rolling in after 10pm when your spouse is at home; you better have a damn good reason for being out or you will be severely punished. The smart money is on this whole mess thing being a passive aggressive response from General Prayath Chan-Ocha to having to sleep on the couch because Mrs. General was angry about him getting home from poker night half an hour later than he was supposed to.

#2: Is It Inappropriate For Me to Wear My Army Football Jersey?

Army Football Club is my hometown football (soccer) team. We’re on a roll right now, just a few points out of third place and having our best season since 2009. I’ve got my sweet forest green jersey and I want to show off my team pride, whether it be on the pitch or just strolling around the city. But the last thing I want to do is make a political statement, I don’t want people thinking I have opinions about things. Especially angry Thai red-shirts.

#1: Getting The Best Possible Selfie With the Thai Army

Oh man is this a tricky situation. There are soldiers posted all over the place, and boy do they look intimidating with their armored vehicles and machine guns. But they’re still Thai, so they’re much nicer than you are. On top of that, they’re standing around doing nothing, basically just there to remind you the army is in control. It’s the perfect selfie storm. Don’t believe me? Check out this article from the Bangkok Post:

http://www.bangkokpost.com/most-recent/410781/thailand-martial-law-gives-rise-to-selfie

I’ll be damned if I’m going to be the only one without a badass selfie with a soldier to show off to all my friends back home. Do you think if I brought him some mango sticky rice he’d let me hold his gun?

 


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Elefancy

Sometimes it takes a couple of days of alternating between feeling like being trapped in a furnace and a sub-zero freezer to appreciate how good it feels to be alive and well. I’ve spent the last couple of days battling the red-headed step child of malaria and bird flu. If you consider lying in bed whining and sleeping to be battling. Thankfully I am fortunate enough to have a girlfriend who took excellent care of me, parents full of doctorly advice, and a sister who the night before the Prom took the time to make and send me this card.

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That probably took her five minutes because she’s supremely talented but it meant a lot, especially when I was genuinely concerned I picked up Malaria in the jungles of Laos. Technically the symptoms of Malaria can wax and wane at will so I could still have it; if I start feeling sick again I’m headed straight to the local shaman.

Since we got back from Laos we’ve been living a fairly Spartan existence, occasionally springing for Indian food. We live paycheck to paycheck. Kara and I adhere to a fairly strict budget that we can’t really afford to ignore, at least if we want to eat on a daily basis. And I’m perfectly happy, we knew when we moved here we wouldn’t be sailing caviar and eating yachts. That being said, it’s fun to experience how the other half lives. Kara’s parents and younger brother came to visit for a week in early April, and allowed me the honor and privilege of joining them as they bounced around Thailand. We started with a full day in Bangkok, followed by three days at the Anantara Golden Triangle  resort outside Chiang Rai at which you have views of Thailand, Laos and Myanmar outside your bedroom window. Next we stopped for two days in Phuket, and then looped back to Bangkok.

I always forget that to most of you readers these city names don’t mean anything without any context, so here’s a map. I’ll try and do a better job of this in the future.

Thailand map

Their one full day in Bangkok Kara’s family spent the day sightseeing, taking a look around our neighborhood, and then going out to dinner. One of Mr. Warschausky’s business associates was kind enough to take us to a fabulous restaurant for a 8ish course meal.

Kitti

Kitti and his two daughters were very kind and went so far out of their way to show us a good time. After dinner we found a nice outdoor lounge to have a drink and smoke Cuban cigars Carl had brought from home. I felt like Don Draper, sitting there with a glass of Macallan in one hand and a cuban in the other. The next day we began our jaunt in earnest.

There were two pretty clear themes for the trip, one of which is a Warschausky family staple: food. Over the course of a week I had at least three of the best meals I’ve ever had the pleasure of cramming into my face. Thai food gets elevated to another level when its coming from masterful chefs, and it was at a pretty impressive level to begin with. I’m no food critic so I’m going to spare you all the gritty details about the individual meals, but I ate so much I was starting to feel like an elephant by the end of the week.

Hey, speaking of elephants (transitions!), they’re theme number two! At the Anantara Golden Triangle Resort we spent three days riding, watching, and generally just hanging out with man’s other, larger best friend. The elephant sanctuary is home to elephants rescued after losing their jobs in the recently outlawed Thai logging industry. As you can imagine it is extraordinarily difficult and expensive to care for an elephant, so these creatures that were being used to carry huge amounts of cargo out of the jungle would have nowhere to go. At Anantara, each elephant is given to a an individual mahout (elephant whisperer) to be cared for drawing from the resources of the Resort. They were well cared for and seemed very content. The stereotype is that elephants are smart. They mourn their dead, have complicated heirarchies within their herds, have distinct personalities, and have wrinkly skin giving them a wise aura about them. I imagine Pacadermetologists are very in-demand (I know while everyone else groans at that terrible terrible joke my Dad is laughing and thinking about professional Sneeze-guard scrapers, Kenny Blankenship, and Vic Romano.)

We arrived at Anantara very late due to airplane troubles in BKK, in which we had to board, deplane, reboard the same plane, deplane AGAIN, and then finally get on a new plane and GTFO of there.  It felt like a 4 hour long SNL skit, especially when the airlines answer to red-faced business men was to timidly hand them dinner vouchers for the food court.

After a good night sleep and a delicious breakfast, we set off for our morning elephant ride. Before our training we had the pleasure of meeting the 1 month old baby.

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Being 1 month old, walking was still a skill to master. He spent the whole time we were there stumbling around his cage  from person to person trying to get his head scratched and banging his head into the wall like an adorable roomba.

After sufficient coaxing from our Aussie trek leader, we moved on to the very much fully grown elephants. We quickly learned how to mount, dismount and communicate with our elephants. After a half hour I could get up and down, tell the her where and how fast I wanted to go, and get her to roll over. Of course, this is all with the help of lots of bananas, bamboo, and mahouts whispering the commands to them that we were all undoubtedly butchering. We were now ready to begin our 2 hour trek through the jungle.

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The trek was exhilarating. It was much easier and more natural feeling than the first time Kara and I did it in Laos, although the elephants definitely had a mind of their own. They would frequently stop to eat, rub themselves against walls, and do random mischievous things like spray Kara.

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At one point we stopped and bathed with them.

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The elephants definitely had a sense of humor. Mine would not stop trying to spray me in the face, which is why in the last photo I’m ducking.

My favorite thing to do on the trek was to get my elephant to stop and fall behind, and then get something approaching a light jog going to catch up to the pack. I think she was very annoyed, as I would be too if somebody was trying to get me to jog with someone on my back, but overall we had a great time together.

At the end of the trek, Ryan’s elephant tried to swallow his head.

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After the trek we all relaxed for a while before getting massages at the resort, an experience I thoroughly enjoyed but barely remember because I was in a trance like state. The next day we got an early start to meet Teacher Witt and go to an expansive market to get supplies for our cooking class. The market was full of exotic fruits, vegetables, meats etc.

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That soup contains pigs blood and was allegedly very tasty although believe it or not I passed. We bought two of those fish to bring back to class and grill. We made an obligatory stop at the local temple, where we ate a quick breakfast and Witt taught Carl how to pray.

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Everyone stuck a little gold leaf onto that Buddha statue for good luck. Next we moved on to the kitchen. Where under the supervision of Witt and his wine pouring assistant who’s name who’s name escapes me, we prepared massaman curry, sour green mango salad over fried sea bass, tom yum gung and tom kha gai (sour shrimp soup and sour chicken soup). I’ll admit to being more of a supervisor while the Warschausky clan really took the reigns on this one, but we made some seriously delicious food. Witt definitely pulled his weight by keeping us on track and pumping us full of interesting facts that went in one ear and out the other.

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After subduing to a food coma in the afternoon, we took a second shorter elephant trek up a mountain to see the sunset with some wine and hors d’oeuvres. We got chairs for this one, but I much preferred sitting on the elephant’s head because the swaying motion of the chair made me nauseous. The clouds kept the sunset from being spectacular, but our little photo shoot yielded good results.

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The elephant seemed okay with doing it’s version of bicep curls and she was handsomely rewarded with dozens of bananas for her efforts. As the sun went down we rode our elephants back to the resort and hopped in a van to take us out into the dark countryside for our dinner at Anantara with… you probably guessed it! More Elephants!!!

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After another terrific dinner we were surprised with lanterns to write our wishes on and release into the night sky.

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For some reason I really enjoy the picture of us all watching the lantern and Kara looking goony. After one last look at the elephants we were back to the resort. After spending the better part of our trip building emotional connections with them it was sad to say goodbye. The mahouts got them to roar wistfully after us as we drove away.

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The next morning we flew to Phuket, uneventfully thank god, and arrived at our resort. This part of the trip was more relaxing and uneventful . We spent the next two days lounging around our two private villas, the beach, and the massive pool. Laurie and Kara went shopping one day while Carl, Ryan and I swam in the ocean and had drinks at the pool bar. The waves at the beach were of a respectable size but not big enough for a serious surfer.  We enjoyed two phenomenal dinners, one of which included the best cut of beef I’ve ever had hands down.

I think we were a little sick of taking so many pictures, so remarkably all I really have is a picture of the beach and a couple of us at dinner.

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All in all our couple of days in Phuket were relaxing and pleasant vacation days, but won’t be as memorable as Anantara. Elephants have a way of taking up a lot of space in your brain I suppose.

After flying home and one more incredible dinner, it was time to say goodbye. It was sad for me to see them go, but it was very hard on Kara. I think in our situation it’s not that hard to put memories of friends and family on the back burner when they’re far away, but seeing them up close and personal and then watching them leave reminds us of all the things we miss from home. Sometimes it’s hard to be so far away.

I know you got tired of hearing it from me but Carl and Laurie thank you for letting me tag-a-long on your Thailand vacation. I had a blast and am so grateful! Ryan if you ever read this I hope Prom was fun and congrats on graduating! I’m gonna ride out on a water buffalo.

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Year of the Horse

Sa wa dee Krap everyone! On January 31st you may or may not have observed that the year of the snake ended and the year of the horse began.

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Being born a colt in November of 1990, I can only hope that my numerous and powerful Chinese ancestors have a fantastic year set in motion for me! Thailand is home to the world’s largest, oldest, and most integrated population of Chinese people outside of China. 14% of Thailand’s population is at least partially ethnically Chinese. As a result the Chinese New Year is more than a novelty here. As an example of it’s importance, it was an easy week of work that week as many students were pulled out of school for the whole week. The night of the Chinese New Year was a Friday night right before the election, and we were slightly concerned some protesting might get out of control so we stayed away. However on Saturday Kara, my friend Zach and I ventured to Chinatown to see what all the fuss is about. We were greeted by raucous protesting, huge crowds, a city within a city, and SO much food.

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I never felt unsafe, but the protesting was really intense. It was like a parade with people screaming at you through a megaphone. I wasn’t there, but I liken it to the Vietnam War marches, with less hippies and more sticky rice.

After our 2.5 hour dimsum lunch, we wandered around and saw the sights.

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The swastika symbol was originally Chinese in origin and borrowed by the Nazi’s. It means good fortune and can be found all over in Chinese cultures, even on Buddha’s Chest. Also can you believe they had true blue American Texas goat meat?!?!!!

Shortly after the Chinese New Year celebrations, the election took place on February 2nd. Since that day the protests have stopped all over the city, it’s all quiet on the eastern front. Those who are invested seem to be waiting with baited breath for the results. In America everyone impatiently waits on pins and needles and it only takes a few hours for us to know election results, so I can only imagine how the Thai people must feel.

On an more personal level, work is pretty solid. I’m getting the hang of the teaching thing and am becoming friends with both my Western and Thai co-workers. I love talking with my Thai Teachers and learning everything I can. It turns out that most of the Thai teachers have big dreams. A lot of them are getting their masters degrees while they work a full-time job. Others are preparing to move to another country for work or to continue their education. It’s all very impressive.

On Mondays and Thursdays a bunch of the guys go and play 5 on 5 indoor soccer at the place around the corner from the office. It’s a shockingly nice facility and it’s great exercise. I had almost literally not touched a ball since high school so I started off a bit rusty, but I’ve been quickly improving. A lot of the guys are from the UK so they’re pretty good but I like to think I hold my own. Last Tuesday we went to the park and played basketball. It’s a pickup game situation so we were playing against Thai’s, who were shockingly pretty decent. I think basketball is a sport that, generally speaking, works against Thai people. Most of the time they’re short and non-aggressive, but the guys at the park break that mold. It was such an interesting experience because the court was made of some odd slippery material. The result is that it’s a bit like playing basketball on ice. The Thai’s are used to it and take lots of quick short strides to keep their center of gravity, it takes some getting used to.

A few days prior to our Chinatown adventure Kara and I visited Chatuchak market, one of the most famous markets in Bangkok. We went with the goal of finding things to decorate our apartment. Once you enter Chatuchak market, you are engulfed in… stuff. It’s hard to wrap my head around just how much physical stuff there is there. It actually makes me a bit sad, the rampant consumerism taking place in a country with Buddhist roots. That being said it was damn impressive. The best way I can think to describe it is as a labyrinth.

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I’ve heard rumors that there is a part of the market designated solely to the trading of any and all animals. Disappointingly we couldn’t find it, I would’ve liked to buy a shark. We did however make it home with several cool things to hang on our walls, picture frames, and a rustic lantern.

Speaking of animals, we stumbled onto an authentic Thai pet shop the other day while looking for a new lunch place.

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You’ve gotta love the fish in the shallow water buckets. The ducklings were so cute but it was a little bit sad, there were definitely way too many of them in those cages. The animals I was really impressed with though were the sugar gliders. I briefly had visions of them free of that awful cage and flying around my apartment. My old volleyball coach had them as pets so it’s definitely possible, but now isn’t the time.

Speaking of being trapped in a cage, I recently had to go to the immigration office to renew my visa (it’s a metaphorical cage). Imagine the DMV, but with 3X as many people, and nobody speaks English. To make matters worse the regular office was closed down because of the protesting so there was a temporary one set up far away that I can only imagine was extra disorganized. There’s nothing like Thai beauracracy. The one little interesting silver lining of that trip was that on the floor beneath the immigration office I stumbled onto the first ice rink I’ve seen in Thailand.

Ice Rink

My French Canadian friend Justin plays hockey once a week at a different place, so there are at least two more ice rinks in Bangkok then I expected.

For our rooftop Tuesday last week we went to Above 11, on the 32nd floor of a building overlooking Soi 11 a notorious party street. Of course at that level you’re actually overlooking everything. It was great to kick back, relax, and soak in the city on a Tuesday night. Along with a couple of drinks we ordered some spring rolls and potatoes with amazing dipping sauces.

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I can’t defend those pictures, I’m not sure what I was thinking. Dr. Evil?

One of my favorite experiences so far in Thailand happened last Friday night. Everybody from work, like 30 people, was going out to this new bar that was opening near work that had a crazy promotion of free food and 9 Baht beers (30 cents). While we were there ordering rounds of 60 beers at a time, our waitress asked if anyone wanted to play in the poker tournament they were holding in the back. Gambling in Thailand is completely illegal. I thought someone else would speak up, but I ended up being the only of my friends to write my name down. An hour later I found myself playing in a totally illegal back of the bar room poker tournament with 20 or so Thais. I’m not sure I’ve ever had more fun. It was an intense, competitive atmosphere but everyone was friendly and fun to be around. The tournament started at 9 o’clock and was still going when I left at 2:30am. With 7 people left I was the big stack at the final table, when this guy went all in. I figured I had him beat with my trip 10s after the flop and called for about 3/5 of my chips. I was way ahead and then the jerk runner runner’d me to a flush and doubled up, it was physically painful to see all that money unfairly slip away. From there my luck changed and I eventually went out in 4th, one place away from the money. I got a free T-shirt, made a lot of new Thai friends, and had a blast so I considered myself a winner that night anyway. I’ll definitely be back there again soon, to Kara’s chagrin.

All in all it’s been a good couple of weeks. I have time to write this today because it’s Makha Bukha Day, a Buddhist Thai national holiday, so we’re off of work. It also happens to be Valentine’s Day, so even though you’re not seeing much of me try to remember I heart you from afar. I said that in the creepiest way possible, but seriously I hope everybody is well. Here’s a cute Asian baby and some more ducklings.

Asian Baby Ducklings


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Transitioning

Approximately three weeks ago, I first heard about the plans to shut down Bangkok until the current government resigns. On Monday January 13th, tens of thousands of protestors took to the major intersections and parks with tents, signs, and iron resolve to make their voice heard by a government that is notoriously corrupt. 12 days later, very little has changed. The protests are carrying on, and a few days ago the Thai Government issued a State of Emergency which allows the military to enforce a 10 PM curfew, strictly control the local media, and other various measures. A few years ago I was living in Madison, just a 15 minute walk from the massive protesting against Governor Scott Walker undercutting the Teachers Unions. Despite the geopolitical differences, I can’t help but draw comparisons between the events. The people feel that they’ve been wronged and that their only viable course of action is to take to the streets. Both took/are taking place right before another election: the recall election and the elections scheduled for February 2nd here in Thailand. And like with the Walker election, my gut tells me that ultimately the incumbent Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra and her government will hold serve.

While this is all very exciting and I would be lying if I said didn’t enjoy being in a place in the world where things of historical and political significance are happening, another excellent comparison between the Walker/Union protesting and the current protests here is that they have virtually no effect on my life. The doom and gloom attention grabbing headlines would have you believe that Bangkok is a dangerous place to be. When I read the news I can’t help being bothered by the tone of the stories: the subtle implication of superiority to the 3rd World countries going through their typical political turmoil. The truth is that other than slightly increasing the already horrendous traffic, the World’s Most Visited City in 2013 carries on unperturbed.

In step with Thai politics, my role in Thailand has been transitioning. In my last post I briefly mentioned how I was looking for a job and as soon as I was employed I would find an apartment. Two days after that post Kara interviewed with Fun Language International, and was hired. When she was hired I decided I would apply on a whim, despite the fact that I was hadn’t yet given up on my desire to catch on with a corporation as a Business English teacher. The next day I got a call from them saying that if I came to the office in the next 2 hours they could interview me and from looking at my resume I was a “likely hire”. Of course I was out and about in a T-Shirt, shorts and flip-flops, so I felt ridiculous rushing in for a job interview. I had a heated internal debate about whether or not I even wanted the job. The pay is decent, enough to live comfortably and do some traveling, but only about half of what I could potentially make with the other jobs I was applying for. What ultimately got me to show up for the interview though was the fact that Kara and I would have about 4 months of perfectly synced vacation time. We have from March 1st – May 12th off for summer break, three weeks off in October, and 10 days off around Christmas time.  The interview went well, I am employed. Huzzah!

Fun Language is technically not a school. Instead it is a business that employs teachers and sends them to a different school everyday of the week. Many Thai schools cannot afford a full-time Western English teacher and so only pay to have one once a week. The result is that I go to a the same school every Monday and teach the same kids, and then a different school every Tuesday, every Wednesday etc. It’s kind of nice because I get to experience the full scope of Thailand’s education system, and can’t get bogged down with one class I really don’t like.

Like all jobs it has it’s ups and downs. I’ve learned quickly that sometimes teaching can be the worst thing in the world. Kids don’t always want to listen, and they know that I don’t have any authority to punish them (unlike their regular teachers who often will, corporal punishment is still common). I have to wake up at approximately 5:30 AM to get ready and commute to the home office, from which I am taken in a cab or company car to my school for the day. I generally get home some time between 4:30 and 5:30, and still have to write lesson plans for the next day; another 1.5 hours of work. All in all that’s a 13-14 hour day dedicated to work.

The flip side is that working with kids can be so rewarding. It’s a wonderful feeling when a lesson is executed well and the kids are having fun and really learning. My classes are anywhere from 5-13 years old. The younger kids are pretty stinking cute and the focus is just for them to have fun singing English songs, playing games, and maybe get a few words drilled into their head in any given lesson. With the older kids, they are getting to be decently competent in English and you can joke around with them which can be fun. They do have a tendency to get a bit lippy though so I find myself having to occasionally be stricter than I’d like to be.

The other nice thing about this job is that there is a built in group of friends for Kara and I to merge into. There are about 60 teachers working at Fun, and everybody is so friendly and welcoming. About 2/3 of them are British, there’s a few French Canadians, a couple Scandanavians, and several other Americans. A bunch of the guys play football on Mondays and Thursdays after work, as well as basketball on Sundays which I can’t wait to get involved in. I need to purchase some “boots”, apparently calling them cleats is heresy in the UK.

For me the best part about finding a job has nothing to do with the job itself, and everything to do with leaving the hotel/hostel life behind for now and finding an apartment. After a few days of searching Kara and I met Koi, our real estate angel sent from above. She showed us an apartment she had that was absolutely jaw-dropping. A beautiful fully-furnished 26th story, 1 bedroom corner apartment with an awesome pool, a great gym, half a basketball court, a playground, and a mini-soccer field! Despite the 45 minute commute from the building to Fun Language’s home office, I was instantly sold. I mean, who wouldn’t be with these views…

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There’s nothing better than sitting out on the balcony after a long day with a book and an adult beverage reading the evening away.

Our building, called The Base, is about a 10 minute walk from the On Nut (pronounced Own Noot) BTS train station. The area provides a desirable blend of Thai culture and Western comfort. There are food carts everywhere, cheap, convenient and delicious. We have a Big C kitty corner from our building, which is basically a Walmart stacked on top of a Dominick’s (R.I.P.). We’ve been able to find anything and everything we’ve wanted there so far, even peanut butter, mexican salsa, and mustard.

We also have a great little market located next to the BTS station. It’s packed with food stalls, Thai bars, cheap clothes off the rack, a stage for live music, even an unsterile looking outdoor tattoo parlor. We’ve been eating dinner there about 3 or 4 times a week.

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The market has this smoothie place that puts Jamba Juice to shame at about 1/5 the price. I know where the majority of my paychecks will be going.

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Last week Kara and I went to see Inside Llewin Davis at this massive inexpensive movie theatre in the Siam area. This is where a lot of the biggest shopping malls are, and are always very crowded. Honestly not really my style, but we got off the beaten path a little bit and found a beautiful street decorated with lanterns.

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It also happened to be National Children’s Day, and outside one of the malls there was this place showing off impossibly ornate sandcastles.

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We were pretty psyched to meet Dumbledore.

 

Kara and I have devised a financial strategy that I think is pretty brilliant. Between us we’re making 74,000 baht per month. 14,000 of it goes to rent (roughly 425 dollars). Our goal is save as much money as possible to travel during our time off as well as eventually come back to America flush. Luckily we’re both pretty minimalist people so I think we’re going to do okay. Food at carts costs somewhere between 25 and 100 baht, so it isn’t too hard to be frugal. So basically we try to spend as little as possible 6 days a week.

However, on Tuesdays we have decided we are going to class it up and alternate between Rooftop Tuesdays and Restaurant Tuesdays. Rooftop bars are a staple of the Bangkok experience, and I would like to experience every single one while I’m here. Last Tuesday we went to our first one, The Garrett Secret Bistro Bar. We chose this one in honor of Garrett Forbes’s birthday, the best high school chemistry teacher in the world not named Walter White. Happy belated birthday Mr. Forbes!

 

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It’s called the “Secret Bistro Bar” because in order to get there you have to walk around behind the building that’s first 6 stories function as a Mini Cooper dealership and go up in a private elevator. Being only seven floors up it definitely serves as a bit of a warmup to the more impressive places to come, but it was a pretty swanky place. We each had a drink, split an appetizer, and enjoyed the unrestricted view and interesting trees seemingly growing out of the concrete.

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My drink was Johnny Walker Gold mixed with honey, some type of sour mix and some bitters. I forget Kara’s but it was a little fruitier and equally delicious. The appetizer we split was an avocado soft shell crab roll topped with some kind of fish eggs. We wisely ate dinner before to save money so it was more than enough food, although they were so good I probably would’ve welcomed about 15 more.

I’m about out of interesting things to say for now so I’m just going to photo dump some interesting photos for you to enjoy. You can expect more regular weekly posts again now that I have an apartment with reliable internet. On that note I’m also now regularly available on a daily basis to Skype, message, or even talk on the phone if you download the handy dandy Viber phone app so please contact me I want to catch up!

Our pool, on the 6th floor.

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Victory Monument. Now one of the major centers of the protesting.

 

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Things that made me chuckle.

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Look closely, those are mustaches on her shirt. I felt a bit creepy taking this picture while waiting to get on the train but it had to be done.

The Istanbul floor of Terminal 21 Shopping Center, a huge mall in which each floor is tackily themed after a major city. The other floors were New York, San Francisco, London, Paris, and Tokyo if I remember correctly

 

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Something delicious for lunch.

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And one more of the view from my apartment, because I love it that much.

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And last but not least, a visual list of things you cannot do in the back of a Bangkok Taxi. No Sea Monsters or eating Durian fruit allowed.  Cheers!

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