Monday, May 29, 2006
wow. a lot has happened in the last week. people are quitting jobs and getting jobs. it's a total mess and this is Pattaya. i will be traveling three days at least this week. i found a little shop in Chonburi that sells Thai silks. i want to purchase some of this silk and have a nice Thai style suit made. i have to decideon a style and if i want a pinstripe suit too. i am excited about a tailored fit and a style unique to me. the ultimate job getting suit. :)

there is a lot going on at the moment, but not a whole lot to say. routine becomes routine again as my end here draws ever nearer. i am looking forward to it mmore everyday. yet again i am embarrassed by these companies and think their methods and policies are a disaster.

a brighter update will follow in the next few days. i have a trip in the works for this weekend as a birthday celebration, so that will bring smiles. :)
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Monday, May 22, 2006
I see that it's been ten days since I've written here. That means two trips to the beach, a week of reading, and lots of waiting. Two Saturdays ago Non and I ventured to Koh Larn, an island not far from Pattaya for a day in the clouds. We had fried rice, I read a book, and we spent almost an hour bobbing about in the luke warm sea. It was an exceptional day followed by a movie, some beers with a bunch of his friends from Chiang Mai, and an night out on the town. Some of you may have seen on CNN that a club in Pattaya burned down that weekend. It burned on a Sunday, and we were there the night before. It's sort of odd that I was there and now it's gone. Too bad, too because the place was cool. Good music, three different rooms, and mostly Thais; not the barage of falang that are usually found at nightclubs. This Saturday it was to Jomtien beach, snooker with a friend of his who sells gold jewelry and is studying Asian history, an incredibly romantic dinner at this road side place where you make soup in a tandoori type pot, and then to Walking Street. In between these two amazing days I read a lot and waited in angst for school to start and teachers to be ready for observations. Alas, they are still not ready. Most of them want at least another week, though I don't really have time on the other end to sit around and wait. Meanwhile, it's phone calls, time on the internet searching for direction, and books.

I am plodding through a book about Buddhism that I wish I had read before I came. So far it has explained a lot about the culture here while being very informative about the 'religion' as well. I understand everything about Buddha much more and even get why there are statues of people other than Buddha in most places now. It's quite a respectable form of worship, or lifestyle, which is how I have come to see 'religion'. For the most part it encourages followers to look into themselves for the answers and the path to 'nirvana' rather than depending on another being, whether real or heavenly, for direction. Buddha's teachings are only a guideline, rather than a book of rules about how to live. It leaves one's position after death up to that person. There are different levels of 'heaven' in Buddhist belief and it's not all or nothing like Christianity seems to be, but rather like advancing a floor at a time up a building where the roof is the ultimate. Not everybody wants to be on the roof, some want to be somewhere in the middle, or jsut below the roof where the view is just as good, but the winds are not as severe. It's really a good book.

Exercise and som tom fill up pretty much the remainder of my time. After seeing 'Poseidon' last weekend, I have been working on building up lung capacity, but it's not going very well. I haven't yet managed to swim the lenght of the pool without coming up for air. One would think with all of ym years on the water I'd be a better swimmer. Meh. At least there's water skiing. We tried to body surf this past Saturday but the waves were too small and the water filthy. It's trully sad that Thailand is so beautiful and the people are so proud of their county, but there is so little done to preserve and protect. The beaches around are dirty and the water polluted by exhaust from the zillions of boats and 'boat scooters' (Non didn't know the word 'jetski' and boat scooter does make sense). Trash floats in the sea everywhere.

Internet searches have produced not good news. Recently I have become more and more set on Salt Lake City with it's cultural variety. There are amazing resaraunts, including a Thai one where they serve som tom!!!!! It's salad made from green papaya, impossible to get in non-tropical environment. Theaters that show plays, movie theaters that show non-mainstreem flicks, and of course the skiing. There plenty of jobs to be had, and plenty of apartments that would fit the income those jobs are offering. To the north there's a fresh water lake with lots of activities, hiking and camping everywhere, and endless possibilities for summer. And of course there's the skiing!!! The plan was to gain residency, two years of working, and then attend U of Utah to get a master's in Regional and Urban planning. Well I discovered today that this program is not Accredited. That really makes things difficult because my mind was set, and now I have to go back to looking at other cities. Milwaukee and Chicago again come to the forefront. How important is accredidation? If a university is fully accredited, then shouldn't a program, particularily a master's program, automatically have the same accredidation? ARGH. Searching for the answers and finishing my book about Buddhism and moving on to a book about the rise of China are my jobs for this week. :)

Thanks for reading the ranting.
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Friday, May 12, 2006
It's Friday, the last day of the work week for many people, the day we all go out and party, and this Friday it's a birthday. We all had big plans to go out tonight and rock the town, but it's another holiday so most everything will be closed for the day. I guess that's all right because we can just hang out here in a room.

Life seems to be slow and fast right now. It's slow because many mornings I struggle to get up before ten but the afternoon brings a list of things to do that often spill into the following afternoon. The phone calls and the planning for the next month has taken up as much time as work itself will for the next few weeks. Five of the most recent new teachers are all leaving tomorrow, headed for the same school where they will begin new lives as English teachers on Monday. They are excited though nervous to be heading out and using what some believe to be insufficient knowledge and preparation for this experience. I will be spending at least ten days with them at this school in the mext six week in order to get their observations completed so they can get their certificate. My guess is that only about thrity percent of the people who take the class here actually complete their TESOL Certification, but according to the boss it's all right because he still makes money. Embarrassing and devalueing of the certificate if you ask me. To have one teacher with a college degree in education and excellent skills and another who has never completed high school be granted the same certification seems entirely wrong to me. It has taken me some time to note the flaws in both of the companies for which I work, but I see them now! There are times when I am embarrassed to be an American and there are more times when I am ashamed to say that I work for TEFL.

Enough talk about the downers in life. It's rainy season here now. There is at least one storm per day; typically in the morning. I love to wake up and listen to the rain and feel that slightly cooler air come in through the windows. It's a welcome relief after a night of muggy stale air being blown around by the fans. The storm this morning was intense. Total silence, apart from the box throwing distribution center guys across the street, and then an abrupt crack of thunder followed by a monster storm that hovered over the area for about thrity minutes and filled the streets with muddy water. Storms like this sometimes leave the air dripping and make it entirely unpleasent to even lift one's pinky. It's hot though bearable today, and we are hoping for clear skies tomorrow!
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Thursday, May 04, 2006

This was a weekend to keep in the history book. I will admit that I was not looking forward to going because I’ve become comfortable with time to myself and have had little lately. The trip loomed with three whole days of being around other people nonstop. I also did not want to be out of Pattaya on a Saturday. I prepared with typical over thought and slept little the eve of departure. As the sun rose I made the necessary wake up calls to the crew and headed down to the van. Arising and being on the way before six is normal for me now, and my usual practice is to fall straight back to sleep. The entire van minus the driver was snoring before we reached the highway.

The group consisted of Rick, the most recent Languagecorps arrivals, and myself. These arrivals include Kate, a full of life Australian, Justin, a full of opinions American, Alaina, a full of questions and uncertain answers Brit, and Tom, an American who reminds us all of the reasons we vacated that powerful nation. A game of word association taught us much about each other and saw us into the car ferry. A short swaying ride on a boat, a rather hilly drive, and a few slices of toast later we settled into our rooms and dressed in our worst for elephant riding. A truck came to pick us up at our bungalows and we made our way up the muddy track to the ‘riding stables’. Nervously bumping along this impassable during the rainy season road we made only one stop; in order for the driver to set the wheels to four wheel drive to stop us sliding along sideways. While waiting for the animals to be washed, harnessed, and saddled, we discussed the nature of some other elephants, stray dogs, and the jungle. The scene being entirely picturesque photos could not be resisted. Boarding the elephants from a sturdy wooden platform proved an awkward task if one did not want to step directly onto the elephant’s head. I hopped, in bare feet, onto the lead elephant with Kate followed by Tom and Alaina and then Justin riding solo. For us out in front on an elephant with a name a mile long that we can’t remember and a driver who didn’t want to tell us that his nickname was ‘fat’ so told us only his given name also a mile long and unremembered, the journey was consumed by laughter. The driver was kind enough to take photos of us perched and howling with laughter atop the elephant, to stop at a watering hole so that we could have an elephant shower, and to allow Kate to sit on the beast’s neck and ‘drive’ the thing back into camp. Being a fantastic elephant she responded very well to all of the commands and wolfed down the bananas we were prompted to feed her back at the ‘stables’.

Riding an elephant is almost like floating through the jungle, except for the constant reminder of gravity in the lurching gate of a three ton animal. We rode through a valley with hills of green surrounding the well worn path and tree branches covered in ants hitting us in the face every few paces. It came to be a magical experience accented by fits of laughter brought on by the driver. The eternally green jungle shimmered with remaining droplets from the morning’s rains; which had also cooled the air slightly but left a dampness that washed away with spray from the elephant’s trunk. Wet and not ready for the end we pulled into the stables, fed the elephants and the drivers sugar bananas, washed our hands, tipped the driver, and clambered into the truck for a less exciting ride back to the bungalows.

After a nap and a frigid shower in the economy but more than appealing bungalow it was into town for dinner and wandering from bar to bar along the beach. We ate at a plastic table and lawn chair set up about twenty feet from the surf, stuffing ourselves with delicious Thai food and barbeque ribs. The beach front offered several bars and a few fire shows so we stopped and watched and moved on. Settling at a place with mostly Thai patrons and after Tequila we created our own dance floor in the sand and worked off a few bites of the dinner. Upon arrival back at the bungalows we found that Alaina, who had remained in bed with an upset stomach, had been vomiting profusely and needed to go to the hospital. She had been struck with food poisoning from some bad pork a few days earlier. Kate is first aide qualified and I had gone to the hospital not five nights before with the same affliction so we knew exactly what she needed and how she was feeling. It turns out the clinic should have paid Kate and me for the entertainment we provided in efforts to keep Alaina’s mind off of the pain. She awoke the following morning feeling much better but wished to sleep for much of the day so we altered our plans and everybody took a nap. The healthy members of the group ventured out in the afternoon to do some shopping in a fishing village a scenic drive from our location. The village is along a pier and offers a variety of seafood, snorkeling and diving trips, shopping, and bungalows on stilts. Upon future return to this island, I will look into staying in this village in a bungalow suspended over the smelly salty water of the Gulf of Thailand. We bought gifts, fisherman pants, and a few refreshments before heading back to the bungalows for an English roast dinner followed by an evening of cards. The roast was one of the best meals I’ve had since Christmas and I lost more severely than I ever have at a game of Oh Shucks. I could not seem to win when I needed to and lose when I needed to. With no shower because the water system had failed sleep did not come easily in the damp hot air. Awaking late everybody rushed to pack up and get ready to hike up to a waterfall before departing the island.

The waterfall is about a twenty minute hike upstream into a national forest. The trail is not difficult but for the hikers we saw in flip flops it must have been treacherous. The height of the falls reaches fifty meters and fills a gorge like pool at the base with cool fresh water. Soaking in the 77˚ F water with fishes nibbling the toes takes me back to the thousand places I have been swimming. Here there are Thais all around in their t-shirts and shorts cheering on two boys racing across the pool and struggling after a ball that has flown out of reach. They peer at us falang girls in our bikinis diving off the outcrops and sunning on the heated boulders. Photos are taken and bags are packed for the walk back down. Grilled chicken and bathrooms greet us at the base of the trail. We eat again and pile into the van for the trek back to Pattaya.

It is a holiday and the line for the ferry snakes along the road for several miles adding at least an hour and a half to the trip. With feet dangling from the stern of the ferry and the sun on our backs we wave goodbye to the island host of a fabulous weekend. On the road each retreats into their own bubble filled with personal music preference and desired snacks. What seems like ten hours later but is only three we pile out of the van and head home to unpack and prepare for tomorrow.

Weekends like this one remind me why it is that I work. Yes my job is based in the assistance of other people and I enjoy helping them with getting settled, their teaching, and anything they might need, but it is a job. Spending a marvelous few days in the jungle riding around on elephants, taking a nap in my private and dry walled bungalow, and being in the company of people that I do enjoy is a good reminder. It’s terribly unfair to everybody else that this trip was work for me. They say one should be paid to do the things that are loved, so I guess for right now, I’m doing all right.

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Monday, May 01, 2006
hello there team. sorry it's been so terribly long since i've written. it's been a rather busy and internetless few weeks. i just got back from a weekend on the elephant island. we swam, ate, swam, shopped, and generally had a great time with frequent delicious meals. tomorrow when i have some time and a cooler place to work, i'll write a proper ditty for you all.

things are actually better right now thatn they have been for the past few months due to the coolness of the languagecorps people that are here right now. we have lots of laughs and i feel much more validated with my job than i have for awhile. this group actually appreciates the things i do for them as oppossed to just thinking nothing of it. rather fantastic.

ok, off home to write and unpack from a wet and wild weekend of rain and food.
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