Hey everyone! So I guess it's been a while since I last wrote (relatively, at least)- missed you guys. You probably didn't even recognize my blog- hope I didn't throw you all off too much with the curve-ball color scheme. But hey, it's a summer of change...
So before I get into last week, this happens to be a big week for me. Saturday, of course, is the big 7-4 (I'll be heading over to the American Consulate here in Chiang Mai for some hot dogs, fireworks, and watermelon-eating contests). Friday actually marks the half-way point of my time here in Thailand, which is kinda crazy. And today marks my tenth visit to this coffee shop, meaning I just got a free banana smoothie. Nice.
Ok, so just after I wrote last week, Molly and Ari arrived for their stay in Chiang Mai. I had a really amazing time with them the whole week- it was a pretty strange feeling though, having a conversation about Hall High and West Hartford with other people in Chiang Mai. Monday night we went out for some legit northern Thai food and headed to the jazz bar I talked about a couple of weeks ago for some live music. Tuesday was actually a very interesting night- we went out to the Night Bazaar area (and then actually back to the jazz bar for their 'Open Jam' night)- the cool thing though was that we went out with a guy they had met in Bangkok who had been an interrogator in the U.S. military. One of the most fascinating people I've ever met- he had some amazing stories from his time in Iraq. Molly and Ari had told me ahead of time about him and his incredible ability to read a person through their subtlest body language, which made me pretty much self-conscious about every time I blinked, flinched, averted my eyes, etc. Of course this just made blink, flinch, and avert my eyes more...he probably thought I had ties to the Iraqi insurgency...
Anyways, Thursday we had a really fun night out at a club called "Warm Up"- warming up for our weekend of warming up on the beach (sorry, too lame?). It was kinda Liz's last night (last night that I would see her) so we had the whole house + CCT crew out. Anyways, to sum up the night, the next morning in the Chiang Mai airport we had this random Thai guy come up and sit down next to us. He said something we didn't understand and received awkward looks for it, and then said "I met you last night! Did you finish the bottle?"...You know it's a good night when...
Anyways, so rewind to Friday morning, meeting Molly and Ari to go to the airport. Molly informs me about Michael Jackson's death. There's plenty being said about that already, but real quick: regardless of how creepy he got in his later years, the guy is an absolute legend and a once-in-a-lifetime talent. His "Dangerous" album was actually the first CD I ever owned.
Ok, so moment you've all been waiting for- finally arrived in Ko Samui after waiting for it all week, and it truly lived up to expectations. First of all, our guest house ("Penzy Guest House") was perfect- half of my Friday on the beach was spent just looking forward to sleeping in an air-conditioned room. I'm usually pretty easily amused anyways, but I was so pumped just for the simple pleasure of sleeping under a comforter. The house was pretty much right across the street from the beach, so between the ridiculous location and my short weekend there, I actually didn't really get to see a whole lot of the island. Friday afternoon, though, I went on a wicked long walk down the beach and found that where it looked like the beach ended from our original spot, it actually just curved around into another cove and just kept going. I actually wanted to keep exploring even further (I had walked for probably an hour and a half one direction) but storm clouds started coming in, and yeah, I was an hour and a half's walk from the guest house. That picture to the left is of the storm clouds coming in- pretty wild actually there was just this distinct divide between perfectly clear skies to the left of that crazy puffy cloud, and dark thunder clouds to the right.
We actually were very fortunate, though, in terms of the weather. Unfortunately it rained during all three nights (the worst on Saturday night, of course the night when we wanted to go out the most), but the days were perfectly clear the whole weekend. The only real bummer about this weather pattern was that it effectively killed any sunset photo opps. But I did get (what I think are) some pretty cool pics of crazy storm clouds. Speaking of Saturday and rain, we tried to go out that night to a reggae bar where we heard had live music and was supposed to be one of the hotspots on the island. But because of the downpour (we drove through several main roads that were flooded under 6 inches of water), we ended up being the only 3 people on the dance floor, dancing awkwardly to Shaggy (even the band had stopped playing). At least I had room to bust out my breakdancing?
So yeah, I pretty much laid out on the beach all day, every day. Actually, believe it or not, I even managed to not really get sun-burnt. It wasn't too impressive though- I'd say I got tanner, but probably not straight up tan. It's progress though. Anyways, there were some cool-looking tours that I would have liked to try out had I had more time, but a whole weekend on the beach was just what the doctor ordered. And the beach really was spectacular. Bleach-white and pillow-soft sand, and water like liquid glass. No waves, which of course are a ton of fun, but no complaints with being able to see the ocean floor standing in 3 foot water. Actually, the water stayed really shallow for a surprisingly long time, and even had some little sandbars scattered down the beach, so that I would have to go pretty far out just to get into water that was waist-deep. With some of my pictures, where it looks like they're taken from the middle of the ocean, I was likely standing in water that was barely knee-deep (at high-tide)
I actually was looking forward to getting back to Chiang Mai in one respect- to get away from all the taxi drivers/tailors/ anyone selling anything in Ko Samui. Tailors or guys working at restaurants along the main road would literally step in front of me and physically try to stop me as we were walking down the sidewalk to try to get me to buy a suit or a lobster or a ticket to a muay thai fight. No, friend, I don't want to buy a three-piece suit at midnight, nor do I want the Thai seafood at your restaurant after you just saw me sidestep 3 guys offering me the same thing at their restaurants. But you, Mr. Taxi Driver- I get weaker than Odysseus with your sirenically incessant calls of "taxi?! taxi?!".
Sorry, random rant, but overall it was an amazing weekend. This little guy in the picture to the right pretty much sums up my weekend/vision of the dream life.
So Monday was a bit rough; woke up at 4am to catch my flight back to Chiang Mai (which this time included a straight up sprint to my connecting gate in Bangkok, Home Alone style), and headed straight to work when I got back to Chiang Mai. But on the subject of work, we started up the Burmese intern program since I last wrote, contrary to what I was expecting. We have 7 really cool interns this summer in the office. They come from 6 different ethnic groups and regions of Burma, which makes for some really interesting and diverse cultural perspectives. They have varying levels of English, but with the exception of one (who does the translating) they pretty much range from very basic to very very basic. It's all good though, we get by with the translator and who knows, they might pick up some more by the end of the summer. Anyways, last week we started out light and basically talked about some cultural/pop cultural issues. I gave a presentation on music and dance in America (the day before Michael Jackson died) so got the go-ahead to basically search through Youtube videos last Thursday morning. It's actually pretty funny to hear the things that they are interested in learning about America- they were fascinated by the concept of online dating, and apparently there's some myth floating around Burma that Americans don't really like to wear clothes. Sometimes I feel like I'm just on an episode of Mythbusters...
This week we've gotten into some more substantive topics (to be continued next week- the Burmese interns are leaving tomorrow for some training sessions). Anyways, they're fascinated by the U.S. Constitution, the Revolution, etc. (which is of course understandable- consider hearing the story of the American Revolution if you were in such an oppressed nation on the verge of revolution itself). It's also been pretty amazing just talking to them outside of our little daily lessons- one girl (who speaks better English than most) was telling me how she found out about HREIB through these underground pro-democracy groups that she used to attend in Burma, about how she wants to go back home to teach her community the human rights and pro-democracy lessons she learns this summer, and how she has friends who are currently in jail just for printing pro-democracy pamphlets (in response to my question of how dangerous it would be for her to hold such lessons in her community).
Anyways, I'll have more updates after this weekend- hope everyone back home has a great 4th of July! I'm getting off now to try to do a little research for my senior thesis- just got an email a couple days ago saying that we need a 5 page proposal and a thesis advisor 3 weeks into the school year, after I've been thinking this whole time that we had till spring to find a topic to write on. Any other PPL folk as surprised by this, or was I just out of the loop?
Pop gan mai =)