Sunday, February 7, 2010

Sunday, February 7

Sirirat and I went to go visit the old sad lady again before church. she cried again. "she cries alot" sirirat told me. she has 12 children and more than 100 grandchildren and great grandchildren.

on the way to the church there were two dogs having passionate, loud sex in the middle of the road with a third dog standing by to watch. sirirat pretended not to notice the debauchery. I laughed out loud.

i spent the hour before church started filling 8 million mini shot glasses with red grape juice from concentrate, aka. the blood o' jesus. I pretended I was filling them for a party and for a breif moment, thought to myself, "man, we shoudl have made jello shots out of these, they're just the right size."

during church i sat in the middle of the 3 smiling sisters- noy nah, nid noy, and yui- and we had a thumb war championship. I ate the bread for communion at the wrong time.

i met a lady from NY at the church named Dar. she had fallen in love with a local guy, married him, divorced him and married another thai man. she had been here for over 30 years already! Sirirat invited Dar and her husband over for lunch. Dar liked to talk alot and i liked hearing english. Her daughter was the same age as me and desperatley wanted a job working at the UN. Thought she had done everything right (including speaking 6 languages fluenty), she hadn't had any luck. I told Dar that sirirat had lots of connections at the UN, Dar worked them. sirirat hooked her up.

i left early to go teach my english class but dar invited me to their home in the mountains next weekend. The class was packed. After 45 or 50 kids had showed up. more kept coming every week and i hoped it was because they had been telling their friends how awesome the class was. more likely because they wanted to get out of work, about 10 of the kids from the broom family were there. just the little ones, all filthy and grinning. They were far behind and spoke zero english but were enthusiastic to participate in everything. we played what time is it mr fox to work on numbers and time. then i passed around a bag of clothes while whistling all aroudn the mulberry bush the monkey chased the weasle and when i stopped whistling, whoever had the bag had to pull something out and say what it was. they were so funny about passing it around that I coudln't whistling form laughing so hard. have you ever tried whistling while you are lauging, or even smiling? its impossible.

after class sirirat's cousin whose name was X (seriously), his daughter cheeon and the littlst orphan noy na to some gardens in the mountains (something liek the bontantic gardens in denver but way more intense)cousin X stayed in the car. he was tired and not intersted in going to the gardens. so i took the girls ages 6 and 7 to check it out. neither one of them spoke any english but i've discoevered that the younger the kids, the easier it is to communicate with them without using words. I shwoed them how to use my camera and let them take as many pictures as they wanted. we took loads of silly pictures whiel running along the garden paths and through fountains. all of our hands were sweaty from holding on to each other the whole time, but none of us wanted to let go.

After dinner we got out some balloons that someone had donated to the orphanage and I taught the kids how to make balloon animals, flowers, hats. It reminded me of when I was little adn used to dress up as a clown for my sister's birthday parties and paint her friends faces and make balloon animals for them. we all walked home with extravagant baloon hats on singing and acting out:

skidamarinkidinky dink, skidamarkinky do, I love you.
I love you in the morning and in the afternoon
i love you in the evening and underneath the moon
skidamarinkidinky dink, skidamarkinky do, I love you.

which i had tuaght them to add to their repetoire of english songs which now includes:

we wish you a merry christmas
head shoulders knees and toes
the hokey pokey
skidamarinky dinky dink.

New world record book fact: the cheapest rent in the world: the houses behind the church are being rented for ..... drumroll.... 200 baht A YEAR (about $6 per year)

Saturday February 6

Sirirat brought me to an award ceremony she was being honroed in this morning. she seemed as disinterested in it as i was.

most of the rest of the day we spent just hanging out. a slow saturday. i spent the morning drawing pictures with the orphans and doing portraits of them.

sirirat brought me over to her neighbor's house to invite them to come to my english class tomorrow. a few of them had come by the week before but she said most of them had to work on sundays helping their families. there was a mini family factory making brooms going on there. inside the house of thatched straw roofs ands walls and mud floors were about 40 or 50 people, all related according to sirirat. they worked 12 hours a day, including the kids when they wern't in school, on everythign from painting sticks for the broom handles to wiring straw-liek plants together for the part you sweep with. The first family of 5 we talked to had already made 600 brooms that morning.... it was only 1 oclock. sirirat said she wasnted to bring some of the orphans over to see how hard the kids were working here since she thought some of hers were pretty lazy. nothing like the strong influence of child labor to motivate hardwork.

Ayah (one of the older orphans) showed up to dinner with her hair cut short. she seemed self concious about it. i loved it. i made sure she knew. after dramatically approaching her with gleeful gasps, i tucked her hair behind her ears and put my hands on her face. "soooaye" i repeated a few times, "beautiful". she leaned into me andd gave me a long tight hug. "i lob you P. Jenny" I think that was the first time I had heard her speak english, it was like hearing your name as a baby's first words.

I had told sirirat i wanted to do somethign special with all of the kids and she suggested taking them all out to icecream. "Their favorite thing!" she told me. So after dinner we made the trek to the icecream shop. A huge group. They argued over who got to hold my hand. I ended up with a couple of each arm and hand. When we saw a big snake on the sidewalk, they all shrieked and clung to me. I enjoyed feeling like I was protecting them even though I was just standing there with no intention of going any nearer to the snake. The icecream shop had exactly 3 flavors. I couldn't figure otu what any of them were just by looking at them to i pointed to all 3 and mimed for him to mix them together. he looked at me like i was an idiot. I couldn't figure out what they were by tasting them either but the mixture of whatever I got was MARVELOUS. The kids slowly licked their icecream cones (which I don't think I've ever seen a child do before), savoring the sweetness with huge smiles. For a grand total of about $4 US I was a hero. AWESOME. The icecream shop hada TV in the corner playing Tom and Jerry dubbed over in Thai. we stayed until the end of the show. I laughed in all the right places.

Nid NOy held her arm up next to mine to recheck our color pallettes. She pointed back and forth at both arms, grinning, "same, same! P. Jenny!"

Friday, February 5, 2010

Friday, february 5

I think i may have started a senior citizen's sunrise biking club. singyam met up with me in the dark again this morning to go biking and this time she had invited four of her friends. i was meeting all the bad-ass old ladies of chiang rai. all the women i'd met before didn't like to break a sweat or any type fo exertion so this was a rare treat. everyone had their flashlights in the bike baskets. they liked my headlamp which they called a "necklace of light" when i left it around my neck. one lady had what appeared to be a squey dog toy lashed to her handlebars with rope. whenevr we passed anyone that she knew, which was most of the town, she squeaked it at them. she also squeaked it in response to trucks that honked at us for drifting too far into their territory on the road. i kept thinking she would follow up the squeak with her middle finger, but she never did. we went a different route today than we had yesterday following the main road more. singyam had told me that she would take me to see the flowers and when we got there i knew exactly what she meant. it wa a huge public garden but it was closed until 8 and it was only 7. supon took down the bamboo rails blocking the gate and climbed through, motioning for the rest of us to follow. we did, leaving our bikes at the gate and feeling rebellious. we walked through the gardens, the only witnesses that monring to how a hundred purple orchids looked with the red light of the runrise on them. we stayed until the orange ball rose above the lake, hanging there to check how it looked in the water, and a security guard came by to scold us for breaking in. he didn't seem too angry but shooed us out anyway. when we got back all the women said that they wanted to go every day next week.

when i finished helping nit with chores and english lessons, i wandered back over to singyam's houe. she was boiling some green water on the stove that had big leaves in it. i asked her is it was tea. she said no but gave me a cup to drink after she added a pinch of smaller leaves. "good for heart and..." she pointed to her back "for farmerswho work very hard." her brother was a farmer and i could only assume she was making it for his sore back. it smelled like leaves and tasted sort of bitter. singyam had a big winge bottle filled with Pen's dad's homemade honey in it and i asked her if i coudl add some to the not-tea. she said, with her finger in the air as if she had just had an epiphany, "THAT is a VERY good idea." She added some to hers too. the sweet plus the bitter combo was delicious. "ah roi" i told her. she agreed.

when nit came into my room to tell me it was time to go to work, she saw andrea gibson's poetry book "pole dancing to gospel hymns" on my bed. It had a picture of an organ on the front. " christian book?" she asked me, probbaly recognizing the word "hymn" from the front of her church's hymn book which had the title in english adn thai despite the fact that the entire thing was written in thai. "Poool dancing," she read slowly. I hoped she would ask me what poool dancing was. i wanted to tell her it was a type of dance for worship. i still hadn't answered her first question. "Nit" (she was referring to herself in the third person constantly), "Nit like to dance, you like?" " yes, i like to dance" i told her, smirking to myself at the way the conversation had played out in my head.

Thursday February 4

no school today. or tomorrow. the students all have exams.

Yesterday I was talking to my next door neighbor singyam about biking. Singyam and i have been hanging out fairly often latley. She noticed that I have been biking alot and told me that she liked bikign too. I asked her if she wanted to come with me sometime so we could bike together. she seemd sort of lonely. I sort of assumed that she would say no. Although she is pretty tough, she's about 67 years old. Singyam told me that she didn't like to bike in the heat so i told her we could go in the morning when it was still cool.

"ok!" she told me
I asked her what time
"6:00 we go" she said
I agreed

this morning at 6 am she was already waiting for me outside. she was dressed for a ski trip. winter parka, face mask, hat, gloves. i threw my fleece on and stuffed some crackers in the pocket to eat on the road. Singyam had a dim flashlight in her bike basket as her bike light. we stoppe at the market a few blocks away to pick up her friend supon that singyam had invited to come alaong. supon was also dressed for a mission to antarctica. we rode all the way to the airport taking only back roads. thailand mornings are shrouded in fog and i imagined we were riding through the mists of avalon bareback on white horses. when the sun started to com up and the pink sky reflected on the fog turning it into cotton candy, i felt mor like i was in rainbow brite's cloud kingdom. we rode pretty far and singyam and supon kept a good pace the whole time. as we turned around to head back, they hopped off their bikes to walk for a few minutes. singyam pointed at her butt as she got off her bike "hurt" she said, wincing. when we got back singyam and supon told me they wanted to go again tomorrow. excellent!

Nit was waiting for us at home still in her pajamas with breakfast ready. she was appalled that we had been gone for 2 hours and "biking ride" the whole time. "wan khanot!" i told her happily (it was alot of fun!). she smiled and clapped at my use of the new thai phrase she had taught me the day before. i traded language with her some more after breakfast, tutoring her in english for nearly an hour. she wanted more but i told her that was enough for today. i had to think of a better way to break down irregular verbs and their tenses to her. she coulnd't understand why the "will be verb+ing" (we will be cooking tomorrow)format i had taught her to simplify the future tense didn't always work.

we rearranged the kitchen to make room for the new cabinet we woudl pick up that afternoon. the amount of clutter in that one room made me want to tear through everything and throw half of it away an i deperatly wanted to put a fresh coat of paint on the dirty faded baby blue walls. i smiled to myself though as I rehung the huge framed clock of 3 holographic kittens next to a calendar with the king's picture on it.

when nit brought me to her office later, she had to teach piano lessons but another teacher there had a free hour and decided it would be best spent educating me a little bit about playing the guitar. i was impressed by how well he was able to teach me without using any english at all. after a while, he gave up and sang me a song. "this is a love song" nit said to me as she walked through the room. she said something in thai to the guy singing that made him blush but he kept playing. when nit's husband came by, looked at me, and said "come," i followed him, no clue where we were going. we picked up nin (their daughter) from school and then walked to the market to get snacks and food for dinner. nin kept asking me what i wanted to eat for a snack. i have no idea what anything was so i told her to choose for me. she picked out some bright pink jelloey blobs and come clear jelloey blobs that had green vegatables in the middle. they were both terrible but i ate them anyway to see her smile. "you like?" she asked me. i nodded, lying.

nit stayed to teach and nah A (uncle A/ nin's dad) took music, nin, and i boating. we drove down a dirt road to a small pond where they stored a red plastic rowboat underwater. we pulled it out and washed it out with a bucket. i was fairly certain that i would sink it when i got in but i didn't (it did sink about 3 inches though). Nah A tied a long to the front of the boat and the other end of the rope to a tree. just in case. we paddled around for a little while while the sun sank and the pond lit on fire from the red in the sky. we stopped now and then for music to put his plastic fish in the water and pull the string that made it wiggle around. nah a. pulled us in with the rope when it got dark and re-sunk the boat. i felt like we were storing away a secret.

nin got her exam scores that night (kids here have to test to get into good schools for the 7th grade) and the results warrented a lottery-win-jumping-frenzy and phone calls to everyone she knew. our giant family dinner that night was one of celebration.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Wednesday, February 3

I taught a few classes in the morning and the time went by clowly. I tutored Nit over lunch for about an hour working on her tenses. She was a good student. Nit said we were going to her office around 2. I still had a little free time. I went for a long run through the rice fields again knowing I shoudl be dying with how little I run at home but high altitude living proved to have its advantages. I coudl run forever here and not even be breathing hard. I waved to the farmers in the rice fields as I passed them, they were all starting to know me by name now rather than "America". They waved back.

Instead of going to Nit's office, we picked up her husband, and went to somethign like a county fair. Nit and I walked around for a few minutes while her husband negotiated the prices of a new cabinet for their kitchen. There were loads of people throwing darts at balloons to win giant stuffed animals. In between the baloons booths were people selling pigs heads, rice, and fried unidentifiables. Between those were small shops selling knock offs of everything you can imagine. It was hot under the tents and smelled like sweat. Nit kept asking me if I wanted to buy anything. I didn't. We met back up with her husband who had purchased th ecabinet. We would pick it up tomorrow. They took me to run a few more errands while I got more and more confused by our final destination. I didn't bother to try to figure it out. I was along for the ride at this point. We stopped at a cardealership to investigate a car their family was thinking about purchasing. Though they talked witht the representative for a long time and meticulously examined a half a dozen cars, they just left with a brochure. Just when I was beginning to wish I had stayed home and spent the afternoon reading or anything other than what we were doing, we stopped a small museum. My prize for being dragged around. Our tour guide spoke very good english and told us about every king's ceremonial costume fromt he last thousand years as she pointed them out in glass cases. We were the only ones there. The museum was surrounded by beautiful fowers and when the tour was finished, out guide made us tea to drink in the garden. My favorite part. The tea was bitter like green tea but had a sweet after taste. When I asked her what it was called she told me emperor tea.

Nit and her husband plyed tour guides again and took me to an arts and cultural center. It belonged to the quens mother before she died and now it was like a big park with loveley landscaping for people to visit. Instead of walking, we drove around the park. I am constantly forgetting how Thai people hate to sweat or exert themselves at all. Nah A (Nit's husband) insisted I leave my camera in the car, indicated that he woudl take pictures on his and give them to me later. He took about 8 zillion pictures in only the most unattracticve places with the worst lighting. Before we left we stopped at a pavillion set up like a msall museum that had displays about teak wood and a few art pieces. The oman there din't speak much english but followed us around anyway, reading the title signs (which were written in english) with a bad accent. I desperatly wanted to point out to her that I coudl read them on my own but restrained myself.

We finally made it to Nit's office where I hung out for a while while she tutored kids in piano. Her daughter, Nin came over when she was done with school and Nah A came back with their son Music a little while later. Nin and I played games in the waiting room for a while. Her english was very good and she loved speaking it. Then we all went to pick up take out for dinner. Gam and Denoi were sleeping over (the kid's cousins) so it would be a full house.

After dinner, Everyone hung out in the living room together and I discovered their faily collection of photo albums thinkign it might be a good start for some attemped english conversation. They obviously hadn't looked through them in a long time and poured over the books, laughing and pointing, and telling me who was who and who old they had been in that picture.

Tuesday, February 2

Nit brought me halfway to meet Sirirat this morning. In the parking lot, she dropped me off at, we met up with Nid- a musian and Ajah Kis who we carpooled with to a prison about an hour away where Sirirat works with the prisoners on a regular basis. They were happy to see her when we arrived. Sirirat told me thta most of the prisoners were Buddhist but some were Christian and more became Christian every time she went. I was going to see conversion at work.

The prison was actually suprisingly beautiful if you irgnored the high walls, barbed wire, and bars surrounding the entire facility. One of the prisoners was a painter and had painted murals on many of the walls in the prison and prisoners with too much free time on their hands had sculpted incredibly colorful gardens.

We set up by soem picnic table under a pavillion. About 30 men caem over to meet us. Nid sang some songs, Sirirat nad Ajah Kis alternated preaching important Christian somethings and Sirirat baptized about 5 men. One man was being released the next day on good behavior and Sirirat seemed to attribute that to him becoming a Christian. She presented him with a pair of cheap flip flops like they were the holy sacrament and he recieved them as if they were. He didn't have any shoes and would need some when he was released. He stood up to sing the next song with his eyes closed, flip flops in hand and arms waving around to the music as if he was a gospel singer in New Orleans. After it was over I had a crowd of happy prisoners come up to me and shake my hand, laughing nervously. "Hello!" and "America!" were the only English phrases they knew and they used them over and over again. As we walked over to the women's side of the facility to repeat the same bible camp bussiness, everyone we passed reached out to touch my hands. I felt like a really awkward famous movie star that had just figured out people were actually watching her films. One of the women told Sirirat that she had had a dream the night before that we would come. Another woman carried a small child, maybe one year old, who was fairly cross eyed and coudln't seem to figure out what to make of me. He looked like he was going to cry but instead just stared. Sirirat took a photo of me on her camera with the women that has come over to talk to me. "Jenny and prison friends!" though I was sure I would be glad to have th ephoto later to remember them by, I hated her right then for ruinging the moment of connection and turning me into an instant tourist.

While I was eating dinner with Pen that night, a student came over to interview me for her English class. Furthering my awkward famous feeling. She was older than the students I had been teaching and I hadn't met her before. She had clearly practiced all her questions and tape recorded the whole conversation (probably so she could decode it later). She asked me what my favorite food was, if I played a sport, and if I had a pet. I told her I used to have a dog and a turtle but didn't have a pet now. She didn't know what a turtle was so I drew her a picture of one.
" What is your pet's name?" she asked.
I told her Bruce Wayne.
"what is this meaning" she wanted to know.
"Its Batman's real name I informed her.
" Ah Batman!"
She knew Batman but I'm fairly certain that she didn't understand the connection between the words "batman" "Bruce Wayne" and "turtle"
She moved on. When she was finished she gave me a scarf and thanked me about 20 times I asked her if she had made it and she said yes and then no. I'm still not sure if she actually did or not.

In the evening I tutored Nit in English again.

Before bed I asked Pen if she had any mouse traps. She didn't understand. I drew her a picture. Nothing.
"rat in my room" I told her, drwing a picture of a rat. I charaded the ray dying dramatically by choking myself to death.
"ray? Oh!" (lightbulb flashing on) "Kewwwwl rat!"
She took my hand and pulled me over to the cabinet where we had a box of rat poison. The label was entirely in Thai but the title was repeated in english. Large red letters read RAT KILLER. She used her finger to follow along and read slowly "Raaaat kewwwwler!" Smile. I nodded enthusistically. She put some of it on a plate and I showed her where the rat had been sneaking in, crinkling bags nearby and putting my hand to my eyes to dramatically search for the invisible rat. she laughed. "OK! Today, rat kewwwwl!" She smiled "see you tomorrow!"

I stayed awake most of the night guiltily listening to my rodent roomate eat to his death. I had only ever caught mice before and put them outside. The idea of intentionally killing one sort of really bothered me. But rats here carry nasty diseases and this one was an escape artist. I sighed and put my headphones in to silence my screaming consience so I could sleep. Murderer.

Monday, February 1

I tuaght 4 classes this morning- one for a double period. PInky (their teacher) wanted me to work on prepositions with the two 9th grade classes from their workbook. I finished the exercises in the workbook quickly and made up a game to play with the kids to build on the work I had done with them the week before on directions. I drew a few mazes on the board and had the students dirct me tas to where I should go. the first time I just drew it on the board as they said it, going the wrong way if they indicated that I should The second time I also wriote sentecens for each direction on the board and the third time I had them write the direcetions out. Next I worked with 2 first grde classes on their ABCs. I stayed and hun gout with the last class for a while until lunch continuing to work with them. Their teacher didn't seem interested in teaching and indicated that I could stay. They were pros in the ABC songs and writing their letters by the time i was finsihed with them. I did my laundy in the afternoon and went for a long run through the rice fields. After dinner Nit pulled me into the living room to talk. She really wanted to learn english and had designated me as her live-in tutor. She had borrowed some books on conversational english (which were terrible) and was ready to practice speaking. I was stoked to have a student that was so eager to learn after a semi- frustrating morning with the students from the school and got right to work with her.

I got lost in my book until midnight. So much for rationing out the books I brought. I was woken up by a aloud rustling noise. Still half asleep, it startled me. I grabbed my flashlight and shined it on the intruder, afriad someone was in my room. My light illuminated the biggest rat I've ever seen. He escaped through a gap between the walls and the stairs (my room is under the stairs) and revisted me throughout the night. Everytime I shined my light on him he ran away. A all night game of flashlight tag ensued. While I was lying awake, I tried to think of a simple way to let Pen know I had a giant rat as a roomate.