Christmas in Thailand

I guess it’s only three days but I’m feeling quite behind the times here… The internet at my school (read: the only internet to which I have consistent access) has been a word that I don’t feel comfortable saying in this public forum (but feel free to insert your own, the nastier the better), causing me to miss a few Christmas Skype dates and leaving me to find other things to do in my downtime at school besides blogging. (I’d like to say my desk is totally organized now but that would be a lie. Oh Angela, still reining Queen of Time-Wasting).

Anyway, the Christmas weekend pretty much went like this: met Henk and some of his friends Friday night for a few drinks which (surprise!) ended up with us at The Grand (though I guess I finally admitted to Wayne it’s really not my cup of tea every weekend). Saturday, Christmas Eve, we kept to ourselves. I was able to talk to the fam’ a bit that morning (they got to see Ollie Pup “in person,” which I’m sure was a delight). We had to go to Tesco for some last-minute Christmas shopping, and in spite of the biggest word of warning in my last post, I neglected to bring my rain jacket, and got absolutely soaked on the 20 minute drive home. It rained the rest of the afternoon, which gave us a great excuse to laze around watching movies and having a scrumptious Christmas Eve dinner of penne with vodka sauce.

On Christmas Day we had some friends over for what was supposed to be a “late lunch,” but since the centerpiece of the meal was Henk’s potato bake, which took 3 hours to cook, and he only arrived at 2 it turned into more of an early dinner. But it didn’t matter, we had nice company; some cheese, bread, gherkins, and apples; and plenty of sangria/wine/Sangsom to go around. Though quite different from any of my other Christmas experiences, it was very enjoyable all the same.

And finally… the Monday after Christmas. When my mom called that morning wondering why I’d never appeared on Skype as scheduled (see earlier comments about the internet), I concluded our conversation with, “I think I’m going to be a bit Christmas-ed out, but the kids will probably have fun.” You see, it was the big Christmas/New Year’s party at school– that’s right, eight full hours of non-stop Christmas “fun”!– and I don’t think I could have had a more accurate premonition. Wayne, Grace, and I kicked off the ceremony by singing “Let it Snow” and “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas,” while I played guitar. I had it recorded in hopes of showing off a bit but in reality it was an abomination  that we really just don’t like to think about. One of my classes followed up with a play we had about half as much time to practice as I’d hoped, and it also left a little to be desired.

We were told last minute (another big surprise!) that we’d be judging the Miss Christmas contest, which was an interesting experience to say the least. The rest of the day was peppered with more songs (lots more songs…), lots of one lady talking into the microphone really really loudly (and we were right next to the speakers), and… lots of ribbons being placed around the necks of various Christmas-bedazzled individuals. Here’s where I post pictures because I’m in the middle of a post-Christmas-gluttony, pre-New-Year’s-beach-holiday juice fast (plus the salad I had an hour go) and definitely feeling the low energy and crankiness right now. Oh good, the first series of pictures are all of food. This should help.

item 1 on the christmas gluttony roll: russian tea cakes/mexican wedding cakes/"mexican hat dance" cakes (the last only if you're my dad)

Got the inspiration from this Freshly Pressed recipe, in which she substitues pistachios for walnuts. Loved the idea, added some macadamias as well, and they turned out great. I gave a bowl to the kids doing the play (since in one scene Mrs. Claus offers cookies), and now one of the… more rotund girls in the class who previously was quite mute now comes to me on occasion to say, “Teacher. Cookie.” So. Improvements are being made?

sangria! wine+a few spoonfuls of sugar+a few fresh squeezed oranges+lots of cut up fruit=heaven. also very reminiscent of foxfield...

vodka sauce and garlic bread... mmmm.

ollie loves christmas! (as well he should the spoiled scamp... big ol' bones and whatever pork dish daddy cooked him! mmmmmm!)

christmas breakfast crepes with smoked salmon, bechamel sauce, arugula, and dill.

Recipe, or the inspiration thereof, here.

henk's potato bake coming together!

group shot, attempt 1: wayne from SA, me from USA, ollie from heaven, glen from canada, bill from USA, eugene from SA, henk from SA, toom from thailand, john from iran, jedi from thailand

attempt 2 +toom's daughter whose name i can never remember.

jedi and ollie... super rascally; perfect playmates.

dinner's up! henk going at a roast chicken with a pair of scissors... totally effective, as it turns out.

potato bake, veg skewers, shrimp skewers.

oh yeah, took ollie for a christmas walk.

definitely not customary christmas scenery, but it'll do.

Now what you’ve really been waiting for… the Tapae School Christmas Bonanza!

sneak peak at what's in store for the miss christmas competition...

something's different than most other days...

wait a sec... who invited these guys?!

more pictures of monks sleeping.

Let’s not forget the original.

"i mean, go ahead with your celebrations and stuff, but don't forget we have a temple right next door, and if anything crazy goes down, we're going to know about it."

i must say it was... en-chanting... a-haha.

benz, the santa in my play.

saow, rudolph in my play.

thing 1, thing 2, and the dancing santa?

wayne briefing his students one last time.

deeply engaged in the goings-on.

ready for the rudolph play!

another class of mine, who danced. 'you are the apple on my ipod.' so cute.

pim and mild, two of my students, and probably the most conservatively dressed in the 'miss christmas' competition.

a participant in the more-or-less 'american idol' portion of the day. he didn't win, but he did trip on stage at one point.

aaaand... the miss christmas competition. and yes, i'll remind you that we were at school and not... i don't know... a 'karaoke bar'?

lunch break entertainment included some band the kids went nuts over.

p'dum rocking out with the best of them...

why is pim so excited?

because she and mild are the winners of the miss christmas competition! proving you... how can i put this tactfully? proving you can wear pants and still win the miss christmas competition.

Well that’s that. I’m also in the process of putting together a “Christmas video” that’s pretty much just 4 minutes of my dog playing with his present from my mom so… check back if you’re into that kind of thing! (I know you are.)

Also, more importantly, hope everyone enjoyed their own Christmas celebrations and that the New Year treats you well!

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Rainy Day Ramblings

I long ago let loose any illusions of truth in Thai seasons, rainy or otherwise. I speak with my own observations as evidence, and there is certainly no human consensus to suggest that the weather is bound to anything except its own capricious whims. How flowers decide when to show their colorful faces; or vendors come into cyclical stashes of rambutan, mangosteen, and durian remains a mystery.

Over the course of a 10 minute drive it is not uncommon to marvel at the bluest of skies and most idyllic of clouds at the onset; only to have them usurped by a rainstorm so severe and abrupt the driver, should he or she at that moment be in the unfortunate position of commanding a motorbike, scarcely has time to stop safely and don the poncho that has taken a permanent residence in the bottom of the bike’s basket without becoming thoroughly soaked. It is equally likely that no sooner should the newly poncho-clad driver resume his or her mission, the storm gently taper from severe, to bearable, to nonexistent; the streets dampened, and the always-present humidity simply augmented from the residue of all the moisture to have suddenly made its way through the atmosphere.

Of course, if the driver is without poncho, the rain is sure to not only sustain itself, but to get dramatically worse throughout the course of the drive. Even at a necessarily slowed pace on the part of the motorbike, the water comes not in drops but pellets that ransack the eyes and skin with the impact of something seemingly solid; the stones of a thousand Davids being thrust upon Goliath as he teeters on the point of defeat; the piercing ends of a million bees who’ve taken up arms in defense of their queen. Upon arrival at his or her destination the driver will certainly experience surprise at not being covered in noticeable welts, but will come into newfound discomfort upon entering what’s sure to be an overly airconditioned room, where someone will either remark, “It is raining!” or “You are wet!”

Dogs go unwalked. Jogs go unjogged. Errands go unrun. Coffee and dinner dates get longer, internet gets slower, traffic gets scarier, boyfriends get grumpier because they’ve just planted new seeds again! Capitals flood and convenience stores nationwide (gasp!) go without beer. Though students are not forced to stand outside for morning assembly, they are forced to sit in the mud outside during their three-day camp at the waterfall, clapping along to their Scout leaders singing songs (an entry to look forward to).

But again– such episodes are no slaves to such sordid conventions as “seasons”!  Don’t try to expect or not expect them because it may or may not be March or July or October or December, and some “Thai person” who should “know what they’re talking about” said it is or isn’t rainy season! Don’t think you’re, ahem, through the storm simply because you’ve had a week of glorious weather and had high hopes of a rain-free beach holiday on any given weekend! No. Run those errands when there’s the slightest sliver of blue sky, because it may be the last you get. Order that second cup of coffee but know there’s no guarantee of clear skies by the time you finish. Spend more than 50 baht on an umbrella because the cheap ones will turn inside out when you wave them threateningly at the evil bitch of a dog who doesn’t miss a chance to pick a fight with your puppy every time you walk by, and you will have to spend the remainder of the walk without its cover as you try to make things right again. And of course, keep that poncho where it belongs in the bottom of your motorbike basket.

But it’s also worth mentioning the sunny days are far from few and far between, and quite enjoyable when they do make their appearances.

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Ricotta/Tomato/Mushroom/Basil and Roasted Eggplant/Olive/Pesto Pizzas

If anyone needed proof that I’m the worst half-hearted sometimes-kind-of-food-blogger (that came out “blooger”? And then “blooder” when I tried to write it just now in quotations?) to roam the blogosphere I think you’re about to get it. Not only do I know about 20% of the actually measurements and procedure, as per usual; the pictures are also from ages ago, as evidenced by them being set in the old house, Ollie’s tiny and adorable size, and Trix’s gorgeous grey ears sticking up in the back of one shot.

Nevertheless, pizza is definitely one of our favorite dishes to splash out on (read: fork over the $5 for a block of cheese) when the mood strikes or we have a guest to impress. Allegedly Wayne’s been in the pizza-making game for years, and I just kind of snuck in on the action when he brought his oven to my apartment in China (my ulterior motive for dating him… muahahaha), where we’d make pizzas with crust made of trash can bread dough. Since then Wayne has perfected a crust that requires no pizza stone, I Sandra Lee Semi-Homemade the hell out of a sauce (that links to a video of what appears to be her after a few too many of her notorious cocktails in full costume[s] during a Halloween special… worth a gander), and  then we throw on a delicious assortment of whatever we have laying around. And often pineapple, which we’ll go out of our way to get, but isn’t actually featured in this post. Um. Let’s roll?

Wayne’s Excellent Pizza Crust

ingredients: flour, sea salt, yeast, olive oil, warm water.

mix together in one bowl: one cup of warm water (warm meaning you can touch it without burning yourself... you don't want to kill your yeast), two tablespoons of olive oil, and one teaspoon of yeast. this should sit for 5 minutes to activate the yeast. in another bowl mix three cups of flour and two teaspoons of salt.

mix the contents of the two bowls together. though it doesn't look like he did it here, he's recently discovered that gradually adding the flour/salt mixture to the yeast mixture (rather than the other way around) gives a better consistency and easier kneading! knead for 5-10 minutes, until a firm, non-sticky dough has formed.

Optional: Let your dough rest for… as long as you want. I know that’s an annoying remark but it’s really up to you. When we feel like it or we have the time we let it sit for maybe around 20 minutes and it seems to provide a nicer texture, but it’s also nice without resting at all.

divide dough in half.

grab your nearest beer (or wine, depending on how classy you feel) bottle and get to rollin'. flouring your surface and the bottle will come in handy here. try to get to about quarter inch thickness.

as i said, we don't have a pizza stone and the recipe doesn't require one. because of this, to ensure the crust gets and stays crispy, it's necessary to prebake the crusts. 200˚C (392˚F) until they start to brown, monitoring to puncture any air bubbles that might arise, and rotating them as necessary (but you'd have to ask wayne exactly what that means).

Angela’s Sauce
I just realized I don’t have any pictures of my tomato sauce, probably because I knew I’d included its creation in the Mini Pizzas recipe I’d posted a while back. You’ll want to scroll down to “Seventh“, where you’ll find a vague outline of how to prepare it and more references to Sandra Lee and her cocktails. I swear nothing I say is even close to original anymore.

For these pizzas I decided to go a little crazy and attempt some pesto as well. However pine nuts are, as far as I can ascertain, impossible to come by in these parts, so I substituted almonds. I don’t remember being that stoked on how this turned out, and besides, at this point I can’t even venture a guess as to my ingredient proportions, but I think an almondy pesto could potentially turn out really nice if any of you superior chefs out there wanna take it on.

pesto ingredients. and yes, you're seeing that correctly... of all things to carry in a thai supermarket, kraft grated "parmesan". the most expensive cheese they offer! also, in case you were wondering, that is basil from our very own garden, and we have it in SPADES! so spoiled...

Cheese
Call it a slap in the face to my Italian roots, but we almost always top our pizzas with New Zealand cheddar. But we’ve started throwing on some of that Homemade Ricotta when we have some on hand if that counts for anything!

Toppings
In China we used to make monstrosities of pizzas with huge quantities of almost every vegetable you can imagine. I’m not going to say these pizzas were bad; in fact, I don’t ever remember having trouble putting one away. But lately we’ve been thinking simple is better: plain ol’ Margherita– tomato, basil, cheese [I know it’s not really Margherita if it’s not Mozzarella but do you really want me to make the “MargheriTHAI” joke?] with a drizzle of olive oil– is a tried and true favorite. On the occasion at hand we made two varieties: we topped the tomato sauce pizza with ricotta, tomatoes, mushrooms, and basil; and the pesto pizza with cheddar, roasted eggplant, and olives. We enjoyed both but I remember the eggplant one being really salty. Also Thailand has about 16 varieties of eggplant, but the beautiful purple aubergines I’m used to are hard to come by. We went with funky looking green eggplant here.

sliced eggplant and garlic/olive oil/parmesan topping for the roasting process.

ready to roast, again, until they just start to brown.

ready to bake.

aw, look how little and sweet he is. and so naive as to think he'll get a bite of anything if he just sits attentively. okay, maybe that hasn't changed!

bake at 200˚C (392˚F) until the cheese is bubbly, or until you can't wait anymore. in which case you should still wait for it to cool, or you'll have a seared palate. i should know.

pour a glass of your favorite wine, or in our case, a thai wine we thought we might as well give a shot (i don't remember it being... awful?). and yes, mom, drink out of water classes.

topped with a bit of oregano, ready to be consumed.

likewise. so green!

little baby's tired of sitting! he wants some pizza! (and surely won't get any.)

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It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Little Like Christmas

Let’s just say I’ve had “Mele Kalikimaka” in my head a lot recently. Not so much the “Mele Kalikimaka” bits, but definitely the “Christmas will be green and bright; the sun will shine by day and all the stars at night,” part. (With the mental addition in Ryan Calonder-style falsetto, “Unless it’s raining really hard in which case it will be grey and dreary all the tiiiiiime.”) Aside from the absence of the quintessential snow, for the most part in this Buddhist country, there ain’t much Christmas cheer in the air.

Nevertheless, Southern Thailand is made of businessmen, and who could overlook such a commercial opportunity as Christmas (though most signs I’ve seen have mostly just merged it with the New Year, which seems to be a big deal around here)? In any of the Western-influenced shopping centers (of which we have two) all the employees are rocking Santa hats and the halls are at least moderately decked. Moreover, there were Christmas decorations to be had, and so we had them. Let’s just say we were far from going overboard, but as I discovered in China, having a few things around the house definitely helps to get you in the spirit.

maybe you can't see but we put some of the ornaments on the window bars haha...

haha... only enough lights for one side of the window! and more ornaments on the bars...

o tannenbaum! prezzies courtesy of my dear momma:)

and what's christmas without some christmas cookies?

Alas… we have cheated a little bit and allowed Christmas to come a bit early. It’s just… it’s just Ollie’s collar broke. And I knew Grandma (his Grandma, not mine) had sent him a new one in her package… but it was a lovely surprise for all of us to note its colors. He looks good in blue and orange! And of course we couldn’t let him have all the fun, and so bequeathed upon each other a camera and a guitar.

victory!

amped to get some killer snorkeling footage over new year's!

And finally, as with Halloween, I had months in advance planned a pet-related pun for a “card”. I made a few attempts at it and am only partially satisfied, but here you go. ‘Tis the season to be Ollie!

And… other photos I took but didn’t use but are still mad cute:

durrrr... i want da cookie!

high fiving for a cookie... what a beeb.

because lots of butter and sugar is good for dogs, right?

the original

And… we needed a family Christmas photo as well. First attempts…

But we finally got it. Happy Ollie-days, everybody, from our home to yours!

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Three-Day Weekend on Koh Mook

Yes, you read that correctly: we had yet another extended weekend. A big perk of working in Thailand (other than, you know, being in Thailand) is that there are literally dozens of public holidays. In all honesty I don’t even know what this one was for. But since we’d finally been paid (I’m using the term loosely… tomorrow marks two weeks since we should have received our paychecks, and it still hasn’t happened. [The mayor, whose signature is allegedly needed on the checks, took a surprise trip to Indonesia.] But we finally, shall we say, bitched– though not in any unreasonable manner, I’m sure you’ll agree– enough that the school paid us half our salary from their own reserves. Or something. And word on the street is we’re being paid this afternoon.) we thought we’d do more than sit around in Thung Song and do something a little more exciting, like take a dive trip.

Koh Mook had been on our radar for awhile. It’s off Thailand’s west coast, in the Andaman Sea (so the same as Koh Lanta, and the opposite of Koh Tao), and is considered to be somewhat smaller and more off the beaten path than some of the other Thai islands. And though Koh Tao is king for diving, or at least diving certification in these parts, we’re reading over and over that the Andaman is actually far superior to the Gulf of Thailand in terms of marine life to be seen, especially at this time of year. It’s a bit more expensive, but since we were rolling in borrowed money we felt pretty gung ho about the whole thing.

the old cedric taxi we actually didn't end up taking to the first stop of trang, though it cost the same 70 baht ($2.33) for the hour-long journey as the minibus.

Our last few gallivants around the country were far from brag-worthy when it came to displaying our traveling prowess. We’d end up stressed and worn out, usually after a few extra hours of traveling and a few hundred Baht poorer than expected because we either hadn’t researched the trips properly our had made silly mistakes along the way. I’m proud to say there was none of that this time! Everything went incredibly smoothly and was delightfully inexpensive; two minibuses and a ferry cost us just 320 Baht ($10.67), and four hours after our departure we were on the steps of Hadfarang Bungalows.

the pier we were taken to after a short stop in trang.

we'd all lose a few brain cells to the exhaust pouring out from the engine for the entirety of the journey, and i believe we all had partial loss of hearing after the trip as well.

alright! our first glimpse at one of the seaside cliffs so typical in the andaman.

palm-lined tip of koh mook.

entrance to our bungalows. don't be fooled by the fact that most internet research leads you to believe that charlie's resort's 1200B bungalows are the only things available. sure, charlie's dominates the main beach, but there are a number of places located amongst the rubber tree groves behind the resort that offer comfortable accommodation for much less. we spent 400B the first night and upgraded to our own bungalow with personal bathroom for 500 the second night. we were able to book this from the minibus station in trang.

Item #1 on the agenda was to enquire about diving the following day. We found Chill Out Divers at their new spot on the beach and got sorted in no time at all, leaving the afternoon free to chill on the beach.

chill out divers' dive shop/bar

koh kradang in the distance.

hermie, my hermit crab friend.

we were blessed with an excellent sunset that first night.

A number of our friends from town had gone to Koh Phangan to experience the Full Moon Party on Saturday, so we were expecting a lovely moon. What we weren’t expecting (at least until our new Dutch friend Maarten mentioned his motorbike taxi drive had told him) was a full lunar eclipse! I’d never seen one before and don’t really possess the technology to take worthwhile pictures of such an event, but I still took a bunch because I was so impressed by nature.

bad moon risin.

and it was a funny kind of eclipse (or... maybe perfectly normal... like i said it was my first one) in that after it went fully dark the moon kept starting to creep back, then getting re-covered, then appearing, then disappearing again. weird wild stuff!

The following morning we got up early to make sure we were properly breakfasted before meeting up at 8 am to set out on the open seas. It was a clear morning and looked like it was going to be a gorgeous day, but alas… the sea got a bit rough (nay, “choppy,” I was corrected) in the 40 minutes it took us to arrive by longtail to our dive site, which did end up affecting visibility on the dive. That being said, we were well pleased with what the Andaman had to offer in terms of marine life, and were mostly just happy to be underwater again.

The dive site was called Hin Nok, which means “Bird Rock,” and allegedly at low tide there’s a large protruding rock that’s covered in seabirds. When we arrived around 9 o’clock, however, it was a barely visibly knob of stone peeking out between the waves, and I was more than impressed by our boat driver’s ability to lead us directly there. This was our first experience “Fun Diving,” (as opposed to diving to complete our certification) and it was a much more laid-back affair. Our group consisted of the leader, Alex from the UK; the Dive Master in-Training, Andreas from Sweden; and Chas and Mark, two Californians enjoying a Thai holiday. We went down for two full-hour dives (as opposed to 45 minutes, max, on Koh Tao) which was plenty of time to see come cool things in spite of the murky conditions. I started to make a list but it was tedious so I’ll just see if I can find some cool pictures.

andreas setting up all our equipment. nice of him, really.

Stuff we saw:

honeycomb moray. tons of these!

lionfish. a full school of them!

a school of vertically-swimming shrimp fish.

a few pufferfish, uninflated.

grumpy-looking scorpionfish.

vibrant sea-slugs, or nudibranchs

but it wasn't a rock... it was a lobster!

Photo sources: Honeycomb Moray, Lionfish, Shrimp Fish, Scorpionfish, Pufferfish, Nudibranch, Lobster. And… um, Rock Lobster.

two hours of diving later!

anchor up.

the whole crew imbibing in the traditional post-dive beer.

Now, what had drawn us to Koh Mook before we were even certified to dive were tales of the “Emerald Cave,” into which you could swim, in total darkness, and emerge on a small patch of beachy jungle. Or… jungly beach. Whichever. After our arrival on the island, we learned that you could actually rent a kayak and paddle into the cave, rather than go on a guided tour, and we decided that that’s what we wanted to do. We had no time to do it except after our dive, even though we were already a bit worn out. It was totally doable, but we made things worse for ourselves by rowing completely passed the cave, because it was labeled “Morakot Cave” rather than “Emerald,” and we felt sure that somebody would have mentioned this detail to us if it was the same place. So half an hour of extra paddling later we’d about-faced and found ourselves ready to enter the cave.

our new dutch friend, maarten, who came along with us.

coming back upon the cave.

definitely not "emerald cave."

going in! we actually were sure we'd have the place to ourselves at that time in the afternoon, and were a bit concerned about decapitating swimmers during the blind trek.

made it!

ti, the little thai kid who helped pull our boat ashore.

even this doesn't say emerald cave!

looking up.

Sunday night was marked with more beer, a seafood feast, surprise meetups with friends we’ve met on other travels, and subsequent beach jam sessions. Nothing to complain about, really.

singing american folk songs.

singing english folk songs.

The folks at Hadfarang made the trip home Monday quite painless and now we’re enjoying another abbreviated week. Oh, oh… and wait for it:

A month and a half into the term, despite not having even been paid upon their issuance (and having the paycheck be… 10,000 Baht short when it did come… still haven’t sorted that out yet…), we have been given official nametag lanyards. So official.

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Wan Po (Father’s Day)

“But wait– It’s not June!” “You always make references about Thais doing Christmas lessons and displaying Christmas paraphernalia in July… is this a similar occurrence?” “Wait wait wait… I know this one… Ohhhh Thailand. Right?!”

These are all things you may be thinking to yourself at my having a Father’s Day entry in December, but the fact is that Thais simply have a different Father’s Day. And just as Mother’s Day in Thailand falls on the Queen’s birthday, so did Father’s Day this year mark King Bhumibol Adulyadej, Rama IX’s 84th birthday. He’s a big deal in these parts. Not only is he the world’s current longest-serving head of state, he’s the longest reigning monarch in Thai history. (That should be in quotes, as I took it directly from Wiki after checking the spelling of his name.) His status is that of a near-deity in this country, and you can’t walk into any house, school, restaurant, or even down the street without encountering larger-than-life images of him and Queen Sirikrit. Any Thai person you meet will tell you, “Everyone love the King!”, and though we do happen to know there’s jail-time at stake for any remarks made against him, it does seem that people genuinely think he’s done many good things for the people of their country.

Unfortunately, he’s been ill for some time now, and between you and me I don’t think it’s out of the realm of possibilities that Wayne and I took part in King Bhumibol Adulyadej’s last birthday celebrations. (Upon rereading I feel it’s really worth stating that I don’t say that in any kind of capricious way, and that whether they were the ultimate, or penultimate, or 16th-to-ultimate-because-he’s-going-to-live-to-be-100 celebrations, it was an honor and a great experience for me to be able to participate.)  And it seems that the common sentiment towards his only son and heir is not quite as glowing, so it’s possible there may be a dramatic shift in the culture of the Thai monarchy in the not-so-distant future. Though far be it from me to take on the morbid task of compiling a Celeb Deathwatch (um, let’s just say that site’s not not not G-rated) list. Sidenote: the fact that I just noticed Fidel Castro’s on it reminds me of that time I was 18 working at Uno Chicago Grill and saw a headline on one of our muted TVs that read, “CUBA AFTER CASTRO.” So naturally, in order to make smalltalk with my tables, I started telling all my customers that Fidel Castro was dead, only to find out after the fact that it was just a hypothetical “news” story. Whoops.

Okay so that might have just got a bit weird, roll pics.

oh the pink shirts. those darling articles of clothing with which we were ambushed before we even knew we had a parade to attend. the fashion statements of a century that cost far more than any other article of clothing i've purchased since being in thailand (okay, granted, they were only the equivalent of $15 and i haven't done a whole lot of shopping so i guess that's not much of a statement). but you have to choose your battles right? oh, and the most important of all father's day symbols: the open electrical box.

army, ready to march.

some of the tapae (our school) crew.

me and biggy (pronounced 'big'), my coteacher.

group shot

lazy kids in their cush trolley...

the parade hath commenced!

the first of a series of photos of parade observers i had to take while walking (i was told, after erring once, that i shall not break formation, and thus could not stop and snap) that are consequently blurry but i've tried to edit to be artsy?

men and women had to march separately... trying to catch wayne.

there he is!

broke formation again to get this shot... got shouted at again. how do you say, 'it's my first dayyyy!' in thai?

back at home base, ready for the night activities.

candlelight for the singing of king-praising songs.

and what's a royal celebration without some fireworks?

half moon and red dandelion.

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Hellos and Goodbyes

Growing up as a military kid (an “Army brat”, shall we say, though I never really warmed to the term), my family had to do our fair share of hails and farewells, both in the official ceremony context and simply on a personal level. Whenever we moved to a new place we knew it was for a set amount of time (10 months, in my shortest experience; 4 years in the longest), after which we’d pick up, head elsewhere, and start again. The hellos and goodbyes that went along with such a lifestyle were just part of the deal, especially since many or even most people we knew shared our tendencies.

The teaching-abroad business is quite the same, in that regard, with the transience being, if anything, more pronounced. In the eight months (eight months!!!) I’ve been here nearly everyone who was holding down the fort upon my arrival has gone. The last of the “OG crew” (as I’ve probably annoyingly frequently referred to it in the past few weeks) to go were David and Lize, when they hopped a train to Bangkok last Wednesday night. They were, I think, the first people I met in Thung Song, and David and I became particularly close sharing an office throughout all the crazy happenings during our term at Satree Thungsong. They will be missed greatly.

The flip side of all this, of course, is that you’re given a chance to meet so many great people and build up a network of friends around the globe; whom you might have a chance to drop in on someday, or whom you might be fortunate to have pay you a visit. This happened simultaneously with David and Lize’s departure when Luke, an old coworker from China, swung through for a few days.

Hitting up the local waterfalls with David was always a favorite weekend passtime (weather provided, of course), and we knew Luke to be of adventurous and nature loving stock (learned this on our unforgettable trek of Huangshan), so going to our newly favorite Plew(/Plio/Pliu… no direct transcription from Thai to English and we’ve seen all three) Waterfall seemed like just the way to spend what ended up being both of their final evening in Thung Song.

unrelated, but an excellent sunset at yimyim, one of our favorite local eateries we're sure to bring any visitors to.

also unrelated but an awesome sketch one of the new girls in town, jennifer, made of the thainksgiving feast.

also unrelated but a monk tending his daily fire outside the temple next to school

there are 5 levels at plew, some harder to reach than others. this is just level 2, the 'infinity pool', but it's one of the favorite stops and best places to actually swim.

boys gettin in.

10-second delay attempt 1: everyone seems genuinely happy, presumably because it was a slippery journey for me from the camera to the boys.

10-second delay attempt 2: accidental cleave shot? oh well. good effort!

down at the first level there are a few cool spots from which to jump...

so we did!

can go from both sides.

contemplating the plunge.

then wayne started levitating...

haha, full shot.

and... everything else is a bit blurry, but it stays.

david going up...

and coming down. faster than the speed of light.

at 6'8" (202 cm), when luke 'jumps' he actually just steps into the water, but i think he still had fun

david at it again.

ha, just noticed the 'diving prohibited' sign. but i guess none of us were diving anyway...

full shot

yep, plugging my nose all the way down again ryan!

one of the reasons plew is so enjoyable is that we almost always have it all to ourselves. i'd say this is partially because the road isn't... good. it's not even mediocre. in some places it's hardly passable. but totally worth it!

made it out, safe and sound.

Anyway. Many happy trails and returns to David and Luke. Very happy to have had you both in my life!

david stunt driving on our way home from a last dinner at o's.

little does ollie know that yet another of his newfound best friends is getting to leave him again...

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