Friday, August 6, 2010

Into Bangkok

OK...this may be a little..."raw."

Twenty-seven hours in the air is quite grueling. While my changeover in Houston consisted of a mad dash to the next gate, the four hour stop in Narita Airport (Tokyo) allowed me to sleep awhile on thinly padded benches. I was just so happy to sleep- not sitting up, that is. I deserved the rest, considering that the flight from Houston to Tokyo was no less than thirteen and a half hours. I'm still proud of myself for only purchasing one expensive airplane beer during the whole ride. The food for the trip was actually not that bad this time- my salad included shrimp and fresh lemon, the main course themes were asian and included a fish option with japanese short-grain sticky rice, and snacks included fresh fruit. Either way, I would have likely eaten whatever they chose to place in front of me. The excitement and exhaustion that I simultaneously experienced seemingly doubled my metabolism. The flight from Narita to Sumvabhumi (pronounced soo-mwah-bhoom) was shorter, but the plane was less like a 777 and more like a sardine can. Fortunately, I was surrounded with friendly Thais and westerners for the duration of that leg of the journey. I made friends on the plane, all of them young Thai professionals and exceptionally helpful helping me around the large, unfamiliar airport
Sumvabhumi Airport is referred to as BKK, though it is located roughly forty-five kilometers north of Bangkok. Finding my luggage and ride into Bangkok itself was not a problem and I rode with two other international students, both very friendly and excited to be in Thailand. I was able to buy some beer just outside my hotel (Amarin Mansion), thanks to 'Justin,' one of the administrators at the Amarin. The proprietor of the small shop (Khai) had just turned everything off, but was kind enough to open back up in order for me to purchase a few items.
I woke up at dawn to exotic sounds in the mini-jungle just outside of and below my balcony. I took a trip out, but participated in the offering of incense and water to the spirit shrine outside of my lodging location. Every building in Thailand has one of these birdhouse-sized temples nearby, and I was glad my new friend, Aoy (a cute Thai woman) invited me along. She encouraged me to stay here long-term and promised that she would one day allow me to accompany here while she made alms to many of the local monks.
Another new friend, Nueng, was kind enough to drive myself and a friend, Johnnie to the mall and supermarket. She also translated for both of us and was so kind it was absolutely overwhelming (in the best kind of way).

Every day has been a Thai beer tasting...or maybe more aptly described as a personal Thai beer contest! Apparently there is an issue with my student account...this will get sorted out. I am instead going to focus on my name recognition skills. Today offered me a unique opportunity. Apparently the restaurant across from the hotel, (or specifically the owner, Khai) needs to find ways to boost business. A friendly photographer was present; she had a good grasp on the english language and I really feel like I offered some great suggestions. The photo shoot turned into a Thai food tasting, and all the (free) food I tasted was, quite honestly, the most amazing food I had yet experienced- from this particular restaurant. I finally e-mailed my parents, with the help of friends. Internet is incredibly slow here, and my computer will not even connect. Perhaps (computer-related) things will get better. My language grading skills are already inproving, which is good considering I have not even begun my beginning Thai course. Menu suggestions in English were easy to read, etc.
I toured The National Museum was just like everything here-- AMAZING. It would be exhausting for me to go into detail. My walk through the museum was exhausting in and of itself- sometimes everything is so much to take in that I begin to feel quite tired. I was also quite hung over from all the Thai beer from the night before, which did not help. SiamSato beer is disgusting, by the way...Archa is the way to go when you are here. SiamSoto is strong, weird and rather awful
Apparently, I prepared myself quite well for my stay in Thailand. Many people that I interact with are impressed by my cultural knowledge and sensitivity. Mission accomplished-- YATTA!-- this is allegedly a Japanese term that expresses success or accomplishment on behalf of the speaker. The uniform requirement here is interesting, but a bit of a drag as well. I am writing this at 2.08 PM, BKK time... My sleep schedule is ridiculous right now. I guess this is my own personal version of jet-lag. I drank myself to sleep last night, and woke up at 9.30, thinking that I had missed orientation, which is actually tomorrow.
Walking down the streets of Bangkok at midnight can make one quite paranoid, considering all of the things one hears about the nature of this strange, sprawling 'world city.' In actuality, my fears seem unwarranted. The only person that seemed to walk close to me for awhile on the thin sidewalk was in fact headed to his home not far from where I was staying and greeted me in his best english just before he walked through his outside gate.

Orientation for Thammasat University was today... It was long, but went OK. “That's all I have to say about that.”
Fortunately I left just in time to make it to the ferry as the afternoon rainstorm rolled in. Vendors were scrambling to get their goods and wares out of the open. The strings of Thai flags that litter the sky above the streets and Wang Lang pier were wildly flapping about in the wind and the storm was beautiful. There is nothing like watching the swirling black sky from the Chao Phraya River. Nonetheless, I was still caught in the rain and my pants were soaking wet by the time I made it back to the Mansion. I was glad that I had the foresight to carry my trusty yellow rain jacket along.
What Do? Lonnie's in the ditch! I feel exhausted from all the walking around, learning, listening to special speakers, etc. It may seem like I'm writing this under the influence of some sort of substance, but I am really just so, so, tired. I mean, it is almost 6 am EST right now, and I am plain wore out. I don't even feel like I have the energy to organize today's notes. I want desperately to go to bed, but on the other hand, I realize that I need to stick it out as long as possible in order to 'dial in' my sleep schedule... I suspect I will have little success.

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