Last weekend, I went to Chiang Mai, rode elephants, went bamboo rafting, visited two, basically not-that-authentic hill-tribe villages...well maybe that is not a correct assessment. I was surprised at the hand-made goods offered there, and though I realize weaving is a traditional art for many Karen and Hmong, the amount of things offered 'for sale' is more or less a stunning/disappointing reminder of how much of the Thai economy relies on tourism- eco-tourism in this case.. Either way, I had a great time. Chiang Mai has great wats and--- vegetarian restaurants too!! Bar-hopping there was truly a pleasure. The only person that I met during my Chiang Mai bar experience was a drunken, abrasive, rude, and somewhat rowdy american. I received a text message from my friend living in Chiang Mai (only two days ago) telling me that the guy broke his own leg somehow, after we had all left the bar. If karma truly exists, this is an example of instant karma! I pity the guy, really.
Classes are in somewhat full-swing this week, but my fellow students don't exactly demonstrate scholarly behavior. Many of them are dull, loud, and obnoxious, to say the least. Many of the students that I have interracted with personally are all good, reasonable people, but the ones in the background are annoying and tend to rub me the wrong way, for whatever reason. ECU has a questionable reputation, but I feel confident enough to say that I am ahead of the curve, at least after my most recent experiences at Thammasat.
Beginning Thai is my most challenging class, but I never expected that learning a mono-syllabic, tonal language would be easy. Thai has five 'tones'(high, medium, low, rising, and falling) that often determine the meaning of a word-- for example, the meaning of the word 'mai' differs depending on the tone with which it is spoken. 'Mai' spoken with a medium (pitch) tone may be used to formulate any question. 'Mai' spoken with a high (pitch) tone is used to make a statement negative, so on and so forth. This may not me the best or most accurate example, but perhaps you get the idea.
Hanging out with locals...and most of them aren't students...I kind of run from the other students, except the ones that seem to really understand what a meaningful stay in a host culture is all about. It is DEFINITELY NOT about going to clubs blasting fashionable american hip-hop, or shopping for material items that will undoubtedly be worthless in three months. It is also not about clinging to other international students, as said behavior will do nothing to help sharpen one's people skills. On the other hand, I suppose spending time working on a web blog dosen't really help that much either, but at least I can put this toward credit in one of my classes, and it improves my writing skills, which is essential to good communication... This is a good cue to end on.