Fundraiser for Ayutthaya Flood Victims

If you have been following my Facebook posts, or the news, you are aware of the devastating floods in Thailand. One of the hardest hit areas was Ayutthaya where my group had preservice training. Most of our host families, and their neighbors, have been severely affected by the floods.

If you are able to help, please click on the link below and donate to the flood relief fund. No donation is too small (or too large). ;-)

100% of donations, excluding transactional fees, will go directly to the families in need living in Ayutthaya, Thailand.  Proceeds will be used for food, water, boats, clothes, medical supplies and other resources.

Thank you in advance for your support.

Peace Corps Thailand Group 123

Disclaimer: This website, post and the fundraising website are not endorsed by, and do not reflect any official position held by the Peace Corps.


More Observations on Language

So, the dutiful traveler buys a Berlitz book and  Rosetta Stone and churns through them in preparation for their one month trip to the United States. They learn clear, concise sentences to express their wants and needs like: Where is the bathroom? The bathroom is over there. Would you like something to drink? Yes, Thank you. Ah…. sweet preparation.

Then they get here and even though the phrase “Would you like something to drink?” is in common usage, no one they meet, and I mean no one, will ask that question that way. In fact, as Murphey’s Law dictates, they will ask the question every way but that way. Like:

The slur:  Whatwudjaliketadrink?
The confusing lead in:  Thirsty? We’ve got sodas, want one?
Short and sweet:  Drink anyone?
Even shorter:  Coke?
The Texas favorite:  Ya’ll want a cold un’? (you’ll get a beer with this one)

And last but certainly not least, the southern brain melter: Thirsty? How ’bout somethin’ cold to wet that whistle of yourn? We serve sweet tea here, dahlin’. Ya’ll ‘ll have to try our sweet tea, you”ll love it. So how ’bout it – tall glass for you and the mister/missus?

How We do Things Here – Home Safety

This is the power cut off switch to my house. You can’t miss it, it lives on my living room wall. Not sure what the red and green alarm lights are for but, given that the power here is 220v, enough to kill me under the right circumstances, I am comforted by the lights even if they don’t really do anything. Certainly, I would be able to find the thing in the dark if it went off. No namby-pamby plastic ceiling alarms here. Now if only I knew how it worked. Actual size 11-12″ high.

WTF??

Okay, this just isn’t right. Anywhere in the world this isn’t right.

I moved into my new house last night. It’s a cute little rental that came completely furnished including a bed with a headboard and everything. Whew! Saved me some money right?. So, there I am, 8 P.M. all ready to pop the sheet my neighbor/landlord lent me on the bed. I spread it out, went to the first corner to tuck it in and… WTF?? they screwed the headboard and footboard directly to the sides of the mattress*. You can’t tuck the sheet in. AT ALL!

Who, on the planet, would think this was a good idea? Especially in a country that only uses fitted sheets. You can’t buy a flat sheet here, at least not where I live. Keep in mind, this wasn’t a Rube Goldberg assembly error, the headboard and footboard were designed this way fer chris’ sake. I mean did the guy who made this thing even realize what he/she was doing or did they figure it out halfway through and say, mai pen rai, not my bed?

Somebody needs to fix this. This, and the little hearts and kitties on the mattress cover.

(* Older style thai mattresses are more like our box springs, covered wood frames with a small amount of padding on top.)

Mattress and footboard

Mattress with sheet

Observations of the Thai Language

Written Thai has no spaces between the words (what were they thinking?) and no capital letters.
There are 44 consonants, thirty-two vowel combinations, and five tones although a reliable source says thai as actually spoken has six tones. Don’t ask me, I can’t tell from nothing’ unless maybe they are talking about the very high, almost falsetto, tone I hear with certain words like “loerie”. When said, which is often, it harkens me back to the days of rooting for the Arkansas Razorbacks and the Oooooo, pig, souiiiiiiiii cheer.

Not sounding a vowel properly (how long you hold the vowel) seems to be more confusing to Thais than if you use an incorrect tone. Well, except for the people in Moo 6 where I live. Most of them are from Isaan (northeast Thailand) with Lao roots. They don’t understand me no matter what.

Unlike in English >), it isn’t funny when Thai words are spelled and pronounced the same but mean different things.

Thais often leave out the subject of a sentence if they think is will be understood from the context. They understand “drink water” if you mean you want to drink but might be confused if you mean ‘do they want to drink some water’. Nothing confuses them more, though, than forgetting to say the verbs or question words.
“You house?”
“No, I’m not a house. I might be going to the house though, is that what you meant?”
Yeah. Confusing.

Thai is a tonal language but there are songs in Thai. Really? How do they manage that? So, is the melody determined by the tones, or is the lyric determined by the melody or what? My thai teacher says “we just know what they are talking about”. Again I say – Really?

The word for boyfriend/girlfriend is also the common word for husband/wife. so, if they say “I have a faan” (like the a in sad but held longer) you still have no idea if you should ask if they have any children.

People speaking louder doesn’t help your understanding but it usually also makes them speak slower which does help. And, it’s fun to watch.

Thai people (any people for that matter) don’t think they speak fast. They’re wrong.

On a similar vein, did you know that there is no pause between words when people speak (english included)? We hear the spaces because we know the words and our brains parse them each as discrete entities. Hahahaha. Parse, discrete. Hahahaha.

Thai dogs don’t understand English

Care Packages

Now that I have a permanent address, I can finally address the care package issue. People have been asking about this so here’s the skinny:

Basically, I can get anything I want here and it costs a fortune to ship airmail. So, a dvd gift ends up costing you $64. My recommendation? If you really want to send me something, go to my Kindle wishlist and gift me a book. If you buy a book from my Kindle wishlist, Amazon beams it right to my lil’ ole’ kindle. No muss, no fuss, no horrendous shipping charges.

If you really, really, really want to send me a package, below are a few things I can’t easily get here. Notice it’s a mighty short list.

  • DVDs and other sundry items on my Amazon.com Wishlist. I think you just click on the item. Best to have the order shipped to you and then you send it on. I suggest repacking everything so the dvds don’t look new.
  • Ft.C. and Fort Collins Museum and Discovery Science Center memorabilia

I do have access to Snickers bars, yoghurt, M&Ms, Philadelphia Cream Cheese, my favorite personal hygiene stuff (toothpaste, moisturizer etc.) and the occasional pizza at the nearby Big C about 25 minutes away. The problem is, I have no car so I stock up when I go about once every two weeks.

Note: It’s hotter than blazes here so don’t send anything that melts.

Packages seem to get here with no problems but they are subject to customs and duty taxes (rather arbitrarily). To avoid bureaucratic pileups, and very expensive duty at my end:

  • Don’t send anything expensive
  • Don’t insure the package
  • On the customs form just say “personal items”, particularly don’t specify dvds or any electronic items unless is goes against your ethics.

I just found out that USPS not longer has surface mail shipping to international destinations so, it looks like their priority flat rate boxes ($58 for large) are the cheapest way to go. Medium and large boxes have a 20 lb. maximum weight. Fedex is almost three times as expensive so don’t go there!! The Post office also has airmail M-bags for printed matter that costs ~$45 for 11 lbs.

Ship to my office address. Email me if you don’t have that address.

Love to you all.

MOT!

Ants. Ants in my $900 laptop. I turned my laptop on at work shortly after I got here and as it heated up ants started streaming up out of the keyboard and the back fan slot. Okay, streaming is hyperbole but there were a lot more than I want coming out of my computer and crawling up my arms as I type. I killed them one by one as they came out, throughout the day.

Since then, I keep my baby sealed in a plastic bag, zipped inside its case and stored in a box the outside of which has been sprayed with ant repellant. I don’t have ants in my bedroom but the floor and walls are open to the outside so they could have been showing up just to feast. And before you say it no, I don’t eat in my room or type after snacking on sticky buns. Where would I even get a sticky bun in Thailand?

Imagine my surprise when research on the web showed this to be a not unheard of problem among laptop owners. One article from a reasonably reliable source says the thermal compound used on the processor heat sink attracts the mot (ants in thai). Don’t care why really, just want them gone. After ten days I seem to have the situation under control and Gizmo still works. Still, it creeps me out to think my Macbook is full of desiccated mot carcasses. My kingdom for a vacuum cleaner or a can of compressed air.

Across the Language Barrier

Here are some simple tricks  for bridging the Thai language gap.

Speaking
When they don’t understand you, try saying the same thing in a variety of tones, maybe you’ll get lucky. Saying it again, only louder doesn’t really work.

Get really fast at looking things up in the dictionary. A career in an archive or library can help with that.

Get someone in the group that can understand your mangled Thai to translate. For me it works  like this:
I say something like “di chan chawp a-haan thai” (I like Thai food). This is followed by blank stares or furrowed brows often accompanied by everyone in the room leaning forward as if getting closer will make my accent better. I frantically look over to Khun L., my host mother, who then says to the crowd: “kao chawp a-haan thai” (She likes Thai Food). Okay, didn’t I just say that???? This utterance however is followed by knowing nods and broad smiles. Saved again.

Listening
Listen for a key noun or verb and then use the context of environment, current events, or people present to figure out to what they could possibly be referring.

Or, failing that, listen intently, lean forward (see above), nod periodically and when they look at you expecting a reply, repeat the word that sounded like it might be an important noun. If everyone laughs hysterically and repeats you’re answer (hahaha I said this and she said……hahaha) the noun trick didn’t work and you’ve been busted. You’ll have to say the dreaded “I didn’t understand” which will be followed by five minutes of them restating the sentence in a variety of ways with the rather optimistic assumption that you’re not so stupid that you won’t eventually figure it out. They’d be wrong about that.

How We Do Things Here – Fires

So, about 11 A.M. Thursday morning one of the 220 volt power lines feeding the SAO office where I work shorts out and catches fire. Loud crackling noises and the power going out was pretty exciting so we all go out to watch the line burn while we wait for the fire department. The fire truck got to us in about five minutes and the events that followed went something like this:

The truck arrives driven by one fireman, possibly a volunteer. He pulls up next to the burning power pole but never gets out of the truck. One of the SAO officers (probably a volunteer fireman himself) climbs up on the back of the truck, grabs the portable fire extinguisher and sprays the small, localized fire until it goes out. This is followed by an animated discussion between the official fireman (truck driver?) and the SAO officer ending with the truck backing up and pulling in closer to the pole – to inspect the line perhaps? Uhhh, no. He moved so the SAO officer could more easily pluck some mangoes from a nearby tree. Once the hubbub was over and enough mangoes for the office were harvested we all went to lunch. It’s what Thais do, they eat.

Scorpions – Not Just a Heavy Metal Band

A few nights ago I found myself walking down the street with this guy (not my photo).


Fortunately he didn’t mind sharing the road. When I realized what it was, I stopped and got a good, up close look at him. Those who know me know I wouldn’t be able to resist saying hello. Research says he/she/it is an Asian Forest Scorpion and, despite his size, his sting is no worse than a bee sting. When looking this up on the net though, I also found multiple articles of foreigners who died from scorpion stings in Thailand so I’m going to err on the side of caution and stay well away from the business end. The bad news is that apparently, they like to hide in shoes and clothing. Hmmmmm.

Since the above photo doesn’t really give folks a good idea of their size I give you the Scorpion Queen. Mi Madre!

« Older entries

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.