----------------------------------------------- Google Site Map ----------------------------------------------- Cindy in ...: February 2007

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Chiang Mai: A Frustrating Time

I'm sorry I neglected to report in, but I have had a frustrating couple of weeks. Nothing, I'm sure, to match up with any calm week in the life of a person with a regular job and real life.

The frustration stemmed from a number of things. My two-week job, not feeling well, aching knees, gaining three pounds, not saving several weeks worth of pictures, my own indecisiveness, and some dumb decisions.

I was doing some substitute ESL teaching and the classes kept getting canceled, one only an hour before I was to teach. They caught me before I left, so I didn't get paid. I asked to have the manager call me, but they never gave them the message.

I spent huge parts of the last two weeks sleeping. Suddenly I needed twelve hours sleep a day. I suppose that had something to do with gaining weight, along with a need for comfort food.

Then I did something to my knee, and it ached again. And I copied (I thought) some pictures to my laptop, then erased my memory card. But apparently I failed to save the pictures.

Every week I think of more options for what to do next and I waffle more. Then when I did decide, I didn't check it out well enough. So I went up and did the visa run, spending an official second in Myanmar (Burma). I had my big pack with me, because my plan was to spend the night in Mae Sai, then go to Pai. It looked reasonable on the map, but when I asked how to get to Pai (after I was in Mae Sai, of course), I heard this, "First you go to Chiang Mai..." At least I learned that I've got to strip out some of the stuff I've accumulated. I can barely lift my pack.

So I came back here, and just haven't left yet. Now the goal is the beach. Just don't know which one yet.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Chiang Mai: The End of the Honeymoon

For some reason, the few hours' teaching I've done has kind of ended the honeymoon with Chiang Mai. Or maybe it's just that horrible three-month barrier, where everything looks bad but you don't know what to do about it. Anyway, canceled classes (one only an hour in advance and still no pay), failure to pass on messages, incomplete information, and the low wages have sort of soured me on the whole town. Not fair, but true.

One thing that amazes me is the universal response I get when I mention how frustrated I am. Everyone reassures me that this is typical, normal, the Thai way. I guess they think I'm taking it personally. What I really want to hear is that this is atypical, and wouldn't happen at other schools. Hearing it is common just discourages me.

I've also learned that I can't get a job in a government school, including a university, because I am over sixty and it is illegal. And that jobs teaching at the local public university require that you spend eight hours on campus every day, even if you only teach 15 hours per week. You get two weeks vacation, and the rest of the time that school is not in session you have to go to work anyway.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Chiang Mai: Another Thirty Days

Next Wednesday another thirty days will have passed, and so once again I will be going to Burma. The thing is that I am really tired of Chiang Mai, and I think I'm ready to move on. However, there are some basic tourist sights that I really should revisit, or see for the first time, and I haven't. Worse, I don't exactly feel energized to get busy and see them, either.

I really didn't intend to do any sightseeing this year. It was to be a stay-put year, and it certainly has been so far. Still, I feel a bit guilty about wasted opportunities and all that stuff. Usually I remind myself that you can't see everything. But this time I could have come pretty close if I tried. Maybe I'll go on a tourism spree for these last few days.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Chiang Mai: More People

Another day, another set of people. At the same restaurant, over the Mexican breakfast, I discussed Houston traffic with a German man. I got some beach and guesthouse recommendations from the Canadian political campaign manager. The American who manages the ESL school where I substitute told me about moving to Pakistan with his Thai bride thirty-some years ago.

And, of course, there are the denizens of the Pirates Cove: the punk farmer with the bleached blond Mohawk and a scalp tattoo, the university student and the recent graduate who tend bar, the Australian owner, the 60-year-old man who just had another motorbike accident because he insists on riding with his foot in a cast, clutching his crutches, after drinking, and the Kiwi who exports furniture.

Friday, February 09, 2007

Chiang Mai: Yes, yes, Florida, California good.

I frequently have dramatic part-pantomime conversations with some of the Thais I deal with regularly.

Today, I was buying Diet Coke at one of my habitual stops, and the woman who runs it started to talk about all the snow she'd seen on CNN. She was horrified at the thought of the cold, wet stuff. She accompanied her words with gestures defining snow that reached over her head, followed by exaggerated shivers. I responded with a demonstration of shoveling. This triggered a pantomime of using a snow-blower. She marched along the floor, pushing the imaginary blower, waving her arms in the air to define the arc of the snow. My arms swept across the ice cream case as I talked about snowplows burying cars and blocking driveways. "Switzerland," she said, "Cannot open door." Her shoulder lowered and bumped forward, to show me how people can't get out of their houses even if they push the door. "Stay in house."

"I moved to Florida," I said. "Yes, yes, Florida, California good." This is something everyone here seems to know, that Florida and California have acceptable weather.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Chiang Mai: The People I Talk To

Even though I have very strong hermit tendencies, I do talk to quite a few different people most days. Start with yesterday, after I left the school.

First, I stopped for dinner at one of my favorite small restaurants. S brought his coffee over to sit with me, as I couldn't risk the unstable chairs at his table. S is a Canadian artist who used to teach English in Korea. He's here for a year to concentrate on art rather than on learning a living.

This morning I went to the same restaurant for breakfast and sat with D and a guy whose name I can never remember. D runs a charter boat back in Vancouver. He gave me some good information about beaches and a guest house in Hua Hin. The other guy was a university professor who taught for a year in Georgia, the country, not the state.

After running a few errands, I went to lunch, where I met a Canadian woman who has been in Thailand a couple of weeks. We had a nice long talk about hard beds, Thai food, and sex tourists.

This evening I came over to the Pirates Cove, and had a short chat with an American guy and his problems with his TEFL course here, and how badly Thai women are treated in general.

If I were a more outgoing person, I could probably find someone to talk to all day, every day. I could spend my life in serious discussions, solving all the problems of the world, with a few outtakes to share some travel advice.

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Chiang Mai: A Missed Festival

Chiang Mai has a slew of festivals, and I just missed a major one. I hurt my knee playing with the kindergarten kids, and have been trying to rest it as much as possible. Festivals always involve a lot of walking around, so I really didn't think it was a good idea. I was working Saturday morning, and missed the parade which was the one thing I would have attended. That makes me wonder whether the $6.50 per hour was worth it. I only worked two hours, and transportation costs were $2.00. Then I remember that the net from those two hours covered the cost of my room for two nights.

I've missed a few other festivals, mostly because I didn't really know about them. The Umbrella Festival out in a village called Bo Sang, for instance. And I deliberately skipped all the events associated with Bike Week.

Chinese New Year celebrations will start in about ten days, I think. In April, the Thai New Year begins. This is the really big event here. It's a three day holiday, and is known as Songkran (although I'm not sure I spelled that right). The Water Festival is apparently a wild event, and has gotten a lot wilder since the invention of those really big water pistols. By the middle of April, the temperature here will be 42C or so, or around 107F. I presume this makes being doused by water on a more or less continuous basis a bit more acceptable.

Then, suddenly, the festivals end, and there is nothing unil Loi Kratong opens the season in November. During this festival drought in Chiang Mai, some other cities in the north take up the slack.

Saturday, February 03, 2007

Chiang Mai: The English Teacher

I've been filling in at a language school, actually working, for a little bit of extra money. I've only done a few hours so far, but it's been fun. I've had classes with two kindergartners from an international school, and one first grader. They come after school and have a lot of pent up energy. One in particular was absolutely manic. Fun, but manic. The two who go to international school are totally fluent, can read and write a bit in English and are a bit behind that in Thai. Yes, behind in Thai. Thai is more or less a foreign language at the international schools.

It was rather amazing to have a 5 1/2 year old Thai girl read a simple book to me in English, attempting to phonetically sound out the words she didn't know. When she wrote her name for me, she wrote more quickly in English than Thai. Of course, she used her chosen English nickname, which is simpler than her Thai name. Then, English has 26 letters, Thai 77. And English letters are easier to write than those curly Thai things.
Two of them had seen the movie, "Night at the Museum", and jumped up and down with excitement as they told me the plot over and over, using their very best kindergarten screech. "And the dinosaurs moved!!! Everything moved!!!" Wild arm gestures were included, of course.

Anyway it's been fun. Mainly we play games. Simon Says. Red Light, Green Light. Of course today's child, who is six, wanted to play chess.

I'm doing another class next week. It, too, will probably be full of surprises.