The Rumor I Forgot

Yesterday when I wrote about the rumors I heard this week, I felt like I was forgetting one. Sure enough, I did. The last rumor concerns the weather. This winter is supposed to be unusual. The days are supposed to be unusually hot and the nights are supposed to be really cold. I’ve been looking forward to the cool days of winter, so I’m disappointed.

Rumors

Well, I just finished my first week back in class. It was frustrating at times, especially on Thursday when I had to shout to my students all day in order to be heard over the power tools in the room next door. But it was mostly great. I enjoyed being back in school. It was fun to teach again and talk to all of the students. I love my job!

Since all the students are back, I also heard these interesting rumors:

1) The new Thai military government is re-examining all of the old programs and laws. One of the laws being evaluated is the legal drinking age. The government is expected to raise the legal drinking age to 25. This has some exciting implications for the bars across the street from my apartment. Well…it’s exciting to me, but not to the bar owners or the students, or really anyone else.

2) On a less positive note, the government may be getting rid of some programs initiated by the Taksin administration. These programs might include student scholarships and funding for the university.

3) A movie is being filmed at KKU! People say that they’re filming in the complex (it’s kind of like a student union), but I haven’t seen anything yet. Apparantly, you can earn 300 baht (about $7.50) for being an extra in the movie. The title is “The One”. Despite the title, the movie won’t be in English.

First Day of Class

Today was the first day of the winter semester. It’s been an interesting day.

Last semester, all TESOL classes were moved from a 1st floor classroom with a computer lab to 3 rooms on the fifth floor. One of the rooms is a computer lab; the other two are classrooms. At the end of last semester, there were no computers in our computer lab and neither classroom was completely ready for use. The air conditioner was broken in one room, so we couldn’t use it at all. The other room would have been ok, except that the dry-erase board on the wall could not be erased. We also had the little problem of having no keys for any of the three classrooms.

At the end of last semester, I locked everyone out of the TESOL classrooms. I had borrowed a KKU laptop and was instructed to leave the laptop in the classroom and lock the door when I left. The IT guy who told me to lock the door insisted that he had a key to the room and that he would let me back into the room for my afternoon class. It turned out that there was no key to the room. Someone had to remove a window pane and crawl through a window above the door to get into the classoom and unlock it from the inside.

Last Friday I went to look at our classrooms and found that they were all locked. I spent a couple of hours looking for someone with a key. Finally, an IT guy told me to call him at 8:30 on the first day of school so that he could come unlock my classroom door for me. I wasn’t sure I could rely on him because he’s the same one that disappeared last semester after promising to let me back into my classroom. Luckily, he was here this morning and he unlocked one of the classroom doors for me.

Unfortunately, we still have a few problems. There is no key to the room with the unusable white board. I had to use the room with the once-faulty air conditioner (it has been repaired now). Someone’s been using the room as storage space, and there’s a bunch of furniture in the room blocking most of the seating. The result is that the students have to sit in one long, straight line. The room is so dusty that it hurts my eyes to be in there. We finally have computers in our lab, but they don’t work yet.

There were also a lot of missing students this morning. Only half of the 3rd year students came to my 9:00 class. 4 of the 10 students in my 11:00 class were missing.

The other strange thing about today was that the water was turned off in the building. It seems like a strange day to turn off the water.

Even though it was a bit of an off day, it was still nice to see the students again. I’m glad school has started again.

Emily the Ant Murderer

Last week I sprinkled some poisoned ant food in my bathroom in an attempt to kill off the ant population living in my wall. Well, it worked!! My apartment has been ant-free for an entire week. Sorta. I’ve seen a couple of ants, but not in the bathroom.

I have more poisoned ant food that I can use if more ants try to come through another wall, but I don’t think I’ll use it. It was disturbing to have poisoned powder lying around in my bathroom for two days. It didn’t seem healthy (for me) at all. The powder also attracted ants, so there were many more ants in my bathroom during those two days than usual. I also feel a little guilty about killing insects just because they annoy me.

Thailand must be wearing off on me. I won’t be telling any of my Thai friends about the poisoned ant food. It would upset them too much if they knew about it. One of the TESOL students once cried when Daniel told her that he killed a spider in his apartment. I haven’t cried for the dead ants or anything, but I am starting to question whether every ant I see in my apartment needs to die. The next time I see them, I might just try sweeping them into the hallway instead of squirting them with deet.

Missing Out on a Really Good Party

Yesterday Mod called and invited me to have dinner tonight with her and Doy. I accepted her invitation and was really excited to see Doy again. She’s really fun. Then today I was invited to a potluck party at church. I told them I couldn’t go because I had already made plans with Mod and Doy. Then they started telling me about all of the food they’re making, including homemade pizza, cheesecake, apple cobbler, and other really tasty foods. I was tempted to call Mod and cancel, but decided it would be too rude. So I’m missing out on what sounds like a really fun party and I’m going out for Thai food instead. It’s going to be fun though. Doy just returned from having her fortune read in her hometown, so I’m sure she has some interesting stories to tell!

The American families at church live in houses with kitchens. They even have water purifiers in their kitchens, so they can wash their dishes in the sink and they don’t have to buy bottled water every day like I do. I wish I had a kitchen. I miss cooking. The only things I can make for myself here are toast and ramen noodles. I don’t usually make ramen noodles because they’re so spicy that they are almost inedible. I could cook more if I had a microwave, but I don’t want to buy one. It doesn’t seem worthwhile to buy a household appliance like that when I’m only staying for 5 more months. Besides, sometimes I feel guilty when I eat a peanut butter & jelly sandwich at home instead of going out for some really good Thai food at J-Pon. I’m sure I’ll be missing Thai food as soon as I get back home, and I won’t be able to find any Thai restaurants that meet my high expectations.

Speaking of Pepsi Max

I mentioned Pepsi Max in my post yesterday, and I think it deserves some more attention.

Until a couple of weeks ago, I had no idea what Pepsi Max was. I saw it in stores and restaurants and assumed it was Pepsi with extra caffeine or extra sugar or something. I would never have imagined that it was Diet Pepsi. The word “max” doesn’t seem like it belongs on anything that has zero calories!

Coke and Pepsi are everywhere here, but diet soda is hard to come by. You can buy Coca Cola light in some convenience stores, but not most of them. I like drinking soda, but I didn’t want to get into the habit of drinking the sugary regular stuff, so I started buying Coca Cola Light for my apartment. It was ok, but not as good as the Diet Coke at home. I didn’t discover Pepsi Max until I was at Phuket FantaSea in Phuket. Their menu said “Pepsi Max (diet)” on it. So I ordered a Pepsi Max and was really happy with it. Now I buy Pepsi Max instead of Coca Cola Light. Pepsi Max is also more common here. I can find it in any convenience store and some restaurants serve it too!

Construction

Most mornings I wake up to the sounds of construction outside. My apartment building is new, and when I moved in back in May they told me that the fishpond, gazebo, & minimart they were building out front would be finished in July. Now it’s October, and it doesn’t look like it will be done anytime soon. I think it will be great when it’s finished, though. The manager told me that they are planning to have a lot of chairs and tables out there and wireless internet access. I was picturing myself taking my laptop or a book out there during the cool winter months. I was also looking forward to the minimart. Right now, I have to ride my bike (uphill!) for 5 minutes to get to the nearest 7/11. Which isn’t a big deal at all. But it will be great to just walk downstairs to buy a bottle of water or a Pepsi Max (diet Pepsi). So I’m rooting for the construction workers to finish their work before I leave.

The Latest in My War Against Ants

For the last 5 months, I’ve been sharing my apartment with ants. They’ve been really annoying! It’s annoying to have bugs in your home for obvious reasons, but the ants are really bad because they keep trying to get to my computer! I know that sounds impossible, but these are some weird ants. They’re always crawling around on the electrical outlets too. Anyway, I’ve heard stories of laptops breaking because the ants got in and destroyed them.

So I’ve been working hard at getting rid of the ants. First I thought I would be super clean. That didn’t work. I asked some students for advice, and they told me to sprinkle scented powder near the door. That worked! The ants stopped coming through the door. Then they started digging holes through the walls. My next idea was to spray deet into the holes and along the walls. It was a good solution except that it made my apartment smell bad and it only lasted a few days. They always dug new holes and came right back.

Today I’m trying a new solution. I found some poisonous ant food at the store. All you do is sprinkle it in a place where you see ants. The ants are attracted to it because it smells sweet. They take it back to their nest, and it kills them all!! I sprinkled some in my bathroom this evening, and there are a ton of ants in there carrying it back to the nest. I know the stuff is poisonous because there are a few dead ants lying in the powder. I really hope this works. I’m getting tired of the deet smell in my apartment.

The Gross Faculty Bathroom

The bathroom situation in the education building is pretty sad. When I first arrived in May, I didn’t realize that I got to use a special bathroom because I’m a teacher. I was using the student bathroom for several weeks before I discovered the staff restroom. The student bathroom is thoroughly disgusting. It has three squatty potties in it. There is no toilet paper; you have to either bring toilet paper to the restroom with you or use the spray hose next to the toilet to clean yourself. The floor (and the squatty toilets, for that matter) are always soaking wet because of the spray hose. There is also no soap in the bathroom. You can rinse off your hands in the sink, but you will not be able to dry them because there are no towels (paper or otherwise).

The staff restroom is wonderful compared to the student bathroom! It has western toilets and it often has toilet paper! The strange thing is that the toilet paper is not inside the bathroom stalls, but out where the paper towel holder should be. I don’t know why. It almost seems like you’re supposed to use the toilet paper to dry your hands, but toilet paper isn’t very good for that. So I don’t understand. Anyway, we usually have toilet paper, but not always. When the big toilet paper roll by the sink runs out, it may be weeks before anyone replaces it. That’s also the issue with soap. There is a soap dispenser in the bathroom. It was filled for awhile, but then it ran out about 2 months ago. No one has added any soap to it. I was getting annoyed at the lack of soap in the bathroom, so I brought a bar of soap to work today and left it in the bathroom. I’m a little worried that it’s gonna disappear when the cleaning people come through and do their thing.

Halfway Point

Today is the halfway point of my Thailand adventure. I know it’s the halfway point because I have a countdown timer on my computer that tells me exactly how much time I have left in Thailand. The fact that I have such a timer might make it seem like I can’t wait to get out of here. That isn’t the case, but I will admit that the timer was installed at a time when I wasn’t thrilled about being here.

The first half of my Thailand experience has been good! I’ve learned a lot and I’ve tried a lot of new things. It has been really fun to experience life in a different culture. One of my goals in coming to Thailand was to learn firsthand what it is like to be an adult immigrant who doesn’t speak the language, isn’t familiar with the culture, and can’t read or write (since Thailand doesn’t usually use the roman alphabet, I’m illiterate here). I’m pretty helpless. I’ve been here for five months and I can really only do a few things without help from a Thai friend. I have a newfound respect for the many immigrants I’ve met in Phoenix who have become proficient in English and are self-sufficient.

I have a few regrets about my first five months here, however. First, I feel ashamed at how little Thai I know. The other day it started pouring down rain when I was walking home. Some mechanics invited me to come sit in their garage until it stopped raining. I exhausted all of my Thai within about 2 minutes with “Thank you” “How are you?” “What’s your name?” “My name’s Emily” What’s your dog’s name?” and “So much rain!”. I’ve been here for 5 months and I haven’t learned very much Thai. My second regret is that I didn’t keep myself busy enough on the weekends. I was always really happy on the weekdays because I was at school and around people. On the weekends, I often stayed in my apartment and got bored and lonely.

So I’m going to try to make more of an effort to spend time with people during the 2nd half of my trip. I’d like to say that I’ll also apply myself to learning Thai, but experience tells me that I probably won’t. Every now and then I have a renewal of energy and motivation for learning Thai. I get home from work and study from one of my books or from my Thai-language CD-ROM. Then I get frustrated because I don’t understand, or I decide that I’m never going to need to say the words I’m learning anyway.