Venue Ahoy!

Guess what??? That's right, we have a video of the wedding venue!  A list of locations is as follows:

Chart House (rejected reception location)
Valley Presbyterian Chapel (ceremony location)
Valley Presbyterian Fireside Room (rehearsal dinner location)
Scottsdale Plaza Lobby (reception location)
Scottsdale Plaza Valencia Room (reception location candidate)
Scottsdale Plaza Ballroom (reception location candidate)



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A Trip to the Pharmacy

I do most of my shopping at 7/11. There are several 7/11s that are between my apartment and the school, so it’s very convenient. Unfortunately, they don’t carry medications. For those, I have to go to a pharmacy.

I’m sick again. I went home early after my classes this morning, and I’ve been holed up in my apartment all day. Tonight I decided to venture out to buy some cough syrup at the pharmacy. It was a frustrating experience. I was sick two months ago when Dave was here. We went to a pharmacy, and the woman at the counter asked me to talk with someone on the phone. The person on the phone was the pharmacist. I told her my symptoms, and she told the woman at the counter to give me something called an Antitussive. It was supposed to help with my cough, but it did nothing. Today I walked into the same pharmacy and started looking at the cough syrups. I found some Dimetapp that sounded perfect for my symptoms. The woman working there pulled me away from the Dimetapp, however, because it was “only for children”. It didn’t say it was for children on the package, but I let her lead me away from it anyway. She took me to a shelf full of syrups that had no English labels on them. Then she had me talk to the pharmacist on the phone again. I described my symptoms, and she suggested the same Antitussive stuff. I told the woman that I wanted a syrup with a decongestant too, so she brought me a box of allergy medication. Finally, I went back to the Dimetapp and pointed out that it had instructions for adults. It took a lot of convincing, but I was finally able to leave with the Dimetapp.

These experiences make me miss places like Walgreens and Target. I like to go into a store and look through the full aisle of cough syrups to find the one that’s just right for me. I like being able to choose between drowsy and non-drowsy formulas. And I like being able to choose the flavor I want.

Cheer Competition Rehearsals

One of my 2nd-year students was a cheerleader for the Cheer Competition this year. I asked her how long they had been preparing for their performances. I was surprised to learn that they only started working on it a month ago. They practiced 9 hours a day! Their rehearsals started at 7 pm every night. They usually kept practicing until 3 or 4 in the morning. The night before the competition, they practiced for 12 hours straight!

I’m really impressed that the students kept coming to classes and doing their homework during that time. I know I couldn’t do it!

Cheer Competition

Last night I went to the Cheer Competition. I’m not sure how to describe a cheer competition, but I’ll try.

A cheer competition feels a lot like a marching band competition except that the competitors are in the stands and the audience is on the field. There are two groups of competitors for each team. One is a fairly small group of upper classmen who dress in fancy costumes and dance. The other group is a large group of freshmen who wear matching uniforms and gloves and sit in the stands. The freshmen sing songs and perform coordinated hand movements that look really cool. Despite the dancing, the cheerleaders look a lot like drum majors. They shout out commands and sometimes move their arms in big sweeping movements on the beat. They look like they’re conducting the group of freshmen, but there is no pattern to their arm movements.

The cheerleaders and the freshmen face each other, which means that audience members have to sit behind the cheerleaders. It’s very difficult to see the cheerleaders sometimes. I didn’t mind because the freshmen were much more fun to watch. They wore colorful gloves and had props that they held up to make designs, spell words, etc. Some of them wore capes so that they could make designs by standing up and turning around. One of the groups had a seasons theme. For the rainy season, all of the freshmen held up raindrops. Then they moved their hands so that it looked like it was raining. Really neat! But like I said, it’s hard to describe. I hope the pictures will help.

Many of the performances included fireworks. This made for an exciting moment towards the end of the competition. One team set off a firework WAY too close to the audience. The flaming bits of firework rained down on the audience. I didn’t get hit, but the girl sitting next to me was burned by it. (She wasn’t in flames or anything).

Apparantly, the education department has a long history of winning the Cheer competition. They take it very seriously. Last year they lost to the science department and everyone cried. People say that it wasn’t fair because most of the judges happened to be from the science department. The education department lost to the science department again this year. The education students were poor losers again. Many students have been saying that the education department’s performance was better than the science department’s performance. I have to disagree. The education department was good, but the science department was amazing! They were the only group to sing their songs in harmony. They picked some fun songs to sing, including “I feel good” by James Brown and El Nin-yo by Tata Young. (I hate the El Nin-yo song, but it cracked me up to hear it sung by an army of stiff and serious-looking science students in uniforms.) Their hand movements were much more complicated that everyone else’s too. They were great.

The only other interesting thing I can think of to say is that every group was required to sing one of the king’s compositions. I wasn’t familiar with the songs, but I could tell which ones they were. They kind of had a boogie-woogie jazz feel to them.

Click here to see pictures. Most of the pictures are of the education students.

Creepy Postal Worker

Normally my visits to the post office are very quiet. I stand in line and then put my package or letters on the counter. The postal worker puts everything on the scale and punches the amount of money I owe into a calculator because he thinks I won’t understand him if he tells me how much I owe. I hand over the money, and the postal worker gives me some stamps. I put the stamps on my mail, hand it all back to the postal worker, and I’m on my way!

Today was different because the postal worker spoke English. The first thing he said to me was “I love me.” I must have looked confused, because he said something in Thai to another guy behind the counter, and then corrected himself. He meant to say “I love you”. I didn’t know what to say to that, so I said something like “oh..thanks”. He asked a million questions about where I wanted to send my packages and how I wanted to send them, which made me wonder how my packages are usually sent. At the end of the transaction, he didn’t give me any stamps. He told me that he would put the stamps on for me, and that they would be “special stamps”, just for me. So Dad & Kathy, you’ve got a package with some really special stamps on it headed your way!

Go Home and Feed Your Buffalo!

Today is Thanksgiving, but it pretty much felt like a normal day in July. It doesn’t feel like it could possibly be November because it’s so hot outside. The weather is exactly the same as when I first arrived (before the rainy season kicked in), which makes it seem like almost no time has passed. The fact that I’m in the middle of my second semester instead of at the end of the fall semester doesn’t help my sense of time either.

I worked all day today, and then went for pizza with Daniel (my coworker from NAU) and a couple of students. There’s nothing really exciting to report, except that I learned how to insult Thai people from rural areas by telling them to “go home and feed their buffalos”. According to my students, farmers from rural areas often have to sell their water buffalos to pay for their children’s educations. If you tell someone to go home and feed his buffalo, you’re telling him that he’s so stupid that school is wasted on him. He should keep his buffalo instead of paying for school.

“Go home and feed your buffalo” seems like a fun thing to say, but it’s really really insulting. So if you’re ever in Thailand, try to resist the urge to say it.

Clean Dorm Room Competition

Tonight I was invited to visit a student’s dorm room for the clean room competition. She and her roommate had covered every inch of their walls with wrapping paper, and they covered their desks with contact paper. They had obviously worked hard on their room, and they even dressed themselves up for the occasion. Both of them were wearing large paper flowers on their heads, and one of them had painted her face. When the judges came, my student & her roommate performed a song and dance for the judges and offered them some snacks.

If they win, they’ll get to stay in their room for 1 more semester. That’s good, but it’s not as good as winning the dorm beauty contest. The dorm beauty contest is being held on Saturday. Whoever wins that will get to keep her room for an entire year!

Opinions on my Physical Appearance

My first several weeks at the office last May were filled with uncomfortable conversations about my weight and my hair. Women meeting me for the first time would comment on how fat I was. I was offended and hurt on the inside, but I always tried not to let it show. My act must have been convincing because the same people kept making the same comments, usually with big smiles on their faces. Sometimes, after telling me how fat I was, they would kick me while I was down by telling me that my hair looked horrible and I needed to fix it. The hair comments didn’t hurt me as much as they annoyed me. I thought it was unreasonable of them to expect my hair to look great after I rode my bike to work in 95 degree heat and unbelievable humidity. On the inside, I ranted to myself about how we can’t all have that beautiful, thick, straight hair that Thai women have. Some of us have stringy thin hair that never looks under control no matter how hard we work at it. Not that I would know much about working at it. I don’t like to spend time on my hair.

Needless to say, I didn’t like talking with the women who were always criticizing my appearance. So I started avoiding them. Six months later, I still avoid going out into the hallway if I see them out there. Today I saw two of the worst offenders walking up a staircase just ahead of me. I was formulating my plan to take the staircase on the other side of the building in order to avoid them when one of them spotted me. I was pleasantly surprised when, instead of patting my stomach and commenting on how big it is, they told me that I looked “sexy” and “so thin”. Even better, they didn’t follow those comments up with any criticisms of my hair!

I’m not taking their comments to heart, because I’m not any thinner or sexier now than I was 3 months ago. Still, it feels like a milestone of sorts to finally have some approval from them.

Cooking Thai Food

Last night some of the first year students cooked a Thai meal at Betsy’s house. It was a lot of fun to spend time with the students and see how some of my favorite Thai dishes are made!

We started off by shopping for groceries at an outdoor market. The market was stinky and dirty, and made me want to become a vegetarian. After seeing how the meat sits out in the heat for hours like that, I think it’s amazing that I don’t get sick more often than I do! We bought a very fresh fish at the market. It was alive until the woman at the stall clubbed it with her cleaver. She then scraped the scales off and cut off the fins. The Palah was definately the most disgusting thing I saw. Palah is fermented fish. It is an important ingredient in som tam lao, a dish that I avoid at all costs. I didn’t know what palah looked like until yesterday. I assumed that it was pieces of old, rotten fish. It’s actually more of a brownish/blackish paste.

We all got busy cooking when we got to Betsy’s house. Mas did most of the work. She did the planning, picked out the ingredients, and instructed everyone on how to chop the vegetables and cook everything. She did a really fabulous job. We had dom yam gung (a sour shrimp soup), steamed fish, vegetables in oyster sauce, and a salad of sorts with sausage and glass noodles.

To see pictures of our evening, click here.

Dormitory Sports & Contests

The student dormitories at KKU don’t look very nice. The buildings look really old and dirty, and they don’t have air conditioning. I certainly wouldn’t want to live in them. KKU students, on the other hand, jump through all kinds of hoops to secure a spot in one of the dorm rooms. The reason is that rent in the dormitories is remarkably cheap. Students can stay in the dorm for an entire semester for only 1,300 baht (about $30). The dorms are also generally convenient, since they’re right on campus.

I’m not entirely clear on how students are placed in dorms, but it sounds like students have to line up to request a dorm room in May before the summer semester begins. They don’t get to choose their dorms or their roommates. The KKU campus is huge, which means that students could very well end up in a dorm far away from all of their classes. Students who don’t get in line early enough end up having to stay in an apartment off campus, which is much more expensive.

This week, students can participate in a series of contests in order to keep their spots in their dorms. Earlier this week, students were furiously cleaning their dorm rooms so that they could win the “cleanest room” prize. Several students told me that they were up every night until 3 or 4 making their rooms look perfect. Today is the dormitory sport day. The lucky students who win on sport day get to keep their rooms next year. They call it sport day, but they don’t really play sports. They play tug-of-war and do relay races with balloons between their knees…stuff like that.

I went to the sport day to watch for a little while today. It looked like everyone was having a great time. Students from each dormitory were wearing matching shirts and were sitting in their own areas on the field. Each dorm had someone playing drums and the students not currently playing a game were dancing and cheering. Most of the dorms had choreographed dances! In the middle of the field, representatives from each dorm were playing the games. It looked like a lot of fun.

I still don’t understand how one student from each dorm comes out as the winner in sports day. All of the games seem like team games.

I didn’t stay at sport day for very long. It was very hot out there (93 degrees today!), so I left after about 1/2 an hour. In a few minutes, I’ll meet Betsy and some 1st year students at the complex. Mas, one of the first year students, is going to teach all of us how to cook dom yam gung. We’ll start out by shopping for ingredients at the food market. I’m excited and nervous at the same time. The market Dave & I visited in Phuket was really disgusting.