A little push.

Sometimes we all need a little encouragement.

Sometimes we all need a little encouragement.

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Thoughts on solitude.

My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going. I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end. Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think that I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so. But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you. And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing. And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road though I may seem to be lost in the shadow of death. I will not fear, for you are ever with me, and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.

~Thomas Merton

Doin’ the nasty in front of the parents

Is not recommended.

First of all I’d like to make clear that I was not the one doin’ the nasty. Rather, it was two slum dogs cheeks to cheeks, in the walkway, in front of my parents.

Initially I didn’t understand at all what was happening, I naively thought that they were two female dogs just meandering, doing a Jungle Book-esque, Baloo, scratch your back/behind kind of thing, in the middle of the walkway. Well, it wasn’t so naive. Both dogs had awkwardly pronounced nipples, showing the wear and tear of frequent reproduction. Here, spaying and neutering is, unfortunately, an underutilized system of dog population control. Did you know, that EVERYTHING, absolutely everything gives way to gravity. Some of these boy dogs could use a snip snip, because honestly, there is too much swingin’ back there.

Three little girls from my neighborhood, were helping me and my parents pull our luggage to the main road and were the first to see the frisky dogs. They started giggling and scolding the dogs to get out of our way. The dogs looked over our way with a somewhat sheepish and nonchalant expression of, “I don’t give a crap that you want to get through, can’t you see I’m busy?” I wondered out loud, what are they doing? Aren’t they both female? My stepmother corrected me saying, they can’t be two girls, look at what they’re doing. Sure enough, once they parted from each other, it was, in fact, ONE MALE, AND ONE FEMALE DOG.

Now, I’m no expert on the mating habits of dogs, but from what I’ve seen, usually, the male is on the back of the female, facing the same direction, right? I mean, where else do we get the English euphemism “doin’ it doggy style”? This dog was so lazy that he couldn’t even get on top?

My parents visit to Samaki was overall painless and a positive experience. But wow. What a send-off we got!

The Imitation of Christ

My Lord Jesus, I beseech you, do not be far from me, but come quickly and help me, for vain thoughts have risen in my heart and worldly fears have troubled me sorely. How shall I break them down? How shall I go unhurt without your help?

I shall go before you, says our Lord; I shall drive away the pride of your heart; then shall I set open to you the gates of spiritual knowledge and show you the privacy of my secrets.

O Lord, do as you say, and then all wicked imaginings shall flee away from me. Truly, this is my hope and my only comfort-to fly to you in every trouble, to trust steadfastly in you, to call inwardly upon you, and to abide patiently your coming and your heavenly consolations which, I trust, will quickly come to me…

Raise up my mind that is sore oppressed by the heavy burden of sin, and lift up my desire to the love of spiritual things, so that by a taste of heavenly joy it may loath to think on any earthly thing. Take me Lord, and deliver me from the consolation of any earthly creatures which must of necessity shortly perish and fail, for there is nothing created that can fully satisfy my desires. Make me one with you in a sure bond of heavenly love, for you alone are sufficient to your lover, and without you all things are vain and of no substance.

-Thomas à Kempis

Pesky problem of privilege

He asked me how much money a month do you make? Shit. How do I answer that? I tell him the us government is helping me this summer. He asks how much are they giving you? Shit. Converting the sum total of the fellowship in my head into bhat seems astronomical. I don’t know what to say.

So I lie.

How do you talk about money with people who might make that much in a year, that what the government is giving me for two months? I feel ashamed.

Blessed are the poor, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

So many questions…Does that mean I’m not blessed? Or I have much to learn from the poor? Or I just need to become poor?

superficial thoughts right now. But a topic that I keep coming round and round to.

I’ll be your number one Fan

It finally happened.

I don’t know if I’m feeling more embarrassed, shy or (maybe more embarrassingly) feeling a bit validated about my “date-ability” quotient. Michelle, friend and teammate, slept over at my  last night since Pi Jin is on a little vacay. We set to rendezvous at the klong (the canal) before walking out to the baak soi (end of the street) to catch the bus. I waited at the turn in front of a neighbor’s house and thought, oh this is a good opportunity to say more than “sawadee ka” (hello), ya know, get to know the neighbors, talk, be friendly.  I’m horrible with names, so I don’t actually remember theirs, but I always greet them. There’s one older Thai guy that I think lives in that house and then a younger one that hangs around there. He’s probably close to my age. They asked me about my Thai lessons and if they were expensive and I managed to explain that the U.S. government was helping me pay for them.

And then the younger one asks me: “Mee fan mai?” (Do you have a boyfriend/significant other?)

Me: I don’t have one.

Thai guy: You want to be my fan?

Me: Uhh, umm…friends! We are friends! ::Try to smile, in a friendly way, but not too friendly::

Thai guy: Mmmm, Friend, something something, heart, ::points to heart::

Me: (I think…he’s talking about being happy? We’re friends? Or, he could be saying, we’re heart friends?) I pretend I don’t understand.

Thai guy: you don’t understand?

Me: Sorry, I don’t understand.

Right then, Michelle walks up, I smile again and say okay! I have to go! Bye!

Awkward. But sort of refreshing. I feel like I don’t encounter such boldness in the states too often. And hey, it’s always nice to know that someone wants to be your. Fan. =)

Real Thailand kicks Touristy Bangkok’s Butt ANY DAY OF THE WEEK

This is ranting Jen, reporting from a weekend of fun (and stress) with her cousin, Emily. Emily came to visit me for a flash in the pan visit this past weekend, we’re a good traveling pair because we both like to plan, yet have compatible margins for flexibility and adventure. She expressed wanting to get a feel for Bangkok, not just the touristy sites, this I appreciated, but still felt like some of touristy Bangkok should be in the itinerary since, well, Bangkok is known for things like, The Grand Palace, huge and elaborate temples, street food, Chao Praya, the list goes on.

I love Thailand, especially the people, they’re one of the main reasons I keep returning. But this weekend, I met the ugly side Bangkok: Touristy Bangkok. Featured: Shady taxi and tuk tuk drivers. They’re all over the place, but especially in touristy Bangkok.

The taxi driver that took us from the airport to the hotel was expecting that we would be ignorant, rich travelers, who would agree to anything he wanted. Little did he know that this is my third summer here, and I have been studying Thai intensively, for 1 month. He tried to get us to pay 400 bhat to get to the Marriott and when I almost walked away insisting that I get the meter he quickly changed his mind and said “Ok! Ok! Meter!” We got in and told him the address thinking that would be that. The usual banter went on, ?Wow! Why you speak such good Thai? What are you? You Korean? Japanese? Chinese? Where you come from?” And my typical replies: “Thanks, I’m here studying Thai, I’m Chinese from America.”

And then the high way battle commenced: “You want highway? Only 70 Bhat, so fast! So much traffic” I replied, “No, thanks. There’s not that much traffic” It was 9:30 PM on a Friday night. He is doggedly persistent. He will NOT give up. He insults my race, my gender, my country, saying, “Why you no want highway?! You no money? Why you come to Thailand, you got no money???” and “Crazy, Chinese. Person. And probably something very mean in Thai. WHY YOU NO WANT HIGHWAY???”. After trying to be firm but still polite in Thai, I had to use my angry, authoritative, American, you will NOT PUSH ME AROUND voice, “BECAUSE I SAID I DON’T WANT TO!”. After that he was broodingly silent and I began to worry that he was going to drive us to the middle of nowhere and abandon us, or worse? Instead, he said, “No money?! No air” and he flipped off the air-conditioning. I vacillated between boiling anger and cool silence, trying to make sure he was in fact taking us to the hotel. Thankfully, we got to the hotel with little further incident, only a few slammed brakes to make us uncomfortable, and further ruin his break. Good one, smart guy. You best believe that when we got to the hotel, I paid him the exact fair, no more, no less.

In the weekend, we got lied to by tuk tuk drivers around the grand palace saying it was closed when it really wasn’t. So he could drive us around to other temples and then he insisted that the agreed price that I had thought we decided was in fact, only half of the “real” price. It wasn’t too bad, 100 Bhat more than anticipated, but STILL! I hate being lied to!!!

Touristy Bangkok seems to bring out the crazy and mean Thai people. There was another taxi driver who asked to use my cell phone, saying that he needed to call his son or something. After saying no, and pretending that I didn’t speak Thai, he kicked us out of his taxi saying he couldn’t take us to where we wanted to go.

When I got back to Samaki, I was so tired and so happy to see familiar faces. I told them about my “Bai Teoy” with my cousin, and how we went to Amphawa and saw the fireflies, ate good food, went to the Grand Palace, Wat Pho…it was good to see people I knew I could trust and ask for help if I needed help.

The Thai people that I have encountered over the past three summers have been so gracious, kind and helpful. One stranger on the boat, when I asked him what stop we were at and looked obviously lost, whispered to me every single stop name, and then tapped me on the shoulder once I got to my stop. Another time, two other women, when I was lost, pointed to where I was going, and then found another stranger who was going to the same place as me, to walk me to where I was going. Men and women have offered newly available seats in the bus when I had a back pack and other bags in hand. I’ve found my clothes dried and folded up in front of my door, when I forgot they were on the roof drying and it had started to rain.

I’d like to close high-lighting my neighbor, Ya Payao. She is an older, grandmotherly lady, who has salt and pepper curly hair, she is on the more curvaceous side, limbs and skin showing the attraction to gravity. I pass her every day, in the morning and evening as I walk out of the community. She is sweet and I can’t say no to her when she asks me if I want to buy small packages of instant Nescafe coffee for 5 bhat. I’m not that big of a instant coffee drinker, but she’s just so sweet. And then, whenever I buy one from her, she always wants to give me an “extra” coffee packet. I try to tell her it’s really okay, but she always insists on giving it to me.

These people, strangers and neighbors, are Real Thailand. Not out to take advantage of my ignorance and foreigness but willing to let me into their community, say hello to me and throw in an extra instant packet of coffee, because she wants to.

Touristy Thailand: You should be ashamed. Real Thailand rocks the socks off of anything you have to give.

Successfully made it to Grand Palace without getting ripped off!

Outside Wat Pho. Really big buddha inside.

To all my bug heroes past and present

I hate HATE spiders, bugs, crawly, biting things. SO MUCH, I HATE THEM.

I’d like to pay a little tribute to some bug heroes that have saved me from shedding many tears.

Longest known bug hero: My Dad. He’d always try to make me kill them myself, but in the end he’d do it. why? Because I’m his baby girl and who wants to see her in tears?

One notable story-is when there was a fatty spider on the wall and after much begging, he went to kill it. Surprise! not just ONE spider but many hundreds of BABY SPIDERS taking a ride on mamma’s back! Dad, spry and on his toes squished all of them.

The Humanitarian bug hero award goes to: Casey T.

My housemate/roomie for about 2.5 years (also, I’m proud to say I was the last female roommate that she had before her hubby Daniel) Casey is a special woman because not only would she respond to my shrieks and cries of, “ACK ACK! SPIDER SPIDER SPIDER (or cockroach)!!! CASEYYYYYYYYYYY!!!!!!!!!” She would very swiftly grab the “spider cup” that was stationed in one of our kitchen cupboards, a plastic cup that had a little black spider drawn on to the bottom of it. Not only is she a humanitarian, but is ALSO very environmentally conscientious. Recycle, reduce, reuse! She’d trap the intruder, slip a plate or paper underneath it, walk it all the way down the stairs, I’d open the door, and she would release the spider and return the cup to its rightful place.

One night on Leighton Ave. when I was home alone, I was washing the dishes and out of the corner of my eye I saw something dark and biggish dart out of the corner of my eye. It was nothing less than a manilla sized roach in L.A. perched just outside of the cabinet with all the awesome bug killing poisons. I was alone and I knew that I needed to do something or else I would not able to sleep. Under my breath I breathed, don’t. move. don’t move. don’t you dare move. as I cautiously reached for the RAID. The roach was enchanted and listened to my quiet command.

To ready myself, I put my index finger on the switch, took a deep breath and on three sprayed the hell out of that thing, while screaming, “DIE YOU PIECE OF SHIT!!! DIE!!!!” Cockroaches, they don’t die without a fight, and it ran a good 2 feet before it finally flipped over, twitched and died. For good measure, I kept spraying. It was soon laying in a pool of toxic raid. I couldn’t bring myself to hear the crunch of the roach and. Well, I just left it. Hoping my bug hero would help me clean it up. And sure enough, Casey did.

This is of course, not to overlook my very awesome roomies/housies from the leighton era, Malika, Molly and Courtney who aided me many a time in the war on spiders.

But perhaps, the ultimate bug hero is the one and only Miss Heather, also affectionately known as “H-ieeee”, who may be an unassuming warrior but nonetheless a compelling and impenetrable force. I was fortunately not in the room when bravery was displayed, but have nothing less than admiration for her. To try and recount the story in detail would not do justice since I am a second source. But let me just share these key words.

Location: Balic Balic, Manila (slum community that was demolished a few years ago). Spider the size of my FACE positioned on the wall.

Persons involved: Casey, Erin and Heather.

Initial plan: trap the spider?

Results when spider was seen: Erin in tears, Casey on the roof. but HEATHER, heather grabbed a bucket and calmly tried trapping it on the wall. The spider, which, by the way was TOO BIG FOR THE MOUTH OF THE BUCKET. What the HELL is that about.

Unfortunately…I think that one got away, but come on! Heather, you’re my hero.

So what about here in Bangkok? who is my bug hero? ….I have to say, I have had to be brave in my room when I open up my mat and I find little friends who have snuggled in. They might be small but some of these spiders and caterpillar like things have these incredibly hard bodies, as well as detractable limbs or SOMETHING! I swear, this one kind of spider may LOOK like it’s squished, but soon enough it puffs itself back up and starts to crawl. again. That’s not okay. But nevertheless, I scream, squish, smash and twist. As fast as I can.

There are many more unsung heroes, but I am getting tired and I need to take a nap.

save face and @$$

Excuse the language but I find that it’s appropriate to this blog post. I’ve been meaning to write about this topic for a while because it happens so much. What am I referring to saving face and ass?? I am referring to how often Thai strangers will help me out, finding places, offering me a seat when the bus driver is driving particularly crazily and I am trying really hard to hang on to the bar for dear life.

I take the klong (or a boat on the canal that runs east and west in Bangkok) quite a bit to get to the BTS or MRT station. There’s no announcing what stops are what, the signs at each stop on the canal are sometimes quite small and if you realize too late that it’s your stop, too bad, the boat has already left your small port. Once, I asked the man next to me if the stop was my stop, “italthai” and he said no. Each stop, I would perk up and crane my neck to see the stop and he would shake his head a little, put his hand over his mouth to quietly tell me what the name of the stop was. He did that for EVERY STOP, until I got to my stop where he proceeded to tap me on the shoulder and nod to tell me it was my stop.

Last week was the first time I actually took the klong BACK to my house, since all the other times I usually take it out of Bang Kapi but take a taxi back in to my neighborhood. I get lost a lot, so even though i should technically, know where my stop is, it still made me anxiously look at each stop and try to figure out if it was mine or not. I ended up asking these two ladies if I had missed my stop and they said that i still had a few more stops to go. They asked me, where are you going? Then they spoke with eachother and decided to ask another lady if she was going to where I was going, and they said, oh this lady is going where you’re going you can go with her. This has happened to me several times, when a person I have asked for directions, has gone with me, or has found someone else to walk with me to where I asked to go.

I think these acts of kindness and graciousness are due to the strong value in Thai culture to save face. Sparing someone from shame, whether you know them or not is a norm.

Thanks to all you strangers out there who have helped me save face.

I don’t want no Hong Kong Foot.

my morning: it was POURING rain and thundering like crazy. Waited till it let up a little, but didn’t realize that the slum becomes flooded when it rains a lot. Walking through the community was manageable but once I got to the main road the water was SO DEEP. I had to wade through dirty water to get to the bus stop (prayed that I wouldn’t get diseases). Got on a PACKED bus, it was steamy and stinky, couldn’t see out the window, thought it was my stop, got off too early. Didn’t know where I was. It was still raining badly, and walked some. Kept looking for a taxi, but none were to be found. Thank the Lord got a taxi, and then went to 7 eleven to buy breakfast, thought I got a bbq pork bun but it was something else. Went to the bathroom to wash my feet, moved the water bucket and a HUGE coakroach scittered out from under.

Result: Sat down to my thai lesson and cried.

God is good, I had my lesson, still praying I didn’t get what my thai tutor explained was “HONG KONG FOOT”.

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