Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Lovely Lovely Rip Van

Looong day of class yesterday, teaching apathetic classes about how to write an outline. The students were numb to it, as was my mind; I was losing my voice; by the third time teaching the details--the alpha numerical system, indentation, capitalization of first letters--the class could tell I was bored. I told them that this was my third time teaching the material, and they gasped.

Then we played Hangman.

One of the students, in what was a clearly planned joke, went up and wrote four letters.

_ _ _ _

First three letters guessed: U, C, K. Hilarity ensued. The word was 'duck,' of course. But now I know that my students know both a fowl word and a foul word.

Ugh, what am I, Frasier Crane?

Maybe it's tiredness. I fell asleep at 8:00 last night and woke up around 6:30 this morning. Went to bed without me supper, mum.

Why am I more tired than usual? I blame the weather, and waking up, more than half of the days of the week, earlier than I've ever woken up for anything in my life. That would be my guess.

I've canceled the trip to Koh Phi Phi to do some visa stuff. (Language lesson: Thai word for 'visa' is 'vee-ZAH'). Had I gone to Phi Phi (language lesson: pronounced 'pee pee'--yes, srsly) I would have had to use my day off (today) to take a five hour bus ride to Burma, walk across a bridge, hang out for thirty minutes, take a five hour bus ride back to Chiang Mai, teach tomorrow morning, teach Friday, leave for Phi Phi on Friday, two flights and a boat ride. For someone who doesn't like the beach that much, I won't be pining (for the fjords); I just want to relax around here.

I still feel like I just arrived, like I don't know the city that well. I know the names of roads and have a general sense of direction, sure--but I don't know, conocer, I am not one acquainted with the Mai. Plus, I am tired--kicking back for a day or two here sounds good to me. Along with the 4th of July hamburgers and hot dogs at the American embassy, and the chance to see the Buddhist holiday in Bangkok (the reason for our vacation, Monday Tuesday Wednesday)--I don't need to go to the beach just now.

So I'ma jet on down to Bangkok on Sunday, head over to Cambodia on Tuesday for the visa extension, go back to Chiang Mai on Wednesday--all at a relaxing pace, I'm happy to say. I need it. I got a throat tickle now.

Also I will keep you updated on the freshy march, where all of the freshmen at Chiang Mai University march up a mountain singing songs together. cf. the P-rade? I don't know. Pictures to come, hopefully.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Perspective

From an article on cnn.com, about Europe's new "universal phone charger" plan:

"The frantic hunt for the right cell phone charger will soon be a thing of the past -- in Europe at least -- as major manufacturers on Monday agreed to introduce a universal adaptor within six months.

"Industry leaders including Apple, Motorola, Nokia, Samsung and Sony Ericsson have struck a deal with the European Union to introduce the one-size-fits-all charger by January 1, 2010, offering a solution to one of modern life's chief frustrations."

"One of modern life's chief frustrations"--I would put the difficulty of organizing all of my phone chargers as one of my top frustrations with modern life, somewhere in between global economic inequality and religious/ethnic conflict. Don't get me wrong, religious/ethnic conflict is a problem in today's modern life...but I would rank those tangles you get in your desk drawer from all of those crazy phone chargers as more chief.

Paradise Regained

After this morning's class I walked (not skated) on down to the big Mall, to see if they had any super discount skateboards. And, oh yes, they did, they did. Got a new one for 25 bones, with a gritty map of London and bright yellow wheels. I am happy to report that this one is much faster on bumpy pavement and I will almost certainly have my first speed-related accident in no time!

Speaking of which: I was skating down a darkened Soi (side street) on my way home from dinner, in the dark (natch), lost in a reverie, when a yard dog started barking in a BIG way and clanged up against the latched gate. Well, I face-planted, scratched up my knees and Brooks Brothers shorts, got some of the old momentary stomachache. I was thinking, earlier in the day, how much quieter this board was on the pavement than my old board, and how now dogs would no longer be disturbed by my passing.

Wrong.

I just discovered an LP called "LP" by Discovery. Can't stop spinning it--it's the lead singer from Ra Ra Riot and the keyboardist from Vampire Weekend, if that sways anyone.

That reminds me, I would be lying if I said I wasn't exciting that 2009 wasn't almost halfway over, which means I get to count-down my favorite albums of the first half. You fools are lucky that I haven't seen any movies in theaters nor read any recently-released books, fiction, nonfiction, or cullinary, and that I can only navel-gaze with my music tastes.

I also bought my first Hawaiian shirt today. $1.45. It fits really well on me and doesn't make me look like a fat American sushi chef.

Ahem.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Speak Prophet

I miss my skateboard.

I had this vision tonight, while walking aimlessly on the streets, looking for somewhere to eat...I had this vision of myself, and I've been wandering for days, and the sun is high and hot and I am crawling slowly in the dry dirt like a dying iguana, and the red ground stretches out on all sides...emptiness...and finally I slither into the city, dying, and with my final breath, I say the Thai word for "noodles," gasp, and perish on my stomach. And it's all because my skateboard was stolen.

What a sad situation. Phom chawp len skateboard. Phom kgam long kit tung skateboard. Lae paw mae. Shantih shantih shantih.

My apartment has begun to take on an interesting order. We all knew it would be a wreck, with wet towels and used napkins and severed limbs strewn about the living area--but to this point I've organized the flotsam in a simple yet ingenious way: kicking everything up against the wall. I mean, seriously, it solves every problem: nothing in the middle of the floor.

Well, I guess that's the only problem it really solves.

Sentimentalist that I am it will probably be some time before I get to cleaning certain things that have assumed accustomed positions, given spots, so that if I did move them, they would look out of place, and the space would look empty.


For example, I have had two clean, folded pairs of socks on the coffee table for about ten days now. They lay on top of my Visa application and some passport photos. Now, I could pick up those socks and walk the eight steps across the room to put them in the sock drawer.

But that would be upsetting the Poltergeist, so to speak. Well, I don't know who actually speaks like that. And also, "so to speak" is one of those empty, pointless English idioms that doesn't actually mean anything when you break it down. "So to speak." So, to speak. Sew too, speak. Upset the Poltergeist, so two's peak.

Merrily merrily merrily...

Our Long National Nightmare Is Over

Death, taxes, Pixar: my skateboard was stolen last night.

I had grinded (ground?) pipe over to a Communism-themed bar, and I hid my deck in a bush outside the entrance. Came out a few hours later after some fraternal, equally-shared drinks, and the board was gone. Irony of ironies, personal property stolen outside a Communist club--oh well, I hope it's being used for the common good. Mai pen rai.

Last night it seemed like a bigger deal, because I didn't have the distance I have now and also because of the presence of a not insignificant amount of particular depressents floating around in the ol blood-stream.

Now I'm okay. Until I find a really cheap bicycle/replacement skateboard I can get by on walking and cheap taxis. The skateboard was a luxury, really, not a necessity.

Only one thing left to do now: grow out a Devendra Banhart beard, pump some old-school Tom Waits on the Walkman and mope under a street lamp. Catch you on the Heart of Saturday Night, little things.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

What's the Deal with Homework? You're Not Working on Your Home!

Boooo...

[End obligatory intrinsic Jewish adoration for Seinfeld segment of the blog].

Last night we went to yet another Rooftop bar, a type of bar which seems to be exclusively attended by white people.

You know how it's now a stereotype of Black comics that they have a routine about how White People do certain things different than Black People? Chris Rock, Sinbad, Dave Chapelle: all have those kinds of things. "White people walk like this...Black people walk like this..." "White people love X; Black people love Y"

I wonder if Thai stand-up comics have a bit about how much White people love rooftop bars. Is there some sort of cultural joke about the rooftop bar that we are missing out on, one that precludes Thai people from going? Can someone Google that for me?

Last night around 2 I was skateboarding back from a night out and I was attacked by two dogs, who leapt out of doorway and started chasing me on my skateboard. I felt like Paperboy from that game Paperboy, even though Paperboy rode a bicycle and there were no dogs in that game.

Anyway I picked up my board and ran away cursing and onto a porch bar where a group of five or so Thai bros were sitting outside drinking some Whiskey. The dogs stopped chasing me after about five seconds. They asked if I was okay, if I needed help. One asked if I spoke Thai, and I got to say "nit noi" (a little bit), which was great. Six dollars well-spent.

Their advice on how not to incite feral dog attacks was to slow down when I pass them. Sound advice, but I had even better advice for myself: don't be carrying a deliciously-pungent black pepper chicken sandwich in your hand when passing a dog.

Also don't bark back.

I wonder if there is Thai stand-up comedy...

Friday, June 26, 2009

Class Clown

Comedic breakthrough in class today. Albeit a frustrating one:

For three weeks I have been holding forth in my classroom, breathlessly lecturing with Joycean wit and Nabokovian subtlety mixed effortlessly with a slapstick routine that recalls early Buster Keaton and Harold Lloyd.

Today I got my biggest laugh ever, when I praised a student by telling him he did a "good job" on an assignment.

Seriously, belly laughs. My class had never heard anything as funny as the phrase "Good job." They repeated it over and over to each other in between red-faced hyena cackles.

Ah well. I'm gonna get one of those "1001 Ways to Tell Your Child You Love Him" posters and knock 'em dead next week.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

One from Back Home


WASHINGTON — On Jan. 22, 1973, when the Supreme Court struck down laws criminalizing abortion in Roe v. Wade, President Richard M. Nixon made no public statement. But the next day, newly released tapes reveal, he privately expressed ambivalence.

“There are times when an abortion is necessary. I know that. When you have a black and a white,” he told an aide, before adding, “Or a rape.”

****

I wonder what Nixon would think about the interracial baby that my Thai wife and I are having in eight months (just kidding, Mom!)

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Throw Me Down the Well

This morning I was grading papers alone in my office when I heard a squeaky "Excuse me" at my back.

I spun around in my spinny chair to see two Thai girls, one with a videocamera (this is not going where you think it is going). They asked me if they could talk to me for a few minutes about religion, if I wasn't too busy. They would use the footage for a psychology project. Okay, I'm not too busy.

"Do you follow a certain religion, like Christ or Buddhist?"
"I was raised Jewish."
"Jewish!"
[They say something in Thai to each other. Presumably the Thai word for "diamond salesman."]
"Yes, Jewish."
"Okay. When you the Jew make married, do you think God watch over the marriage?"

Well, I didn't know the answer to that one. But:
1: The genuine shock when I told them I was Jewish, as opposed to America, where one look noseward is all the confirmation one needs.
2: There was more genuine shock that I was not married. Remember, I am thought to be 35.
3: I love the phrase "When you the Jew make married," and I was shocked to find that it was not the name of a poem by Allen Ginsberg.
Or Ezra Pound.

Okay, enough English major jokes! The rest of the day I slept! Noon to 4...not too shab. Also I have some kind of cough that I am praying is not
1. Swine Flu
2. Japanese encephalitis
3. The death

So what the crap

Jason

Yesterday/All My Troubles Seemed Just As Close As They Do Today

I walk to work because I like the air in my lungs, and the Castrol, and the sugar-sweet smell of freshly-baked Dunkin Donuts.

To walk to the front gate of the University, where I board a college trolley taking me to centre campus, is a seven-minute walk; which, if you're playing at home, is just enough time to drench my pits and lay a morning-sweat dew on the pistils and stamens of my chest and back hairs.

Yesterday, though, I was spared the sweat--or so I thought--when a student in my 8 o'clock class pulled over to the side of the road on his motorbike to say hi.

"Hello," he said.

"Hello, good morning."

"I take you," he said, pointing at me. "I take you."

Once I got the unpleasant lingering memory of an airplane movie out of my head, I hopped on the back of his bike and, before I could figure out where my feet go, we were off, on the most horrifying two minute hog-ride since junior prom (no, no, calm down, it's all a joke).

Anyway, from holding my ankles up by my butt for a three-minute motorbike ride, I got the best ab workout that I have in a long time. And it's a good thing that the ride wasn't a second over three minutes, or else something might have squirted out. Like my esophagus.

Also, riding on a motorbike did not prevent me from sweating profusely as I had thought it would. Maybe because my stomach was tense the whole time; maybe I was still a little worried about the offer/promise/threat to "take" me. Either way I got to work earlier so I bought what I thought was a bread roll but which turned out to be a bead roll filled with green goop; which, coincidentally, is the name of my best student in English 203.

Long day at work, ended with Cartoon and I having a long talk about the upcoming holiday. Apparently on July 4th (coincidence that this Buddhist holiday happens to begin on American Independence Day, she assured me), all of the "freshies" (no joke) divide into declared major and must walk up a mountain together. When they get to the top, each major has a choreographer "boom" that they chant and yell. The way it was described to me sounds a lot like stomping the yard (where you from?), except on top of a mountain in the mid-day sun in front of a sacred Buddhist temple. And not at "Truth University" (which, no, is not a real Southern university, friends).

What else. I bought a lot of novelty T-shirts, which deserve a post of their own, hopefully tomorrow. Was in bed by 10ish, woke up around 630, just in time to listen to the Braves game on the Internet radio between snores and mosquito attacks.

Later in the day I skateboarded (not a typo) to the mall, where I bought three sweat rags for 30 cents each. Now I can carry them in my back pocket and (hopefully) not be so disgusting when I skateboard (still not a typo) around town.

Speaking of skateboarding, one of my students, who had told me he was also a "skater boy," albeit a beginner, asked me to show him the ropes.

"I want you teach me," he said, unaware that I, too, am awful of skateboarding, perhaps worse than he is. I begged off and said I was too old to teach him how to do tricks, much less to do tricks. Heck, I'm a hare too old to eat Trix.

Good Lord what did I just write.

They all think I'm above 30, by the way. In my 101 class (with the "freshies") all of the students had to make timelines with predictions for when certain events would happen in their lives: good practice for the future tense. I drew an example of my timeline on the board and announced:

"For example, if this is my timeline, I could say, "I want to get married when I'm 28."

And there was a gasp--an authentic, audible gasp--from several girls in the room. The fact that I could, in fact, be younger than 28 was too much of a shock for their lungs to handle.

Anyway, most of them want to get married by the age of 26. Most of them want two or more children. All of them are sure that they will get promotions; not I might get a promotion, but I will get a promotion. Without exception. And this is not a class to boast: one of the questions asked if they would meet a famous person one day, and less than half responded that they thought they would.

"David Beckham?" I asked.

A few hands still in the air.

"The Dalai Lama," I asked next.

Only one hand stayed in the air: that of the class clown, who goes by "Joey Boy."

For the record, Joey Boy is going to get married more than once, have more than four kids, own several pets, meet the Dalai Lama, and drive a sports car. Kid's going places.

Okay, that's all. I had my first honest to pavement skateboard crash today. I made the msitake of thinking that I would be able to jump a speed bump, in the dark, when in reality I can't even skate over a speed bump, in the daytime. Nor do I know how one jumps on a skateboard. Nor do I know where five of my teeth are.

Nah, just kidding, I swallowed 'em.

A Quick Thought About Twitter

The more I am convinced of the pointlessness of Twitter for anyone who is not a Tehranian university student, the more I find myself impressed with one aspect of the social networking site: its motto, which reads "Twitter: What Are You Doing?"

Literally, of course--if you were learning to speak English out of a textbook, or in a foreign language course--the question "What are you doing?" carries the meaning that Twitter's creators intend it to have, by which I mean: "What are you up to?" or "We are generally interesting in what you are doing at this very moment, because we have no idea without you telling us via Twitter."

And yet, "What are you doing?" means something quite different in English with the intonations that most of us are familiar with. What are you doing, or What are you doing?, with the hint of suspicion and intimation that the speaker believes you to be doing something stupid.

To wit:

Person 1: What are you doing?
Person 2: Oh, I'm just combing the hair of my Pet Rock.

Person 1: What are you doing?
Person 2: My virtual kitten pooped three times during that movie; I'm just cleaning up her poop.

Person 1: What are you doing?
Person 2: I'm watching The King of Queens.

Fads, idiotic fads: time-consuming, mindless, embarrassing hour-suckers.

I'm not above it: I have a Twitter, and I check it every day. I no longer update via text, as now that I am in Thailand, the price per message has skyrocketed to .65 Baht per SMS (almost 2 cents now!)...but yes, I have a Twitter, I had a Xanga, a Tamagotchi, a Virtual Lemonade Stand, pogs, Jnco Jeans, expensive Yo-Yos, No Fear T-shirts, Yikes pencils; I watched seasons of Survivor, The Mole, Celebrity Mole, Joe Millionaire, Joe Schmo, Date My Mom, Tail-Daters, Next, WWF Raw, WWF Heat, WCW Nitro, WCW Thunder, WCW Saturday Night. I owned a Razr Scooter, a Dyno Trick Bike, a Shaved Ice Machine, Sony Dreamcast.

All of those, I can look back now and wonder: What was I doing?

And perhaps one day (soon) I will look back at my Twitter account, full of empty updates sent out regularly like bowel movements (sometimes about my bowel movements), and I will ask:

Person A: What are you doing?
Person B: I'm updating my friends about how sweaty my armpits are.

What are we doing?


Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Intertext

From fellow Princeton in Asia fellow Elena's blog, explaining about previously posting a play by her students that used questionable English grammar:

"I'm feeling a little guilty about my last post because I feel like it sounds like I'm making fun of their English. I'm really not! I love my students and I commend them for how hard they are trying to learn and how much they already know. If I were to write a skit in Thai it would read something like this:

Elena: Hello! How are you? Chicken, pork, rice, water. 1, 2, 3, 17. The mall. Thank you! It's alright.

Those are all the words I know."

Apropos, a play:

Chicken Water 17: The Mall

[A, a man, walks in stage left. B, a woman, walks in stage right. They both stare at their shoes, considering the banality of existence. They do not notice each other until they have nearly collided. Each regains the composure he/she wishes to project to the other].

A: Hello.
B: Hello.
A: How are you? B: How are you?
[Nervous laughter from both.]
A: How are you?
[B looks at the ground, shakes her head stiffly]
A: How are you?
[She shakes her head more dramatically].
A: How are you?
B: Rice.
A:...how are you?
B: Rice.
A: Rice.
B: Rice.
A: Rice.
B: Rice. Rice, rice, rice.
A: It's alright.
B: Thank you.
A: It's alright.
B: How are you?
[He regards her coldly, with the icy pangs of lost concupiscence]
A: How are you?
B: Rice.
[He nods his head, defeated.]

[Enter stage right a clown on a unicycle. He balances a bucket full of water precarious;y on his forehead.]

A: Water. Water. Water water water.

[He skitters back and forth for a while and then rolls up in between A and B. He gets down from his unicycle and regards A]

CLOWN: How are you?
A (pointing at B): Rice
CLOWN (pointing at B): Rice.
A (nodding): Rice.
[The clown considers this].
CLOWN: Water.

[He throws the bucket of water into A's face. A does not reacts, only accepts that it is not that water has been thrown in his face, but that the preordained time in the water's celestial path to have arrived at those precise coordinates had dovetailed with the location of his face.]

[Exit CLOWN].

[A and B stand silently, forlorn, for an awkwardly long time, until the audience becomes restless. Length to be decided at the actors' discretion].

[They turn to face each other.]

B: Water.
A: Rice.
[They intertwine their wrists, with the right hand of A holding the right hand of B, and the left hand of A holding the left hand of A].
BOTH: PORK.

[Curtain].

***********
All right, you guys, I'm just going to say what everyone is thinking: more well-written than Frost/Nixon.

Now let's get Ron Howard on-board and make an Oscar-nominated "film."





Sunday, June 21, 2009

Street Puncts

Hey, before I forget--if any of you need to launder illegally-gained money through a foreign bank account, let me know.

Last night for dinner I used the pointing method of communication to perfection. I pointed at the yellow noodles, and at the balls of pork, and at the clear soup, and I got all of those things, in a bowl, and a cup of ice water. I was quite pleased with myself, slurping my broth, sitting on the side of the superhighway (no joke), motorbikes zooming a few meters (that's Thai for "feet") from my table.

I point this out (Ha!) because this all has an obvious antecedent (that sentence has an obvious antecedent, too: I stole it from Lolita). At dinner on Saturday night, I ambled over to S--------- Street (I use those dashes not for propriety, but because I have no idea what the letters after 'S' are). I sat down in what I thought was one of my favorite noodle shops, with an English menu and delicious fried noodle soup. Turns out my memory, like most of my interpersonal skills, failed me, and I was stuck in this little cafe facing a receipt-sized piece of paper with about fifteen Thai words and fifteen check boxes.

Having learned from my mistake last time this happened (when I checked two boxes and got two mystery meats, which were not, as I had hoped, chicken or pork) I tried to say "chicken" and "noodles," but I did not know the tones, and so this was lost on my waitress/cook. There were five pictures of dishes on the wall, and she invited me to point at one. I pointed at some egg noodles, and then said "chicken" again. And then I said "chicken" again. And then, in the middle of the restaurant, I start flapping my wings, bobbing my head, and clucking.

Anyway, five minutes later my waitress brought out noodles and seafood. There were shrimp, I know, and then there was something white and waxy, like a human ear. Now, I'm not saying that for sure I ate a human ear; but last night, I pooped out a cochlea.

[Note: I told you there would be poop jokes].
[2: "pooped out a cochlea" is fun to say aloud. It's even more fun to say to waitresses. To one who does not speak English, "pooped out a cochlea" and "chicken fried rice" probably mean about the same, which is to say, little more than nothing.]

Moral of the story is, last night I got all up into the ingredients with my pointer finger. That sentence sounds more unhealthy than it is, but I have a point (Ha!): language is overrated. Not only would we be able to get as many basic necessities fulfilled without it, but we would also probably copulate a lot more.

And now I'm hungry. So call me Georges Seurat, because I'm about to go use my points.

So what the crap,

Jason

Update

I just ate half a box of Teriyaki crackers. My arteries are pumping soy sauce.

Happy Father's Day! My parents always mention how incredible Skype is, with free international voice and webcam; as economists, they can't fathom how such an awesome service can be free AND make money.

1. Skype IS an amazing service.
2. Let's hope however they make money, they continue to do it while maintaining free international voice and webcam.
3. There is a four-piece band in the food court of the only mall in the city. They perform every night, and they are called the Music Faces. They cover a wide variety of American songs (in English), and I've seen them play probably four times now. I go to the mall a lot. Just like in the U.S.
Anyway, last night I was sitting alone at a table, waiting for the girls to meet me for dinner. The Music Faces broke into Somewhere Out There from Feivel Goes West. It's a song that conjures vague, hazy memories of preschool, day care, Mom, Dad, youth, carelessness, ages past. I almost lost it around the first chorus. It was my first serious homesick moment: sitting in a large, wide, white flourescent food court, alone, in a country far from mine, where a language is spoken that I do not speak, and hearing the only English words I ever hear, in a song from back home, a song about being far from home, alone, lonely. Violin strings, meet heart strings.
4. I cut my hair.

All right, schmaltz, play us out.



UPDATE

Well, I guess "homesick" isn't the word, is it? And if it is the word, then it's a misleading, imprecise one. I don't miss "home," per se; because what is "home," Mr. Robert Frost?

"Home is the place where, when you have to go there,/ they have to take you in."

Home is a place, a location, a city or town or building or room; and that is not what I miss or dream about here in Thailand. I don't miss the place, the "there," the "in," but the "they" who have to take you.

Sitting in that lonely mall food court, I did not miss Quaker Bridge, North Point, Town Centre, Times Square; I missed the familiar conversation partner across the table. Riding in a song taew down the unknowable unfamiliar nameless streets, I did not miss Banford Court, Prospect Avenue, Nassau Street, Route 1; I missed my passengers, carpool, street-crossers, pedestrians.

I won't do the masturbatory thing and list your names; it's much too PBS-Iraq War casualties. But you know who you are. If you are reading this Blog, I have problem seen the shadow of your face on another's here, and wished it were really you.

In English, to ask the question "Who is your home?" sounds absurd, but it is the question that I find being continually answered over my first two weeks.

Now don't take this post as a sign of depression, unhelpable loneliness, sadness, a strong desire to quit my job and return home into your arms; it's an impulse, but the truth is I am happy and content here, and I enjoy each day. It's only sometimes that the frustration and the longing creep up my throat. Otherwise I still wake up in an unfamiliar bed under unfamiliar sheets (my own sheets, don't get ideas) and am amazed that I have the opportunity to live in and quench myself with this country for eleven months.

Ah, fart jokes tomorrow. Also, my Class Day speech is online, for those of you that don't follow my Facebook Newsfeed with the fervor that my mother does:


Elton John Loves to Sing About Saturday Night

Last night the girls and I did it up ex-pat style, exploring two popular Backpacker Bars in the Old City, where the ex-pats, hikers, and otherwise dirty Westerners stay in Chiang Mai.

The reggae bar, which I believe is called "Heaven Boat" (?), is away from the bustle of the main tourist road and yet attracts many Caucasians: stoners, droppers, the tattooed, the dreadlocked, the hemp-wearing crowd, long-skirted males and females. The walls have paintings of Bob Marley and Jimi Hendrix and psychedelic flowers and smoke rings; surprisingly, the house band was not playing Reggae music but was, like most of the cover bands here, playing a solid mix of Western staples and surprises. I heard "High and Dry" from The Bends, for example.

Everyone sat cross-legged on the floor, around low stone tables, and sipped their island drinks, and closed their eyes, and swayed.

There was a brief conversation about who these wannabe flower children were, where they came from, how they sustained themselves economically here, in their lengthy treks across Southeast Asia. My guess is: mid-to-upper class parents, lawyers, doctors, men and women with secretaries, a slight but substantial economic contribution for airfare, the aversion to the boozhy life, the dramatic drift to hippiedom and grunge. Maybe they were the children of hippies, who were now lawyers, doctors, whatever; maybe one day they will be lawyers, doctors, too.

Is there such thing as a genuine hippie, though? The lifestyle seems so dogmatized now, so specialized, in dress and in attitude, that it seems all-facade now, all attempts to "look the part," to dress the right way. Same thing happened to the hipsters, the anarchists, the punks. It's all idolatry and weak imitation now--where is the pioneering, truly noncomfortist thought and look that these movements are intended to express? All of these once-radical group identities--now stock Halloween costumes and subjects for elementary school history projects--are dead, and the self-righteousness and self-assurance of these recent college grads whose disgruntledness with society has taken a standard turn really kills me. Get a new aesthetic, for Christ's sake--you're skimming the borders of dogmatic religion, which I'm sure is not the point.

Anyway. The Reggae bar--I wasn't a fan. Maybe we should not have started our night there, or maybe I was on edge--and maybe the beggars and glass-eyed toddlers selling flower necklaces for 10 Baht a piece, relentlessly tugging on your shirt sleeves and sitting next to you at the table and hugging your waist--maybe all of that turned me off. Maybe I needlessly hate veneers. Or Reggae music.

No, I know that I hate Reggae music. People complain about all country music sounding the same, but my God--have they ever listened to Reggae?

Our second and final stop was a Rooftop Bar back on the main drag in the Old City. Apropos name: the bar is on a roof, about four stories up. Take off your shoes on the third-story landing, take the attic stairs out into the open air, to the bar and the sitting area. No chairs--just low meditation pillows. Again, lots of cross-legged sitting in groups around low wooden tables.

The vibe here was different, or maybe the Singha Beer (which, by the way, is rumored to be made with Formaldehyde; only trace elements, nothing lethal, I assume) had temporarily melted my ice-heart; but I liked the Rooftop. The Western set was jovial, generally not-obnoxious or intrusive. Perhaps a bit difficult to meet an other there--to walk over to a seated group, and have to lumber down to the ground gracefully, and then introduce yourself, is an awkward, difficult gesture, even for a skilled pickup artist like myself--but still, the atmosphere was nice, convivial, decidedly ex-pat. Saw my first strands of blond hair in some time. Can't say I missed it that much. But then, it's only been

Saturday, June 20, 2009

We Love the Night Life, We Love to Boogie

A lot of you have asked me what the night life here is like. To which I reply, "I don't know, the Queen hasn't dubbed me yet!"

Ughhhhhh

Well, I've only been out three times so far, and two of the times I nearly fell asleep at the table from tiredness, and one of the times I was otherwise similarly incapacitated. But I will try to mark down what I have gleaned, through bleary, half-open eyes and with a weakened, slowed mind:

1. Elephants don't serve beer through their trunks.

I think a common misconception about Thailand is that elephants are raised and biologically altered from a young age to become gigantic stills for beer and other malt beverages, with their mammoth (Ha!) stomachs as a keg of sorts and their trunks as the taps. This, from what I can tell, is not the case, and I don't know where this rumor started.

Really, you have two options for drinking. One is the American way, buying drinks at the bar. I'd say a mixed drink probably goes for between 3 and 6 dollars, and a beer can be anywhere from 1-3 dollars. You might be surprised to hear (seriously) that almost every bar is sponsored by a brand of whiskey or Scotch--the brands whose posters and flying flags I see the most are Johnnie Walker, Benmore, and 100 Pipers, with bottles costing about 12 dollars in the club. It is common for a group to buy a bottle of whiskey, a bucket of ice, and several bottles of club soda, and just go to town on it. When you are finished, you can take it home with you. No open container laws.

What is special to Thailand (or at least, different from most American bars) is the option to BYOB. This allowance seems counter to what the moneymaking strategies of any bar should be, and yet it seems to be universally accepted and practiced. Whereas I understsand that being caught with a hidden flask in your back pocket could be grounds for expulsion, suspension, or a ban from a bar or nightclub, here it seems the norm: I nearly fell into a culture shock after swaggering past the bouncers of a club while flagrantly brandishing a half-finished bottle of Whiskey in my left hand.

Apparently these clubs make money off of mixers and ice. Seems like they could make even more money off of, I don't know, being the only alcohol option available. I'm not complaining; but then, I don't own a bar in Thailand.

2. My Fellas Don't Dance, They Just Pull Up Their Pants

The big dance craze in Chiang Mai seems to be standing around a table and bobbing your head up and down. No grinding, no freaking, no butt-rubbing, no vertical coitus, no peripatetic waistline intermingle; just do the pigeon-head and you'll fit right in.

PDA (Public Displays of Affection, for my audience outside the target demographic) is not to be seen here. The most affection I ever see is a guy with his arm around his girl's shoulder. Thais are very affectionate people; just not with their tongues on a barstool at 3 in the morning like Americans are.

3. Your Skirt Can Be Mini If My Pants Can Be Mickey

Despite the total absence of public sexual skankiness, dressing like a skank is totally acceptable. Hike up that skirt, bare that shoulder...um...do something sexual with your chin. Though you may be socially interacting like one, there is no need to dress like a frightened Mennonite.

So, I hope that answers the three most common questions I've gotten about the Thai night life. If you have anymore, drop me a message, and I will be more than happy to begrudginly answer them for you.

Friday, June 19, 2009

IMPORTANT UPDATE

"Thailand" anagrams perfectly into "Haitland."

You do the math.

Slowly Transforming into Sid from Toy Story

Titular Reference: Toy Story, 1995, evil little boy with the mutant toys.

Why It's Relevant: I shaved my head and bought a skateboard.

Whenever a man with lots of hair shaves his head in the movies, something awful is about to happen to that man. Travis Bickle in Taxi Driver. The new soldiers in Full Metal Jacket. Edward Norton in American History X. Uh...Jake Gyllenhall in Bubble Boy. All shaved their heads...all ended up dead (?).

I was thinking about this as my many thick tufts of hair buried my barber's chihuahua puppy as my formerly wanton ringlets fell from my head and onto the paw-tread floor. The chihuahua was nipping at my toes as a flamboyantly gay Thai man carved out highway lanes of close-shaved hair into my scalp.

Trail of Tears to walk for Indian head-lice. Death march, death march, these buildings been cleared for gentrification.

I asked my students what the Thai word was for "buzz cut," to get one's hair shaved off.

"Ask for 'skinhead,'" they replied nonchalantly.

And so I did. And now I am a skinhead.

I find subtle hints, buried cryptographic suggestions of racist tribes of years past and present in everyday Thailand. I wonder, Crying of Laat 49 style, if everything is connected, if beneath all of these signs is a fascist minority-hating shadow group that operates Thai language and culture.

For example: skinhead, a common term for a haircut, no shades of offense. Neo-Nazidom.

For example: the word for thank you. Kharp Khun Khrab. KKK. How many generations away are we from simply saying Ku Klux Klan when you want to thank someone?

For example: women say "Hello" and "Goodbye" with the phrase "Suh Wat Dee Kah." Say it really fast: "Swastika."

For example: last night at the liquor store I discovered something quite disturbing. A bottle of molasses and cane sugar liquer, called Uncle Tom, manufactured by the White Spirit company of Thailand.

The Da Vinci Code. Conspiracy Theory. A Beautiful Mind. That episode of The Simpsons with the mysterious island where Homer is sent after he discovers that the flu vaccine is a hoax. This is what I feel like.

One day I will read a history book and I will be able to use a cultural-historical reference point that does not refer to the last twenty years of terrible summer movie nonsense.

But that will not stop me from investigating. The truth.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Every Dog Has His Day TO COMPLETELY SCREW OVER MY LESSON PLAN

I only have one class today--2nd year English from 8:00 A.M. - 9:30 A.M. The class is almost all girls, and they are all very quiet and respectful, and I love them. Of course, this generally means that nothing interesting ever happens in this class.

Today, however, a stray black dog wandered into the room while I was taking attendance, trotted in front of me, circled back, and then laid down in the second row.

None of the students flinched.

"This is it," I thought. "I've finally gone crazy. Because I could have sworn I saw a black dog come into my classroom, and yet no one is laughing, or pointing at it, or whispering to each other."

So I walked over to where the dog was on the ground, and its eyes were closed.

"No sleeping in my classroom!" I cried, to polite but confused laughter.

(I think they were only laughing because I made a funny face, and not because they liked my Saget-esque joke).

I pointed at the dog.

"Is this okay? Is this allowed?"

No one knew what I was talking about. Dogs wander into classrooms here all the time, as often as teacher says something nonsensical, as often as foreigners get comically nonplussed.

So I taught the rest of the class with a sleeping dog in the second row. No one even looked at, much less petted it. At about ten minutes until the end of class, it suddenly got up and ran outside. I thought about making a lame teacher joke about needing a hall pass to use the restroom, but humor seemed hopeless at that point. No one thought a dog in class was funny or even interesting. Only me.

So what the crap.

Ajarn Jason

Double Post to Chesty

Two posts in one day (for Callie).

A lot of you have asked me how good at English my students are. Interesting question. I would say that they have very large vocabularies, but they do not have any command of syntax or grammar. To wit:

All of my students have an assignment due on Monday. The assignment is to find an article of a certain length and write what the main idea of the article is and to create an outline of what the article says.

I gave one of my classes my email address so that they could send in articles for me to see if they were okay, to ask me questions about the assignment, and, okay, in the hopes that one of them would get really drunk and send me a hilarious message. Pipe dream.

So, here is an email from "Wan." This is the entirety of his email (article attached):

teacher please check article for me it good or not if not good , i will find new article and u comment and sent back to me on e-mail ok




thank u very much

So hopefully that gives you some idea of what I am working with, and why I am afraid that I am going to lose whatever hold on higher-level English I currently have. So if you see me using big words where diminuitive ones would suffice, here is why: this blog is the safe-haven for my extended vocabulary.

Complimentary Butt Hose, and Other Reasons to Lodge at the Chomdoi Condotel

For the first time in my life, I can write the sentence:

I moved into my apartment yesterday.

First, the boring stuff:

It is on the fifth floor of a twelve-story apartment building, which is about a ten minute walk and 2 minute drive from the university where I work. The lobby is huge and Zen, with koi ponds and green ferns and a permanent echoing quiet. There is a free outdoor swimming pool (a huge plus in this heat), and my room is as spacious as there is in Thailand, and it has its own private bathroom. The rent is dirt cheap, even by Thai standards, for such a large and clean dwelling.

Now, the obligatory weird stuff

1. What Is This, A Trashcan for Ants?

The room comes with one pink trash can, which barely rises above the top of my ankle, and which was full after I stuffed two plastic 7-11 bags into it. I managed to wedge two used contacts in before it was bursting at its seams and had to be emptied. A second trashcan might be in order, or perhaps just an old, overturned fedora.

2. Hipster Bathroom Mat

The pattern of my bathroom mat is actually just a reprint of the cover for Death Cab for Cutie's 2008 LP "Narrow Stairs."

Okay, here is the Death Cab for Cutie cover:



And now here is my bathroom mat:




And I am like "wtf lolololol"!

P.S. Dear hipster police,

I know that Death Cab for Cutie is no longer hip nor perhaps was ever hip. Give me a break, "Hipster Bathroom Mat" scans really well and, in addition, would make a great ironic band name for a local electronica three-piece.

3. A Dual Monarchy

The room comes with a "king-sized bed," and my bed does take up an area equivalent to the area taken up by a king-sized bed. However, the bed is comprised of two twin beds pushed next to each other, and it appears I am destined to wake up in a crack for the next three months.

Speaking of which...

4. Skanks Are Good, Butt Hose Are Better

(Sorry).

I spent 75 foolish cents on a six-pack of toilet paper rolls without realizing that my john has a butt hose next to it! Now this is no French bidet, no Japanese toilet assistant: this is a garden hose attached low to the wall next to the pot, which I assume you can use to either sprinkle your dinkle or pressure wash the old Bat Cave. (Those aren't real euphemisms, don't bother looking them up).

I haven't tried it out yet. The water pressure here is quite erratic--painfully fast out of the sink at one moment, a drip at the next--and I fear for the integrity of my colon and collective excretory system. Also, I can't imagine the sensation will be anything but unsettling.

In conclusion, I'm just not sure the butt hose is up my alley.

(I'll be here all week).

5. To Warm or To Dry

My landlady brought me a gift a couple hours after I moved in. It was folded up like a towel, it has the consistency of the towel, and its fringes are certainly towel-like. However, when she handed it to me, she said, in her very limited English, that this was my blanket.

Now, I have a "king-sized bed," and this "blanket" does not even fit over one of the twins. However, I have slept with it as a cover for two nights, and it keeps me warm enough. I think tonight I am going to ask for another blanket and see if she gives me the same thing.

At least then I will have two free towels, as I have no choice but to go buy a duvel or something for the market. Waking up with my bare toes under some cloth is worth the 10 dollars, I think.

Also I'm pretty sure I saw a Che Guevara blanket the other night. And if that's not what the revolution was about, then I don't know what is.

Then again, I have no idea who Che Guevara was, where he's from, what he did, or what his revolution was about. I can only assume it was about the right to illegally mass produce the likeness of a public figure on commercial products for pseudo-socialists and weakly-philosophical wannabe-cynical suburban teenagers.

Though the 2 I received on the AP World History exam would suggest otherwise.

6. A Net That Doesn't Catch

The thing about a net is that it is full of holes, and the Internet at the Chomdoi Condotel is no different. My connection is patchier than the left arm of a nicotine addict on a non-stop overnight flight. (Will Thailand kill my ability to create a metaphor, or did I never have one?)

This morning I entered www.google.com into my browser. I went into the bathroom, brushed my teeth, shaved, took a shower; when I came out of the bathroom, Google had yet to load.

Twenty minutes later I downloaded an entire album in 3 minutes.

It is quite frustrating, and it says something bad about me (or American society, for my unwavering apologists) that this is the feature of the Chomdoi that I hate the most and that makes me want to move out.

Right now the Internet is awesome--fast and uninterrupted. But, as Robert Frost once wrote about local area connections, "Nothing gold can stay." And so my Skype calls will be dropped, my Gchats sent and received at unpredictable intervals, my customarily constant download of all kinds of pornography sadly inconstant.

Also my Web Administrator has blocked the very helpful technology site "Lifehacker," so if anyone would like to set up a mirror site, please do so.

Anyway, there is certainly more to report about the apartment--the 13 inch television that must have been made by Tandy Computers, the setting on the shower which turns the stream from water to lukewarm horse piss, the sanitorium cushions that line the walls--but frankly, I am so far behind in writing on other topics (haircuts, diarrheal updates) that I will leave those for another day, ages hence.

Now if you'll excuse I'm going to go pressure wash the old Bat Cave.



Monday, June 15, 2009

Brief Update from a Brief Man

No, the title doesn't mean anything.

Do you ever know you should shower at night, because you haven't showered in days, or maybe weeks, and you can smell your own stench with each intake of breath, and frightened grandmothers tighten their swine flu face-masks when you sit next to them on the bus, and you have brown stink lines following you everywhere you go, and the woman at the 7-11 gives you a complimentary canister of deodorant even though you never asked for it and even though there wasn't even a deodorant give-away at the 7-11--but you're just sooo tired and you don't want to shower?

Anyway hopefully I will update tomorrow about my new apartment and its many bowel-centric amenities, as well as my first haircut in Thailand, which will probably also be my first buzz-cut ever. A week of firsts! Perhaps I'll finally get that first kiss all those guys used to brag about in the locker room.

I really do not have the facial features for a shaved head. There's a good chance I'm going to look like an Easter Island statue, except ugly. I'll post pictures as soon as I find a digital camera that can suitably reduce Red Eye and Big Nose.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Poop Jokes

And now, a whole post about poop.

A hole post.

Post-digestive matter.

In Thailand it is apparently not impolite to ask, in casual conversation, if someone is pooping healthily.

This is wonderful news. I love talking about my bowel movements.

I experienced this firsthand two nights ago, when a Thai woman who was helping me to order at a noodle stand asked me if I had had diarrhea since arriving in Chiang Mai. It is common for foreigners to have "traveler's diarrhea" after eating real Thai cuisine for the first few weeks.

My sphincter can confirm that this is true.

It is qiute liberating to be able to talk about feces so freely and without breaking etiquette rules; though I wonder, now, how far those etiquette rules can bend before they are broken.

For example, would it be inappropriate to teach my students how to say "I am about to take a tyrannosaurus dump"? Is comparing my genitalia to the firmness and length of a fecal log a sexy pickup line? Will I be able to turn "How you shittin'?" into a casual, hip greeting, a la "Sup playa" or "What's the dealio?"?

These are questions for the future that can perhaps only be gleaned through experience. As I more thoroughly explore the murky boundaries of Thailand's toilet proprietry, descending into that heart of darkness, I will certainly keep you all updated, as I am sure that this subject is both interesting and not disgusting to all of you.

P.S. I pooped while writing this


Friday, June 12, 2009

I Can Call You Nooknik, And Nooknik When You Call Me, You Can Call Me Joop

Following Elena's lead, I asked my three classes to write down their English nicknames on the class roster for me, so that I wouldn't have to butcher the Jiranans and the Rattapoons and the Supawadees anymore.

Here are some, uh, highlights from those three classes:

English 203, Class 1
Dew
Carrot
Snoopy
Arm
Pit ("Arm" and "Pit" are conveniently right under each other on the roster, too)
Four
Dookdik
Alpha
Bomb
Chain
Dome
Boat
Q

English 203, Class 2
Cake
Nooknik
Golf
Noon
Joop
Gift
New
Gift (there are two "Gifts" in this class: very confusing)
PooKao (not sure how this one is English)
Guide
Top
Note

English 101
Bush
Apple
Mind
Gumpoong
Dream
Eve
Soft
Boom
Joe Cole
Best
Mine
Mind (also confusing)
Cartoon
Golf
Bo
Joey Boy


Remember in Spanish class when everyone got to pick a Spanish name, and some jokester would inevitably choose "Nacho" or "Taco"? This is like that, except they are very earnest, and all of them chose Taco.

I seriously don't know how I'm going to call on Snoopy without losing it.

Two Things from Yesterday

Before I share with you today's misunderstandings of the English language, I wanted to get down electronically two things about Thursday.

1) I wore my pants that make me feel like Burt Lancaster yesterday. This is hard to explain. So at some point when I was watching an old Burt Lancaster movie--I think "Sweet Smell of Success"--there was a shot of him wearing pants and no shirt. And he was wearing his pants way up around his belly button, and it sort of sucked in his tummy fat and made his pectorals a little saggy. It's a very specific look, that might be particular to leading men of a certain age and certain body build from the late 50s-early 60s.

Anyway whenever I look at myself in the mirror while I am wearing these pants, I think, Hey, my chest-pants combination reminds me of Burt Lancaster, makes me feel like I am Burt Lancaster. I don't know.

2) I had been saying that I was going to be attacked by feral dogs by the week's end, and I WAS RIGHT MOTHAFUCKERS, WHAT?! I was walking around in an unfamiliar place, and two dogs came running out of this hut barking a lot and I near shat myself. But they had muzzles on, so they just kind of shin-snouted me, and then their owner yelled at them.

Then about two minutes later on the same path I walked in between a bunch of cows. Then I saw some baby roosters. Then I wrote Animal Farm.

Ok.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Malapropism, Not So Mala

It turns out that, in one case at least, I underestimated the Thai English language skills.

I kept on passing a sign advertising the "House of Male Gym & Sauna."

When I first saw the House of Male--which is near Q-Bone hair cuttery--I laughed really, really hard. Little did this business know--whatever it was--that it sounded really, really gay, like a house full of beefcake men strolling around without their shirts off, everyone breathing in each other's man-funk, oiling each other down.

Well, uh, it turns out the proprietors of House of Male were spot-on with their name:


Pretty great name for a club for gays, I have to say. Would work well, if not glibly, in America, too. My friends that are so-inclined who visit me will be happy to know that every Saturday there is a Thai barbecue, and that Tuesday and Thursday admission is two for the price of one. Also there is a discount if you hold something called a "Long Yang Card."

Insert big penis joke here.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Okay, One More Affirmation of My Good Looks

I can't believe I forgot this one, because it was so, so cute; as cute as all of the puppies on the streets here, except without the constant fear of lethal Thai rabies.

So I had asked everyone in my classes to say one thing they liked. So this one girl, who had been staring at me with wide koala eyes for an hour, stands up and with much energy says:

"I like shopping and I like dancing and I like you!"

And then sits down to wide laughter. And then I blew her a kiss to everyone's glee.

Don't tell my mom, but I am going to have at least one Thai wife by the end of the summer. AT LEAST ONE.

So what the crap,

Jason

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Will Thailand Kill My Sense of Irony?

I like clueless foreign bastardizations of the English language as much as the next guy, but I'm afraid that if I continue to see so many mind-blowing, nonsensical malapropisms and whatnot that I will cease to find "Engrish" funny at all.

At some point all of this will be Anglo-sensory overload, and I won't have to stop and double over laughing at every block corner and in between.

Imagine:

A futuristic looking barber shop called "Q Bone"

A faded street sign, pointing to an abandoned lot, that reads "To Switzerland."

An American steak restaurant called "Uncle Tom's."

The proprietor of an apartment building, a forty year old man, thick pedophile mustache, magenta tank top, white hot pants, who did not see us walk in the door because he was too focused on his GameBoy.

Where am I? What year is this?

Luckily my students continue to constantly renew my faith in humans, and the global goodness of mankind.

As I was walking around checking some student's work, one group of boys told me I looked like Adam Sandler.

"You look like Adam Sandler," they all laughed. And then one held out an invisble remote. "Click! Click!"

I have been asking all of my students to stand up at the end of class and say one thing they like to do.

One gayish boy said, "I like to move it, move it."

No joke.

A nerdy Urkel boy, hours before a freshman mixer, said, "I like to dance, and I hope to dance with my fellow classmates later tonight."

Total, awkward silence.

I have nicknamed this boy "Jason Gilbert, Ages 14-??"

For obvious reasons.

And then there are my two new girlfriends.

After I asked about the dance, one girl told me that I should come, and blushed.

And then, when it was her turn to say what she liked to do, she said, "I like to speak English," and then she and her friends giggled.

Not to be outdone, another girl came up to my desk after class. And she apologized: "I like to speak English, too."


A few minutes later I passed that girl on the staircase. I said hello, and she whispered to me, "Would you like to come to lunch with me?"

"Lunch!" I exclaimed, getting girlishly excited, as I always do when thinking about food. "When?"

But she just giggled and ran away. Tata, sweet Patthaporn*. I shall see you in class on Friday, non?

*Name changed to protect the innocent, and my total ignorance of the Thai language.

Oh, I almost forgot: I have so many bloody pus blisters on heels and arches and whatnot. I mean, seriously, my left foot looks like Jim Caviezel's chest at the end of Passion of the Christ.

Too much?

rly though my feet hurt.


Monday, June 8, 2009

That Old Infant Riddle

So I gave in and bought a man-purse.

Actually, I just call it a man-purse to make myself feel manly. It's actually just a purse that I am using as a man-purse.

Look, I had to carry all of these binders around all day, and my arms were getting tired, so I went into a market and bought a bag. The bag I bought happened to be black, and pink, and for women.

Here is what my man-purse looks like:

Picture a bowling ball bag, with the two straps to hold at your side. Those straps are silver metal.

The bag is mostly black. The pockets are magenta.

On one of the pockets is an anime chicken. Underneath the chicken are the words "BABY PARADOX."

I bought the purse because I thought "BABY PARADOX" was an incisive concision/rethinking of the clunky "chicken-and-the-egg problem" while also being a hilarious bit of Engrish.

When I am a hip hop DJ, I will be DJ Baby Paradox.

When I open an trendy overpriced tweener boutique clothing store in Orange County, it will be called: Baby Paradox.

When I die, on my tombstone will be written: "Father, Husband, Baby Paradox."

Baby Paradox.

Say it aloud over and over again until the phrase loses all meaning and connotation, and then continue saying it until each individual word becomes nonsense.

When you have achieved this, you will know the true meaning of the words.

And that is the Baby Paradox.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

My First Day of Work Or, The Start of Something Idiotic

I woke up and did what I've done every morning since I came to Thailand: stripped down to my underwear, chugged a fifth of whiskey, and shadow-danced to "The End" by The Doors.

This was 5:30 A.M. I caught a taxi to Chaing Mai University, where I will be teaching classes for the next ten months; it was a 30 minute, 80 cent ride in which I didn't die once. Can't complain.

My first class was at 8:00 A.M., and I was on the campus by 6:30. I had allotted myself that extra time because I had predicted that I would get lost trying to find the Humanities Building; and lo, I am a better prophet than I am a navigator, and I did get lost. After unsuccessfully meandering around in the rain for about 45 minutes, and having not seen any of the telling landmarks I had hoped to stumble upon, I flagged down a middle-aged man on a bicycle and asked him if he knew where the English Department was located. He looked at me strangely and replied:

"Not anywhere close to here. HAHAHAHAHAHAHA."

And then he rode away.

So I backtracked and eventually, at around 7:45 A.M., after crawling around aimlessly like a parched man in a desert, I asked a meek Thai girl where the Humanities Department building was.

"Right here," she said, confused.

I was standing right in front of it, all along. And all I had to do was click my heels together three times...

Drenched hair firm against my scalp, previously starched white shirt clinging to me like wet toilet paper, I entered the English Department teacher's lounge, where a short bespectacled middle-aged teacher, most likely a nerd in high school now empowered by the unearned gravitas of being a white man who has lived in Thailand for some years, offered to give me a tour of the campus, since he "likes to show the newbies around." You know, whatever. He was eager to show off his knowledge of every stone and leaf of the college grounds, and the whole scene reminded me a little of Charlotte Haze showing the unimpressed Humbert Humbert around her home.

(Side note: How stupid was it for me, a tall white male with a sketchy whisper of a moustache, to bring only the book "Lolita," a novel about a white man's obsession with young, newly pubescent girls, to Thailand, where they screen for potential pedophiles at Immigration? Needless to say, I packed that book tightly away in my carry-on and read "Bangkok FAH!" magazine for some time).

Then it was class time. Thirty or so university students, mostly girls, blushed their way into the classroom as I wrote my name on the board. We went around the room and said our names and one thing we liked to do. I started:

"My name is Jason Gilbert, and I like to curl into the fetal position and listen to Bright Eyes at night."

No one got the joke. This was going to be a long semester if they couldn't even get that reference to arcane American pop culture.

I couldn't comprehend any of their names. Most of them liked to play sports, or listen to music, or play online games. None of them said they liked to guide clueless, befuddled teachers through their first day, to my disappointment. But I soldiered on, and I got through the 75 minutes without a coup, so I'm going to call it a success. I checked for understanding; I encouraged broad student participation; I transitioned seamlessly between Barack Obama and Christopher Walken impressions. Overall, a good day.

So far.

It's only noon.

So what the crap (this is how you say goodbye in the Thai language),

Jason