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Formerly a Spanish teacher in Wisconsin & Illinois, I moved to Bangkok with my husband in July 2011 to teach IT at a new American International School.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

A Mt. Fuji "Tall Tale"


What we were hoping or envision our Mt. Fuji experience would look like...
           So the saying goes, "You're a fool if you never climb Mt. Fuji, and an even bigger fool if you climb Mt. Fuji twice." My husband and I climbed Mt. Fuji--all 3776 meters, last week, July 11th in the evening until the morning of July 12 in hopes of seeing the summit sunrise early in the a.m. There is a background history of our/my intentions of making the hike. While my father was stationed near Tokyo in the early 1960s with the United States Air Force, he climbed but his hiking stick with all the brands and stamps was stolen. Therefore, since I am living in Bangkok now with my husband, I wanted to climb Mt. Fuji in a trip to Japan, and earn back his hiking stick over 45+ years later to take back when we return to the United States.

            I checked the weather conditions, but there was nothing that could have prepared us for this trip up and down the mountain! We took the JR train to Otsuki, then a commuter train to Kawaguchiku. That, together was about 2 hours of  a journey, leaving us at the train station at about 8:30 p.m. July 11th. When we arrived, it was sprinkling. I began to get nervous and then even more so because we learned from the attendants at the Kawaguchiku station that the last bus to take us to the 5th Gogome had already left just 20 minutes earlier. In a panic, we contracted with a taxi driver to drive us to the 5th station. It cost us 12,500 Yen! That was about $160 USD, but I had come this far and was not going to let my father or us down. So we paid the cash, and as we were driving along, it was dark and gloomy with rain.

            When we arrived, there was nobody really there, just a few people walking around in and out of the shop. We purchased a cheap set of rain gear and a cover for my husband's backpack, which kept his expensive camera inside. We met a young man from Germany who asked if he could hike with us. The shop closed at 10 and that is when we began our ascent.
Again, we have never done this before, but this was completely out of our league, and as we'd learn the next morning upon arrival back at the 5th station, something that ranks among one of the worst conditions on record according to one Japanese guide, who leads groups up and down the mountain as a job, and he's hiked the mountain over 150 times! Thank goodness I got the rain gear. If I was smarter, I'd have put the pants on at the outset, but it wasn't raining so much at the lower elevations. We stopped at the 7th station to get out of the rain that was becoming heavier, along with stronger winds.
Our hiking sticks. One for my father, whose was stolen over 45+ years ago, and another for Josh and I to share.

            Even with the intense and severe weather conditions, we were making good time along the Yoshida Trail, the one most popular to climb at night because it is from this side of the summit to the top that one can see the sunrise. That is what we were aiming for. Unfortunately, we would not see a sunrise with the thick fog and cloud cover bringing the rain we endured.
We kept going, and stopped briefly to talk to some attendants at one hut at the original 8th station. He said about 40 more minutes and we'd summit. He invited us in, but we decided to keep going and we knew we would turn around right away and descend because it would be before sunrise, and we couldn't see anything anyway.
           
            We kept going and then it got so severe, I was so scared for my life. Now, we are not climbers by nature. My husband is a P.E. teacher and I run many marathons, do Muay Thai, play soccer, lift weights, etc. You get the idea. We are in shape, but being physically fit was nowhere near what it took to get through this rough stretch which seemed interminable!

            I forgot to mention that because it was raining so much and so hard, nobody could brand our walking sticks, which was the √≠cing on the cake, if you will. It was so terrible we were crouching down holding on to the sides we could grip to avoid being whisked away by the powerful winds and rain. My husband had no protection gear on, and he was actually wearing shorts. Amazingly, however, we weren't cold while climbing, even though it was about 5 degrees Celsius, with over 70 km. winds coming at us. We were so scared for our safety that after we finished, we could see two lights, maybe from flashlights where people were seeking shelter somehow (although there is nothing at the summit except the summit itself), we had to turn around to descend, and try our best to get to shelter. We have never been so scared for our lives! And everything we read was about how Mt. Fuji is not an intense hike, that there are 70-year old women and people who wear sandals to hike. Maybe it was because we were in the dark, but that just added to the fright, and we could not understand how people would consider this an easy feat by any means.

            Regardless, we took our time little by little, hiding and shielding ourselves somehow from the sleet and sideways rain pouring over us, soaking us through our clothing and climbing gear, and the strong winds in the night. We made it to some inn, crouched in a bathroom where we saw two men who also decided to turn around. I was feeling so depressed because we hadn't reached our goal. It was barely 4 a.m., so it took us roughly 5.5 hrs. in such conditions, where this trail is estimated to normally take about 5-7 hrs, in favorable weather, probably later in July or in August. Being so early in the climbing season, maybe it is this intense. I was not sure. But we were soon asked to leave by an attendant at this inn unless we each paid 3000 yen for just 3 hours. We literally did not have a choice, and thankfully after our expensive cab trip, we had just enough to cover that expense, and the bus fare back to the train station of 1500 yen apiece. It was enough time for the sun to rise and for my husband to get out of his wickedly soaked clothing, get in to a sleeping bag and take a rest. We were so shaken with the heightened emotional states we were in. I didn't sleep a wink. I just listened to that wind whistle through and rock this little inn, coupled with the noise of other guests who were getting ready to depart, and the rain picking up in strength.

            Fortunately, when it was time to leave, we had sunlight, but when I saw the light and the mountain, I was even more scared to know what we had actually climbed up without seeing except for maybe 5 feet in front of ourselves with our tiny flashlights. Our clothes were still pretty wet, but we heard it would take about 4-5 hrs. in these conditions to descend. We knew we had better get going to get back on that bus at the 5th station in a reasonable time frame. While the wind was still crazy, along with the rain, descending on the Yoshida Trail was, well, for lack of better words, quite pleasant and much easier than not being able to see where we were to go. We saw many guide posts that had been yanked from their original positions in the mountain, probably due to the winds. The trail at that point going down was pretty flat, but you needed to be cautious that you didn't slip on some of the larger lava rocks on those switchbacks and curves. It was pretty narrow in some parts. We saw many others hiking down who also said they stopped, but I think we were among the only few who made it up so far that night. In fact, we warned time and time again to others who were passing us while we were coming back down, DO NOT GO! TURN AROUND! IT IS TOO DANGEROUS. Now, many spoke English, but how to explain this in Japanese in the darkness with crazy winds and rain halting us from maintaining any sort of upright position or grip? Some just didn't get it and they kept going.

            It gets better. We descended in about 1.75 hours. We saw many police vehicles at the 5th station and many were huddled inside the shop where we'd purchased our gear. It was there that we learned that all buses were canceled! The conditions were so bad even at the base of the mountain that they were not letting any buses come up to retrieve us hikers and tour guests who'd climbed throughout the night! What were we going to do? We had only enough yen to get us on a bus back to the train station, and there were no ATMs to extract cash, even to pay a taxi once again! (insert sarcastic laugh here). However, we began talking with one Japanese tour guide, who was especially helpful, as he speaks English well, and he explained this to us. He said in all his years and over 150+ hikes up the mountain, he has never witnessed it like this in July. In a way, I felt somewhat relieved and amazed just by how much we achieved the night before. Here we were, rushing to get back down the mountain and a bus would not even be coming for us! Expect the unexpected I guess, as the saying goes, right?

             Anyway, after about 20 minutes of standing in the shop and changing in to some other clothing, taking off my rain gear, we were informed by this tour guide that they would send a couple buses, but those would be the only buses and the rest would be stranded until the next day when the weather (hopefully) would improve. It was just that dangerous for even vehicles to travel the distance from the base of Mt. Fuji to where we were at the 5th station. Just shortly before 11 a.m., about 2 hours after we got back, a couple of buses arrived to take about 150 of us back to Kawaguchiku Station and the direct bus to Shinjuku. In fact, when we got back to the entrance gates, we were 'greeted' by TV reporters and cameras to get the stories on what had happened. Boy, that would have made an interesting story if I could only speak Japanese. We had spoken with many hikers, young, old, foreign and Japanese who had made the journey, and many had similar stories and fears as us. Like I said earlier, I was depressed because my only wish was to get that walking stick branded at every single station we could, and either mail it or bring it back with me in a year when I return to Wisconsin to visit my parents and family. The picture my father painted about his climb was very different indeed from what my husband and I experienced. I like to think we are adventurous, fearless in some senses, and especially fit.
But this 'adventure' played with our emotions and conscience beyond my wildest imagination.


Me, post climb, with the hiking stick I will present to my father.

Josh, holding on to our hiking stick after the climb, when we were temporarily stranded at the 5th station, waiting for a bus to arrive to get us off the mountain.
          


Surely, the evening of July 11 to the dawn/early morning of July 12, 2012 will live in our memories forever. With or without branding and stamps on my stick for my father, it will be such a pleasure to give that to him. No pictures to even prove we did it, but I am not a good enough liar to make up a tall tale like this. So now Mt. Fuji is just a memory. And if there was any more icing left to top that cake, it came when I saw a recent Instagram photo posted that showed beautiful Mt. Fuji with green pastures leading up to it in the distance, taken just one day before we hiked. Certainly, their photo doesn't match up to the experience or image I paint in my own head when I think of Mt. Fuji. I just wish maybe it would have been clearer to see that sunrise, but it probably would not have accounted for such a magnificent story, now would it?

Either way, Dad, this 'stick' is for you, along with the high price we paid for the entire adventure. :-)

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Pesky Annoyances

I think I have grown to love The Big Mango for so many reasons. I think I have also learned to scrutinize those things I call pesky annoyances. So if you are visiting or you come to live here, or maybe you already live here, you can decide which of these are true or not.

The bread in Thailand just sucks. They say, "Go to Villa Market!" Yeah, still sucks. Even the stuff that comes from a certain German restaurant...it is just not the bread I would classify as any good by any standards.

There are virtually no bagels. The selection at Au Bon Pain is limited, and yes, Villa Market will sell them (hardly what I call a proper bagel), and now so does Gourmet Market--90 Baht for 3 dry bagels ($1/bagel USD). However, don't hold your breath or your taste buds. I will have to travel long and far to get a great bagel.

If you haven't experienced Thai plastic, boy are you missing out! Why must you have to break your nails or risk a wrist injury trying to tear open a package here? If they are a developing country, how do they get their plastic to be so darn strong? IT IS EVERYWHERE!!

Going along with the plastic annoyance, they tape everything. So once you get through the nightmare plastic and still cannot open your goods, be sure there isn't any tape in the way! Sorry, Mom, but yes, they may have observed the way you wrap Christmas and birthday presents and taken a pointer or two.

So you are trying to rip open a plastic wrapped container of sorts and all of a sudden one of the buses comes chugging by. Noise pollution is the worst here in the Big Mango. I realize there are 12 million+ running these streets, and traffic is inevitable. But do we really have to make it worse with the loudest buses on the planet, not to mention the thick black exhaust it propels in to your face when you are finishing up a run? Geesh!

And while you are walking back from that run, pay particular attention so that you don't twist an ankle on the sidewalks, or whatever they are classified as. I realize it is a big city, but I have traveled around the globe and I have never seen this horrendous of sidewalks or tiles anywhere! If you can make it a mile without looking down while you walk, kudos to you. I run in to people here because I am too busy looking down at my feet, making sure I don't twist that ankle that is going to keep me from another race.

I never thought I would say I miss American beer...and I am not talking about your ballpark staples here, folks. But real American micro-brews or the imported ales, dunkels, weissens that actually give you a high. Wino no more because the way they tax wine at over 400% and the intense heat, you gotta relieve yourself with a cold one. And the Leo, Chang, Tiger, San Miguels, et. al, are not cutting it. The only good thing is that it is so cheap! I never thought I would resort to Heineken, but it is really the only type I could drink without having a severe aftertaste and a severe hangover in the morning from. Yuck!

I also reckon I live in a hot city dirtier than most, so the cockroaches are extra big, and extra tasty from what I hear (if you are in to buying the bugs off the street to snack on to get your protein fix). But for what I pay in rent at this nice home of ours, could God please eradicate the cockroaches once and for all? Thanks.

UV Nails... I miss you dearly. The Thai are known for their waste of time in everything they do, that is a fact. But do you really need to spend over an hour just filing when I see you have investing in a couple buffers? Especially since you do such a bad job I have to return a couple days later to pay $5 to have a new one put on. Why do I keep coming back you may wonder? Well, if you saw the pudgy fingers my father gave me, and being anemic, well, you'd go back, too. The ginger tea they give me at Ten Ten is a big bonus, coupled with the fact they know my name. No, it is not Cheers, but there is a bar right downstairs...Happy Hour every Friday 5-7 if I need a fix before I spend 2 hours getting my nails filled.

Speaking of getting things fixed here... so you have issues with the way things are built, the way things are put together, arranged, constructed...multiply that by 100! The Thai are so interesting in the way they try to repair or fix things. I think I have had my shower fixed 4 times in the 9.5 months we have been here because it doesn't drain. They like to patch things up, but they sure don't like dealing with the real problem.

And can I please have my sidewalk back without having to move over so I don't become overrun by a moto taxi driver? Thanks.

What is up with these Thai fasionistas who think the burnt orange, puke brown shorts and leggings are in style? Is that what is in fashion at JJ, Platinum or MBK these days? I realize the 80s are trying to make a comeback, but PLEASE! This would be a nightmare for Joan Rivers, and darn, she really has issues with her own sense of style.

Keeping with the fashion topics, could someone explain to me why the Thai can barely speak English (even though it is their official 2nd language), yet they buy these shirts in English they have obviously no clue what they mean? I cannot write about what I see-I'd be banished forever, but it does give me a laugh or two when I am walking along and see one that makes absolutely no sense.

Can someone also please teach the Thai how to walk in to oncoming pedestrians? If you see I am walking on the right, and you are walking toward me, do you really need to move closer to me to force me to move in the other direction? Please get a clue and learn to walk. Then we can have the lesson on learning to walk while you text and talk on the phone.

Don't drink the water, please... Instead buy it on the street and waste more plastic. Here's the funny thing: the government says it is safe to drink, yet during the floods the Prime Minister was offered some tap water after trying to convince us all how safe it is. Case in point: she denied the offer for the water. One of the first things I think a developing nation can do is ensure they have good drinking water because I guarantee that the floods are coming back again.

What's the deal with the air con units here? Why on earth do I need a remote or two in each room for an air con unit? Have the Thai ever thought of saving energy through investing in Central Air that is controlled?

Finally, I could really use a glass of good wine, but I refuse it often because crappy wine abounds here, at a significant 400% tax rate. Enough said.

I hope you have enjoyed my rant on the things that annoy me here in the Big Mango. And crazy as it sounds, I choose to remain here and try to laugh and get used to these pesky annoyances.

Peace!

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

A Little Notoriety Goes a Long Way

So what's been happening lately in The Big Mango? Well, from my side of the mountain, I saw races zoom by, along with some accomplishments, a concert, and a weekend getaway.
The Thai-Japan race on March 11th commemorated the 1-year anniversary of the Japanese Tsunami that left many dead and lives torn. I ran the 11km race in Bangkok, which symbolized March 11th, but it also benefited the victims of last year's Thailand floods. I did take 6th place, and had I known my 5th place girl was right in front of me, I think I would have tried to scoot past her. Oh well, it was much more eye-appealing at this race to be able to look around and see the city, rather than zoning out on a stretch of highway for endless miles.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

A Runner's Dig(r)essssst

Let me just start this off by admitting how frustrated and angry I am with this blog site. Everything I had written over the course of the last couple hours...LOST just like that! GRRR!!!
Okay, shake it off. So this one is gonna be short and sweet, unlike the last marathon and half marathon I ran.
So let me sum it up like this: Run, eat, sleep, Run, eat, sleep, enter 2nd Masters, write 20-page papers in boring APA Style each week, REPEAT. AGAIN, and AGAIN, and AGAIN!
So, Social Butterfly no more, my friends. This woman has ambitions and is not just quite sure what they are or where they will uncover themselves, but she has them and they are taking her places. But hopefully those places are not back to those which I have spent the last month running in...

Go Team Berkeley!

So with that, I start my rant about my running life. The good news: Bangkok Marathon is over and that is a clump of over 4 hrs. I will never see again, until two weeks later when I had deja vu running a half marathon in the EXACT SAME LOCATION! Friends, let me just reiterate that if you give me an iPod and some gum, I can run for you. It may not be fast like a Kenyan, but remember, in my dreams, I am a Kenyan. No, seriously. Don't sign yourself up for what I encountered. Had it not been for Josh and our wonderful friends Mike and Pam, who were visiting from GB that weekend, I would have said the F* bomb and left the course. You know how they say Thai prisons are bad? Well, imagine that, and then imagine a stretch of highway in the dark, no spectators, just marathon workers sleeping/passed out in the backs of their trucks alongside the medians. At any rate, at least Darrick, Brian and I got to don some funky PINK tees on Valentine's Day after the marathon to show off that we had more guts than anybody to do this thing they call a marathon. The only cool people were the Thai guys, giving me thumbs up because I was one of those only girls bearing the breezeless 85 degree heat at 3 a.m. on a 22+ Km stretch of spectator-less highway.

So I figure I need a break, a break from running (til I run a half the following weekend) and from my coursework. Yeah, I am crazy for running and even crazier for sucking it up to join a 2nd Masters Degree program in Ed. Leadership so I can become a principal someday when I put away my running shoes. There's no way I could handle both! Or maybe one becomes the lesser of the two evils. The jury is still out on that. So what's a girl to do, you ask?
HEAD TO PATTAYA FOR GIRLS' WEEKEND...DUH!

Do they really need a sign? If you don't know where you are, then you
are in sever need of help in Pattaya. Just ask one of the Russians. They'll help 'ya!
So here we go, 4 girls from Berkeley, my girly crew, off to Koh Larn, a beachy place off the coast of Pattaya, otherwise known as Little Russia. Seriously, I now know I don't ever have to go to Moscow. I can get my fill right on Walking Street and on the Koh Larn beaches.
They even knew Virgilalligator was coming for a quick visit!


All Smiles on the back of a motor bike in Koh Larn!
Sometimes all you need is a little beach fun with the girls, right? 



















Don't forget to bring your smiles with you
to the beach!




Saturday, January 28, 2012

Super PUBLICIZE Me!

So it's been a while since I've come up with anything worthwhile to write about. But you know that saying that "Third time's a charm"? Well, I guess there are 3 great things to tell you about, so here goes. I don't normally like to write about my work experiences because I typically like to keep my social & personal doings separate from who I am at school. Teachers wear many hats, and I toss them all aside when I leave the school to focus on myself and the world around  me. But there are always exceptions to the rule, so I think I need to break a rule and mix happiness in my personal life with my professional life with 3 tidbits.

Monday, January 9, 2012

MIE?

Yup, you read that right. MIE... "Missing in Europe"  Well, someone had to break outta Bkk and go see about some wintry weather for the holidays. So we jetted (literally) on outta here on a 777 and Thai Airways landed us in blistery Frankfurt, Germany. So I went missing in Frankfurt, Nuremburg, Munich, Basel, and Paris for the holiday season. Not so fast, though. I did manage to make it back to the Big MANGO (sorry New York) for an incredible New Year's Eve celebration and yours' truly birthday. Yes, it is apparent that I am now 20 years older than my oldest group of students at my school. Sweetness. You know you are getting old when the Facebooker former students are all congratulating you on getting another year older and reminding you about the good ol' days when they were sitting in your class instead of some college lecture auditorium...

So not to dwell on things. The cold weather did me in, and did me some good. I got to return to my city in one piece and don my sports bra for my first run at my favorite park. So here's to the Big Mango for making me realize why I found it in my heart to miss you just a little bit, despite the fact that I spent Christmas in PARIS this year.

Here's my Top 10 Reasons I had to return to Bangkok:
10. To see if they had magically restored my Coke Zero bottles to their homes, AKA, the shelves of 7-Eleven.
No, they didn't. BIG sigh. Aaannnddd, another sigh.
Wait, there's that caffeinated light at the end of the soft drink tunnel...
But I have managed to seek out cans of them, cleverly disguised by the Mission Impossible advertisement on the side of the can. The hunt for Coke Zero pleasure is still on Bkk. The floods have passed, so get your act together and give the girl her skinny Coke in lieu of 2 Liter FAT COKE!

9. To find out whether or not we are still flood-stricken, or if the Thai had finally removed their sandbag barriers from their local business door openings. Well, most are gone! To my surprise, even those shop owners near my soi have even gone to far as to knock a hole in their recently erected 1/2 meter high cement and brick barriers blocking the floods that were never. Where did all the sandbags go? Oh,  now I sound like that Paula Cole song about the cowboys...getting memories of Dawson's Creek. Ew...

8. Onwards...The number 8 reason to return to Bangkok is to feel stupid being the only chick running in the sports bra, with her iPod on when the Thai national anthem is playing on the loudspeaker, and she is too into her tunes to notice until the last verse. I am such an idiot. I missed hearing it at 6 p.m. the last few weeks. Obviously, I had completely forgotten about it. So note to self--New Year's Resolution is to respect thy culture and pay more attention whilst runnin'.

7. Number 7, ah, yes, lucky number 7...Well, the 7-Eleven of course! I missed my foot-long cheese sausage (really a hot dog, it ain't no German wurst!) AND my Katoey (???) asking, "Madame, no jog today?" But instead, I get "Madame, you no here. Where been?" I just smile because I suddenly remember ZERO Thai since being in Germany, Switz and Paris. But I am here! I am back! Jog Girl is BACK!

6. While we are talking about good ol' peeps in Thailand, I gotta give it to my moto taxi guy that has mysteriously taken up leisure time on our soi... He is usually hunched over his moto on soi 28, waiting to say "Sawasdee Krup" to me after school or even better, the good ol' nod of the head while perched over thy bike, when I am on my way running to the park. However, I have noticed him out of place...he is now hanging out conveniently on soi 30, popping up in places I am not used to. I gotta admit, the guy is friendly as all heck, and maybe one of these days, I'll just hop on board the moto and take a joy ride up and down Sukhumvit and give him a nice tip, all 30 baht. Just kidding! I am not that cheap. For real...

5. Gettin' close here! Okay, so you know that saying, "don't know what 'cha got til it's gone"? Soi dogs, this one's just for you. I was warned of dog poop all over Paris streets by a nice man I had met here in Bkk while watching Packer games at The Sport Corner. He is actually from Wisco (Neenah to be exact) and anthro-man Eric will be returning to Europe (lucky dude...) in about a week. So, he warned us. But honestly, Eric was right and wrong. See, even with all the cold weather in Europe, and a bit of snow, rain, etc. to add in to the holiday mix of things, I saw some of the most cute doggies I have ever seen. But to go along with that, some of the most bizarre doggie apparel to sport the season of coldness. So, the art of making out breeds of dogs on the streets of Bangkok, to figuring out where they are gonna poop and pee next or who they even belong to, for that matter, made me miss these scrawny little dirty dogs after all. Heck, after what I saw post-run past the Emporium with two felines hissing at each other, one darting off in a different direction made me almost appreciate cats. I SAID ALMOST! So if you ever get a chance to come to Bangkok, please don't pity the Soi dogs (my students refer to them as welfare dogs...), but throw them a wing or a leg of chix from a fellow street vendor, and watch him relish in the fact that this is his meal for the next few days. Okay, well, maybe not that long. They are pretty well-loved here, hence the term welfare dogs.

4. Guess I am a sucker for dogs. But on to #4...Duh! The pollution and smog of course! Come on. It grows on ya, folks. Josh and I gotta be a couple shades darker than when we departed Green Bay, and not from all that sun we get here. Nah, this city grabs hold of you tight and slaps its smog all over ya and puts its mark on you, no lie. Josh will disagree with me on this one if you ask him about the Parisians. No way. I give the smog award to Bkk anyday, especially because of the Thai govt's proposal for tax cuts on buying vehicles. Yeah, because more clunkers on the streets is just what we need here.

3. Sahm...This one is all about the #s! Only because Sahm is one of the only numbers I know how to say. To get to my house in a taxi, I have to say "Soi Sahm Sip" which is soi 30 in Thai. Getting on the Thai Airways plane in Paris was a wake up call to drop the "Oui" for "Chai" and the "Danke" for "Korp Kun Ka" in Thai. Total brain fart on my part for forgetting how to even communicate the simplest of things, like where I live! But even Josh admitted, we both missed hearing the language. I think languages are more beautiful when you have NO idea what they are saying around you. You can just laugh and go about your own business because you haven't got a clue. I never thought I would appreciate feeling stupid and out of it, but TIT, This is Thailand, where you are never likely to learn the language or the Thai script it is written in. I don't care what any of you say. You give me one expat that has mastered this difficult language and I will have it out with them. Just find out for yourself...Go have a look on the ol' Internet and investigate why the real name for Bangkok makes the Guiness World Book of Records... Then you will see why I have all but given up on learning Thai. I do have to give props to the non-Thai students at my school, who have managed to  learn the beautiful Thai national anthem and can sing it by  heart. I gave up almost instantaneously. There's no hope for me...

2. Life in Bkk wouldn't be if it weren't for my circle of friends here. Not getting mushy, but the celebrations and festivities here in The Big Mango wouldn't be what they are without you guys. I get off the plane, power on my phone, and I have oodles of texts and FB messages on "Welcome Back! Wanna go out tonight?" Gotta love the girl power in this town. Hubby doesn't like it, but it's all in good taste and my friends take good care of me til, 'er, 6 a.m.   So, coupled with friends, going out, celebrations, this is where I once again squeeze in my VW BUS! Oh yes, it was waiting for me parked up the road on Soi 11 on New Year's Eve, after a spectacular Lush rooftop party. And Mrs. Pink Lady and I had our time together at the VW Bus, ringing in the New Year with some of the best friends this girl's got (you know who you are readers!), not to be confused with the sly Mystery Machine parked a little further up the soi. And if you don't recall my reference, you haven't been doing your reading on my blog. I swear they love their buses here...

1. And the #1 reason to skate on back to Bkk this holiday season? Well, it is quite something selfish you see. I just wanted to run in my sports bra, shorts, get my fix of fresh pineapple on the street while drenched in sweat and realize that all my laundry will be taken care of by Jean, and I don't have to worry about a home-cooked meal or doing the dishes. I know, selfish and rude, etc. But I gotta give it to The Big Mango. You are cheap beyond belief, which is probably why I am always so broke, huh? I know, another item up for discussion with my Joshua... But I need to look back and realize that some things in life are just worth paying for--that freshly cut pineapple for a mere 15 Baht (sometimes 10 Baht if I go to the vendor up the road a bit or the one in the park by the Emporium) and they know just how you like it cut up, and they sometimes have it cut up for you because they know you are coming. And Jean. She cooks, cleans, does all the laundry, all with a smile. Don't worry--I give her cake, and I pay her extra and tell her to leave and go home if it is past quitting time. I take care of her because she does her best to take care of us.

So there you have it. Why I didn't get rescued by some strange cult in Paris or Germany to avoid returning to life in 2012, the year it all goes down. Well, I got news for you...Josh and I escaped 2012 all together and we live in the future here in Thailand, the country that celebrates the New Year 3 times (Western New Year, Chinese New Year and Thai New Year). See what you Westerners are missing? And guess what? We are light years ahead and living it up in 2554! So want to know what's in store??? Just keep reading Big Mango Beginnings...

Cheers to you, cheers to me and a big CHEERS to The Big Mango for providing me the inspiration I need to stop fighting the smog and just take it all in...

P.S. Sorry no pictures. I feel this one deserves the written word and your imagination. Besides, my Facebook friends are still drooling over my countless European Christmas Vacation photo albums I uploaded.
Xoxo... Toodles

Sunday, December 4, 2011

No more flood, but a whirlWIND of events in the Big Mango

So, you know that saying, "If you don't have anything nice to say, don't say anything at all?"
Well, it's been a few of those weeks strung together. Yes, the floods have subsided here in Bangkok, but the sandbags remain, along with a bunch of really down folks. We are happy to be back at work and we appreciate having some consistency in our days and weeks, but with that comes stress and frustration.

On order and being shipped! Thanks, Mom & Dad!
With 3 weeks back at school, make up days in order, we are just going about our business at work and here in Bangkok. I think things are going well, and suddenly something happens to rattle the cage. But I figure I must keep plugging away and focus on what I am good at doing. The biggest setback comes on Thanksgiving when I 'lose' my iPhone, the one and only material thing I coveted so dearly, and its beautiful WI Badger case I treasured so much. Not even worth my time to explain that drama, but I was not going to be missing my Thanksgiving meal at the Roadhouse with the new ladies I have met through my new membership to the American Women's Club of Thailand. I was on my own Turkey Trot to the Emporium and Siam Paragon malls to find a new iPhone, but "Sorry, Madame. No have iPhone. No stock. FLOOD." Ugh... anyway, being the multi-tasker mission girl I am, I managed one, the very last iPhone in all of flooded Bangkok.

Turkey Trot in Bangkok? Mission: Must find new iPhone!
So I have had some gains through all the mess of life. Thanksgiving was a clear indicator of that. Meeting new friends is always great when you need normalcy and some motivation to keep fighting the fight. So, thank you Ruthie my dear, for wearing those terrible heels of mine  and thank you, Ms. Linda Brown, for stepping in and being the mom I needed on Thanksgiving night.

On the work front, there have been ups and downs. One up to give props to thy self: I recently submitted an article to TIE magazine (The International Educator) about some of my ePals initiatives working with classrooms of students abroad. That should be published in their February or April issue. Score on that. I finally got a chance to interview one candidate for a position that was approved months ago, and I have  list a mile long for him if hired. I think that will ease my work load a bit in terms of helping to get our school headed in the right direction with technology. Plans have turned to considering more education and possibly another Master's Degree to make ourselves more marketable in the International Teaching arena. There are decisions that will soon need to be made. But the prospect of the future and the possibilities are in place, so it makes sense to stick to looking up and ahead.


Bring on the German Christmas Markets (and Bier!)
And, plans are underway for another Tebo pad festive  party. Things are really stressful at work, but everyone's invited over for a relaxing night of Wii Pictionary on the UDraw Tablet, and for some holiday cheers.
But the biggest thing to stop and take time to look forward to...well, for a vacation, of course! Sorry, Thailand, you didn't make the cut this Christmas holiday season. Last year it was Napa and Sonoma, California for wine. This year, it is cooler temps and yes, wine! We are a bit beached out for a while, although Bali was on the list as well as Australia.
It's off to Germany and France for the holidays, possibly to Switzerland depending on how the travels go and how worn out we are. So bring on the Bier and Weissen in Germany and the Hofbrau House (yes, the original!) in Munich. Then, some long-awaited real Vino in France! Note to self: First, must by winter coat at JJ Market for cheap so not to freeze in Europe!
There are things to look forward to, and more work to be done as we get ready to coast in to the new year in less than a month.
X-mas in Paris!






So like I said before, if you don't have anything nice to say, don't say anything at all, right? Sometimes it just takes a bunch of bad stuff to razzle you and then you have a few positives to make you second guess why you were razzled in the first place. Let the wind blow me to  Europe for a couple weeks and blow me and the cooler air back to Thailand to refocus energies and spirits on good things to come in 2012!
Looking forward to a toast to happiness in 2012!