Caffeine

I have a very complicated relationship with caffeine. At the moment, I’m in the the throes of an intense romantic love affair with my coffee and Thai teas. This is the complete antithesis of my relationship with caffeinated beverages a few months back, when a little too much caffeine would have me sweating and shaking on the verge of a nervous breakdown.

As it stands now, I look forward to my morning cup of coffee, even if it is instant and I’m always on the lookout for the best Thai tea. This morning I found that someone (an unnamed teacher) had pilfered our coffee supply in the MEP office. I felt an oncoming caffeine headache accompanied with some irrational rage. Fortunately, I was able to get a bottled iced-tea from the canteen in the cafeteria.

As I write this, I’m drinking a coffee and I’m day dreaming of frothy foamed milk in a sweet Thai tea. I’m sure a few months down the road I’ll swear caffeine off again for the umpteenth time in my life after I have an attack of tachycardia and convince myself I’m having a heart-attack. Until then, I’ll keep indulging like the addict I am. Because, let’s be honest, caffeine is a drug.

Thida Lunch Continues…

This school year started with a string of great lunches. In fact, we counted a 2 week streak of great, not just good, but great lunches. Now, as the semester winds down, an unparalleled stretch of bad lunches continues here at Thida. Record breaking numbers of gangsom curries plague the tables, forcing English teachers into hiding, or at least into finding alternative sources for lunch.

Yesterday was gangsom and boiled eggs, while today was salt fish and boiled eggs. When will it end?

Ice Cream Party

Last week, Peter treated us all to a little ice cream party. After school, everyone headed over to Swensen’s, a chain ice cream shop that serves up massive western style ice cream treats. Shortly after arriving, our tables were soon overflowing with waffle cones stuffed with ice cream and syrups, delicious shakes, and I think I even spotted one brave soul testing out the durian ice cream. Most of us don’t go to Swensen’s very often since it is a bit more expensive, so it was definitely a nice treat. It’s always fun to get everyone that works for SE together in one spot to catch up and it was nice to enjoy some tasty ice cream after school.image

Music Collections

I know many of you bought a laptop when you came here. If you didn’t bring a hard drive with your vault of tunes, might I suggest a tedious yet worthwhile venture. It’s nice to have music in case WiFi isn’t available. You might also want a song to play for your students, with most classrooms lacking WiFi.

Find the song you want on YouTube. Copy and paste the URL into this nifty website. http://www.youtube-mp3.org/

Save it to your computer. In iTunes or your respective music organizing software, upload the file. Done! This particular website, favored by me because of its reliability, only allows you to convert a video that is less than 20 minutes in length.

I’m sure there are a plethora of others, some which might let you do the full album, though that means you can’t separate the tracks without skimming through. Some converters will even let you convert to mp4. All those “full” compilations and movies on YouTube seem even more appealing now.

Shrine to the City God

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When talking to my Thai teacher one day, I referred to the large ornate monument near the bridge as the “white temple.” She informed me that it’s not a temple, but a “shrine to the city god” or “city pillar shrine.” In Thai, it’s “Lak Muang.” There are no monks at the shrine, where there would be at a temple. I found out that it is meant to show that Surat Thani is the center, or capital, of the Surat Province. It also serves as a place for newcomers to Surat to pay their respects to the city god and to pray for success in the region. The offerings are what you might be familiar with already: incense, candles (oil candles to prolong your prayer), flowers, colorful fabric (to wrap around the ornament inside), and gold leaf. Thai dancers will often perform at the shrine to appease the city god, showing how beautiful they remain. All of these items are available for sale at the shrine. If you haven’t been yet, go and let your presence here be known!

Thida Lunch (lately)

Normally lunch at Thida is pretty good, with different curries and chicken and rice. Lately, gangsom has been on the menu far too often. What’s gangsom you ask? Well it translates to orange curry, but that makes it sound less offensive than it really is.

Gangsom is a curry made out of som kaek, a sour fruit, bamboo, shrimp paste, and usually dried shrimp or chunks of fresh water fish. Maybe it doesn’t sound bad but trust me it is. Shrimp paste is made with preserved pulverized shrimp and its flavor permeates the entire dish giving it a flavor that I can only describe as “rotten” or “spoiled.” So far, as of this week, gangsom has been served 3 out of 4 days. To top today’s serving of gangsom off, it was served with an equally bad dish: salt fish. Salt fish is basically a whole salt water fish, which wasn’t been cleaned or de-scaled. It has, however, been left out to dry in the sun and preserve. Then it’s prepared by basically doing nothing to it but frying it.

Needless to say, most of the native English teachers have been skipping out on lunch lately… especially this week.

Debit Plus Accident Insurance

Sometimes it seems like my life in Thailand is an accident waiting to happen. Back home, I never thought of myself as clumsy or accident-prone, but somehow I am always hurting myself in Thailand. Maybe it’s all the uneven surfaces & sidewalks, maybe I have bad luck, or maybe I’m just a bit clumsy. Whatever the reason, I’ve found myself at Thaksin hospital more than a few times.

After my first few visits to the hospital for a broken foot, I was out 5,000 baht. Visiting the hospital is a lot cheaper here than it is back in the States, but when you are making baht and spending baht, the cost can start to add up. “You should get the accident insurance that the bank provides,” one of my friends told me afterwards. Turns out, I wouldn’t have had to pay a single baht for getting my broken foot doctored up!

A few days later, I left the bank with a shiny new Debit Plus silver card that provides me with 5,000 baht of hospital bills covered per accident. Any type of accident is covered as well: motorbike accidents, broken bones, a cut on a your finger, or even a scrape from falling down. Since getting it, it’s saved me at least 8,000 baht.

I would highly recommend getting this insurance, especially if you plan to drive a motorbike around. Plus, it only costs around 300 baht ($10) for a whole year worth of insurance, so why not?

How to sign up for accident insurance:

1. After a few months in Surat, the Super English staff will finish processing your one year visa and work permit. Now that you have these items you can open a bank account at Siam Commerical Bank.

2. Go with a Super English staff member to SCB bank. Tell them that you want the Debit Plus silver or gold card. At the time of writing this, the silver card costs around 300 baht per year and covers 5,000 baht in hospital bills per accident. The gold card costs around 1,000 baht per year and covers 25,000 baht in hospital bills per accident.

3. Enjoy peace of mind knowing that if an accident happens, you won’t be out any cash and can afford to get it treated properly.

If you need to find me, I’ll be off at my new job as an insurance salesman.