There are 2 days of school left before the October break begins. Everyone is excited for their vacations and having some time out of Surat and away from school. A lot of teachers are traveling around Thailand or going to Indonesia.
I’m flying to Singapore to visit a friend who I worked with in Korea. From there, I’ll be flying to Sri Lanka for some solo travel time. I don’t have much planned but I’m hoping to get out on a blue whale watching tour, which is apparently one of the things to do while visiting. If nothing else, I’m just looking forward to some time to relax and read a book on a beach. Unfortunately, I think I’ll be fighting with monsoon season. Either way, I’m happy to have some time to myself in the near future.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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!
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.