Tokay Power — by Shelby

Tokay. If you haven’t yet seen one, but you’re in Thailand or Southeast Asia, you are likely to have heard it’s famous call. It’s sounds like it is saying it’s own name, over and over. And frankly, that’s terrifying.

Yanee taught Daniel a little Thai proverb, which states that tokays do not let go until thunder strikes. My interest, piqued by the recent rampage of one little guy in the Dupree/Trevor/Day house caused me to do some research. Apparently, these guys will hold on for several minutes, or up to an hour if they get a nibble in. The only way to remove them is forcibly, and it often seriously injures the tokay. I read somewhere that you can submerge them underwater, and then they might let go. Might. Furthermore, these crazy little creatures can cast of their tail in an aggressive/defensive manner. So, for that one we all saw at the boys’ house with no tail… Now you know why.

Often times, it has occurred to a few of us that it might not be a bad idea to capture said tokay for some serious baht. We’ve heard rumors about their medicinal use in China. However, there are some people that think it helps with cancer as well as HIV symptoms. Even more than that, gents, it is thought to help with erectile dysfunction.

Below is the link to one of the several articles I found on the use of the tokay. What an intriguing little creature it is.

Book Review: Half the Sky — by Shelby

I love the feel of a real book, but being abroad, having hundreds of books at your fingertips in the form of a thin, twelve inch screen is phenomenal.  It’s the greatest gift I could have been given.

Recently, my Kindle received an influx of more books than I could possibly even know what they were about.

I had just recently finished yet another book by Paolo Coehlo, who always seems to dazzle and confuse me.  The internet was not working at school, and I decided to go with the book that had the prettiest title, and the least old, stuffy author attached to it.

Skipping over Oscar Wilde and Hemingway (who I know wasn’t stuffy, but alcoholic misogynist he was…), I landed on Half the Sky.  I originally confused it with a book that I read before traveling to Thailand, entitled, Beyond the Sky and Earth, about a teacher’s experience in Bhutan.  (Also, a great read.)

However, I quickly learned how wrong I was.  If you love to continue educating yourself on topics of the world, this book is something you can’t skip over.  If you love sociology, anthropology, or want to make a difference in this world, this book will change your life.

It’s full of facts about the inequality of women in the world, the sacrifice of female children over male children, and things that I am shocked and appalled by– especially because I felt I should have been aware of much that is in this book as a worldly female. I cried, felt sick, and was moved to make an impact, though I’m not sure how.

The book was written by a husband and wife who are journalists that have traveled the world: India, Ghana, China, Cambodia, etc.  listening to stories of the atrocities that occur there.

Thailand is not left off the list, and you will find out some interesting things about brothels, the police, and the ugliness our world continues to allow.

Male or female, think about picking up this book.

Often times, the solution to the problem is education.  Educate yourself.

Stuff Thai People Like: Complimenting — by Shelby

Sure, the Thai people do some crazy things.  Note Laura’s previous blog entry about whitening where the sun don’t shine.  They cut you off in traffic, cut you off in line at seven eleven, sleep sitting up in the office, and eat durian despite the fact that its’ scent spreads like wildfire.

However, despite all that, they are the kindest culture I have yet encountered.

There is not a day that goes by that you are NOT complimented here.  On average, I’d say I hear ten positive things on the daily.  From you look lovely, to you are such a good teacher, they are shameless (in a good way) with building you up.

Now, I am not saying that it doesn’t go both ways—Thai people are honest.  I wore leggings and this beautiful green dress I love with some espadrilles the other day to work, and the first thing I heard was, “No, no, no, today you are not beautiful.”  Apparently, leggings are not SRP’s thing.  I won’t wear those again… Ever…

America is a world where every thing is a competition and everyone is competing against each other, honest, kind remarks are rare.  Thailand is so refreshing in how it differs.

It can be something as simple as your handwriting, but the Thai people can put you on top of the world.  They’ll still cut you in line, and then turn around and call you handsome or beautiful.  Soak it all in.

Whilst you’re here, you’ll cut people off in traffic, get better about ensuring no one cuts you in line, and probably, whether you like it or not, spend money on something that involves whitening.  Take some good with all that, and compliment the Thai people back– about their food, their kindness, the fact that they always come to your class, how beautiful they look, or whatever it might be.  It will make their day as much as it makes yours.

And maybe, we can learn something from their examples and carry it on to wherever we disperse.

Extra Clothes word of warning. — by Joe

In the most recent Big House transition of teachers we ended up with a few bags of extra clothes. Most are in good shape but don’t fit me or anyone else sticking around here. We chose a couple favorite items and let the rest sit there for a while just in case guests to our house wanted a party favor. However, it was now time for these clothes to go but we didn’t want to just throw them in the trash or leave them on the street in the rain. There is a big used clothes store on Amphur right next to Bali Bar and we’d been kicking around the idea of trying to sell the clothes there. Today was the day for that mission.
I was hoping the woman who ran the store would be excited about these clothes and we could maybe get 200 baht or so with these 25-30 items of clothing.
We pulled out our bags of clothes and used our basic Thai, “ao mai??” song roy baht??
She looked at me with a confused look and for a brief moment I thought my estimate was too cheap.
Nope, she didn’t want to pay for the clothes, ok, plan b; do you want them for free. nods all around, we headed for the bike.
She comes out of the store talking rapidly at us in Thai, we gave our best farang shrug and smile and said we don’t understand.
After some gesturing back and forth it was clear she did not want Michael’s awesome clothes. MAI AO! she said. I was sad because she didn’t even look at them and I really wanted to contribute to the local Thai economy.
I also didn’t want to take the clothes back to the house so we tried to ascertain where we should take the clothes. A temple (wat)? They gestured to the big garbage truck driving by.
We tried to explain that we were trying to be nice and give you free clothes for you to sell but our Thai wasn’t even close to go enough to get that across. End of the story is that they let us leave and kept the clothes. Maybe destined for the trash, and maybe for sale soon.
So word to the wise, that used clothes store, has some fun stuff that they sell (we bought our full moon outfits there), but they will take donations and might get angry about free clothes.
Apparently I’ve found the snag in the free wheeling entrepreneurial Thai economy. They don’t trust farang bearing gifts. Or at least me.

Salang BBQ with the YTR crew! — by Blake

After 10 weeks, my time teaching the class at YT Rubber factory has come to an end.  In the beginning I was a bit intimidated by taking on this new class of adults, but it proved to be a lot of fun and one of the most rewarding teaching experiences I’ve had.  Last night (Thursday) was supposed to be my last class, but they decided to throw a party instead.  The Japanese managers sent a car to pick up Brittany and me at 5:30 to bring us to Salang restaurant on Talad Mai, opposite the Diamond Hotel/market.  This place was AWESOME.  It’s not anything like the typical “119 Baht” outdoor Korean BBQ places you see around in town.  For 349 baht you can have 2 hours of all-you-can-eat hot pot, or for 399 baht you can have 2 hours of all-you-can-eat BBQ.  For this occasion, we had the hot pot.  It was the best I ever had.  Oh, did I mention?  For only 99 baht more, it’s all-you-can-DRINK draught beer for 2 HOURS!  And as long as you stay within the 2 hours, when you’re finished with the hot pot, it’s all-you-can-eat ICE CREAM!!  It was a really great time with great food and great people (not to mention I didn’t have to pay for anything!).  When it was all over, our driver drove us back to our house.  Great night!  I’ll really miss teaching the awesome students over at the factory!

I highly recommend Salang to future SE teachers.  Great Gangnam Style eats!  I wish I’d have known about this place earlier.  Also, the owner lived in America for over 10 years and speaks perfect English.

Here’s a short video I took at Salang…

check out my own bad ass blog at !!!

Stuff Thai People Like: Even Deeper Whitening — by Laura

I just stumbled across this article in the Bangkok post about skin whitening.  Not just skin whitening, vaginal whitening.  Yes apparently this is a big thing here.  According to the article a French company will sell over 500 million baht in vaginal whitening cream this year.   Vaginal whitening, it’s really deep.

Here is the link to the Bangkok post article.

Stuff Thai People Like #7: Toilet Humor — by Brittany

Our recent visit to Suan Nai Dum convinced me that Thai culture is more full of toilet humor than I ever conceived. Otherwise, how would this statue – a giant, giant pile of poop – be possible?

Like Shelby wrote, Suan Nai Dum is a rather interesting rest stop in Chumpon, on Highway 41.  More than just a beautiful garden, it was also “proclaimed by the Ministry of Public Health to be a Thai public toilet learning centre, which is regularly visited by students and organizations,” according to the Tourism Authority of Thailand.

All of the toilets are fully-functioning and they’re creatively constructed into various venues, like the Sky Toilet (360 degree views!), Tarzan and Jane toilets, a Pig Butthole toilet (?!), and the toilet that was voted Toilet of the Year 2006 – certified by someone who has the awesome job of being a Toilet Ambassador.

sky toilet

Though the toilets were certainly amazing, I also found myself drawn to the informative and lighthearted signs (which were, of course, posted on toilet seat lids).  These offered some insight into Thai language, which “has countless of idioms and proverbs [sic] linked to the word ‘shit’ for teaching morals to children.”  These are some seriously golden nuggets of wisdom (khee – said in a falling tone – means excrement):

  • Fon tok khee moo lai (ฝนตกขี้หมูไหล): bad people meet together
  • Khi moo raa khee maa hang (ขี้หมูราขี้หมาแห้ง):  not useful, nonsense (don’t split hairs)
  • Hen khee dee gwaa sai (เห็นขี้ดีกว่าไส้): lit. to see shit as better than entrails/family (blood is thicker than water)
  • Gin bon ruan khee rot lang ka (กินบนเรือนขี้รดบนหลังคา): lit. eat in the house, shit on the roof (to bite the hand that feeds you) [source / source]
  • Gum khee dee gwaa gum tod (กําขี้ดีกวากําตด): lit. grabbing shit is better than grabbing farts (having something is better than having nothing) [source]
  • Maa khee mai mee krai yok hahng (หมาขี้ไมมีใครยกหาง): lit. nobody lifts the dog’s tail when it shits (self praise is not recommended). [source]
  • Hen chaang khee khee dtaam chaang (เห็นช้างขี้ ขี้ตาม): don’t try to shit as large as an elephant’s shit (curb your lifestyle to match your means) [source]

Those last three are my personal favorites.  Thai language also has some good euphemisms for using the bathroom, including “go to the paddy,” “go to the dock,” and “go to the jungle.”  This site also mentions, “If you are a woman and you bpai det dork mai (‘go to pick flowers’)you might actually be going to the loo, while the equivalent for men is bpai ying gratai (‘go to shoot rabbits’), expressions which no doubt have their origins in the fields.”

If you listen for it, you’ll hear the word “khee” used a lot.  Yes, it’s a waste product (as in feces), but it could also be snot, (khee muuk), cigarette ash (khee boo ree), or even eraser shavings (khee yaang lohp).  When “khee” is placed in front of adjectives, it’s an idiomatic prefix implying a negative personality trait – all of which is detailed on this page.  For example:

Some of my Mathayom girls actually come up to me quite often and say “bpuaat khee” (ปวดขี้) – which I’m pretty sure translates to “I’m dying to crap.”   Not entirely sure if this is polite or not, or if they just think I can’t understand them.

As you can see in the sign above, Suan Nai Dum also offers a taste of Buddhist philosophy.  A sign near the entrance to the garden explains:

The amazing distinctive “Thai Toilet” reflects Thais’ philosophy of life through their positive and creative thinking about toilets. They appreciate the significance of toilets as “the place for disposing both physical and mental sufferings.”

Another sign, describing the Underworld Toilet, notes:

This place is located beneath a volcano where it is believed to be the hottest abyss of hell. Remarkably, the atmosphere inside the toilet is pleasantly cool. This help to reinforce the message that “the surroundings cannot bring happiness, if your mind is unhappy”, or as a Buddha Proverb says, “Heaven exists in our soul, while Hell exists in our mind.”

Our whole visit to Suan Nai Dum was unexpectedly hilarious and memorable, and it reminded me how much I like Thai peoples’ easygoing and lighthearted way of looking at life.  We never would have encountered this magical place had we not been with Thai people, traveling like Thais do.

So next time someone tells you that you’re going to a garden with amazing toilets, don’t be skeptical! You could be going to Suan Nai Dum … or, if you’re in Korea, you might just be visiting Mr. Toilet’s toilet theme park.

Lee Who? Lee Hu. — by Brittany

Attention fellow instant-coffee haters: there’s a new coffee shop in town, with decent prices and no Nescafe in sight.

Lee Hu brews up hot espresso-based drinks for 30-35 baht, and it’s only 10 to 15 baht more for a cold drink with flavored syrup.  My iced vanilla latte was 45 baht and delicious.

You can find this new shop on Karunrat Rd., just past Smart Gym.  Aom (pictured above) is a graduate from our very own Thida Mae Phra.  She uses 100% Highland Arabica coffee from Doi Chaang in Chiang Rai.  She gave us a brochure and told us that we could call her uncle if we were interested in doing a homestay – on or around the coffee plantation, I believe.   I found their website so that you can look at pictures, but otherwise it’s in Thai:!__about-lee-hu.

There are also 30 baht smoothies and 20 baht sandwiches on the menu, but I haven’t tried either yet.  When you sit in the outdoor area, Aom will give you a tasty little bowl of alphabet crackers to snack on.

Maybe the best part about this coffee shop is that it opens at what we consider to be a “normal” time: 7 am! Most other coffee shops open at 10 am, which is usually far beyond when I need my coffee.  I think I surprised her a little when I showed up at 7:30 am one morning, when she was just opening up.  Gary reported that she’s been closed a few times when he’s walked by before school, but open other times.

In any case, I consider this a win for someone realizing that Westerners want their coffee early – and brewed properly!

Fiesta! — by Shelby

Expect the unexpected.

That was written by a famous author about Thailand.

Okay, maybe it wasn’t, but it should have been.  From class cancellations, to your little angels showing up in drag, you can never know how one day will turn out.

Today is such a day for me at Suratpittaya.  Students are making food, selling drinks, and trying to get you to buy everything from fish to cactus.  There is karaoke, which can be heard throughout the whole open air school.  There have been TV show like presentations, happy birthday singing, and let’s not forget, Gangnum Style dances.

All of my classes are in the building next to the stage.  What this has created is a whole class singing Thai karaoke to me, mid-lesson.  The kids are itching to be at the festival, but I have had fantastic attendance.  Pretty proud of my classes, and I think that they deserve to be able to belt it out for a few minutes if they must look out the door and see and hear the party.

I have had some of the best pot stickers, fried mushrooms, and who knows what else today.  It’s hard to tell the kids no, but somehow I turned down the beta… Maybe.

The day isn’t over yet.

Expect the unexpected.

Questions? — By Shelby

There are some things you will be asked while in Thailand that will make you stop and think,”Are they crazy?” Such questions, for example, can be, “Teacher, baby?” as a wee lad touches your stomach with affection.  Other times, it is just a comment that isn’t so nice, but isn’t meant mean.  “Maybe you should skip a meal.”  “Do you only want one mangosteen, because you do not want to get fat?”  “I think maybe you are prettier this term than last term.” None of it is meant as offensive, and once you’ve been here for half a second, you learn to brush it off.

However, this week, I have been asked some of my favorite questions yet.

“Teacher, wig?”  I got a haircut this week, which resulted in the one and only day I have had straight hair since… America?  Either way, students were baffled, and thought maybe I had put on a wig.

“Teacher, why your nose so high?”  Gee, thanks, I know it’s not the smallest, but really?  It was in reference to how their noses are flat.  What I would do for one of their cute little noses!

“Will you marry me?”  A marriage proposal never hurt anyone’s feelings.  Keep ’em coming.

“Teacher, why are you black?”  Um, what?

Kids say the darndest things?  Thais say the darndest things.  If only I knew what they were saying that I can’t understand…