Mai Sei Tung

One of the first things I noticed after moving here was the abundant use of plastic bags. I quickly learned the phrase, “mai sei tung ka/krup,” which means “without bag.” Usually when you don’t get the bag, you don’t get the plastic wrapped straw for your drink either, which is okay with me. With some light planning, we can greatly reduce the amount of plastic and styrofoam we use everyday.

I carry a small backpack everywhere to avoid needing a plastic bag. Inside I keep cloth bags just in case I do some shopping that will require more space. While grocery shopping, try to buy things that come in little to no packaging, like fresh produce. Keep an eye out for products that come in reusable containers, like glass jars and tupperware. You can use the product, and then save the containers for future storage. These will come in handy if you buy in bulk, another good way to cut down on using packaging. If you buy eggs from a store the first time, you’ll get the plastic holder. Save it and bring it to a market to be filled up again.

If you get take out a lot, bring a container with you. I’ve never found a problem handing my box over to the staff at a restaurant. They know what you want them to do, even if they still put your tupperware in a plastic bag. Another useful phrase is, “mai aow chaun,” or “don’t need spoon.” Use a metal spoon.

Thailand is so beautiful. I would love to come back again and again for many years, and see clean rivers and beaches. Let’s try to take care of it. This is our home after all, even if it’s temporary.

Photo: https://farangfreedom.wordpress.com/2013/06/22/bangkoks-trash-problem/

trash

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Mai Sai Toong

Last year, Eric and I were travelling through northern Vietnam in March when we met a guy that was riding his bicycle all over Asia. He was doing a themed ride with 3 rules, one of which was that he tries not to create any trash on his journey. No single-use containers, no food that comes in any packaging, no plastic cups, no plastic bags. He only buys food that is not packaged, such as fresh fruits, veggies, and nuts. We talked with him for a while and he really got me thinking about how much of a problem waste is in many parts of Asia.

I only know a bit about environmental issues, waste disposal, and the sort, but it doesn’t take a genius to figure out that Thailand has a pretty big waste problem. Not that Thailand is alone in this problem. Maybe it is just more visible here because you see trash everywhere. In my rural jungle neighborhood, the “trash can” is a large pile of stinky garbage near the road that is visibly polluting the local area. Almost all plastic bags end up in a landfill at best and are not recycled.

Recently, I’ve been trying to reduce the amount of waste I create. I’ve started by cutting out all single-use containers from food and not purchasing any pre-packaged food products. To do this, I’ve been bringing my own reusable containers when I get food or drinks for take-out and making sure to avoid those plastic bags that are around every turn. Whenever I cook at home, I’ve been purchasing fresh food at the market, where I put everything in a reusable cloth bag.

When you don’t want a plastic bag, in Thai you say “mai sai toong.” I can’t count the number of shocked, confused, and absolutely bewildered expressions that I’ve gotten in the past few months when I say I don’t want to put my reusable container in a plastic bag. In fact, half the time the Thai person responds by saying “mai bpen rai,” which basically means “Oh, don’t be silly! No worries, you can have the bag.” Since I don’t know how to explain in Thai the many reasons that I don’t want the bag, I usually have to say “no bag” a few more times followed by a polite “mai ou,” which means “I don’t want it.” Sometimes people still say “mai bpen rai” over and over and give me the bag anyway. It seems that many people really have no idea why I wouldn’t want a bag. It’s definitely been an interesting experience so far.

 

 

 

 

Gettin’ Educated

Every semester I’ve been in Thailand has been a little different. The ways I’ve spent my time, both professionally and personally, have changed throughout my stay here. Some semesters I’ve really been into inventing new games to play in class or creating engaging class projects for my MEP students. At times I’ve spent a lot of my free time playing soccer, swimming, brewing beer, or reading.

This semester I decided to take advantage of the abundant free time in the evenings this job affords and take an online class. I’ve always been fascinated by data and statistics (baseball stats were how I learned math as a kid) and have had a few math classes covering the basics over the years. This past year, I discovered the website fivethirtyeight, which uses data to tell stories about sports, politics, food, culture, etc.. I’ve read nearly every feature there for the past 6 months and it’s really sparked my interest again.

I recently came across an online course series in data science on Coursera. With my intrigue renewed and my time available, I decided to dive in this semester. I’m currently learning how to use an advanced statistical program, and soon I’ll be learning about regression models and finding trends in data. It’s fun and interesting, and should give me some useful skills. I’ve also started collecting data on Thida lunch for my first personal stats project. More on that in a coming post.

I love that working here is giving me so much freedom to pursue personal development in addition to teaching, and it’s something I’ll likely miss a lot once I’m gone.

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.

Tell Me Abaht It!

I’ve been tight on money lately, but with some thrifty skills, I’ve been able to stretch the baht.

Jok – Order your favorite breakfast porridge “mai moo” at Donnok 1/1 and receive a 15 baht discount! It might not be as “arroy,” but dropping from 35 baht to 20 baht makes a big difference at the end of the week, especially if you are an avid breakfaster.

Veg Breakie (or lunch) – At the vegan restaurant across the street from the fire station on Namueang, order “mai kaow” and receive a 5 to 10 baht discount, depending on how many servings of veg and various fake meats you ask for. I still find the portions very filling without the rice.

Donnok Whiskey – Want a drink, but don’t have enough for a beer? Go to the Donnok Market. It’s past the light for Chon Kasem, straight on about half a kilometre and on the right. You’ll notice a large, covered, but open market. I believe it’s at about Donnok 27. There’s a Family Mart to the right of the market, and directly to the left of the Family Mart there’s an herbal whiskey stand. You should see little bar stools around the stand. Take a seat and order a “Yaa Dong.” They might lift a bottle, as if to ask, “Do you want to buy the bottle?” Just use your pointer and thumb to show the size of a shot glass. They’ll give you a small tray complete with green mango slices, chili sugar, and a cup of cold tea. Take the shot, dip mango in the sugar, eat it, and then drink the tea. It’s 10 baht per shot! While you might be thinking you’re just relieving stress, you could also be curing some ailment you didn’t even know you had! (Herbal Whiskey is considered medicine to some.)

Night Market Pad Thai – If you enter the Night Market from Namueang, across the street from Pizza Company, look for a small truck turned into a Pad Thai Machine! It’s the second stand in on your right. You can get take away for 25 baht (recently up from 20) but I recommend sitting down. If you sit down, they give you a giant tray of vegetables. If the Pad Thai isn’t filling, eat cucumbers, green beans, cabbage and sprouts til you burst.

Cigarettes – The local shops usually sell “loosies.” If you don’t have enough money for a pack, you can buy a little baggie with as little as 3 cigarettes for 10 baht. Look for the tupperwares full of the loosie packs near where you would pay.

Thrift Stores – Need some new digs? Sweat stains on your work clothes? Go buy something dark in color at one of the many thrift stores around Surat. There’s a good one directly to the right of the Sahathai Department Store on Namueang. There’s also a good one on Rajutid, near the intersection with Chon Kasem. If you are travelling on Rajutid towards Chon Kasem, it will be on your right. I wish I knew the Soi, but my favorite one is on Wat Pho past the Karun Rat intersection. It’s on the right. Look for many mannequins dressed in your mom’s favorite dresses from college.

World Cup

Living in Asia is tough on a fan of western sports. I’m a big fan of mixed martial arts and I find myself catching fights happening in Las Vegas at odd times of the day here in Asia. I’m also a big NBA fan. After waking up early to watch my Miami Heat get handled by the Spurs in the recent NBA finals, I’m now finding myself staying up late and waking up early to watch football (soccer matches). 

 

It’s interesting that something that is so internationally appealing – probably more so than the olympics – is nearly impossible to watch like a human with a normal schedule. With the tournament in Brazil this year, games are starting at 11:00PM and finishing around 7:00AM here in Thailand. 

Tonight’s the Colombia game. Monday morning is the USA vs Portugal. 

 

It’s going to be a very caffeinated month.