Thursday, July 29, 2010

Summer Heights High

I'm alone at school today. While everyone else is off enjoying their summer break still, I've been trekking up the mountain to get started at work. My principal agreed that if I put in equivalent days to get ready, I don't have to deplete all of my personal leave days when I have to miss for the Cedar City thing. Huzzah! So here I am in my new room. With a door! Encore huzzah!

In addition to putting my room together, I need to figure out lesson plans for a substitute for the first three days of school and come up with a pretest for all of my classes so I can prove student improvement. Not an unreasonable request, but it's a bit tricky for drama and speech classes, especially if another person is administering the pretest.

Fortunately, Teresa sent me a link that gives me an excellent model for my classroom this year.

If you'll excuse me, I need to type up the learning objectives for Slap the Butcher now.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Because Great Minds Think Alike

And I happily group myself with minds like Stephen Colbert and Kevin Kline. 3:35 is where the Shakespeare stuff starts.

Geeky Quizzes

One of the perks of summer vacation is going to Monday Night Trivia again. Rachel, Brian, Jenni, and I have gone twice in a row and we're doing pretty good, considering the hiatus. We tied for first place with two other teams this week. I was elected to go duke it out when the tie-breaker category of "The Bible" was announced. The quizmaster tried to consul us later when she came to take our 3rd place pictures. "I saw you were writing out the whole name. You should never do that. You had it first, but you were still writing when the other guy held up 'John the B.'"

Boo, I say!

Last week, the first time back, started off shaky with an entire round about sports. Outrageous, we declared, since the name of the game is in fact Geeks Who Drink.

We made up for it, though, when they declared a Shakespeare round. Boo-yah! Jenni's friend who had joined us that evening was nervous about that round, but Brian and Rachel assured her that I was all over that.

Heck yeah, I was. If anything, it was too easy. The goal was to name the play based on the overly-simplified plot summary. After the eight normal questions I took the score sheet up to the quizmaster for the bonus round. I was pretty sure what the answer would be, since one of the biggies had not been mentioned so far. "Damn, you write fast!" one of the other contenders said as I went back to the table to tell Brian to order the free drink I had just won him. I told my teammates that I had actually gotten the answer from the first two words of the clue - "An old".

Which led me to speculate about other one-word play summaries for Shakespeare. Which led me to make an online quiz about it, because I know many of you are fellow geeks who would probably get a kick out of such a thing.

How'd you do? Any suggestions for the plays I missed?

P.S. While I was working on mine, Rachel started writing her own quiz:

Over-achiever academics? Us? Nah.

Sunday, July 25, 2010


Damn Stieg Larsson. It's taking all kinds of willpower to drag myself away from his last book to write about my weekend adventure. Because I put off writing about my Thai massage for a few days to travel home, and look at how long it's taking me to finish that post. Still, my Kindle's sitting nearby, taunting me....


Last Friday I drove out to the airport for my third weekend in a row and hopped on a plane for a quick trip to Chicago.

I got there at about 3:00, checked into the hotel and headed out to do some shopping before seeing a show that night. Billy Elliot is on tour there now, and I've been wanting to see it since hearing of Teresa and Jason's enjoyment of it in London and New York respectively.

Sadly, I did not particularly like it. It felt predictable and some of the directorial choices were downright bad. Giant dancing dresses? Policemen dancing in a mock-ballet style with little girls? They kept going for the stupid joke over meaning. The choreography was choppy and lacked any flow or build. The kid was really excellent; and I enjoyed the pas de deux fantasy part, although I wish they had kept it at the end. The other actors were unintelligible (I couldn't understand a single word of the dance teacher's introductory song), hammy, and sloppy.

I asked Jason about it, since it's unusual for our opinions to differ so much. We concluded that it was a sad result of being a touring production (so, depleted set and a weaker talent pool). I was still miffed about how predictable musicals are and found myself missing The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee.

After the show I walked back to the hotel in the rain and, in passing, got mistaken for a Muslim thanks to the scarf I was wearing to keep the rain off. When I got up to the room, I raised the blinds so I could watch the lightening storm and called Jason. Poor fellow. He left later than I did so he could work that day, and had spent an hour circling Chicago because of the storm before being re-routed to St. Louis to refuel. We talked for a while as he waited on the plane to see what would happen next and I pulled the cushy chair in front of the window and propped my feet up on the air conditioner to watch the storm. We had been talking for about 30 minutes when the pilot on his end announced that they were grounded for the night. Jason resolved to get on the first flight out in the morning and I promised to call the architecture cruise company we had tickets with the next morning to try to reschedule. I watched a lightening bolt hit one of the buildings I could see from my window before getting into bed.

I called the cruise company the moment they opened and discovered that they had canceled all tours that morning due to the rainstorm. Sadly, they were also sold out the entire afternoon. Jason and I stayed in touch via texting all morning as I went for a walk around the city and got some bagels for us for breakfast. Without too much on my agenda and with The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo just getting interesting (entirely too much exposition to wade through and a bit of the Russian novel syndrome - do that many people really have names beginning with B in Sweden?), I opted to stay in the air-conditioned room and read while waiting for him.

After sitting in traffic for over an hour because of flooding, Jason finally got to the hotel around 11:00. Again, poor fellow! We got him fed and showered, then decided that the best course of action was a nice, long lunch.

A friend had recommended Frontera Grill, which was right down the street from the hotel. After eating, we walked across the river to see the Sears... I mean, Willis Tower. Sadly, it was closed due to the weather, even through the storm had passed and the sky was blue by now.

We walked over to Millennium Park, and I began to realize just how tired Jason was when he asked me to walk a little slower. I don't know how many of you have walked somewhere with him, but his "relaxed" pace is closer to a brisk jog. We slowed down and admired the fountain and the lakeside before walking over to the Art Institute.

He was really tired at that point, so we just hit the highlights (Nighthawks, American Gothic, Sunday in the Park, and some Monets and Picassos with a quick turn through a modern design display). Jason headed back to the hotel for a nap while I hit the bookstore to look for materials for my Humanities class.

40 minutes and 5 books later, I was walking to the hotel when I got caught in a good-sized and unmoving group of people. Jason and I had walked past the scene of destruction earlier in the day - cars banged up and burnt, pieces of the roofs of recognizable buildings of that block lying crumbled and cracked on the road, an entire two block section of the downtown area taped off and protected by police - Transformers 3 was filming major action sequences right in the middle of our vacation. I was wondering why we were all at a standstill when the crew in yellow t-shirts all yelled, "Fire in the hole!" and a series of gunshots and fireworks went off as flames leapt up and stuntmen were whisked from the ground into the air on various flylines. Dang it! Now I'm going to have to see Transformers 3.

After they called "Cut," I managed to squeeze my way through the crowds and book it to the hotel. I quickly changed for the evening and we decided to take a cab to the restaurant since we were running a bit late.

We met Jason's friend Vanessa at Feast and had dinner together. I had a chicken breast stuffed with goat cheese that was delicious and decided that this was a keeper restaurant for future trips to Chicago.

Vanessa walked with us to the Watertower building, just a few blocks over. Kelley and her husband, Mark, were there waiting for us. I was really excited to see Kelley again, and we talked as Jason and Vanessa wrapped up their visit. Vanessa headed on her way and the four of us went into the theater for the show that had inspired this trip in the first place.

Do you remember when I went to Chicago in the fall to see Arabian Nights at the Lookingglass Theater? I absolutely loved their production and their premise as a theater company, so when I found out they were performing their signature show, Lookingglass Alice, I proposed the excursion to Jason and Kelley.

Oh, the show was good! It was innovative, gorgeous, funny, playful, sweet, and creative as hell. It made me terribly happy and gave me all kinds of ideas for things to use in future productions. It was, in short, very, very good theater. It also made me consider moving to Chicago just so I could be a season subscriber and go see their shows all the time. Sadly, that's not practical. But, oh! I wish I could. And I certainly hope I can keep saving up enough money to keep taking weekend trips to see what they do.

Happily, Jason, Mark, and Kelley all loved the show, too. Kelley and I had similar enough artistries that I was sure she'd like the show - that's why she was so fantastic to direct with at DPJH and why I've missed working with her so much since then. We discussed the show as we crossed the street and got dessert at Ghiradelli's. Sadly, Kelley and Mark had to skidaddle right away - they're moving back to Salt Lake this weekend. Saying good-bye again wasn't too bad, since I knew I'd get to see Kelley in a week when I came out to Salt Lake for my brother's wedding.

Mark and Kelley crossed to the bus stop while Jason and I headed down Michigan Avenue. He had mentioned that there were some movies out that would be fun to see together, if time permitted. I asked if he was game, since he's the one who had gotten only three hours of sleep on a chair at the baggage claim in St. Louis. He was, so we walked to a movie theater just off the Magnificent Mile that was showing Io Sono L'amore. Oh, the artsy-ness! I enjoyed it both because it was so pretentious a movie and because it was provocative enough to keep us discussing it as we walked back to the hotel at 1:00 in the morning.

Sunday morning we got up earlier than needed so we could have a good chance at getting breakfast at the Bongo Room. We got there at 8:50 and there were already 8 people ahead of us in line, waiting for them to open at 9:00. It worked out beautifully, though - we were seated and enjoyed a fantastic breakfast with plenty of time before I needed to hop on the metro to get back to the airport. (I had brioche french toast topped with a four berry compote, white chocolate sauce, and gingersnap crumbles - yum! I did eye their signature dish, though, which a gentleman nearby ordered - a chocolate french toast tower.... Next time, right?)

Jason walked me back to the station down the block and we said farewell. His flight didn't leave until later in the day, so he was planning on walking back through the park to see some of the sights he missed before getting his stuff from the hotel and leaving. Oddly, we don't have immediate plans to see each other again, although we did talk about taking a trip together over New Year's and/or next summer. I also mentioned that I had $150 coupon from United thanks to a broken entertainment screen on my flight from Bangkok to Tokyo. There's all kinds of enticements for me to go to DC, and we both agreed that he needed another try at Chicago, since this trip was shortened by weather. Probably another try that could be arranged around another show at the Lookingglass Theater....

We left it open, and I headed for Midway. My flight home was uneventful, aside from my smoldering anger at the airline policy that e-readers have to be turned off for takeoffs and landings. Stieg F-ing Larsson!

Sunday, July 18, 2010

What I've Been Doing Besides Writing on my Blog

I had the pleasure this weekend of playing with my oldest friend Mercedes and her 10-year-old daughter Caroline. Cedes and I go way, way back. We have actually been friends for over half our lives, actually; although we haven't lived in the same state in over 10 years.

With a little under two days, we hit some of the highlights of Denver including Casa Bonita (a favorite from my childhood, but the food is still awful) (except for the sopaipillas). We also went to see Toy Story 3.

Crap, Pixar. I'm good at not crying - I held myself together when the monks made speeches last weekend; I even held back the tears when I bid my kids at DPJH farewell and they gave me a movie they had made. But I cried over Woody and the gang, and, to make matters worse, I teared up again when I was telling Rachel about the movie the next day. Stupid Pixar.

After dropping Cedes and Caroline off at the airport Saturday morning, I went shopping with Rachel. We treated ourselves to pedicures before going over to Brian's to watch the Doctor Who episodes I had missed. Man, this series of Who was good. Jenni also treated me to a sample of her massage skills with a foot rub. I need to book an official appointment with her asap.

This morning I had the pleasure of not having 5 hours of church. I went to sacrament meeting, said hello to some of the folks I care about, and then slipped out to see Inception with Brian and Jenni.

No tears over this one, but a high, high recommendation. Go see Inception. It's excellent.

Also, this:

I Write Like by Mémoires, Mac journal software. Analyze your writing!

This week is a little more open than last week. Kinda. I've got jury duty Thursday and I fly out to Chicago on Friday for a weekend of seeing plays, Kelley, and Jason. I better not get called to a three-day trial!

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Paris Original

I'm working on my Thai massage entry, but it's slow going. Here's why:

1) My sleep's schedule's still messed up. I just fell asleep on the couch while typing that entry. At 9:00. Oy.

2) I've been hanging out with Rachel every day. No complaints there, it's all kinds of fun. I get to play with Jack, make these, catch up on SYTYCD (Woe is Alex!), and get crafty. In fact, I just made her a skirt.

3) I have a cold sore.

Okay, that last one has nothing to do with my lack of story, but I wanted to share.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

In Which My Cab Driver Sets Records

I got off the bus in Bangkok and hailed a cab. I handed the driver the Thai instructions I had to the hotel. He scowled at the paper, asked me something I couldn't understand, then refused the fare and drove away.

I hailed a second cab. This time I figured out that my current driver and the previous one asked how much I wanted to pay for the drive. I asked for the meter, and the fellow agreed.

We headed off and almost immediately got stuck in traffic. It was, after all, 4:30 on Friday afternoon.

As we sat on the toll road at a standstill, the driver flipped through his music. He finally landed on one and he looked up to see if I approved. I started bobbing my head to the music and the driver grinned and started singing along. Soon, we were both singing about mud and disgrace as we crawled across the bridge.

As we pulled into the area around the airport, the driver started repeatedly looking at the paper I had given him with the address for the hotel. Thus began a search for one street that took one hour, 6 U-turns, and 7 stops for directions.

Finally, after 2.5 hours in the cab, the driver pulled up a back alley and gleefully announced, "Queen Garden Hotel"!

The entire ride cost me $15.

Monday, July 12, 2010

In Which I Leave the Wat

My last half-day at the wat was sweet, a little sad, and good for closure. Super-nice Eunice planned the morning lesson around saying good-bye. Phra Karn gave me another amulet (so I had one of each), a clear stone shaped like a teardrop, and a card with a picture of the wat's founder on it. Eunice and the monks all wrote notes to me and bound them in a pamphlet. And, best of all, we played Uno.

Playing Uno with monks is hilarious. Everyone was super nice, of course, apologizing for any skip-a-turn or plus two/four cards. The monks were also quick to point out that what you give is what you get - "Karma, karma, karma!" Phra Bas would say, shaking his finger at whoever just gave him a bad card.

It was a good way to end the time I had there, especially since the good-byes at the Community Class the night before were sweet and sad, too. One of the ladies started crying when she gave me a hug. Oh, and? There were 42 people there that night! 42! We had averaged 18 the week before. I had to do some last-minute changes to my plans, since the things I had ready to go didn't work so well with such a big crowd. Eunice and Polly said that word must have spread about my teaching the class.

After we wrapped up the morning English class and had lunch, Phra Bart hosted a little ceremony for Sean and me. We all gathered in the meditation hall and had some ice cream treats while Phra Bart presented both of us with our "graduation" gifts - a certificate, an amulet, a white cotton bracelet to 'keep us connected to the wat,' a copy of all of our meditation sessions on CD, and, most special of all, a leaf from the actual Bodhi tree. I've got tons of Buddhist cred now.

I said good-bye to everyone, then walked back to the Trina House to get my luggage.

Now, to appreciate my reasons for not wanting to get a full massage (a story yet to come), you need to understand that in order to get to Bangkok I caught the #78 bus. At the bus stop that was 1/2 a mile from the Trina House. Which meant dragging my two suitcases, backpack, purse, and unpackable shadowpuppet down that 1/2 mile gravel road in the middle of the afternoon in the lovely 96-degree Thailand heat.

I was quite glad that the bus was not at all full, so I didn't have to share a seat/my sweaty scent with anyone else. I settled in with my motion-sickness watch on and a paperback copy of the sequel to the Nanny Diaries to read on the 2.5-hour bus ride to Bangkok.

Oop! Time to go to Triva Night with Rachel, Brian, and Jenny. See you shortly for part two!

Sunday, July 11, 2010


Mission Accomplished.

(Photo courtesy mon pere!)

In Which I Am Home


And it's awesome to be home. I'm at my sister's house (she and Ben are very nice and are keeping me awake right now).

Oh, I have stories to tell you. Soon, my friends. Soon I shall tell you the tales of my cab ride to the hotel, my Thai massage experience, the flights back, and my functioning on only 5 hours of sleep in 48 hours.

Aren't you excited?

Thursday, July 08, 2010

In Which We Give Something to a Monk

Polly, the newest volunteer and my roommate at the Trina House (who, in some way that I can't quite pinpoint, reminds me strongly of Liza Minnelli. She does not seem to suffer from vertigo, though) brought some fruit this morning to share with the monks in our class. Since we only had one student there for the first 30 minutes of class, she went ahead and gave the fruit to him.

Little did we know how much ceremony was involved with that! Fortunately, Eunice was familiar with the process, so she could prompt us through.

First, Phra Karn set out his workbook with both hands on the table to receive the gift. Polly set the bag on it using both of her hands.

Then, Eunice, Polly, and I all knelt on the floor (Phra Karn was sitting in his chair, and we needed to be lower than him) while he chanted in Pali and then recited in Pali what I surmise was a blessing/prayer of thanksgiving.

Finally, Eunice, Polly, and I had to touch each others' arms as Eunice pushed the bag towards Phra Karn to make a sort-of thread of giving. He accepted the gift, and thanked us very nicely ("Khop kun khop!")

Five weeks here, and there's still all kinds of things to learn!

In Which I Wrap Things Up at the Wat

By this time tomorrow, I'll be at a hotel near the airport in Bangkok.

Even though the days and the weeks seemed incredibly long, when I try to wrap my head around the fact that I've been in Thailand for five weeks, well, I just can't believe it.

I am so very ready to leave. Psychologically, that is. I have yet to tackle the packing project - deciding what I'm tossing/donating and figuring out how to fit my new stuff into my bag. That's tonight's fun.

Here's some reasons why I'm excited to go home:

1. I'm getting 4 mosquito bites a day on average.

2. It's been in the high 90's in the daytime and the high 80's at night lately. I fell asleep in a spread-eagle position last night on top of my sheets and woke up sweating.

3. I haven't been able to use the bathroom in five weeks, aside from that glorious experience at Siam Paragon last Saturday, without battling ants or mosquitoes or both the entire time I'm in there.

4. Sean and Oscar have both found cockroaches in their food in the last week. All meals are served family style, so it wasn't so much "their" food as it was "our" food.

5. We wash our own dishes here at the outdoor sinks. That's not the problem. The problem is that they haven't had soap to wash the dishes for most of the last two weeks. So the plates and utensils we're using have been "cleaned" only by running them under cold water.

6. Lunch yesterday featured fried anchovies and fishhead stew. I was being eyed from all directions.

7. I've read four of the eight books I got last weekend.

8. My nephew looks all kinds of cute and I have yet to hold him.

9. I've got presents for my family, and I'm excited to share!

But, then again, here are some reasons why I'm glad I stayed here:

1. Last night I told the community class that I was leaving for America on Friday. This lead to my being mobbed by all of the kids and grown-ups who wanted me to write my name in their notebooks. Then one kid wanted my email address, so they all wanted my email address. This was interspersed with requests for drawings, too. It took 25 minutes to appease them all!

I bought some treats for them today in town, so I can give them something before I go. Last night, Nook, one of the students, brought each of us teachers a cone made of a huge bright green leaf. It was filled inside with long, yellow, delicious-smelling flower petals.

2. This morning, Phra Karn gave me a CD-Rom about meditation, a laminated picture of the founder of this wat, and an amulet of the Buddha. He said the amulet was for protection for my journey home.

3. Eunice bought me a bag full of mangosteens today. Man, they're tasty.

4. I had a private meditation session with Phra Bart today. He tried some new things and although I didn't see the sphere, I didn't feel as stressed about about that fact as I usually do in meditation. In short, I felt much more willing and able to try again. That was nice.

My last community class starts in about 45 minutes. Then it's home to a dinner of Ramen noodles (I'm guessing I'll fall back on my cabinet supplies again, since lunch was not too good today) and the packing project. I have my last meditation session at 7:00 tomorrow morning, my last class with the monks/Eunice, lunch, and then some sort of good-bye ceremony for Sean and me. (I'm the only Anglo/volunteer flying home this weekend, but Sean is spending his last two weeks traveling around the country so he's wrapping up his meditation studies, too.)

Then I bid farewell to my friends and the wat and haul my suitcase on the #78 bus to Bangkok.

I'm hoping the hotel I'll be at tomorrow night will have some kind of internet so I can keep you posted. I'm also hoping they can hook me up with a Thai massage, since that's the one thing on my list that I haven't done here yet.

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

In Which I Start Saying Good-Bye

Eunice was off on a special side trip today, so I was the designated and only teacher for the morning class.

I was nervous, actually; the way I am before teaching any new class the first time. But it went fine, of course. Eunice left a great plan for me, I know the students pretty well by now, and we had fun together and accomplished a lot.

We've been going over "words of frequency" this week (always, almost always, usually, often, seldom, hardly ever, etc.). I put the words on a continuum up on the board and we discussed examples for each one. They started off with some of the same things we had discussed yesterday - life at the wat (We always go to morning chanting, we never eat after noon, we seldom go shopping, etc.). Phra Maha Pichet branched off a little bit by suggesting that the "Thai government seldom attacks." "Just red shirts, right?" I joked, and they all laughed.

My favorite quip of the day was when I asked Phra Vishan what was something he never does. He said, "Hmm..." and scrunched up his face the way he does when he's thinking hard. Phra Karn jumped in then and said, "He never dies!" They then quickly followed up with "He never stays awake!" Fortunately, the 79-year-old Phra Vishan has a great sense of humor and he chuckled along with the others.

Sadly, though, I had to say good-bye to two of the monks today. Phra Den only comes to class Monday-Wednesday, so today was my last day seeing him. Phra Vishan told me at the end of class today that he was going to Bangkok. "Hospital," he said, tapping his chest. I hope that meant a check-up on his heart and not surgery. Still, he's not coming back until Monday, so today was my last day seeing him as well.

I was a little surprised at how sad I was to have to start saying good-bye. Phra Den has some friends in Colorado, and he contacted them last night and told them all about me, his "English teacher." (He calls me, "My English teacher" more often than he calls me "Amanda" - it's both odd and nice to hear that title spoken with such respect all the time.) He gave me their phone number and asked me to get in touch with them so I could know about when they do their annual ceremony at his wat. He wants me to come back every year to attend the festival.

I've tried, half-heartedly, to explain that there's a lot of the world out there I want to see, but everyone I've talked to here want to know when I'll be back in Thailand again. They're so proud of their country and want to show so much of it. Phra Karn asked me when I was flying out and when I told him Saturday morning, he said, "Oh. I go to mountains on Saturday - I wanted to show you. You change your plans? Just two days! Wait two days."

I declined as nicely as I could, but it's really hard to say "no" to a monk. I explained that I missed my family, that I hadn't talked to them in five weeks. He said, "The mountains are very beautiful here."

Phra Den asked me about my exit plan in detail, and when he heard how early I was flying out Saturday morning, he offered to make arrangements for me at a hotel near the airport. I couldn't quite understand - he was either offering to book it for me or to pay for it for me, but either way it was extremely generous and very hard to turn him down. I tried to be polite, but he was very insistent about wanting to do that for his English teacher because "you have taught me so much." It was so sweet, but I just couldn't accept. He finally let it go, reassured, when I told him that Phra Bart was going to make the arrangements for me.

Oh, I'm going to miss these men. I'm not even letting myself think about saying good-bye to the Community kids yet, let alone Eunice and the other volunteers. I won't be weeping over it, but I am very glad that I've had such good people to work with here.

So much for my Buddhism lessons on not being attached, right?

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

In Which I Suppose I Should Talk About Meditation

It's been almost three weeks, after all, and I haven't really told you about that process. That's largely because I'm frustrated by it. As you will see.

I've had some training in meditation, mostly through my theater studies. I even teach it to my students. I've learned here that what I'm familiar with - breathing meditation - is very common in the Western hemisphere, and even in parts of Asia like northern Thailand.

Apparently, this particular wat I'm at teaches a different kind of meditation technique. Essentially, you're supposed to get into a relaxed state (okay, that's typical), then calm your body and your mind (sounds familiar), and then you are supposed to get a vision of a sphere or ball of light of something like that (Uh...). And then you're supposed to go to the center of the sphere, become one with the sphere, and then be in the sphere. There, you're supposed to find... another sphere! You get to the center of that one and Pop! Another sphere! And so on for 17 or 18 spheres.

When you get to the center of each of those, you're supposed to then see a body - your body, but in a more perfect form. You become one with that body, and then find another body inside. The process repeats itself until you get to higher levels of the body where you can actually converse with it - ask questions, get answers, and so on. That is supposed to be the path that leads you to Nibbana.

At my first session, I was too tense. Phra Bart leads the sessions, giving us an oral narrative to lead us through the process. I was too caught up in listening to him, figuring out what the heck was going on, and trying to make sense of what I was seeing when I closed my eyes. He called me on my tension right away.

The next session, I relaxed. Totally. Phra Bart has said many times how surprised he was that I made such huge progress from the first to the second session.

I've been able to relax, calm the body, the way I should at almost every session since then. I've been working hard on calming the mind. It's really, really hard for me to shut down mentally. Phra Bart advises me that when thoughts come up, I should just acknowledge the thought and then let it go. Which I don't understand, because acknowledging the thought is actually another thought and then I have to acknowledge the acknowledgment and before I know it I'm filled with narrative again.

I've had moments that come close to having a calm mind. Lately, I've been having kind-of waking dreams while I meditate. A lot are nonsense and I forget them almost immediately. Sometimes they seem a bit more focused, more process-driven, and those are ones I can remember afterwards. I've had a few experiences with quasi-out-of-body-feelings - times where my consciousness sort of drifts away but as soon as I realize it, SWOOP! I'm back in my head again.

Oddly, there have also been a few times where I get so deep in my mind that Phra Bart tells us to move our eyes or open them or something and it takes me a while to figure out where my eyes are. I actually have to mentally creep up the inside of my face until I find the right muscles and figure out how to tell them to work again. That feeling's a little strange.

BUT! I'm frustrated. I can't see the damn sphere. It's been two and a half weeks. I've meditated two or three times a day most of that time, and I've been in virtually the same place since the second session. I've tried, I've tried to not try, I've tried to let go, and I just can't see that stupid light that I'm supposed to be seeing. Phra Bart has even seemed to give up on me - today when he asked how it went after the session and I reported that there were still no changes, he shrugged and said he didn't know what to tell me.

I have wondered, though, if I'm blocking myself. I wonder if I'm keeping myself from totally letting go and doing this method because of my non-belief in Buddhism.

Which, in and of itself, has been a bit of a struggle. I overheard Phra Bart call Sean "a good Mormon" one day, and asked Sean about it later. He said it was a joke between them, since he had grown up Mormon but gave it up a while ago. I told him I was curious because I was a Mormon. Sean, surprised, asked, "Then what are you doing here?!"

I told him that I came here to understand. That I like learning about different people and ideas. And also that I like to look for the similarities between what I believe and what others believe. All of which is very much true.

Studying Buddhism like this has been more of a conflict than I anticipated, though. The very first day our my culture week oh-so-long-ago, J.J. took us to a wat and, when we reached the Buddha image/shrine for that temple, she said she would teach us how they pay respect. She knelt on the floor, we followed suit. She explained how to bow, pressing the hands to the floor as you go down, then bringing them up to a wai three times. The others copied her actions. I started to, but then, quite clearly, I was told not to do that. "Do not bow down to golden images," in fact, was the phrase that came to mind.

And I've respected that. I respect the temples, I go to them and about them with reverence and respect, but I have not and will not bow down to the Buddha.

Since then, I have treaded very carefully. I am very much aware of the spirit and try to find ways to be appropriate. The exercise has actually been interesting. For example, the monks begin and end all learning activities, including each class, with a chant to Buddha. It would be quite rude for me to sit it out or refuse or interrupt. So, I stand behind the monks with the other teachers, I press my hands together and raise them so my thumb is touching my forehead, as they do. And while they chant, I pray to my own god.

I've actually enjoyed that. I love the sounds of the chanting, and I've really loved saying a short prayer so often each day. A lot of days I try to focus my prayer to one of thanksgiving specifically.

I enjoy the discussions about Buddhism in my morning class, and I've been surprised at how many similarities there are deeply rooted in our beliefs. There really are parallels at the heart of the philosophies of Buddhism and Mormonism, and more so than a pat "be good" or "good v. evil" basis.

Still, the fact that the meditation is about talking to Buddha; that the ultimate body we're supposed to see is a version of the Buddha; that we're supposed to reach Nibbana, heaven or a perfect state, in this meditation is a conflict for me. It's not what I believe, and I'm discovering how deeply to the core I'm not willing to bend or allow or make exceptions for these things.

Which, I suppose, is a pretty significant lesson in and of itself.

Still, the eternal "good student" that I am is frustrated that I can't do what the teacher's asking me to do. And I don't know how or if I'll reconcile that.

Especially since I only have three days left.

On the other hand, thankfully, I only have three days left!

Monday, July 05, 2010

In Which We Take a Vacation From the Vacation

It was on the road between the train station and the palace in Versailles that Emily and I had our massive argument.

We'd been traveling together for a month at that point - two 20-year-olds who had been together night and day for 30 days. It was inevitable.

After storming away from each other, we spent the day apart, then reconciled at the hostel that night. We also decided it was time for a vacation from our vacation. So, the next day, we treated ourselves to a day at Disneyland Paris.

Ever since then, I've known that on long trips, it's important to give yourself a break from your travels. Which is why I had been so excited about going to Bangkok this past weekend. And, happily, it was a really great day.

Oscar, Eunice, Sean, and I met up at the yellow-roofed bus stop between the wat and the Trina House at 7:30 Saturday morning. We hopped on the #78 bus. It's one of the luxury buses, meaning it's air conditioned (AIR CONDITIONED!). After we settled into some empty seats towards the back, the conductress came down the aisle in her red uniform, carrying her shiny silver ticket tube. We told her we were going to Bangkok, she asked us for 54 baht each. (That's about $1.60.) Then we settled in for the 2 -hour ride. Fortunately, the driver had "Speed Racer" playing on the tv at the front, so we had entertainment. :)

We arrived at the Southern Bus Terminal at about 10:00 and got into a cab. As I slid across the back seat, I told the driver "Chatuchak Market." "Okay!" he said, and once the others were in, we were off!

And quickly got stuck in traffic. We were back in Bangkok, after all.

The market's north of the city, a bit out of the way, but totally worthwhile. It reminded me of the Grand Bazaare in Istanbul and Eunice of the Silk Market in Beijing. We made our way first to the big clock tower in the middle of the market, our designated meeting place to find Paul, who had come up to Bangkok the night before. We waited for 20 minutes, but he never showed. So, we decided to split off and meet back at the clock tower at 1:00 to regroup.

Eunice and I dove into the stalls to east of the clock tower (look at me finding dirctions without a compass or anything!). The market is indeed huge, and the stalls sell all kinds of things - t-shirts, jewlery, bags, silk scarves and curtains, handicrafts, herbs, dried fish, blue jeans, flowers, animals (both dead and alive), and almost all of the souveniers you see around Bangkok.

We stumbled into the food-court area just as we were thinking about how hungry we were. One guy approached us with menus, inviting us fervently into his place. We took the crowds of Thais eating there as a good sign and agreed. He lead us through the pools of water (it had rained a lot the night before and there was a second downpour for a few minutes while we were waiting for Paul) to two stools at a table where a Thai couple were eating. He brushed off the stools, patted them, put the menu in front of us, and looked expectantly at me to order.

I glanced over the menu, then asked for a favorite - Pad Thai ("mai pet" - not spicy) and a bottle of water. Eunice got the same, and the fellow hollered our order over our heads to the woman cutting up vegetables next to a large, steaming wok.

The Pad Thai was delicious! I ate around the prawns that were perched on top of it, but the flavors were just right. Yum! Plus, each of our meals was just 80 baht (about $2.50). Awesome.

We walked around the food area bit more, admiring the fruits and desserts, then dove back in for more shopping.

I bought a lot of stuff, some for me and some for Christmas presents, so I won't go into too much detail here other than saying that the prices are awesome! I had lost my sunglasses on the beach wat trip, so I picked up a knock-off pair for 49 baht. After a few stops, I stopped at one of the bag stalls to get a fabric bag to carry my stuff in.

We rendezvoused with the boys, but everyone was game for more shopping so we extended the time until 2:30. Eunice and I stuck mainly to the deep insides of the market, since the stalls on the perimeters seemed much more touristy - a lot of knock-offs and Americanized stuff. The good stuff's in deeper. We bargained a bit, found a stand that was making fresh-squeezed orange juice from the green-skinned Thai oranges and each bought a bottle. Oh, it was good. Sweet and pulpy and so good-for-you-tasting. I've missed vitamins.

By the second meet-up, we were all good to go. The market was also getting a lot more crowded. I definitely recommend going in the morning to any of you who find yourself in Bangkok (Mom, Dad - I'm looking at you. You'd love this market).


Being the one who suggested the trip and who planned it, I informed the others that I was going to an English bookstore next. They all said they would like to come, too, so we hunted down the sky train together (the market's at the Mo Chit stop, if anyone's planning), figured out how the zones and tickets work, and boarded the very nice train to the Siam stop.

We got off at Siam Square - the opulent, wealthy part of Bangkok. This is the area where the protests were centered (Central World, the mall they set on fire, was right next to the stop), and also the site of the Siam Paragon, a luxury mall with not one but TWO English bookstores.

After ooo-ing over the waterfalls and eternity pools that surround the mall, we walked through the front doors to a blast of air conditioning (AIR CONDITIONING!). Dude, this place was posh. The stores were all high-end - Hermes, and such. The place was spit-spot clean and, once we walked past the opening into the mall proper, pretty quiet. The people we did pass were all dressed in designer, wealthy clothing. Also? Everything was in English.

We found Asia books first. Being a chain here, I expected them to have mostly Thai books with a self or two of books in English. Nope. The entire store was English books. I was in heaven. Within 20 minutes, I had 6 books in my arms. Sean looked at my load and said, "You weren't kidding when you said you read a lot!" I got a variety - a few young adult books, a couple of novels, and they had a book I was hoping existed - an art book with pictures from the murals of the Grand Palace along with an English version of the story of the Ramakien.

Getting peckish, we went down to the basement level to check out the food level. There's this mega-gourmet grocery store there where a kilo of cherries is $5! $5! This is Thailand, people!

We had a few samples of dried fruit (which was really good, but overpriced), then went back to food court proper. In the mood for ice cream, we found a stand of New Zealand Ice Cream. We sampled their signature kiwi flavor, then each ordered our own treat. I got a cone with a scoop of mint chocolate chip and a scoop of banana. It was really good (although my heart still belongs to Sweet Action).

We sat at a table there, commenting on how nice it was to be somewhere cool and clean, eating really good ice cream, and such. We debated about what to do next - a massage? Haircuts for Sean and Eunice? Then decided, meh. We're happy here. Doing those things would mean going to a different part of town, and none of us wanted to leave the poshness yet. Plus, they had good-looking food here. We opted for dinner instead.

The boys got Burger King and Eunice and I found a gyro-style wrap place. It was so nice to eat good-tasting food again! Food that I didn't have to pick around and that was fresh! Oscar and Sean went for wraps as well for their second course, and I checked out a bakery to get some savory pastries to go for my dinner the next day. We talked Eunice into getting a scoop of Turkish ice cream just so we could see the show they put on serving it up with the great big pole.

We also visited the restrooms. Which, I know, is neither polite nor a remarkable event usually, but these bathrooms had Western toilets that flushed AND toilet paper AND soap AND paper towels. AND they were clean. It's the first time in weeks I've been able to use the bathroom without having to bat away mosquitos and ants that fall from the ceiling onto my neck and legs. I was so excited, I went twice.

We had talked about maybe seeing a movie, so we wandered up the the 5th level to see what was playing. There we somehow managed to crash a Technology conference. Once we escaped, we found the most decked-out movie theater lobby I've ever seen. They had a gourmet popcorn bar; huge leather couches everywhere with low, colored lighting like a snobby, trendy bar; and petite women in uniforms with clipboards. One approached us as we tried to figure out what was playing - she had the list on her board, and politely showed us the times and offered to sell us tickets. Unfortunately, the only thing that was playing in the next hour was "Twilight". The others started too late for us to get the bus back, and I couldn't talk the rest of the group into seeing "Twilight" for the sake of experiencing a movie in Thailand.

Instead we went back down to the fourth floor and found... another English bookstore! Hurrah!

I bought two more books. Because of course I did.

By the time we all finished browsing the second one, we were ready to call it a day. We walked back outside to the heat of the nighttime city, found the line for taxis, and I showed the taxi attendant the word for the Southern Bus Terminal that I had copied in Thai the day before (thank goodness the orphans taught me some of the letters!). He picked out a cab for us from the line-up, we threw our bags in the trunk, and headed to the station.

There was a little bit of wandering at the station as Sean tried to orient himself to recall where the platform was for the bus back. I showed a worker a request for the 78 bus in Thai, and he pointed to one that was just pulling away. He ran after it, shouting and clapping his hands. Miraculously, the bus stopped and we climbed on board after thanking the nice fellow. The back of the bus was empty, so we each took a pair of seats, showed the conductress the instructions for letting us off at the wat (also written in Thai), and shared the bag of fried bananas I had gotten back the food court.

90 minutes later, the conductress waved us forward, "Okay, here!" They had dropped us right at the gate! It was close to 11:00 by this time, so Eunice was trying hard to talk me out of walking all the way back to the Trina House by myself when Oscar very nicely offered to walk me all the way.

All in all, it was an excellent day. Great shopping, smooth travels, excellent food, and a very nice break from the routine here. Plus, books! (I've read two already. Sean and Eunice have both remarked on my speed, and I just try to explain that this is what I do and why I was so desperate for an English bookstore.)

In Which I Explore Thailand's Health Care Systems

Ah, hubris. You're a crafty, crafty creature.

Sometime on our way to the beach wat, everyone started comparing mosquito bites. As Eunice and I showed off our red-marked ankles and arms, Sean bragged about how he "never gets bitten."

Within two days, his feet were covered in flea and mosquito bites and his legs were red and bumpy with heat rash. Or food poisoning. We're not sure which.

I told him it was because of his hubris.

But then, being Mrs. Pot, last Friday morning I thought, "Hey! I've been in Thailand for a month and I haven't really been sick. That's great!" I realized, a moment too late, that I was dooming myself. And, indeed, I had.

I woke up at 4:00 in the morning on Saturday with a very urgent need to get to the bathroom. After a few rounds, I broke out the prescription stuff my dad was kind enough to provide for me, especially since we had a big day planned and my having to be perpectually near a bathroom wasn't going to cut it. Fortunately, the medicine seemed to kick in pretty quick, and I've been alright since then, gastrointestinally speaking.

But there were other health adventures going on.

Friday night I reached up on top of the little refrigerator in the Trina House to get something. I felt a very sharp sting in my hand. I pulled it down and there, on my pinky finger near the webbing between that finger and my ring finger, was a huge black-and-red ant-looking thing. It was big enough that I could see its head and I could see that it had its teeth dug into my finger. I shrieked, "Oh, bad bug! Bad bug!" and ran for the sink. I tried shaking it off, but it wouldn't bug. It didn't release my hand until I ran it under the facuet full blast for a few seconds.

Now, I've been carefully avoiding the fire ants that are all over the grounds here. I've still gotten a couple of bites from them, mostly when one's hiding in my shoe or when I'm not careful about where I step. They hurt, but not like this one did, and it didn't look like this one did.

By Saturday morning, my finger was swollen, bloodlessly white, and there was a tingly numbness spreading to my ring finger, too. As the day went on, the whiteness gave way to redness as the swelling grew. I texted my parents for medical advice (as one does), took some Aleve, and went to bed, curious to see how it would be in the morning.

Sunday morning my finger was red with a couple of white patches, sore, itchy, and so swollen that it stuck out to the side of my hand at a 30 degree angle. I showed it off at breakfast at the wat, and asked Sean how to get to the pharmacy at the wat (he'd been there the week before when he had his own dose of Buddha's Revenge).

Sean explained that the pharmacy was kind-of open for about 10 minutes a day. Basically, the monk in charge of it walks past it after he's finished eating lunch. If someone's there, he helps them. If not, he goes about his day. "There's the pharmacist monk now, in fact!" he said, pointing to one of the monks who had just walked out of the door.

Seizing the chance to explore another part of the local culture, I hopped up and caught up with the monk at the door of the pharmacy room. Phra Boy and I introduced ourselves, and I showed him my finger. In broken English between the two of us, I communicated that it was a bug bite, it was itchy, it hurt, and that I had not washed laundry since the bite (I think he was asking to see if any chemicals were affecting it).

He asked me to write down my name and age in a log book on the desk, then rummaged in the cabinets and the fridge for a few minutes. He then handed me an ointment labeled "Dermaheu" ("Put on morning and night, after bath. Keep doing for 1 week after better."), and two bags. Each bag had five doses of a pill with instructions written on the front ("Take 1 pill after lunch. Only 1 time.") I was confused by the instructions, but when I tried to clarify them, Phra Boy just said that they were for allergies and will make me sleepy.

And that was it. No records, no insurance information, I didn't even have to pay a cent. He handed me the drugs, and I was on my way.

Very strange.

I decided to forgo the pills, since I wasn't clear on what they were or how to take them (if I only am supposed to do it once, why did he give me five of each?), but I have been using the ointment. My finger's better today. I can almost close my hand into a fist again, and the redness has subsided into more of purple-bruise just between the two fingers (as opposed to all over the pinky and down the top part of my hand).

It probably would have healed anyway within three days, but I couldn't pass up a chance to try out a pharmacy in Thailand.

I'm keeping an eye on my finger, still, just in case. I'm also watching out for any sudden manifestations of great powers. You know, better vision, incredible strength, and such.

Friday, July 02, 2010

In Which I Say "Aww!"

One of my monk-students sent me a link to his blog today. He has a few pictures on it, including this one:


That's one of the stray cats here at the wat.

If you go to his blog, you'll also see a picture of three eggs in a green tea bottle. Apparently, his roommate found an egg in his bed one day. For three days in a row, one of the wat hens came into their cooti and laid an egg in his bed. Phra Bas tried to hatch the eggs himself first, but then built a nest for the hen. She started laying eggs there, and they slipped the three into the pile. So far, two of their eggs have hatched! He showed me a picture of an adorable yellow fluffy chick.

And again I say, "Aww!"

P.S. An explanation for the lack of photos:
Don't worry, I'm taking a lot. But the library computers are riddled with viruses, and I've heard tales of volunteers trying to upload photos and having their entire SD card wiped clean instead. I'll do some good photo posts when I get home, I promise.

In Which I Walk to the Wat

(Life must be slowing down here, if my blog topic is as bleh as a walk. Still, while I was doing it this morning, I noticed enough unusual (for me) things to start mentally blogging it. Here goes!)

I leave the Trina House just after sunrise each morning. I step over the inevitable trails of ants in the kitchen/dining room as I go out the front door. My sandals are to the right of the worn door mat - no shoes are worn inside houses here. I also get an indication of whether the lightning I saw from my bedroom window the night before led to anything - my shoes will either be dry, dry, dry or quite soggy. Either way, I pull them on and make my way down the precarious stone path.

The gate to the Trina House is this big, rusty, white thing. It squeaks when you unlock it, so I can tell from inside the house when someone else shows up. To the right of the gate, draped over the hedges that encircle the yard, is something that is fantastically called a fire tree - it's blooming with hundred of bright fire-red flowers that cover the walkway.

I walk under the fire tree along the gravel road. If the road's very muddy, I take a right at the end of the "street" so I can take the longer, paved route to the wat. If it's dry enough, I turn left and walk down the long, wider gravel road.

This is typically where the flies and mosquitoes start up. I don't know what it is, but three or four of them persistently come along with me on my walk - landing on me, getting brushed off, hovering above my head, then landing on a different part of me. I get more franctic with my brushing the further down the road I am; if there was anyone around to see me, I'm sure I would look quite crazed, flapping my arms all about me as I walk.

On my left is just jungle - brambly, thick, jumbles of various shades of green. On my right I pass the only house on that street. It's a good house, even by Western standards, so the family must be wealthy. They have a brightly painted gate and at least two dogs, who greet my coming from a long way off. One stands behind the gate while the other runs out into the middle of the road and barks at me. When I get closer, he runs ahead and then resumes his barking. He's just noisy, though - I just walk right past him and eventually he quiets down.

When the road ends in a T, I take a right and follow the worn little footpath that branches off into the coconut trees. This is the shortcut and also the muddiest path. I cut through the edge of the coconut plantation, with a canal full of sludgy, sludgy ooze sitting all still and murkey and green on my left, a row of palm trees on my right, and all kinds of folliage hanging in my way. I invenitably get a spider web to the face as I crouch and creep and lift branches out of my way, including this one huge brown palm tree branch that dangles right in the middle of the path.

The path takes me up to the back side of the coconut factory, which is hardly a factory as I tend to picture factories. The building is simply the plantation owner's house, always with a TV on in the room I can see into through the open door as I pass it. The area to my left is shaded with a rusted roof and on either side are piles and piles of coconut husks, bright green shells closer to me and furry brown shells further away. I always think of this as a coconut graveyard, since the piles look like the mounds of bones and skulls you see in grisley photographs.

The workers are always out when I pass by. There's the toddler who's always on the ground near the metal swinging crib, sometimes gnawing on a husk. There's an older girl, maybe 3 or 4, who stares at me from the patio of the house as I walk by. A few stray cats cross my path, two or three of their dogs come running to bark ferociously at me from a safe distance, and the famil/workers usually don't look up from their work as I walk by. I always wave and smile, but they keep on splitting and peeling the coconuts using sharp sticks and their hands.

The always-open gate to the plantation faces the highway. I always look the wrong way first, since I never remember that they drive on the left here, before crossing to the grassy median. There are Thai national flags and the yellow flags with the red Buddhist wheel of fate lining the median right now, leftover decorations of the conference this week.

After crossing the other lane of traffic, I go to the right side of the white gate that marks the always-closed lesser entrance to the wat. The "secret passage" is simply a matter of stepping down off the concrete into the bushes on the side of the gate, then pulling myself back up onto the sidewalk on the other side.

The road to the main gate leads off directly to my left, but I walk straight ahead across the white bridge. There's a concrete statue of a cobra next to the bridge, for no apparent reason. Usually this part of the wat is deserted, but this morning there was a local man fishing off the bridge. He's not at all supposed to do that, but I can understand the appeal - there are huge catfish here thanks to the tradition of feeding the wat fish for good luck.

The bridge takes me to the gravel path that leads through the men's area. Technically, I'm not supposed to go through there, but the alternative is to go quite far out of my way and cross through one of the sacred buildings. So long as it's not when they're supposed to be sleeping, I figure it's alright.

The path curves to the left. The wat grounds are covered with a variety of trees, some of which are labeled in both Thai and English, such as the cinnamon tree. The roosters and hens peck along the road and the rooster noisly declare themselves over and over as I walk by. Occasionally I see one rooster who somehow has settled onto a branch that's 6 feet in the air.

I pass the gorgeous white hall where evening chanting is held, cross a bridge with white concrete railings and paved with slippery red tiles, and pass between the tower with the drum and bell that's used to tell the monks the time and the complex of five white buildings where Phra Bart teaches meditation (in the inside balcony of the middle builing, up the stairs with the elephant statues, through the wooden doors on the left). Another bridge, almost identical to the one before it, and I face the mini-mart, the social hub, such as it is, of the wat.

I follow the road to the left, past the women's salla (dormitory) and over a paved road-bridge. In front of me is a huge gravel lot of the wat. The two university buildings are to the left of the lot, the cafeteria is in front of me, and the entrance to the monk's dormitory area is to the right. Here I see the first signs of other people on the grounds - a line of monks either going to or coming from breakfast, depending on how early I left the Trina House. I wait until they finish crossing, wai-ing as needed, then walk around to the back side of the grand building to where the workers eat, near the kitchen. I leave my sandals at the entrance and go through the yellow doors to the left. It's labeled "VIP Room," but usually it's just us volunteers here for breakfast. If there's no food on the table already, I follow the routine. I sit on the faded floral sofa outside the yellow doors and look confused and hungry. One of the kitchen workers usually notices us and brings a serving of whatever is for breakfast. I follow her into the VIP room and take a cup of water to the seat where she's set my breakfast down. This morning we had my favorite wat-breakfast - small Chinese noodles with cabbage. I stab the little plastic straw through the plastic seal stretched over the top of the cup of water, wipe the sweat off my face, and settle in to enjoy my breakfast. Or at least try to identify it.

In Which I Have Too Much Free Time

It's Friday afternoon here in Thailand.

As expected, we had a small turnout for English class this morning. Eunice and I reviewed pronouns, went over the use of do/does/would, and played a modified version of Taboo.

Phra Bart cancelled all meditation classes for this afternoon, and there's no community class on Fridays. So, here I am at 1:30 pm with absolutely nothing to do for the rest of the day.


I've already been online for a while. I did some research for our shopping trip tomorrow. I have some more things I wanted to get before leaving Thailand and Eunice, Oscar, and Sean are all up for a daytrip, so we're heading to Bangkok tomorrow. Paul is leaving for Bangkok tonight - he flies home on Saturday, but he's going to meet up with us in Bangkok to hang out again for a little bit.

We're going to the granddaddy of markets in Bangkok - Chatuchak market. They say you can find anything and everything (including some endangered animals for sale, although they've been cracking down on that) in the market that has over 6000 stalls over a space of 5 football fields. I've got a pretty specific list of items to find, which should make the experience more doable.

I also wanted to find an English bookstore to tide me over for the last week. I've been reading the items I happened to have on my iPhone Kindle app, which means this week I've been re-reading all of L.M. Montgomery's works. I'm reading at a rate of a book a day, which doesn't bode well for my supplies lasting.

In my research, I noticed that two of the Thai bookstores that are known for having a decent English section were located in "Siam Paragon". It turns out that that's this huge luxury mall - it has a full aquarium in the basement, an international grocery store and food court, and a movie theater on the fifth floor that includes an 8-story-tall Imax screen. Dude. I'm willing to bet that it's also totally air conditioned.

It wasn't too hard to talk Eunice into taking a side trip to there after our market excursion. I don't know about the boys; they're talking more along the getting-a-tattoo-on-Kao-San-Road route. We can branch off, though, and get back to the wat on our own.


In any case, I've done the necessary research, I firgured out how to ask the kitchen staff for a Bento Box for my dinner tonight all by myself (desperation drove me to it - I've had Ramen and a yogurt for dinner four times this week), and all I have to entertain me for the hours and hours between now and bedtime is... yet another L.M. Montgomery novel? Rewatch a few episodes of "QI" on my laptop? Sew? I don't know.

It's annoying how far away this wat is from anything else.