This morning we began with Thai lessons. Oh, it was strange! There are some sounds I just can't seem to get my mouth to make, and some that I just can't hear the difference between. Even J.J. pointed out the difficulty between, for instance, these words (which I'll write here with the phonetic spelling she gave):
"khai" - We
"khai" - sell
"khai" - eggs
"gai" - chicken
The lesson was really a barrage of new words and phrases - we wrote down our best phonetic recreations of some fifty words. It was way too many at once to retain, but I've gotten down "Hello" and "Thank you," although that one took a few tries. When we were leaving a museum in the afternoon, I turned back and told the ladies "Korp kan kaa!" They just blinked back at me. I turned to J.J., "Right?"
She shook her head - "Khop kuhn kaa."
Whoops. (It reminded me of the time I tried to thank somebody in a store outside of Ephesus, and I substituted the middle three syllables of the phrase with the name of the city by mistake. The poor baffled clerk had no idea what I was trying to say, and Jason just stood next to me, smothering a laugh. Still, I have learned that sometimes you just have to jump in with both feet in a new language and expect that you will get it totally wrong.)
I hope to conquer "Excuse me" and the numbers 1-10 next.
After lunch at the EcoHouse, we headed out to the sights of Sing Buri town. We saw the monument to war heroes and a temple of a reclining Buddha before heading to the main street in town. There's a large department store there with a beauty parlor, food court, a KFC, clothing, shoes, housewares, a grocery store, a Dairy Queen, and air conditioning. Hurrah!
Leonie (the German girl), Jenna, and I walked out to the main street again and wandered through the market first. There were stalls of clothes, toys, shoes, and all kinds of foods - fish filleted in a variety of ways, sweet-smelling egg-battery pancake=like things, fried snacks galore, and all kinds of vegetables.
We then went back to the department store. I bought a towel there because I decided that if I was going to be showering two times a day, I didn't want to struggle drying off with my microfiber traveler's towel anymore. The prices there were outrageous by Thai standards - the towel was on sale for $9! (Totally worth it, though.)
I then pulled them into the grocery store part of the store, explaining that I enjoy wandering through foreign groceries. It was fascinating, and I'll have to make another trip before I leave for some goodies to share back home. They had canned rambutan and leechees! Pringles that were "lemon and sesame" flavored! An entire aisle of soy sauce!
I did buy a bucket of dried prunes, though, in my attempts to stay healthy. That should help, right? The tricky part will be keeping the ants from discovering it, though.
Following that excitement, I declared it to be ice cream time. We each got a treat at the Dairy Queen booth there (I had a dipped cone) and sat in the food court for a while people watching. I tried to figure out how the food court worked - it seemed that you went up to a booth first and bought "coupons", which you then exchanged for food at whichever booth you chose. I might have to give it a whirl if I'm there on a weekend.
Jenna kept mentioning how strange it felt to be stared at. Sure, we were the only white people there and I'm sure they don't get a lot of tourists out here, but I think her outfit was attracting a lot more attention than our race. My constant shock and embarrassment on their behalf at the immodesty of the clothes of Jenna and the Dutch girls most be certain signs of my dottering old age.
I'm back in the canteen area now, enjoying a breeze from a fan aimed directly at me.
I am varying in my feelings about this whole trip quite a lot each day. It feels like I've been here forever, so to think that I am only 1/10 of the way through is daunting. I'm really glad I've got the time divided up - it's much more manageable to think of it in terms of one week of orientation, one week at the orphanage, and then the three weeks of whatever it will be like at the wat but I'll think about that when I have to.
As you may have noticed (from my constant complaining :) ) the heat is getting to me. I focus on the things I look forward to for relief - the open-truck rides to and from places, night times in the canteen in front of the fan, cold showers, etc. I stick to my travel rule, too, of being allowed to buy as much water as I want whenever I want (enacted after the great dehydration incident in Scotland), which means I can treat myself to cold water whenever I come across it, even if I have a half-full bottle of tepid water in my bag. The bugs are certainly biting, but sweat actually keeps the bites from itching as much as usual. The constant smell of incense is annoying.
Still, there are also moments where I am very, very glad to be here. I chalk my low swings to that foreign-disorientation that can happen. I long for familiar travel - Pueblo Ingles, for example. Spain certainly isn't strange anymore. Things are just so very different here that it's hard for me to feel comfortable.
I lost a point of focus with those last few paragraphs. I guess the essence of what I'm rambling on about is that I'm not altogether comfortable here, at times I wish I had only booked a one-or-two week tour, but I think I'm slowly adapting and will be fine. Hot, but fine.
Thanks for putting up with my complaints, though!