Monday, March 05, 2007

I don't know if this country is going to let me out alive. If it does, I will be on a plane tomorrow morning at eleven a.m., and back home a day and half later. Until then I'll continue to go crazy getting everything ready. This whole ending process is rather anticlimactic, and I hate to say it, but I'm just ready for it to be over. No big ordeals necessary, no massive emotional flourishes. I've said my goodbyes and I've packed my bags. I've eaten my last meal (fried rice, boring), and I've taken my final pictures. So I guess that's it. Study abroad you say? Well it's done.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Winding up quick here, folks. As of today I only have nine days left in this godforsaken country. Things have been going, in a word, well. Not a whole lot to report on. I've managed to work myself into a nice groove between work/gym/reading/sleeping to the point where that's about all I do, which helps the time to fly by. On Friday (as in, two days ago) I went back to Mae Ta with Ryan (fellow K student) and Pookie (Thai). We went to Mae Ta five months ago for our first field course, so we thought we'd go back and spend a little time there with our old host families. It was a good trip. The ride there was amazing -- lying in the back of a pickup truck, driving through wooded mountains at night, looking out and seeing the dark forms of the mountains cut open with perfectly straight lines of fire, which everyone had set in order to prevent massive fires from ravaging the whole forest when the season only gets hotter and dryer. It was fairly breathtaking. When we got into Mae Ta later that night, Ryan and my host family (we had the same one, though at different times) was excited to see us, which was reassuring. Shortly into our stay, however, our host dad asked Ryan if his friend had ever been to Mae Ta, so we had to explain that I indeed had been to Mae Ta, and in fact had stayed with them. After we explained that, he remembered who I was and was doubly excited. The rest of the time was spent either eating their amazing food (which they grow, organically, themselves) and sleeping in various locations: Pookie's host family's farm, their house, my host family's house. It was stupidly lazy, at best. But still it was great to get back there and see them all again, not to mention the relief at them remembering who we were. Conversation was still fairly stilted, but they seemed okay with the silences, awkward as they were. We then left this morning bright and early, taking several song taews, cramped and uncomfortable, to get back home. And that was that.

I was going to take this space to relate a couple stories from the past week(s), but frankly I'm too lazy so I'll just cut the chase. The other day I was forced (not really) to open my apartment door with a credit card, which was both a supreme boost for my sense of resourcefulness as well as an equally sizeable knock against my sense of security, now knowing that I live in a place that can be easily opened by anyone with a thing piece of plastic and a little persistence. I've of course made new friends with the deadbolt.

The second story has to do with my experience at a copy shop the other day. I was at work and wanted to get a book copied (which you can do in Thailand, what with the whole lack of copyright law and everything (I love it)), so I walked the few blocks to the shop. I gave them the book and told them I had to have it back by the end of the day because I had to return it to my friend. I asked when it would be done and they said 12:30 (as in, noon). Unfortunately, I thought they said midnight, which simply would not do, so I basically argued with them for a few minutes to have them take longer on the book than they had to. They surely thought I was either crazy or just a jerk. I didn't realize my mistake until I had already left, and when I went back at 12:30, thinking maybe they just stuck to the plan despite my pleading to the contrary, they curtly replied, "No, five o'clock". Shows me right.

Like I said, nine more days.

Monday, February 19, 2007

I just posted another link: I just found it, but it seems to be a good place. There's great section for finding jobs/internships, which might be useful to some of you/us out there.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Oh boy -- not much going on on this front. Things have been pretty mundane the past couple weeks. As of today, I'm the only student from my group left in Chiang Mai, with the rest either home frozen in blocks of ice, or in Mae Sot, doing some humanitarian something or other. Me? I've been working at the organization that I spent my previous internship at, pulling another four-week stint or so. The work is interesting and engaging (though I can't tell ya what it is), even if it entails eight hour days spent combing the internet for information. Throw in a half hour noodle break, generous cups of coffee, and all-too-regular checks of email, Facebook, miscellaneous blogs, and the iTunes music store and there's my job. The most exciting discovery for me over the past week or so has been podcasts, which if you don't use, I recommend you do. They've been around for a couple of years or so by now, but I'll explain anyway: Basically, they're either audio or video episodes that anyone can put on iTunes and you can download them for free. You can subscribe to one, and then every day it checks for updates and automatically downloads a new one. You then put it on your iPod or just listen to it from the computer. The great thing is, a lot of major organizations with their hearts in the right place take advantage of this great medium to spread their content for free. A novel thought indeed. So that means you can find a ton of news and other types of shows from NPR, BBC, New York Times, ABC, on and on and on. I'm simply addicted, especially to the NPR quiz show Wait Wait... Don't Tell Me!. It's great for those of us who are still relatively media deprived abroad. Anyway, I'll end my podcast soapboxing there, and will leave you with a slightly more corporate blog than before.

Highlights from the past couple weeks:

A trip to Mae Sot last weekend to renew my visa. Mae Sot is a border town, on the border between Thailand and Burma. It's a pretty small place, so we all rented bikes to get around. The end result was an ecstatic midnight bike ride through the empty sullen streets that stands out as one of the more enjoyable times here in recent memory. The downside to this all was that the next day I still had to go to Burma, which never fails to just make me feel sick and haunted.

Today a moment of the bizarre: as I was walking back from the gym down one of the side streets, I noticed a traffic cop in a little smart car sort of deal, which turned out to be just a more official looking modification of a tuk tuk (itself a modified three-wheel motorcycle in an open-air cabin). The cop was driving down the road, which was packed with cars and people, blowing his furiously blowing his whistle. But that's all he was doing. Just long metallic blasts every five seconds or so -- no motion, no explanation, no wavering from his course down the road. I just kind of starred in bafflement for a little while, still walking, impatient to get home. From what I could tell, everyone else around wasn't really sure what was going on either, and everyone either ignored him or shot a puzzled sidelong glance. Once he passed me and reached the mainroad, he turned around and continued back where he came from. I tried my best to stay deliberately in front of him out of sheer annoyance, though he managed to get around my muscular frame. Once he was no more than seventy yards from the point where he last turned around, he pulled into a parking lot and turned around again, heading back down the road in the same way he was going originally. It was absolutely absurd and baffling. He was doing nothing of observable effect, just mozying on down the road, hellbent on maintaining some oddball sense of order.

The thing is, living in this place, as confusing and random as something like that can seem, you still reach a point where you cease to be surprised, and in some ways come to expect it.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

This is for Quinn's grandma -- you know what to do with it. Thanks!

As for the rest of you, you'll just have to be patient.