Monday, November 30, 2009

send cash! and cookies!

My address until March:

Casimira Younger
Udomrat Residence, Room 403
11/10 Naresuan Road
T. Pratoochai
A. Phranakorn Si Ayutthaya
Ayutthaya, Thailand 13000

Sunday, November 22, 2009

welcome to sin city

Prostitution and "sex-tourism" are booming all over Thailand, but Pattaya seems to be the mecca for such a trade; it is still the Navy-boy hot spot that it was 30 years ago, and now excels at drawing old, fat, perverted men from all over the world (mainly Eastern Europe) to join the young soldiers in their sexcapades. Go-go bars and caberets line the streets, and overweight white men walk hand in hand with atttractive young Thais.

Prostitution is an ever-present evil that goes (surpringly) unchallenged in this country. Thai men and women [seem to] tolerate its presence, and even the farangs I work with claim it's "no big deal", saying things "are just different here"......

It's hard for me not to see the blatant injustice by objectifying, selling, and abusing women, not to mention its ties to the wider issues of third-world poverty and gender inequality, so I don't exactly accept the vindication of culturally-moral relativism. While prostitution is technically "illegal" in Thailand, anyone that takes a stroll down Walking Street will immediately recognize that not only is it legal, but flourishing, acceptable, and highly profitable.

Prostitution's presence in a society that is not only devout Buddhist, but also prudish and conservative in many respects , is one of the many paradoxes that keeps Thailand interesting. For this reason alone, and because I didn't want to be downer all weekend, I swallowed my liberal snobbery and heavy judgement, and became an accepting observer in the City of Sin this weekend.

they don't call it "International Meeting Street" for nothing

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

3,000 lanterns, 1 night.

these are fire lanterns, not stars.

As we watched 3,000 of them get released at the same time from the temple grounds, it was hard to remember what exactly reality was, where we were, and how we got there. Perhaps we had been transported into some astronomical dream on another world entirely. It was something inbetween outer space and lower levels of ocean floor: a dark place only visited by strange, bright and tiny creatures, glowing and scattered like stars, jellyfish, or Christmas lights, but with melodic Buddhist chants humming in the background. The lanterns, some attached with their own set of fireworks, caused them to skyrocket, mirroring shooting stars, but only feet away; beautiful, sparkling, and incredibly dangerous. The lanterns rose with grace, sent with blessings of hope and thanksgiving, and drifted towards other realms of the atmosphere, taken into Other hands. You could see the mass of them rise together and change directions, pulling west, then some, having already lost their fire, slowly floated down again.

Me: I think I've figured it all out. This ceremony is just symbolic of the cyclical nature of life and death, of karma and samsara. Of our beauty and yet our individual insignificance.
Brandon: Oh, really? I thought it was just about man's obsession with lighting shit on fire.

Either way, it blew my mind.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Teaching English in the Old City

When I told people I was moving to Ayutthaya, reactions came from all ends of the spectrum. Some insisted it was the “Must-See City” of Thailand, while Joe called it “the loneliest place” he’s ever been. David at least tried to hide his concern when he said “Don’t worry, if you hate it, I can find you a job in Chiang Mai in no time… But,uh, I’m sure you won’t hate it.”

But so far I haven’t had too much to complain about. My apartment is perfectly situated between “Soi Farang” on one side -overrun with backpackers, bars, and white people - and to my west lies an array of eerie, silent, ancient ruins. I have air-con, my own balcony, and even a big girl bed – something that I’ve desperately coveted after 4 years of dorm and community living.

Not to say I haven’t already noticed some differences between Ayutthaya and Chiang Mai. The sun is stronger here, it’s not overrun by temples– and there’s no omlette lady on my corner to serve me a 12-baht breakfast (perhaps the saddest thing of all). Also, the people don’t seem quite as intrigued by farangs. Meaning: theyre not interested at all. Menus are only in Thai, and when I ask for my som dtamm at a road stand vendor, it feels like I'm bothering her. Chiang Mai definitely holds a special place in my heart. I’ve spent the past 2 months experiencing Northern Thai culture and attempting Chiang Mai dialect (different from Thai), which proves useless in Central Thailand. Today at lunch over som dtaam and sticky rice, my school's administrator told me that I “eat like a [Thai] Northerner”, and although I don’t know if she meant it as a compliment, I took it as one.

Also, yesterday was my first day teaching English (officially). I got through the day without crying, freaking out, or scaring any children – so I’ll call it a good day. I have P1 through P5 (about 1st through 5th grade) and today my P2's were just a bundle of energy, and pretty fun to hang out with. My schedule is crazy easy compared to my other farang teacher friends, so, again... somehow, I lucked out.
Ayutthaya: so far so good.

I haven't taken any good photography of this city so far, so, just for kicks, here is a picture of me spooning a tiger. And Hannah, don't worry, the tiger was only slightly better at being "little spoon" than you. :)