Sunday, June 7, 2009

The Warehouse

The flourescent glare of the 4 am fish warehouse. Long sluices of dirty ice bearing the load of trawling nets slide down the industrial channels of highly polished steel. A man in black rubber gloves hoses beneath the chutes, barely missing the feet of the women in pink aprons who scatter the fish into many baskets.

The filing system of their fingers, the steady rhythm of their darting hands. They draw the fish glacé toward them with green spatulas with a long sweeping draw, followed by the thud of cold flesh on the conveyer belt.

White wellingtons dart about everywhere. Here a pair throws red baskets of herring toward a truck, while another pair waits to load it amongst the sardines and perch and grouper. Another pair of boots is weighing two large mackerels on a pal green scale, streaked with crusty streams of blood.

Water everywhere. Rinsing baskets, dousing sorting trays, the enormous mound of ice. And everywhere, carefully orchestrated, fish suffocating.

Broken chunks of ice sit like burgs against the garish reflection of neon light now swimming across the floor. The women stack while the men haul, baskets perpetually in motion.

The sun begins to pour in, between the tangle of halogen lights atop the trawler boats, which prematurely crafted dawn for the confused cephalopods who drifted calmly into their expectant nets. Those same bones now jumble the alley next door, where street dogs fight for a share of the clutter of cuttlefish. The halogen bulbs reflect the neon of the warehouse and everywhere the murky water catches the many lights.

Nobody is smiling. Crouched amongst many crates of cuttlefish, an old woman slices them open, scoops out their chalky bones from the translucent flesh, tosses the remains for her don to disembowl across the room. The heads of milky jellyfish bob in bubbling buckets of sea water, def by the full whirr of the motorcycle engine pumping from the ocean below. The floor vibrates from the hum of the motor, shaking the baskets of fish heads, peering out with glassy eyeballs, slapping against one another.

A cat sits by, anticipating earnestly the thud and the splatter of the next knife load of fish. The rare, poorly aimed fish tail hits the wooden floorboard and it pounces, scurries away. It barely misses the grimey wheels of the sardine laden dolly pushed by a pair of white wellingtons stained crimson on the heels.

Somewhere in the warehouse, a child is calmly singing, an unsettling sort of melody lain over the gutteral symphony of morning fish.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Sea salt, surf landings and scarves

It's hard to capture the past twenty four hours in words. They can't do justice to the multisensory elation that evolved in every moment. They can't paint an image of the malleable skies which cloaked us as we lay cradled in the sand. I think these words are bound to fail for, ultimately, they are static and explicit and permanent. They are pinned to the page and they clutch a moment beneath them which is infinitely bigger than the flimsy paper or the spidery slivers of ink.

And yet, though I see their essential inadequacy, I am compelled to try to convince them, through the impertinent proddings of my single pen, to sketch a hazy silhouette of the moments which led to this at hand.

But where to begin? The twenty four hours I spoke of is relative - I have no watch or measurement of time, but for my experience of it, (which after all may be more accurate.)

Let's start on the beach.

The sand was bright and squeaked when we trod, though remained silent beneath the scuttle of infinite crabs. Ghost crabs, hermit crabs, orange, teal and purple crabs; horseshoe crabs, samurai crabs, rock-clinging, sand-slinging, runaway crabs; crabs which dove deep in the sand and crabs which threatened to bite my hand. A resplendent rainbow of crabs. I sat amongst the many crustaceans, knowing many more scampered in the beach below me, and lazily picked at a cheap guitar, trying to piece together China Doll, before failing and falling back into the surf. I threw myself into the waves time and time again, though perhaps no plunge was more joyous than that I took at the end of my essay. Six hot hours and ten messy pages; conclusion: sprint toward the sea.

Somehow the salt of the churning ocean swept away that of my furrowed brow and held me aloft in the gloaming sunlight, troubles ebbing with the vanishing of the day. Before the light pulled itself under the horizon, I rose out of the waves to sit by my tent and tease that guitar with the few chords I know, feeling the strings' sigh in the resonance of dissatisfaction. I let it fall into more capable hands. I'm more adept at losing myself in the swirling palette of the sunset horizon.

Nameless hues of the sun's farewell splashed on the clouds and the kayaks and our cheeks. Yet kindred colors soon reappeared as a campfire was encouraged to roar while feasting upon dried and drifted branches. The lingering scent of smoky mackerel, the crackle of branches alight. Sand shook onto my shoulders and returned to the beach as I spun dizzy, eyes hooked upon the evening's spangles, trying to launch myself vainly into the stars. Ever terrestrial, my mind soared skyward and amongst the confusion of clusters of constellations I drifted, rocked by the cacophony of the waves' crash.

Upon waking, I found the morning quiet and the cirrus stretched faintly o'er the periwinkle light. Tents were stirring all around, a few already collapsing in on themselves and packing into carefully labeled sacks. My clothes were damp from unexpected dew, on the tree where they'd been drying for hours the day before. They too slipped themselves into my pack's reeking compartments, as bags all around ushered in those sandy vestures of their own. Soon even the drowsier tents vanished, their zips and cords filed into bags, which slipped into barrels, which stacked neatly on the deck of the eager boat.

The sun rose over rows of herded possessions. A stack of lifevests, lines of kayaks, each equipped with tidy sprayskirt and patient paddle. A barrel for breakfast, duffelbags of dinner, containers of snorkels and fins and masks. We arranged the equipment in careful lines like the tiny crabs who push spheres of sand in radial patterns from the nexus of their home. In the low tide, the whole shore is embroidered by their labors. By early morning, we left them in peace to weave.

Making our way over open waters, out boats sought the shade of a thickety mangrove. We paddled quietly in the calm of morning. As if we were strolling the Champs Elysées, its precocious trees towering o'er passers by, so we sauntered through the wide mouth of the mangrove. The brackish waters slapped the heads of our kayaks while mosquitoes permeated tiny strips of exposed skin. We moved steadily through the calm mouth of the mangrove before turning down a narrow alley to the left. There were signs at every fork in the tangle of sea trees; the sign we chose was pale blue and peeling like birch bark from its waterlogged wood.

The passage was thick: thick with color, thick with roots, thick with insects, thick air. No one spoke as we navigated slowly around the spidery root systems and gnarly, snail-studded branches. Tiny crabs scuttled about in the gritty umber mud, held aloft by the cage of roots. I thought of the men weaving together crab traps of their own on the beaches. The light was dappled and cast curious shadows on our faces as we tried to absorb the engulfing environment. But it absorbed us. 10 meters away, a stranger could never see us. We were hidden by the dense and determined vegetation, which camouflaged us quickly as slapping roots and snapping branches coated us in mud and salt and twigs.

We emerged in to the sea once more and were dazzled by the noon time sun on the labyrinth of jutting karst before us. Everywhere on the horizon, craggy outlines of cliffs and the frothy excitement of the ocean dancing around. We cut the waves with our paddles and headed toward the largest cliff, streaked cream, charcoal, sienna, beige, tan and infinite shades of ancient cockles and cowries. This Jackson Pollack painting of a rock loomed above as we clumsily attempted surf landings. We bobbed amongst the waves and crashed into the sand as the village before us busied itself in preparation.

The deep gouges we left in the sand when we dragged our kayaks framed the faded scraps of wrappers and shoes scattered along the beach. They led up to the grove of pine beyond, where we lined up our boats and lifevests and selves to wait for our families to collect us all. Salty and sunned from days on the ocean, we glanced at one another's kayak attire, as our Mother's approached in long skirts, best shirts and delicate veils. The judgement in the air was palpable. I tucked my three day braids under a bandanna and smiled as a woman claimed me. She took me by the hand, led me to the shade and I mounted on her scooter: backpack on, snorkel in one hand, PFD in the other.

Gravel crunched beneath our weight as we made our way home. I was overwhelmed by the distinct sounds of terrestrial existence. I listened to the whirr of the engine, the yelp of dogs, the rustling of branches, the squeak of brakes on the blazingly warm road; engulfed in a shroud of forgotten sounds, I set off for the beloved unknown.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Kaow Tom

This may be gonzo at its finest. 6 am, thrust into the back of a beat up Mazda, wedged between an enormous crockpot of meaty soup and an old woman, completely unknown. An hour of stifling smog, the stench of pork, somewhere the sun rising behind the lounging veil of exhaust. The red Mazda pulls into a bank parking lot - surely not here? - but the soup unloads itself and soon is pouring down the nicotine-charred throats of men. Wheels of pick up trucks somehow gleam without the sun but soon fade beside the chrome and spokes of the bikes whose motors growl and slowly turn the bank into a cacophonous riot. Not to be outdone by the smog from the engines, their men breathe forth signals of Camel and LP and Winston. As they mount their metal mares, with the swagger of brackish cowboys, the swirls of smoke dissipate and the wheels begin to whirl. The motors and their men vanish, slurped up by the horizon, much like the soup now lying in dregs in the parking lot.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009


I got new glasses. Fun!

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Stars and Scars

Today I was a small child. My mother taught me to weave and fed me small candies as I watched. I sat in the sunshine playing Uno with my sisters and the youngest obviously cheated. She bent the rules and her cards and the mat we sat on as she wriggled and squirmed in delight.

We played football in the mud and got ourselves filthy before each of us was sent off to bathe. We clambered out of the shower and immediately started to play again, before our Mother called us back into the house to eat. We sat with legs sprawled slurping up noodles and each of us splattered our shirts with yellow sauce. I ate with my fingers and licked each one happily to savor every moment of flavor. Then we ran back down the steep driveway to find Da Phoam and To Phay to play. We gathered in a garden and pretended to be animals of every type. First, we were elephants with bellowing trunks, then monkeys scampering up all of the trees. Then we were chickens and dogs and lions and frogs and many other animals I didn't know the name of but still pretended to be, running around the dirt and clambering on all fours.

Then we played a little duck-duck-goose and hand-clapping games as a grandmother silently looked on. She sat with her loom, weaving a bright blue shirt and her husband made fun of my skirt as it kept falling while chasing the other children around. We tired of our frolicking and came back to my house, where the older children were playing Uno once more. Each of the toddlers sat in the lap of an elder and we played until the sun finally set.

Then I say on a blanket in my Uncle's company, watching the moon rise and the birth of the stars. I asked, in wide eyed wonder, the names of the constellations in Karen and he brought out his grandfather to teach us. We sat drinking tea and stargazing for what seemed but a minute but soon I was being told it was time for bed.

So we climbed back up the driveway and I changed into pajamas before saying goodnight to my family and lying down in bed.

I hope tomorrow morning that I don't wake up as a 20 year old again. I like being this small very much.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

The Colors of Tired Fingers

My 5 year old sister's hands are stained bright blue from the pastel she clutches. Green streaks adorn her wrists and her cuticles are red from smearing the oily shades. My own nails are a leafy green at the tips from stripping pumpkin vines to make curry this morning and the pads of my fingers smart and swell from the nicking stab of the needle I grasped, clumsily, embroidering a shirt with white seeds. My mother's hands moved far more deftly, stitching succinctly, and no throbbing stab wounds emerged on her careful, callused digits. Her nails are short, cut off by her husband this afternoon, except for the left thumb which she uses to cut thread.

We sit on the floor of the kitchen with the wind faintly breezing through the cracks in the bamboo walls, as a daughter slurps on melon, which drips down her face and neck and arms. Its sticky orange residue clings to her tawny skin and almost seems to glow in the fractured gloaming light. Her uncle lies by the fire, his sooty fingers leaving a trail of smudge as he reads his translated Bible, occasionally tends to the coals. His face is so close to the pages, I can't imagine how he reads them, but every now and then he smiles and looks to us, happily around.

Outside, I hear my Father, lazily fixing his scooter, with the grime and oil of engine sinking into his etched palms. The starter isn't starting, the gasline may be broken, but between his thumbs and eyes and skills he'll soon have it purring away. He was working silently as I arrived in the village, nonplussed by the gargantuan truck which bore me and its sweaty palmed owner whose knuckles had turned white as we clambered along dirt roads, up and over the many and rugged mountains. He just stood up slowly and welcomed me, smiling, offering out his hand for me to greet and said 'Da Bleu.'

Monday, April 27, 2009

Switchbacks and Sticky Rice

Today was a fantastic merry-go-round of an adventure. We woke up at 6, to leave our apartments at 7, to make it to the bus station for the 8 am bus to Mae Hung Son. We remarkably arrived at the station with time to spare, only to find out that our bus wasn't going to leave until 9! So we spent a solid hour and a half stocking up on snacks for our 7 hour journey...

When we finally piled into the smallish bus, we found ourselves whizzing North into the mountains. We stopped a lot to pick up what seemed to be an impossible number of people and at our fullest, we had 43 people in a bus with 28 seats, including a baby, a TV, 2 charming French backpackers, an enormous spare tyre, monks galore and a bus conductor. We went through the Thai countryside with the wind rushing through our hair, as all the windows and both the doors were wide open and gloriously ushering in the breeze. I had my first goosebumps since coming to Thailand and shivered ecstatically as I watched the winding horizon of rice paddies slip into the clouds.

A little girl sat in front of me and another to her right. Both had painted toenails, which they wiggled in their mothers' laps. A woman standing near me, with teeth rotten out from beetle nut, peered curiously at my giggles as Johnny and I talked and talked and talked. We waltzed our way from juice to swingsets, from origami to youTube to Chaaaaaarlie; all while spinning a glistening web of conversation with we basked in and glowed azure amongst the drowsy travellers surrounding. We ate sticky rice and green beans and cabbage and pork and these crazy Thai desserts called 'mini sun marbles.' The sun filled our mouths and our hearts and our dreams - though not for long. When I fell asleep with my head out the window, Johnny awoke and pulled me inside. Dreaming in the wind while mountains race by is dangerous.

But I woke up to switchbacks and fabulous PINE TREES, the sour smell of forest and the delight of craggy cliffs. We peltered up and over countless mountains, dropping 400m, rising 200m, falling 300m, climbing 600m. Altitude became irrelevant as I soared into elation and threw my hands in the air for anticipation of the plummet over the oncoming winding bend.Then the cramp of the seats got to me and I moved backward in the now emptier bus, to drape myself over the enormous spare tyre and nap between those backpacks and legs of travellers loved and unknown.

I awoke to a screech - a brake? Confusion. Reverse. The conductor hops out. Returning to the smile of the driver, so reckless, he carried a road-killed snake twisted up in to a knot. It hung limp like the bags spilling out of the luggage racks and we threw it in a bag - for dinner? We went on our way.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Things I've Learned in Thailand

(transcribed, as always, from my wonderful little notebook)

1. Always carry a book. You never know when you're going to be left in a car, field or neighbor's house for 40 minutes without warning.

2. Avoid copious consumption of bananas and sticky rice. Sometimes you won't even know you're eating them - they may be hidden in banana leaves or coconut. But they're everywhere. And lethal.

3. Ant eggs are as gross tasting as they seem.

4. Always accept rides from strangers in your neighborhood, lest they tell your host family that you're ungrateful and/or hostile.

5. When in doubt, wai and smile.

6. A little air pollution builds character. A lot of air pollution must be doing me wonders.

7. Kittens are not cute. They are, in fact, rabid.

8. Coming to Thailand with blonde hair is an open invitation for anyone and everyone to touch it/smell it/ drape it over their own heads.

9. I'm currently sitting in a car while 2 men try to change the tyre and my host mother won't let me out. This is totally normal.

10. I am the spitting image of both the Mona Lisa and Princess Mary of Denmark.

11. Stop signs are optional. Honking your horn will suffice.

12. Life is a gastrointestinal rollercoaster.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Ant Eggs. *shudder*

Ah. Today was the day I've been dreading since my arrival in Thailand. ANT EGG DAY. ugh.

I have been hearing from my friends over the past few weeks about their experiences being served ant eggs; I was hoping that my family would have done so by now if they intended to do so, but I don't seem to be quite so lucky. I shouldn't complain, really, as ant eggs are quite expensive and considered a true delicacy in Thailand; yet for all my attempts to relinquish my cultural prejudices, I seem to draw the line at consuming ant eggs.

However, that line wasn't mine to draw. So, tonight, for dinner, my mae was incredibly excited that she was able to afford enough ant eggs to serve them for dinner. She prepared them in three different dishes and from each one their luminescent coats taunted me as I plunged forth with my apprehensive spoon.

Ant eggs resemble maggots and if they're disconcerting when peering out from an otherwise fantastic omelette, it's nothing to how they look before being cooked. Mounds of ant eggs are swarmed my their parents, scuttling around and tending to their precious young. It was somehow tragic to watch my mae plucky them off so we could thrust their offspring into an expectant pot of boiling water. But, much to my chagrin, the fried chicken, which is usually served with all our meals, was painfully absent this evening. So I had no choice but to take my fill of the egg-laced dishes before me. The dishes were actually quite tasty, though I'm not sure what the eggs actually taste like, as I swallowed them immediately to prevent myself from gagging. (Luckily, their maggot-like consistency makes them easy to hawk down without chewing.) Though, it took all the strength I could muster not to scream as I bit down on one of them accidentally. In my shock, mostly at the worm-like texture of the egg, I didn't process the flavor of the exploding larva in my mouth; instinctually, I reached for my class of water and began gulping in fervor.

Somehow, I managed to eat my way through enough of the dishes to convince my mae that I was appreciative of her generous gesture. (Though, I don't think she knows that soon after I vomited, little to my surprise!) All I can say now is that at least I've tried them and can say for certain, that they're better than deep fried crickets!!

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Welcome to the Jungle

This weekend, we went up to Doi Suthep National Forest and spent 3 days relaxing in beautiful surroundings.

On our way up to the forest, which is about an hour and a half NE of Chiang Mai, we stopped at a reservoir to take our swim test. I was mildly apprehensive, as the last time I'd any particular distance was the summer I started at Hamilton and took their swim test! However, I managed to swim the 300m across the lake and trod water for fifteen minutes with little difficulty. We then played around in the water, jousting and capsizing one another with paddleboards and generally goobing around in the water.

We then continued onward, driving in multiple vans to breathtaking Doi Suthep. We had reserved a large area for the weekend, nestled between two waterfalls and surrounded by dense jungle as far as the eye could see. We had four spacious cabins, as well as a 'salla' in which to cook and congregate, so we weren't exactly roughing it!

We spent the weekend getting to know one another better and spending time with the staff of ISDSI. I spent many hours playing volleyball, 'adventuring' down the river with Ajaan Mark's daughter, Lydia, and playing countless games of frisbee. We went up to the larger waterfall, Mork Fa, on several occastion and whiled away the hours playing somewhat belligerent games of frisbee beneath the refreshing rumble of the churning waterfall. In the evenings, we had spectacular bonfires, which the Forest Service rangers kindly set up for us each day. We played several rounds of Birdie on a Perch, but Melissa, Ben and I couldn't muster enough support for an epic game of capture the flag! But we relaxed by the fire well into the night, with many of us singing along to songs played on the guitar Pi Dana had brought along. On the last night, we spent a long time singing Irish folk songs, as Ajaan Mark and Pi Dana play in an Irish band together, here in Chiang Mai!! There were many exuberant rounds of 'What Shall We Do with the Drunken Sailor.....'

We were particularly excited by our meals on the retreat, as there was a seemingly endless supply of bread, Nutella and peanut butter!(I haven't had bread since leaving the US and have been craving it on a near daily basis!) We even had Thai style Oreos, that taste mildly of coffee, which we naturally smothered in PB and Nutella!

On our final morning, we went for a great hike through the jungle, led by a local guide from the Park Service. He showed us hot the villagers harvest bamboo sustainably for their firewood and how they gather mealworms from within the bamboo's trunk. We saw wild mulberry trees and tried sour berries which make you think that water tastes really sweet. I almost fell over in shock upon seeing a spider, vivid yellow and as big as the palm of my hand. We learned about the 'hell tree,' which adulterous men in Buddhist villages are sometimes forced to climb. We also inspected the deep grooves of a gnarled up tree, whence the poison of darts originates.

By the end of the weekend, we were loathe to leave, but excited to know that we'll be living in such wilderness in only three more weeks! Until then, I just need to work out how to speak Thai (not an easy task, I swear!)

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Bruised Elbows and Dirty Socks

(transcribed from the fabulous wee notebook)

Wow. I just got back from an AMAZING day of rock climbing. We all piled into 2 rot dangs (our beloved red buses, run by the mafia) and drove 45 minutes out of Chiang Mai to a place called Crazy Horse. It's known by this name because at the top of the cliffs, there is a rock formation which look somewhat like a horse. (I couldn't see the resemblance... maybe you will?) We got there at about 9 and split into two groups (the Tigers and the Monkeys, each complete with team cheers and hand signals!) We then split up and headed out to different parts of the cliffs.

Our group, the Tigers, headed over to some of the easier routes to get warmed up and started ascending with a great deal of enthusiasm. I've only ever climbed on indoor walls, so I was particularly excited to clamber up my first real rock. My friend Ben and I were sharing shoes (there were limited numbers of various sizes) so I started out just belaying him as he raced up the wall with incredible finesse. I wasn't quite so suave in my climb, but I was really excited that I made it to the top. There were some really tricky parts, including avoiding bees nests, but I let out our team's roar when I made it to the top! The French climbers who were further down the cliffs gave us quite strange looks as we let out growls and roars all the way up!!

(starting the climb)

(treacherous bees' nests)

After a few gorgeous climbs up the rocks (the views from the top were absolutely amazing,) we headed back down to the basecamp to have ourselves a quintessential Thai lunch of fried rice and spicy chicken! Pi Aaron (one of the trip leaders) and John (a NOLS leader we recruited a week ago) were with our group and regailed us with hilarious stories of Critical Mass and John's attempts to become a Mai Thai pro!

Then, after lunch, we headed up to the caves in the cliff for an exciting afternoon of spelunking! We began by hiking pretty high up to reach the caves, before climbing a small cliff to reach the mouth of the caves. From this point, we each began a Tyrolean Traverse across the gorge of the cave. A Tyrolean Traverse is somehwat like a zipline, but using caribeners, rather than a zipline device. Once we traversed about 100m we switched over onto a new belay device and rappeled down another 100m!! (A rappel is when you lower yourself down on a self-controlled belay device, generally through thin air. Awesome!) Once we had lowered ourselves down, we found ourselves in a stunning cave, with beautiful sunlight pouring in from a hole far above where we'd entered the cave. We hung out for about an hour, waiting for everyone to make it across, and then hiked onward to another cave. In this cave, we talked about the formations of caves and stalactites, and paid respect to the Buddha who lives in the cave. This cave is a haven for traveling monks, so there were lots of candles and rings of stones, from where they stayed to rest.

By the end of all this, we were pretty filthy, so we were quite a bedraggled bunch as we headed back to ISDSI in our rot dang. Our host parents then picked us up and we headed back home for a very Thai weekend!!!

(I'll add some pictures to this as soon as I can find a camera cable to upload my pictures! You'll be able to get a better idea of how amazing the climbing was!)

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Mealworms and Meatballs

The other day we went on an interesting scavenger hunt at Kat Luang, a huge market in Chiang Mai. We were paired off and given a list of things to find. It sounded like a fairly simple task, until we were handed the list and realized that it was entirely written in Thai. Though it was transliterated into the Roman alphabet, we had absolutely no idea what we were looking for, given our severely limited grasp of Thai. 

Nevertheless, Ally and I set off with confidence and began searching for the various items, some of which we were instructed to taste and describe. Luckily, we learned how to ask 'yu ti nai?' (where is....?) in class this morning, so we were able to ask some of the vendors how to find some of the items. (Though we managed to mispronounce almost everything, as we don't really have a great grasp of Thai tones yet.) As we worked out way through the list of items we were to find, we soon found out that our teachers intended for us to try some of the more 'exotic' offerings of Chiang Mai cuisine. We tried deep fried mealworms, deep fried pate, honey balls and a spicy local sausage. They weren't the most delicious foods I've tried thus far in Thailand, but I'm glad I've tried them at least.

As if one excursion to the market in search of bizarre foods wasn't enough for the day, my mae took me to the Night Market that evening, in Mae Lim (the village where we live.) My mae bought me a rose for Valentine's Day, even though it wasn't actually the day. (Apparently they actually celebrate Valentine's Day here!) The market is really amazing - so many people seem to hang out there on a Friday night. I was amazed at the variety of snacks available on sticks. We saw BBQ chicken, pork, garlic cloves, fish, honey balls, sliced fruit, grilled chilies, pig knuckles and even grilled squid, all skewered onto bamboo! We bought what I thought were sausages on sticks, but when we got home I discovered that they're actually intestines stuffed with rice. I've become quite familiar with this process of stuffing intestines, actually, as my mae makes her own spicy sausages to sell at the market. She threads a washed intestine on to the end of a sliced soda bottle and then uses it to stuff chopped pork into the entrails. It was rather disconcerting at first, especially as I was eating at the time, but they sell for quite a bit at the market, so it makes sense to make your own.

Last weekend, we went to the bulk market in the city and I got to see the butcher's who sell such offal. It was quite shocking to see lunch, livers and hearts laid out on ice, but the severed pig's head beside them nearly made me vomit! But the need to be rip roi (appropriate) held me back and I managed to keep it together by wandering over to the vegetable vendor across the street.

We go to the market fairly often, as my mae (pronounced mehh - smile when you say it) makes food everyday which we package up for her to sell at the market. I have yet to go with her to sell things at the market, but when we go to buy things, I ride on the back of her scooter, which is both thrilling and nerve wracking. Thai drivers are INSANE and drive all over the place, with little regard for lanes or turning signals or even helmets for that matter. Luckily, my mae is a fairly conservative driver, so we wear helmets and rarely come close to colliding with one of the surging army of vehicles which traverse Chiang Mai's freeways.

Thursday, February 5, 2009


(notes transcribed from my wonderful little book of everything)

I have a poor impression of LA. From above, it appeared to be a sprawling tumor, engulfing all the land the eye could see and bedecked in an array of flourescent lights. On the ground, the sparkling facade proved to be a labyrinth of concrete, tarmac and stalling cars. Arriving in an empty terminal, I wandered about aimlessly, trying to work out which terminal to go to or where to collect my boarding pass. (The enthusiastic, though unfortunately useless, ticket agent in Albuquerque had been unable to describe to me the process of locating the US airways ticketing desk in LA.) So, I wandered about the lazy terminal, looking for some clue as to how to change terminals. All I found was a California Pizza Kitchen, and tempting though it was, I decided to find my way to the right place before allowing myself some dinner! So, after guiltily giving my only quarter to some young boys collecting to prevent gang violence, I found my way on to a shuttle bus. Obviously, there were no seats left on the bus, so I sat hunched in the luggage rack as we creeped through the hellish traffic. As per the bus driver's instructions, I got off at terminal 1, only to find that my US air flight was actually run by Asiana arlines. With this valuable information, I was soon misdirected to terminals 3, 7 and 6 before getting to the international departures terminal and getting in a 40 minute long queue to collect my boarding pass. If hell is on earth, it's at LAX.

I am in the midst of a somewhat surreal experience. I am sitting in a Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf in the Seoul airport and just paid 3,800 of I'm not sure which currency, I'm ashamed to say, for a cup of coffee. Nevertheless, this is a distinct improvement over the glamourous, but deserted, waiting lounge I've been puttering about in for the past hour. Airports are strange when empty. But it was nice to have an entire waiting area to myself. (A serious improvement over the lack of seating in LA.) Airports are quite strange when empty. Though, I have to say, Seoul certainly has style. I'm currently 'reading' Vogue in Korean (the 80s are big here) and looking out toward the Botega Veneta and Pucci stores. I'm supping this coffee slowly, as I fear it might be the last I consume in quite some time. It could use a spot more sugar though. Right, time to attempt to fanagle more sugar in Korean.

I may be regretting having chosen such a humis climate to study in. It's been 2 minutes in the airport and I feel disgusting. (Not having showered since Wednesday morning might have something to do with it, though.) I'm standing in limbo, between the plane I just left and the customs desk, trying to locate my lost luggage. (I have to clear customs with it, but I am guessing it's been left in LA, confirming my suspicion that LAX is, indeed, an unmentioned realm of the Inferno.) I have been assured by the Thai airways ticketing agent that my bag is not 'lost', as it is in the system - they just don't know where it is.

Ew. I have seen the grossest thing ever. A portly man with a shaved head. Not so bad, you'd think. But as he turned away, I saw a grotesque fold of skin on the back of his scalp, from which protruded a stomach-churning bristle of bushy black hair. Gross.

Why on earth are UGGs popular in Thailand? I've seen 7 pairs without moving from my seat.