07 June 2010

On Goodbyes (Part I)

Who would've thought that I have been in the Land of Smiles, Thailand, for almost two years now? Who would've thought that I, together with the teachers in my batch two years ago, braved a court case that would've sent us either in jail or be banished from this beautiful country for something that we can never be accused of being guilty - something which our school brought upon us (but I don't want to get into the details now)? Who would've thought that I have met a kaleidoscope of individuals - all beautiful inside out, go to myriad of places, and knew for myself what it really meant to be independent? Most of all, who would've thought that saying goodbye would be this difficult when I have been looking forward to this week, to the last day of school? Indeed, the mind cannot always control what the heart feels. I have always been a thinking person - it has most often than not, mind over matter for me. But I cannot stop myself from succumbing to pangs of 'pain' when I think about saying goodbye to the wonderful students that were entrusted to me over the past two years. I cannot stop myself from being teary-eyed when I think about saying goodbye to these wonderful souls: my students, my friends, my colleagues, my Thailand.

This is my reality, though. For as long as I remain to be an international school teacher and for as long as the desire and the challenge to face new challenges in a new place, in a new culture, still remains in me, I am bound to say goodbye time and again. I just hope that I will not become a pro at it because I want to, I need to, savor this feeling - no matter how powerless it may make me feel.

I'll be saying goodbye to my Chemistry classes - a mix of sophomores, juniors, and seniors. They are a web of interesting individuals, all with the potential to make a change in their communities.

I'll be saying goodbye to my AP Chemistry class - students that I've had for two years and who I know will make a difference not only in their lives but in others, as well.

I'll be saying goodbye to my favorite freshmen - they always make my day although I almost always do not tell them this. I have always been looking forward to my class with them - they are such a talented, and good-natured bunch. I just hope that, and this is true for the rest of the TCIS student body, nationality will not keep them from making meaningful friendships, meaningful relationships.

I will be saying goodbye to my friends who have made life more meaningful and colorful these past two years.

Best of all, I will be saying goodbye to Thailand where most weekends I can just abandon maps (only to a certain extent) and give in to the excitement that adventure brings. I will make sure that I will have the same weekend moments in Ningbo, China where I will be for the next three years.

For now though, I am savoring at the same time hating saying goodbye.

Ave Maria!

08 May 2010

100-year Old Market

I have always been wanting to go to Samut Prakarn's 100-year old market, one of the must-see places in Thailand. I finally was able to do so this Saturday afternoon and I invited Ruby, a friend and a colleague, to come with me. I know I should have prepared more than writing the name of the market and its address but being in Thailand for almost two years now made me a little bit careless since I almost always got to destinations of interest with my map or simply asking directions from Thai teacher assistants in school or from colleagues who may have visited the places that I am interested in. We got lost - sort of - and here's the story. Ruby and I hailed a taxi right out of Parkland and the driver (as most Thai drivers go) just 'sort of' nodded when we told him of our destination. He started speaking in Thai, though, and no amount of "No pasa Thai" (I don't speak Thai) can stop him. So we finally made him stop but only after he had made the U-turn going to the Nation Tower side. We called Ruby's Saturday helper, Aum, and asked help from her. It turned out that the taxi driver really did not know where we wanted to go so we alighted from his taxi (after paying 45 baht). We hailed another taxi but the taxi driver cannot figure out where we want to go even though I showed him the market's name and address in my iPhone ( I know, I should've included how it is written in Thai, too) so we hailed another. We told him where we wanted to go and he radioed his 'homebase' and asked for help but it is still apparent that he's not able to figure out where we were really headed. So I called Kay, our librarian and asked her for Khun Rung's mobile number. Rung, a Thai, is the library assistant and have brought Kay to the 100-year old market sometime early last year. I called Rung but there was no answer in two attempts so I just sent her a message. We are, by the way, nearing Chang Erawan now and finally Aum called Ruby and asked to speak with the driver. After they chatted, the driver finally 'knew' where we wanted to go. About 30 minutes later, we arrived in this big complex with many structures and a stupa that is still under construction. Both royal and Thai flags adorned the small bridge leading to these structures. Little did we know that the driver took us to Bang Phli Market not the 100-year old market. We knew because he spoke with a motorcy driver and I think asked if this is the 100-year old market. Apparently it isn't and he tried to tell us that it's still very far from where we are and that he will take us there but not on meter. Ruby and I of course alighted in no time after we paid him. In Thailand, never go on a taxi without the meter turned on. This is also true in my country too, the Philippines. Anyway, since we were in the Bang Phli market, we explored it and stayed there for around 30 minutes. We then hailed another taxi and asked to be brought to the 100-year old market. And thankfully this time, Khun Rung was able to answer my call, chatted with the driver, and after around 32 kilometres, we finally arrived in the 100-year old market. I love the market although not too many shops were open and not too many shoppers were around since it was almost 4:00 P.M. when we got there. Many items on sale are found in Chatuchak or just about any market but what struck me the most is that a lot of old people were manning the shops - it really IS an 'old' market. And of course, another thing of interest is the food. One will never be disappointed with the food that are on sale in a Thai local market. I love the experience though, I'm never one to easily get frustrated with a few surprises. :) By the way, after some communication through actions with the driver, we were able to ask him to stay and wait for us while we explore the market. We did this since getting a taxi back to Bangna-trat is very difficult.

Below are some pictures of both markets.

07 May 2010

02 May 2010

Nang Panyang and Ate Jane in the Land of Smiles

Nang Panyang and Ate Jane finally came to visit me in Bangkok! They are from HongKong and have been working there for well over 2 decades. They were very gracious to me when I went to Hongkong during September of last year that is why their coming here made me happy as I can repay, to some extent, their generosity. Nang Panyang and my family went back a long way. She took care of me for a very short time when I was still a toddler and the bond that she had with our family was not broken with her leaving. She went to HongKong almost 2 decades ago to try her luck and she was blessed to meet Ate Jane, a fellow Cebuana, who worked in a bank, and who is married to a Hongkongnese. They are a good combination of two generations and I learned a lot from them.

Here are some of the photos I took of them and a link to my Facebook album documenting their visit can be found after the last photo. Enjoy!

caught in river taxi traffic at Damnoen Saduak Floating Market

about to have our breakfast of bami nam moo (pork noodles) - YUM!

on our way to Damnoen Saduak Floating Market on a river taxi

wacky poses - Wat Arun in the background

Ate Jane in Wat Arun

Nang Panyang with two of the 'guards' in the Wat Pho complex

Ate Jane putting in her 20 baht in exchange for a bowl of coins for merit-making

Nang Panyang with the Leaning Buddha in the background

Here's the link to my Facebook album:


Ave Maria!

Aunties in the Land of Smiles

My aunties, Nini (Sally) and Alma (Amy) finally found time in their busy schedule to come and visit me in Thailand. They stayed with me for 6 days, 10-16 April 2010, and I had fun touring them in and out of Bangkok. It was a timely visit as I am on my one week Spring/Songkran (Thai New Year) break that's why I was able to take them to places. However, it was also an untimely one since Thailand was, still is as of this writing, in a political turmoil. In fact, the first day of their visit, 10 April 2010, will forever be marked in Thai history as the day when a bloody crackdown on the Red Shirt protesters resulted in 21 deaths and hundreds injured. It sure was challenging to think of routes that will not let us come face-to-face with the protesters. But then again, their visit was a fun and memorable one. It was Auntie Amy's second visit to Thailand while it was Auntie Nini's first. (I always find it interesting that they get to go to European countries first before visiting an Asian country but maybe the opportunity did not present itself then.)

I took them to boat rides along the Chao Phraya River, to temples especially to my favorite temple, Wat Arun, to Bangkok's big shopping malls, to Koh Kret - a man-made island housing Thailand's original settlers, the Mon people, and we even went to an authentic jewelry store where both of them got good value for their money (I think).

Here are some of the pictures of the places I took them to. More are found on the Facebook photo album links that are posted below the photos. And oh, Auntie Nini celebrated her birthday here, too! It was her first birthday celebration overseas and we had fun! :) Enjoy the photos!

inside the Hall of the Erawan Shrine and Museum

majestic staircase of the Erawan Shrine and Museum

inside the Erawan Shrine and Museum complex with Airavata, the mythical 3-headed elephant in the background

taking a respite from the sun behind the sunken pagoda in Koh Kret

We all agree with what is written on the piece of wood - we are all travellers, everything will pass.

in Koh Kret island with a big Buddha statue in the background

with a very gracious Mon merchant

inside Wat Traimitr in Chinatown

entrance to Chinatown

inside the Grand Palace

Grand Palace grounds

outside Holy Redeemer Church in Soi Ruamrudee

Auntie Nini's birthday lunch at Prestige Hot Pot in Central Bangna

inside Holy Infant Jesus Church in Bangna-trad

Auntie Nini and the produce that we bought after our morning walk on her birthday to King Rama IX park

inside King Rama IX Royal Park and Botanical Garden

Wat Arun

merit-making inside Wat Pho, Temple of the Reclining Buddha

inside Wat Pho with the statue of the leaning Buddha behind them

outside the Si Lom MRT Station with Red Shirt protesters (UDD) behind them

Here are the links to the Facebook albums I put up to document their visit.

1) http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=202717&id=743294883
2) http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=202938&id=743294883
3) http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=203312&id=743294883
4) http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=203354&id=743294883
5) http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=203382&id=743294883

(Either click on each link or copy and paste each address to your web browser. Enjoy!)

Ave Maria!

Crazy Two Weeks (that are now done and over with)

Whew! The last two weeks may have been the craziest two weeks I've ever had! Imagine heading for school at 6:00 am from M-F (sometimes even at 5:50) and going home at around 5:45 pm? I have to ditch the van that the school provided since it leaves at 6:30 in the am and leaves school at 3:45 in the afternoon. There's just so much to do but I am thankful for it gave me my passion back - really! And oh, I said no to one job offer and said yes to another. So if the paperwork pushes through (local authorities need to approve my job appointment even if it is still in an international school), I'll be in PRC hopefully come August 2010). I am excited but I will elaborate on this later once I know for sure that I get my letter of invitation from the local authorities.

Missing my students is becoming more of a reality now that the school year is winding down. I always suck at goodbyes - always.

24 March 2010

Bangkok and the 'Reds'

I am expecting friends from Hong Kong this weekend. I am supposed to tour them around downtown Bangkok, the wats, the klongs, and the what-have-yous. This Saturday's big 'Red' rally (Thailand's UDD political group) may put a big dent on our plans especially since one of the targeted areas is Samut Prakarn, that's where my place is. Will we have to brush shoulders with the 'Reds' this Saturday and Sunday just so we can go around Bangkok? There are a lot of areas to visit though, those that are away from the targeted rally areas but as of now, I am quite tired to think of options - and I am getting tired of the 'Reds'. I understand though that holding these rallies is still within their constitutional rights especially since they were able to hold 'peaceful' rallies recently. What I really wanna say is, "Can we PLEASE get on with it? Move on?!?!"