Foodie Friday: 57th Street and Govinda’s

Haven’t written one of these posts in a while! I have, however, been chowing down pretty good’n’often recently. It suddenly hit me that once little Bannock is here, she is also going to be chowing down pretty good’n’often, which will probably lead to a slight reduction in my mobility. So, I am making a valiant attempt to eat my way around Bangkok before she arrives. Here are two of the restaurants that I hit up this week:

57th Street at the Marriott

One of the best parts about working for a magazine is the random invites that get sent my way. On Wednesday, I received an invitation to a celebration of Indian and Indian-Chinese food at the 57th Street restaurant at the Marriott, which would take place that evening. It was accompanied by an apology for the short notice. No apologies necessary: any time I’m invited to scarf curry for no charge, I’m a pretty happy camper. Todd made the supreme sacrifice of swapping his volleyball game for a night full of binge eating, and accompanied me.

The evening began with wine and Indian/Chinese fusion appetizers.

This photo demonstrates neither wine nor Indian-Chinese foods. But it does show TODD who likes to EAT.

After an hour of chit-chats and calories, the Indian ambassador to Thailand gave a brief speech – I’m sure the content was great, but my brain is drawing a complete blank – and we stormed the restaurant.

Part of the Indian selection.

Part of the Indian-Chinese fusion table

Aloo Gobhi, Kadhai Paneer, and Goan Prawn Curry

Wee gems from the ocean

The spread of food was pretty impressive. Sadly, these days my stomach’s capacity is pretty pathetic (compared to my glory days, at least), so I limited myself to Indian food.

But don’t worry about me! I still managed to find a few calories.

When I noticed that everyone around me was drinking wine, though, I decided to drown my sorrows in the dessert room.

Pretty decent, as distractions go.

I couldn’t fully capture everything Todd ate in one photo: let’s just say he got his money’s worth.

I can’t believe you didn’t at least TRY to capture my meal on film. So betrayed.

All in all, it was a delicious evening, and we will happily return any time the Marriott wants to celebrate Indian food.

Govinda’s

I barely had time to digest before it was time to waddle out for another meal. While the name may suggest otherwise, Govinda’s is actually an Italian restaurant. It has been quite a while since I’ve eaten Italian food, and I wanted to order everything on the menu. Decisions of any kind have never been my strong suit, but they are especially difficult now that I have to account for the cravings of both myself and Bannock. I haven’t been too impressed with her impulse control just yet. I started off with a Caprese Salad, and then ploughed through a plate of pesto gnocchi.

The gnocchi was great. My facial expression on the other hand…

Drowning in an amazing pool of oil/garlic/basil.

I ditched T-bone in favour of some more estrogen-filled comrades.

Who tried to pretend that I wasn’t taking awkward photos of them in the middle of their dinners/intense, estrogen-fuelled conversation.

I have to ask: is it a female thing to share meals? I’ve often seen women do this, but do men do it, too? I can’t speak for myself, because I am extremely territorial about food, and the thought of splitting dishes makes me break into a cold sweat. Maybe this is due to the fact that I grew up with four ravening wolves siblings.

Jacqueline, on the other hand, has no problem sharing meals.

The night ended with ice cream at one of the many, many conveniently placed McDonald’s outlets in this fine city. And now, I think I need to go sleep off this food hangover…

Summer School’n’Reality TV

Sorry once again for the gap between posts, folks. And sorry for another rambling update – the last few weeks have been a little manic. While the school year officially ended at the beginning of June, life actually sped up after the school hallways were emptied of precious little cherubs. Here is a synopsis of our life during the latter half of June.

Summer School

We really felt that the regular school year just didn’t give us enough time at the school, and if there’s one thing better than being at school when it’s fully functional, it’s being at school when it’s undergoing substantial renovations and there are numerous migrant workers catching naps under the rickety scaffolding (when they’re not using jackhammers). So we signed up to teach summer school. It’s a three-week, mornings-only program, plus you are given a (dubious looking/tasting) lunch – a good deal all around. Todd taught grade four, and I taught grade one. If there is one lesson that I learned, it is that I should be extremely grateful that I am not expecting dectuplets. After spending each morning with ten small people screeching “Ms. Ruth! Ms. Ruth! I drew a line with my pencil! Can I go to the toilet?! Pancake was mean to me on the playground! What are we doing next, Ms.Ruth?!” I had to spend the afternoon sleeping it off. They were extremely cute, but even extreme cuteness won’t repair my eardrums.

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Jacqueline – the other grade one teacher/my personal hero – shows our students how to make Oobleck

Todd’s students were a little less screechy, but a little more weird. Every time he would read aloud to his class, he would find three or four students stroking his arms. They weren’t trying to be funny – they were obsessed with his arm hair. Not sure if these kids have been deprived of pets, but they seemed to think that Mr. Todd was their own personal ferret.

Reality TV stars

My blog has brought me some really interesting opportunities. Case in point would be the never-ending stream of offers I get from UK-based plumbers hoping to contribute guest posts to my blog (I would be grateful if someone could explain this to me). One of the best though, has been our stint on reality TV. Back in February, I got an email from the US TV show ‘House Hunters International’ asking if Todd and I would like to be on their show. Essentially, it is a show that films expats looking for new homes in new countries. As soon as they told me that participation in the show would land me a free ticket to Canada, I was in. Many interviews/questionnaires/audition videos later, T-bone and I found ourselves taking part in a three-day shoot in Bangkok. It was a great experiences, although we discovered that reality TV is not quite as “real” as one might think – we had to pretend that we had just moved to Bangkok. The crew captured hours and hours of inane conversations between us that went something like this “Oh wow, Todd. What a pretty flower. Can you believe how crowded it is here? It is sooooo different from Calgary.” “I know, Ruth. And it is sooo hot. Oh look. It’s a fresh coconut. Can you believe that you can actually buy that here? Oh wow.” I no longer wanted to hear my own voice after the experience. Here are a few photos that the director took during the shoot (sorry for the low resolution):

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Meeting our real estate agent: “And we would really like space for our seven favourite cats”

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“Oh my goodness. It’s a fresh coconut.” “I know. And it’s, like, so crowded here. Crazy.”

Changing Houses

Ironically, no sooner had we ‘chosen’ a house for the TV show (sorry to ruin the magic, but on the show, you always “choose” the house/apartment that you already live in) then we decided to give our apartment by the school the ol’ heave ho, and moved into the city. Because the show had to the depict our apartment as un-lived in, they hired movers to pack up our stuff, which helped a bit with the moving process. However, it was still a bit of an ordeal to move apartments, and between filming, teaching, medical appointments, and preparing to fly home, we only had two afternoons to finish the job. Fortunately, Todd went and found us a dude with a pick-up truck who was willing to cram all of our stuff into his vehicle and haul it to our new place for around $25. You know it’s a good business deal when both parties can’t believe their good luck.

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Feelin’ lucky

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We never were able to shut the back of the truck – good thing Todd found some twine.

Canada ho!

Four days after filming House Hunters in Bangkok, we headed to the airport to fly home to Canada. While there were many good parts of our first year in Thailand, I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t counting down the minutes before we could get on that plane. I’ve never been so homesick, and it was such a gift to be given a flight home. 25 hours after leaving Bangkok, we arrived in Calgary, and it has been a non-stop filming/visiting/eating bender since then. I decided in advance that I would gain all my pregnancy weight while we’re in Canada, and I’m proud of the work that I’ve done so far. But more on our Canada trip to come in a future post…

Tie-Dye Birthday: Partying like we’re 8 years old

The teachers that T-bone and I live with are great. They are just a happy, happy crew of (mostly) Americans. The unrelenting niceness really expresses itself on birthdays – everyone’s birthday gets celebrated (unless the birthday person firmly and decisively opts out). Because there have been so many birthdays in our building, the celebrations get progressively more unique (see, for example, my crocodile birthday). When Kinder-Thai* Teacher Ellen’s birthday rolled around this week, we knew we were in for an interesting time: Kindergarten teachers are unique folks + the person planning the party has a penchant for turning herself into a human paintbrush. And that’s how we ended up with a Thai-dye tie-dye party.

The Kinder-Thai Teacher cannot believe her luck – being born + a tie-dye party is a powerful combo

We all brought white clothing to Kim’s school art studio. Our items for dyeing ranged from basic white t-shirts to mouldy cargo pants; sweat-stained wife-beaters; and worse-for-wear sports bras. Such was our hope in the power of paint. I hadn’t originally planned on dyeing anything (because I had to leave early), but as soon as I saw the vibrant pots of dye, my 8 year old self returned – I just had to get my hands stained. Plus, dye was pretty much the only thing that would revive my favourite North Face t-shirt after spending 8 months in Sweat Central.

We started off by soaking our clothing in water:

Southern Belle Jacqueline demonstrates both good technique and good levels of creepiness

Then, we tied rubber bands around sections of the fabric in either a uniform or completely haphazard manner (depending on the artiste).

Most uniform thing I’ve ever done in my life.

This is a look of COMPLETE concentration. It takes all my abilities to do ANYTHING in a uniform manner

Next, we put on rubber gloves. If I were on my own, I probably wouldn’t have thought of wearing these, but I’m certainly grateful that Kim did.

And fortunately we have a Canadian around to demonstrate proper glove-wearing technique

Next, we ladled dye onto our balled up clothing using creepy hand-shaped scoops.

Nothing like a helping hand when you’re dyeing moist clothing

And wrung the dye out of our lumps/posed for photos.

Katherine’s shirt reads: ‘Sorry I’m Isolated.’ Well, I’m sorry, but I’m going to make you literally give me the shirt off your back, because it is amazing.

Someone is telling me that my photo-taking is getting out of hand.

And finally, putting those beauties out to dry.

The mostly-still-white shirt has dye on the armpits only. Someone had a profound artistic vision.

The finished product! Woohoo! I can wear my shirt again.

 

The North Face should take some design tips from me

Kim’s hands agree that the tie-dye party was pretty rad. Word.

Now that I’ve experienced the joy of tie-dye, I’m kicking myself for not bringing more items. Like, all the towels in my house. It would have been awesomely psychedelic.

*She teaches Thai kindergartners

Thailand is a Cowboy’s Paradise

You may not have known it, but Thailand is a cowboy’s paradise. I, too, was unaware of this fact until I visited Khao Yai National Park and its surrounding environs. I naively assumed that Wranglers’n’saloons’n’country music were a North American phenomenon, but Khao Yai has proven me wrong. Everywhere we went there were traces of Thailand’s glorious/unknown history of cattle ranching – I couldn’t decide if it was all for the benefit of tourists, or if bootleggin’ and ranchin’ are actually an important way of life in these here parts.

Angry Bird fish balls: another important way of life

My first encounter with cowboy culture happened at the race. There was a special area cordoned off for elite athletes/VIPs, and it was tastefully decorated with a makeshift saloon and some good-quality plastic chairs. Because nothing screams “North Face” like a few hay bales and a tipple of the local brew.

Only real elites get to mingle with the hay bales

While we waited for our drivers to pick us up from the race, it quickly became apparent that a li’l pit stop was necessary. Somethin’ about waitin’ on a dusty road surrounded by ploughed fields makes a person need to whiz like a racehoss.  Not a problem: the parking lot was equipped with this beaut.

Possibly the most elaborate port-a-potty that I have ever peed in

The fun continued when we headed into the park that afternoon. Our driver was reluctant to actually enter the park (and pay the admission fee), so he dumped us at the gate. Unless we wanted to spend an exorbitant amount of money, our only option was to hitchhike. Considering that there were six of us, I thought this might be a problem, but before I could even consider throwing in the towel, Meagan had charmed our way into the back of a pick-up truck.

She also charms puppies

Oddly enough, the park was crawlin’ with trucks, and we caught rides with no fewer than three.  I’m not convinced that any of them have seen much off-road action, but it was mighty kind of them to haul such a large and sweaty mass of farang around.

Jus’ a couple of down home gals

We took a break from cattle’n’such, and spent a few hours tracking wild elephants. Our guide began by encouraging us to climb on ancient root systems.

Todd brings a special li’l y chromosome to the mix

And then got out her machete and began pointing out the various signs of wild elephant in the area.

That ain’t no cowpie

Sadly, we never saw any wild elephants. While some members of our group were disappointed, I was sorta relieved. I mean, if I bumped into a bear, I’d be terrified, but at least I’d have some idea of what to do. I have no clue how to deal with a marauding, tusked, brainy beast with a fifth limb.

Don’t let the fancy fabric fool you – this ain’t no walkin’ sofa

We hiked back to the road…

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Just a few of the activities that are prohibited in the park. Apparently climbing trees is not one of them…

…and hitched another ride to the park gate, where we were greeted with a plethora of cowboy gear.

Fur coats for those darned cold Thai nights

I don’t even know where to begin with this one

And some bun-huggers: preventing chafing since 1943

And then we had dinner at this fun joint….

…where I found this gem of a photo next to the bathrooms.

The King models cowboy chic.

I still have my doubts about the authenticity of Thailand’s cowboy scene, but we ate beef for the first time in a  long time –  I’m guessin’ someone must be puttin’ those Wranglers to good use.

And one last photo: a Buddhist shrine in front of a saloon. A tasteful juxtaposition of culture

Never thought that Khao Yai would make me feel so close to home. Or so very, very far away.

Did Aung San Suu Kyi Ever Go Outside?

(I wasn’t sure whether to post this on my regular blogroll, or under “Ruminations” – it runs the emotional gamut. I guess I’ll just file it under both.)

Last night, I went to an event at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Thailand (FCCT). My jet-setting friends/gurus Eli and Therese have tried to persuade me to accompany them to club events several times, and I finally caved. My post-thesis world news hiatus needs to end, and this seemed like as good a place as any to start. The event was a screening of the film “Aung San Suu Kyi: The Choice” a BBC documentary about the confinement of Aung San Suu Kyi, the Burmese political hero, followed by a question period with the filmmakers.

The room was full of hardened reporters.

Yaarrr. These peeps know The News.

We tried to fit in by looking suitably profound.

The Gurus doing a pretty good job of it.

Southern Belle Jacqueline and I struggled.

The film was a moving portrait of Aung San Suu Kyi. While I was aware of the basic details of her imprisonment (20 years of house arrest in Burma), I wasn’t aware that she had a family in the UK, or that the Myanmar junta would have allowed her to go to the UK (but not return to Burma afterwards). The film, while subtle, explored the choice that she made: to remain in Burma while in the UK, her sons were growing up and her husband was dying of cancer. It raised many more questions than it answered. I’m not sure that there’s any point in speculating as to whether she made the “right” choice or not, but the story did give a fuller picture of the sacrifices that she made, both for herself and on behalf of her family. While it was sad to learn that her husband died of cancer while she chose to remain in prison, it was a choice that they made together. It was far sadder to watch the intimate portrait of her sons, and to see how damaged they were by their parents’ choices. It is interesting to draw a parallel between Suu Kyi’s story and that of Benazir Bhutto. There are many similarities, but Bhutto eventually chose exile rather than house arrest. I wonder what would have happened in Burma if Suu Kyi had made a similar choice.

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After the film, there was a question period with the filmmakers.

Filmmaker Marc Eberle in the foreground.

It brought me back to the halcyon days of academic conferences, where the questioners always seemed more eager to display their immense knowledge of a topic rather than to ask genuine questions. In this case, however, it was less “let me show you how smart I am,” and more “let me show you how intimately acquainted I am with this particular political prisoner.” The question period went something like this:

Filmmaker: “Interestingly enough, during her house arrest, Suu Kyi rarely went outside. She would only go into the garden for photo shoots.”

Questioner: “Well, I remember when I visited her in 1988, she loved to feed the rooks in the garden using a small handful of bread, blahblahblah, so you see, she DID like to go outside.”

It was a bit disappointing, particularly after the film offered so much real food for thought. After 30 minutes or so of this, we attempted to discreetly sneak out, but you can only be so discreet when you’re sitting in the front row. Oops.

Even though I could have done without the question-period posturing, I did appreciate the film, and it gave me some real food for thought. I’m slowly emerging from world news hibernation.