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…

IMG_1764

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.

North Face Khao Yai Trail Race

I hafta tell you all, I was a pretty decent wife to begin with, but my sacrifice this past weekend basically assured my position in the stratosphere of wifely superstardom. For the second time this year, I hauled myself out of bed in the wee hours to cheer at one of T-bone’s races. Neither the fact that this race involved spending a weekend with 15 of our friends in a gorgeous national park nor the fact that I still owe Todd approximately 10hrs of cheering time should detract from the enormity of this sacrifice.

Anything for you, dear.

The race took place in Khao Yai (literally: “big mountain”) national park, an area 2.5 hrs north of Bangkok. The race was put on by North Face, and the main focus of the event was a 100km trail race. North Face also, however, kindly provided a few events for mere mortals: 10, 25, and 50km distances. All the runners from our group signed up for the 10km event, except Cheerleader Michelle, who chose to race the 25km. Cheerleader Michelle has so much energy, though, that 25km to her is like 5km to the average person. Here is a quick visual of her unparalleled perkiness as she heaves our friend Sean into the air:

“So basically you just get your spirit fingers going…”

“and BAM! You start to fly. So easy.”

I wasn’t quite a good enough wife to show up for the start of the race, but I did roll in before the finish. My fellow Super-(almost)Wife Jaime joined me on the sidelines, and we took it upon ourselves to make up for the cheering deficit that seems to be a feature of races in Thailand.

So excited that I’m unexpectedly giving birth.

The start that later became the finish.

Things got pretty exciting pretty quick: would the organizers manage to find the finish line tape before the first runner blasted through? Would the van cruising down the race course realize its mistake before blocking the finish line? Would the children’s dance troupe safely cross the course without getting trampled? And how much swag could spectators safely snag?

And would Todd (with Josh) be able to hide from his wife’s camera behind a bit of safety tape? Negatory.

These were the important questions that we pondered as we waited for the runners. It didn’t take long – first up was Todd’s little running buddy and student, Alex, who showed the adults how its done by coming in 12th in a field of 500. The teachers pushed their aging joints to the max, and while they didn’t quite catch Alex, they posted some very respectable times.

Eli finishing strong. You know that when both the object AND the background are blurry, you have achieved photographic mastery.

Lisa hammers it home. This gal actually takes decent photos, and she was not giving my point’n’click ANY eye contact.

First up after the race was a little breakfast – Pad Thai and fried rice. I don’t know about you, but immediately after I race, fat and spice are two of the last things I feel like eating. Mind over bladder matter, I guess…

Fish sauce and sugar sound pretty awesome, on the other hand.

Meagan, Ali, Therese, and Kim wait for the sweat to dry.

Two fun perks of races in Thailand are the Thai massages offered after the race.

And the inevitable elephants.

All in all, a good morning spent eating Pad Thai and screaming at runners. Such a good wife. Here’s hoping that next year my ankles will work and I, too, can dodge banana-mongers, vans, and child dancers on a gorgeous course.