The Bag Was Lost, But Now It’s Found 2

Part 2: Stuff you can’t buy in Thailand, or, We are secretly obese

As we were waiting for Todd’s bag/plotting our revenge on the airlines,* it became apparent that we (and by “we” I mean “Todd”) couldn’t wait much longer for several Very Important Items. We were in dire need of a shopping trip. Considering that Bangkok is a shopper’s paradise (during orientation we were taken to no fewer than 4 shopping malls. Forget the temples and palaces – this orientation focused on the important stuff), we figured it wouldn’t be a problem. Until we started shopping, that is…

Something that’s not difficult to find in Thailand: Green Tea Red Bean Frappuccinos!

1.  When you get married, in your blissful naivety, you might assume that you know your spouse well. You can gaze into their eyes and believe that you are glimpsing all the secrets of their soul. As your life together continues, however, you may discover hidden “gems” you never knew existed. I mention this, because in our shopping adventures, T and I each learned something new about one another: we are obese.

We know each other so well we don’t even need to make eye contact any more

This discovery took place when we tried to buy new undergarments. We were shopping at our local Walmart-esque store-on-an-American-diet, and hid some undies under the milk’n’cereal in our cart. I went with the XL size, while Todd decided to really go for broke, and bought the XXL. I’ll spare you the gory details, but let’s just say that I barely survived with my circulation intact, while Todd’s choice would have been more appropriate as armbands (maybe we’ll re-purpose them). We sobbed into our milk’n’cereal, and had a Fat Day together.

2.Another item that has been difficult to find is basic, run-of-the-mill facial moisturizer. I checked out several drug stores in hopes of finding one, maybe with a little SPF. Other than the hard core, SPF 60 sunscreens, all I could find were moisturizers with names like “Fair’n’Lovely,” “Pasty’n’Perfect,” “Translucent’n’Terrific” – in other words, whitening moisturizers. For the uninitiated, skin whitening products essentially bleach your skin, and are incredibly popular in Asia. They can be found in the form of moisturizers, makeup, deodorant, soap, etc. I can always tell when someone is using the products, because they look like the undead in a B-movie – i.e.: it’s not flattering. Sometimes I like to reflect on this as I smear self-tanner on my face.

An example of the whitening products at our local Big Box.

3. A final “lost item incident,” that probably only Canadian females will appreciate. My lululemon pants were in Todd’s lost bag. I like to pretend that I am So Far Above wearing trendy brands, especially ones like lululemon that attract armies of deranged followers, but I secretly covet lululemon schwag. When I received the pants as a gift, I may have fallen in love, and when our bag arrived, I may have been a little bit more euphoric than I’d like to admit. I wore the pants the next day to orientation. One of the American teachers leaned over and said “Ruth, you have something stuck to your pants,” as she attempted to rip off the silver insignia. Sigh… even when I give in to the trends, I’m not trendy.

            Anyone want to start a new trend with me?

I could go on, but I’ll leave it there. Now, if only Todd’s ratty collection of t-shirts would have STAYED lost…

 *China EASTern and WESTJet – their motto: “We scanned the world from EAST to WEST and this alliance is the best we could do.”

The Bag Was Lost, But Now It’s Found

Part 1: Packing Tips From the Pros

My post today was originally going to be about the mini meat factory that borders our local canal, but I don’t have quite the right photo of the rutting piglets. Don’t worry – it’s coming, and you won’t be disappointed.

This two part series will examine items that are difficult to find in Thailand (when I say difficult to find, I mean existing outside a 2 mile radius of our apartment). This is a pertinent topic, because our airlines* managed to lose T’s bag. For nine days. We had pretty much given up hope that we’d ever see it again, but then a WestJet employee found it being used as a punching bag in the employees’ lounge at the Vancouver airport. The airline didn’t provide all these details, but I was able to fill them in using my highly developed powers of intuition. After nine days, our rejoicing was GREAT, because while this bag wasn’t carrying a lot of valuables, it did contain some Very Important Items.**

An item that is easy to find in Thailand: Angry Bird fish skewers.

Now, for some people this wouldn’t present a major problem. One of the teachers at the school mentioned that it would be a Good Idea to split up all your Very Important Items so that half are in one bag, and half in another. This would be a brilliant plan if it didn’t run directly counter to our highly refined system of packing. This is a system that took years to develop, but I will share it with you here for free:

Perfect Packing Plan

1)      Make piles of schtuff. Lots and lots of piles. The more piles, the better. Cover as much surface area as possible.

2)      Choose the number of bags that you want to take with you. Base this purely on the price of excess baggage, and cross-index it with your genetic tendency to cheapness. Do not reference the amount of schtuff you wish to bring.

3)      Begin stuffing. It’s best to do this randomly, without paying attention to what might be in your piles of schtuff. Close your eyes if you need to. If you have any delicate electronics, enlist your adorable and organized sister-in-law to help you stuff. This is the only way that these items will arrive in one piece.

4)      Continue stuffing. If you have leftovers, grab some stuff sacks, and stuff them. Stuff the stuff sacks in your bags.

5)      Wrap twine around any bags that look like they might explode.

6)      Throw any leftovers in a box and leave it at your parents’ house. It doesn’t matter what the leftovers are – who needs a birth certificate anyway? They had their chance.

We couldn’t fit our car in our bags. Good-bye, Matrix. You were like a mother to me.

7)      Haul bags to the airport. Pray. Weigh bags. Pray some more. Untie twine that is holding your bags together. Hold up line while you redistribute stuff so that you only have to pay for one overweight bag. Re-tie twine.

8)      Heave bags on conveyor belt and walk away.

Optional Final Step: Fly on in bliss as disgruntled airline employee “loses” your bag.

That is how our painful 9-day journey began. Feel free to use our packing tips, with or without the optional final step.

Todd is reunited with his bag.

Next up: Items that are “hard to find” in Thailand.

*WestJet and China Eastern – members of the Point-less Alliance: “We don’t offer points, but sometimes you’ll get your luggage.”

**Here I am referring to our entire supply of Knickers’n’Ginch.

Thai Culture Class (aka: The Teachers Get Schooled)

We have spent the past three days in Thai culture class. Strangely enough, the Thai government doesn’t want just any foreign doofuses teaching at the nation’s schools: it wants certified doofuses, and it wants them certified in country. This involves a process that is simultaneously arduous and simplistic. Arduous, because it involves a 20 hour course on top of all the hours that the teachers have spent applying for various forms of documentation. Simplistic, because half the activities involve arts’n’crafts and show’n’tell. We completed our training today, and I feel certified.*

Christmas came early! Note the extreme delicacy and sophistication of my hand and feet positions.

It was originally unclear whether I should participate in the course. I’m not a teacher, nor do I particularly wish to become one. However, should my job search prove futile, I may end up substitute teaching at the school, and so the administration decided that I should take the class along with the real teachers. Going to work with T-bone was a new experience, and one that I’m not sure he’d recommend, though I found it entertaining. Let’s call it “marital enrichment.”

Todd was super pumped for marriage time with all our new best friends!

Thai school involved several distinct activities. The first involved listening to our adorable Thai teachers explain a l.e.n.g.t.h.y. series of powerpoint presentations. Their English is good, but not totally fluent, and they tend to insert a variety of Thai expressions such as “Ka,” “mm-Ka,” and “Ah-Ka.” This is soothing, but sometimes difficult to follow. A sample sentence:

“The Thai people, they love the King very much, Kaaa. I feel, ah-Ka, that the King is very mmm-Ka, wonderful. Ah-Ka. Kaaaaaa”

The second portion of the class centred on Thai Language Learning. I’ve sat in many language classes throughout the years, but never one that focused on a tonal language. I’ve heard French and German slaughtered pretty thoroughly, but nothing like the utter annihilation that the Thai language experienced in the mouths of this batch of North Americans. Imagine someone who’s demented, tone deaf, and illiterate trying to sing an opera score. Total carnage.

Our Thai teachers using cartoon worms to teach us Thai vowels. This was far too advanced.

The third and most crucial portion of our class involved arts and crafts. We learned to make fish mobiles out of banana leaves, “love sticks” out of flowers, and kites out of paper and straws. I caught a glimpse of my lost childhood (mostly years 3 and 4), and I found myself spontaneously singing the clean-up song.** Our apartment is now decorated with mobiles of dead fish (we couldn’t figure out how to make them dangle upright), rotting “love sticks,” and mangled kites. They blend in nicely with our New Style Trend decor.

Look moms! Look at our wonderful crafts! Also, look at Todd’s foul, $2 hair cut.

This afternoon, we officially graduated. We now have a complete and perfect understanding of the Thai culture, and the government is ready to inflict us on unsuspecting students. Kaaaaaa.

*Or perhaps certifiable…

**For the uninitiated: “clean up, clean up, everybody do your share, clean up, clean up… “ to be repeated ad nauseum

My Life Is SUPER-FANTASTIC!!!

I think that social media often presents a one-dimensional view of a person’s life, making it seem more perfect than it actually is. One of my friends jokes that most of the images on Facebook are actually posed shots that people have taken of themselves: “Look at me! I’m soooo happy!! And my life is super-fantastic!!”

An example. Generally, this style of photography is more successful if you
a) photoshop the camera out of the picture, and
b) avoid taking photos that are obviously in your bathroom

Sometimes, however, life really is one-dimensionally super-fantastic. This past weekend, we left our sewage-scented apartment and headed to an island off the coast of Pattaya with a group of other teachers. Koh Larn has numerous stray dogs and cats, beautiful beaches, and accommodations that don’t wreak of raw sewage: a recipe for success!

Look how much I love puppies, Todd!! So much!! Why won’t you buy me a puppy, Todd??

Interestingly, the entire island was populated with a combination of Thai locals and Russian tourists. An ice cream vendor asked Todd if he was a Russian model. Maybe if the teaching thing doesn’t pan out… We spent most of our time swimming in the giant bathtub that is the Gulf of Thailand. Not to make generalizations about the apparel choices of other nationalities, but the speedos and thongs were out in force. We were also treated to several lengthy photo shoots involving ample curves amply exposed.

The beach, including a fully dressed Thai man, but minus the naked Russians.

On our second day on the island, we rented scooters and took a tour of the island. I realize that the legal system may not impinge on fun in Thailand as much as it does in Canada, but even so, I was surprised at the scooter rental process: Todd signed his name to a contract that the shop handed to us, and they gave us four scooters. No identification or deposit or credit card number required. I guess the fact that we were on an island limited our escape routes, but still…

This was a photo op: Todd had his own MANLY scooter (complete with MANLY helmet and MANLY murse).

It was great to get out of the city, and a super-fantastic time was had by all.