Saturday, May 21, 2011

Ways of Coping – Ko Phi Phi

I think about that a lot – ways of coping. Reading this blog and/or my facebook page, you may ask why? An honest question. In the interest of PC politics and friendly international relations, I keep most public comment to the positive side, of which there is much to share. However, there are days and incidents that do leave me wondering, just what am I doing here and what exactly my motivation was. Topics for another blog.
Daily, my journal gets me through the day. It is a beautiful leather bound book, a gift from Diana and inspired by Kelsey! In my own small way, it is my daily work of art preserving memories. This blog is another chronicle of this journey. Sharing with you is a helpful way to relive and remember the high points. Access to the internet at work and more recently through an aircard keeps me connected to other PCVs and to friends and family at home. Being a PCV years ago must have been that much more challenging, not having easy access to your previous life.
Recently, I have added a new method of coping with the demands of a PCV life, and yes, even in Thailand it is a healthy challenge! Bai dtiao…a vacation! PC imposes travel restrictions as we get to know our new communities, a restriction recently lifted. Emails between PCVs announcing travel destinations have been flying. It is a popular coping mechanism! I traveled south, to Ko Phi Phi and met 3 PCV buddies – Deborah, Pam, and Julia. The travel itself was an adventure as I took an all night bus, a taxi, plane, another taxi, and ferry to reach my destination. It was well worth the time and occasional aggravation.
Ko Phi Phi is located in the Andaman Sea off of Krabi, Thailand. It is a small island with only one small town and no roads traversing one end to the other. Transportation is primarily by boats called long tails, a part of the charm. Our small group opted for luxury as we escaped our daily lives, staying at the Holiday Inn, yes the Holiday Inn. A 4 star luxury resort at the far end of the island that featured a beautiful white sand beach we stepped out of our room onto. Right in front of our room we snorkeled amid a colorful display of tropical fish. One pink and yellow one was a biter as it protected its turf – I was bitten 3 times! The water was crystal clear and so warm and buoyant, an invitation to swim and float again and again. One of the four days we left our sanctuary to shop and kayak to Monkey Beach, snorkeling and visiting with the family of monkeys. A highlight was a farang lunch of a tuna melt, French fries, and a beer! Not very local, but oh so good. A Thai massage on our beach, sunset drinks at the hill top Sunset Bar, amazing meals, and R & R with good friends rounded out a perfect first Thai bai dtiao. And while I agree with PC that it is important to have a strong presence in our communities, I also think a happy PCV is a productive PCV. Traveling and treating myself to occasional trips, connecting with friends and rejuvenating will be a definite part of this PCVs service!

Long tail boat

Outside our bungalow

View from Sunset Bar

A seafood feast!

Julia and Deborah on Monkey Beach

Sunday, May 8, 2011

My House

More house photos

Kitchen, the blue rectangle is the washing machine and to the left is the sink - two of my favorite things!



First weekend in, making it my own! Windows and most doors are washed, bathroom cleaned, and the front yard is raked. Miles to go, but it is a start. A successful trip to the hardware store resulted in tools and gardening tools. The owner of the store is very nice and very patient with my Thai. I asked for suan kruang-muu, thinking I was asking for gardening tools and he showed me a power drill. Suan means garden and drill! Those tones are always getting me in trouble!
Lots of kids in the neighborhood, very curious about the farang. I get help sweeping and cooking and company going to the dalat (outdoor market).
A man came by and informed me that my street is being sprayed for mosquitoes next week or maybe he said do I want my house painted! Ambiguity is the status quo…

My mattress was very popular!

Putting my bed frame together

Kitchen helpers

My bathroom

Friday, May 6, 2011

Home Blessing

The ghosts are gone and I was moved by the lovely ceremony on my behalf. Five monks, including the head monk of the largest local wat, spent the morning at my house along with 50 or so guests. Lots of chanting by the monks and the lay chanter (don’t know what else to call him, but he is always present at a monk ceremony) with occasional references to me at which point everyone looked at me and smiled. The head monk then walked through every room in my house, sprinkling people and rooms with blessed water, making my house safe and secure to move in. Lots of food, a string ceremony and I am in! Not quite settled, but in.
I still get questions 3 days later – do I want company at night, am I scared, what numbers am I dreaming about (apparently I am missing a lottery opportunity here, not dreaming about numbers, disappointing lots of hopefuls)!

Monks chanting and preparing to eat. They eat first and can only eat until noon each day.

The string ceremony with the lay chanter beginning the process with me. The only English he spoke was my name (referring to notes) and Come Here! to tell me where to sit! My host family is sitting next to me.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Health Conference

I had the good fortune to attend a health conference with fellow PCV Bobby last week. While the conference itself was very frustrating due to the language barrier and lack of adequate translation, there were a few aspects of the experience that made it a worthwhile two days. I would have loved to understand, because the topic, healthy lifestyles focusing on nutrition and exercise, is an area I want to hear more about.
At the close of the first day, we walked through the village (it was about half an hour from my home) to six homes. The walk itself was lovely as the village is clean and houses well kept with beautiful gardens surrounded by bamboo fencing. By far the nicest village I have visited. Each house we visited had amazing displays of fruits and vegetables and locally made food and crafts. I bought my first floor mat from the weavers, an essential item in a Thai household.
On the tour we met Michael, an Englishman living in the village for 9 years with every intention of staying. He is married to a Thai woman and has a very cute little girl. He has built two beautiful homes and is a favorite among the locals. He was very funny and took lots of credit for cleaning the village up, including the tremendously reduced consumption of whiskey – which is why the party was fun, everyone behaved! The party included a string ceremony, lots of Thai food of course, and Thai dancing. Very fun! I stayed in a home with two other conference attendees. Day 2 started at 4 a.m. with an exercise class!

Old tires are recycled as planters. You see them everywhere.