Monday, May 23, 2011

Learning Thai

I enrolled in a class to study the Thai language.  Now, I haven’t studied a language since college which was a long, long time ago.  Needless to say, I was a little bit nervous but I knew I had the time to devote to studying and learning it as well as the desire to be able to communicate with all the people around me.  Many people in Thailand can speak English to varying degrees but I feel that to not learn the language of the country that I am staying in would be disrespectful and serve only to isolate me from so many people and experiences here.
A friend from my TEFL class had researched a bunch of language schools in Bangkok and Bill recommended Unity Thai Learning School (UTL). Thai Unity Language School . Bill’s friend Dave said that Bill does not commit to anything without doing extensive research and that if Bill thought UTL was the best school; Dave thought that it’s a safe bet that it would be.

Each “module” lasts a month and class is Monday-Friday, 1pm to 4pm.  So, this was no easy undertaking.  Sixty hours of in-class study each month is about what a semester-long class would be in college.  This first three months are spent learning conversational Thai while months four and five focus on reading and writing. 
As it turned out, the class has been extremely good and entertaining as well.  The students are a mix of ages, cultures and personalities but all fun people, striving (and some, like me, struggling) to learn a new language.  Most of the students in my classes have been Japanese of Korean with a smattering of other Asian ethnicities and the rare farang (Thai word for white foreigner).  Some of my new friends include Khun Hata, Khun Meena A and Khun Toni.  

Hata is a Japanese guy who has become my partner in crime in Thailand.  He's funny and a really good guy.  Hata does not speak much English.  I don't speak any Japanese.  So, when we hang out, we practice our Thai!.

Meena A is a wonderful, stunningly beautiful Korean woman.  Her husband is working in Bangkok and she is biding her time with Thai studies.

Tony is of Laos descent but was raised in France.  He speaks great Thai and French and English.  Tony owned a clothing store in Bangkok with his Thai girlfriend.

Why does Hata keep showing up in every photo...hmmmm??????

The teachers are understanding, patient and good-natured….oh, and not so hard on the eyes also.  Khruu Kitiya and Khruu Suwajee are my two favorites.  Khruu Kitiya was even kind enough to invite me to her wedding in December.  More on that to follow.  :-)  Khruu Suwajee has become a good, dear friend.  She's an awesome gal and just received a visa to teach Thai at a Thai wat in America in, of all places, Houston!  Good luck, cowgirl.  :-)

This is Khruu Kitiya.  :-)

And, this is Khruu Suwajee.

The school has been a good way of helping to integrate myself into the Bangkok community and meeting a few good friends along the way. Our class also went out to dinner to celebrate the end of one of the courses at the Oriental Hotel on the Chao Praya River.

Beautiful hotel with a great dinner and some traditional Thai dancing for entertainment.  (I said "Traditional" Thai dancing, folks)

I  don't think I would be having nearly as good of a time if I hadn't decided to study Thai.  Stay tuned for the next should be a good one!

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Finally...A new blog update...catching up is hard to do...

How do I write about everything that has happened in the past ten months?  Well, I guess first by letting you all know that I will update this blog monthly from here on out.  I feel that it is important to keep you updated but more important to put my thoughts down so I don’t forget to remember how lucky I am to be able to experience this time of my life in a place like South East Asia.

My good friend from California, Brian White, visited me in July.  Having travelled the world extensively, Brian has been to Asia before so I was not worried about his acclamation to the culture.  Brian landed in Bangkok during the tail-end of the World Cup tournament and I made sure that he and I had a good place to watch it in along with the company of some of my good Thai friends.  Funny though, the Thai girls we were hanging out with, Ning and Am, wanted to watch the games in an English pub while Brian and I were looking for more of a Thai experience.  Alas, the smiles of the girls won out.

When the World Cup was over Brian and I enjoyed some down time on the beaches on Koh Samui before getting packed up and heading off to Cambodia to visit (again) the temples of Angkor Wat.  

This place amazes me every time I visit because just the time of day and the sunlight filtering over the century-old ruins changes the feeling and the look of the site.  

We engaged Mr. Sen and Mr. Leung, tourguide and tuk tuk driver, respectively, to be our guides.  Brian and I enjoyed the sunset from atop the temples with only a few hundred other people.  (If I have one gripe about this place, it is that it has become just too popular.)

Next stop was Laos.  I had to go for a visa run and Brian wanted to see Luang Prabang.  We spent a couple of days together in Vientiane, Laos, basically riding bicycles around the city, going to the gym and overdosing on the French-inspired baguette sandwiches.  Vientiane was pretty uneventful, but I realized that it was nice to be travelling with my good friend especially since he and I like a lot of the same things including eating and exercising.  Way to go, B-Dub! After a couple of days in Vientiane, Brian headed off to Luang Prabang while I headed back to Thailand to Chiang Mai where Brian would meet me again.  I LOVE Chiang Mai.  The city is small and old.  Bicycle friendly, too!  The weather is cool compared to the rest of Thailand.  The food is amazing too.

 Brian and I spent three days there just riding bikes around, hanging out with friends like Fon, James and Gan who I had met on previous trips there.  It turned out that Gan and his wife are pregnant and Brian and I got to go to dinner with the two of them and James and Fon.  A fantastic Thai BBQ buffet restaurant where you just sit and eat until your heart’s (and stomach’s) content!  

Finally, back to Bangkok where I said farewell and “Until next year” to my good friend Brian.

Next posting...Time to immerse myself in the country by enrolling in Thai Language School.  Take care everyone!