Tag Archives: dinner party

Thailand Tribute #5: Neighbors

Touring the dinosaur museum in Kalasin with my neighbors Katjang and Pi Khom

One of the best things about living in teacher housing for the past year has been living in such an inclusive community. I live in a two-family house and our neighbors are Pi Khom (above), Pi Prayat and their adorable but mischievous daughter, Katjang (also above). This picture was taken at the end of our trip to visit Pi Prayat’s family in Surin, when we took a quick detour to see the renowned dinosaur museum in Kalasin on the way home.

After moving to Pla Pak last year, I quickly realized that family structures in Thailand are a bit different than what I’m used to in the States. Neighbors seem to be family by default, as everyone takes part in caring for each others’ children. Katjang loves to run up and down the street on our “block” and all of the neighbors perform a sort of caregiver relay, passing her from one person to the next until she is safely back in her mother’s arms again. One of my favorite aspects about living in this community is its openness, literally. Doors are open from the time everyone arrives home after work until well after the sun has set. This allows for people to easily run into their neighbor’s kitchen to borrow an egg, as Pi Khom often does when she doesn’t have time to go to the market. I also love how this living arrangement allows for conversations through the concrete block walls; for the first month or so, Steph and I were really confused when Pi Yok (our roommate) would talk to Pi Khom while they were in cooking dinner in their own respective kitchens, because we thought she was trying to speak with us! I’ve now acquired enough Thai to hold my own brief conversations with Pi Khom and Katjang when they hear me in the kitchen.

Tonight is a perfect example of why I will miss living in this neighborhood. Around 5:00pm, Pi Yok shouted up to my bedroom window to come downstairs, and when I stepped outside I was surprised to find a Korean barbecue dinner set up as a going-away party. Several of our closest neighbors and high school teacher friends were there and we ate delicious grilled meat and boiled vegetables. And whoever passed us on the way home was also invited to the table, because at a Thai dinner there is always room. My favorite part of the evening, however? I heard Katjang call me Bai-Khao for the first time.


Thailand Tribute #7: Thai time

A sign in Bangkok's main train station

I find this picture amusing for several reasons, the least of which not being the fact that Thailand seems to have a lot of clocks in this condition. In general, most of the clocks I’ve seen here seem to be broken, which really isn’t a problem because I have come to realize that daily routines are often based on external cues such as weather rather than a watch. For example, if it is raining when I wake up in the morning, I know that my ride to school will be late because these mornings are ideal for sleeping in and everything seems to move a little slower. There is also an enjoyable amount of irony in the posting of this sign. Though I don’t know how long it was standing (maybe just for the quick repair of the clock…), it happens to be located in the hub of Thailand’s railway system, where timeliness is of the essence.

Even if I were to spend ten years in Thailand, I still don’t think I would fully understand (nor appreciate) Thai time. I believe there are just some innate cultural norms and social cues that nothing short of growing up in Thailand could teach. Schedules don’t seem to exist, and when I ask about them (like when school is closed during the semester), I’m told not to worry; the Thai outlook on schedules is summarized perfectly in the words of Pi Med: “We let you know the day before.” As for social plans like dinner parties, five hours is considered advance notice. It wouldn’t be out of the ordinary to get a text from Steph during a morning class that a party was being thrown that evening. As for punctuality, here is where Thai time truly becomes perplexing. I’ve found that any pick-up time to go somewhere, for example, should come with a “plus-minus one hour sign” as a footnote. The only exception I have noticed is the school day, which (usually) ends at 4:00pm on the dot, regardless of whether or not work is finished. There are some days I will wait with teachers until the clock strikes four, even though we’ve been sitting around with nothing to do for 20 minutes, while other days I have to drop everything I’m doing because it’s 4:00pm and my ride home is practically backing out of her parking spot without me. This may be a result of teachers working as government employees (as they are required to clock a set amount of hours each week) rather than a larger comment on Thai time, but regardless it’s a fascinating inconsistency in the culture here.

My favorite “plus-minus one hour sign” story (though I wish I had known about this footnote at the time) was the morning I was going on a field trip with Wang Yang School. Kru Khem told me the day before that he would pick me up at 6:00am. I set my alarm for 5:00am just to be safe (perhaps I had an inkling of what to expect) and luckily I took a quick shower, because just after I got out, I heard a truck pull up outside the house, followed by Kru Khem “quietly” shouting up to my window, “Bai-Khao! Bai-Khao!” I scrambled to get dressed, twist up my dripping hair, and gather my things for the day before racing down the stairs so as to avoid making him wait. Then we drove to Wang Yang Village and literally sat in the truck for over an hour while students loaded the buses to begin our trip. I have long since let go of the irritable thoughts that bubbled up inside of me that morning, like how much longer I could have slept in, why Kru Khem disregarded his stated time or even bothered to give me a pick-up time in the first place, etc., in similar situations that have since occurred. Now when I find myself waiting or feeling rushed when the plus-minus sign manifests in a situation, I take a deep breath and occupy myself with what is happening in the moment, because that’s what everyone else around me is doing! I could perhaps summarize my year in Thailand as one incredibly long exercise in patience and mindfulness.

And for that, thank you Thailand.

Hey, where’s the rice?

A holiday touch The WorldTeach Thanksgiving dinner on Saturday turned out to be a huge success. We were able to pull together quite a feast from seemingly “un-American” ingredients.

To the left is the beginnings of our spread, and a great shot of my mom’s Thanksgiving placemat. I have to say it really pulled the entire meal together =)

Below is a picture of our Thanksgiving table. As you can see we are setting up on mats (a word in Thai that also means “shirt” and “tiger” depending on the tone you give it), a common way to eat in Thailand. Instead of adding leafs to the table like home, we just unrolled more mats. This gives a whole new meaning to “get your feet off the table!”

Eating on the floor

Below is a picture of the turkey we were finally able to find in Nakhon Phanom. It is definitely an uncommon bird in Thailand, or at least in this part of the country.┬áNeedless to say, it was great having an actual turkey for our Thanksgiving meal. There was plenty of meat left over for cold turkey sandwiches in the morning, another “American” food most Thais have not yet experienced.

A rare bird in Northeastern Thailand

Below is a final shot of our meal. All of the food was delicious and for the first time since arriving in Thailand I sat down to a meal without rice:

The real deal

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