Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Farewell Thailand hello Vietnam

Bangkok oh Bangkok, how do I begin to describe you. One minute fruitful, delicious and full of highlights while simultaneously an overburdened touristy party zone for foreigners. No I don’t want to see a ping pong show thank you, no I don’t need a tuk-tuk, didn’t I already tell you no?! Oh right, so your meter isn’t working today, ey? What a whirlwind of a fun place and exciting part of Thailand.

Best Highlight: Chinatown was amazing and by far the coolest thing we went and did. Our tuk-tuk driver told us it was closed on the way trying to persuade us to go somewhere else to promote a friends business. In case you go to Bangkok let me reassure you, it is NEVER closed, the thing is like ridiculously big take San Francisco multiplyx1000 and cut all the prices to a third. Oh and the dim sum yum yum! Its crowded and smelly and sometimes you see parts of the animals you never wanted to or fish you didn’t know existed let alone edible- but its all well worth the experience.

Other than Chinatown, skimming around the granddaddy of Thailand’s huge markets was how we spent most of our time, night markets, day markets flower markets, floating markets, fruit markets, clothes markets…..

We didn’t get to go to the Grand palace or see the Emerald Buddha we will have to visit that on the way back into the country before heading home to Phuket.

We really didn’t take our holiday to visit Bangkok though, we arrived in Hanoi today and off to all sorts of places here after.
Check out this link- Steve is doing an excellent job posting pictures since he’s arrived in September and ongoing throughout our journey to Vietnam Cambodia and Lao. Tomorrow 8am off to Ha Long Bay a night on a junk boat, swimming, with caves to see, kayaking to do and beautiful limestone to discover. From there we go to Sapa the renowned gem of an indigenous village 9 hours outside Hanoi and the south we will head toward Saigon stopping at beaches along the way.

Lesson of Mai Ben Rai

First off thank you everyone for the extraordinary feedback you gave about how to deal with the Coconut Club break-in and my sincere apologies for my extended lax in replying to your lovely personal emails and addressing your responses. I hope no one is mad at me I love you all dearly! I appreciate your reassurances as well, you made me feel confident with my intuition which is great support when in a position to make tough decisions on my own.

So, what happened you ask? Unfortunately, nothing! Such a disappointment. I couldn't get a consistent confirmation of the students who broke in and therefore I didn't take it to a level of action and punishment. One Thai teacher says its some 6 students while another says its only 4 of the six students. The student all split blame one another. So what can I do, I can't punish the innocent. I guess take it from the Buddhist and have compassion and no worries- i.e. the philosophy here Mai ben rai.

The way things work for such scenarios, is take the suspected (in this case 6 children) publicly humiliate them, punish them, ban them from Coconut Club and the matter is closed within 10 minutes. It's very important culturally as well as in the religion of both the Muslim and Buddhist at my school, not to hold onto anything, not to spend elongated times of processing emotions or incidents. Its considered selfish and a waste of time and energy. Mai Ben Rai is the saying out here, "no worries". When I ask the Thai teachers to please further resolve and investigate which boys are at fault, or to help me arrange for a "cleaning day" with the boys at Coconut Club, I'm replied with this sentence as though the situation has already been dealt with and is closed. Sorry that my follow-up may seem dismal and unresolved, that is just the way of the island life here though... to move on. Maybe its a hidden lesson for us westerners who are raised with an expectation to hold onto the way we feel and be entitled to an outcome, a change or something better than what we already have.

Short story on this same subject, you're really going to hate me after I tell you this I'm just full of disappointing news for you... A boy passed away at the school the morning of 27 Sept-2010. Yes I knew him, worse he was one of my consistent Coconut Club boys. It's all very sad. He died of influenza- oh how my days of public health classes and debates of the seriousness of the communicable diseases really rile me up! Thai Teachers say "Oh he had a bad cold" and then take the next 2 days off school making the children clean vigorously to rid the infection as though its a plague. News flash colds don't need 48hrs of scrubbing and don't kill people in a short period of time at age 14 who are strong youthful. Nonononono, arg and why do I consider the study of global health an important way to spend my life do you ask?

Connecting back to the lessons of No worries, as westerners- our teaching staff was devastated. We cared for him he was kind and promising, many of us cried while others just felt internally sad. But overall we all felt similar that we wanted to acknowledge the death, honor the boys life somehow- connecting him back to Coconut Club to the other children, allowing space for us all to process our feelings. The Thai did not react to this in a similar manner, in fact they find us to be quite demented and ridiculous in our behavior of emotions. Its not that they don't care, they simply deal with emotions internally and only for short periods of time. It's considered a selfish way to spend ones energy rather than do something more productive with your day or continue on normally. Still, us silly heart filled westerners made a card for the boy and left it in Coconut Club open ended for children to sign if they wanted- of course in Thai since this has nothing to do with English. We then gave it to the Thai Administration to be sent to the boys family who knows if it will get there but we can always hope. Mai ben rai, right? Life is a cycle in this part of the world, it all disintegrates, reincarnates and then recreates.

On a super positive note to end this blog- Steve arrived this last month Yay! Our journeys on the road together begin. September was also testing month which was rigorous hours both in the office and at school, eating up my weekends and stressful to say the least, hence why I have been an absolute failure in bogging this last month. Testing denotes the end of the term and Summer Holiday. October is summer Holiday for the school the English teaching staff included. Many people have asked where do the children go for a whole month when they're orphans or so distance from their families? The children often are arranged by the school administrations to go home with local families- friends and distant relatives. This is because no one is on campus during the whole month and the gates are locked. Although the take off in the last few weeks was stressful and I must admit I fear the amount of emails I will come home to in 1 months time, I'm happy to say I am finally on vacation and getting to explore SE Asia!!!