Old Friends and Elephant Dung Paper

I wanted to start with an explanation of my last post and why The Ant Wars was so traumatic to me, I hate no insect more than ants. Long story short, I grew up with an ant infested house when I was younger and was thus traumatized. I was just thinking about it and thought people might think I'm a finicky girly girl reading my post about ants, but I assure you for the most part I'm not. It's just those damn ants.

Anyways, I'm in Chiang Mai and have had an amazing time seeing my old friend from college here and meeting her man, Boon! We enjoyed some drinks, food and shopping at a night market last night where I got some amazing items for dirt cheap, just the way I like it. Later this week she's going to be taking me to get real salt water pearls for dirt cheap, I'm very excited! Today we went to a temple and an elephant show! Apparently the best elephant show in Thailand with elephants who have broke a Guinness Book World Record of the biggest painting painted by elephants... bet you didn't know that was a category did ya? It's a really amazing picture actually and the elephant show was so much fun, we even got to see a four month old elephant that was so freaking cute I almost wanted to take the little guy home with me. When I was feeding him bananas he looked like a little kid trying to eat chocolate cake and even proceeded to rub his face in the mashed up banana when he was done trying to eat it! My favorite item in the gift shop at the elephant show? Elephant dung paper. Recycling's great!

Tomorrow we plan on trekking through the rain forest, stopping in local villages for sleep. Just another day here in Thailand where elephants walking down the side of the road and trekking through rain forests are daily occurrences. As always, the experience of being in a place with people who live here is more rich than just visiting purely as a tourist, and we get the really great deals on stuff too! :) I've learned so much about Thai culture such as every Thai person has English nick names since many of their Thai names are too long or difficult to pronounce. Some of the nicknames? How about Guitar, Bong, Beer, Peach and Hamburger? You can't help but crack a smile, and nobody minds here with their laid back and accepting culture! I've also learned a lot about the non-profit community here and the issues that Thailand faces socially, which is great research for my future career as an International Social Worker!

I'll try to blog after our trekking adventure where I will actually get to ride an elephant! Wahoo!

P.S. There's a bar around the corner from where we're staying for sale for about $11,000 American dollars, Hubby and I are very tempted...


The Ant Wars.

After spending a night in Bangkok, we landed in Krabi two hours late due to a storm that had cropped up over the Krabi airport. After circling in the air for thirty minutes our pilot took us to a nearby airport in Puk Tu (I'm probably butchering the spelling, will correct that later, promise) where we sat until the storm cleared in Krabi. Arriving in Krabi we barely landed before the said storm started up again and we were running into the airport drenched. And so our time in Krabi was to start in pouring down rain. I was warned that it was the Rainy Season.

Our hotel, Wanna's Place, is a mix of Thai and Swiss charm as that is the combination of the owners. We can see the ocean from our patio window and it is a spotless and gorgeous room. Perfect, except for one thing... it started when I noticed a line of ants circling our sink in the bathroom (Did I mention that we get hot showers here too! A real luxury!) And then we foolishly left a cup out that I had rinsed out rather than really cleaned and a swarm was in our cup on our dresser. Next a rebel piece of beef jerky crumb that I must have let slip from my hands while munching. After many battles of spraying my high deet bug spray and pouring handfuls of water over the ants around our sink, the war is well on it's way. We've gone into stashing anything resembling food in the mini-fridge as to not attract their troops. Though I do think they have renegade troops as later when we were getting ready to kayak we got attacked by some fire ants.

Attack of the Monkeys.

We signed up for a trip kayaking through mangroves and the lagoon, to end in a cave that we'd be able to kayak into. On the way we stopped to feed some Makah Monkeys. Before we were even out of our kayaks, one of the monkeys was on the shore welcoming us and reaching his hand out for the food he knew us to have. We began the process of handing out the bananas, nuts and fruits that we'd brought with us, me being the feminist/child activist I am, giving more to the mothers and the younger monkeys than the big male that was sauntering around (obviously the boss monkey, as our tour guide put it). After giving all my food away, I decided to walk around and check out the nature around the monkeys since it was gorgeous when I cross some invisible monkey line into territory that I was not welcome in and they swarm around me, lunging at my legs! Luckily they didn't try to bite since I did not go for the $500 rabies vaccination, but I was left deeply terrified of the monkeys. After my violation the monkeys became more aggressive and irritable with the other visitors as well and I'm not ashamed to say I ended up hiding behind two of my fellow kayakers from the damn monkeys! My favorite moment of the monkeys though was when I was trying to toss a nut up to a monkey on the cliff and she wasn't catching it so it fell down and hit one of the tour guides in the shoulder and he looked at me and screamed, "I'm not a monkey!"

Would You Like A Copy?

Out of all the major cities I've visited, I'd have to say Hong Kong has been my favorite. New York City was too dirty and busy, London, about the same and I found the Tube and Subway ridiculously confusing. Hong Kong is clean and their subway system, the MTR, was amazingly easy to navigate. I mean if I can do it, a small child could, and we did see young elementary aged children using the MTR on their way home from school, all by themselves. Also, almost everybody speaks English and there's English under the Chinese characters on all the signs. So if you're going to visit China, not only is it much easier to get a Visa to Hong Kong than Mainland, but it's English friendly as well.

Sight seeing was fun but exhausting in Hong Kong and we hit some touristy areas. There really weren't many non-Asian tourists, so we still stood out where ever we went. But I was able to use my Chinese here and there, and even Tony utilized his Chinese that he knows, shocking some people along the way. :) Although he got himself in trouble once saying thank you in Chinese because then the waitress began to speak a slew of Chinese to him at which he had to shake his head and shrug his shoulders at. We also tried to hit up the non-touristy areas, which led us to a night market where I really only saw one other white person. We ate at a very authentic local restaurant that was out of meat, and although we tried to leave after we found that out, were scolded in Chinese by the waitress to sit back down and she brought us both out fried rice. It was good, but Tony wasn't satisfied, he had really wanted some meat. We also found this amazing restaurant called Taiwan Beef Noodle, it was freaking amazing. We want to start a chain in the states, although it could use a catchier name.

Other than constantly being harassed as to whether or not we'd like a "copy" handbag or watch or a tailored suit, Hong Kong was a fun experience. We also visited on of the towns on the coast, Stanley, at the suggestion of a Scottish bartender at an Irish Pub we'd stopped at. This bartender had been living in Hong Kong for 15 years and still wasn't fluent in what he called "Hong Kong Chinese" (also known as Cantonese) just to give you an idea of how easy it is to get along with English there. Stanley was very pretty, but definitely touristy.


Chinese Enough.

After landing in Hong Kong exhausted and confused about the time of day, we realized we'd missed our shuttle to our hostel and so took an $8 cab ride instead. Our hostel was at the top of Davis Peak, and by top, I mean Very top. The narrow rode was scary and steep in the night time and I think our cab driver thought we were trying to take him to the remote wilderness to rob him or something. Our hostel was alright, very rustic and outdoorsy, and for one night as exhausted as we were, it did the job. And the view of Hong Kong was amazing! I'll post pictures probably when I get home.

We decided that it was way too far to Anything for us to stay there another night, so we found another place and left the next morning for it. We had awoken at 6:00am ready to go, but had to wait for 7:30am for our shuttle to the city. On our way to our next hotel, we saw early morning excercises, some doing Tai Chi. Our new place was in a bustling city street, much more diverse then any of the other areas we'd seen, and defintely a little Shady, but we had our own room and bathroom, so it worked. It is an odd thing to see so much of one race in one place, it really makes me realize what a melting pot the US really is. It also makes me feel a lot less Chinese being around so many Chinese people at once, all looking at me as a white tourist. It's something I've wrestled with before with my family, not feeling "Chinese" enough, mostly because I was often told I was too American or that I don't look Chinese at all by my family. When I was younger I'd desperately try to point out my Chinese features to my family, "See my slanted eyes here? See? That's Chinese!" But they would just shake their head and say, "Nope, not Chinese at all." I don't believe they said it to hurt me, my family is just brutally blunt and say what they think without any cushioning, a trait I have picked up myself.

Getting ready to head to Thailand tonight... will write more later.


It Should Be Legal To Trip Kids...

And so our adventure to Asia begins with a crazy man in the Raleigh Airport making the Title comment in response to an innocent comment by Tony that there were kids running around like crazy at the terminal. He also said that kids should be leashed because they're like animals...

We're All Going To Die!

Before we left our friends who are watching our doggies told us a story about when the wife was coming back from another country recently after 9/11 and as they were taking off there was some turbalance, which in turn freaked her out into a panic attack and prompted her to scream hysterically "We're all going to die!" I had this story on my mind, not as a point of nervousness or anxiety, but humor as I boarded our 15 hour plane ride to Hong Kong.

To be continued...


She's Perfect!

If I hadn't already had a lesbian crush on Natalie Portman, this would have done it...

Natalie has travelled at least twice to Uganda to support FINCA, a microfinancing organization aimed to empower women.  Natalie is totally the ultra-ego of me, there are very few people I'd trade my life for, and she's definitely one, although I do really like to eat meat...

Check out this video of her talking about FINCA, among other things:

Also, check out this really good article on celebrities and philanthropy that mentions Portman.

I'm off to Asia tomorrow (first Hong Kong and then Thailand!)  Hopefully I'll be able to post from abroad!  Much Love!


Seriously, Damn.

My heart aches for Uganda. I just hope that the Ugandan army makes some quick and decisive moves against Kony and gets the bastard. Or I guess they could follow this well thought out analysis and plan.

On a positive note, I don't remember if I ever posted this article about my dear friend, Abramz, in Uganda and the work he's doing there. You know, I might have mentioned a Break Dance Project in Uganda once or twice on this blog...

He's still doing amazing work in Uganda and has been getting a lot of support from different organizations. Although he didn't get selected for CNN Heroes (which I nominated him for) he's undoubtedly a hero and inspiration to many, myself unabashedly included.


I Don't Think Wolverine Would Be Flattered

After a generation of a bad-ass attitude and a completely unique ability to extend claws from his hands, only to heal the wounds due to his mutant ability, Wolverine is no longer alone.

Generations of children (okay, and adults) have emulated Wolverine, who knew African frogs would beat us to his awesome mutant superpower? And the resemblence is quite unsettling:

I wouldn't want to run into that frog after it's been once again rejected by the psychic frog who is already taken by a preppy laser beaming frog, and yet said frog can't help himself but to love anyways.


Little Children: A Review

Little Children by Tom Perrotta is a witty and satirical look into suburbia. But while some parts of the novel are obviously exaggerated, the question nags, is it really that exaggerated?

Having grown up in suburbia and currently residing in suburbia, I could safely say that I'm a fairly good judge on the lifestyle. Much in the way of one of my favorite reads from last year, Then We Came to the End by Joshua Ferris, Perrotta takes a lifestyle understood to be "boring" and shows why it's not, well, at least to the people living it.

While perhaps not as thrilling or lively as life in the city, Perrotta, as Ferris does, understands that it's the little things that consumes people's interests, and as they adjust to the comfy suburban life, whether or not you remembered your child's snack becomes as important as whether or not you'll get into the ultra-hip new club. Don't both measure your worth to some degree?

Wrought with intensity and humor, though at the same time, oddly realistic, Perrotta reveals the uglies of suburban life. The desolation of becoming lost in a marriage, the despair of having never found yourself. The fear that can infect a town, and the complexities of every character, from a loving father, to a resentful mother and finally to a pedophile. Perrotta layers each character honestly and realistically. He does not soften the blow of their ultimate faults, their selfishnesses and their insecurities. And yet he is able to show sympathy and respect for them at the same time. They come off as real people, multi-layered and whole. They are all struggling to find and accept themselves. And in the end, that is what they all have in common. That even though as adults, and parents, we're supposedly supposed to have it all figured out, that the vast majority of people don't.

Whether you judge these characters or not is up to you, but I found that I could not as I felt that Perrotta clearly did not intend for them to be judged. Or at least, he intended them to be stereotyped and then made it his purpose to pull you past the stereotype. Little Children is smart and challenges you to view people as wholes rather than by their stereotypes while at the same time making you laugh.

I also watched the movie and found it interesting. While I understood the purpose of the omnipresent narrative, it annoyed me and made the movie seem too satirical. The acting was good and I loved the casting of the characters. The ending I found both interesting and disturbing, as well as a little disappointing. The ending of the book felt right and felt as if the characters had clearly changed and understood themselves better. Meanwhile, the ending of the movie showed the characters somewhat changing but not in a satisfying way or to the extreme as in the novel. Sarah's transformation in the movie seemed really ridiculous and not at all the point, especially since it wasn't fear that transformed her in the book, but rather a true realization about herself and therefore I think that that transformation was much more powerful. And while Todd (or Brad, why bother changing his name in the movie I wonder??) followed through his transformation the same way as in the book, they left out one essential piece that had to do with his career, which was a huge issue for him throughout the novel. I found that disappointing as well because in the novel when he had his realization as a reader you're like, well, duh, yeah, that's totally what he should do for a living. Overall, I'm feeling a little so-so on the movie, but the book was just an excellent read, though I can see how it could rub some people the wrong way, sometimes I think you just need to get yourself rubbed the wrong way to shake things up. So go ahead and read it anyways.



Favorite Time of Year

I have to say that this is officially my favorite time of year... warm weather, cute summer dresses and skirts, vacations and birthdays!  Not to mention a new plus, kids are out of school.  That last fact used to be neither here nor there for me, but now that I work with kids for a living, this means I get to work with them earlier in the day which means I get to come home earlier than 7-8pm every night!  Wahoo!  And I used to bitch and complain when I'd have to leave work at 5:30pm!

My summer is completely booked, from family visiting here, to Thailand, back to Ohio for a wedding, birthday parties, baby showers... I've never had a busier summer in my life.  And right after summer's over?  School part time and work full time.  When did life get so busy.  When I think of my life a year ago, a boring ass job that sucked time away from me, to a whirlwind of a life that I don't seem to have enough time for.  Someday I will find a balance between the two, I promise.  But in the meantime, excuse me while I whirl away...

On June 21st I leave for Thailand with my esteemed hubby (mostly because I esteem him).  Pictures and blog posts (if feasible) will be up from the trip while I'm there.  I'm very excited, I've hit Europe and Africa, now onto Asia!  Then Antartica, my true dream destination despite the fact that I've grown completely incompetent in the cold having moved to the South.  100 bulls couldn't drag me back up North!

Enjoy the sun, my friends!

P.S. It is my goal to catch up with my book reviews before I leave for Thailand.

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