Trip Start Aug 08, 2009
Trip End Jun 01, 2010

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Where I stayed
Rong Rean Tharua Nittayanukul

Flag of Thailand  , Phra Nakhon Si Ayutthaya,
Tuesday, August 18, 2009

That's what I'm called, farang. It means foreigner in Thai. The students always yell, "Hey hey, look, a farang!" I'm at school right now writing this. So I'll write about the past couple days with my family and here at school.
    Yesterday my father gave me a Thai name, Tanyanut. He told me that it means nice and clever girl, so I'm glad that they like me. I'm now known to all the students I've met so far as Tanya. So I guess I have a new name. I haven't posted any pictures yet, but I'm wearing a school uniform so that's a little different. Everything is still just gibberish and scribbles to me, although I figured out how to write my name in Thai script (now I'll have to learn how to write Tanya though). I don't know what's happening I'm just so confused right now, it's actually pretty funny.  
    Sunday was my first full day with my family. We got my school uniform and went to another province, then went for dinner. We saw a transsexual in the mall and my older sister says, "He is a boy, but has girl heart!" Funny.
    Ayutthaya is not what I expected at all. I really like it, but it's.. not as nice as I thought. Some people wear surgical masks because of swine flu and such and it's really dirty. Even though I live with a family who can afford me (not that I'm high maitenence or anything, really!) the walls are cracked, there's dirt everywhere, it's hot, and there's more ants just everywhere than you can imagine. I think the word to describe it would be grunge-y. Despite all of that, I like it. Practically everything is different. The bathroom is just a floor with a drain and a basin of water that you use a bucket to wash yourself with. The toilets don't flush, you wash them out.. And for some reason there's no toilet paper. Anywhere. At all. So I just save up all my kleenex, haha. All around Tharua, the city/town that I'm in, everything just sort of has a worn-down look. You know, like the commercials that show a sad kid from a third world country that just needs your money for water and school? Kind of like that. Not nearly that bad, but it's like that. The motorcycles pretty much have a balance between life and death, how they ride. When I was walking to school today from the hospital where my mom works as a nurse, a boy in a school uniform said hey, get on! So I did, and he spoke okay english. When we got to school, he gave me a present, which I just opened. It's a Buddha. :) There's a lot of stray animals everywhere. I feel bad sometimes, seeing these poor dogs scratching their fleas and they're not fixed, but no one else seems to notice. They just walk among us and into the markets. I guess you get used to it. It doesn't smell so great out on the streets. I was walking after school today and saw a cat peeing in the sidewalk, so that's probably why.
      School. Wow. I think about Garfield sometimes when I'm sitting in class and I can't help but laugh. Today is my third day of school, and it's crazy. I'm always just following and observing all of these giggly Thai schoolgirls. The school is the complete opposite of Garfield. Garfield is so.. nice. Nittayanukul (my school here) is old, dirty, grungey, worn-down, decaying, and really rag-tag. I think of all the nice equipment we have for orchestra, band, science classes. We have a lot of stuff and a lot of money. Here, there's no AC (I remember we used to complain about being cold in biology, hah!) the rooms are just open sort of on a balcony and you walk up stairs to the different rooms. And you can't wear your shoes once you step onto the stairs. There's broken desks and chairs, iffy-looking pools of water, and the smell and the heat. It makes me laugh thinking about all the people at GHS who would flip out about having to go to school here. Coming from Garfield, anyone would. I was definitely shocked. Despite all of this, it has something that GHS doesn't have. Everybody is happy to be here. It's not a drag to come to school. Just about everyone is friends with each other, it's not cliquey. There's definitely different groups of people that are friends, but they're all super nice and accepting towards me. Even if I don't understand a thing they're saying. It's almost like they all take care of me. They giggle when I do something wrong and then try to teach me Thai. It's really cute when they try and speak English to me with their accents. The boys are very funny. I was introducing myself and everyone was telling me their names when one boy introduced himself exuberantly and grabbed my hand to shake it; the whole class erupted into laughter. This one girl June even bought me ice cream yesterday at lunch. Everyone is so nice here.
            Not that Tharua is a poverty-stricken area or anything, its just so different that it bothers me sometimes. Coming from America, it's hard to see how some people live here. In these inadequate shacks with a tin panel for a roof and a hammock above the ground. Everyone is fine with it though. Day in and day out, I think it's just how it is. It's hard for me to believe, but it's just another part of the immersion. Coming to see something totally different as normal and an acceptable way of life. It's hard not to label it as bad and poor, but I have to remind myself that it's just different. I'm not any better than them because I'm from America. Just different.. thats what I have to keep telling myself until I believe it. I get some pretty funny responses when I tell people that I'm from America. One boy yelled after me, "I love you!" and another girl excitedly asked me if I knew Barack Obama. Yeah.... he's our president.
        Going to school in a place like this is like an alternate life for me. It's exciting. Looking back, I still can't believe that I went from where I was to where I am now. I got my timetable yesterday. I have NINE classes a day, 50 min each with 50 min for lunch, and no time in between for passing period. I don't know how that works. Not all of the classes are structured. There'll be a powerpoint in the history class where the students take notes (I can't write in Thai, so I just sit there), and then during sword fighting yesterday the teacher just sort of sat away from all of the students with a boombox. One of the boys taught me some sort of double hand sword form that I can't even remember. Muay Thai this morning was good though. It was just me and I would attack the teacher and he would show me all the different counter-techniques, not that I can remember any now. The classes that I'm taking are Thai dance, Buddhism, Math, Computer, Thai boxing, Chemistry, Thai massage, Japanese, Physics, Sword fighting, Thai cooking, Souvenir making, Community service, Thai music, Thai language, and band. The classes are different everyday and band is so easy. We all just sit outside in chairs (no music stands) and play the Thai national anthem. The only problem is that my classes like chemistry, physics, and math are all in Thai. So I don't know how that's going to work.
        My family is really great. I have one 16 yr old sister and a 14 yr old sister. And the parents. It's pretty chill at home, and I'm still getting used to everything. Like the heat. What worries me though is that this is the rainy season. I'm scared to find out what the hot season will be like. Lunch still isn't for another hour, so you all reading this should message me and let me know what's up! I miss you guys, I'll write more later.
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jjmason on

Wow, I'd forgotten that in my journal I wrote that I felt like I was in the world of diseased and dying dogs and if anyone had a heart they would go around and euthonize them. They are all so itchy and a lot of them don't have any hair. They won't come near people though probably because they get kicked or shoo'd away often. Crazy and sad. I think I have a picture of the ugliest dog ever.
Yah, the smell of humid and polluted air, is something very different from N.America. Even in LA in the worst smog, there's a difference to the smell. You'll appreciate the smell of crisp air when walking past a creek when you get home that's for sure.

You're totally right to think of things as different and not right or wrong. How could it be wrong when that is how they are raised, they believe different things and that is one thing I LOVE about traveling. Learning about the culture and the differences to my own. You are also so lucky to get the fundamental differences in the home as well. Wow, you have a lot going on.

I remember when I went to Switzerland, after a few weeks my host family asked me in French (at least we had one language we could both speak) if I understood everything yet. I was like, EXCUSE ME?! Takes more than a week buddy! I think your effort with Thai is great and all I can say is, keep plugging away, and away and away. It takes time and immersion or not, there will be some lag time in in which you feel a bit stupid while everyone is looking at you, but it sounds like they are supportive and my advice is to ask them everything. How do you say, bus, sky, shoes, cupboard, rice etc... Go through the house and make notes, put up sticky notes, carry a little book with you all the time to learn learn learn. I know you are and you're doing GREAT!
I love you and we all miss you, me Danny and Noosa. I'll update you on anything else in your private email! Hee hee. xoxoxo Auntie JJ

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