Monday, February 23, 2009

Sweet Spot

Today was the first day back to class and one of my teachers commented on how much better I was looking after the break. Well actually what she said was that I had gained weight, and then she proceeded to use her index finger to stroke under my chin, like I was a cat. She said it was my sweet spot, and the fat that made me look cute. As you can imagine I am not used to getting complimented on my double chin, or having it pet (so you can also easily guess why there is not picture coinciding with this entry). I knew I had gained a few pounds from eating doughnuts in Thailand, but I wasn’t quite prepared to be called fat the first day back to class.

Just another local compliment to add to the list of those that aren’t very trans-cultural between the east and the west. I have actually noted quite a few over the years. I remember going into a hotel lobby once several years ago and over hearing two girls talking about me. One girl said “look at how white her skin is, she is whiter than a ghost”. The other one responded by saying “I was looking at her nose. It is so tall and big, I think it is the biggest nose I have ever seen”. As my hand self-consciously rose to cover my large protruding snout, the two realized that I could understand their conversation. They giggled awkwardly and quickly left the room, leaving me standing there feeling like a sickly pale version of Pinocchio.

It took me a long time to realize that people here think tall noses are beautiful, and that pale skin is a sought after commodity. These two strangers were not trying to be cruel or nasty in their assessment of my appearance, in fact they were looking on with awe (okay so maybe they weren’t that impressed with what they saw). But they both knew that their evaluation of my appearance was positive, where as I had perceived them to be making fun of me. The same with my ‘sweet spot’ today in class. The Uyghur people like a lady with rounded features instead of the slim lines we admire in the west. But as she continued to go on about my ‘fat’ and my double chin, I had to remind myself that it was a compliment, otherwise I might have developed a complex.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Saying Goodbye

I am once again roommateless. Early this morning I took Amanda up the airport and hugged her goodbye. She has been here for exactly one year today and it was time for her to board a plane and head for her home in the US.

I think one the hardest things about living here is the goodbyes. They are constant. I am either flying from Canada to here and having to say goodbye to all of my friends and family on that side of the world, or I am leaving here to go there. To top it off it seems like a lot of people come out here for a few weeks to a year. They are fun and wonderful people to have around…and I find myself drawn to them. But because their time is only temporary, I know even as I am getting attached I will have to face the inevitable goodbye. I remember when I first meet one of the expat kids who has grown up out here. Their very first question to me was “how long are you here for?” I think it was a bit of a defense mechanism for them. If I know how long you will be around for, I know how deeply I can get attached.

I am the same way, I am often tempted to protect myself against short term visitors by not allowing myself to get close to new people. But the problem with that is that I am only cheating myself. I end up missing out on getting to know some great people. And so I have learned to allow myself the pain of days like today. And my heart joins with the Muppets in “Saying Goodbye”

Saying goodbye, going away
Seems like goodbye's such a hard thing to say
Touching a hand, wondering why
It's time for saying goodbye
Saying goodbye, why is it sad?
Makes us remember the good times we've had
Much more to say, foolish to try
It's time for saying goodbye
Dont want to leave, but we both know
Sometimes it's better to go
Somehow I know we'll meet again
Not sure quite where, and I dont know just when
You're in my heart, so until then
Wanna smile, wanna cry
Saying goodbye
La la la la la la la la
It's time for saying goodbye

Muppets Saying Goodbye - Amazing videos are here

Sunday, February 15, 2009

On the River

I am finally back at my own desk, writing from my own home. Vacation took a little longer than expected, but as you will see it was a lot of fun. A few friends and I decided to take a boat from Northern Thailand up the Mekong River which flows between Myanmar and Laos right into China. The original plan had been to take the boat on Monday the 9th, but China for some reason decided not to let boats into the country that day. We had to wait around in Thailand an extra day or so.

It was a beautiful jungle trip. The boat even stopped on the beach of Myanmar as the staff wanted to collect rocks to take back to China with them. They said they would be able to sell them for a good price. This meant that we were playing on the beaches of Myanmar illegally since we didn't have a visa to be there. The river was pretty narrow where we stopped and right on the other side of us in Laos.

It was a suppose to be a nine hour trip, but took us closer to twelve, even then they let us off at the wrong port in China and we had to take a two hour bus ride through some very winding roads (in the dark... it was a little scary at the speeds we were going).

Once in China we found that the tickets we had tried to reserve had been sold out from under us (since we arrived two days later than planned we could no longer purchase them, and the flight was sold out) my friend and I were stuck there for an extra two days. It was quite the adventure. But we did see the famous Chinese Pandas and even found an old style traditional architectural Starbucks... ah when the old and the new, the east and the west meet, it is a beautiful thing.
For some reason even after waiting two days it was hard to get a flight back to Central Asia. The only tickets available were first class. We ended up buying them, but I think the stewardess (and probably everyone else in our cabin) could tell this was a new experience for us. We thanked them every time they came by. We oohed and ahhed over our soft pillows, fluffy blankets, free slippers, real dishes, and big comfy seats. And by 2 a.m. on the 15th I was finally home.

Sunday, February 08, 2009

Shown up by Elephants

The other day some friends invited us to join them and their kids to go to an Elephant camp. It is always more fun to go with a family and share the joy with children ( maybe that is why I have already gone to the Zoo twice and the aquarium once since being here). Elephant camp was cool, but I went away feeling so stupid, a group of big dumb animals are smarter and more talented than me.
They can dance,


Paint pictures -something I have never been good at. When I was in grade 11 my geography teacher took marks off my work because he said that my mountains looked like pyramids with snow on top. But an elephant's artwork sells for 2 000 Baut.

Play soccer- I tended to run away from the ball when I was in school

And haul heavy loads.

Thursday, February 05, 2009

Just Like Tim's

All through college one of my favourite things to do was go order a large double double and a sour cream glazed doughnut from Tim Horton's. In fact I have even had dreams about this combination ever since moving to Central Asia. I heard that they had opened one for the troops in Kandahar, and even pulled out a map to see if I could figure out how far it was to my closest Timmy's (when I saw that I would have to cross some tall mountains, pass through Pakistan just to get to the base, I decided that maybe it wasn't worth it). But hitting Timmy's is the first thing I do when I arrive home in Canada.
Thailand really is the land of plenty, it might not be flowing with milk and honey, but it does make my dreams come true. Yesterday while walking through the mall I noticed that Mister Donut had something on the sign that strangely resembled my long lost friend, mister sour cream glazed. I was a little sceptical to actually try it, having been disappointed many times in the past by baked goods in Asia that look like the real thing, but tasted nothing like it. My friend had noticed how I was salivating over the picture, and bought me the doughnut to try today. I am pleased to report that it lived up to my memory. I still have three more days here, so the question is... how many doughnuts can I eat in that amount of time???

Sunday, February 01, 2009

Pleasant Trip to the Hospital

Yesterday I made my annual pilgrimage to the hospital in Thailand (I don't really trust the medical care where I live in Central Asia). What is normally a dreadful and avoided situation for most people is almost a highlight of the trip for me. It is hard to believe all that can be accomplished in a few hours.

I learned years ago that you do not have to make an appointment in advance, you can just show up at the hospital, and get in to see a specialist. This is totally amazing to me since I come from Canada and specialists have waiting lists that can be several months long.

Anyway I normally show up at the hospital and tell the front desk clerk what type of doctor I would like to see. Within ten minutes I am often sitting in his office (much better than the gruelling three hour waits I remember from my childhood). Most of the doctors at the hospital in Bangkok have all been trained in the west and speak excellent English. This doctor can then order all the tests I need. From there it is a well oiled machine, first I go to the lab, then off to ex-ray followed by a quick eye exam and back to the original doctor who, by this time, already has the results of my blood work and the ex-rays, he gives me his general report and off I go to pay the bill and pick up meds. Since I am filling a prescription for a whole years worth of medication they sometimes need a little longer , which gives me time to swing by Starbucks on my way and enjoy a cold, icy, frappe, tall, grandee, treat of coffee goodness. And all of this for the low, low price of $1,200 CAD (Not counting the coffee). All of this running around from office to office can be accomplished in 2 and a half hours. It is utterly amazing.

After another of year of this grand tradition, you will all be glad to hear (or at least my mom will) that I have been deemed healthy and fit for another year. I love the hospital.