Friday Five

Five Things I Didn’t Realize Would Be So Awesome About America

Clever Wordplay
Puns. Wit. Sarcasm. Emphasis. Double entendres. Adjectives. Where have you been for the last two years? It took a few weeks for me to get all of these as the flew past my ESL teacher senses, but now that I have I find myself giggling at random moments about things I heard that are tickling my brain. Or thinking of new ones on my run. Because that’s not creepy to see someone running on the road chuckling to themselves.

Calling People Out
Especially while utilizing said clever wordplay. And realizing that not only are my verbal capabilities coming back, but they’re able to correct another person’s. Unless I totally misread the situation and end up falling on my face, ‘breaking’ my own in an attempt to do so with someone else’s. Awkward.

Getting the Whole Picture
And being able to ask questions if maybe I don’t totally have it the first go around. I eventually stopped asking many questions in Thailand because I either wouldn’t get an actual answer or there would be a lot more to the situation than what I was being told. With a little thing called ‘being surrounded by native English speakers,’ I’m almost overwhelmed by the amount of information I get on a daily basis without putting in nearly the same amount of effort as with Thai. Half-awesome, half-TMI.

Nearby Friends
To visit most of my friends in Thailand, it required the scary task of walking out the front door, getting a ride 30 km away to the nearest town, and then however many more buses and hours of Thailand required before even seeing the face of that glorious one you spent all this time to get to… and all you wanted to do was lay down afterwards. Outside of my best friend living states away, it continually amazes me to throw spur of the moment plans together with new work friends and having a crazy thing called, a social life. Sometimes, I even go out after dark.

Going Out to Eat
I guess I sort of knew this was going to be amazing, but maybe not the depth of how spectacular it is to glance, go back over, read more in-depth the pages and pages of menu options waiting to be devoured. Seriously, everything I eat bursts onto my tongue with flavors I long missed in Thailand. Especially fruit and veggies with seasoning. Granny Smith apples and strawberries never have tasted so good.

Friday Five

Five More Photos from April– I know, I know. Another Friday Five photo post, but given it’s the first Friday of the month, I thought I would do a few more photos from April. Next week I’ll get back on the writing train.

I couldn't help myself... it's American Street. How amazing is that?

I couldn’t help myself… it’s American Street. How amazing is that?

Another photo from Phipps

Another photo from Phipps

Tyler entertaining a class of third graders, most questions started like this: 'Excuse me Mr. Army-man'

Tyler entertaining a class of third graders, most questions started like this: ‘Excuse me Mr. Army-man…’ This was a good introduction back into how American kids are compared to Thais

My best friend's bachelorette bridal bonanza

My best friend’s bachelorette bridal bonanza… yes I am the tallest in the ENTIRE bridal party

Tyler thought it best to censor this baby's awkward nudity

Tyler thought it best to censor this baby’s awkward nudity… can’t say I disagree with him

Some Goodbyes

It’s really hard to believe a month ago I was leaving the village and Thailand. In many ways it feels like a far away dream, but in others it doesn’t seem like I’ve completely left either. This is part of my journey to say goodbye to Thailand.

These little nuggets of cuteness were graduating kindergarten and put on a play.

These little nuggets of cuteness were graduating kindergarten and put on a play.

The start of the blessings bracelets. This is a traditional Thai ceremony reserved for special occasions like graduations and weddings.

The start of the blessings bracelets. This is a traditional Thai ceremony reserved for special occasions like graduations and weddings. It was suiting my last day in the village was the sixth grade graduation celebration.

All of the parents and important village leaders stacked these on my wrist. It's almost mystical in a way when they murmur over you.

All of the parents and important village leaders stacked these on my wrist. It’s almost mystical in a way when they murmur over you.

These are all my bracelets (and banana/rice ball I had to carry around all morning, no idea why) by the time I made it through everyone.

These are all my bracelets (and banana/rice ball I had to carry around all morning, no idea why) by the time I made it through everyone.

I try not to play favorites, but these two are literally my most cherished students in the entire country. When they wanted to add bracelets to my wrist, I couldn't hold it in anymore and broke down sobbing (which you can sort of see in this picture). The amount of love and gratitude I have for these two little girls is unexplainable in words.

I try not to play favorites, but these two are literally my most cherished students in the entire country. When they wanted to add bracelets to my wrist, I couldn’t hold it in anymore and broke down sobbing (which you can sort of see in this picture). The amount of love and gratitude I have for these two little girls is unexplainable in words.

Apparently graduation day also means it's sticker day

Apparently graduation day also means it’s sticker day

One of the gifts I got from a sixth grade girl. It naturally made the trip home with me.

One of the gifts I got from a sixth grade girl. It naturally made the trip home with me.

My real Thai friends that rented a van and brought me to the airport and as a last meal we had... Chinese food

My adult Thai friends that rented a van and brought me to the airport and as a last meal we had… Chinese food. These are the women I could be my true self with and they accepted me, American faults and all. 

My village Thais were a little surprised at the variety of races in their airport... and how cold it was in there. I'm so glad I had some last minute goofing around with one of my best Thai friends. I miss her so much already.

My village Thais were a little surprised at the variety of races in their airport… and how cold it was in there. I’m so glad I had some last-minute goofing around with one of my best Thai friends. I miss her so much already.

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My all time favorite coffee shop in Thailand. I really wish I could bring this peaceful place home with me.

The longest ticket combination of my traveling to date. This is my 'see you on the other side of the world' face.

The longest ticket combination of my traveling to date. This is my ‘see you on the other side of the world’ face.

Real Person Status: Achieved.

I’ve been in America for nearly a month now.  I’ve been here, there, everywhere. It feels like a minute and it feels like forever at the same time. It seems like I’m in a projected state of limbo trying to figure out if I belong here or in Thailand, but for now, I’m not complaining. The mornings I wake up and relish the feeling of clean sheets on a more than box spring bed or when I adjust the water temperature in my shower or realizing a shadow is just a shadow, not a mouse, gecko, or scorpion or putting a sweater because I’m cold, I think to myself ‘am I allowed to be this comfortable?’

The past month and a half has seemed to move in hyperdrive. Life is so different and exciting when there are lots of people who want to spend time with you. The biggest difference in village life to the goodbye/hello period is the vast amount of social interaction I’ve been having with other people. And, you know, the über comfort/luxury that is life in America.

I think I’ve settled into something of a routine now after all the hecticness. I have an ATM card, a driver’s license, a ‘telecommunication device’ (aka an ability to call/text people in America, but not a smart phone by any means), a restock of necessities that Thailand wiped out of my possession (like underwear), and a job. It’s almost like I’m a real person again.

Tourist Thailand: Bangkok

The ‘kok as Manfriend so unoriginally calls it. And sometimes, that’s just where you feel like you are, in a humid, crowded place with trash, odd smells, and traffic. Much like other major cities in the world, Bangkok doesn’t really reflect how the rest of the country feels culturally, politically or economically. And it’s a lot hotter too.

By a year in to my Peace Corps service, I decided I was more than ok never spending a long time in the capital or going to the major tourist sites. The most I ever did in Bangkok before I had a visitor was hang out in the delightfully comfortable PC lounge (it’s like a little sanctuary of America), eat lots of western food, and frequent the ginormous JJ weekend market.

So when Momma Coop was going to be coming to town, I knew I needed to bite the tourist bullet and figure out our way there. I was pleasantly surprised. Absurdly jacked up ‘foreigner’ prices not withstanding, Wat Po and the Grand Palace are worth a visit. For the ‘templed-out’ traveler, I would still suggest making your way to both locations. Both Wat Po and the Grand Palace are easily accessible and very close to each other so you can do both in one day. Like I wrote in my other post though, I would definitely suggest starting earlier in the day so you can wander around half a day in each location. Let’s break them down.

Wat Po
One of the largest and oldest temples within Bangkok, Wat Po is recognized as the birthplace of Thai massage, the first school opening within the complex. Visitors will note it is the home of the jaw droppingly huge reclining Buddha. Along with it, there are over 1000 Buddha images, beautifully colored pagodas (my favorite part), and a nice little fountain of a waterfall (very peaceful compared to the normal experience of being on a Bangkok street).

The reclining Buddha, a must-see in tourist Thailand

The reclining Buddha, a popular must-see tourist attraction in Thailand

The intricate carving on the feet alone is worth the trip

The intricate carving on the feet alone is worth the trip

A nice little fountain right next to the reclining Buddha

A nice little fountain right next to the reclining Buddha

I had to capture this, yes the monk has an Ipad

I had to capture this, yes the monk has an Ipad

I got a little obsessed with the faces

I got a little obsessed with the faces

I really enjoyed wandering around the back portions of the complex. This was where most of the Buddha images were, along with many pagodas, animal statues, and not a lot of tourists. For this reason I would suggest going in the morning if possible before the tours and to not be on a huge tour in the first place.

I think the artist was capturing the kind of nose they wanted to have

I think the artist was capturing the kind of nose they wanted to have

The colors on these things was amazing

The colors on these things was amazing

On a crowded tour, you miss the little nooks and crannies that make a place even more interesting

On a crowded tour, you miss the little nooks and crannies that make a place even more interesting

Up close with one of the flowers on the pagoda

Up close with one of the flowers on the pagoda

There are modesty skirts and shawls for those with wearing shoulder and thigh baring clothing, but Wat Po’s standards are more relaxed than the Grand Palace. At the Grand Palace, both my Mom and I were stopped and asked to cover even our lower legs. You pick those up at the very front with a small deposit.

The Grand Palace
The official residence of Thai royalty since the late eighteenth century (though the royal family has lived in other palaces since the 1920s), the Grand Palace is a staggeringly large collection of buildings. Currently in use for only a few official state functions and ceremonies a year, it is the most visited tourist attraction in Bangkok. It’s easy to see why.

We didn't get a chance to get across the river before sun set, so this photo is from: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grand_Palace,_Bangkok

We didn’t get a chance to get across the river before sun set, so this photo is from: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grand_Palace,_Bangkok

The big attraction here is the jade Buddha. The story originally goes that a temple in Chiang Rai was struck by lightning in the 1400s and broke open an octagonal pagoda. Inside was the jade Buddha. No personal pictures are allowed inside (though people sneak all the time), but it is something to sit and gaze at the Buddha (feet pointing away, obviously). I also really enjoyed the golden pagoda and all the buildings made from tile that made it seem to have a rainbow effect.

Blue, blue, blue

Blue, blue, blue

The colors that wrapped around the entire building... sigh

The colors that wrapped around the entire building… sigh

How can you not love these guys?

How can you not love these guys?

What I imagine meditation looking like

What I imagine meditation looking like

The main event

The main event

I love the flowers and colors

I love the flowers and colors

There are a number of museums and smaller temples within that are worth a quick gander. Our favorite was the Queen’s Museum of Textiles with yards upon yards of beautiful Thai silk and utilizing it like bookmarks, magnets, notebooks, and the like. Right near the exit/entrance, it was a nice finish to our day of touring.

For those a little cultured out (or in desperate need for western food like myself), there is a conveniently located Au Bon Pain right across the street from the Grand Palace where Momma Coop and I indulged, waiting for sun set. Have I mentioned I’ve been dying for a chicken caesar wrap for two years?!

The pretzels were stale and the chicken a little funky, but I didn't care one bit

The pretzels were stale and the chicken a little funky, but I didn’t care one bit

Afterwards we wandered over to the river and digested and were quite rewarded with this shot.

Not only did we get an awesome sunset over the river, but this view was the next act

Not only did we get an awesome sunset over the river, but this view was the next act

Check out the companion video for Bangkok in this previous post.

Friday Five

Five Desserts– When Jeff came to me with the idea for the 10 foods and drinks lists, I couldn’t fit the sinful desserts onto my food list. Enter Friday Five.

Ooey, Gooey Brownies
A favorite Sunday activity in my family is to make a box mix (judge away) of brownies after church for an afternoon treat. Both my Mom and I like a mushy brownie, so they’re always just a little bit undercooked. Add a scoop of vanilla ice cream and an English movie on a cold Autumn day with the fire going… sounds like paradise after two years in the tropics.

Grammy’s Peanut Butter Chocolate Pie
I know the exact steps of how she does it, but I swear, there is magic Grandmother dust when she makes this pie because it seems like an out-of-body experience. Over the holidays my family will go to arms via forks who gets the last piece of this mixture of chocolate pudding, gobs of peanut butter, graham crust and a tub of Cool Whip.

Cheesecake
Cheesecake and I only started our relationship the Autumn before I left for Thailand. It was hot and heavy at first, but after two years of deprivation, cheesecake and I are ready to begin again. I can not wait to go to Cheesecake Factory for Saturday brunch to skip the real food and just order three slices of different kinds of dessert.

Family Recipe Sugar Cookies
Thailand doesn’t do cookies very well. My Aunt Renee does. Every year for Thanksgiving in Christmas she would make me my own dozen of inch thick sugar cookies for me to keep all for myself. I hope to spend a week at their house in rural Pennsylvania in the summer following my return to the U.S. and fingers crossed I can get a dose of homemade family deliciousness.

Apple Pie
Oddly enough, my first (adult) slice of this American classic was in Thailand. I was never a fan before, but this taste of home while here really opened my mind to apple pie. I’m looking forward to trying it still warm, homemade, and some whipped cream or vanilla ice cream to accompany it.

*If you are ever in Thailand and hankering for a phenomenal dessert fix, the best I’ve come across here is Love at First Bite in Chiang Mai. Volcano Explosion. You’re welcome.