Sunday, November 28, 2010

Monkey Buffet

Lopburi is a province of central Thailand (and just north of where I live). It is known for it's monkeys, who roam the streets freely. I've heard LOTS of stories of them fighting with people trying to steal their bags and whatever else they're carrying. The Thais say that the monkeys are descendants of Hanuman who, according to legend, claimed Lopburi as his kingdom. To celebrate the monkeys, a buffet and festival is held for them every year. Of course, there was no way I was going to miss an event like this! I'd been looking forward to it for weeks and it definitely didn't disappoint. It was probably the coolest thing I've done in Thailand so far! It was held at a wat and there were SO many people there. The grounds of the wat were completely covered by monkeys running around eating the food from their buffet. There were HUNDREDS of them!! There were newborn babies all the way up to the old fogey monkeys, who looked like wise old men. They definitely aren't shy animals! They were climbing all over everyone and helping themselves to whatever they pleased.

Just to be clear, I was the one behind bars. I was inside the wat, the monkey was outside.

A little cutie patootie enjoying some watermelon.

Mother and child...

Oh you know, just checking for bugs...

Check out the little newborn curled up to it's mother!

I'll admit, some of them kind of scared me...

Erin being attacked... the monkey was eating her hair!

This one had a bit of a superiority complex, looking down on the childish antics of the festival apparently too cool to join in.

He looks like a little old man!

Apparently I wasn't the only one annoyed by this woman and her camera...

Being a sport and looking at the camera for me.

A Thai man was feeding the monkeys his peanuts (and again, WE were the ones behind the bars!).

Sticking his tongue out!

Just hanging out... literally.

The aftermath. These were all awesome images made out of food, which the monkeys clearly destroyed.

I made a friend!

Coke vs. Pepsi

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Loy Krathong Festival

Sunday was Loy Krathong Day, so one of the Thai teachers brought my housemate and I to the festival at the river. It was SO crowded! It was really strange to see some of my students there... I didn't even recognize a lot of them without their school uniforms. It was a lot of fun though, and I'm excited to have celebrated my first Thai holiday!

People walking towards the river with their Krathongs, all ready to be sent down the river.

People relaxing, eating, watching the Loy Krathong show (Thai dance and beauty contest).

We ran into one of my favorite students (appropriately named Thai Boy). He's in one of my M5 classes, which is the equivalent to juniors in America. He's not in the English program but he somehow still managed to become fluent! Please do not make fun of how much shorter I am than my student, or how much weight I've gained since I've gotten here. The other girl is my housemate, Erin.

A tour of one of the markets set up for the festivities...

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Loy Krathong at School

Loy Krathong is a Thai holiday that falls on the full moon of the 12th lunar month (usually November). At night, people go to the klong (canal) or river to float their krathongs. The krathongs are traditionally made from all the parts of the banana plant and they also carry incense or candles. People light the incense/candles, make a wish, and set their krathongs off down the river. The idea is to ask the water spirits to sail away their troubles in the ir krathongs as sort of a spiritual cleansing. By the end of the night, there are hundreds of flickering lights bobbing up and down on the water. They also have fireworks displays and (very elaborate) beauty contest.

The real Loy Krathong Day isn't until Sunday, but my school held it's celebrations today. It was SO much fun! It was a HUGE event and I still cant believe how into it everyone was. Something like this would/could never happen in America! The students worked on their krathongs all day and then there was a beauty contest and singing competition in the afternoon. For the beauty contest, classes voted on who they wanted to enter, and those girls who were chosen got dressed up in traditional Thai costume. They were all absolutely beautiful! They went all out, and I mean ALL OUT. A lot of my students were participating and I didn't recognize a single one of them!

A sea of students working on their krathongs.

Hard at work!

Some of my favorite students! They're in the Science Program, not than the English program, which means English is far from their main focus. Still, I always have so much fun with this class! They're very lively, to say the least.

A few more of my students...

One of my students shyly showing off her krathong. I can't believe how creative all of the students got with them!

Some of my students from one of my EP (English Program) art classes. They're M1, which is equivalent to 7th or 8th grade at home.

One of the Thai teachers with one of the MANY wild dogs at school. The dogs wander around and will walk right into the classrooms and even the teachers' lounge. They also have a habit of attacking my housemate and I whenever we ride past them on our bikes.

Some of the boys, apparently too cool to make krathongs.

Testing out their krathong to see if it floats. This is the so called "pool" at the school. "Lake" is definitely a bit more appropriate, but I think something gets lost in the translation.

All the krathongs lined up and ready for judging! Each class made one... there were SO many of them and every single one was amazing.

Lots and lots of kids waiting for the beauty contest to start!

It was too crowded on the ground, so a lot of the kids watched from above.

One of the Thai teachers helping a student get ready for the contest.

It's a school rule that all of the students have to keep their hair very short, so Erin (my housemate) and I were wondering how much fake hair was used for all of these fancy shmancy up-dos.

Saway MAK! (Very beautiful.)

The beauty contest in motion! They were all wearing- no exaggeration- at least 4 or 5 inch heels. The "stage" was made of tables, so it wasn't the most solid thing to walk on. To top it all off, these girls all had so much extra weight on their heads and skirts that really didn't allow for much movement. Somehow they all still managed to be perfect little Thai women. I definitely couldn't have done it!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Cooking Lessons

I love the Thai teachers at my school... they're all awesome and the nicest people ever. They've been teaching us how to cook some Thai dishes recently and they've all been deeeeelicious! Today we learned how to make pad see ew woon sen (pad see ew but with glass noodles instead of wide rice noodles). Using different noodles gave the dish a completely different taste, and I MIGHT have even liked it more than the traditional pad see ew!

Deliciousness in the works...

Some of the lovely Thai teachers and office staff.

The master at work.

The finished product!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Aroi MAK!

I've had a special request to bring back the food pictures, so without further ado, I present to you... what I've eaten over the past few days:

This is THE BEST FRIED RICE IN THE WORLD. It was also, by far, the best meal I've had in the three months that I've been here, and I've had some amazing food. I don't know how the woman did it, but every bite was an explosion of flavor in my mouth and I was so sad when I finished it. The second my housemate and I finished eating it last night, we decided we were going back to get it again tonight. I woke up thinking about it, and it's all we talked about all day. This fried rice alone is worth a trip to Thailand... seriously.

This salad is yet another one of the amazing things Thailand has to offer. Like the fried rice, it's hard to imagine it's even half as delicious as it is. It's the dressing (or "salad cream", as they call it) that really clenches it. I don't know what it is, but it's sweet and yellow and I can eat it by the spoonful. It goes almost TOO well with the sweetness of the corn, taro, and pumpkin in the salad. I don't care what you say, that dressing even puts ranch to shame.

One of the Thai teachers had this dish for lunch the other day, and as usual, she forced me to try it. And by forced, I mean she saw me drooling over it and offered me some before I exploded. It's called Pad Kana Moo Grob and is my new favorite Thai dish. When I first got here, I was all about the noodles. Now I'm all about the rice. I'm not sure what kind of sauce this is fried in, but it's kind of sweet and super flavorful. There's also A LOT of garlic thrown in there, which is right up my alley. Moo grob means crispy pork but I've yet to find out for sure what part of the pig it is. It's a little bit sweet and a little bit fatty, but not too much of either. It's my new favorite meat... I get it in everything now!

This is a crab stick donut. Yes, crab. And mayo. And it was just as disgusting as it sounds. I knew it would be but it was staring me in the face and screaming my name so I couldn't resist. How many people can say they've had a crab donut before?? When in Thailand...

Stay tuned to see more of what's making me fat.

More importantly, I've got a busy weekend ahead and my camera will most definitely be accompanying me. Thursday is the Loy Krathong celebration at school, complete with traditional Thai costumes and the 'releasing' of krathongs in our school's pool (aka swamp). On Saturday, my school is hosting an inter-school English competition (storytelling, skits, spelling bee, etc.) and I'll be the word reader for the spelling bee. On Sunday, one of the Thai teachers offered to bring me to a wat a bit north of here and to show me the parts of Saraburi that I haven't seen yet. After that, we're planning to go see a soccer game at the stadium in town. Then, (if I haven't fallen asleep yet) we'll go to the Loy Krathong festival (Sunday is the actual Loy Krathong Day) and see all of the krathongs in the river and eat all of the delicious food specially prepared to the occasion. Lots to look forward to... I'm so excited!

Saturday, November 13, 2010

My Neighborhood by Day

The other day, I realized that things that I thought were strange and interesting when I first got here are now starting to feel normal. As soon as this hit me, I decided that no matter what, I would go out and take some pictures of my neighborhood before I'm not able to pick out things that are "strange" anymore.

"My Neighborhood by Night" coming soon!