Friday, July 21, 2006

Never a dull moment

Last Saturday night we had the opportunity to attend a welcome party for new teachers (that would be us and two others). We had some great food (fish stomach soup, anyone?) and some even better karoake. It seems the tradition is for new teachers to sing a karoake number, but I weaseled out of it. I put the focus (and the pressure) on John by suggesting to Mai Yai, the school owner, that he sing in Thai. There's a group called Loso that's been around forever, they are kind of classic rock here, and we have one of their albums. So, Mai Yai got Joke, her daughter to help (little side note: Mai Yai is a nickname which means "big momma," and her kids are Joke, Jick, and Jack. Too funny.) They managed to find the song John knows the best. He totally rocked it. Not only did he have the best voice of all the men, the fact that he sang in Thai blew everyone away. To really get this, you have to understand how sacred karoake is here. I've heard it's like that all over Asia, but here it's huge. And for him to sing a song by this particular group, is like a Thai rocking a rendition of CCR or Elvis or (fill in your quintessential American musical group here). He got through the first line and the Thais started screaming like it was a rock concert. Someone even ran up and gave him flowers halfway through the song. I'd never heard him sing a rock song before, and he was awesome. I realize some of you who know John are wondering how my humble, quiet husband could be hiding this secret rock star persona, but let me assure you, it is there. I wish I'd had a camera. The principal commented that he didn't miss a word. Cliff, one of the farang teachers, asked John if he'd memorized it. Cliff's been married to a Thai woman for five years and has lived here for that entire time, and he admitted he couldn't have read the words fast enough to sing in Thai. I think he couldn't fathom the idea that John might read Thai that well; he sounded a little jealous. John was familiar with the song but he didn't have it memorized, he's just awesome. Apparently word got out, because now his fourth-grade class wants him to sing for them. They could just be trying to get out of word problems in math, though.

I also had a funny encounter with Jick's grandma. Jick lives behind the school and practically next door to us, and her grandmother lives with her. Jick's mother is 60, so her grandma's probably in her 80s. She's diabetic, wheel-chair bound, and not quite all there. They have a live-in care provider for her. I was out for a walk with Trea, and Joke, Jick, Grandma, and the care provider were all outside in the yard. We went over to say hi, and the conversation went like this (in Thai, from what I could surmise):

Joke: Grandma, look at the baby.
Grandma: What baby?
Joke: That baby, the American one.
Grandma: Huh?

A couple moments pass. . .

Grandma: (startled, with great surprise) Farang!
Joke: Yes, Grandma.
Grandma: Who's baby is that? (Hmm, let me think, she's met John, and there's only one farang couple in this neck of the woods, so. . .)
Joke: That's Teacher John's baby.
Grandma: Oh.

Several minutes later. . .
Grandma: Is that farang baby one of the teacher's kids?
Joke: Yes, Grandma, she's Teacher John's daughter.

Grandma then went on to say that John was the handsomest man at the school. Apparently he did a perfect wai when he met her, and then spoke Thai, so she was incredibly impressed with him.

Random thought for the day: the trouble with being culturally sensitive is that usually, no one notices. Unless they've had a lot of experience with foreigners, they just take whatever you're doing for granted. That's the point, I guess, to blend in, but sometimes it's nice for someone to be like hey, you're really adapting.

In other news, John managed to order pizza for the first time. Sounds simple, but ordering a pizza and giving directions in a foreign language can be a bit of a challenge. The giving directions part hit a small snag, but it got here in the end. Another side note: food delivery here is awesome. Not only do McDonald's and KFC deliver, as well as the pizza places, but there's just one number for each company. Want McDonald's? Dial 1211 and your call automatically goes to the closest store. Each company has a four-digit number like that. Why can't American places figure that out?? Maybe Thais are just too used to having food everywhere; you can't walk hardly 100 feet in the city without having a couple of eating options. There's food EVERYWHERE. Thais eat 4 or 5 times a day, and they like variety. I don't know how they stay so skinny!

Finally, a scary incident from last week. I decided to be all motivated and get up early Saturday morning for a jog. I got up at 5:30, left the house shortly thereafter, and had a nice jog in the cool of the morning alongside a nearby stream. I was walking back when I encountered a dog. Now, dogs are everywhere in Thailand, as pets and also strays. Most are passive but some are aggressive. This wasn't just any dog, though; it was a freaking Rottweiler. I've had pet dogs and some pretty big ones, and I'm not usually afraid of them. A rottweiler, in a country where rabies is endemic, is another story. As soon as I saw it I started backing up slowly and the stupid thing lunged at me. I yelled, and the owner came out of a nearby house and called it off. Stupid dog scared me to death. Gives me reason not to work out though.


suprbacana said...

HA! If only I had that good of an excuse to avoid working out! Rabid Thai Rottweilers would pretty much get me out of anything. :)

Can I have John's autograph?? :-)

Mom J. said...

Oh Kristen, I loved your story about John's singing. He told me about it over the phone and it was nothing at all like your account. I identify with your encounter with the dog. It would only take one dog for me to give up "walking" for the rest of my live.