Friday, September 28, 2007

Five years!

Today is my fifth wedding anniversary. That's crazy.

We went out and did a little shopping and had a nice dinner to celebrate. I wonder if in 20 years, I'll still feel like I just got married?

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Things Change

Yesterday I had a woman tell me I look 19. She wanted to know how old I actually am; I guess I threw her for a loop talking about my (almost) three-year-old.

I get a lot of these oh-you-look-so-young kind of comments. I used to hate it, especially when I was working full time. I hated that how I looked might make people perceive me as less professional or less competent, and I had more than one supervisor/co-worker try to treat me like their child. One of my bosses actually sat John down at an office party and gave him the third degree about his future work plans. It was funny, in a way, and also weird. John resisted the urge to tell him that 1) he wasn't my father and 2) we were already married, so it was too late to change my mind.

The comment yesterday didn't bother me a bit. Somehow the fact that I'm almost 28 with two kids is making me more receptive to being perceived as young. Funny how things change.


I’m a fairly independent person. Not extremely independent, but I’m certainly capable of doing things on my own. At least in the U.S. I am. Here, I am not as independent, and what independence I have involves far more effort. This is all because of the language barrier. My last post notwithstanding, my Thai is extremely limited. I can have an entire conversation about my kids, because I've heard it all many times, but outside of that topic I'm pretty useless. And my pronunciation, while improved, is still not that good.

I didn’t realize how limiting not speaking the language would be until I was on study abroad here as a student in 2001. I had already been to Guatemala at that point, but at least in Guatemala I spoke a little of the language (though not as well as you might think after four years of studying it. . .I did get proposed to so I must have said something interesting!) It is VERY limiting to not speak the language here. If I can’t find an item I’m looking for in a store, I can’t ask where it is. I can’t ask if they are just out of stock or if they never carry it at all. I want to go buy some fabric but it’s too difficult to explain what I want and how much, unless John can come with me. I also need to get some pants hemmed, but John will have to do that for me as well.

I have to be careful about where I go by myself. If I get lost, I can’t stop and ask for directions. I have never seen a decent map of Khon Kaen, and definitely not one in English, so I don’t just take off and go places. I get really good directions first (and I have to get these from an actual person, instead of just using Mapquest like I do in the States). I try to take the cell phone and I stick to the places I’ve been to before.

It’s strange not to be able to ask simple questions either. I can’t talk to the daycare teachers who take care of Trea and Adia. Normally I’d make small talk at least, but here I just smile. If I really need something, I’ll get John to translate for me, but just for routine things (did she take a good nap? Did she eat a good lunch?) it’s not worth it.

I should say that Adia’s teachers (who used to teach Trea, and live nearby) do talk to me a fair bit, and I to them, and sometimes we even understand each other. As I’ve said before, they are used to toddler gibberish so they’re patient with my attempts to speak Thai!

Worse even than the spoken language is the fact that I’m functionally illiterate. I used to volunteer as a literacy tutor; I worked with a 21-year-old guy who read at a first-grade level (and had passed the Maryland reading exam to graduate from high school, on the first try, but that’s a separate rant). Anything below fifth grade is considered functionally illiterate. Now I know what that’s like. Menus? Can’t read them. Directions for using a cleaning product? I guess, or ask John. Signs listing services and prices? No good to me.

John forgets sometimes what language he’s reading in, and it’s kind of funny. We were walking through the mall a couple months ago and passed a pizza restaurant. He turned to me and said, “We’ve gotta do that soon.” “Do what?” I said. “That pizza deal, the two-for-one special.” It was in Thai, so I had no idea. There are lots of those types of things. You don’t notice until you can’t read.

I also really miss reading for pleasure. I LOVE to read. I was an English major! I can’t wait for libraries. Libraries full of free books in a language I understand. What an incredible resource we have in libraries, and I’ve always taken it for granted. I've been lucky that other farangs here have lent me books, and my mom has sent me some as well. And luckily, we've got Internet and I read a lot of random blogs and forums.

(And in case anyone is wondering why I don't read Thai. . .it's not like I didn't try. There are 44 consonants alone, each a different sound/tone combo, and then there are subconsonants and vowels. There are no spaces between words and no punctuation except periods. It looks like this if you want to see it).

Sunday, September 23, 2007

And miracles shall never cease. . .

The impossible has happened.

I have been complimented on my Thai.

Not once, but FOUR times!

The first time, it was a total stranger. He stopped to admire Adia (totally cute baby that she is), and said, in English, "Lady or. . . .?"

So I responded in Thai, "Girl."
He said, "Where are you going?"
I said, "The university."
And he said, "Oh you speak Thai really well."

As I have said before, it doesn't take much to impress Thais with your efforts to speak their language.

The second time, I was asking my neighbor if I could buy some water (she gets it delivered in bulk, and we buy it from her). Her daughter, who speaks fluent English, was very impressed that I had learned how to say "buy water" since she had last visited.

The third time, Jick complimented me on my pronunciation when I said "we're going home."

The fourth time, Earn told John I was starting to understand a lot more.

So, you see, give me fourteen months in a country and even I can make noticable progress.

Makes me sad to go home now.

Thursday, September 06, 2007


We finally blessed Adia last Sunday. We had a dress made for her from Thai silk (which sounds extravagant but cost less then I would have spent making it in the States). It actually isn't exactly what I described but it's still really cute. I would have done the sewing myself, but I don't have a machine and they don't sell patterns here.
Also, she cut her first tooth. Bottom front, others shortly to follow I'm sure.

Monday, September 03, 2007


I cooked a lot this weekend. I made chicken and mashed potatoes for dinner Sunday night, plus I made two no-bake cheesecakes (not the cheesecakes my friend Ariana referred to in a comment, but still very tasty). I miss having a real kitchen. I miss having an oven, and all the things you can do with an oven - roast, broil, bake. I miss counter space, and cabinets. I miss having a real, full-size refrigerator and freezer (my refrigerator is shorter than I am, and has a little freezer compartment). It makes it hard to keep an adequate supply of food on hand.

Most of all, I miss having an enclosed kitchen that is really part of the house. Our kitchen, as I believe I have mentioned before, is an afterthought. You go out the back door into the little lean-to type room that is my kitchen. It's tiny. There's open space between the top of the outside wall and the roof. We have a loose wire grill over the open space now, which keeps out the birds, frogs, etc. (which keeps them from pooping on my counter, that was driving me nuts). But bugs can still get in. There are a lot of ants and spiders, and it doesn't matter how clean the kitchen is, they still come. Occasionally a flying insect will land in the food as I am cooking it, and I can't help but think "Flaming DEATH!" (Trea's been watching "A Bug's Life"). It's kind of like camping, without the natural surroundings.

Thing is, I'm not a big fan of camping, so I'm looking forward to a "real" kitchen soon.