29 March 2011

The Lord said to Noah there's gonna be a floody floody

The Lord said to Noah:
There's gonna be a floody, floody
The Lord said to Noah:
There's gonna be a floody, floody
Get those kids out of the muddy, muddy
Children of the Lord

This is one annoying verse from one very annoying song. I know this song because when I was a kid any time I spent the night at my friend Brad’s house his Dad would wake us up at 6:00am singing this song at the top of his lungs…over and over and over. He sang not because of religious zeal or morning cheer, he sang because he knew we had stayed up until 5am whacked out on Jolt Cola and Nerds. He wanted to hurt us. He wanted to hurt us bad.

This song has been stuck in my head for days because it has not stopped raining for days. This is the middle of the Thai summer. The heat is supposed to be oppressive. The humidity is supposed to be suffocating. The sweat is supposed to be constant. Instead Thai men with nets are fishing where the roads are supposed to be. Houses are flooded. Knee deep puddles are everywhere. The roar of the rain won’t go away.

The flooding is so bad water filled my room and cascaded down the stairs while I was in Koh Samui. (Thank you to my roommates for mopping up).

The flooding is so bad car carrier semi-trucks are parking on the side of the road, loading up cars and driving them through the worst areas.

The flooding is so bad I had to leave my scooter in Koh Samui and hitch a ride with a friend. She has a car. We thought it wouldn’t be bad. You know when they show flood footage on the news and cars are being swept off the road and you think “what dumbass was out in that?” This dumbass was out in that. In certain sections of the road the water was above the tires. People on scooters had no choice but to push through the rapids. One group tried to weigh a bike down with coconuts to keep it from drifting away.

There is a sense of adventure with all this rain. The little boy in me likes stomping through puddles and getting drenched. But, the adult in me sees the damage, and the people being put out of their homes, and wants the rain to please, pretty please, go away.

Note to self: Teach students that electricity and water don’t mix
Every time I see a news report about the flood damage the reporter is interviewing someone with at least 6 inches of standing water in their house and the TV still on.

Dream a little dream come true

Before the deluge I was living the high life on Koh Samui. My three week dream gig was indeed dreamy. I read books on the beach, swam in the pool, rode my scooter through the jungle, ate and ate, and worked for two hours a day.

I liked teaching adults. It's just like teaching kids with less reprimanding. All the motivational techniques, teams, points, candy…same same.

Guilt was a factor. I didn’t start work until 3pm. I wasn’t about to stay in my room all day so I did what guests do, I enjoyed the resort; the pool, the food, the lounge chairs in the sand beneath the palms.  And I felt like a special kind of asshole every time one of my students brought me a delicious fruit shake. I carried on of course. I’m just saying.

Chewang Beach is weird. That’s where I stayed. It is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Thailand. On the street side it’s all McDonald’s and Starbucks and dudes selling suits and girls in tiny dresses yelling, “Welcome! Massage!! Where you go?” On the beach side it is a quiet stretch of white sand and azure waters where you can dine romantically or walk peacefully. I don’t know if it ended up that way on purpose or on accident but I like it. It’s like being two places at once.

On the road again. Just can’t wait to get on the road again.

I am done working on Thursday. I don’t work again until May 18th. When I left home I needed to travel, it was gnawing at me. This time I am just happy about it. It doesn’t feel life changing. It doesn’t feel like something that may never happen again. It just feels exciting. This trip I will be visiting some familiar places Phi Phi Island, Railay Beach and some unfamiliar places, Hanoi, Halong Bay. I am not bringing my laptop. I’m traveling light. But, I will try to update the blog as often as I can. I will have my journal and I will have long bus rides with nothing but time.

Until then….

02 March 2011

But still...

I don’t believe in luck. I believe that peaceful, happy and even extraordinary lives are the result of actions and words well chosen. Nevertheless, there are times when life strings together coincidence and chance in a way that makes me think, but still…

I have always had island dreams. When I was 10 years old I saved $600 clearing rocks and mowing lawns and bought my own ticket to Hawaii. When I was 18 I almost moved to Tahiti. When I was 32 I left it all behind and moved to Thailand. Through the years and the various variations of the chase the dream has remained the same, “I would open a small resort with bungalows over the water, I would tend bar, teach water sports, and make sure my guests had an amazing time, live it up, Panama Jack style!”

For the next three weeks the dream becomes real. The school I work for is sending me to Koh Samui to teach a training course at a beach front resort. The resort has a pool overlooking white sands.

It has great restaurants. It has massage tables under palm trees set low enough that you can reach down and let Samui sands run through your fingers. As a visiting teacher I will be given a room at the resort, free breakfast, free lunch, and a sizeable baht allowance for dinner. My teaching hours are 3pm-5pm.

But still…

After tasting the dream I have 6 weeks off to travel. I will come back to Surat for a few days pack a small bag and hit the road with friends. April 1st to May 15th is a long time, plans will change, they always do, but for now the map looks something like this...

•Spend a few days on Phi Phi island swimming, diving and drinking buckets.
•Take a short trip across the Andaman Sea to Railay Beach (my reigning choice for favorite place in Thailand.)
•Travel up to Bangkok to visit friends and explore the big bad city.
•Make a quick pit stop in Ayutthaya the once mighty capital of Siam (Thailand).
•Take the train to Chiang Mai for Songkran, a five day water fight celebrating the Thai New Year.
•Fly from Chiang Mai to Hanoi and spend the next few weeks exploring Northern Vietnam by motorcycle. Stops not limited to but including Sapa and Halong Bay.
•Take stock of the financial situation and figure out how we want to spend the last few weeks of vacation. Southern Vietnam? Tubing in Laos? Chill out on a pristine Thai beach?

I moved to Thailand in search of freedom of time and new adventures. I think it is fair to say that I got what I wanted. Before I left home I saved money quickly and efficiently. I got a specialization in teaching tourism English because I wanted to be prepared for my resort dream job if the opportunity came knocking. I traveled cheap so I could travel often. I took actions. I chose words. I got here on my own.

But still…

Notes from Joy School:

My Field Trip was awesome. I took thirty-one Thai fourth graders to The Coliseum, the biggest mall in Surat Thani. They are learning direction words so I had them make big colorful posters with words like up, down, into, out of, through and around. I led them up the escalator, around Mr. Donut, into and out of Pizza Hut. Imagine thirty-one Thai kids in blue school uniforms trailing behind me on a long escalator holding up posters and saying, “We went up the escalator” loud, proud, shy or embarrassed. Now imagine their dismay when I said, “What is the opposite of up?” “Teacher Michael!” And down we went.

The highlight of the Field Trip was our fake movie premiere. The top floor of The Coliseum is a movie theatre. The students got to choose whether they wanted to be reporters or movie stars. The reporters crowded along the sides of the “red carpet” taking pictures with their cardboard cameras and interviewing with their cardboard microphones. The movie stars wore sunglasses and jewelry and posed and strutted like Teacher taught them. The most outgoing kid in the class kept saying, “I can’t do this, I am too shy!” with dramatic attention sucking gestures. The girls who don’t speak jutted and strutted and worked the red carpet like big bright shining stars. They loved it. I loved it. It was great.

Their interviews all went something like this:

Reporter: What did you do yesterday?

Famous Actress: Yesterday I did my homework.

Reporter: When is your birthday:

Famous Actress: 27th January, 2000.

Reporter: What is your favorite movie?

Famous Actress: Harry Potter.

Reporter: Is it true that you are the most beautiful actress in the world?

Famous Actress: (Runs off blushing and shaking her head no)

Notes from Surat Thani:

I really like this town. At first I liked it because it was different. Now I just like it. The food is great. The weekends in town have been a blast. The weekends out of town are paradise. It's just good.

Last weekend there was a Biker Festival in town. Thousands of hardcore looking Thai biker dudes rolled into Surat and parked on Koh Lampu. There was a big concert, hundreds of beautiful bikes, and because this is South East Asia, no shame whatsoever from the on-full-display scooter crowd. I really want a vintage bike now. An old-school 70's era Honda or something. One step-up from a scooter but enough to cover some distance.

Maybe after my stint at the dream job…

Maybe after my 6-week vacation…

Maybe after I get back to working 20 hours a week in this Thai town I like so much…

But still…