Daily Archives: August 15, 2005

Prison of water, revisited

Chopper-evac, boat rescue, emergency visit from PM Thaksin, relief supplies and sandbags, one billion baht damage, floating dead…

…for most people, these words evocate the horrible scenes of the tsunami that hit Thai shores last Christmas.

However, the scene described with these phrases happened just yesterday and today, in my city, Chiang Mai. Read the Bangkok Post article titled “Four Dead in Northern Floods”. The article describes central Chiang Mai as a “chest-deep lake”.

True, it was a heavy downpour all day long yesterday, and we got plenty of rain the weeks before too. This is the second time I’ve been through monsoon rain. I wrote a blog entry last year, titled Prison of Water. That experience was much different than this one, but it’s worth comparing.

chest-deep flood A friend of mine called this morning, saying that she is trapped in her house, even her car can’t get through the moat that suddenly appeared at her doorstep this morning. Luckily, her house is safe, but her neighbor can’t say the same thing. They had to move up to the second floor, as the first is under water. (picture courtesy of Bangkok Post; more pictures on chiangmai-mail.com )

However, none of this is apparent from the university. The roads are dry, and people come and go as if nothing happened. Watching the everyday scene, it’s difficult to imagine that just a few blocks away people were fighting for their lives, and lost their possessions.

My place, luckily, was spared from this fate. However, ominous dark clouds are looming on the sky, as signs of more to come, despite the TAT’s effort to minimize the news impact, as seen in the article. But, that’s to be expected from them by now. After all, they were the ones declaring the South to be fit for visiting again, despite tourists complaining about the ‘warzone’ that awaited them. Anyway…

If I’ll have time, I will go and check the damaged areas and see what’s to be done, if anything, since my traveling plans are most likely to be canceled anyway. However, I can’t really complain, seeing how others lost so much more.

Sorry that I didn’t write the blog I promised earlier; this one is more timely, and of more importance.

See you all later,

Language of the Heart

Hands down without doubt the thing I love best about Thailand is the language. Listening to spoken Thai and reading written Thai can even edge out a deliciously so-spicy-will-kill-a-normal-human plate of pad gra pao from my affections.

Thai language is such a beautiful language and really, when you think about it, such a simple language. In Thai you can say the same thing in two words that in proper English would take a dozen or more words sometimes. Example? Thai: Bpai Nai? Meaning: Where are you going? In Proper English: I say old chap where are you popping off to this evening? It’s no wonder Thai kids may sometimes not be thrilled to learn the old pasah Ankrit! 😉
Richard and Steven – My apologies for a little poke in the English ribs there lol

On the other hand Thai is one of the only languages I know where you can say the same word in only a slightly different way 5 times and come up with 5 completely different words like the Thai tongue twister I posted last time maai mai mai mai mai ไม้ใหมไม่ไหม้มยั้ (meaning “New wood doesn’t burn, does it?”).

Be that as it sometimes may when I hear someone speaking Thai my reaction is automatic. I start to physically draw my body into the conversation as if I could absorb the language by osmosis. If I am sitting down like in my Thai class at Wat Thai I start to lean forward more, elbows resting on the table, my head resting in my hands with all the rapt attention of a spellbound child. I listen to the rhythm and cadence of the Thai words that flow out gently like wind or water. Especially when listening to the monks talk about Buddhism in such a peaceful relaxed tone unlike anything, no matter how poetic, that can be said in English or dare I say any other language.

I would swear a look of dopey puppy love crosses over my face. When this happens I wonder if my Thai teacher, Phrapalad Ampol, must think I am his most attentive student or maybe I have a crush on him! 😉

It fascinates me that classic Thai is like a lyrical poem of metaphor, like the epic Ramayana or even the true name of the City of Angels Bangkok. But Thai is also much like modern English in that it can speak its own language within a language in a code of slang and innuendo.

This is a level of true Thai that you will never learn in Thai language books or by listening to Thai audio tapes. It’s only by getting verbally ‘down and dirty’ on the mean streets of Bangkok or ‘sweaty and gritty’ with the hill tribes and farmers outside the city. I can understand this even though I have never been to Thailand before, the only Thailand I know from books, tapes and CD’s stacked up around me here so I know I don’t carry the same Thai ‘street cred’ as most of the veterans here Thai-Blogs. Still this makes sense to me because it is the same way here in America. Different cultures all speaking their own language of solidarity. But I am getting off the point here..

Just as fascinating and a heck of a lot easier to learn is the Thai language of the heart. Metaphors have been a part of written and spoken language since the time of the Egyptians but I’ve never run across a language before that expresses the heart and emotions in so many ways and can be compressed into so few words yet once you learn them can envelope you in such a universal understanding of feeling.

Therefore one of my favorite books on Thai language is Heart Talk: Say What You Feel In Thai by Christopher G. Moore and available at Richards school bookshop. Written by a farang no less, Heart Talk is quite a comprehensive list of the many expressions of ‘Jai’ ใจ, or Thai heart. The book lists from A to Z about 450 heart phrases or words to express over 400 moods and feelings. And you thought learning 44 consonant and 32 complete vowels of the Alphabet was hard? Pish-tosh!

The heart phrases, perhaps ‘phases’ being an equally important label, in this book cover everything from the ‘absentminded heart’ to the ‘zen heart’ including the most common and some of the pretty obscure along the way.

Each chapter usually lists a dozen or more Heart Talk expressions for categories such as Good Times, Hard Times and Condemnations, Heart Talk in Relationships and in Society. As well as expressions for Heart Talk Warfare, Body Talk, Self-Control, Perception, Heart Talk Choice and Romance. Whew! Could anything possibly be left out?

Therefore without further ado is my short list of some of the best, most intriguing (to me) or flat out odd (me again) from the list.

Heart Talk for the Good Times

Pleased Heart

Kruem Jai ครึ้มใจ or Kruem ok Kruem Jai ครึ้มอกครึ้มใจ

When someone gives a special gift or bestows a favor, the one receiving feels a sense of pleasure or ‘please heart’. This is like whenever I get more books or CD’s from Thailand, yeppers I’m always pleased about that!

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Thailand and me… for an introduction

Sawat-dii kha! I’m glad to be back in Thailand – well, at least virtually, for the time being. I stumbled upon this blog a few weeks ago, now I’m spending my evenings reading the archives, and…. maybe I have a few interesting stories to tell or ideas to share….

I’m a 29-year-old Hungarian, at the moment living in my country of birth, hesitating between trying to get settled back to my old life as a teacher of English in Budapest, and flying back to Asia…. and it’s harder than I thought it would be.

My journey started four years ago…. or maybe way back. I have always felt like an alien here. From my early childhood, I kept saying to my mum, “I wanna go home, I wanna go home” – even when we were actually at home. Stupid as it may sound…. but now I have the feeling that I wasn’t initially meant to be a European, just something got horribly mixed up when I was born…. I first had a chance to go to Thailand four years ago. I had absolutely no time to prepare or read anything about what I was going to experience, and it turned out to be the shock of my life: finally I was at home. Well, I couldn’t escape the usual pitfalls for newcomers, being taken on tuktuk rides to fancy shops and having my money stolen during an overnight bus trip…. but I was learning quickly. The six-week holiday was over in about three days I guess, and I found myself crying onboard a plane back home to cold and unfriendly Europe.

I spent the next nine months trying to get back, but it just wasn’t meant to be, all I managed to find was a teaching job in Taiwan. But at least it was in the right direction, just a few hours away, it can’t be that different, after all, it’s Asia…. well, sort of, it turned out. The next year and a half working with Chinese preschoolers was an eye-opener, it changed my view of the world, of culture, of languages, I had a chance to find out who I was, who I wanted to be.

(That’s me and my little “monkey” Regie)

I loved teaching and my students like I had never done before. I wanted to make a difference…. do something meaningful…. make friends with people…. live life to the full, with all the joy, all the sorrow that is on my path…. that was the lesson (sounds cheesy, but…. only back here, I guess). I quit my PhD studies, I had had enough of theoretical stuff, meaningless research, and teaching dull undergraduates back home in the previous years, instead I got out my backpack, and spent some more time travelling around Thailand and Laos on my own, trying to find a job underway, in the meantime, hoping to be able to settle down somewhere for one more year. I didn’t mean to return to Europe for good, I was absolutely sure that if I ever have kids of my own, I want them to grow up in a Thai community. But lightning struck in the form of an online love affair, for a twist, and I returned home.

A German guesthouse owner in Chiang Mai had warned me: “if you have managed for over a year in this part of the world, and you have liked it, you’ll never be able to fit back in Europe”, that’s what he said. I had culture shocks day in, day out for sure. It’s absolutely in vain to try to convince my boyfriend to fly to Thailand, even for a holiday, he’s afraid, he needs stability. I’m torn between love for Thailand and love for a man…. something I would never have imagined was possible at all. He came up with a plan: he decided to take a job somewhere upcountry for a while, and urged me to return to Thailand in the meantime on my own, to learn Thai massage in Chiang Mai or to get a short-term teaching job or volunteer to take part in rebuilding Ko Phi Phi, whatever, so that I can calm down and make a decision about the future.

That’s where I’m stuck at the moment. Who knows if I will have the courage to leave everything behind once again and plunge into life in Thailand…. but I have lots of memories and stories and experiences and opinions anyway to fill a blog or two here, bits and pieces of the journeys taken in the past four years, journeys of the heart, journeys of the mind…. I hope I can fit in here, I hope I can share a few ideas and stories of interest in the near future.

That’s for an introduction now. Sorry about the long post…. I’ll try to keep it shorter next time.

Greetings to all from Central Europe

Just Shoot Me

Do I know what product I’m selling? No.
Do I know what I’m doing today? No.
But I’m here and I’m gonna give it my best shot.


Last month, I was at this uber-private “share” party (which was a blogworthy event on its own, remind me to tell you about it if I ever run short of ideas). My friend K introduced me to one of the big dogs there, owner of FHM (Thailand). He looks at me and says, yeah we can use you for something, give us your number and we’ll have someone call you on Monday. I guess I should have asked him which Monday, because it was actually last Tuesday when they finally called to offer me a fashion advertorial for the September issue, shooting on Friday. Cool.

I lobbied hard for my friend Kari with E&L Modelling, a willowy 5’11 ex-volleyball player from Colorado to be my counterpart on the shoot. We were both hopeful for the chance to work together, but she was doubtful because she “wasn’t an FHM-type girl.” I asked what she meant, because girl is hot. She smirked and she pointed to her less-than-ample bosom.

After a false alarm (“Yeah, Kari is booked with you. Uh…no, actually it isn’t her.”) it turns out that I would actually be working with Maggie, a different girl from E&L. Seeing how they both have two syllables and some vowel similarities, I can see how you could confuse the names…if they were uttered underwater.

I called Kari to tell her the bad news and mentioned I would be working with some girl named Maggie. She relayed the information to her roommate Sophie, and I heard a burst of laughter over the phone. I asked what’s the deal. Still giggling, she said that I would find out and tell her all about it when I was done. Hmmm…

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