My Southeast Asia trip Part 2 (and I haven’t died yet)!

Howdy, folks!

Hopefully you’re all enjoying what sounds like pleasant weather, as documented by the only English television station, the BBC. I’m ignoring the Disney Channel, which afforded me the unfortunate opportunity to watch the Jonas Brothers with the kids for the first and last time. They must be annihilated immediately.


By the way, a friend of mine asked why I called the last email “Update#2” instead of “#2 Update.” Yes, that’s why I’m friends with him.


While any email that goes so far as to mention the Jonas Brothers is already a complete failure, I will do my best to make the rest of it better. As usual, I have a very small window of time on the internet here, so I am going to report on the most recent happenings, newspaper style. Feel free to read all the headlines, or just the ones that catch your eye. Please don’t keep re-reading the part about the Jonas Brothers. Thanks.




Octomice Births More Popular than Ever

Seriously, I think they played “Red Light, Green Light” last night. The mice are so loud that I find it hard to sleep for more than a few hours at a time. They’re especially rowdy from 3-5am, and don’t seem to appreciate the fact that it’s REM time for me. I’ve had mice nearly everywhere I’ve slept for the past two decades, but these ones top the list in terms of partying. They seem to have races where they push off, and in an open-beam-and-tin-roof house, that means their claws scrape against the tin upon starting, and the wood scratches noisily while they’re running. Then the chattering starts. If these mice were humans, I think they’d be valley girls since they squeak nonstop. They cause so much noise and actually cause several things to fall off shelves every night. That rice does something’s body good, I guess. As for food, yes, I started bear-bagging it after discovering my precious ration of American snacks torn into. Oy.



If you thought that village life meant that everyone was innocent, mild-mannered, and similar to one another in all ways, well, it’s not exactly true. Mostly, but not all. Apparently, two years ago, a guy in his twenties who lives down the road was arrested for some sort of illegal activity. Communicating through broken English, I gathered that it was the trafficking of some illegal drugs that landed him in the (likely bamboo) clinker. He recently came back from jail, so everyone was excited to have him back. They say he’s a “changed man.” The thing is, even in such a remote village as this, people will still be people. Those videos you always see of kids in third-world countries dutifully learning, super poor, in shredding school uniforms, but without making a peep and all ears? Those only show one side of the story. I feel that same scene could be filmed here, but people still are individuals, no matter the society. The kids here are very pleasant and pay attention for the most part, but they are still unique individuals, no matter how much the government or surroundings might try to mold them. Yes, they all look the same, have the same haircut, and wear the same uniforms by government rules. But they’re all different. There are the dutiful, quiet, hard workers, the loud, obnoxious kids, the class clowns, the slightly spoiled brats (in this case, that means that one child has a newly donated coat), the kids who don’t try, the “special” kids, the average kids. I think it’s the same no matter where you go, which I find interesting. Besides, if every child was the same, wouldn’t it be boring? Wouldn’t there be no variety, no challenge? What do you think?


Villagers Owe Triumph to Visiting Brainstormer

Free Time No Longer in Surplus

Zero Carbon Toilet Paper Plant Promoting LEED-Certified Buildings All Across Thailand

Kathryn Cooper Named New TP Buddha

Voting Shows New TP Buddha with Higher Ratings than Revered King and Queen





I recently discovered Thai snacks. There aren’t a whole lot here, but there are a few for sale at the corner market. My American snack food and protein bar supply was soon running low, and despite the delicious, filling, and nutritious standard meal of rice and UDG (Unidentified Dying Greens), I decided to take matters into my own hands and splurge on some snacks. Seriously, sometimes the meals are not good by anyone’s standards, and a snack is necessary. Guess what most of the products are made from? If you guessed rice, YOU’RE CORRECT. Puffed rice with honey and black sesame seeds, rice cakes with brown rice syrup, cookies, rice byproduct snacks, etc. etc. At least it’s something different, and at an average cost of about 21 cents per snack, I’m not breaking the bank. Nor am I adding any nutrition to my diet, but in this place, that’s just how it is. This is a new way for me to get fat(ter), cheap(ly)! While there was delicious food in Bangkok, here it’s another matter. Entertaining, though. The cookies, for example, come in four flavors. Chocolate, coconut, coffee, or chicken. Yum!




Sets Example by Producing No Garbage or Landfill Waste

That’s because they throw it all out their back window.




It all started innocently enough. “Ka-ter-een, I need your help. I want to make pretty my room,” goes the rough translation of what my li’l sis said. Sure, of course I can help. She needs to buy wallpaper. Okay, no problem. I suspect I’ll buy it for her, but whatever. “You come with me to buy?” Sure, I’d love the chance to go “into town” (translation: about 20 little shops on the main road, and some other markets, and a bigger population than here) to do anything! This means I might get some real food. I’m told we’ll go on Tuesday. Tuesday morning rolls around, and I’m excited to go somewhere different after school. But no, we’re going this morning. Skipping school for wall decorations? Um…okay. The priorities are a tad messed up. So 15-year-old Janjira, 6-year-old Dom, and I start walking to the main road. Main as in a sometimes-paved 2-lane mountain path. We wait about 45 minutes for a truck to come, pile into the truck, and go partway, bumping along in the back. It’s either this or motorcycle. Soon we get out. I pay for our ride. Another truck with some space in the back comes along, so we get in that. Down into town we go, total trip length = 1 hour, or 2 if you wait a long time. I pay for that ride, too. The town is actually so far down and far away that there’s about a 15 degree temperature difference. So we get into town, we meet up with the father, and go to a market. First I’m asked to buy Janjira two posters. No problem. Then I buy them snacks. Then I’m asked to buy the dad sandals. Okay. Then we walk a few steps, and…can you buy us a wok? We need a new one, they say. Okay… Then we go into town, where I buy a few more snacks and food things. Oh wait, have to get wallpaper. Pay for that as well as drinks for the 4 of us. Oh, let’s get lunch. Pay for that. And I really needed bananas, but the ones I had seen were purchased by the time I came back. Well, if you buy Ovaltine for us, we’ll buy you bananas, they say. Okay, so I buy them Ovaltine. And then we wait 2 hours for a truck to bring us back up to our village. This time it rains, but the people are friendly, so before we’re fully soaked, we’re all under a tarp in the back of the truck. And I pay for the ride back for us. What I’m not mentioning includes the stunningly gorgeous ride, the soybean and rice fields, the sun hitting the mountains, the banana trees, the fact that I’m stared at and that no one speaks English, the tasty and not-so-tasty snacks, and the general experience of it all. The part I’m unfortunately concentrating on, though, will probably get me much flack. It’s the fact that I felt…used. I know I’ll be thought of as rude, uncaring, and ungracious, but that’s not how it is. I don’t mind helping them out at all. Not at all! I expected to spend a lot of money on them. I’m more than happy to help them! They’re feeding and housing me, after all. And really, I don’t blame them for wanting things and asking me. No matter how poor of an American I am, I still have more money than they’ll ever have, whether you convert to Thai money or not. They’re dirt poor. It’s just that I hate that feeling of being invited to help, and then led on, and then asked to buy more and more. I know I sound terrible, but I just wish that someone had warned me, or even that they had asked if I could buy some things for them. Instead, to the foreigner’s eye, it just appears as if they’re walking along, see something, and ask the rich girl (yeah, I never thought I’d be called that, either) to buy it for them. Ah well. Again, if I was in their situation, I would probably do the same thing. They need supplies, and I’m a money source. They’re not trying to use me, but it just…happens. It’s not as if they can communicate that they need me to buy them a lot. But you can’t blame me for having a bit of a sour feeling in my stomach. If you need help or money, just ask me for help or money, but don’t lead me on and make me feel used, aight? Am I that mean?




Best Known for Grazing, Massive Poops, and Standing in the Middle of the Road

I got to see a cow slaughter. While I know that this will disgust many of you, I thought it was awesome. Okay, okay, so I missed the actual killing because I got out of school five minutes late, but I saw most of it. The cutting, the different sections, the pulling out of this and that. It was really amazing. She was such a pretty blonde thing, too.  




The other morning I wake up and was make my way out onto the deck, walking to the “kitchen” for breakfast. The mom runs onto the deck with me, holding her slingshot, a grin on her face. She points to the tree and aims. Pfffwit! She hits her mark, and a bird drops 20’ onto the ground below. Supermom™ scampers back out front, down the stairs, and onto the ground below the house, runs out amongst the trash, picks up the bird, and brings it back, handing it to her son and my “little brother,” Dom (age 6). Dom grabs the bird, waving it at me, smiling gleefully. The tiny bird regains consciousness and looks dazed as Dom pets it, then puts it in a cage. “Why did she hit the bird?” I asked in so many words to Janjira, my “little sister,” who speaks more than 20 words of English. The response, in so many words: “Dom likes birds.”



    • Clean dishes.
    • Dogs being a man’s best friend. Not true here. No, calm down, they don’t eat them. They just ignore them. The dogs here are essentially strays, but they’re comfortable around humans who promise to pretend they don’t exist. MAN do they give you the sad eyes.
    • Clean clothes.
    • Washing anything and/or trying to stay clean.
    • The P.E. teacher. In one of the few places where the kids are actually fit, and happily play outdoors, and where they’re poor, and exist on rice, and where they desperately need the chance to use class time for actual learning, they have a P.E. teacher.     


      And he is fat. 






          But I’m serious. I was getting water the other morning (below and on the side of the house, which is on stilts) and the mom didn’t know I was down there doing chores. She was also doing chores. She swept the garbage over the edge onto me.


          Okay folks, that’s all for now. I love all your feedback, so keep it a’coming!


          And no, I’m not suffering from “culture shock.” I adjust very quickly, and these anecdotes are simply my way of telling y’all what it’s like. Things are so unsanitary here, and I’ve done many things I shall never speak of. On the flipside, I’ve gotten to do some absolutely wonderful things, such as see the sunset from the raised platform under a 20’ gold Buddha. All alone. With a 360 degree view of the mountains. It was absolutely gorgeous. And I got to go to a monastery, as well as to several farms, which are night and day compared to anything in the U.S. It is stunning here, and I will never forget it. The people are very friendly and welcoming, albeit fairly unwilling to learn anything new. But more on that at a later point in time.


          I still want to give the most talented students a chance to go on with their learning. I believe everyone deserves a chance, but if that’s not possible, I want to give at least one child, a very dedicated and motivated student, a chance to study. There are some particularly bright students here who will have to become farmers if they’re not given the opportunity to do something else. There’s nothing wrong with farming, but some of the students wish to be something else, and I want to give at least one that chance. If any of you know about starting an oversees scholarship, or how I would go about setting up donations and/or a fund, please let me know.


          Until next time, I will do my best to stay safe and sane. As for all of you, stay safe, stay healthy, and take a hot shower for me. Can’t wait to hear from all of you!


          Much love,





          5 thoughts on “My Southeast Asia trip Part 2 (and I haven’t died yet)!

          1. How many birds does Dom go through?STRAY DOG GO FARI wonder if Thai strays look like Indian and Dominican strays, because short-haired stray dogs are legendary breeders and skilled ocean-crossers….THROWING TRASH OUT WINDOW EASIER THAN BUILDING LANDFILLSThe "Trash Out Back Window" seems to be the official developing world method of trash disposal, probably because it doesn’t require functioning infrastructure. Either that or burning it. Wait until you see someone burning plastic. That will be fun.AMERICAN GiRL EATS SNACKS WITH CORN SYRUPAmerican girl should consider getting a tad meaner. To them it probably seems like at home you spend mornings lazily gathering American dollars as they float down from the sky and afternoons lounging in pools while you eat corn, not rice, based snacks. So as long as you keep paying they will keep asking. A "running low on money" excuse every once in a while might go far.How long are you in Thailand, can I come visit?

          2. I have a friend who went abroad to teach theater and creative writing workshops in Liberia and experienced the same sort of issue. Actually, more so in a way. She was volunteering and they said she could teach her workshop if she bought e…veryone’s meals during her time there. Nobody was housing her though. At some point, you will decide what the line is perhaps. I’m sorry you’re feeling used. I would too and I would also probably spend all my money on them anyway. It sounds like you’re having an amazing experience though. Can’t wait to see the pictures!

          3. Don’t feel bad about the whole "feeling used" thing. My sister feels the same way in Niger. There, the people receive clothing, food, and other aid, but they never see the faces of the people that donated. They are only told it was given… to them by Americans. So, understandably, whenever they see an American, they think they are going to give them something. I don’t know if it’s the same kind of situation where you are, but it kind of sounds similar. Anyways, can’t wait to see the pictures! Stay safe!

          4. You are hilarious, and I love that you’re having such a great attitude about all this. Miss you!If you come back with short hair, I’ll know where you got all that practice in with the machete. j/k :-PLove love love love love love

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