Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Have a good Chrissie

I was sorta sad to leave Australia for Christmas. The idea of spending Christmas with chops and snags on the bbq was sounding pretty good.

But now that I'm here, and it's cold, it actually feels like Christmas. The carols sound rich and full, not tinny in that Charlie Brown Jingle Bells sorta way that they do when it's 85 degrees out. It just feels right to make scalloped potatoes and turkey and stuffing with NPR playing Handel's Messiah in the background.

Better get to bed so Santa can come in the morning. Have a good Chrissie, all.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Taking stock

Tomorrow, I leave to go back to the states. I, originally, had planned to return permanently, but I've since extended my contract for another three months. Given that I should be going home, I thought it was a good time to take stock on the predictions I made and see how far I've come.

Unexpectedly useful items: Predicted that second set of dressy clothes would have been unexpectedly useful. And though I did wear that dress to the Cairns Cup, I think the most unexpectedly useful item is actually the item I had predicted would be the biggest waste of space: sweaters. Although I only brought four, having sweaters for the few trips I had down south during the winter was key. And I'm expecting to be very glad to have them when I arrive in Portland 27 hours from tomorrow.

Things I wish I had brought: I predicted I would want more T-shirts, yep, I did, so I've supplemented my supply here. I also predicted I would wish I had brought more photos from home. Thanks to Jeff's digital picture frame (aka. the Harry Potter picture frame) I have been able to see many of my favorite people and places on a regular basis.

Total pictures: predicted 600. Wow, what was I thinking. I've already taken 1326 photos. And I ain't done yet. And that doesn't count any of the ones I've deleted along the way that never made it into picasa.

Shoes: predicted 11 pairs, which was an addition of two pairs. I believe I have worn every pair that I brought, though the ones getting the most wear are still the flip flops. I've added four pairs since I arrived, and I've got new running shoes awaiting me at home!

Books: I think I've only read 4, though my prediction was 3. I've added several over my time here, and still haven't read the really long one I brought. Nor have I finished "A Short History of Australia" - What a misnomer!

Venomous attacks: remains zero, thankfully.

A few other stats:
Wild kangaroos spotted: 1
Wild walabies spotted: hundreds
Other wild marsupials: 2, both bandicoots (not pademelons)
Total Kilometers cycled: 705 (since I changed over to kilometers in late september)
Falls from the bike since getting clippy shoes: 5 (last one this morning)
Average time training per week: 11 hours
Average distance swum per week: 6K
States in Australia: 6 (plus 2 territories)
Least favorite insect: sandfly (followed closely by the cockroach)
Favorite Cairns eatery: Hare Krishna restaurant on Spence
Australian phrases I'll use in the US: "heaps" "good on you" "how are you going" "reckon" "yih"
Total travel time: 27 hours
Total flight time: 19 hours
Excitement level for visiting home: 11 out of 10
Hours til I get on the first plane: 8

Good night and see many of you soon!

Thursday, December 20, 2007

More Bangkok

A few other fun facts and photos from the trip.

Being tall. For the first time in my life, I was tall. Amongst the Thai, I am tall.

Parking lot shrines. For every building we saw, there was a small dollhouse sized shrine. Many of them in parking lots. Apparently, these are spirit houses. I'm still not quite sure what they are supposed to do, but some of them are very intricate, complete with tiny buddhas and elephants.

Not all the shrines are for buildings. Our first day in Bangkok, Andrea and I found the "fertility" shrine near our house. It was essentially a garden of phalluses ranging from actual size to 8' tall. Some more realistic than others. Andrea, why haven't you sent me those pictures yet?

Giant buddhas. Then compared to the tiny buddhas was the largest buddha. Reclining, this buddha is still about 4 stories tall. And, we were required to take our shoes off and put them in the non-Thai shoe shelves.

Lady boys. Bangkok is famous for their lady-boys. Excrutiatingly skinny pre- and post-op transexuals who lip-sync to only the most popular English, Thai, Chinese and Japanese songs. Oh, and your ticket includes a drink!

Jenga should never be mixed with drinking.

Temples and Spirit Houses

Bangkok nights

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Roaches, part two

My message to the roaches in Cairns was not heeded. This means war.

Tonight, a second roach, nearly twice the size of the first one, was waiting for me when I got home. Why do they like hanging out by the front door? I'm trying to convince myself that he just let himself in. Why did he hide in my shoes? I love my shoes. Why, in a tiled apartment, do I always end up killing them on a rug?

I don't want my apartment to be taken over by roaches while I'm gone. Any strategies? How does one declare war on roaches?

Saturday, December 15, 2007

The changing of seasons

Cairns is the home to Rusty's market, a large farmer's market with mostly fruit and veg, but a few stalls of other yummy things.

When I first arrived in Cairns, I was amazed by the avocados. They were always ripe. They had both Haas (aka California) and Green (aka Florida) avos. I actually prefered the Florida ones cause they have a more consistent texture. As temperatures have warmed, those large fruits have given way to almost golf ball sized Haas avos that have a smokey flavour.

Next were the "bush-ripened" tomatos. They're fleshy, red, juicy, sweet, and nearly perfect with just a bit of salt. Today however, they tomatos were more firm, not quite as red. Clearly their season is coming to an end.

Today, it's the mangos that are so ripe you can smell them from down the street. Their flesh is perfection. And as the other tropical fruits begin to ripen, I also picked up lychees and mangosteens. Neither of which had I ever tried before. The lychees were a little too fragrant for me. Also a little too eyeball like. But the mangosteens... Delightful.

Monday, December 10, 2007

An open letter to the roach population in Cairns


The man you sent is dead. I caught your emissary today scouting out an infiltration of the holiest of sacred sites (aka, my apartment). And I thought you would like to know how he met his unfortunate end.

I was impressed with his cunning plans to catch me at my most vulnerable. Hiding out in my swimsuit, so that he would only be revealed as I stood completely naked (and shoeless), was a brilliant move. He then surprised me by scurrying up my shoulder, and I'm sure he was pleased with the shriek I let out. After regaining my dignity (and putting on undies) I sought him out with my sneaker, but he was too clever and remained hidden.

However, when I returned from my swim, it was I who had the element of surprise. There was your man in my foyer. I calmly put down my goggles and water bottle, and picked up my sneaker. He knew it was the end. I could see the fear in his step as he scrambled to the living room. He stopped for a moment to look back and that's when I struck. With one fatal blow, even his antenna stopped twitching.

Let this be a warning to you. I bought new shoes in Thailand, and I know how to use them. Any further troops you send will meet the same end. And though I may yelp and recoil when I meet them, and I may jump at any rustle of papers or itch, I will prevail.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Christmas in the tropics

It just doesn't feel like christmas. Even after spending an evening on the esplanade singing carols. It just seems disorienting. Maybe it's the 80 degree weather, or singing carols in flip flops and a bathing suit coverup, or hearing singers beg the heavens to "let it snow". But I think the main crux of the thing was singing "Russell the red nosed kanga" Just doesn't have the same ring.

Bangkok by day

It's beginning to feel like I'm losing momentum in my Thailand blogging. So here are a few experiences to share, before the memories wear away:

Shopping is an experience unto itself. The malls are enormous and there seems to be an endless supply of them. Even with our hearty western breakfasts every morning (I mean, can you really mess with such a good thing? Eggs and bacon are the perfect fuel for a mall, even if the bacon always had a bit of the taste of asia fried into it. Was that oyster sauce I detected), we would still get overshopped by mid-day. With entire floors dedicated to small stalls of tourist kitsch, furniture, electronics (aka. knock off cell phones and pirated DVDs) it's easy to get lost or to just give up on seeing daylight again. In the end, I'm hopeful that each of us picked up lots of good christmas items.

We also spent a day wandering around chinatown. Mostly these narrow alleyway markets which went from selling basic consumer items like purses, shoes and jewelry to selling a variety of chinese food staples to selling incense and paper items for use in the temples.

These markets were packed, and the flow of pedestrians would frequently get interupted by a motorcycle that had decided to "take the short cut" through the markets. And the food stalls seemed to be a lesson in biology. Was that just intestine floating in that jelley? I think that was a pigs foot. Lunch, any one?

And then there was my favorite day time activity: The Thai Cooking class. On the third floor of a thai restaurant, they had a classroom kitchen complete with desks and mirror over the cook top to watch the chef. Then across the hall was the student kitchen where we got to put the recipes to the test. By the end of the afternoon, we'd made 5 different dishes and had way too much food to consume for lunch. Now all I need is to find kaffir lime leaves in Australia...

The complete photo album from our daily activities (sans temples) is here:

Touring and Shopping

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

The Colorful city of Bangkok

Even getting to Bangkok is colorful. The official airline of Thailand, Thai Airways, is purple. Not just a bit here and there. All the seats, all the carpeting, all the uniforms, even the salt and pepper packets. We thought this was a bit much, but it didn't really prepare us for what we saw when we arrived.

Taxis in orange, pink, yellow, green, blue, red (sometimes sparkly red). This picture, though from Chinatown, was pretty typical of what we saw on every street, though smaller than most of the main Bangkok streets (and with more signs in Chinese).

Then there were the yellow shirts. Our first day exploring Bangkok, Andrea pointed out it seemed that a lot of people were wearing yellow. In fact about 70% of the people we saw were wearing a yellow shirt. Then we realized that actually about 60% were wearing the same shirt: a yellow polo with a triangular logo. Then we recalled that it was some sort of holiday. This must have something to do with the holiday.

We discovered later that they weren't wearing the shirts for a holiday. Turns out Monday is the King's day. And the King's color is yellow. It started last year when the king was sick, Bangkok(ers or ians or ese) started wearing yellow in solidarity with the King. Now, although he's returned to good health (and will be celebrating his 80th birthday tomorrow), people still wear his shirts with his logo on them. That's some serious dedication to the crown.

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Monday, December 03, 2007

The wet has arrived

Judging by the strength of the rain pounding the city, the constant flickering of lightning that mimics a strobe light, and the fact that my soap grew mould while I was in Thailand, I think the wet has arrived.

Further updates on the last tri of the season, the trip to Thailand and the Australian election (and ratifying the Kyoto) to come soon. Still unpacking!

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