Friday, May 21, 2010

First Day in Chiang Rai, "Thai Lovin," and Vietnamese Pho

The first full day (a Friday) in Chiang Rai was absolutely splendid! However, I had slept horribly the first night and also woke up with a very upset stomach...

Not by any choice of my own, I was up early, so I decided to find out if anyone else was awake in the main house (where Rachel and Nate live and the other guests/friends are staying). Luckily, Zack was in the kitchen getting himself some water, so he let me in since the doors and windows remain locked through the night to keep bugs and lizards out. Still, many of those little creatures manage to find their way inside and into most of anything they want. Since arriving into Thailand, I haven't been bitten once, so I for that I am lucky. However, I suffered for nearly 48 hours with what is known as "Thai Lovin."

After spending some time moving from the couch, table, and making trips to the bathroom, the rest of the house was awake and was eating breakfast. Breakfast is my favorite part of the day here so far--next to when it rains--because Nate has whipped up some amazing eggs for the past two days, but back to the first morning . . . despite my suffering from intense "Thai Lovin," I managed to thoroughly enjoy a helping of Nate's signature eggs (scrambled with cream cheese, Thai peppers, and chives) along with some of the best coffee that is grown in the northern mountains of Thailand just outside of Chiang Rai.

Unfortunately, my tasty breakfast did not help much to settle my stomach, but I managed to push through and remain hopeful that it would pass soon because I couldn't let a bad case of "Thai Lovin" keep me down and hold me back from experiencing the sights and sounds of my first day in Chiang Rai. After some relaxing time just lounging around after breakfast, checking emails and updating blogs, Rachel and Deirdre left on a motorbike for a meeting with their work on The SOLD Project and Nate took the rest of us into Chiang Rai for while. We walked around downtown for a while--both in and out of the rain--while Nate ran some errands.

As we regrouped, Nate insisted we eat lunch at his favorite place for Vietnamese food as it is is also one of his top choices for places to eat in all of Chiang Rai. As we dined, the plates of Vietnamese food just kept coming, and we all tried a bite or two of everything--something quite customary in the Asian culture. We each ordered our own bowl of Vietnamese Pho, an entrée served in bowl containing broth, choice of meat (pork), noodles, and then a self-served addition of an array of spices, seasonings, herbs, and of course, bean sprouts! Bean sprouts seem to be a staple addition to any bowl of noodles, so we ordered an entire helping of them so we could each toss a handful into our bowl of Pho.

This was a very filling meal, but like other Thai food, it doesn't leave you feeling stuffed or sluggish after finishing. Instead, you feel awake, refreshed, and if your like me, your lips will still be a little numb. However, I couldn't even make it to the end of the meal before I had another dose of "Thai (or this time: Vietnamese) Lovin." Geesh!! Will it just be over already? Sadly, that episode was not the end of it but merely the beginning of a long day consisting of stomach cramps, heartburn, and what has been coded as an acceptable term for #2: "Thai Lovin." I have to be honest, it has been worth every last cramp because the food tastes like nothing I've had before, it's incredibly cheap, and I can't resort to just eating sticky rice and bland dishes. So, I continued to push through . . .

Shortly after our Pho, we met up with Rachel and Deirdre at the best little coffee place in all of Chiang Rai where we enjoyed lattes, and I took some time to brush up on my conversational Thai.

I am getting some of the essential phrases down, but there is much difficulty understanding some of the ways that words are spoken with the FIVE different tones: rising, falling, mid-tone, low, and high. Some words are very difficult when they require a rising tone that might follow a word with a low tone, or vice versa. Anyway, we drank our coffees, and I learned some Thai!

We drove around Chiang Rai for a bit, making stops at places to meet other friends of Rachel and Nate doing similar work or teaching English. We made a few more stops on our way back for some groceries to make chicken and basil, morning glory, and jasmine rice.

Friday was an early night because Saturdays for the group are big days. Since The SOLD Project recently finished the first stages of building their resource center directly outside the village where they work with the local children, they have started offering a two-hour Saturday program to help teach English to those children who come to participate in the program. Many of the participating children are offered scholarships to pay for their schooling (because it is not free after 9th grade) as well as supplies. The new Saturday morning program is a way for Rachel and others with SOLD to reach out to the children, provide them with mentorships, and teach English!

Saturday was only the second time they've done their Saturday program, and Christa and I were extended an invitation to join them, participate, and we were given a group of the Level 1 kiddos who are still learning their ABCs. I can't wait to share the stories, pictures, and a short video (or two) of this incredibly moving experience!

Next up on The Dandygram: Saturday In the Village, ABCs, and the White Wat.

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