TLDR: We walked/hopped thru a Bangkok flood, we do not fully understand bananas here, we voted, completed level 3 in school, I have a longer term visa, there have been some protests, there was a lucky moment in the bathroom, the weather is improving, we went to the Van Gogh digital art museum, and we strolled through Chinatown. To start the blog, here’s a failed high-five sequence for your enjoyment…
We kicked off October with a rite of passage for me. I will preface my story with a Los Angeles parallel. In order to be an “official” Los Angeles resident, you need to see a movie star on the street, experience an earthquake, and witness a high speed chase (we did these). In Bangkok, we think that you need to experience a flood, eat street food, help an elephant (in person), and walk the mall. Check, check, check, and check-a-roni. One Saturday night, it was raining and we decided to try a new place to dance called Mambo Mambo (Flamenco has been irritating). When were within a few blocks of the venue, the water in the street was ankle deep and only getting deeper. The last hundred meters was entirely under water and even scooter taxis refused to take us the rest of the way because the water was too deep. I wrapped my waterproof salsa bag around one shoe and hopped to a dry spot. We had to abandon our dance plans for the evening with only a few meter left to go. Why didn’t I just take off my shoes? Because flooded streets in Bangkok are gross. I finally understand why most Bangkokians carry a second set of shoes and wear flip flops when it rains. We did end up going dancing at Mambo Mambo a couple weeks later, and it’s our new favorite salsa spot.
A few words about the banana situation here. In my opinion, Thailand has the most delicious fruits in the world, overall, and we regularly enjoy a banana with breakfast, but this can be a bit of a challenge. In the US, bananas are well understood clones of a single banana variety (cavendish). If you buy a certain shade of banana, the next 2-7 days of your life with said banana are fairly predictable and repeatable. In Japan, they even sell a pack of seven bananas that range from green to bright yellow so that you can have “perfect” banana every day for a week! However, in Thailand, there are 20-50 different types of bananas and many go rogue. They are lawless. Sometimes green bananas do not ripen for 3+ weeks, yellow bananas may not peel or will peel in chunks, full brown bananas are still acceptable, some you have to peel “backwards” (from the area without the stem), and some have hard black pea sized seeds. What?! At the moment, the short and fat bananas (“nam-waas”) are our favorite and we have adjusted our banana expectations accordingly. If you don’t manage your expectations, life can be bananas. Banana(s) for scale.
We Voted from Thailand!
WE VOTED! “Americans can vote. Wherever they are.” -US Embassy Poster. It wasn’t a particularly easy or clear process, but we did it. It was comical that in order to complete an online process, we were required to send physical mail to the US… twice. Since the Thai postal service hasn’t been permitted to send documents/postcards/letters to the US for several months now, we had to drop off all election-related correspondence at the US embassy. We were willing to go to great lengths to ensure our voices were heard. This election is super important.
3 Levels of Thai Complete
We have reached milestones in our classes! Jyn has completed 3 levels of reading and writing Thai and I have completed 3 levels of speaking. The classes required more “Thaime” and effort than we expected, but we have made substantial progression. I still have a long way to go to speak clearly and/or smoothly, but I’m happy that I can understand enough to get around. Jyn’s skills have already been useful in deciphering the world around us.
My Visa Saga
Finally, after 3 months of paperwork, research, and multiple visits to immigration, I have an education visa that should allow me to stay in Thailand until mid-March 2021, but potentially as long as September 2021. Phew! In order to comply with the terms of the visa, I will need to continue to go to school for part of that time. Reading and writing class level 1, here I come!
Amidst the studying, we visited a cat cafe (closed 10 minutes after our arrival due to potentially sick kitties), Jyn knitted, we went to the neon lights near Emporium, and a Salvador Dali-themed restaurant.
Typically, I would say that Thailand has 4 seasons (hot, hotter, wet, wetter), but it is starting to cool off. Around April, the high most days not dipping too far below 100F, with temps feeling much higher due to the humidity. Now, we are finishing the rainy season and we are heading into the cooler portion of the year. The daily temperatures are between a low of 72F and a high of 90F. Thank goodness!
Tea During a Protest
If you have been reading the news, you may have read about the protests here. The protests have been primarily peaceful and we have not felt any danger in our daily lives. They have caused us only some minor inconvenience with transportation services and walking routes. We did get temporarily semi locked in a Coco Boba Tea shop while the police secured the area, but that could be considered a gift. We continued with our tea and studying until the shop closed.
We got lucky
I would not characterize 2020 as a lucky year, at all, but we’ve had a handful of very lucky moments. One such moment… Around 10pm, we were in the living room and heard what sounded like pouring rain, but inside the bedroom area. Turns out, the braided cable plumbing line that connects the wall plumbing to the sink had ruptured and was spraying water everywhere. I plugged it with my finger long enough to shut the water off. The bathroom was soaked, but it drained without any problems. If that happened while we were out, it could have quickly flooded the entire unit and caused serious damage. We were very lucky! That incident brought me back to my college days where I flooded 3 floors of a 14-story building and the whole building was evacuated… at 3am… During finals week… Down the stairs. Good times.
I really wanted to “Van Go” to the Museum of Digital Art because of the immersive Van Gogh exhibit. Usually, museums are quiet and still, but this exhibit was dynamic with synchronized classical music. Basic animations of his famous pieces were projected on all of the walls and the even the floor in one area. It was a great experience and we are happy that we “Van Went”.
Outside of the Van Gogh exhibit were other art galleries and a “gem walk”, and I still wanted to take a picture with the checkerboard floor on the bottom level of the building. Then, we spent the rest of the day in Chinatown where they were having the annual “Jay” festival (many “jay”, or vegetarian, options to cleanse your body for 9 days).
October has been another interesting month. From apartment floods, to city floods, to bananas, to digital artwork, life is still exciting. We are sure that next month will also be wild ride for us and the rest of the world. Hopefully, the US can start to turn itself around and FINALLY have a positive trajectory. Lastly, since we are taking a month off from school in November, we should have time for more fun. See you next month!