Bonnie and I wish we were able to post somewhat more frequently and comprehensively, but the frustrations of computer technology render our intentions null and void. I started to write this post (putting up with random shifts of the cursor with predictably chaotic results) when, 200-300 words into this, the whole thing simply disappeared. The wisdom of the Thais comes into play here: Mai Bpen Rai–it doesn’t matter. Be patient. Don’t worry. I, regretably am NOT a Thai, so I am writing this out longhand hoping Bonnie can better cope.
Mai Bpen Rai.
Bangkok is a huge and hugely diverse city. The population is estimated to be 15 million, but how anyone could count this collection of everything from dozens and dozens of high-rise apartments not very far from uncountable thousands of squatter’s shacks, lean-tos and bare shelters is a total mystery. Our neighborhood (LatKrabang in case you want to look on Google Earth) typifies the situation. We are about 15 miles east of downtown Bangkok as the crow flies. If the crow goes by train, cab, or car we’re talking an hour or two at about any time of the day or night. Traffic is horrendous.
Bonnie and I live in student housing. Privately-owned dorm rooms with bath is the best way to describe our digs. (Bonnie included photos in our second post.) Not luxurious, but familiar to any student in a state college or university. There are dozens of these residences with more being built. Although we live on a dead end street, about a mile from the nearest intersecting street (Chalong Krung Road–again for Google Earth fans) our street can look like the busiest street Orangeburg has ever seen on a Friday night. (I would give you the name of our street if it had one. We tell cab drivers to take the first street off Chalong Krung)
Amidst all this bustle and modernity one day I decided to head north on a footpath across the railroad tracks which parallel our nameless street. A different world instantly appeared.
Perhaps 20 yards after crossing the tracks a very basic collection of housing sprinkled with restaurants and stores appeared on my left. On my right was one of the many canals in Bangkok, this one perhaps 50 feet across and thickly overgrown with water plants in most places. The pictures say thousands of words so I’ll skip much description. The elevated foot and motor bike path extends perhaps for the better part of a mile with no other access. The path and everything else is elevated to avoid submerging in the rainy season.
After crossing under one of the major east-west freeways, land access begins to be possible, and cars make their first appearance. Commercial operations also appear. The houses, now higher and drier and accessible now become more permanently built and of obviously much higher value.
How far all this extends, I do not know. After walking another mile or so in the heat of the day, (always 95 plus or minus), time to get back and clean up to get ready for school and take Bonnie to lunch. (Food is a whole other topic.)
One must admire the many Thais whom I met along that walk who almost unfailingly greeted me with a smile and also carefully avoided pushing me off the walkway as they passed–very frequently–on their motorbikes– and happily posed for pictures.
Life isn’t always about comfort and ease.
Mai Bpen Rai.
Pictures will be posted separately due to the usual computer glitches.
Monday through Thursday from 2 p.m. to 10 p.m. we spend at the Cornerstone Student Center which is just across the street from our room. We have three classes each day at 3, 5, and 7. The students sign up based on the time they have available and we never know how many we are going to get for each class as sometimes they just walk in also. Most of the time, we team-teach because we don’t have more than 5 students at a time. If there were more, we’d use the additional classroom and split up or Serene, and sometimes Fr. Lee, might take one of the classes.
The students have been a joy to work with. They are polite and have a desire to learn. Most of the time they stay longer than the hour class talking or, in the evenings, playing board games which they enjoy very much. This is fun for Chuck as he likes board games too. Some do pretty well with English and others struggle a bit. I hope we are helping. We have different students each day and teach the same lesson each day all week. Sometimes they ask questions about the U.S. but not often. Some have mentioned they watch “How I Met Your Mother” which they think is very funny. We have never watched it. We ask them a lot of questions about their lives to get them to talk and practice English.
Here are some pictures from the Center:
Goodbye for today,
Sat Wat Dee Ka.
Although we eat out most of the time because we have no way to cook in our room, we do shop for snacks, fruit, etc. at the grocery. There are many interesting choices but we tend to settle for the more familiar items. On Sunday after church we went to a very large super market in a very large mall. Take a look at grocery shopping in Bangkok.
Out in the mall—Krispy Kreme doughnuts! We bought some for breakfast.
There is a big variety of food sold on the streets here. We’ve been tasting.
Bye for now..
As I mentioned in my post last night, we spent a day in downtown Bangkok on Saturday. Following are some pictures taken along the river and the canals. We bought a tour in a colorful little boat for 1,600 baht ($48). We probably badly overpaid but don’t really know when we are being taken advantage of. We got to see very interesting sights along the canals–a very different way of life. We also stopped at a small floating market where food is sold from little boats. I think my most salient impression of Thailand so far is how everyone is always eating. In the malls, along the streets—everywhere, in fact, there are people cooking and people eating. I would think that no one eats at home but the grocery store in the big mall is full of food.
That’s it for today, Bonnie
Fr. Lee and Chuck outside our apartment building.
Our home away from home–very basic dorm room with bath and turquoise refrigerator–and very hard beds.
The power lines here fascinate me. Everywhere they look like the above picture. I wonder how Thai linemen deal with this when something goes wrong.
The second day we were here, Chuck and I took a walk in our neighborhood and came across this big temple complex. There are MANY wats (temples) in Bangkok. We have yet to see the famous ones downtown. Yesterday we ventured downtown by ourselves. First, a cab to the airport. Then the Air Link (elevated train) to downtown. After that, a change to the Sky Train, changing trains once, and arriving at the Chao Phraya River where we took a boat tour, seeing the city from the river. You will see the photos from that trip soon but, now that I can add pictures, I have some catching up to do. It is still a very slow process to load each picture.