Settled in Chonburi

The month-long summer term already came and went. Now it's the end of the first week of the 2013-14 school term. I'm going have to squeeze in some more time to get up to date with what's been going on. I haven't really been able to get into this as a daily diary sort of thing. Unfortunately that results in humongous posts. Here's a pic of the school, Sarasas Witaed Chonburi.

This building is pretty much done. The smaller looking one on the right actually
goes lengthwise towards the back, so it's almost as big. All the other campus'
have these sorts of buildings, which are very Catholic looking. The other campus'
have two or three other buildings like this, very large schools with over 4,000
kids each. I think we might have around 1,500 and we just opened. 

I'm not doing any of the things I was going to do: exercise, practice lute and singing, write, etc. It's been so time consuming to get here and I've felt drained of energy for quite some time. Two back to back bouts of food poisoning and hurting my knee and hip made me give up on exercising for a while. I was getting into it back in December and January. Will have to ease back into it now that things have settled down.

Finding and getting settled into another apartment was something of an ordeal. I was so sick of moving every couple of months. It's a long way between southwest Bangkok and Chonburi City. For the first couple of weeks I was commuting in the school van, that was over 3 hours round trip. Left my apartment in the dark and got back in the dark. Wow, I'm not getting paid enough for that. But I held on, figuring it was only temporary and things would be better when I got to Chonburi. 

Here I am at the Songkran ceremony. I'm surely the oldest teacher
there, and this is about honoring your elders, so I must have done this about
300 times. There are some of my fellow teachers who did the other 1,000.
This is a Thai teacher demonstrating to the students how to do it: put a small
garland on my hands, pour a few drops of scented water on them, then I stroke
some of the water on their head while giving them my blessing, which went
something like "Health, wealth and happiness to you".

Here's the place I wound up at. It's 4,200 baht/month, no hot water,
had to buy my own refrigerator for about 5,700 baht, curtains for 1,000.
That road there goes about 180 meters down to the main road, then I catch
a songteaw to the school. It's about 15 min. door to door.
I'm the only farang living here. It's quiet and has air conditioning.

Here's looking the other direction, up into the neighborhoods

I had to live in the teacher housing furnished by the school for the first week and a half I was here, 2 bedroom condos they bought and rent to teachers for 3,000 baht per month. Good rule of thumb is that 1,000 baht = $30. Pretty good deal for a nice condo, but when I got there they weren't even finished building it. It was a construction site, dirt all over everything, no kitchen facilities. Furniture that was there was straight from the furniture store, completely wrapped in plastic. There was no water when I moved in, so the management brought each unit two large trash cans full of water. I don't know what the hell they thought I was going to do with that water, I don't know where it came from. I used it for hand washing some clothes and flushing the toilets. Of course you had to go buy some containers to carry the water to the toilet.

I took a walk up into the soi's one day, just strolling around. Wasn't bothered
by too many dogs, and people ignored me for the most part.

They got the water turned on the second day, but the next day there was a leak somewhere and the first floor was flooded, so it was off again for a couple days. It was a nightmare. Actually, it was like camping out in a construction site but I forgot to bring my camping gear. And they want us to live 4 teachers to a unit. I'm just a little too long in the tooth to be sharing a bedroom with another man, so I bailed out of that as soon as I could find another apartment. That was a huge chore, looking for an apartment in the heat, talking to Thais about various things like leases and rent schemes, finding someone to move my stuff. Frankly, I don't know how I would have done it without Jeab's help. She has been a life saver. My life here would be a lot different without her help and support.

As I was walking up and around the neighborhood near me,
I heard someone say "Hello". That's pretty unusual for around here.
It came from this house. I guess you would call all the houses
around here "town homes", sharing a wall. The units are as
wide as those two half walls, and go up 3 stories usually.

I walked up to the door and found three lovely ladies inside. The one
on the left is Pum Pui, she spoke English pretty well and we had
a conversation for about 15 min. through the locked grate. Sister
on the right and mother in the middle.  
She wanted to know where I was going, I said I was looking
for some place to buy some lunch. They gave me
some of what they were eating and refused my money. 

One weekend Jeab and I packed up all my stuff that was still in my apartment in Bangkok and brought it all down here in a pickup. We spent all of a Saturday driving around looking for a place. Nothing panned out. Have I mentioned there's a problem getting decent housing in this area? I knew of a place that was supposed to be really nice, kitchen, gym even swimming pool. But with bills it gets to be as high as 15,000/month. That's about half my take home pay, had to find something cheaper and with enough amenities to be comfortable. I was getting kind of worried, didn't want to go back to the teacher housing without at least a deposit on something sort of OK.

We started driving around in Thai neighborhoods close to the school and working outwards. I was considering some less than appealing places. Then about 5:00 PM we found this little apartment building. There were no immediate vacancies, so I didn't even get a look at a room, but they had some pics. Price was OK, had A/C and it was well-kept, so I slapped down an deposit. Had to go back to the teacher housing for another week until April 1st though, that's when a unit became available. I crammed all my stuff under the stairwell of the condo for storage, bought Jeab a nice dinner and sent her on her really long drive home before it got too dark.

The day I could move out of there couldn't come soon enough. I didn't want to impose on Jeab's generosity again, so I found a songteaw driver who would hire out and move me. He came on a Saturday morning with his entire family and they moved me in about one hour. I think it cost 500 baht, or 50 songteaw rides. That's about $15. I realized I didn't have any pics of a songteaw, so a little while ago I walked out to the main road and snapped a couple pics of one as it drove by.

By the way, "songteaw" sounds a lot like "song tail" to me, especially if you say it with a southern accent. Sorta like tay-yo. That's the best I can describe this strange sound they use a lot. Wait, no, I remember Jerry Lewis using something like it, and that nutty professor on the Simpsons (which is a parody of Jerry Lewis), gets really close to this sound. There are some really surprising sounds in common usage in the Thai language I just can't get yet.

That's the yellow one I catch to get to work. Takes about 15 min. door to door.
 They are different colors depending on the route, and come
about every 5 or 10 minutes. You flag them down and then push
the buzzer to get off. 10 baht. To get to the big modern
shopping mall, Central Plaza, takes about one hour. Have to transfer
to a red one. Little diesel trucks, noisy and rough riding.

Here's my laundry and
dishwashing facilities
I have a refrigerator now, and all the things for a rudimentary kitchen here in the apartment. Dishes get washed in a tub out on the back porch, which has a spigot and a drain, as does laundry now. I learned how to do that by watching the pinays in the teacher housing. It ends up being quicker and it's really not that difficult. The washing machines around here are different than back home, and invariably tangle up my dress shirts in very tight knots, so now I just wash everything by hand. Jeans and heavy stuff I walk around on like I'm crushing grapes.

About a week's worth
of laundry there
I had to buy some furniture, not happy about that. It's supposed to be a "furnished" apartment. I needed a nightstand, or bedside table as my English friend calls it. He never heard of the term "nightstand" and assumed at first it was some sort of evening establishment. Also needed another shelving unit. There is no storage whatsoever in the bathroom. It's the typical Asian arrangement where the shower just goes onto the floor and most everything gets wet. I'm getting used to the cold showers, which aren't really cold. It depends on the temperature outside. 5:30 AM it's kinda cold. I guess the pipes run up the side of the building because in the evening the water is hot. I'm fairly well settled in now, with only a few irritations.

Then there's the soi dogs. They can be dangerous. There's dozens of them living in the vacant field (which can be seen in the pics of my balcony) along the soi I have to walk, and they all will bark endlessly when I come near, but 5 or 6 have acted like they want a piece of me. I've learned pretty much how to deal with them now: walk tall and show them you're top dog. Don't be afraid, don't run, and never turn your back on them. They aren't big, but they can be aggressive and they will try to bite you if you don't watch it. I've had some of these mangy bastards sneak up on me from behind and try to bite me.

Here's one of the problem ones. This son-of-a-bitch
waits for me every damn day. 
Once I was attacked by 5 of them as I walked up the soi coming home from work. By the way, soi is Thai for street. I'd expect this sort of thing at night, but this was the hottest part of the afternoon, and here they came, encircling me snarling and snapping. I wanted to kill them. I ran at them yelling, waving my arms, trying to kick them, but they stayed just out of reach. Some Thais heard the ruckus and came out of their houses to help me shoo them away. That hasn't happened since. But now, if I don't have my umbrella with me, I pick up 2 or 3 rocks and am ready to throw them and often do if they start to stare me down or come trotting my way. They know about rocks, and will run if you even bend over to act like your gonna pick up a rock. Pantomiming throwing one will usually work too. Now that we're coming up on rainy season I carry an umbrella. When I walk their territory, I'm swinging it wide behind me as I walk, in case one of them tries to sneak up on me from behind.

Here he is again growling at me, hair raised up
on his back and ready to come at me.

There's a crazy lady who lives in this shack. She feeds
about 10 of them. I suppose they feel they are protecting
her from the likes of scary men like me. 

Wow, I have murder in my heart for some of these dogs. I was thinking I'd like to find some pepper spray, but have thought twice about that. I don't want to carry a pressurized container of that in my bag all the time. And you don't know which of these dogs are strays and which "belong" to a Thai. I suspect I may start a shit storm with some of the neighborhood people if I pepper sprayed someone's dog. Overspray might be a problem too, wouldn't want to inadvertently spray a person down-wind of it. So just got to stay on top of it with the umbrella I guess. How I would love to bean some of them on the nose with it.

Did I mention there's really good Thai food in Thailand? And it's cheap too. Here's a table we got at some place (I don't think they have names) along Ang Sila beach. There's dozens. Jeab just picks the one that has the most people, and it's usually a winner.

Let's see that's an omelette with crab meat, seafood and vegetables,
and deep fried chicken bits in some sort of orange sauce I think. 
Yes, I often drink my beer with ice now. This is the usual arrangement, often with a
 straw. Never in my wildest dreams did I think I'd be drinking BEER with ICE in it.
But it's delicious when you're really hot and need hydrating.
Watching the sun go down while chowing down on some
great Thai food...hey, this is a reason to love this place!

I really don't even miss bread. When I first got here I kept cheese on hand, makes a nice omelette. But good cheese here is hard to find and it's rather expensive. Now I make my omelettes with fried minced pork, with some onions and peppers mixed in.

Jib's place. I eat here a lot.
I was walking slowly along the main road one day a month ago and a lady said hello. That's how I met Jib. Turns out she lived in New York for a year, and is an architecture graduate looking for work here. In the meantime she helps out at her parent's little restaurant. It's really a pleasure to be able to talk freely with someone who's pretty good with English, it keeps me coming back. Here sister's name is Jeab too, makes me think of a website named JibJab. Today I had tam yung goong with basil minced pork and rice and a Coke. It was freakin' awesome, except I was sweating bullets cause it was hot as bloody hell around 1:00 PM and the tam yum was blazing spicy. It's not really called "Jib's Place", her mother and father own and run it, but I don't know what else to call it. It's just a little restaurant in what I suppose is the garage of one of these town homes, a typical arrangement. She's been a really good source of information on a lot of things.

Futile attempt to look younger.
Right across the street from the string of beach restaurants, all of which I'm sure are excellent, is a Chinese Temple. We went in there one day and had a look around. There are signs everywhere saying no photography, but everyone was taking pictures so I did too.

My lovely assistant

On the top floor of one of the buildings

View from that floor. This place looks like Vegas.

After the meal, and spending some time at the temple we drove up in the hills to a lookout point. The higher up we got, the more monkeys there were. Mean monkeys. You want to steer clear of these little bastards, I'm not even kidding.

This guy looks harmless enough in this picture sitting
up top at the lookout point, but I swear to God
he was a little bastard. What a jerk.

We stayed up there until it started to get dark and the monkeys
had a screaming fight on top of Jeab's car and started flinging poo.
Yeah, then we were out of there.

Here's a building that looks like it has a ship on the top. 

And I had to sneak in a bicycle pic. This pretty bike is called "The Roland".
I tried to do a little research online to find out about them, but I'm getting
conflicting stories. This is a really nice looking bike to me, saw it in a
street market. I should have made an offer on it. Gonna go back
in a few weeks and see if I can find it again. Gonna have to change
out that brake handle, don't like those.
Alright, that's enough for this post. I'm already started on the next one about some recent trips we took during this here time.