Tuesday, June 29, 2010

School has been progressing well. I really enjoy several of my classes, especially Hydraulics and Fluid Dynamics. My hydraulics professor, Dr. Winyu, is supposedly the best in his field in all of Asia. He is a great teacher even though he decided to add an hour and a half of lecture each week for the rest of the semester. He uses this time to give a quiz, give the homework, and provide extra examples so that everybody in the class is understanding the material. I attend hydraulics twice on Tuesday and once on Wednesday (it is the only class I have that is not a three hour session once a week). I do not think professors can do that in America, just add class hours on a whim, but oh well. At least its a class I enjoy. Three out of the four days per week I'm in school are strictly fluid classes, with the dreaded Computational Methods lecture on Thursday morning and Thai Studies every Thursday afternoon.

Did you know the whole entirety of the history of Thailand is easily written in a hand-sized 100-page book? It's true, I had to read it in Thai Studies. And it only took about three hours to read. There are very few surviving documents of Thailand before the 19th century, and accordingly very little is known about Thailand before the 1800's. Most pre-modern historical facts of Thailand are topics of much debate, and since no clear conclusion can be drawn, Thai history books have only a handful of pages on the years before the 1800's and the rest of the book accounts for the years following. I assume that is why this class is labeled "Thai Studies" instead of "Thai History". According to the syllabus, only the first few weeks are covering history and the rest of the semester is dedicated to culture, geography, religion, and similar topics. I enjoy this class as well, the professor is very enthusiastic about the material.

Last week, my fried Lucas (from Alabama) told me about an organization on campus called Grapevine. It is a Christian organization, but it is not meant to impose religion on others. Grapevine (from what I have gathered so far) is like an outreach program that includes all sorts of people and aims at doing good in the community. I might have my facts skewed, but in the coming weeks I should know more. Last Monday Steven and I went to a place on campus called Interpark and watched the world cup game between Portugal and Brazil with many of the members of Grapevine. They are very nice people and we had a lot of fun. Last night, Steven and I went to 'Souper Tuesday' at Grapevine and we had a blast. When we got there we played board and card games with some of the people there for about an hour, then they served soup, bread, rice, and fruit tea. After dinner they acted out a parable and played some songs with their band. It was a lot of fun meeting these people and we plan to hang out with them again tomorrow, when they are auctioning off items after the night market. It is nice to have something to do besides going back to the room every day after class, especially when Steven has been in the room all day waiting for me to return.

I do not remember if I put this in the last post, but I joined the American Studes Club (at the request of Boy and Bow). Last Wednesday was the official first meeting, and I was a guest speaker for all the new recruitees. Steven went up there with me and he introduced himself. It is so amazing to see how interested Thai people are in American culture, since the interest is not mutual for most Americans (I still remember some people asking me where Thailand is located in the world after I told them I was coming here...lol). They are fascinated with what they see of America in movies and have a great interest in going to the USA. The club meetings are held in Thai for the most part, but usually Anisa will translate for me and Steven. We are going tonight (it is about noon on Wednesday right now). Also tonight there is a small market that sets itself up in front of my dorm building, they sell food, clothes, and a lot of random goods.

Did I mention I tried a grasshopper?

Mother, I forgot to tell you, there are like seven different colors of doves here...it is so strange to see green and orange-brown doves walking around campus. The other day Steven and I tried really hard to get a picture of a group of three white herons (or storks...Im not really sure what they are called) but they were ninja-like and thwarted every picture we tried to take of them. We have also seen a few of the Monitor Lizards, but none were in a decent place for a picture. There are geckos crawling around all over the ceilings and walls around campus at night, and we have seen a few lizards lurking about. On a creepier note, our room is crawling with little tiny ants...I have cleaned the floors twice with clorox but they keep reappearing. We are extremely careful not to get crumbs anywhere (just ask Steven, he is about to kill me what with how clean and orderly I like the room to be lol). They do not bite and they keep to themselves so we just coexist.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

On Sunday, Steven, Bow, Boy, Coke and I went to Bangkok to see some of Thailand's history. We first went to the Grand Palace, a very touristy place with a lot of flamboyant architecture and color. I think it was built when Bangkok became the capital of Thailand some 200 years ago by King Rama...then again, I might of misinterpreted information. Steven and I took a lot of pictures there, but the internet connection here makes it near impossible to upload them to this blog or facebook. After that, we walked to the main campus of our university and found an out-of-the-way shack that had vegetarian food. We went up a rickety old staircase with a low ceiling to the upper floor, which was very uneven and altogether treacherous. However, it was quaint. You would have like it, mother. They had indian food there (my fav cuisine :) and Coke ordered us something that was very tasty (a photo of this dish will be posted as soon as we go to an internet cafe). After that we walked through a bustling market to the river that divides Bangkok and Tornburi, the previous capital of Siam. We took an extremely exhilerating long-boat into the river and went into a well-used canal. We took tons of pictures of the boat ride, so you will see what Im takling about. We passed all sorts of fruit trees (banana, papaya, mango, tamarind, dragonfruit, and longon) and drifted past a floating market. We did not stop, but it was interesting to see people selling goods in the middle of the canal. We did, however, stop at a huge buddhist pyramid thing that had the steepest steps Ive ever seen. Steven and I walked up them to the top and took several photos. We were very hot and went to get some water by the souvenier stands, and a lady there tried to overcharge for our water. I tried telling her in thai that she was overcharging by quite a large margin, and she lowered the price a little and said I had a short temper lol, I think she was embarrassed that I caught her in the act of dishonesty! Anyway, that was what we did on Sunday. Ive been in class the past two days as Steven has studied arabic in our dorm room. Oh! We went to a very interesting restaurant called (oddly enough) bar-b-q palace. It isnt the type of barbeque you are thinking of lol, you order a whole plate of raw vegetables or meat and there is a little contraption in the middle of the table where you cook the food for yourself. It was very enjoyable, there will be pictures of that too. I will be busy with class and doing things with Steven, so posts wont be as frequent. But they will continue, dont worry ;)

Friday, June 18, 2010

What have I gotten myself into...

All my classes seem to be fairly interesting. All except one, that is. A course I signed up for, Computational Methods in Civil Engineering, is not at all what I thought it was going to be. The catalog description for this course says 'Introduction to programming techniques used to solve problems in Civil Engineering', or something along those lines. The syllabus handed out in class, however, says 'Approximate numerical solutions of systems of linear and nonlinear equations, eignevalue problems, interpolation theory, numerical differentiation and integration, numerical solutions of ordinary differential equations, with computer coding of numerical methods'. Not only is this class going to be like the Differential Equations course I took last year (which consumed most of my time every weeknight for the entire semester), but it is a mixed undergraduate/graduate level course. The catalog failed to mention that. The class is comprised of 19 undergraduates and 26 graduate students. The only difference is that the graduate students have a project due at the end of the semester. Furthermore, I learned from a different professor that only 10% of the students in each class at SIIT are allowed to receive an 'A'. I have a feeling that that 10% will be mostly graduate students. I believe I will be able to manage this course, but at a price; it will probably consume much of my time this semester, and will not result in a high mark. The real kicker is that I cannot drop this course, nor can I drop any course, for that matter. Foreign students cannot, for any reason, drop a course once enrolled in it. It has something to do with fees that are not included in our program benefits, so it is not tolerated. That is why foreign students have the privilege of merely observing classes for the first two weeks before deciding to register for them. I foolishly did not take advantage of this privilege, and only now see the reason for it. Argh :/

Moving on to a better subject; STEVEN IS COMING TODAY!! His flight is arriving in Bangkok around 11:20 tonight and I am meeting him there to take him back to my dorm. I talked to the dude downstairs who owns this building and he said its alright if Steven stays for however long he wants, as long as he agrees to pay rent and such. This is not only good news for me, but also for anyone who cares to follow this blog, since he is bringing a camera :)

A few of my friends invited me (and Steven) to go to an ancient city about two hours away this weekend. I can say the city name but probably cannot spell it...something like Appathya. I do not know anything about that place, other than its distance from here lol. There will be pictures, so dont worry. I know you are dying for pictures, mother ;)

Monday, June 14, 2010

The initial feeling of lonliness has worn off. Surprisingly I dont feel like there was any culture shock, just a little homesickness. Now that I have made friends and know my way around, and am starting to pick up some of the language, I am really starting to enjoy living here in Thailand! It is really an awesome place to live. Besides the inexpensiveness of its goods, it is wonderful to know that winter will not rear its ugly head this year :D it will be hot all year, and I will be back in the states just in time for summer to start again. The heat is overwhelmingly sweltering, especially with the uniform required for entering the campus, but it is surprisingly bearable if you dont think about it. Being the rainy season, it has rained nearly every day I have been here. BUT! It usually waits until late in the day to rain, when I am already done moseying about the campus. There is a riveting thunderstorm every night in the direction my balcony points, and even though it is too far away to hear the thunder it is relaxing to watch the lightning. Im guessing it is heat lightning, but Im not really sure. There are several places I have found that offer vegetarian (though not always vegan) fare, my favourite of which is about a 30 second walk from my dorm. It is a little roadside 'restaurant'...the tables are all outside and covered by a tarp looking roof. They have a menu in english, though I just tell them what I want in thai (finally committed to memory!) and they whip it up immediately. There have been no more incidents with the iguana things (thank goodness!) but today I saw a dead snake outside my dorm and almost jumped out of my skin at the sight. Besides that, today was a good day. It was my first day of classes, though I only had one class which was fluid dynamics (calculations with moving water). Tomorrow I have hydraulics, which is supposed to be a tough class. Tonight, however, I am meeting my friends Bow, Boy, Min, Uh, and a lot of Bow's friends to go to the night market that is held every Monday and Thursday night on campus. I am really looking forward to it, it is tons of fun walking through all the stalls and seeing what the local vendors are selling. They also usually accompany the market with a concert, and there is a ton of food available for a very low price. For the moment, I am going to swim in the enormous, inviting pool until it is time to meet my friends for the market. Oh one last thing...if you are ever given an oppurtunity to drink avacado nectar...take the chance immediately. The same goes with Lychee sorbet - mmmmmm!!

Friday, June 11, 2010

At orientation I was able to work out the classes I will be taking this semester. I only have 10 courses approved for transfer credit for tech, so between those courses, time conflicts, and availability it was a great relief I was able to take four of the classes on the list. These classes are Thai Studies, Fluid Dynamics, Hydraulics, Engineering Statics, and Computational Methods for Civil Engineering. Though I do not have approval for hydraulics, I need the class to take hydrology next semester, which is one of the classes I have approval for. Unfortunately I still cannot take calculus 3, so I will have to wait for next semester. Since I took my math classes out of order, calc 3 is the only one I have left but is easier than the last math class I took (since it was a higher level class). In Thailand, classes only meet once a week for three hours...for the most part. Four of my classes are like this, but Statics meets twice a week for 1.5 hours. Because of this type of scheduling, I will have a much nicer schedule than I did last semester:

Monday: 9:00-12:00
Tuesday 10:40-12:00
Wednesday 9:00-10:20, 1:00-4:00
Thursday 9:00-12:00, 1:00-4:00

Classes here run Monday through Saturday, but since I can only take five classes I only have to go to class four days a week. Last semester I was taking 7 classes and two labs, so at least this semester will be a bit easier. However, this means that I will not graduate early with my degree as was planned...I will have to stay in school for the entire 4 years. It also means that I will have more time to enjoy studying abroad :)

One more thing, totally unrelated to the previous paragraphs, is worth mentioning. I did not know this before coming here, but Lay's potato chips does not offer the same flavors here as they do in the states. For instance, four I remember off the top of my head are Nori Seaweed, Chili Shrimp, Spicy Squid, Mixed Seafood, and Grilled Chicken. I tried the seaweed flavor, it wasn't bad! However I think I will leave the other flavors at the store for other people to buy. Also, there is a really tasty beverage here that (as far as I know) is not offered in America. I cannot read the package, but the picture looks like it is honey flavored soymilk. It is absolutely delicious! I have about 20 in my fridge (individual size). It is good to finally have a reliable source of protein!

Thursday, June 10, 2010

It took nearly two hours, but I found the night market! It was a bustling brovera of food, clothing, and everything in between. I walked through the stalls for about an hour before deciding on what to eat. I had what looked like chinese noodles with vegetables and egg (i had to remove the egg, of course), but it was really tasty! Oh and I found out how to say tasty in Thai (aroy). I also got some lemon tea, which is pretty much equivalent to limeade. Why they say lemon instead of lime is beyond me. Then I bought some sweet bread with raisins (a whole loaf for around 75 cents!). It rivaled the pan dulce in the mexican bakery on nolensville road. As I was walking, someone stopped me and asked if I was a friend of Bow's (who was an exchange student in Nashville two years ago), he had friend requested me on facebook the previous night. I know that sounds like a chance meeting, but oh well. His name is Boy, and he was with his friends Men and Uh. Men and Uh are freshman and Boy is a senior. They asked if I wanted to join them so I did. I ended up spending the next few hours with them as we went around campus. I ate another dinner with them at a canteen I had never seen before, and Boy ordered me something vegan. I had him write down how to order that, so I can order my own food tomorrow lol. Men is a freshman girl and was fascinated by Lindsey Lohan, Taylor Swift, and Miley Cyrus (spelling?). She was even more fascinated that two of them are from Nashville lol. I have made plans with them for Tuesday, since tomorrow I will be busy with orientation.
I finally tried the swimming pool today...which was a success! I didnt have a student ID to get in, so I showed the guard a letter I was mailed a while back from the university. As I had planned, he could not speak english and therefore was unable to understand the letter, but after seeing the university's letterhead he figured it was a temporary pass to use the sports facilities :D So as I walked in, the size of the pool amazed me. It had 14 lanes plus a general swimming area...the Tech pool only has 5 lanes. Also, this pool is outside on a raised platform, covered by a stylish pavillion-style roof and completely open to the air. It is probably one of the best pools I have ever swam in. It is about seven feet deep as far as I can guess and it is nice and cool. It is connected to a huge stadium which houses the aforementioned olympic pool, which I hope to see soon! The whole complex is pretty much across the street from my dorm, so it is convenient to walk to.

On another note, today was the fifth time this week I have ridden on a motorbike. There are university personnel who wear neon green vests that ride around on motorbikes and give rides to students for only 10 Baht...around 30 cents, for anywhere on campus (and the campus is quite enormus). It is very common for there to be more than two people on a motorbike, and helmets are rarely worn. I rode with two others on a small bike the other day, it was pretty exciting lol. Also, there are trollies that are free for students that have a route around campus. I do not know which go where yet, so I have only ridden those twice. There are also taxis everywhere, so it is always easy to get where you are going as long as you can somehow effectively communicate your destination (something I have not thus far succeeded in...)

I have found a place in the cafeteria (called a 'canteen' here) that usually has one vegetarian option every day. Today when I was looking for their veg option, I didnt see anything I could eat. However, the lady remembered me and spooned me up something over rice and I paid for it (only around 16 baht). When I sat down, I realized what she had given me. It was mostly vegetables over rice, but with the vegetables there were slimy brown things. They were jellyfish :/ so today all I have eaten is some shredded wheat I found at the grocery store last week and some gojiberry juice. The night market, open Mondays and Thursdays, opened about a minute ago so if I can find it I will be eating soon :)

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

I know I already posted something today, but something that just happened is worth mentioning! I was walking on a sidewalk, minding my own business, when I saw something about four feet in front of me on the outside edge of the sidewalk. It was one of the giant iguana things that live in the waterways by the sidewalks, black with yellow stripes and larger than my arm, and I surely was not about to walk by it lest it try to kill me or something. But to my left was the waterway and to my right was a street, and there was a ton of traffic on it so I was not about to get myself hit by a car....so I creeped along stealthily hoping it wouldn't notice me. And when I say stealthily, I mean stealthily. When I was about two feet from it, it lunged at me! It was one of those fake lunges, meant to make me go away I guess, but that doesn't matter. The fact is, I was attacked by a Thai reptile!!! When I get a camera I am for sure going to take a picture of one of these evil mutant attack iguanas of death, and if one so much as thinks of attacking me again there will either be a dead iguana on the street or a hospitalized foreign exchange student in the campus hospital.
Im g0ing to attempt to illustrate what I can see from my balcony in my dorm room, since so many people have asked for pictures and I do not have a camera lol. The dorm is separated from the campus by a highway, and there is a little pedestrian walkway to cross over it. I live on the seventh floor, with the university to my right when looking off the balcony. To the left, you can sometimes see Bangkok off in the distance, especially at night, if the air isnt too hazy with smoke or humidity. A little closer, there are small family farms spotting the landscape. I only recognize two of the crops, one is rice and the other is sugarcane. There is a little river too, with small makeshift bridges over it. Directly in front of me is another dorm, called VKP Mansion. I am jealous because they have internet in that dorm... :( Under me and slightly to the right is a mini mall of sorts, with a 7-11 store, a tailor shop (i think), a sit-down restaurant, and some other shops I cannot read lol. To the right, across the highway, is my campus. I live across from a giant torch (made for the Asian Games, which were held here recently). Luckily it is not lit, else it would be even hotter than it already is! Next to that, there are three huge stadiums diagonally positioned, I havent been inside but I guess they are soccer fields. They were also built for the asian games. There is a fourth stadium, my favorite, which houses two swimming pools. One of them I can see from my room, but the other is olympic sized and is covered. The large one is reserved for the swim team and is not open to the public..fortunately I am going to try out for the swim team so I will get to see it! All throughout campus there are little waterways next to the sidewalks. Mom, you would surely die with pleasure at all the waterfowl lol. Jeremy, Im sure you would love all the asian guys here. Dad, Im pretty sure you would like the food, its spicy so you can taste it lol. Ashley, as you know you would adore all the fruit selections. Jennifer, you would simply hate it. lol.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Yesterday I finally met my international coordinator, she was very nice and well-informed on all of my questions. I had to get a student ID, and therefore had to go somewhere to get a special photo, and since I did not know where to go she had two Thai students go with me, their names were Ohm and Nu. They were awesome! After we got my picture they took me to a small place nearby for lunch, and thankfully (!) they were able to order something for me, I had rice and vegetables with soy sauce, it was delicious! They asked if I had uniforms yet and I did not, so they offered to go with me to Bangkok and look for uniforms, I thought that was very nice. We took this thing called the skytrain, its an elevated monorail, once we got to bangkok. We then went to the uniform store (every person in school in Thailand has to wear a uniform, no matter the grade level). Luckily the shopkeeper was not able to rip me off since I had Thai people with me, thank goodness. I got two pairs of dress pants, two oxford shirts, a tie, and a belt for under $40. Not bad lol. We went back to school and they went and got two of their friends and we went to a pet market, which sold every type of pet imaginable. Clearly, I was not a fan of that place...but nevertheless we were there lol. Then we went to the nearest place to eat, a house/roadside-restaurant and they ordered me the same thing as I had for lunch. It was pretty good! One of the guys I was with, Pok, just got back from being a monk for a month lol. He was very nice, as were the other boys. Right now I am in an internet cafe about 9km from my dorm, there is no internet yet :/ but hopefully it will come soon.

Something I was not expecting before I came to Thailand was the abundance of food. The street my dorm is on is literally lined with street vendors both ways, and even the house/shack things have a little table in front of their front door, showing they will cook for you. Unfortunately every one of these that I have passed have not sold much in the way of vegan food, but if I knew how to ask I'm sure they could whip something up. Oh! I finally found a grocery store, it is called Big C and compares closely to Wal-Mart, ecxept it is much cheaper and has a larger produce section with all sorts of fruits I have never seen before.

Students here, apparently, are expected to wear their uniforms at all times except when in your dorm. I am wearing my uniform now, even though I am in a mall lol, but there are plenty of other people here in school uniform so its not too bad. Ohm told me yesterday that there are three seasons in Thailand: Hot, hotter, and hot shit. lol. It only takes about 30 minutes outside for the uniform to completely soak through, I just hope my classrooms have air conditioning.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Silence. The first thing I noticed about Thailand. The plane was not able to connect to a terminal outlet, so a shuttle came to collect the passengers. Disembarking into the hot humid air, there was not a sound to be heard, save the distant roll of thunder in the heavy dark clouds draped over the city. The shuttle bus was no different. It weaved in and out of airplanes (both parked and moving) as it made its silent way to the terminal. I think I could have heard a pen drop from the other side of the airport as I entered its ghostly grasps. But that was the last time I heard silence. The taxi driver I had talked nonstop as we headed to my dormitory, he wanted to know everything about me that there was to know, including what street I lived on in Nashville lol (don't worry, I did not give away anything personal!). Once I got to the dormitory, it was a little after midnight, I was not sure how to get in. Luckily I saw a guard sloped in a chair near the entrance, who spoke very very little english, and was able to help me. He did not understand me but he simply lead me to a room for me to stay in for the night. The lights did not work in that room (and it smelled completely disgusting) so he lead me to a different room which was a little better and let me stay the night there. This morning when I got up from my bed as soon as it began to be light outside (I didn't wake up, I have not been able to sleep for two days), I went out to look at what was not visible last night. By the way, this dorm I am in is not what you are thinking of when I say dorm. All the hallways are open to the air, and so is the staircase. It is hot and muggy in the halls and therefore hot and muggy in the rooms. The room key works in such a way that the air conditioning is only on if you are in the room. So when you return, it is hot as hell lol. ALso, inside the room there are two beds that are right next to eachother so it seems like one large bed, which im sure will be a bit strange for both me and my roomate when he arrives. The bathroom is on the balcony... you open the balcony then go to the side and open another door to get to the bathroom. But thats not the weirdest part. The showerhead is just over the toilet, and there is not a thing to contain the water, it just goes all over the bathroom and into a drain. It gets the toiled soaked...Idk that i like that setup. Anyway, when I looked outside, there were buildings all around me, mostly dilapidated. I went to the only place I recognized...a 7/11 station, to get water and toothpaste (to be continued)