Sunday, February 12, 2012


Lots of crazy things have happened this year so far.

One of which is the fact I bought a hackey sack on Khao San last month.

I really want a smart phone of some sort so that I can make a twitter account.

3 weeks of teaching left!

Monday, October 17, 2011

50 Pound Boombox on Your Shoulder

I got back from two weeks of vacation and there were lots of stories and interesting moments to say the least.

First up was Singapore. Singapore is so Westernized it's ridiculous. Which was a welcomed change at first from always eating Pad Thai, food from the market, or "cooking" pasta. Plus, the Singapore airport had a Quizno's, which made it my favourite airport on the trip. Instantly, the first thing I thought was that Singapore is the exact opposite from Bangkok. It is clean, great roads and beautiful buildings, drivers who drive in the lanes at a speed limit, clean air, and the best part was being able to speak English to somebody that you don't work with! We had a great chat with our cab driver from the airport, he was super friendly, and had only had been speaking English for two years, which floored us, as there was no hint of any accent or anything. He is either really smart, or a liar, but either way he was really helpful so I gave him a good tip for being a great guy. Then, I realized that Singapore is super expensive, as the Singapore dollar is basically on par with the Canadian dollar, except everything is so so so expensive in order to compensate for the previously mentioned beautiful buildings, modern landscapes, and cleanliness. To put it in terms that people who know me a little better than most will understand, for example: two rum and Coke's were $24 dollars, as in $12 a drink. Ironically, this was almost worth it to me since it was Captain Morgan's spiced rum, my first spicy diet in six months! 

Anyway, we did a hop-on, hop-off tour bus for a day, which was a good way to see the city, since it's quite large. I had planned on doing a fair deal of shopping, but with prices being... pricy, and the fact that it was all name brands such as Gucci, Louis Vuitton, and Prada, you can see why I ended up not buying much outside of pitchers of Tiger beer and eating healthy at Mcdonalds, Burger King, TGIF Friday, and pizza joints. It was a welcomed change, but we were unsure on how long we needed to stay to see it all. We did the touristy stuff, took touristy pictures at locations like the Singapore Flyer, but by day five and stumbling across a liquor store while walking through the Little India part of town, we picked up a $45 dollar bottle of Captain Morgan's Spiced Rum (an absolute steal!) enjoyed our last night in Singapore by picking up mix and chips and drinking in our hotel room while watching the Last Action Hero, one of Arnold's most underrated movies!

And we had a Singapore Sling - only $16! Basically a steal for a drink I've never had an am only ordering because I'm in the place with the same name.

We caught a plane in the morning to Yogyakarta, Indonesia in the morning, which was on time and everything was going according to plan until we arrived. On the plane, I remember that I forgot my twenty-five US dollars I needed to stay in Indonesia in Bangkok. No big deal I thought, I'm not the first person this has happened to. I explained this to the teller taking money, and she says that it's alright, and that you can pay in Rupiah (the Indonesian currency). Indonesia has a ridiculous inflation rate on their currency, by the way, so it is 250, 000 Rupiah - the equivalent to 25 USD. "Okay, that's fine, where is the ATM so I can take out Rupiah?" Oh, all you have to do is take a left there, and then another left. Easy right? Except that the 'left, and then another left' is after where you have to clear customs! Really?! 

Luckily for me, airports in Asia are stupidly lax, so after having to surrender my passport to the teller, basically ensuring to her that I'm not up to any shenanigans and will obviously have to visit her again after I get the money so I can get my passport back to pay for my Visa. To continue this nightmare, after explaining to the customs officer that I need to just walk past them, aka: skipping customs to take out money so that I'm actually legally allowed to be in this country, they give me the nod and I'm on my way. This is a small hiccup at the time, which later turned out to be a large belch, as while frantically speed-walking and ignoring people asking if I need a cab ("no, I'm not even allowed to be in the country yet!"), I find an ATM. Oh yeah, this is the part where I realize that I also forgot to bring my Canadian debit card. No big deal, I have my Thai debit card, which is a legitimate Visa card, so it should work. Should work. It did not work, and after three failed attempts and at the cursed bank machines, and one unhelpful security guard who shrugged his shoulders when I asked why it wouldn't work, I had to make the awkward walk of shame backwards and the wrong way into customs where Natalie was patiently waiting with all of our bags, I had to explain that either a) I'm an idiot that doesn't know how to operate a bank machine, or b) that the machine wouldn't accept my stupid Thai debit card and I have no viable way to pay for my existence in this country.

So I explained option B, and she used her middle finger that I was number one, broke up with me at the customs part of the Yogyakarta airport, and told me to figure out how to get home myself and that she would send me a postcard. Awkward.

But really that didn't happen, and she was a sweetheart and went to the ATM herself while I guarded all of our bags from.... well, nobody, everyone else on the airport had cleared customs since they were smart enough to bring American cash with them in the first place. Anyway, while I wore the dunce cap and waited for her to get back, I was relieved to see her show up with the cash. Turns out the ATM at the airport really didn't accept our Thai card, and she used her Canadian one to bail me out. So, I cleared customs about 40 minutes after landing, and still had no way to access money in Indonesia. Needless to say, she paid for the taxi and I was still quite on edge. 

Very long story short, I sold my body for money while we were in Indonesia and I'm not ashamed of it. Also, we learned that there was a machine out there that liked my card, so I was able to pay for things.

Yogyakarta was cool, although sketchy at first. Again, now if Singapore is the exact opposite of Bangkok, then Yogyakarta is the exact opposite of Singapore. But not the same as Bangkok. We were in a "touristy" part of town, so we arrived and really didn't know what to do when we got there, since who has even heard of this place? We walked past the seemingly endless market of the same array of t-shirts and hats, and people asking where we were from. 

"Oh, Toronto/Vancouver?"

 Yes, and yes. It's just easier than answering "no, from Winnipeg actually" then walking away so that you don't get roped into buying whatever useless junk they were selling. Then all these people were asking if we had seen the art exhibit. So we answered no, and this kind man walked us into a section of nowhere where we quickly picked up on the fact that we had just been roped into a local scam, ala the tuktuk drivers in Bangkok. There were two other suckers sitting together, and while we all shared the same glances that were easily interpreted as "shit, you too?", we politely listened to the man claim he painted all of these, and stared at the free hot tea that they brought us. No thank-you, I would not care for the scolding hot tea that I didn't ask for on this lovely +35 day. We left, and the guy told us that we should get something since this was the last day of the art gallery, and that it shut down at 4 PM. As we left, we both noticed the weathered painted sign that was clearly fastened to a lamp post, indicating that this art exhibit had probably been going on for oh, about the last 15 years. We took our chances that we were missing out by not purchasing anything and moved on to consume about 10 large Tiger beers.

Again, we were quite disappointed in the shopping, but we spent our money wisely on doing a number on our livers and eating 6 meals a day. It's vacation, you're allowed to do that. We also took part on day tour things, which included checking out a few temples and taking the kinds of pictures that if put on Facebook, everyone would immediately multiple click until it gets to the drunk pictures. We didn't take the whole thing seriously either, but decided to humour ourselves by talking in lisps and making fun of people. You know, embracing the culture. And having random people bring their kids up to you for pictures, since you know, we're white. Also, if you child starts crying after you pick them up and bring them in front of us to sit on our laps, that probably indicates that they don't want their picture forcibly taken with a complete stranger. 

Then we hit up a beach and checked out the sunset. You can't swim in the water, since you basically die from the waves, so we did the next best thing and rented ATV's on the beach, which was so dope.

We got away from our touristy area one day, since it definitely lacked just a simple place to sit down and have a cocktail and a bite. We found some places on the Internet and decided to check them out, and were impressed. Everyone is super friendly, that should be said. We had a group of four University students who were studying Business come up to us and ask if they could videotape us just ordering and conversing with the waiter. Sure! No problem. Except, unfortunately for them, it was 2 PM and we're alcoholics, so all we would order is large beers, which we would split as so they wouldn't get warm. It did not make for an exciting video - "One large Bintang please, two glasses." "Thank you" when it arrived. So while they pulled up seats next to us for the next hour and watch us order one beer at a time, and secretly hoping we'd get crazy and you know, maybe order lunch (nope), we struck up small talk and they were really nice, and practicing their English. They gave us some key chains for being good sports, which by being good sports, I really mean getting day-drunk. 

There were lots of cool things we did in Yogyakarta, one of them was not whatever they did on The Amazing Race that made it look so cool. So, after three days, we peaced to Bali.

Bali is Bali, which is awesome. I love Bali. We were there for eight days, and luckily for us, we don't need to occupy every day with some planned event. For example, our event for day one was buying ten pairs of sunglasses then swimming in the pool. You know, really cultural things. And drinking Bintangs. A million Bintangs. And eating pizza, like 10 pizzas. And spending $15 dollars on cookies and eating them in bed watching Terminator 2 (more Arnold). Vacation stuff. We did end up going surfing, which was slightly terrifying, since in the morning leading up to surfing, we got hit with a minor earthquake while eating breakfast (pizza) at an outdoor restaurant. It was actually on the other side of the island, but when the ground moves for ten seconds, shit gets real. Also, for lunch we had an aftershock- which is a shock, after as well. Surfing was sweet, I really wanted to do it the last few days that we were there but the waves were too manly for this guy.

We ended up finally getting our shopping in, and while some days you just don't want to be bothered by people calling you "boss" and comments about "honeymoon price", we picked up some sweet swag, a lot of gifts for Christmas, and 30 pairs of sunglasses. And I finally found shoes, which is the best part of this blog. 

Overall, it was a good vacation, and it was good to get away from work for a bit, which is where I'm writing this from. It's camp for the month of October, and myself and Jon are doing the Sports portion of it, which meant sweating it out in the hot gym today and playing dodgeball and then swimming in the pool for two periods with the K's. I have dressed many small naked children today, which is not the most fun thing I've done all day. Oh, and one of the kids (about 3 years old) started peeing in the middle of the change room floor while we were both trying to help them change.

At least it wasn't in the pool, right?

Friday, September 30, 2011

Red in the Morning

Well, a few weeks ago, I did the second annual Khatachuk Amazing Race Scavenger Hunt. There were about 16 of us that took part in it, and it was a lot of fun, and a lot of hot. Probably dummied a good 4-5 waterbottles that day. Anyway, while Natalie and I didn't win (a respectable 5th place out of 8 teams), I got a decent wife-beater tan while is almost as classy as wearing a wife-beater in general. Overall, a lot of teams had some unreal costumes and team names - The Loewen Grangers (the last names of one couple) was my personal favourite and a classy homage to the Lone Ranger, in case you didn't get the joke. Everyone made a spectacle out of themselves, and I'm not entirely sure why anyone would give us a double-take.

I think the crowd were good sports. You know, if you weren't Thai, or if you were like this couple who found it hilarious when we asked if their 7 year old son would feed a stranger a chocolate-covered banana so that I could post it on the Internet without their permission. 

And now, welcome to the new blog addition - "Only in Thailand" (food edition):

Only in Thailand do:

1. People willingly eat chicken feet, pig's tongue, and chunks of black coagulated blood in their soup, but find mashed potatoes and gravy absolutely disgusting.

2. People use ketchup packets on their pizza. Maybe I'd give this a try if there wasn't already tomato sauce on the pizza.

3. People love ketchup on pizza, but think that ketchup chips are the strangest idea. This is while they snack on shrimp and seaweed flavoured Lays.

Last weekend, I went to Linkin Park at Activ Square with Natalie. After a two and half hour cab ride., we finally got there. I should know better, but this consider this a tip if you ever take a cab in Thailand: If your cab driver doesn't immediately say "okay" after you tell him your desired destination, that means that he probably doesn't really know where it is but clearly will not tell you this until at least 100 baht into the cab ride. It's especially bad if you say the name of the place you want to go, and he unsuccessfully repeats the name in broken English and in the form of a question, ala Ron Burgendy. Example:

Me: "Activ Square please."
Cab Driver: "Act-rivv Skare?"
Me: "Active Square, you know where that is?"
Cab Driver: (5 second pause) ".....okay."

Then you get in and he immediately gets on his cell phone and you don't understand any of the conversation except for 'Act-rivv Skare'.

Anyway, the show was really good and I even know most of the songs since we had downloaded the last two Linkin Park albums a few days prior so we would actually recognize the set list. They were really good live, and I learned that Thai crowds are super boring and tame, but also that they love to politely fist pump and jump during songs that they know. It only rained on us for a short while, and I got to use the thuper thweet Thai washrooms that were actually a group of hollowed out school buses that were now turned into a divided groups of urinals. After using the makeshift piss shack, I was just so glad that I didn't have to crap.

We were too far to really get any good pictures of the stage, so we just got randoms to take pictures of us instead.

It was also perogie-making Sunday this past weekend, which was a combination of fun and delicious. We ran out of dough, but by that point had already churned out around 200 perogies. This means that I probably clowned on 10% of those 200, which I am not ashamed of in the slightest. Perogies are my favourite food, and six months is six months too long for me to go without them.

School has been decent, and the kids finished their exams for Term 2 the other week, and none of my kids failed. This may not seem like a big deal, but I think it is a good sign since I've noticed so much improvement in many of the kids since I started back in May and it makes you feel good to know that even they may not retain the knowledge for their whole life, that I helped teach them so many different things already.

NHL preseason has started, and two Philadelphia Flyers have already been suspended, which is both ridiculous as well as not entirely surprising. The 2012 Winter Classic was also announced this week, and the Flyers will be making their second appearance in it, and will be playing the New York Rangers. While the logo and jersey design has not actually been released yet, consider the Winter Classic retro jersey the first thing on my Christmas list this year.

Am I the only person who finds the amount of newfound hockey fans hilarious now that we have a team to cheer for? And once these "fans" (air quotes = Internet sarcasm) learn the rules of hockey and the names of two or three teams that aren't from Canada, they'll be set!

I leave tomorrow morning for holidays! Singapore, Yogyakarta, and Bali. It's almost as cool as Winnipeg in October, and I'll try to make the best out of it somehow. Also, congrats to Liane for getting a teaching job! Bring some class to Transcona and teach the shit out of those kids!

Finally, if you ever want something to make fun of me for when I get back home, I saw the Taylor Lautner movie "Abduction" earlier this week. Don't worry though, I hated it.

love, Mark

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Taxis Sono Qui

I always feel like there should be some witty opening to these, but really I'm not that exciting. It was a typical rainy night tonight, so I procrastinated my grocery shopping, thus sacrificing having food to eat for breakfast tomorrow. Instead, I chose my time would be better spent doing laundry, writing a blog and listening to the Backstreet Boys. I'm sure a 12 year old girl somewhere in the world is doing the same thing.

Really though, I have nothing to say. I guess I have to make a trip to the hospital this week at some point, which may or may not happen before the aforementioned grocery shopping. Long story short, since I got out here, I've had these white spots develop on my stomach because of the sun, and now basically I have a ton of them all over my shoulders and arm. Basically I"m a hideous freak and should be exiled. They're more cosmetic than a reason to actually be concerned, and hopefully it's not a big deal. I'd take a picture and show what this looks like, but this is coming from the guy that has the generic black outline of a person for a profile picture on this blog.

There's a couple of cool things coming up in the next few weeks, but maybe I'll actually talk about them after they happen. This coming weekend is the second annual Piyapat apartment-led "Amazing Race" at Chatuchak. In case you're not from Bangkok, Chatuchak is:

Once only popular among wholesalers and traders, Chatuchak Weekend Market has reached a landmark status as a must-visit place for tourists. Its sheer size and diverse collections of merchandise will bring any seasoned shoppers to their knees – this is where you can literally shop ‘till you drop’.
The 35-acre (68-rai) area of Chatuchak is home to more than 8,000 market stalls. On a typical weekend, more than 200,000 visitors come here to sift through the goods on offer. Veteran shoppers would agree that just about everything is on sale here, although not all at the best bargain rates. But if you have one weekend in Bangkok, squeeze in a day trip to Chatuchak Weekend Market and you will not be disappointed.
So... it's pretty big I guess. I got lost a lot the last time I was there and got really sweaty.

Basically there's going a lot of people at the apartment that are going to lose to myself and Nat the Cat.

Actually let's be real here, Natalie and I are probably going to end up being the stereotypical Amazing Race young couple. We're going to be lost, probably in 9th or 10th place on the brink of elimination, unable to do the physical challenge or activity and I'm going to by the alpha-male douchebag boyfriend who is screaming at my girlfriend in public and embarrassing myself.

At least we might win best costume?

It rained so hard the other that my wall started leaking and I had a big puddle of water on my bedroom floor. It didn't leak through the window or anything, it actually soaked through the wall, like if I pressed on the wall it would expel more water.  I'm on the third floor of the apartment by the way.

Well, I've done a good job of having nothing to say. Hopefully J-shore is downloaded!

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Yours Truly

I just realized that I haven't been driving in almost five months now, which has been kind of fun, but also makes me want to get behind the wheel again if not for the only reason because while out here, the "coning" trend has been born and I want to try it. On a related note to my parents - YouTube "Coning". My dad will love it.

Well, the fridge is empty, which makes me realize that if I lived by myself, I would starve. Or survive off of apple yogurt, Fruit Loops, and water. Speaking of water, only in rainy season in Thailand could it rain so hard that on my ten minute walk from school to the apartment, could I come home almost completely drenched while holding an umbrella the entire time. 

Oh, I got my cast off on Sunday which means I'm typing this with no cast, or with any real power in my left wrist since it's been 6 weeks since I've moved it at all, so it's a baby bit stiff. Still, I'm happy to now be in a removable cast, which is actually really ghetto and will probably stink worse than the last cast that I couldn't remove. I was on Koh Samet this weekend, then showed up to the hospital an hour and a half late for my appointment still carrying all of our luggage from the weekend. But really, I think they couldn't be angry since I had body-painted my hotel room number (E-13) on my cast. What? It was a new place for me, you can't expect me to remember where I'm staying.

In case you were wondering, I ate 20 pieces of sushi, some tempura and an ice cream on Monday at the mall for all-you-can eat sushi. $10 Canadian, not a bad deal. Which reminds me, and I'm not joking at all, the one thing I actually miss from back home is a couch to lay down on. You are probably wondering why I'm complaining, since you might be asking why I don't just lay down on my comfortable bed. Which means that you have never been to the Piya-pat apartments. 

Teaching is going well, and you'd be surprised how hard it is to explain the difference between "there", "they're", and "their" to Grade 3 Thai kids. I think they're making improvements as a whole, but there are days that make me want to punch myself in the face, and today was definitely one of them. I'm not going on a particular rant, since well... I'm lazy. But also, as I told my kids today, "If you don't have anything nice to say, don't say anything at all". Which was promptly followed by Gavin telling Ice 2 that "[he] hates him" and me sending him out in the hall. Ugh. What almost makes this more amusing (amusing = more self-facepunch-worthy) is that while going in the hall to talk with him after resulted in him coming to the conclusion that he would rather not come back into the classroom and instead sit in the hot, humid, un-airconditioned hallway instead, and me practically having to beg him to come back into class. Uggggh. Oh yeah, this is my smartest student by the way. Oh well, everyone has bad days. 

I feel like that was an unfair thing for me to do in sharing that story, so in an amusing Gavin story news, while playing Hangman at the end of class on Monday, he suggested the word "xenotransplantation" and proceeded to write it down for me and give me the definition, as I basically gave him a "whatthefuck"expression. So did the rest of the class when they eventually got the word by guessing every letter in the alphabet. Oh yeah, he just turned 8. 

The West Memphis Three are now free, and while everyone has their opinions about it, I think it was the logical one. 

Finally, I saw the new Jets jersey reveal today, and I really enjoy the jersey. Sometimes less is more, and I think while the old Jets logo is one of the coolest hockey designs ever, it is just that - old. It doesn't reflect anything that the team was, and change is not always a bad thing. It's really classy, the colours remain in tact, there is some heritage and prestige to it so it's not a makeshift logo, plus I really like most of the current Jets roster.

That being said, I still can't wait for the Flyers to dummy the Jets and take the Stanley Cup.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Douche Bag

Oh hey Internet, I missed writing to you.

Pretty average week at school. Hey, at least the Internet, printer and photocopier weren't all broken at once like last Monday so this what you would call winning the small battles. Speaking of winning, twinning. Jersey shore is so good right now. Mike is a douchebag.

What else did I do this week you didn't ask? Well, I channeled 'Grade 9 Mark' and bought the new Limp Bizkit album Gold Cobra on Itunes. Let's dissect this for a second. Not only did I pay for music in 2011, but I paid for a Limp Bizkit album in 2011. More so, I paid money to a 40 year old douchebag in Fred Durst in 2011.

For this:

Now who's the douchebag?

Going to Sky Bar tonight for a drink. You may have seen it, it was in the Hangover 2, filmed all over Thailand. Drinks cost about an arm and a leg - about 500 baht ($15-16 Canadian) each, so I figure I'll sacrifice a leg, since I only have one functioning arm at the moment. I'd rather lose an arm than drink wine, though.

Kind of bummed to have missed Blink and Rancid in Winnipeg. Heard it was an unreal show. 'Grade 9 Mark' is making another appearance, saying, "I'm jealous". He is also speaking with braces, acne and glasses.

Also crushed to be missing my boy (and man crush) Sam Roberts when he rolls through town soon. I think Natalie and I are going to try to get tickets to see Linkin Park in Bangkok in September. I think it would be a really cool show to be honest, since I have heard their live show is something to be seen live, and while I'm not familiar with their last couple of albums, they only have four albums total, so 'Grade 9 Mark' still knows half of their set-list. I swear I'm not doing this on purpose.

Next weekend, the plan is to head to Koh Samet and get 'blond girl drunk' and try to not leave the island with any new injuries. Except pride and/or dignity, but those are already damaged goods and don't even need a band-aid! Actually, we need to try to book it home kind of soon from Samet so I can get to about my fourth appointment at the hospital to get this sweaty, yogurt and-pasta sauce covered stinkrag of a cast off of my arm. I'll be getting a removable cast for the next 6 weeks, so until mid-October. Yes, mid-October, so approximately (maybe exactly, we'll see) to the day that my holidays END. At least I can take the cast off at that point when I want to go into the ocean, unlike next weekend when I'll be "that guy" who is waist-deep with my arm in the air trying to avoid waves like I avoid ..... (adjective-noun).

I had nothing witty to write there, so rather than hover over a keyboard early on a Saturday morning, that probably means I'm done. Woo woo woo, you know it.