|8.Teaching in Thailand|
|1. Thailand (000)|
|One of Mr. Green's first major travels was a month trip to Thailand. Early in 2001, Mr. Green applied and won an Inside Thailand scholarship to travel and teach English in Thailand.|
In this trip, Mr. Green accompanied 7 other American high school students, along with 5 group guides/chaperones.
Part of the program was designed to expose American youth to rural Thai culture. Most participants hadn't any prior exposure or knowledge of Thai customs and culture.
Even though Mr. Green's mother was Thai, Mr. Green grew up American; uninformed of the Thai language, etc. This didn't mean he wasn't willing to learn..In fact, by this point, he was so motivated to indulge in the experience and make up for many years lost.
The group arrived in Bangkok about 1.30 in the morning. Most everyone had been exhausted from such a long flight and were looking forward to a shower and relaxing in a hotel bed. Green, on the other hand, was wide awake and attentive to every detail; enthusiastically storming to immagration at Don Muang International Airport with all his bags.
The group was greeted by the program director, Mac Bakewell, and his Thai wife, Boosaba, along with their daughter, Benyapa at the arrivals/greetings gate. Soon, everyone was in one of the vans on the midnight Bangkok express.
This trip had been anticipated much by Green and it was finally here. Memorable was the wonder in his eyes seeing Bangkok's conrete for the first time. It was just as he imagined.
Finally, they arrived at the Bosotel in South Central Bangkok-near the Jao Paya river. It was as urban Bangkok as Green could have hoped. The group was instructed to their rooms (Green sharing with Carl) with plans to regroup in the morning for breakfeast.
Green probably slept less than an hour before slipping out into his first morning exploration of Bangkok at dawn. The Jao Phraya river aroma was calling-the first morning view of the busy river with its many early morning orchestra.
After a few overwelming days in Bangkok, the group was ready to head upcountry. Not yet the country, Chiang Mai, in comparison to Bangkok, is rural enough. A few fun days followed in Chiang Mai exploring temples, riding elephants in the jungle, and shopping at the famous night bizarre before the group continued on to the small village of Pah Leurat in Utturaditt province.
Aside from every villager owning a tv, life was traditional, yet simple. Everyone slept under mosquito nets on the floor. The mornings were filled with group-taught English classes in the village library. The afternoons were spent in 2-3 hour lesson planning (arguing) sessions. Alas, topping the end of the day off swimming with the village kids in the Nan river.
A few weeks rolled by quick and even though Green was having the best of times, something was still eating him from the inside. Soon, it would be time to go back to the USA and still Green had made no progress or any descent attempts at locating his long-lost relatives. Part of the problem of travelling with a group is you have to consider the group's needs and direction first. As the reasons that Green was in Thailand were unique to everyone elses, his perception lense was obstructed in trying to please the group at the same time of fulfilling his family roots destiny. Mac and Boosaba gave it their best to assist Green by writing letters and making phonecalls but Green knew the only way was to go to his mother's home provinces and search in person. With limited time, and so many things going on, Mac and Boosaba couldn't permit him to do this. On top of this, one of the girls, Kyra comes down with a serious case of dengue fever and was hospitalized.
With time ticking away and continuous nightmares, Green makes the decision to take leave and hitches a ride to the Utturaditt train station. About 2 minutes before the scheduled departure-Nakhon Sawan bound, Mac arrives at the station to stop Green. To avoid making a scene, Green reluctantly goes with Mac.
As so many things were going on, Mac drops Green off at a friends whom agrees to drive Green to Nakhon Sawan and help him the next day.
In Nakhon Sawan, Green is only able to find distant relatives/second couzins, which is enough to make him content knowing he tried his best. This was the land his mother grew up in and played as her aunt would recall to Green. Locating her direct siblings would have to come on his own time another day.
After reuniting with the group in Utturaditt, Mac informs everyone that Kyra would have to be transported to a better hospital in Bangkok. After a small goodbye party, the group got on the train to Bangkok.
This particular time in Bangkok was very brief but Green was able to make great progress thanks to the help of an internet shop owner. After relaying his story to her, she made a few telephone number searches with the properly spelled names in Thai aquired from Nakhon Sawan. She located the number and address of his aunt, Sombat. After speaking briefly on the phone, Green hopped in a taxi and made the hour trip in Thonburi to Sombat's spiritual statue factory where he met her and her two of her daughters, A and B for the first time. This started the chain reaction and soon, Green had the contact of his uncle Yongyuth who also lived in Bangkok.
Green could not meet him just yet as he had to rush back to the group and finish the trip with them. The next stop was a trip closure at Samet island. This was a relaxing few days on the beach--dancing, reading, reflecting, and anticipating the future.
Once the group returned to Bangkok, their was only a few days before it was time to leave. Green contacted his uncle and arranged to stay with his family one night. It was so magical to finally meet his mom's younger brother as he had heard so many stories as a kid. Along with Yongyuth's wife, Bpay, and their two kids, Fai and Ploy, they had dinner that night over more stories and catching up many years. The next morning, Yongyuth dropped of Green at his hotel for the last day in Bangkok.
From not knowing exactly who he was even looking for, to locating everyone alive except two people (his aunt, Chailai and half-brother, Bancha), Green rebuilt tremendous bridges. This trip not only first handedly exposed Mr. Green to his roots, he was enlightened with new light on the world. After such a brief reunion with his family-ties, Mr. Green was inspired to quickly return to Thailand again to continue his search. He returned 6 months later, early 2002 (2545 B.E. or 0000 E.E.).
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|One of the highlights of that first trip was visiting the ancient capital of Sukhothai. As Green had always been passionate about ancient history, he dreamt of visiting the Sukhothai ruins. As grand as it was to see 6-900 year old ruins of Siam's first capital--that which sacked the mighty Khmer (Cambodian) empire, the visit didn't turn out as he had hoped. The museum and introduction video was all in Thai and Green wasn't quite fluent yet. Then for the few hours everyone was given to explore, Green fell slightly ill. He sucked it in and hopped on a bcycle with his two village kid followers, Bahn and Joe.|
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|2. Thailand (0000)|
|Phase 1A: Triam Dua (prepare one self) When Green returned to the USA after such an experience, his new goal was to save enough money to return to Thailand independently as soon as possible. After spending about a month in California with his childhood friend, Mike, he returned to Colorado to find work. His musician friend, Mathew (who had also been to Thailand on a scholarship that year) along with the consent of his gracious parents, Donald and Virginia, allowed Green to stay at their home in North Denver/Thornton. Green soon found work as a cashier at the bookstore Borders. It wasn't the best paying job, but it was all he needed.|
In the mean time, Green took a Sociology class at Front Range Community College (FRCC) while also spending much time at the Thai temple in Denver. There, he made friends with the monks and Thai musical teachers. This was a good opportunity to prepare mentally and linguistically for the next phase.
Within months, Green finally earned enough for a one-way ticket to Thailand. The departure was set for February 2002 (The Emerald mark of Year 0000). Come January, he ended his job and soon departed Denver to visit his sisters in New Mexico in prep for his country exodus.
Such the journey to Thailand was very unique, some-what of a passage right into the adult hood. At 18 years old, all the way on the other side of the globe, with under $1800 dollars to transist, and know one to rely on except himself.
Phase 1B: Awk Prateht (country exit) Like his first time, the flight arrived real late (or early depending how you look at it). His friend Boy, who had been the Thai classical music teacher at the Denver temple for a year, was impatiently waiting for Green at Don Muang airport.
For the first few days, Boy took after Green. On the second day, Boy took Green to Prae province in the north to meet friends of Boy. Green soon got irratated for he had come too far and been through too much to end himself in another chaperoned tour. Bless Boy and his Thai nature to look after, but the Wanderer didn't come that far to be looked after.
And so, the Prince broke free and began his intended wave. He leased an apartment in central Bangkok (Pratunam) for three months. His idea was to use this as a home base for all his upcoming travels in line; As one might know, Bangkok is a central point for most travels to the three other regions in Thailand (North, Isan or Northeast, and South).
First he went to Lopburi and met his mother's youngest sister, Chailai. Finally, all of his mother's long lost siblings had been located. The news had been spread. Only two more contacts were left to follow on. These were his half sister and half brother.
With the help of Chailai and her sons, Green soon found that his half sister had died tragically in an accident over 20 years ago even before his birth. However, his half brother, Lek was still unacounted for but aparently still alive.
For the next few months, Green followed up on leads all over the country coming to dead end after dead end. Finally, he submitted his search/story to a local newspaper, Thai Rat. The overworked mid aged journalist took his story and said they would print something within months.
It wasn't until June that Green recieved a phone call from someone saying their name was Bancha or nickname, Lek. The line was fuzzy and cut off a few times before Green finally realized who was calling. The newspaper finally did print something and someone who knew someone which new the wherabouts of Lek, contacted Lek with the news. Lek was surprised, shocked, and then exited to know he had a brother from the USA. A new bridge had been built. Green continuously visits Lek and his family at their fruit orchard in Jantaburi province.
Green's three month stay permit past as quick as it came. It was nearly time to make a border exit to Singapore/Malaysia.s First, he did some travels with a friend in the South at Ranong and Chumphon provinces before coming back up to Phetchburi for a job interview teaching ESL. The interview went swell and Green was set to start the term as soon as he returned from Singapore and Kuala Lumpur to end phase One.
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Click on thumbnails for enlargements!!
|After spending some time with relatives in Lopburi, Green along with his cousin, Bpay toured the 2nd great ancient capital, Ayudaya. Green got his first taste of the exploited and discriminating tourist industry where farangs(western foriegners) must pay admission anywhere from 2-20 times as much as the Thais. Being half-Thai, and eventually becoming fluent in Thai, Green was later able to get by with Thai admission.|
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|As a city slicker, Green was exited to visit such an international city..An ideal city; Singapore is a modern example of effective urban development. The transportation, cleanliness and order of this 21st century island of concrete was an impressive experience for Green. |
Interesting to know, more than 90% of Singaporians live in high density zoning. Also impressive in Singapore is the cultural diversity. There are four national languages (English, Chinese, Tamil, and Malay) Most Singaporians are atleast tri-lingual and fluent in several languages.
Green only spent about four days here but it was enough time to leave an impression. Quite memorable was going to the free concerts of Hong Kong/Taiwan stars held on Orchard Road.
While there, Green stayed with an Indonesian Singapore student named Melkey, whom he had met in cyber space. Melkey showed him some of the night life in Singapore. Erecting and climaxing the dance floor at Zoots was sweet.
Singapore's MTR transit system was swift and reliable. There's something to be learned from the system of integrity for the city bus-fare collecting process.
Soon it was time to board the train up through Malaysia towards Kuala Lumpur.
|4. Kuala Lumpur|
|After such an exiting time in Singapore, Green eventually had to move on. After touring much of CBD (Central Business District), he walked to the Malaysian-owned train station and bought his north-bound sleeper ticket.|
The swift overnight trip to Kuala Lumpur was comfortable and restful. Green didn't know what to make of the high-tech train station once in KL. The place was much like an airport. After booking his next train ticket that would bring him back to Thailand, he exited into the city on foot that early morning.
Green was pretty hungry. In abundance was the Muslim chicken and curries. The food in KL was delicous but probably not as much as Singapore so Green thought. Mainly, its Malaysians, Indians, and Chinese that make up the population. On one occasion, Green met two Thai girls studying in Kuala Lumpur.
Much anticipation had come for this trip. Green was exited to see the world's tallest twin towers, the Petronas.
Though a large city, KL wasn't that congested, atleast in comparison to Bangkok. Though unlike Singapore, and simular to Bangkok, there were many motorcycles racing the streets.
Green checked into a 20 ringett/night (about 5 USD$/night) guesthouse near china town. He set out for Kuala Lumpur City Center (KLCC) to check out some of the action.
Kuala Lumpur is a very impressive city. Like Singapore, it is green and clean with many gardens and parks throughout. The views from KLCC park and the KL tower are spectacular.
The several days spent in KL were almost perfect except for the fact that Green became ill on the second day. This didn't bring him down as he brushed it off and still enjoyed what he could.
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|5. Hong Kong|
|On his return to Thailand, Green began work as an ESL instructor in Phetchburi province. His three month permit was out in no time. This time Green had ambitions to visit the worldly city, Hong Kong. He found a cheap round trip ticket from Bangkok and in August, 2002, set out.|
It was a swift couple of hours on the plane. Once on foot in the airport, Green purchased the famous Octopus transportation card. It was like a dream to first see the Kowloon residential towers looming from every direction as the train approached the city.
Eventually, Green got off near Mongkok on the Kowloon side and wondered the colorful-lit streets in search for reasonable accomadations. Though the sky was well darkened by now, the Kowloon streets kept the path well lit and live. Walking with no known destination, Green couldn't seem to find any budget options for resting the night.
After several kilometers of a busy night-city, finally, Green settled for a box-sized-sex motel room to suffice that first night.
On awake, Green wondered into and above the city exploring many angles in between the skycrapers. He made point in catching the view from Victoria's summit at day and day-break. That second night was a blast at Joe Bananna's club in Wanchai as Green danced his heart into the morning with his guest-house American bunker partner and two Thai girls they met. These two girls had been working in Hong Kong for years and ironically made the move to open the dance with Green.
Green enjoyed commuting and touring the city catching many charactor neighborhoods while squeezing in a Hong Kong modern film (Hollywood hong Kong). Eventually, it was time to head back to Thailand. The trip was mentally replenishing as Green was able to reflect and assess his position as a teacher.
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|Back in October of 0000 E.E. (2002 C.E.), Green was visiting his brother, Lek in Jantaburi province near the Cambodian border. Green had still a month left on his stay permit but was contemplating a border exit anyway. Green had read much about the Khmer lands, today known as Cambodia.|
Green had followed everything from the ancient Khmer empire up to the bloody Red Khmer regime (Khmer rouge).
Though generally safe to travel these days, Cambodia is definately in a third-world state. It took many hours cramped in over-packed trucks and small cars on Cambodia's main highway commuting from the border town Bpoi Bet to the capital, Phnom Phen. If Green had ever expressed discomfort in his travels, this would be the moment. Unfortunately, his camera along with many good pictures was stolen in Bpoi Bpet. The conditions of Cambodian roads is barely bareable with its many pot-holes, ditches, and dirt mounds.
However, the view through many villages and the Tonal sap rice-lands made it worth it. After finally arriving in the capital, Green was able to relax more. The city environment. In contrast to the rest of the city, Phnom Phen is descent. Modern, paved blvds and sworms (though not congested) of people and traffic. Green didn't check out any of the night-life but did have a walk down the scary dark Phnom Phen alley's after dark. It's like a ghost town at night when everything is shut down. No porch/street lights like elsewhere (in most parts).
After a few days spent touring the capital; visiting the Khmer Rouge headquarters, execution center, and a killing field outside the city, Green continued southward to Sihanoukville, Cambodia's main beach/port city. The highway, built from American funds, was much more modern and paved then the previous one. Green spent a night in a cheap bungalow. The next morning, he must have turned down dozens of motorcycle taxis as he walked the many miles along the scenic coast towards the ferry port on the other side of town.
The express ferry to the Thai border was swift. Finally, Green was back on Thai soil to appreciate the Thai roads, people, and language again. With hind-sight, Cambodia was still a pleasent adventure and Green would like to return one day. He originally wanted to visit the famous Angkor Wat ruins at Siem reap but changed his mind in the flood of the exploited tourism industry. Next time...
|Bangkok has held a high place in Green's conciousness for many a year. The city had first come to view in cinema, pictures from non-fiction books, and descriptions from his mother. It wasn't until the views became visions, when the city began to perpetuate in the Green mind.|
Shortly after arrival on his second time in Thailand, Green leased out a box-sized room in Pratunam, the heart of the city. He used this place as a home-base in between his many trips up/down country.
Adapting to the overwelming city was the first challenge. With many kilometer of the city covered on foot, as well as many daily commute hours given to the Bangkok transportation system, life became sytematic.
Eventually, Green conquered the ta-noan (street) and soi (small street) on his motorcycle in between college, going out, and exploring the city.
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However, there were a few run-ins with the Bangkok traffic police, whom thrive off of harassing motorcyclists for 100-500 baht tickets..
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