Friday, February 27, 2009

When I think of...

I was sitting in an Indian restaurant on one of the main roads in Penang drinking teh tarik, an either Indian or Malaysian tea sweetened with condensed milk, when I realized that of all of the people in my life the one I wanted to share that particular moment with was Llamrei.

Llamrei is Sir Titus, my knight's, wife. And while I was a fan of tea before I started gaming with them, it was Llamrei who really started inducting me in to the cult of the leaf. We would always have at least one pot of tea with gaming, sometimes two pots of the same tea or two pots of different teas, and people would bring in exotic teas to drink and chocolates to eat with the teas. And as I was sitting drinking sweetened tea I thought that I would love to share that moment with Llamrei.

And it got me thinking about the situations that make me miss the people back home. There are certain things that will make me miss people at home, certain situations that will make me think of them. And I decided to try to list them. As I said, when I drink tea I think of Llamrei.

I probably miss Sean the most of anyone because when I'm dealing with my students I tend to think of Sean, especially the third graders, and especially the third grader named Freddy. Since I see Freddy every day, I end up thinking about Sean a lot.

While dealing with the students makes me think of Sean dealing with the teachers makes me think of Mom. While it isn't the exact same situations she has to deal with, when I get frustrated I think of the things she talks about at school.

Tuesdays and 3:30 PM every day make me think of Dad. Tuesdays make sense off hand since Tuesdays were the night that we would go play trivia. But the bells at school don't actually make the sounds of bells, they play little songs or make the generic grandfather clock noise. The ending bell, at 2:30 and 3:30 (when Homework Club ends), is the Jeopardy theme, which reminds me of watching Jeopardy with Dad.

The temples remind me of Spike (my step-dad), because of his interest in Buddhism. I remember almost fighting with him about how would get to keep the book on Buddhism from our hotel room in Hawaii. I think I won the fight in the long run not because I got to keep the book, but because I'm here lighting incense in Buddhist temples in Malaysia.

Tourists and bad movies make me think of Nathan, Andrew, Felix and Cory, because I don't have anyone here to make fun of either with. That actually saddened me greatly the other day when I realized I don't have anyone to willfully and knowingly go to bad movies with me, only to make fun of them. My embassy friends are close, but there was always something special about making fun of stupid people and stupid movies with the guys.

So I won't say that I don't miss people, a lot, or that there aren't times I'm not tempted to cash out and get on a plane to see a person. And sometimes it is hard, when the feeling is particularly strong; but that will make it even better when I do come home again. And I can go almost a whole day now in Bangkok without stopping to say '...I'm halfway around the world.'


Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Greetings from Peninsular Malaysia!

Ok, so for those of you who knew, I made it to Malaysia just fine and am currently sipping coke in the cafe attached to my guest house. For those of you who didn't know: I went to Malaysia for a visa run. Had to leave the country to go to one with a Thai Consulate and get my work Visa, and the Thai Consulate in Malaysia is on the island of Penang. I was trying for the one year multiple entry but apparently for whatever reason I could only get the 3 month single entry, and have to extend it to a one year multiple back in Bangkok. I assume the people working at the Thai Consulate here know what they are doing, and if I have to do a trip to Laos within the next three months because they were full of crap...well, I'll do what I have to.

So far Malaysia is fascinating. I'll do some posts about it when I am more awake and can put pictures in it, as well as have some time to put my thoughts together. But so far I have been to three Buddhist temples, a Chinese spirit house, an Anglican Church and a Mosque while I'm here. Tomorrow or Sunday I am going to try to get up the hill to see the city and go to a light house. Yes, even though I find them boring because I want know certain members of my family will enjoy it I will go get some Hot Lighthouse Action.


Friday, February 13, 2009

The Semi-Legendary, Quasi-Mythical, Wholly Extraordinary Picture Post Part I: Hong Kong Nights. (LONG)

Alright, it is finally time for you all to see some of my travels. So we are going to travel back in time to December 29th to December 31st, as this first picture post concerns my time in Hong Kong, as well as a discussion of the plane flight over. December 28th was a Sunday and I had my final night at Mom's house before I left, which was fairly tear filled. I have to confess that I almost lost it as I walked out. That was the third of four times I almost lost it walking out of someone's home.

The first was when I left Titus and Llamrei's house a week before, the Sunday after my graduation. We had done a gaming session the night before, gone to brunch at a cool place in Ft. Collins, hung out and played games at their house before I got to leaving. One of the greatest honors and joys in my life is the time I have spent as a member of that household, gaming and making fun of Titus and drinking with Llamrei and hanging out with everybody. It was really hard to go get in my car and leave, knowing that I won't be able to do that for a year.

The second time was when I left Helene and Gabbie's house, Rose Manor. I have a number of very close friends and confidantes in the SCA both in and out of my households, for which I am incredibly thankful; but no other house has had as many wild plots or or evil schemes hatched at it then Rose Manor (simply for longevity, been going to RM longer than Titus' house ;) ). We went out for Mexican food and then hung out doing what we all are so good at, namely talking. And then I left, having to force myself to get in to the car and drive.

If I thought it was hard to leave Titus or Helene's house, leaving Mom's was worse than both. No offense to either Helene or Titus but I've known Mom longer. It was very emotional, and very difficult. I forced myself to get in to the car and drive on my way. Nathan and I had this plan of staying up all night and sleeping on the plane so we could maximize our time in Hong Kong, which we proceeded to execute. We left with Dad and Ann in the morning and drove to the Air Port where we had a nourishing breakfast of Burger King.

Finally we had to leave, as they couldn't come with us any further. And I almost lost it as I looked up at them standing on the bridge overlooking security. I've never wanted to abandon a plan and run away more in my life then right before those last few seconds before I went down the escalator and into the future.

I promised this would be a long post but we will get to the pictures. The plane flights went from great to awful. Out to San Francisco we were in an emergency row and had lots of leg room to stretch out and relax in. Of course this was the two-three hour flight, which meant that while nice we would have preferred to switch it as on the flight to Hong Kong we were in Cramp City. Way back of the plane right where it curves in so we had less room than normal on a 14 hour flight. We had three boring movies (a horrible romcom with the same premise as The Sixth Sense, a foreign film that was incomprehensibly art neuveau and The Duchess). So 14 hours of cramped, uncomfortable boredom with bad food.

And so finally we arrive in Hong Kong, and we come out expecting to see a brand new world, a gallery of different things and I am expecting it to be terribly Chinese. And we see...Yeah, so much for that 'terribly Chinese' idea. That is sort of heartwarming in a way, I guess, a reminder of home. But come on, Starbucks? Totally deflating my sense of being in a foreign land here. So we wander through the airport, go through customs, get our stamps, and then head out in to the train system. As always click the pictures to see a larger version!

If you look very carefully at the map above you can see a familiar pair of mouse ears, which indicates how you get to the Disney World in Hong Kong. Had I had more time and more money I might have checked it out just to see what the differences are. We actually took a different train that runs in to the city directly from the air port, but I didn't get a picture of it except for an advertisement on it.

Hong Kong is fascinating because it has so little space, and that lack of space creates a very particular mindset. That mindset being that every single inch of everything should have something on it. If it isn't at least four stories tall it needs to be bigger, if it doesn't have a restaurant on there throw one on. It seems to be a particularly asian mindset, and I'll talk about Bangkok's version about it later, but it was fascinating. I couldn't get any good pictures of them but there are restaurants that exist only on the fourth or fifth floors of buildings. I know these things exist in the States, we even had one (the Tattered Cover's Restaurant) in Denver that I know of; but they are everywhere, on every building in Hong Kong. And the signs, we saw signs for Maseratis and BMWs and Aston Martins and everything was packed with shopping.

You could spend a month in Hong Kong and never hit 1/100th of all of the shops, or even eat on the ground floor. Everything is so big, and filled...

Except the room we stayed in, which is smaller than my 23 square feet apartment here in Bangkok. There are three beds in that room, the other one is out of the frame off to the right. Why there are three beds in this room I have no idea. Two would have seemed a little bit cramped, but three is silly. Especially since the one on the left is literally the hardest bed I have ever felt. Holy God that thing was like a sheet of rock with some set dressing. It wasn't too expensive though, which was nice.

We didn't spend a lot of time in the guest house because, you know, we were in Hong Kong for 12 hours and wanted to rock out. So we went out and wandered the streets. Like I said, Hong Kong doesn't go in for small except for my hotel room. Everything else is super sized. We passed this building...

Which is hardly even close to the tallest building in Hong Kong. It would be pretty awesome just sitting in downtown Denver, but in Hong Kong it is pretty much no big deal. A much bigger deal is the next building, which I have a fuzzy picture of here and then you can see better when I get to the skyline picture.

Movie fans may recognize that as the building Batman jumps off of in The Dark Knight, or at least the best picture of it my poor little cheapo camera could take. It is a very impressive building, jutting like a magnificent claw from the land scape. This is the building Shredder from the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles should live in, or Wolverine should have a battle in front of. No wonder they picked it for the movie.

Hong Kong island sits at the base of a 'mountain' which overlooks the whole area, and offers visibility into mainland China; we're not talking Pike's Peak, but it is pretty impressive. Nathan didn't go up Mt. Victoria last time and I may not get a next time, so we went all the way to the top. At the top of Mt. Victoria is...a shopping center. I told you they put shopping on everything.

But at the top of this very tall mall, past all the restaurants and the shops and an EA game arcade (which was closed or Nathan would have been very angry at me) is an observation deck which offers you an unparallelled view of the island. And the view is absolutely, indescribably brilliantly amazing. Words can barely express how amazing the look out over the island of Hong Kong is. I have some pictures of the shore line which I will post in the next picture post, but the night time skyline is magnificent, and I'll leave off with that.

I love that skyline; that is the most amazing skyline in the world I think. It totally ruined me for Bangkok's which is impressive not because of its' height but because of its' width. Hong Kong is a forest of massive buildings growing on a tiny island, while Bangkok is moderately sized buildings but an ocean of city that stretches on far beyond what you can see from even the tallest building (and I've been on the tallest building).

That's Nathan in front of the skyline, in what I thought was a pretty damn good picture. It is hard to get the skyline properly on a low end consumer camera because any shake causes a lot of blur, and there is so much light. The one Nathan took on me didn't come out as well, which I claim is because I'm a better photographer than he is, but for some reason he doesn't agree with that assesment. Don't know why. He took one of me in return, where the buildings are less visible. But still...

That is me. In Hong Kong. Pretty wild, huh?


Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Breaks, and the Honkies Who Can't Buy Them

Me and Doctor House are like this. Why, you ask? Why we're both cane wielding maniacs who like pain killers. Or at least will like pain killers as soon as I can get my hands on them. Yes, honky just can't buy a break this month as I move from being ill in the stomach to having my gout act up. Hopefully I'm using up my whole quotient as it is a pain to do all the walking I like to do here to lose weight when I'm limping, and cursing with every step.

Fortunately most of the teachers at my school are fairly well convinced that I can get not just alopurinol (anti-gout) but bloody Vicodin over the counter here in the Kingdom. Which I must say would be awesome. I mean easy to come by almost morphine in a Kingdom that really isn't thrilled with heroin just strikes me as delicious irony. And thus ends the Paragraph of Sentences That Will Concern my Mother. For now.

I'm hoping that this will conclude my period of suck and I can get back to having a relatively pain/sickness free existence here. Not that these things wouldn't happen in Denver, of course, but as long as I'm in a still new and exciting place I would prefer my thoughts not be solely concerned with where the nearest facilities are or how much pain I'm in.


Saturday, February 07, 2009

Strange, and Awesome

I'm really spoiling you all with three posts in 24 hours, but this one is too awesome to ignore. I was surfing, which will ruin your life by making you surf it all your waking hours, and came across the trope of 'Everything's Better with Penguins', about the inclusion of Penguins in film and television media, etc. At the bottom is the 'Real Life' section. I follow a link, and bam:

Norwegian soldiers of the King's Guard at Edinburgh Zoo, saluting a Penguin. And you know what, you damn well better salute that penguin. That is Sir Nils Olav, who was made a knight by King Olav V. And that insignia on his arm: He's a Colonel.

As Wikipedia notes unironically: He is the first penguin to receive such an honour in the Norwegian Army.

So salute! You're viewing a Knight of Norway, Colonel-in-Chief of the King's Guards.

Also, for the SCA folks, you think he showed Knightly Quality? I think he's just a hot stick.


So I've been here over a month now. I've been thinking about the trip here recently and I was going to post this on the actual monthiversary, which is not a real word, but I was violently ill on the actual date and then catching back up with school and being sleep deprived still. So while it may have had some kernels of wisdom it would also have probably devolved into infantile crying and the mashing together of nonsense verbs and nouns in ways I would not accept from my students. A sort of Jackson Pollack approach to blogging which I tend to try to avoid.

In the end there are a lot of reasons that I came here, I think. But one of the major ones that I didn't think about until recently was Sean. Not the little, cute, loves Pokemon one. I had a friend named Sean, or rather a friend who named himself Sean, who committed suicide a year and a half ago. Most of you who follow this blog probably know this, as you knew him or heard me speak of it, but I do try to maintain the hope that more than the 10 people on the side of the screen read this.

Sean dying was very startling to me. He was the first person I knew well as an adult that died. I lost the only biological grandparent I knew when I was fairly young and even then she was not a part of my every day life. But I saw Sean at least once a month for a little over three years, and then he was gone. You think you have a handle on this whole mortality thing, but then it ups its' game. So yes, I had the inevitable 'life is short' wake up call and resolved myself to live a life of adventure, romance and mad science ( is a brilliantly funny webcomic, where that line comes from), celebrating Sean's life with a toast (and a wake months later that left me feeling like I had moved to the devil's colon).

But this is me, and so two months later I was back in the rut of life and doing things and desperately trying to get a handle on Chomskian Syntactics. And by get a handle I mean 'give enough of a crap to go to class'. And then I was almost done with classes, and scrambling to get in to Metro to get my stuff done, and then working full time and taking a full summer load of classes...and the dream of adventure, romance and witty one liners faded away in to the much more solid present of work, and sleep. That being largely it.

It's easy to get lost in a day to day life because routine really does create comfort. We like to have an ordered life where a follows b and c follows b and so on and so forth; we like to put our own little bit of order on the chaos of the universe. Of course down the road z leads to death (and anger leads to fear and fear leads to the dark side), but its' easy to ignore that when you're only at d and z feels so far away.

One of the other major reasons I came is because of Mr. Kirschling. My High School French teacher, who once came to Halloween dressed as a member of the Manson family (Charles, not Marilyn; and this is true, ask Cory or Nathan), had travelled through Europe and Africa working his way and having a merry time. He saw Africa with a Belgian Princess (which we forgive him for, even though he did associate with the godless Belgians) , and came back a wiser man with more stuff. And a penchant for dressing up like Manson guys, I guess. But that was very inspiring to me, and when I heard him talk about it I said that I wanted to do that, to have that adventure and see those things. I guess I was always drawn a little bit more to Asia than to Europe, however.

The final major reason is of course Nathan, and that is the sentence that will cause my mother's blood pressure to rise. My friend Nathan travelled like he was a rich man with a death sentence. He did semester at sea, he lived in Vietnam, and he lived in Thailand. His passport reads like a James Bond novel set in the Orient and parts of the Mediterranian (which would be a great idea, call me Mrs. Broccoli), and he was always texting or IM'ng with people in exotic foreign countries (or exotic local countries for me now). We talked about it, he pestered me about it, we argued about it like an old married couple (no, mom, don't worry) and eventually I remembered I had wanted to do this.

So now is the part where I say I have no regrets, and I'm living a life of Adventure and Romance and Face Meltingly Spicy Curry. But I don't have no regrets, because while life is about choices there is also the choice you didn't take. I don't know if this is ultimately better for me than if I had stayed home and kept trying to get in to the TIR program (Teacher in Residency, an alternative licensure program Denver Public Schools runs) or stayed home and just tried to get in to grad school. But life is for the living, as Mistress Leonora said in the comments section, and the die is cast as some guy said crossing some river (cue Titus aneurysm). So here I am, and Adventure, Romance and FMSC to follow.

Just kidding about the Godless Belgians, they're cool.

Things I'm Proud Of.

Mundane (non-SCA)

1. Moving to a foreign country.
2. Not having chickened out from doing so at the Airport in Denver.
3. Or San Francisco.
4. Or Hong Kong.
5. Or Bangkok.
6. Not having chickened out still.
7. Having graduated from college despite my best efforts.
8. Having graduated from High School despite my best efforts.
9. Having finally gotten a job that was both wholly on my own and related to a career I want (in a foreign country no less).
10. The sheer number of people I've defined the phrase 'tea-bagging' too.
11. Including my mom.
12. Who then had to know it for work. That was one of the funniest moments of my life.
13. That I have grown up enough that I can have fun with my family (extended).
14. That I have become the kind of person my parents are proud of, and would like even were I not related to them. I think.
15. That I currently have about 400 dollars in savings. For the first time like...ever.
16. That I have the courage and the intelligence to make this crazy stupid brilliant plan of mine for the next year+ work out. So far.

Much more.


1. That when I entered the SCA I said it was going to be the one (and now the first of several) aspect of my life that I would have no regrets about. And I don't.
2. That having been in for under four full years I was a serious competitor for Baron of Unser Hafen.
3. That I watched the Barony I love beat itself up and helped, in a very small way, it pull itself back. And choose a great Baron and Baroness, not that there were any bad choices this time. The issues Unser Hafen faced are universal; its' success at them is not.
4. That at age 20 I was a councilor to people much older, and that my opinions were taken seriously in a group of much older and more successful people.
5. That when I got my Silver Tyne, the only person who got more applause was Mistress Bri being offered her Peilican. This is a greedy, selfish one, but I was genuinely shocked and honored by it.
6. That I'm the first (as far as I know) non-native Caer Galenite Dancing Monkey. And it got me on Youtube.
7. That I continually find myself in households and companies and Baronies of intelligent, honorable people who all come together not for any kind of plan or political benefit, but because we enjoy eachother's company. By last count I have the populace badge of four Baronies and now two Kingdoms, am at least an honorary member of four households, and have friends in six Kingdoms.

And much much more.


Thursday, February 05, 2009

Comprehension vs. Understanding

A popular book on education right now in Thailand is called 'Westerners understand, Thais comprehend', and highlights some of the differences in education between the two countries both procedurally and culturally. It looks pretty pop psychology so I haven't picked it up yet, although I may.

The biggest difference seems to be that in the U.S. the burden lies on the student to prove that they are learning, while in Thailand it seems to be on the teacher to prove that they are teaching. Now it seems to me in both cases a middle ground would be best; make the student prove that he is learning adequately while also periodically checking to make sure that the teacher isn't teaching that the earth is flat or Columbus, Ohio was discovered by Columbus, Christopher. But the U.S. tends to default to one side, and Thailand the other.

Most of my time at UNC was filled with truly delightful professors. Doctor Worley, Doctor Santos and Doctor Kleinfelter, for example, are three true scholars and deeply committed individuals. While most of the staff were more in their league there were, of course, those on the other side of the graph; and in my sophomore year I met the worst of them all. I cannot remember his name for the life of me, likely for the best, but he did seem to fully believe if we didn't do well it was because we were not paying attention. Not, say, due to the fact that he was vicodin addled most of the time and not in the awesome Dr. House way, interrupted students during presentations, and would not let students say they didn't think Emily Dickinson was a good poet. And yet some of the students who told their parents were assured they probably just needed to listen more or study harder. Not me, fortunately. I, uh, just didn't tell my parents.

Now on the surface the other side, ateacher having to prove they are teaching sounds like a good idea, but what it does is change the job of an educator. I can't be concerned solely with guaranteeing my students understand, I have to prove it. Everything has to go in to their notebooks, even tests have to be stapled in, or else parents don't think I'm teaching. Never mind that their students can now speak twice as well as they could before, since they do not have a piece of paper I must not be doing my job. It is somewhat frustrating to have the burden of proof for a student's education fall entirely on what I staple in to their notebook, not their actual level of comprehension. Its like having to take the CSAT (the Colorado standardized test, if I have any out of towners) as a teacher. And maybe only a little frustrating because it means I don't yet get to put the burden back on my students. But that would be mean.

So its interesting to experience a difference in perception and expectation, something I probably wouldn't have experienced back home all things considered. I'm treating it as a benefit, the opportunity to expand my working style and learn other educational approaches; it is certainly not an expectation I would have worked with in the U.S., and I can see how this might help me watch myself from becoming complacent when I do teach in the states. So a benefit, at least until I get fed up with it.


Wednesday, February 04, 2009


Since it is still the 04th in Denver, and even though I already called them, everybody wish my dad Michael and my aunt (his twin sister) a Happy Birthday!

Incidentally ICBHB stands for Inter Continental Ballistic Happy Birthday.

More posts to follow later ;)