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nakrian

khi nok, among other things

Happy 3 month anniversary, Nakrian! I started this blog with a post about border runs, and here we are—a full three months later and a second visa run under my belt. All in all, the trip was successful. I paid the Thai/Cambodian entrance and exit fees, tipped the “immigration aides” (…ugh), and subsequently got all the right stamps, stickers, and signatures in my passport.

While the day started out fairly nice, what with a light blue sky and a bit of heat, it slowly progressed into all-too-typical rainy season weather: gray skies, drizzling rain, and periodic downpours. The weather, coupled with the high number of travelers at the border, made the trip a little less relaxed than last time.

But hell, I can’t complain—I got my visa extended and that was precisely the reason for the trip. Following the immigration rodeo, we decided to check out a popular Thai market on the border.

I can describe the “popular” market in one word: gross. I still can’t get over how much trash, dirt, and mucky rain water there was. I also can’t get over how much of it got on my clothes. Gross. I am no priss, but good lord it was a hot mess. It was a pretty typical Thai market: designer knockoffs (Lacoste, Nike, YSL) sold alongside elephant tusks, mosquito rackets, and bicycles assembled in China. The market wasn’t a total waste: Michael bought 12 pairs of work socks for 150฿ (roughly $5) and I took a lot of pictures and we all laughed quite a bit. 🙂

But, look! 3 more months of blissful ex-patriot life (that is, until my next border run)!

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I was enjoying a bit of afternoon AC and a refreshing iced green tea at Shine’s Café before venturing out into the muggy oven that is my village when my adorable, trouble-making student, Poon, burst into the café.

Poon, my 5 year-old student

“Teacher! Teacher!” He yells.

Sawatdii kah, Poon.” I respond.

Kong Kwan! For you! Longan!” He says in his best attempt at an indoor voice.

He hands me a large bag of longan– I’m assuming picked fresh from his yard judging by the number of ants crawling on the stems of the shelled fruit.

Kobp kun kah, Poon! Thank you.”

“You’re welcome, Teacher.” He rattles off his memorized response like a calculator responding to the input “1+1=.”

Poon grins, wais, and runs out the door and into his mother’s idling car.

This cute little interaction was a great pick-me-up before my 5 mile (8km) training run. Love my students!

Longan, aka Dragon Eyes

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Hard boiled eggs and sticky rice

The eggs, kai khao, are absolutely beautiful and as I understand it, fairly easy to make. They have a much stronger, gamier taste than a traditionally boiled egg.

Recipe:
Take an egg and prick one end with a pin. Shake vigorously to break the yoke. Cook over steam for 30-45 minutes. Serve with Thai soy sauce and khao nee ow*. Enjoy!


*Sticky rice

Those of you who know me, know that I am an avid knitter (read: obsessive) and even in the Jungle of Thailand, I can’t help but work on a pair of socks or a möbius cowl. I recently learned about a really cute practical joke that Tom Hanks played on fellow knitter Julia Roberts on the set of Larry Crowne and I wanted to share it with my readers.

What fun! My one criticism is that plenty of  men knit– even “burly” ones (let’s try to steer clear of traditional gender roles, please!). I know, I know, but it had to be said… anyway, interested knitters can find me on Ravelry.

I recently finished these Bremen Muster socks. Not practical for Thailand, but delightful nonetheless!

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Last weekend was the Khorat Candle Festival, a celebration and procession of Buddhist Lent.  So, naturally, we all crammed into our friend’s car and fought traffic to see what all the fuss was about. I knew, when I saw a group of mannequin-like things that I would greatly enjoy the festival.

A mannequin sculpture (or something) encouraging people to donate to a temple

The festival took place at the main square in front of Nakhon Ratchasima’s city hall. Large floats constructed out of wood, plaster, foam, and wax lined the streets, drawing crowds of faithful Buddhists, amateur photographers, and the occasional tourist.

Man touching up one of the candle floats

Wax, in the traditional colors of the Thai monk wardrobe, was intricately sculpted and carved to depict representations of Buddhist lore. Some of the floats featured scenes from the life of Buddha, tributes to His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej, and other Buddhists deities and cultural folktales. The carving of the floats and their subsequent donation is a chance for Thais to commemorate Buddhist lent and raise money for their local wat*.

A sea of wax in Nakhorn Ratchasima

Disregard my other photo comment. This float is literally sailing a sea of wax...

Elephants, dragons, and deities! Oh my!

Although we had dined earlier in the evening at a local Thai-Chinese restaurant, there were numerous street stalls and vendors selling a wide variety of Issan* delicacies: curries, kanomes**, and beverages for those who were hungry. Oddly, a lot of the stall owners were wearing cowboy hats and gingham button-downs. Cowboy hats aside, the festival was peppered with traditional Thai folk music and dance performances. The night culminated in a lighted candle and float procession in order to showcase all of the hand-carved wax. Ultimately, the candles were taken to a wat as a donation for monks to use during their three-month retreat for Buddhist Lent.

Some of the floats were magnificent (while some bordered on the bizarre), there were a lot of people and subsequently a lot of people watching, and there were a lot of strong smells (most of which were not pleasant, believe me) But all in all, it was a fun little festival and we had a lot of laughs.

A bunny-pig and a Buddhist deity making a human offering? Not quite sure what is going on here.

*Buddhist temples

**North East Thailand

***snacks

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Emiko and I went to Bangkok on July 7th to do some light shopping and sight-seeing. We happened upon a soi* that was celebrating one of the most romantic (Japanese) holidays of the year: Tanabata**. This holiday celebrates the love and marriage of two stars: Orihime, the Weaving Princess, and Hikoboshi, the Shepherd. Their romance was all-encompassing and passionate– so much so that they ended up neglecting their sky-duties. Tenkou, the Sky King (and Orihime‘s father), was angry at the two lovers and so he sent them to live at opposite sides of the Milky Way so they could focus on their work. However, Tenkou was sympathetic to the desires of his lovelorn daughter, so he allowed the couple the opportunity to meet once a year, every year– as long as the young couple worked very hard to complete their duties over the ensuing months.

The celestial reunion of Orihime and Hikoboshi usually happens on July 7th, when the stars Vega and Altair are in close proximity to one another. If you happen to be in Japan on July 7th, and the night is clear, you just might be able to witness the heady reunion of the star-couple.

Traditionally, the Japanese celebrate the Star Festival by writing wishes and desires on tanzaku (brightly-colored paper streamers) and then hanging the inscribed streamers–along with other paper decorations–on bamboo trees. After the festival the streamers are burned in a bright bonfire to help make the wishes come true.

Writing wishes on streamers for Tanabata

Tanzaku hanging from the branches of a bamboo tree

While my wish wasn’t romantic or even that specific, I do hope it comes true– through hard work and inner-reflection (I wrote on my tanzaku that I want to be a happier and healthier person). Although, now that I am thinking about it, a little magic every now and then is always nice. I could certainly stand some glitter in my life (kind of like Newt Gingrich in this video).

* Alley-way

** The Star Festival

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Found this little guy today and wanted to share him with you!

A gold dust weevil

He's trying to eat my freckles!

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