Saturday, April 22, 2006

Through Thai Eyes - IV

Dear Teacher,

Yesterday, we were invited to have a dinner with our bosses in Culpaper, a city next to Washington VA. And what we considered excellent was, it's a Thai resteraunt!!! So great! We hope that this dinner would make us get better from being bored of the food in our canteen so much. You know?, we have like sometimes fried fish, or chinken, sometimes roasted pork or beef, or something like that for our meals. I don't know why don't they sometime cook the food in soup for us. Yes, I really miss all kinds of Kaeng -- Thai hot and spicy soup/curry. So, that's what we expected.... to have for our dinner at that resteraunt.

As soon as we were seated, we immediately ordered what we thought they would full-fill our passion by ourselve, and ordered some food that we figured they're the delicious dishes of Thailand for the bossess. What we got were like Ka Prao Kai, Kaeng Khiaw Wann, Stired Fried Mixed Vegetable, Pad Thai and the outstanding dish ... Tom Yam Kung!

Ka Prao Kai, Kaeng Khiaw Wann, Stired Fried Mixed Vegetable and Pad Thai were pretty good despite the recipes were pretty different from real Thai's ones. However, it's pretty OK. And I was so delighted as well that I could have Prik Nam Pla -- sliced fresh Thai chilli in fish sauce -- as the seasoning for my meal, because at my canteen there's just something like big sweet chilli available there. I/We don't like this chilli at all.

I'm just afriad if the farang tried this Tom Yam Kung and would say "I don\'t think it\'s the most delicious food of Thailand as the entire world talks about." Anyway, I hope other resteraunts in other cities in the USA would be sure of their Tom Yam Kung\'s quality and taste before putting it on the list of their menu. I just want the renown of this dish keeps go on. And I do hope your family had tried the right Tom Yam Kung and are fond of this attractive food looks like nothing interesting in this email. Sounds like I'm complaining rather than discussing the interesting matter with you like always, doesn't it? However, there are many things left to talk with you, my professional teacher. See you next " Chapter "

But, what we found unpleasant was... Tom Yam Khung !!! It didn't represent what we had boasted about its renown to our bosses at all. It appeared like .... six sinked prawns in that clear and sour soup with just a few sliced tomatoes and farang mushrooms floating on above. Its taste was not delicious and, sure, extremely different from the original one! I know that it's hard to get complete recipes (from Thailand) to achieve the dish, but as they can't make the original-like taste, the shouldn't put this kind of Thai food in their menu,right? I'm just afriad if the farang tried this Tom Yam Kung and would say "I don't think it's the most delicious food of Thailand as the entire world talks about."

Anyway, I hope other restarants in other cities in the USA would be sure of their Tom Yam Kung's quality and taste before putting it on the list of their menu. I just want the renown of this dish keeps go on. And I do hope your family had tried the right Tom Yam Kung and are fond of this actractive food!

Looks like nothing interesting in this email. Sounds like I'm complaining rather than discussing the interesting matter with you like always, doesn't it? However, there are many things left to talk with you, my teacher. See you next "chapter."

Your Student


Dear Student,

Your hard-working teacher is now taking a short break from volleyball at the beach, jungle hiking, snorkeling, and swimming on Koh Lanta during my vacation to check my email. How nice to see your new mail!

I laugh at your experience, because food is so close to our longing for things familiar. I have to relate to you some similar funny situations. For example, when I travel and stay in hotels in Asia, I see advertised "American Breakfast included in room charge!" As I lick my lips, I think, "Oh boy, something familiar!" All night long in my hotel room, my hungry tummy wakes me up and reminds me about that wonderful American Breakfast which will greet me in the morning. The appointed hour comes and I arrive at the breakfast buffet table: cabbage with dressing, short grilled hot dogs, cucumbers, grilled tomatoes, salty orange juice, toast (toasted on only one side) with no butter, and corn salad. I have NEVER seen any of these things in an American breakfast in America! So, I gave up on hotel American Breakfasts long ago.

Then, I go to Seven-Eleven to get a good old American hamburger: I ask for a "hamburger" and get a piece of dried chicken on a bun with tomato-paste & mayonnaise sauce on top. Ugh! Never seen a hamburger like that! "Chicken-burger" is more like it.

So, I then stop at the ice cream shop for a scoop of that wonderful creamy vanilla. They open a hot dog bun, put a scoop of vanilla ice cream in the middle of it, then sprinkle the whole thing with corn and hand it to me with a smile, like I'm supposed to eat it. Unbelievable!

Lastly, I go over to House of Pizza for a good old Hawaiian pizza. Ever had a pizza without cheese? Well, order any pizza on the menu there, and that's what you get. Unthinkable to a westerner! However, the large number of Thai customers who are always there tells me that it pleases someone!

So based on your and my experiences, all I can say is: so sorry, my student, you'll just have to come back to Thailand for your authentic Tom Yum Goong! I tell you what, I just had the best Tom Yum Goong in Thailand last night here in Ko Lanta--ah, big fat juicy shrimp and fresh Thai herb-spices swimming in creamy coconut juice. Oh, so-o-o-o-o good! Making you homesick? I just want to make sure I see you in class in a couple months! Just in case my teaching doesn't bring you back, at least the Tom Yum Goong will lure you back to our beloved university.

Hurry back. Classes start in 45 days. A steaming bowl of Tom Yum Goong is waiting for you!

Your Teacher

Saturday, April 08, 2006

Through Thai Eyes - III

Dear Teacher,

I've finally found a library providing free internet for the people already. Thank you for your advice on this matter. By the way, it' takes about five minutes by bike to get there. It's a very good one, named Rappahannock County Library. Do you think "Rappahannock" sounds strange? I feel like it's not English word. Do you?

It now keeps raining every day here. Actaully I love rain, but the rain here always gets the weather even colder. Somestimes, this atmosphere makes me don't even want to leave my bed for work earlier like always. Oh!, god, I'd be fired soon !!!

However, I'd like to tell you what I've seen THROUGH MY OWN EYES (as you said) to you during I'm staying here. These are some what I experienced:

>> Do you think that the greeting sentence like "How are you" is dying
out? Because the people here greet like
  • "How are you doing?"
  • "How's going on?"
  • "What's going on?"
  • "What's news?"
  • "What's up!"
  • "Zup man!"
...or something like that. Then I think you'd feel boring since we just greet you like "How are you" !!!

>> I saw many American put their names on the car plates. And they said it's legal to do so. Therefore I think you must have put "D___" on each car plate of your family's, don't you? Sounds COOL!

>> I noticed that the light of each American's house is orange, you know what I mean? It's different from our home's (in Thailand). I don't know why don't they use the white light like we do for our home, because I consider our light is clearer and brighter than theirs. Or,maybe, this light looks light the color of fire that make them feel warm, I suppose.

But anyway, I prefer

the white one.

>> I saw the wild animals--rabbits and squirrels are often seen--appearing indepently in the backyard, on the road side or in the forest next to the house, without being harmed by the people even in daytime! If they were in Thailand (and even in my hometown), they should have been killed and become the food for our meals! I absolutely love the way the foriegners treat those wild animals.

These are some new experience I gain. And sure, with the culture, tradition, geography, thoughts, lifestyle etc. that differ from mine, I think I'll have a lot of things to discuss with you more on, my teacher.

Thank you so much for welcoming my mails and not getting annoyed (or not?!?) by them.

Your student.

p.s. Do you really understand what I said? Coz I've noticed that if I read English mails of my friends, I 100% understand. But when I read yours, my perception is just 85-90 %. And to make it worst, I don't understand what they say in many magazines by American at all!


My Dear Student,

Hey, I LOVE getting your emails! I am sharing them with my friends and family, and they love them too. In fact, your wonderful insights "Through Thai Eyes" are being read by my friends in over 20 foreign countries (including the USA). I'll explain when you get back. Keep it up.

You're right, the name of that county is not English. Probably not even Isan-Lao! I would say American Indian. So, if you can learn to pronounce some of those county and river names in Virginia, we'll call you "quadrilingual," ok?

Greetings: I think most Americans like to be a little bit unique in their greetings, and they hope it reflects their personalities. So a banker probably would not say "Zup man!" and a skateboarder probably would not say, "Good morning, isnt' the weather today indeed delightful?"

Names on license plates: Yes, it's very much enjoyed by Americans who have an extra $35 to $50 to spend for the higher fee! When I was home, I didn't have my name on my plate so that in case I accidentally did something rude in my driving, they could not identify me!

House lights: Hmmm. If it's the outside porch light you are looking at, it is probably a light that does not attract insects. You know how flying insects like to swarm around the bright fluorescent (some call "neon" or "tube") lights at restaurants and vendor carts in Isan? Last night, I had three flying termites land in my Tom Yum Goong at the local restaurant. They were going for the bright lights, but missed. I think you'll notice they don't go after the orange lights.

However, you bring up something else that I also notice--the big cultural difference about lights in homes. We Americans generally think of bright fluorescent lights as too bright and harsh on our eyes in certain living spaces in a home. Therefore, we will only use fluorescent lights in places like the kitchen or utility rooms which need a bright light for work-related activities (washing, cooking, cleaning, ironing clothes, etc.). Generally, we don't like to use them in our bedrooms, living rooms or other more relaxed rooms in the house.

It was so hard for me to get used to fluorescent lights inside homes and apartments when I came to Thailand. When I first moved into my new apartment, I bought all table lamps with soft-colored incandescent light bulbs. When my Thai friends came to visit, they immediately turned on the glaring overhead lights with the comment, "Ugh! Why is it SO DARK in here?!!" As I turned them back off, I would reply, "It's NOT dark--it's soft and warm!" The battle went on--off on off on off--accompanied by much joking.

Wild animals. I always laughed at my Thai-Isan friends. Whenever we were in the jungle or a park and they saw a wild animal, their first comment was always about whether it tasted good or not. "See that lizard over there? Ah, 'arroy mak!' " (very delicious). See those big insects? Very tasty when roasted over a fire!" "See that big frog? Worthless! You can't eat that kind." Now I find myself always asking my friends: "What is that animal over there? Do you eat it too? Is it delicious?" I'm afraid that if I came back to America and started asking those questions, they would immediately take me to a big buffet-style restaurant, thinking I was starving to death!

I look forward to your next "chapter," seeing my home country through your eyes. When you come back to Isan, I will share with you a place where you can read about your home country through MY eyes. You have a real surprise waiting for you.

Your Teacher

P.S. By the way, I am glad you are at an 85-90% understanding of my emails--that means I am challenging you!. And yes, I understand yours, 98-100%. Excellent writing. (You must have had a wonderful, talented instructor for "Basic Composition and Writing!" Didn't you get a B+ in that course?).

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Through Thai Eyes - II

Another gem from our student working in the USA (see earlier blog, "Through Thai Eyes")...

Dear Teacher,

The spring has come now; thus I won't meet the snow at all. What a pity! Moreover, the weather seems to be a little more like Thailand's. It's very hot in the after noon, but still cold in the evening. However, it's nice for not remaining hot all day.

Yesterday, I lost 9 dollars (360 baht) !!! Because there's nobody telling us prior to set the time 1 hour earlier then always. Because of it is the SPRING !!!

We didn't know about this matter before. So when I clocked-in to work, I was very frightened if there's any things wrong with the clock-in system. Then when we went up to our office, we discovered that there were plenty of Housekeeping Crews there already!!! We so much wondered why the farang crews clocked-in earlier, despite it shoud be us who always clock-in five minutes prior !!!

But after HSKP Manager informed us about this USA's proceture, we immediately knew that we lost nine dollars this day. What a pity.

By the way, April Fool's Day has gone. At first, I thought it would be the very fun day, but nothing much they did with the lie. How about you? How many VICTIMS you got that Day?

Anyway, hope you'll enjoy this comming festival, Song Kran. Break a leg, my teacher !

Your student

Dear C,

Hey, great to get your email again. Ah, weather just like home--but the clock keeps changing on you. Oops, forgot to tell you about that little Creature of Time we call "Daylight Savings Time". Crazy Americans think they can do more things in 24 hours if they move the clock backwards and forwards during the year.

April Fool's Day in Thailand? YES, it happened! I was tricked. I logged onto two of my favorite Thai websites: and They both had fake news stories. One story was about a train in Phuket having an accident. I'm going to Phuket next week for Songkran, and I was a little concerned (although I will be flying). Phuket Island doesn't even have a railroad! So April Fool's Day even reaches out to us unsuspecting farangs in Thailand, too. Caught like a rat in a trap.

I bet you will have the driest Songkran of your life, this year. Happy Thai New Year, anyway!

Your Teacher,
Aj. J


LINK: Time chaos as Daylight Savings Time (DST) arrived in Thailand Tuesday (Dated: April 1, 2003)