Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Do you peel a Durian??

Pae and I were shopping a week or two back and noticed that the price of durian, a local fruit, was much cheaper if you bought it whole rather than already peeled. Obviously when you pay the cheaper price, you are paying also for the peel.
The price fluctuates. 129 baht a few weeks ago, 149 baht last night
We were curious how close the price would be to the price of the peeled durian, so we decided to choose one and buy it. Unluckily for us, the man who peels them (do you peel a durian? husk it? hmmm) had gone home already.
Fast forward to last night. We decided to go again and see if the durian was still on sale. We got there but again the man had gone home. (Note to self:: Durian peeler dude goes home at 6pm). Having gone all the way to the super market just for durian, we weren't gonna leave empty handed.
We had two choices; Pre-peeled durian for 550 baht per kilogram or whole durian for 149 baht per kilogram. The two choices both have their pros and cons.
Durian has several different levels of ripeness. When you buy it, if you're lucky, the seller will let you touch the meat with your finger to test its firmness. Some people like super ripe and soft. Some people prefer the medium and middle off white tone. Others love to eat it stiff and white. I personally prefer none of the above. I just like to look at it. Pae goes for the medium to stiff...but not too stiff.

Obviously, if the durian is already peeled, you can choose the perfect level of ripeness for your taste (and each level has a different taste). For buying the whole fruit, covered in a hard, spiky peel/skin/rind/???, you're kinda guessing as to how ripe it is inside, unless you're a durian farmer or expert of course. For us, we're just guessing at this point.
Fun and adventure...how adventurous can it be to buy a pack of durian meat, drive it home, unwrap the plastic wrap and eat it?? Zero adventure and certainly nothing much to blog or write home about ;)

Buying a whole durian however...loads of fun ;) The peel is so thick and so hard. The durian peelers usually wear thick gloves so they can just grab it and flip it around as they are cutting it...We had no such gloves. Fun was had, fingers and hands were poked. Monday night adventure!!

As you can see from the photos, several pieces were eaten before we got it all cut open and peeled ;) Bubble was very curious and continuously would approach the fruit and smell it then circle around behind us and come back for another sniff.
From what we figure, we got more than our money's worth. The durian was a little on the ripe side, but Pae loved it anyway. We got a few more pieces than we would have gotten for the same price had we purchased the pre-peeled durian. So there you have it!
As you can see, with several seeds in the top of the photo, the durian was partly gone by the time we finished peeling it!
Next time the family comes to Bangkok, we'll buy a giant one and share the adventure!!

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Paint Job?

We have decided on some basic color schemes for Aloha Home, but still not 100%. Being in different cities, it's difficult to sit down and discuss colors, paints, and the small details of what something is going to look like once it's all painted.

Looking at color swaths from a paint store or on a website is just way too difficult to get an idea of something so large being painted multiple colors.
For now, we are going with grey as the main building color and some pastels for the design on the "face" of the apartment.

P'Pong has given us some examples of what certain color schemes might look like and here they are...
The above diagram is just showing the main colors, as an example, that P'Pong put together based on some of the ideas that were floated around in our online discussions. We made some adjustments to the original design of the rectangular designs on the "face" of the apartment. See below for the original design. We didn't like the two "legs" on the left side of the first floor. We told P'Pong and he did away with them.
I want to say that the next design is similar to what it will end up looking like, but perhaps with a brighter color main color, which in this picture looks grey/white. Originally the designs on the face were supposed to only be on the face, but we suggested that it be extended to the road-facing side too, where the name of the apartment is, so it would look like a box.
There is probably going to be a lot of changes in colors in the end, but this is a basic idea of what it will look like, minus the Audis parked in the parking lot ;)
This last one is probably the one I like the most. It looks a little beige or cream color, but I'm told it is still the same grey, just at a different time of day, different lighting. Also, the rolldown doors of the minimart are beige at the moment. not sure if we would be able to paint them blue..although I like it.
Can't wait to see what it finally looks like. I'm not too enthused about the quality of workmanship of Thai painters (blog post in the works?), but I'm sure it'll look great!

Aloha Home Update videos for June

Haven't given updates on the apartment in a while. Here are a couple quick videos to look at showing some of the progress.

Here are the handrails and walkways and stairwell, all tiled and waiting for painting and final touches.

Here is what she looks like from the side. We've been trying to decide on paint colors. I'll post more on that in the next post ;)

International Children's Day at school

We found out earlier in June that International Children's Day had passed but one of our other campuses was putting on an activity to celebrate with their kids. That translates to we have to do the activity too ;)
This is a lot of our teachers after the activity finished...many had left to teach already
As it was International Children's Day, it ended up being a lot of fun games for the kids to play before their classes and a photo booth for them to take pictures with some super heroes and their parents. Our kindergarten would participate but the primary would not. As such, our kindergarten teachers took charge and prepared in one week's time; an accomplishment in itself!
There were games such as knocking down cups with balls, wheel of fortune and throwing the hoop over a cone. Considering the age of the kids, ages 3-5, there was nothing too mind blowing or involved.
In celebration of the special day, I've decided to just throw up some photos I've taken from the first semester of our children at school. Most of whom I teach as they are the ones I know.
Until this year, I had pretty much ignored out kindergarten. Two years ago the whole kindergarten program moved to our campus from their building 500 meters away. Suddenly there were small rats running around, underfoot all day every day. This photo is of some of the older kindergartners during nap time. I often find myself jealous of them...I wish I could just take a nap in the middle of every day!!
This is one of my sixth grade sections. I teach two total. Normally, I would be teaching four to five total sections of fourth to sixth graders, but with the International Principal role, I have to take on less teaching. I seriously need to have zero teaching hours next year! I'd miss the kids and the interaction, but the IP job is three jobs at once.
Sometimes when I'm waiting for the class to prepare their books or worksheets, the ones who are ready already will gather around and try to steal my phone or iPad and try to guess the password. The only way I used to be able to get rid of them was to turn on the camera and take their pictures (the girls at least, they hate their pictures taken). Not sure what's up with this class, but they ham for the camera any chance they get.
Hmmm, wonder where they get that from? This is a photo taken while waiting for the cameraman to come (iphone cameraman) and take a photo of our class

Foreign teacher (Teacher Guy) and Thai teacher (Teacher Gai) are the teachers for this section of sixth graders. I've been here ten years almost and she's been here longer than me. We've been paired only three or four times in those years. She is one of the stricter teachers with the students, but they like her. Our names are pronounced the same, so it's confusing sometimes.

Teacher Malcolm came back to the school after studying in Scotland for the past year or so. The kids were very happy to see him. He had taught at our school for nearly fifteen years before continuing his education back home.
School isn't only about the students and the children though. The International Principal role keeps me busy taking care of the teachers and parents as well. Not sure yet which one is more difficult or more demanding. Coaching seminar was a half day away from the students with the bosses.
I was watching the TV series "The Flash" today and someone said, "It's not as much one damn thing after another as every damn thing all at once." That is the International Principal role in one sentence sometimes!!

And with that thought, I'll put this video of where I can go near the end of the school day if I need a mini beach trip in the middle of the city. The place where I can go to hear the sound of the water and have a mini window that looks away from the stresses of the teaching, coaching, managing, leading, caring; swim practice at our pool outside of the cafeteria.

Friday, June 24, 2016

Hua Hin March 2016

We have two basic places where we go for a random weekend every now and then, Pattaya and Hua Hin, both beach cities situated on either side of the Gulf of Thailand. We frequent these two places mostly because they have hotels that allow pets. We would travel more extensively throughout Thailand if it was easier to bring pets.

We generally stay at the Ibis Hotel that has a "pets free" policy. Not the nicest hotel in the world, but it suits our needs perfectly and both, in Pattaya and in Hua Hin, are conveniently located. Therefore, I can say that the Ibis Hotel IS the best hotel for us!!

This week both Pae and I had some time off and decided to take a few days down at the beach at Hua Hin. Other than a night market, random statues, temples and a train station, it seemed that we had exhausted all touristy "activities" in Hua Hin. This time down, we just wanted to hit the beaches and chill and try to find good food ;) Last time we were there was with BunBun and Bubble exactly a year ago.

Other than being there together, one highlight for me was finding a small bakery/cafe that has the most simple yet tasty salami sandwiches. Salami, Italian bread, cucumbers, onions...that's it...so tasty!

We hit the same beaches as we did last time, it was a good time. I brought my running shorts and shirt because I wanted to spend a little time running the beaches. Once we got there and unpacked our bags, I realized that I had forgotten my running shoes! Haha! Good job, Guy!!

I did end up curious while sitting on the beach as the beach appeared to be a good 5-6 km long. We were near one end of the beach and I estimated that it was about 1,500 meters to the end, so 3km round trip. Even though I didn't have shoes, I decided to give the beach a try, barefooted. I estimated that I should be able to run the round trip in about 15 minutes.

I took off, wind to my back, and made it about 1.6km to the end of the beach, really fast too. Then I turned around and took the wind straight in the face and labored back to our beach towel where Mommy and Bubble were hanging out. It took me over 16 minutes, but it was also more than 3km.

It was a nice run, saw lots of dead fish up and down the beach, lots of shells and rocks. The part that was not good was that the sand acted like sand paper on my toes!! Raw skin and blisters in my longer toes from them digging into the wet sand every step. It was quite hot as well, but the sea breeze and being wet helped to cool things off quite a bit.
Pae and I took turns going into the water while the other kept an eye on Bubble. We did both try to go in the water at the same time once, but Bubble just went crazy barking. We didn't want to disturb other beach goers, so we just kept taking turns instead.

We missed BunBun as we went to different beaches. This was our last trip together, the four of us, last year.
Bun always just chilled at the beach
Our last day in Hua Hin, we went to Hat Sai Noi, same as last year. This time at Hat Sai Noi there was a Chinese film production team filming something up on the rocks at one end of the beach. I ended up walking up to the temple at the top of that hill and taking some photos. We spent much of the day just hanging out on the beach.

The waves were pretty strong. It was strong enough that I worried when Pae went in the water and worried when I saw a ten year old kid being pushed around by the current. He was fine and Pae was fine also, no problems at all. Maybe just my weakling body and chicken legs that were struggling in the current when I was out there ;)

A new attraction in Hua Hin is a monument to the Kings of Thailand, called Rajabhakti Park. When I first saw it on a website (things to do in Hua Hin type website) it just looked like a boring line of statues and I didn't even consider visiting it.

But we noticed it on the right side of the road when we were taking a left to go to the beach one day and boy was it actually quite big. We decided to go nearer to evening so we didn't have to stand in the sun. The statues were pretty okay individually, but looking at them as a group, as one giant piece of art slash monument slash memorial, they were magnificent. Kinda like Mt. Rushmore perhaps ;)
I'll just leave a bunch of pictures of their Majesties right here ;)
I'll have to spend some time giving more information about these gentlemen, their Majesties ;) but for now, I'll just leave the photos as a teaser. Notice the size of the people in the foreground...The statues are pretty big.
And I leave you with this...it is four minutes of pretty much nothing but Bubble running in the distance. But I've put it to some Harry Connick Jr. music, so that's a bonus ;) Again, this video is just three clips, a photo and an mp3 of Harry...nothing that's gonna win an Oscar for editing or anything. And it's more for Pae and I to look at because I guess it's our experience and probably is more special for us...again, it's a dog running in the distance, haha ;)

The Qualifications Conundrum

This first term as International Principal has thrown its challenges our way but most of them are taken care of with teamwork and usually common sense.

One problem that we have been having is with turnover. Not really turnover of older teachers (we all stay and stay for a long time) but with newly hired teachers, specifically our Kindergarten and Nursery teachers.

Our school just increased the tuition quite steeply and the parents were promised native speakers of the English language so their children get an "immersion" type of learning environment. Previously we have hired Filipinos to occupy these teaching positions and they do a fine job. But now the parents expect a white face. That has become the term in the HR and hiring and interviewing circles; "I have an interview with a white teacher today." You get the point.

I'm not proud to say it, but it's the reality here with education as a business...people are paying for a white face.

So, we started the term with six new teachers for the Kindergarten and Nursery. Five of them are/were South Africans who fit the "white" profile but not the native speaker profile. Parents were over the moon to see the Kindergarten filled with pasty white teachers ;) They come from an agency and have paid quite a bit of money to get here and be trained to be ESL (English as a Second Language) teachers, although they don't hold college degrees...meaning they never finished college.

But again, skin color trumps experience or qualification.

On the other hand, we also hired qualified Filipino teachers. Degrees in Elementary education or early years education. But the parents are quick to refuse to accept them as their students' teachers. We can only use them as teaching assistants to the whites.

So, with that as background, three of our original six new teachers quit or left the school in the first month of classes and we've replaced two of them, still looking for a third. One Filipino replacement started last week and is a qualified teacher, certified in her home country...but we can only hire her as an assistant. We hired her and she accepted the job as an assistant to a new South African teacher, with no college degree...

The Filipino girl is trying so hard to quit because she wants to teach, not assist. I don't blame her quite honestly. Crisis chats online late into the night last night and early this morning. She came to school today so that is a positive. I have a meeting with her right after I publish this post ;) While typing this post, I got a message saying that our new South African teacher has quit already...she hasn't even started yet and she's quit already!! I was planning her orientation for Monday!!

So we have the over qualified teacher wanting to quit because she can't teach and use her education as a tool...and the unqualified agency kid, who would have been a goddess in the eyes of the parents, quit as well...

Back to the drawing board!! Lots of interviews (not me, the HR department) this weekend and early next week I guess.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Yuck the Fankees

Just because I'm a Red Sox fan...

And I mean it when I say it...


That is all.

Sunday, June 19, 2016

"Let's just hope the school doesn't burn down"

So, the first few weeks as the International Principal, after the students returned from holiday, came and went. Nobody died.

For one whole week at the beginning of the semester, the Thai Principal and her Vice Principal had to go attend a week-long seminar/workshop. They basically left me in charge of the school. Talk about a little bit of stress for the first month of a new position, haha!!

I joked with people at school, "Let's hope the school doesn't burn down." It didn't, yay, and as previously mentioned, nobody died.

The funny thing is that we had a twenty minute downpour out of nowhere and the school walkways were flooded. I got to school and had to start doing some squeejy action so the arriving kids and parents wouldn't bust their heads after slipping. No problem, once the janitors caught a clue, they rushed into action on our five floors of danger areas.
Not thirty minutes into my first period class the ceiling tiles of the school near the parking lot got wet and collapsed on a parent's car and another car belonging to one of our teachers.
The parent wasn't very happy and sat there waiting for the school's insurance people and her car insurance people to arrive. What do you say to somebody when the building falls on their car?! Again, the Thai principal wasn't there to handle this parent. Fun.
Got to a point where I thought that situation was taken care of and I go up to teach my next class and notice that the ceiling is leaking near our kindergarten and it may just collapse like the car parking area. Had to block it off and eventually pull down the soggy ceiling tiles and have them replaced.
So yeah, the school didn't burn down, but it sure tried its best to collapse around us!!

We survived. Deep breath...and exhale...

Random things

Here are a couple random things that I took photos of the past few months. Nothing spectacular, but things that made me actually take my camera out and snap a shot.

Three less toenails at the end of May than at the beginning. Not really sure why everybody thinks this is gross ;)
A furniture shop burned down late one night near home and near an apartment where many of my teachers live. I ran over in my slippers at 1 in the morning to see if their building was affected. They were all fine. Several actually slept through all the commotion.

This pack of meaty heaven is lovingly called a "Happy Meal". Pae will bring one back every few months when she flies to Chiang Mai. It's filled with fermented pork, Northern sausages, Isaan sausages, fried pork and pork ribs...what you see in this photo is the top layer!! There is a matching layer underneath! HAPPY HAPPY HAPPY!!
Not three days after I had to remind my teachers that we needed to be careful about leaving food laying around in our common room, I found this corn, with a bite taken out of it, on top of a computer terminal. I sent a sarcastic email telling them that I found something belonging to one of them and that they could come claim it from my desk...I attached this photo. Sad thing was that one teacher emailed me and apologized and claimed it...turned out she had a very very bad week and my sarcastic email made her feel even worse. I'm still learning.

I don't particularly care too much for the police force here. Perhaps I'm comparing them too much to what I expect from living in the west for my whole life...But, anytime I see them piggybacking on their copper bikes, I can't help but smile.
This guy was blocking three lanes of traffic...fully loaded and his back tire assembly is blown and off of the rig.

Apparently the AC thermostats in our Science Lab are taped to the wall with duct tape!

Running to the side for a while

I have decided to take some time away from running. My last race was at the beginning of May, the 10hr Ultra Marathon where I had trouble near the heart after several hours of effort. If you remember, I went ahead and finished the race, walking in the heat.

I felt like I had recovered just fine from the race, other than a few lost toenails, but then I went out running twice; once with Eric and once with Malcolm. They were both very difficult efforts for me even though we kept the pace down considerably.
I then started to have strange feelings in my chest, from cramping in my ribs near the heart to all the way around the back of my ribs near where the kidneys would be located. This pain or cramping was not during physical activity, but at rest.

I was also complaining about a strong heartbeat, not necessarily elevated pulse, but I could just feel my heart beating and feel the blood pulsing through my veins most of the day. I also felt blood rushing down my arms every now and then. I felt like I had to take a deep breath every now and then just to try to re-center my "being", not that I'm into meditation or anything.

I was falling asleep so easily at home and even getting really sleepy at school. Going up the stairs to my classrooms was also an effort for me for over a week.

I let everything flutter around in my chest for a few weeks before one day in school I had to tell the kids to call the doctor if I happened to turn blue or fall on the ground during their class. I was serious but they thought I was joking. I convinced them that I was not joking and then I took it easy the rest of the day as far as work goes.

I was fine in the end, but that moment told me that I couldn't keep just "hoping it would go away" by itself. I decided to go to the hospital the next Tuesday when my class load was light and when Pae had a day off from flying. We went.
The doctors and nurses eventually took all of my vitals and ran some tests, took blood, etc. and came back telling me that I suffered from brachycardia (bradycardia) or slow heartbeat. I told them that I was an endurance athlete so it might be common and not related to an actual harmful condition. My scan also showed that I had no p-wave detected, and an abnormal rhythm in my heart...
The doctor decided to have me admitted for a night or two to take further readings and perform other tests. Great!!! It was my birthday and Pae and I had plans to use the rest of my sick day at school to go have a nice dinner and see a movie and dessert OF COURSE!! Bummer! Now we'd have to spend that time in hospital clothes, with a saline drip running into my hand, eating 7-11 food, hahaha.
I can't say that I'm proud of taking so many shameless selfies in the past few months, hahahaha
All turned out okay, I was woken up every two hours on average that night with nurses taking my blood pressure and blood oxygen readings...all fine. Only my pulse was still low...pretty much the first three readings they took were 49, 44 and 39 beats/minute or something similar to that...I think the 39bpm threw the doctor off ;) and the absence of the p-wave...possible heart disease indicator I think.

Best birthday meal ever, as long as she's there
The doc said my heart was fine and my blood tests came back negative for indicators of a heart attack or kidney dysfunction. As far as me feeling my heart beating so hard in my chest, he supposes that since my heart is stronger and has to pump less often to supply my body with oxygen, that each pump of the muscle is actually really strong to get lots of blood...so I feel it...not so sure how confident I am in that diagnosis, but he was gonna let me go home so I wasn't gonna argue ;) haha, just kidding.

I guess mom's side of the family has had some heart related health problems, historically, so it could be in the DNA...

I'll take it easy, I'll try to sleep more. I'll try to stress less with the new job and Apartment. I'll try to drink less caffeine. I'll try to chill. I'll try not to work my part time job too often. I'll be fine.

I'm glad that Pae had the day off and that she took care of me, especially after the shock of having to be admitted so suddenly. I think that the doctor wanted to be safe and also he wanted to take care of my insurance, which only covers me if I'm admitted...Not admitted 30,000 baht of tests, I pay all. Admitted I ended up paying barely 1/10th of that final cost. Whatever his motivation, I feel better now knowing that I actually went and the heart looks fine.

Two Nights in Bangkok?

Anne has come and gone already, back in the states. But while she was here in Thailand, Pae and I made every effort to get out and see her. Anne came to Bangkok near the end of her trip after having spent a day here at the beginning as well. The first time through, Pae was unable to see her, but this time we both had some time and we made the most of it.
Late night, live music, family and a great atmosphere. Khao San Road, here in Bangkok has not been a place we have frequented, but going there with Anne turned out to be one of our best choices. Allowed us to relax, chat and just hang out.

The first day we got to see Anne, we went to Wat Arun or "Temple of Dawn". Pae and I had been there before and I was always impressed by it. We got to the river, looked across to the temple and it was covered in scaffolding, under renovation...but we crossed and walked around anyway ;)

So across the Chao Phraya River we went on a 3 baht ferry. While crossing, I remembered that some of this stuff all around us, after ten years here, seems pretty ordinary, but to Anne, it must still be pretty interesting or different. Anne is well travelled though from the military to her civilian adventures, so perhaps barges slowly  creeping up the river and longtails buzzing by with their fares taking in the view was old hat ;) 
I guess with any trip to an Asian country you'll run into the Buddhist monks sometime during the day. Of course, that means taking a picture of them as well ;)

I believe this is taken of Wat Pho from outside of the temple. Wat Pho is the location of a giant Reclining Buddha.  Actually, it is named "temple of the reclining Buddha"

After a long day outside, what could be better than fresh watermelon smoothies at the market?

So here is the Reclining Buddha, but the guy who took the photo for us was in a rush and all of the pix that he took are blurry. It's okay, the Buddha is the main part of the photo anyway.

Steep steps inside of Wat Arun. These photos are slightly out of order...I did something wrong when uploading them to the Blogger interface earlier ;)

Anne and the Head part of the Reclining Buddha. It was seriously so big. I have been here for almost 10 years and had never been to see inside of the Temple. Even for a local, I was quite impressed with the Reclining Buddha. Now I have a "go-to" place to take people who visit us here in Bangkok!

Temple silhouette photos are always nice ;)

Inside some of the temples here (especially the tourist attraction ones) is the Buddha. This particular one is very well maintained and quite impressive.
Obviously one of my favorite photos from our time with Anne ;)
Dessert at a newish Korean Snow Ice place, Pat Bingsu they call it in Korea, Shave Ice in Hawaii, but this has such fine, powdery ice that it's different than anything I've ever had in either place, Korea or Hawaii...Yummy!

And of course, the obligatory photo with the street food vendors. I could actually go for some deep fried anything right now!!
We had a great time hanging out with Anne. We talked a lot about this and that and basically caught up on life in general. It's only the second time we've really had visitors here; Dad Carl for our wedding five years ago and now Anne. Pretty par for the course really as far as how often I have seen family members since leaving home as an 18 year old ;)
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