Sunday, September 27, 2015

Richard Tumin: Dragon Slayer!

I thought I would offer a bit of insight on why I think monitor lizards are terrifying beasts.  I was out for a run tonight and after settling in to a nice pace and hitting around six kilometers, I hear a rather expletive laced hissing noise near my feet.  Anyone who knows me well knows that my response was laced with colorful words and some awesome acrobatic skills. 

I realize that monitor lizards are only about 4-6 feet in length when they are full grown but they blend. 

They blend in very well.

They also hiss and move very fast.  This one was no different. 

I also managed to take pictures of the whole process.

It all started with me hearing the monitor lizard.  As I did not have any camera out at the time, due to the fact that I was running and my phone was in my pocket, I have taken a touch of artistic liberty here.

First image, me noticing the 5 foot monitor lizards in my immediate proximity:

Note that the image is as close to the real thing as I could find.  

The next image would be me doing some amazing footwork while trying to not die from the massive reptile that was now almost underfoot.

After a bit more work, I managed to escape.  Someday, Mr. Lizard, we shall meet again on the field of running/battle.  

So, basically when you take off the fear imagination factor, it looked a lot more like this:

This was after my string of curse words and the damn thing had run for cover.  The next shot is me being just a touch braver...

Always check your slippers for lizard tails before putting them on...

The next image was after I decided to assert the dominance that is my God-given right on being an apex predator who was scared shitless by an animal that is much much smaller.

I decided to curse at it as it ran for the water.  I really showed it who was boss!

Only after taking the photo, did I notice the man standing in the background laughing at me.  You win buddy, you win... 

Well, at least the sunset was beautiful!

I shot the second photo only a few minutes later...

I'll get you next time monitor lizard, next time!

Saturday, September 26, 2015

25 Geocaches in 25,000 Steps

A good friend of mine and I decided to have a bit of an impromptu trip into Bangkok today to find a few geocaches.  Of course, sometimes our goals and dreams are not realized, but today we surged past our idea of finding a "few" and ended up walking about 11 miles while searching high and low for geocaches around the city.  As we both have recently gotten new fitbits, we thought it might be fun to have a bit of a step goal.  We were able to reach that goal just a little too fast, so we upped the ante, perhaps just a bit too much.

I am sore and sunburned, but all-in-all, a very good day.

The whole thing started out with our wanting to walk out on a few of the bridges over the river in Bangkok.  I must admit that the bridges are usually quite beautiful, and standing over the water offers a bit of a reprieve from the oppressive stagnant heat of the city.

The view is stunning.  Absolutely stunning.

Plus, there is always a bit of an added bonus when you get to interact with some unexpected wildlife.  I was walking back after a rather unsuccessful search for the geocache with Eddie, and saw this:

I decided to slowly carry him back to the shoreline and place him on a gardenia.  Needless to say, I am pretty sure that I have found a new best friend.

After a bit of meandering, we came across this amazingly beautiful carved lion.  Apparently this was left here as a marker, after serving a tour of duty as a ballast stone for a ship.  Quite a cool and random find while on our geocache trail.

Yes, that is a huge cut of meat in the lower left corner of the shot.

We eventually found our way onto an amazing piece of architecture known as Rama VIII bridge.  There is something about the fact that it is not the typical bridge, but has a very asymmetrical design that makes it both eye-catching and very appealing.  We found the geocache in the middle of the bridge, and then continued on with our journey.

Now, if you notice, one of the key colors of the bridge is yellow-gold, with the other being grey.  With the bridge being a rather key landmark, there is of course some military security.  I am aware that camouflage is not always the easiest thing to create and maintain, but this is one of the points where I wonder if they are even trying...

Yeah, they blend in really well.  I love the olive-drab camouflage netting mixed in with the ultra-urban look of the bridge and skyline.  

We then decided to ditch the bridge scene and work our way up one of the canal/rivers that divide Bangkok into many smaller flood-zones and drainage areas.  

We made our way to the cache that is actually located in this picture, (although I did not notice it at the time, because I was thoroughly enthralled by the massive fish that I will mention again soon). 

The area where the currents from the rivers swirl is completely choked with these water plants, and the boats just slowly push them out of the way as they motor through them.  I am not sure how they are actually able to keep them out of the propellers, but hey, not my problem... 

Now, on to the fish.  These things are huge, and there are more of them than you can imagine.  The stalls near the waterfront sold massive bags of bread and fish food for about 50-75 cents and it seems the fish always knew when a person had made a purchase.  

That is all fish.  The entire surface is covered with fish.  

It is both a bit awesome and terrifying at the same time.

I want to point out that there are so many fish that some of them actually have to fight to get back into the water when they breach.  Pretty soon they are just going to phone in a bread order and then send one or two onto the land to pick up the bag.  Terrifying.

In a rather Kurtzian decision, we decided to head upriver.  

Geocache after Geocache dot the river, usually on or near the small bridges that allow pedestrians to make it from one side to another without being devoured by those terrifying monsters seen only a paragraph ago.

After about a mile or so, just when you think you are safe, you realize they are still in the water.  Like little packs of velociraptors.  Also there are monitor lizards in this water.  Something about Thailand seems like a bad movie where everything wants to eat you.

The canal slowly transitions from the tourist area to the actual market area.  Not the market where you can buy guady pants that have elephants on them, or pot leaf shirts, but an actual market.  

You know, live eels, cats sneaking bits of meat that have not seen refrigeration in more than a few hours, chili peppers that will probably cause internal hemorrhaging, etc. 

A real market.  

I love these markets.  They are an interesting mix of noise and smells.  I know that you might think that they smell terrible, but they actually have an interesting mix of produce smells, spices, and a few scents that you wish were not mixed in with the potpourri.  It gives it a scent that seems almost "alive" in nature.

Eventually we made our way to a rather glamorous area of town and wandered around all of the official government buildings while searching for our elusive geocaches.  Thankfully there were not many people out today besides the ever-present tuk-tuk drivers who saw rather large dollar signs over our heads.  

Anyone who wants to go into sales in an country could learn a thing or two from these guys.  They do not ever take no for an answer.  They know all about closing the deal.  

I am pretty sure that this is how they train tuk-tuk drivers before they set them loose on tourists.  

They sure do know how to build the government buildings though.  Wow, beautiful!

Finally, and mercifully after about 25,000 steps on our fitbits we made it back to the wharf for a nice cruise back to the car. 

Now, for the funnier bits.  The first prize goes to this amazing marketing ploy.  Talk about taking a logo and running with it!  In your face coffee-yuppies!

The second prize goes to this interesting choice on local and decor.  

I just looked this up online, apparently that is the old location of a gay barbershop.  

Not sure why we would need to specify it is a gay barbershop, but according to Facebook they have great reviews.  I am hoping those reviews are for the new location across town because they really need to hire a decorator, if it is still at this location... 

The third prize goes to this statue that would be an obvious talking piece in any yard.  

That image can never be cleaned from your mind.  You are welcome.  

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Catching up after the two week hiatus

Well, it has been a crazy two (or three) weeks.  I cannot honestly remember when I posted last.  We are almost done with week three of the school year, and the kids are great!

This is not to say that all my other students are/were not amazing, but I am very relieved to find that the kids at this school are another great example of why I love my job.

I really do love working as a teacher.

Of course, the paperwork is not always that enjoyable, but hey, the time in the classroom really can be an awesome experience. 

On top of teaching and staying at school for about 12 hours a day on some days (yeah, there are no seven or eight hour days at an international school), I have had the chance to go into Bangkok a few times, run almost five times a week, and even sleep some.  

Well, I never sleep enough. 

There have also been a ton of lightning storms and it seems like the monsoon season might be starting or picking up.  Not quite sure yet, but there is plenty of water to go around.  More on that later.

Here are some of the highlights of the last few weeks.  Hopefully I can skim over everything and not put too many people to sleep.

Quick side note - I saw a student taking a selfie with a chocolate bar on her head... I asked why, and she said it was a gift and she was sending the picture as some form of acknowledgment.  While this still makes almost no sense to me, I decided to copy the pose and had her take the photo of me.  Here I am in a chocolate bar selfie.

Sometimes you just have to go with it.  

One thing that I have found out is that no one of any nationality likes quizzes, and everyone loves to draw funny pictures of teachers giving out quizzes.  These kids are hilarious with their artwork and they have an amazing sense of humor and the ability to really draw some amazingly passive aggressive comics.  I love it!

I am guessing that this is what I sound like.  Apparently I am something out of a peanuts cartoon "wah wah wah wah..."

This next one is just awesome because it shows me ruining hopes and dreams.  That is how we teachers nourish ourselves... by destroying hopes and dreams...

This is me murdering someone with a slope equation.  Yes, awesome, I know...

Apparently I am quite handsome... I am guessing this was for bonus points in an effort to try and get me to be in a happier mood when grading the tests.  It probably worked...

Now, the school has a TON of rain over the last few days.  Where we had a nice field that was surrounded by a concrete walkway, is now lovingly referred to as "the pool" by most of us.  The kids and I have decided that we need to start a rowing team, or start stocking "the pool" with fish so that we can fish from it.  Ill just have to see if the administration is ok with that.  Hopefully we can do a fishing derby and perhaps a BBQ from it.  Ill keep you all updated.  

The water was a bit lower today, and the weather was a more of a light rain and less a downpour, but yeah, that grass is soaked.  Sure makes for some beautiful shots though with the lighting and reflections.

At least none of the monitor lizards have taken up residence in the grassy pool area... yet...

The lightning storms at night have been pretty impressive.  I tried to capture one with a bit of time-lapse photography, with little success.  

The food at the school is amazing.  Period.  There are about ten different vendors, each with their own flair and specialty.  

Here is a salmon plate for about $3.  Yes, that is the most expensive thing that I have found at the cafeteria.  I usually get the $1 meals, but sometimes I go crazy and spend about $2.  Just have to live a little I guess...

I have also had many questions about the awesome apartment cat, who we have lovingly named Bill Adama.  He is doing fine, here he is curled up on the front porch of the apartment, waiting the morning lovin' that he gets from everyone who passes by on the way to school and work...

Here he is bitching about something or another when I got home from work.  God only knows what the hell he wants... 

Running around Mahidol College has also been quite the treat.  The area is beautiful beyond compare, and the loop that I run is both flat and quite free of feral dogs.  Both are a major draw to the location.

Lastly, got to adventure into Bangkok a few times with Eddie.  We even managed to pick up a geocache or two along the way, along with wandering around some very beautiful areas.  Thanks to his amazing driving skills and our mutual love of avoiding large groups of people, we are able to get in and out of Bangkok before the gridlock starts.

I hate ducks and geese, and the damn things are in Bangkok as well.  I can never escape them... Damn!

Here is some idea of what the gridlock looks like.  I am so thankful that I have the ability to walk everywhere now.  

Well, that is about it.  Lots of work, and with the weekend ahead, hopefully a few runs and some sleep.  I'll try to post more in the future now that life has calmed down a little, but until then, hope this was enough to keep you all up-to-date on the Thailand Teaching Adventure so far...