Thursday, September 30, 2004

Full Moon

We were out last night and found there to be a huge flood about 1 kilometer from were we live. This was interesting because it hadn’t rained, or at least that we noticed. But there it was unmistakably, a pool of water that stretched on as far as the traffic, flooding the entire gas station and shops along the road. Not just a puddle, I’m talking 1-2 feet deep water. People walking through it and water up to their knees; we could hear the water at our feet underneath the car!

The next day this mysterious, non-rain water was explained. It was a full moon…high tide. Because Bangkok is about 1 foot above sea level, when the water is at high tide, the river rises and the drains back up. Something that seemed so bizarre was explained. It’s not even all that strange here I suppose as it happens once a month.

It’s great to experience something so…well unexpected…that’s the best word I can think of right now

Wednesday, September 29, 2004

old paper

Here's something that i dug up from a paper i had written after coming back from egypt.

One of the first few weekends I was there a new friend Max called me up and asked, “are you busy this weekend? Ok, meet me at the bus station in the morning and bring a sleeping bag.” And this was the beginning of my first adventure, and it truly was just that. In the morning I found myself at the bus station, in reality it was just a huge lot with ten different bus companies scattered around and filled with people who only speak Arabic. After much searching I found Max, and we were off to, to, to….well to be honest we weren’t sure. Armed with bread, some jelly, sleeping bags, and our handy Fodor’s Egypt guide, we took off!
Some four hours into the bus ride the bus driver let us off, strangely enough it was just the two of us who got off. It was a fork in the road, on one side was the red sea, the other desert and not a town for 3 miles in any direction! After some lunch and deliberation, we hitchhiked (not highly recommended) on an unusual overcrowded bus full of Coptic Christians; a large Egyptian man who closely resembled Santa Claus invited us on.
From there it was on to St. Paul’s Monastery, the first in the monastic tradition. Some monks gave us food and a room. Thus far everything just seemed to be happening for us, it was amazing and completely spontaneous. We stayed for a few days and hiked, just trying in vain to capture and take in all the serenity that was around us in the middle of the desert. Hiking was one of the activities of choice, and no words can describe the immense fullness of what we saw. Imagine climbing a mountain, when you reach the top you can see miles in any direction and still see no sign of life-a road, a tree, a house-nothing! Imagine climbing to a place where the wind gusts so that you can hardly stand to see the canyon that the wind has eroded away, just years of wind!
Traveling is an excellent way to meet people. We played soccer with some of the other people visiting, and it was a bonding experience despite the language and cultural gaps we connected, beyond words. At this point everything good just seemed to happen, so convenient, and when we thought about how we were going to get back to Cairo, some of our new friends offered us a ride to Cairo, a 4-hour ride! When we arrived back and tried to explain the details of our trip, the response was pure jealousy. It excites me to see a person totally enthralled by a story of something I did. OH and by the way, this 3-day excursion ended up costing around $6.

Friday, September 17, 2004

Sounds of Bangkok

Sounds of Sam Rhong actually, a suburbish place just outside Bangkok. We live on the sixth floor and have three balconies through which the surrounding sounds fill our apartment and have become welcomed sounds of home.

I say suburbish, because it’s not a city, but sounds like a city…maybe not even a city. Let me explain. Every night is like a concert of various sounds…many of which we can’t exactly explain.

First there is this xylophone (I never thought I would write that word:) music that we hear every night. A solo xylophonist practicising? Hmm…Some nights there’s karaoke, very catchy different music butchered by some wanna be singer(s). These music sounds are constantly interrupted by unitelligable yelling in thai. Domestic problems? Very excited people?

Animals. Roosters, they roost at sunrise right? WRONG, all day and all night. Dogs, they go crazy every night, like a pack of werewolves in a full moon…waking us in the night, they sound like they’re killing each other or some other very loud animal…we think to ourselves, ‘at least they won’t be making noise tommorow’, wrong again!

The strange/cool part is we’ve become accustomed to these sounds, a unique mix probably only ever to be associated with apartment 601.

Wednesday, September 15, 2004

Tough Job

I have a class of fifth grade boys, they practically ruin my afternoon when I step in that classroom, a group of about 30 mostly unmotivated, uninterested, and rowdy kids. I have tried everything I can think of to get them interested and to pay attention…and every day I leave their classroom exhausted, drained, and frustrated. Many of them aren’t anywhere near a fifth grade level and a handful do not speak English.

I cannot discipline them; I can barely get them to sit down quietly. Some of the teachers here hit the kids; I can confidently say I will never. I took some extra rowdy students to the mild mannered principle and to my surprise he hit them. Then they behaved…for one day.

I know now, what will happen if I send them to the principal. I have already resolved never to hit, but aren’t I doing just that if I send them again to the principal? Even the threat of the principal will keep them in line for a short period, but that’s still the threat of violence and I don’t like that.

Easy answer is not to do that….but I’m still stuck with a group of kids and without the one tool, hopefully not the only, of discipline they respond to. Help.

Sunday, September 12, 2004

Me Nam Chao Praya

That’s the name of this river that runs through Bangkok, south and on to the gulf of Thailand. Also, we’re fortunate enough to live near the river.

It feels like the moon, it follows you wherever you go. Every time we go out, it’s appearing and disappearing on the side of the road…in the city, the riverfront is spectacular, lined with tall buildings and nice hotels, and restaurants….filled with many river taxis and boat traffic, and at night, it’s filled with boats that are lit up taking passengers on cruises. At night you can see large, lit up boats floating down the river from our window.

And the sun sets over the river, as it’s usually to the west. Maybe it’s the pollution, but the sun is red about an hour before the sunset, so there’s a beautiful show of red and purple lights with the river. Just as most Chicagoans share a strong bond with the lake, Me Nam Chao Praya has the same effect on me here.


3$, that’s what I spent on a compass. I think it may be the best 3 bucks I’ve spent in a long time. I’ve been to three different countries with it already and it’s helped me to find Kiblah in so many different situations. I used to feel uncomfortable putting my masela down and doing namaz anywhere when the time comes.

This compass has been liberating, it’s been something physical, tangible that is letting me overcome that feeling of awkwardness. I’m being myself all the time, even in Thailand, in the strangest of places…a zoo, a train station, a temple, a parking lot, a mall….

Friday, September 03, 2004


36 years.

36 years have seen a war in vietnam, korea, two in iraq and so much more.
36 years have seen 4 passport renewals, 36 tax returns, 3 states, and 7 different houses
36 years have seen 3 kids, 3 marriages, and 2 grandkids
36 years have seen 4 parents, 3 sisters, and 3 brothers pass away

i could probably continue down this list for another 36 years

My parents, god bless them, celebrated their 36th anniversary of being married this last week. And it makes me feel in awe of them. I'm just recently married and learning the meaning of the word "giving". For perhaps the first time, us children have finally been able to give back something, albeit nothing in comparison to what each of us has recieved as a result of their 36 years together.

Thank you for giving me a wonderful home to grow up. From the bottom of my heart, I want to wish them not only a happy anniversary, but another happy 36 more years. I love you mom and dad.