The day before was the last day of the term so one of my classes took me out to dinner, which is not unusual. Thais tend to be very generous gift-givers and will often give presents to their teachers on the last day. We went to an outdoor sidewalk-type restaurant that's common here. Because the alcohol ban was already in effect, our Heineken was served in a bucket. We ordered food the typical Thai way—many different dishes for everyone to share. Four of those dishes were innards. I was brave enough to try two but couldn't stomach any more (bad joke).
By the way, one of the reasons I don't update this blog as much as I'd like is the spotty internet service in my apartment. I'm writing now from an internet cafe in the middle of about 30 teens-to-20-somethings—mostly guys—playing computer games. That's huge over here and most of the internet cafes are used for that purpose. Imagine the noise of all those machine guns and whatever else they're playing with, plus the guys yelling in Thai at the computers. It would be more comical if my head weren't pounding!
By the way, teaching “by the way” to beginner English speakers is not that easy.
Bangkok was a sea of yellow Wednesday as everyone donned the color to express their devotion. (Thais have a color for each day of the week, and since the King was born on a Monday—the yellow day—many Thais wear yellow every Monday and on his birthday.) The monarchy no longer holds political power but still plays a huge role in Thai culture. The royal anthem is played before every movie and three times a day on the radio and over loud speakers and everyone stands at attention. The Thai people have so much passion and pride for "my King" as many call him, they sometimes get teary-eyed talking about him. Anyone who has more cynical ideas about the royal family can only express them in hushed tones.
That night, restaurants in my neighborhood turned their TVs to the birthday celebration at the Grand Palace and patrons raised candles and sang songs.
Yellow candles flickered up and down the street.The next night as I was teaching, loud explosions disrupted the school. Students ran out of their classes to follow the sound. Turns out it was a fireworks display and more birthday festivities. Coincidentally, I was teaching "I've never + present perfect" so I got to say "I've never heard fireworks that loud." Then we let out early and saw a really spectacular show!
'Tis the season for Oktoberfest as well. Open-air beer gardens with live music are springing up all over town. The "winter" nights--slightly cool and breezy--are perfect for knocking back pints outside, which is probably why they postpone the celebration for a couple of months. A group of us went to one the other night on top of a building and at eye-level to the sky train.
I think Thais must adopt every holiday they can for an excuse to celebrate and indulge their love of fun. And who can fault them for that? They celebrate three New Years: the one on December 31, Chinese New Year in February, and Thai New Year (Songkran) April 13-15. For their own, the country basically shuts down for a week and people run around the streets drenching each other with water. I've been advised by other ex-pats to get on the first train out of town, but my students love this festival.