This ad makes me chuckle every time I pass it in the skytrain station. Quite a few adults here are embracing the metal-mouth trend, and neon-colored track seems to be most popular. Having straight teeth is considered hi-so (high society), a phrase that's thrown around a lot here. And being more Western is to be more hi-so. Other items seen on the street right now: t-shirts with English words (and some rather obscene, which is a humorous contrast to sweet, smiling faces—but surely they translated with their digital Thai-English dictionaries, another hot item); Playboy bunnies (while some may be aware of this cheery pink bunny's background, others just simply find it cute); Harrods of London bags used as handbags (I suppose to make the carrier appear as if she just returned from a shopping spree at the upscale department store; you can't turn five degrees at Siam station without spotting one).

Speaking of trends, I'm guiltily aware that updates to this blog have been less frequent. Things have been pretty hectic, what with trying to maintain a social life and teach summer school classes in addition to regular night classes. The latter is exhausting, but the good news: more money in the bank for the two-week break that starts April 5. I've also had an interesting private gig as of late. I've been training a Brazilian model to speak with an American accent in her first movie, Streetfighter, which is being filmed here in Bangkok. In addition to teacher, they also have me down as possible stand-in for Kristin Kreuk, who's playing Chun-Li. Not as glamorous as it may sound, stand-ins just, well, stand there as the crew adjusts lighting, etc. so the real actor can take a break. I think there's a slim chance that will work out because they need someone for the entire filming and I'm only available during the two-week break. But hey, if it does, it could be a neat experience. The accent work in itself has been fascinating and the setting amusing. She shares an apartment with eight other models, male and female, and they come and go between casting calls in body-baring outfits. My student is incredibly sweet and giddy over the movie. It's fun to hear her reenact script readings with the magnificent Michael Clarke Duncan, by whom she has the "honor of being slapped."

One more thing before I head off to work. Several emails I've sent recently never made it to their destination—probably the long flight from Thailand. And I think some emails from Thailand end up in the junk folder. I've also missed some incoming emails because gmail never alerted me to a new message in the conversation stack. So if you send me an email and get no reply, please don't think me rude. Chances are one of our poor correspondences got lost along the way.


Katoey caberet

As tends to be the case anywhere you live, you don't see the major tourist attractions until visitors come to town. With the rush of finding an apartment and starting a job, I slipped right into life in Bangkok with no time to play tourist. Since then, I've seen a lot of the city's hidden gems, but only a few of its "biggies". Last week, though, friends of my aunt Debbie rolled through town on a Thailand/Cambodia tour and took me to a show that's uniquely and fabulously Bangkok. The famous Calypso Cabaret stages the creme de la creme of Bangkok's ladyboys, or katoeys. As the gender-bending performers pay tribute to Carmen Miranda and Josephine Baker and put their own twist on Chicago's "All That Jazz" and Thai classical dance (just to name a few), showgoers jiggle with laughter and marvel at the transformation, squinting for signs of manhood.

Barbara and Sandy with whom I believe is Eartha Kitt:

Katoeys are a much larger part of Thai culture than cabaret shows, though. Sometimes referred to as the third sex, they're very visible here, and most Thais don't give a second thought to the often exaggerated female form (lots of makeup, sexy clothes, ultra feminine gestures and walk) passing by, or serving som tom at a sidewalk stand, or returning change at the 7-11. For the most part, they're very embraced, admired for their looks, and even believed by some to bring their families good luck. Life for ladyboys can be rough, though. They tend to travel in packs and can be vicious and moody. A former student of mine was absent for a while and then came back with bloody eyes. A group of fellow ladyboys had attacked her and thrown paint in her face. The other classmates presumed that they were jealous of her looks.

I usually have a katoey or two in my classes each term, a welcome sight on the first day because they're usually among the best speakers in the class and forthcoming with answers (probably from so much interaction with farang). Some of the more subtle beauties are so pretty and feminine, the only way I know they're male is the class roster which lists them as a Mr. (Even if katoeys go for the final snip, they legally remain males). After hormone replacement, plastic surgery and other procedures, some can be quite convincing, much to the chagrin of Western men in romantic pursuit. There are countless stories of farang who flirted all night with a presumed female and wound up with a surprise ending.


Barbara and Sandy, thanks so much for a delightful evening of entertainment, sushi and conversation. It was great seeing you and I can't wait to hear about the rest of your trip!