Sunday, August 30, 2009

Bangkok Nostalgia

(The view from the food court at the Emporium Department Store in Bangkok)

Being half Thai you'd think I got the opportunity to get a satisfyingly good grasp of this part of my roots, despite being born and raised in Norway - considering that my mother relentlessly tried to teach me Thai and gave me an insight in Thai culture, also taking me and my sister several times to visit our grandfather ("Dtaa", in Thai) and other relatives still left in her home town, Hua Hin.

(A lot of monekys at the "Chopstick-mountain" in Hua Hin)

It's almost sad how this former small fishing village has turned into this massive touristy place, with Seven Eleven shops and internet caf├ęs popping up everywhere, and even having Scandinavian restaurants selling Norwegian newspapers.

When I was a child, Dtaa's very modest and typical Thai style house (which I like to refer to as "the shack") still found itself located in a remote area. Now it's sourrounded by massive multiple story houses, populated by farangs (westerners). Before you had to travel into the town center to go to the market early in the morning, now shopping malls and Starbucks are paving their way.

The picture above shows one of the many "play areas" Dtaa had around the house. He was always busy, doing something. On the picture you can see a few (four..) of his dogs and his "comfy" sitting bench to the right (it's good for your back!). There were always a lot of animals being taken care of; turtles, cats, dogs, several big ponds of fish around the house. I remember him having seven cats at one time, and he would even take the colour he used to dye his hair jet black to create a unibrow on one of his small dogs. Weird sense of humor, that ol' fella.

I've taken several pictures I would've loved to show you guys, but unfortunately they all suffered a tragic hard-drive death a couple of years ago. Needless to say I now am the owner of two external hard drives, in addition to my macbook.

(Tryin' to learn the alphabet upside down there, son?)

Midway through high school I decided that I needed to spend time in Thailand, to get a better grasp of my roots and learn the language better. You can say I got to do some soul searching too.

I started taking more shifts at work, saving money, until I had saved up enough to be able to survive a full year in Bangkok on my own two feet.

I had an amazing year, being all alone in the crazy big city of Bangkok. Sure I made friends, but I never really met anyone in a similar life situation. There were mostly Japanese people in their late twenties at my school, already married and looking for work in Thailand, so for an 18-year-old it wasn't always easy to find someone like-minded to confide in. But this was just yet an other challenge.

I learned a lot, not only how to read and write Thai, but of course about life, myself and how incredible fortunate I am to be born in Norway - being able to go to school, having an extra job, providing for myself and being independent.

I think a lot of this we tend to take for granted, living in the western world, not realising (or wanting to realise) that our reality isn't neccesarily the reality of those out there, in the world.

We should at least be grateful and take the possible eye-widening opportunities we get, such as getting an education, travel and contribute to the society.

Bangkok is truly the city of my heart.

- Kine

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Let's get the show on the road!

Yay, visa! Too bad I'm only staying for 5 months - I've got visa for 15.. I'm leaving on Thuesday 8th of September and will be travelling alone. It'll be interesting to see if people from Josai university actually come to pick me up. They haven't exactly been going out of their way in order to confirm this. Oh, well. Worst case scenario I'll have to get there by myself. I can handle anything, especially considering that I possess impeccable language skills (*What time is it? - Are you Japanese? - I heard Morita can't make it to work today because of a cold*).

Oh, yah. I'll knock their socks (..sandals?) off.

Natto, here I come! I'm always eager to try new and exciting (read: intimidating) things - and I have a feeling Japan will have a lot to offer. Natto is one of the things I've decided that I have to try, altough I must admit it doesn't sound very appetizing.

Natto is fermented soy beans. The beans are boiled, wrapped in straw and left to ferment for several days. They have vitamins, fiber and protein and thus are a good source of nutrition.

Natto dates back at least 1000 years and eventually became a favorite of people living in Edo, the capital city of Japan at that time.

People sold natto basically door-to-door. Some people added it to miso, others added minced onions and soy sauce and then poured the entire sum over some hot rice. It's cheap and has a rather strong odor.

Natto is sometimes used as a breakfast food, mixed with beaten raw egg and soy sauce, then poured over steaming hot rice. Natto is definitely not a favorite of non-Japanese, though, and even many Japanese do not care for it.

Yum, slimey!

Rest assured, I will be documenting everything of interest along the way to share with you guys - though it might get ugly.

- Kine

Monday, August 24, 2009

Back to school - ain't no one too cool here

After letting my brain wither (and die) for two months I finally dragged my ass to the study hall for some much needed review. All day I've been semi-hyperventilating (imaginatively, of course, I'm still at the study hall), trying to remind myself that Rome wasn't built in a day.

But I'm not building Rome, I'm trying to learn Japanese, damn it.

I'll be going to Japan in a couple of weeks to do this one-semester stint at Josai International University in Chiba, and at the very least I should be remembering all of the grammar, vocabulary and Chinese characters we learned at the university last year, when I get there. Especially since all of the Japanese I know is only what we've learned at school, not getting anything for "free" considering I neither watch anime, listen to Japanese music nor download Japanese soap operas. Unlike all of the other Japan geeks in my class, bastards (Jah, I'm bitter due to my own, so far, lacking interest).

You, like so many others, probably want to ask me why in the world I'm studying Japanese. And I've asked myself that question several times - mostly because you nag. I should have been studying something useful, like economics. Something that at least would make the old neighbours still left in my small home town, not even knowing where Japan is, nod approvingly.

The truth is, it would have made me depressed. I like learning languages, I like Asia and Japanese people seem.. nice. That's my story, and I am sticking to it. Sure I've been pulling my hair several times, asking myself if it's the self inflicted pain I enjoy, or what, and now I've pretty much come to terms with the fact that that must be it.

But I actually like studying Japanese, and I'm doing fairly well. Hopefully I'm in it for the long haul too, 'cause the God I don't believe in only knows the road ahead is awfully long.

(Some of the 317 Chinese characters I technically should know ..baha!)

At least it's actually easy to have a nice hand writing, when writing Japanese. I remember after a year of studying Thai in Bangkok, my hand writing still looked like it belonged to a first grader. Yet it's a small consolation when three different written languages is used in a glorious mixture and I'm supposed to know 1,945 Chinese characters in a couple of years time.. Great.

Anyway, I just have to pick up my student visa at the embassy this week, and I'm ready to get the show on the road!

- Kine

Thursday, August 20, 2009

My momma

Hey, guys!

In the spirit of the Thai Mother's day, I'd like ya'll to meet my momma. She's from Hua Hin, in Thailand, but spent many years studying and working in Bangkok before she went to Norway as a 29-year-old.

I cant 't imagine how difficult it must have been, leaving Thailand and the busy life in Bangkok, coming to this God forsaken country..

.. raising these couple of crazy kids all by herself..

... and taking care of this grumpy ol' cat.

She sure has sacrificed a lot for us.

She still gets surprised whenever people speaks to her in English when she's in Thailand, assuming she's not Thai. Jugding by this picture, who can blame them. She looks like a tourist in her own country.

She's been living in Norway for more than 21 years now, learned the language and even studied some more at a university here. She is working together with Norwegians and being a true resource to the community.

But I assure you, she still is Thai.

.. And still loves the king.

She taught me to take care of my little sister..

And to love my family..

She has taken us travelling everywhere..

.. and she even taught us Thai!

Can you believe I came out of her?

My mom never chooses the easiest path. She is a fighter and an inspiration, and I am proud to be her daughter.

Happy Mother's day, momma!