Saturday, February 27, 2010

Everyone's gonna want one

Got some stickers, the kind you can put on water bottles, car bumpers, bike helmets, your neighbor's dog. They were printed in Thailand, which makes them even more cool. I'll be putting these in web and etsy and mail orders, and generally giving them away like candy. Want one?

Friday, February 26, 2010

Internal compass

I can't really imagine more of a contrast than where I am right now compared to where I was on Monday. Back home, jetlagged and sick, just shoveled out about 20 inches of snow (with drifts up to my shoulders) and not really sure what day or time it is. My internal compass is all out of line. Definitely not in the tropics anymore, that's for sure.

Was a long trip home. I lost my voice to laryngitis right before leaving. That made me silent when it came to being able to ask questions about which line to be in, but not silent in terms of coughing and sniffling and generally making myself unpopular with my airplane neighbors. Long overnight wait in Bangkok, super long lines, extra security measures (my carry-on was hand searched twice), no time to get snacks because of the long lines, what euphemistically used to be referred to as "female complaints," a ticklish cough, and one last delayed flight at the end. All around a 39 hour transition from one side of the world to the other. Of course, it's downright miraculous to be able to travel that far in such a short time, but still very hard on the body.

The sketchbook class I was going to teach in Philadelphia was postponed due to a pending storm, so I scooted out to Ithaca just before it hit. It's good to be home, but hard to get my mind around the culture and weather change, and I will not be fit company for a few days.

Here's one last photo from Thailand, taken on my last Sunday evening Walking Street adventure. This is Wat Chedi Luang, under the moon, right in the middle of the old city. It was historically the tallest chedi in Thailand before an earthquake (I think) took down the top part.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

In praise of pad see eu

Pad see eu, gai pad king, larb, tom kha gai....

There's is SO MUCH good food in Thailand, as you can imagine, and it is everywhere. Any time of day or night, there are vendors lining the street selling everything from squid-on-a-stick to sticky rice to fresh smoothies to young coconuts. One of the first words I learned here was khanom (kan-OHM), Thai for "snack." I definitely understand khanom culture, since I definitely thrive on frequent snacks, especially when they are savory little treats like this. And especially when most street or small restaurant meals cost about 25 bhat, which is approximately 80 cents. Four of us can order enough amazing food to stuff ourselves silly for under $6. It will be hard to go back to my home country where a good Thai meal costs upwards of $20 for one person.

Also, Thailand is definitely like a little taste of heaven regarding my gluten-free diet, you can imagine how awesome it is for me to be able to eat everything on the menu because 98% of the food here is based on rice.

One of my new favorites is pad see eu, a dish made of wide rice noodles, stir-fried with greens and eggs and (optional) chicken, in a not-very-spicy sauce. I found a noodle stand on the street in the old city, and here is my pad see eu dinner being made:

Are you hungry yet? And here's a story to make my sister laugh (hi Tammy, I know you're reading!). Earlier this week I was eating some tasty leftovers, a spicy green papaya salad, and I chomped right into a very hot green pepper doing a very good green bean mouth hurt for an hour!

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Thinking about markets

It's not every day that you can say this: I was very close to the Burma border yesterday. It was eerie, knowing all the bad news going on over there. I took a field trip with the director of ECHO's Asia office to their field station in Fang. It was a beautiful drive through mountains and the villages were amazing.

Since I am a farmer's market vendor at home, I love going to the markets here. There are stores and small storefronts everywhere, but most people seem to get their food and veggies from either street markets or more established roofed concrete structure markets. (Note to self: need to make a separate entry about the glories of real Thai food.) I particularly like the Sunday evening "Walking Street," where a long street in the center of the old city is blocked off to traffic and people bring their art and crafts to sell...I've been going every week and have felt a certain kinship with the people selling their art, of course. This past weekend was Chinese New Year, so there was extra street market action happening downtown. I continue to gleefully support the local economy.

By the way, to follow up on the monkeys--over-the-back-fence discussion previously entered, I found out that the sounds I've been hearing are actually a bird. Sorry!

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Evening commute

I had one of those moments a few days ago where I suddenly felt very happy, and very comfortable with Thailand. I had left my desk at ISDSI around 4:00 after a full day of drawing, and walked down the Superhighway to the Mae Rim road, turned right and continued walking to one of the markets, dodging around parked motorcycles and snack stands and avoiding traffic (it's a busy road). Stopped into a stationery store for new Micron pens since I am wearing out the ones I brought from home. At the market I bought cashews, peanuts, pumpkin cooked with coconut milk (so good), fresh corn, and underwear. It was now 5:00, and rush hour traffic had hit. I flagged down a yellow bus with the subtle palm-down fluttering Thai bus-stopping gesture I've been working on, which pulled over for me. The bus was completely full of two young orange-robed monks and several women. Monks are not supposed to touch women, so there was a wide space around them. It is also not "reap roi" (proper) for women to just hang on to the platform outside the back of the bus (which is what I REALLY want to do, it looks fun). If there were any non-monk men in the bus, they would have offered me their seat and hung on outside, but as it was there was no room on the benches for me. So everyone smiled and passed a little plastic stool back to me, and I sat in the aisle, looking backwards out the open back of the bus. Right then, I felt great. I had successfully navigated the social implications of this situation, and I felt sudden great love for the scene I was seeing from my perch...all the people and motorcycles and traffic and little street stalls and signs written in a language I couldn't read.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Monkeys or frogs?

For those who might be interested in the potential monkey population of my adventures in Thailand: I realized this weekend that the odd hooting sounds I can hear in the bamboo forest over the back fence at my house here might POSSIBLY be gibbons. They might also be frogs, the jury is out.

On a more urban note, here's a street scene from Chiang Mai, market streets near the Ping River.

My work is picking up, realizing that I have only two more weeks. I spent yesterday afternoon making a Thailand map, which turned out super duper cool (if I do say so myself). I was inspired by the awesome maps that are sprinkled throughout the Robert Jordan books, fine pen and ink work with textures and little images in the corners.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Dust and diesel

"Dust and diesel rise like incense from the road..."

So sang Canadian songwriter Bruce Cockburn, speaking of Nicaragua, but referring to the heady bouquet found along any developing country's roads. I might change it to something a little less romantic, possibly regarding carbon monoxide poisoning and getting really dizzy on a ride down a winding mountain road in a open-backed bus.

"Incense" is a word I will save for the sweet smoke drifting from temples and spirit houses. Walking down the street in Chiang Mai, incense smoke mixes with sweet plumerias, spicy pork satay, passing traffic, open sewers, and strawberries from the market stands.

Climbed up Doi Suthep a few days ago, to visit the huge wat above the city and also the national park at the top. I've never seen so much gold leaf in one place.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

So many little legs

In case you've been wondering what I'm doing in Thailand besides eating and touring sunny beautiful places, here's a scan of some of my field guide illustrations. These are various families of invertebrates, mainly the larval phase. Always wanted to know the difference between dragonflies and damselflies, haven't you? The adult and larvae of each are over on the right.