Educators aren't typically supposed to pick a favorite student and should be objective and blah blah... but well, I think that's horse shit. I have a favorite color, a favorite food, why can't I have a favorite small Asian child? So I do. His name is Jumong (Jew-mong) and he's the weirdest student other than Brazil who speaks in robot linguistics, incessantly repeating "Cut the Rope" and TeTe who disrobes completely front and center in the classroom before using the toilet. I've tried to communicate that he only need unbutton his shorts, but the little exhibitionist feigns ignorance in favor of displaying his unmentionables to his peers. Anyway, Jumong has a head the size of a cantaloupe on top of which rests a thick helmet of black hair, contrasting uncharacteristically non-Thai milk white skin. I'm certain he's got some Korean orJapanese in him and is surely the prototype for the perfect robot child. And not just because he zombie walks everywhere and spastically moves like a broken transformer action figure and I like teaching him novelty dance moves to watch him jerk about like a beached sea lion with Parkinson's. In my eyes, Jumong can do no wrong and although I try to keep my love for him subtle, the other students must wonder why Jumong's homework comes in the form of "Hug for teacher Arex!" From the laugher that sputters from his stomach and out of his mouth sounding like a squirrel caught in the spokes of a bicycle tire to his child's excuse for a monobrow and the way he swallows each word before he speaks it making him sound like a talking Big Gulp, Jumong lights up my days with his lantern of lunacy and I've hinted to his mother that I'd gladly take him should she relocate to Antarctica or undergo a lobotomy.
EveryWednesday is scout day. Students from all schools dress in their gender respective scout attire: khaki colored shorts and shirts with burnt orange shoes, brown socks, a blue bandana, a ranger hat for the boys and a blue skirt and top and nurse's bonnet for the girls. The scout activities commence promptly at 3pm and I'm still not 100% sure as to their function. Sometimes a pregnant lady wearing a matching scoutmasters uniform beats a gong while boys march and flamboyant teacher Bandit practices his karaoke poses. Other times they camp inside classrooms in the school on weekends and make food on grills. (Serious survival tactics being executed) Other days teams of prepubescents fly head first into inanimate objects during blindfolded piggy pack races, boys battle eachother with wooden poles Jedi style, while a group of younger boys sit silently in rows holding up the "Scout's Honor" hand gesture for twenty straight minutes while two female teachers trade gossip and curry recipes.
3. Som Tam
Known to we Farang as "papaya salad," Som Tam is one of Thailand's signature dishes. Usually a burly woman or poorly disguised Ladyboy deposits the ingredients into a mortar and beats it to submission like a baby seal. Shaved green papaya, lime, 2-3 chilis, palm sugar, garlic, fish sauce, tamarind paste, tiny dried shrimps and peanuts are all smashed together until they form a delicious salad spicy enough to sprout chest hair on an infant. I first made the mistake of ordering mine "Thai Style" and was more than a little terrified when a woman deposited what appeared to be claws into my salad. Did that broad just throw a tarantula into my lunch? Well, not quite. But she did throw in some dried crab claws that add an extra fish aftertaste (not my favorite thing in the world.) Thankfully, Som Tam and I have moved beyond that treacherously scarring incident and our relationship has blossomed. Even if one of us leaves the other with heartburn, sweat stains and scorched lips. I can't do much about my addiction at this point. The hotter the better. And it literally takes my tongue swelling and physically not being able to deposit the rest of my meal into my mouth before I'll give up. Eating Som Tam is more like a marathon than a casual dinner and nobody likes a wuss.
4. Kai Dow
I was reluctant to immediately delve into another one of my Thai food addictions as not to appear overanxious about my next meal, but let's be honest, that's all I'm thinking about at 6pm. Kai Dow is basically a fried egg except for a special difference: you can slap it literally on top of ANYTHING and make your meal instantaneously better. Kai Dow Dat has become a common saying between our friends as we accept that eggs are no longer pigeonholed into the breakfast category. Pad Thai? Kai Dow it. Fried Rice? Kai Dow dat. Som Tam? Well, you get the picture. Two months from now when I walk into a Taco Bell and order a Quesadilla, bean burrito and Nachos and ask the cashier to toss a fried egg onto each item for the unarguable price of 30 cents and they look at me like I just asked them to prepare my meal using only their big toe and a spoon, I may just tear up a bit.
5. My Motorbike
The first time I braved the morning commute to work I probably shaved 5 years off of my lifespan from the stress alone. Other motorbikes propelling around at unnecessary velocities, massive trucks weaving in and out of poorly drawn yellow lines, bus drivers holding up lines of traffic to pick their wedgies and endless pot holes filled with gravel. I quickly realized I was in the largest, most important game of Frogger in my life and I can't afford to make one wrong hop. The mindset on the roads here is that the other person always sees you and will yield to your demand. I wonder how people in America will respond to me flicking my wrist to the left indicating that as we speak I intend to cross all four lanes unencumbered. Coupled with the trepidation noted above, the roads of Thailand are littered with WTF situations, people and objects. A family of 6 glide through the lanes like a well practiced bobsled team while a truck full of pineapples plows into a billboard advertising fish flavored Pop-tarts. A van with a the words PEE WATER written in bold and decoratively adhered to the back of this man's windshield races another car with the Che Guevarra's face artistically splayed across the bumper. Not only am I fighting for my life, but I'm greeted with a billion things I'd like to snap photos of for concrete evidence when my future psychiatrist wonders why I associate raw meat with wind. Well, Doc, on my morning commute I'd occasionally witness slabs of hanging meat dancing in the breeze from their respective hooks while their merchant hastily makes his way to the market where he'll peddle the debris-covered animal flesh to my fried chicken lady.