Learning Thai

Pom rian passat Thai.

 I am learning the Thai language.  I have completed exactly six days of classes at the Union Language School and already I am able to do amazing things, which I will write about in a moment.

One of my reasons for choosing Union Language School was that its curricula was developed by Donald Larsen, a noted linguist.  My experience learning French from a speaker who was trained in linguistics was very positive and it seemed that linguistics provided a good framework around which to organize the learning.

The first school I had tried (studying briefly during previous visits) was the structure-less American University Alumni Association.  The focus there is on learning by absorption.   Sit here and listen to two instructors carry on a dialog in Thai and in a few years you will have learned it just the way a child does.  AUA graduates are acknowledged to ultimately speak Thai with near-flawless accents.  Locals regularly mistake one Japanese friend (Mitsu, shown below) who completed three years at AUA for Thai.  Albeit, usually not a Thai “from around here.”

That said, I have found the complete lack of structure a bit frustrating.  At AUA they discourage students from even attempting to speak Thai until you reach the third level of studies.  Feeling the need to get up to speed a bit more quickly, even if I require more work on the back end of things to get rid of my accent, I went knocking on the ULS door.

From the very first day, I have enjoyed the experience at ULS.  For starters, the teacher, Khru Lakhana, is incredibly enthusiastic.  She must have a dozen cups of coffee first thing in the morning.  The class is composed of thirteen students: 5 from the US, 2 from Japan, 2 from Spain, 1 Russian, 1 Israeli, 1 Brit, and 1 Bolivian.

We spent the first three and a half days learning the basic phonetic albhabet – a standardized set of letters and symbols that each have a discreet sound.  For example, in the English language, the “ou” sound in “cough”, “tough”, “though”, and “through” are different.  In order to learn a language properly, we need a standard vocabulary to use and the phonetic alphabet provides that.

An example of how the nine pure vowels (as opposed to the compound vowels like “ia”, “ua”, etc.) in Thai, each in a long and short sound.  The phonetic symbols for the nine long vowels are:

  • ii = “ee” as in “see
  • ee = “a” as in “pale”
  • oo = “o” as in “go
  • aa = “a” as in “father”
  • uu = “u” as in “ruler”
  • ¥å¥å = “a” as in “sad”
  • әә = “e” as in “teacher”
  • ɔɔ
  • = “a” as in “Tawn”
  • ʉʉ
  • = “u” at in “ruler” but with a wide smile on your face as you say it

We also spent those first three-plus days practicing the five tones in the Thai language.  Think of tones like holding a note while singing.  The vowel sound in a syllable will rise, fall, hold steady, etc. based on the particular tone.  The five tones applied to the word “mai” are as follows:

  • māi = mid tone, hold stead at a middle pitch
  • mài = low tone, start at middle pitch and drop to low pitch
  • mâi = falling tone, starting at middle pitch, rising a bit, and then dropping sharply
  • mái = high tone, starting at a mid-high pitch and rising sharply
  • măi = rising tone, starting at mid pitch, dropping a bit, and then rising sharply

These are much fewer than some languages have.  I have been told that some dialects of Chinese have up to eight or nine different tones.  The different between tones is critical because the change of a tone also changes the meaning.  The above five words mean, in order, “mile”, “new”, “no” or “not”, “right?” and “silk”.  The challenge to learners who come from a native language that does not employ tones is that we’re not used to even hearing the differences.  And believe me when I tell you that the distinctions, especially when someone is speaking at a conversational pace, are subtle.

One the tail end of the fourth day we began to practice actual words and conversations.  We learned simple things first, like how to refer to yourself, another person, and a third person in singular form.  Then we learned to identify ourselves and ask others their names.  Then we learned to ask what something is, what color it is, and how many of them there are.

What I am finding is that the structure of the material is quite brilliant because each new bit of knowledge does not just add another building block – it adds a multiplier or an exponential factor to our existing knowledge.

For example, once I learned how to ask colors in addition to asking names of items and quantities, my Thai universe expanded in size by a factor of three.  I can now ask how many items of a particular type that that other person is holding, are a particular color.  Very useful stuff.

Here is an example of a conversation I can now carry on with a native Thai speaker, assuming he has infinite patience as I mispronounce every word and tone, and also assuming he follows my practiced script to the letter.  The conversation is in English for your ease of reading.

  • Chris: Hello there.
  • Thai person: Hello there.
  • Chris: My name is Chris. Excuse me, what is your name?
  • Thai person: My name is Chai.
  • Chris: I am sorry, what is your name again?
  • Thai person: My name is Chai.
  • Chris: Your name is Eric?
  • Thai person: No. My name is Chai.
  • Chris: Your name is Chai?
  • Thai person: Correct. My name is Chai.
  • Chris: Chai, what is this called?
  • Chai: That is a pencil.
  • Chris: Chai, what is that called?
  • Chai: That is a ruler.
  • Chris: Chai, that ruler is orange.
  • Chai: No, that ruler is not orange.
  • Chris: Chai, that ruler is not orange. That ruler is clear.
  • Chai: Yes, that ruler is clear.
  • Chris: (picking up a bunch of colored pencils) Chai, how many of these pencils are green?
  • Chai: What the heck are you asking me for!?

Of course, this is not based on a real conversation, but only on the types of conversations I have with my teacher and fellow students in class.  I have attempted to engage Tawn in these conversations, and while he is very supportive of my studying Thai, I think he finds the conversations with his three year old second cousin Mark to be significantly more mentally engaging.

But this is just day six.  We have a test next Wednesday and I am sure by then I will be having some truly amazing conversations!

Washing Machine Installation is Complete

With amazement, I am pleased to announce that the washing machine installation project has reached completion more than seven weeks after we leased our apartment.  The handyman, whose picture is listed in the dictionary next to the entry for “flake”, was supposed to show up today to finish the project.  Instead, he showed up unexpectedly on Thursday afternoon.

He and two assistants toiled away in our bathroom for about five hours.  The water was turned off and the bathroom was a mess of fumes, PVC pipe dust, concrete powder, etc.  Finally the washer was hooked up, Tawn started running a load, and we discovered that not only does the water back up on the balcony a bit – there’s also a leak in the ceiling space where the water line runs. 

  

Picture 1: Bedroom balcony with a water line and no power.  The washer is on the living room balcony on the other side of the wall. 

Picture 2: Construction taking place in our bathroom.  Opening in the ceiling exposes the brick and mortar that is used to seal the crawl space. 

Picture 3: Washer is installed and the first full load is drying (or not) in the rainy afternoon air.

So the handyman came back an hour later to check if the area was dry enough to make additional repairs.  And it wasn’t so he said he’d be back in another hour.  About two hours later, at 9:15 pm, he returned as Tawn and I were cleaning up and getting ready for bed. 

So his two assistants returned this afternoon about 1:30 to get the job finished.  They were much neater than the handyman and actually wrapped the project up in about 45 minutes.

So now our bedroom balcony has a washing machine that is hooked to power and water.  A second pipe runs across the edge of the balcony to the drain beneath the air conditioning compressor.  Since the water flows out of the pipe and not directly into the drain, we get a bit of a shallow lake on part of the balcony.  But it dries quickly in the warm air and, frankly, I’m just glad that we can wash clothes now instead of paying rates higher than the US to have our clothes laundered!

My 35th Birthday

The morning of my 35th birthday got off to an early start as my parents called to wake me up at 6:30 and wish me a happy birthday.  It was nice to hear from them.  I think my father was a bit impressed that he had successfully dialed international long distance (“so many numbers!”) and we had a nice conversation.

We had originally planned to get up a bit earlier and after the phone call we rose, got cleaned up, and headed to a local wat or temple.  Actually, it wasn’t all that local.  We took the Skytrain to the other side of town, to a wat located behind the Century Park Hotel (Paul will remember this hotel). 

Part of Thai Buddhist tradition is the concept of “making merit“.  This can be done anytime, but it is customary to do it on your birthday and on other significant occassions.  

So we went to the wat and I donated a bucket full of possessions that the monks can use such as toothpaste, soap, rice, water, etc.  Then I receive a lengthy blessing (in Pali, the Sanskrit-derived language used by monks for religious ceremonies, complete with a spashing with holy water.

This particular wat is located in the midst of a community market and, despite being located almost smack-dab beneath an expressway, is still an example of the central role the temple plays in the community’s life.  In another hall at the temple, preparations were being made for a funeral.  Another area holds a school.  And another is where young men prepare to enter the monkhood as novices, for a day, several weeks, months, or even a lifetime – as all Thai Buddhist men are expected to do at some point.

My 35th birthday falls at an especially auspicioius time: last night was the full moon and today is the final day of the Loy Krathong festival.  Quoting from the Tourism Authority website:

“Loi Krathong” is traditionally performed on the full moon night of the twelfth lunar month, which usually falls on some day in November. The floating of a ‘Krathong’ – a banana–leaf cup – is intended to float away ill fortune as well as to express apologies to Khongkha or Ganga, the River Goddess. Some believe that the ritual is meant to worship the Buddha’s footprint on the bank of the Narmada River, while others say that it is to pay respect to Phra Uppakhut, one of the Lord Buddha’s great disciples.

We’ll go down to Chulalangkorn University (Tawn’s alma matta) this evening, where there is a large lake on the campus, to place our own krathong in the water and cleanse ourselves of any ill fortune.  This is as big a celebration as New Year’s Eve is in the States, so I’ll try to get some pictures of it.

 

Life in Bangkok Gets Busy

Life in Bangkok gets busy very quickly.  The handyman actually showed up on Sunday and spent several hours installing pipe through the empty space above our ceiling, connecting the bathroom water supply with the balcony outside our bedroom.  He’s to return this morning and finish the job so (and I think I’ve written this before) with any luck we’ll have the ability to wash our own clothes by dinnertime.

Tawn left yesterday afternoon for an overnight business trip to Singapore.  One of his clients, HP, is holding a press conference announcing some new development in the world of technology, and he is chaperoning some Thai and Malaysian journalists to the event.  He asked if I wanted to go along, but it was such a short trip with no down time for him, so there wasn’t much of a point. 

 

Fortunately, I did have an opportunity to have dinner with Masakazu and his partner, Mitsu.  Mitsu is now pretty much fluent with Thai, Masa is learning, and I’m still a beginner.  An early beginner, at that!  We had dinner at a really nice Laotian/Issan (Northeast Thai) style reastaurant in the Silom area called Cafe du Laos.

The restaurant is in a lovely colonial-style 2-story house that is surrounded by skyscrapers.  Service was attentive and the food was really nice.  We had a version of somtum (green papaya salad) made with pomelo, a grapefruit-like fruit.  Mmm… tasty.  Also a beer-marirnated pork with spicy chili sauce.

Speaking of skyscrapers, there are many condominium developments occurring here in the City of Angels.  In the debate of whether or not to purchase a condo in the near future, I’m inclined to wait a bit because I see a lot more housing stock coming on the market in the next 2-3 years, which I would imagine should either drive down prices or at least hold them steady.  The above picture is for a development that is just two blocks down the street from us called Millennium Sukhumvit.  It will be about 500 feet from the Metro station, so the location is spectacular.

There’s another development happening adjacent to our building, but to the north.  The land has been graded and there are occasional bouts of activity, but true construction has yet to begin.  Maybe they’re waiting for more phone lines to be installed!

Well, only two days to go before Thai language classes start at Union Language School.  Mitsu tells me that he has friends who have gone there and that it is quite reputable, but they actually assign homework and give exams, unlike American University Alumni Association, which he attended and Masa currently attends. 

Productive Days in Bangkok

Second entry for the day.  Man, am I productive!  Must be that telecommuting thing.

So it was a beautiful sunrise this morning in Khrungthep.  The picture on the left captures it quite nicely.  I find that I’m waking up without the aid of an alarm by about 6:00, which lets me get an early start on the day.

I can shower, shave, get dressed, and prepare coffee and breakfast before Tawn wakes up.  Then, while he gets ready for work I can start working on the computer, take pictures of the sunrise, etc.

So it was a very productive morning, but since I don’t have DSL yet (and it may still be a long while before it happens – would you believe that they’ve run out of numbers in our area?) I had to go down to the local True Internet coffee shop, conveniently located in the “Metro Mall” – a small stretch of the Metro station that includes four places to get coffee, five snack places including a Dairy Queen (like I never left the Midwest) and a place to get your hair cut in 10 minutes for 100 baht.

Once again I made the mistake of leaving home without an umbrella.  After leaving Tawn at his office after lunch it was starting to rain.  So I went to Central Chit Lom department store to shop for some kitchen cabinet shelves.  They didn’t have any, so I took the Skytrain to Central Silom.  By the time I arrived, it was absolutely pouring.

The wind was also blowing fiercely so that most of the protected, covered areas of the station were still getting soaked.  As people exited the train, instead of heading for the stairs (which were getting dumped on) they huddled around the poles as this seemed to be the only dry area. 

After shopping at Central Silom, which is thankfully connected by a covered walkway to the Skytrain station, I walked to the Metro station which is connected by another covered walkway.  But it is narrom and doesn’t really provide much protection from the elements.  In fact, there’s one spot where it is running underneath the Skytrain tracks and a downspout dumps the all the rain from the tracks directly on the steps from the walkway to the street below.  Really not a genius engineering design.

The Metro station at Si Lom is about four stops away from my station at Sukhumvit and Asoke (Soi 21).  The straight-line distance is maybe two miles, if that.  When I emerged from the station at Sukhumvit, the ground was bone-dry.  Not a drop.  The clouds overhead didn’t even look that threatening.  So my walk home was dry, not the flooded street that often befalls Asoke when there is heavy rain.

Playing the Handyman

Well, the handyman flaked out yesterday afternoon.  Said that he went to the hardware store and they didn’t have the type of pipe he needed so he had to order it.  And he can be here next Thursday.  Tawn said that wasn’t okay, so the handyman said he could be here on Sunday.  Sounds a little suspicious.  Well, no home-washed clothes tonight.

In an intrepid attempt to be handy myself, I did some hardware installation today.  First up were some nice polished nickel hooks for the back of the bathroom doors.  I discovered that the doors are not as wide as the drill bit I was using to drill a pilot hole.  One of the doors now has both an entry and exit wound.  I’ll have to patch that up – or maybe we can hang a calendar there.  After all, it is the door that faces the kitchen and living area. 

Next up, I installed door stops.  We have several doors that just go slamming into walls or other doors.  Ah – but nobody in Thailand seems to sell those spring-type door stops that attach to the doors themselves.  So I purchased some in the United States and brought them over with me. 

The first one installed very easily.  Feeling quite satisfied with my handyman skills, I continued to what was behind door number two.  I don’t know what type of wood the second door is made of, petrified wood perhaps, but I could only get the pilot hole drilled about 1 cm (1/4 inch) into the door. 

Yes, I know what you’re thinking.  “Better than drilling the hole all the way through the bloody door!”  Yes, yes.  So I decided to start screwing the doorstop into the door.

It grew increasingly difficult and after getting about three-quarters of the screw into the door, the Phillips slot at the top of the screw was beginning to get stripped. 

Then, with one last effort, I tried to turn the screw and the top of it snapped off! 

So I moved on to door number three.  The lower corner of that door was quite solid, too, so I moved a little higher and a little further from the edge.  Finally, I found a softer spot and was able to install the door stop.  A second attempt on the previous door was successful, again because I was willing to think “outside the box” or, more correctly, “away from the edges.”  

Feeling truly like I was channelling Bob Vila, I proceeded to change drill bits.  Tightening the cement bit with the bit key (you may be in understandable awe of the masterful way I casually throw around these technical drilling terms) I decided to tackle the project of hanging a mirror in the entryway.  The entryway is also the kitchen.  And the entire living room. 

One of the interesting things about contemporary Thai construction is the thoroughly consistent use of cement in the walls.  Perhaps because of the humidity or the adobe-like insulating qualities of cement, but cement construction is de rigeur.  It makes the hanging of pictures somewhat challenging. 

Undaunted, I proceeded to drill a hole into the wall with deceptive ease.  It wasn’t until I hit something solid – really solid – that I started to get worried.  I tried several different things until it occurred to me to see whether the plastic sleeve (don’t know the technical term) for the screw would fit.  The hole was not wide enough for the sleeve, so the depth of the hole was not an issue.  Then I tried to put one of the screws in to see whether what I was running into was metallic or just really hard cement. 

Long story short, it took me about five minutes before I realized that, since the hold was deep enough for the entire screw to fit into it, it didn’t really matter whether the obstacle was metal, mineral, animal, imaginary, or anything else.  All I needed to do was widen the hole so the plastic sleeve would fit.  Which I proceeded to do.  There is now a lovely mirror hanging in our entryway, hanging on a very professionally mounted screw securely anchored to the wall by a plastic sleeve which, come to think of it, may be called a “wall anchor.” 

It is probably worth mentioning that in the process of figuring things out, I decided that I should drill a second hole, a little lower and a little to the left of the original one, figuring that I would probably not hit whatever obstacle I encountered in the first hole.  So if you come visit us you can take the mirror off the wall and gaze upon the second, superfluous hole, and comment upon my amazing do-it-myself talents which should probably be allowed to lie dormant.

Did I mention that also on my project list for this weekend is to hang a bamboo shade on the edge of my balcony, above the railing?

Yikes!

Yesterday evening Tawn and I went to the Emporium shopping center (actually, I think it is a department store, not the entire center) to watch Tim Burton’s Corpse Bride at the SFX Cinema.  It was presented on a Christie Digital Projector, which was the first time I had seen a movie on a Christie DP. 

The movie was a lot of fun.  The story line reminded me loosely of the love story from Les Miserables without the revolution or barricades.  The animation was lovely and Danny Elfman’s score was, as always, a perfectly blend of gothic darkness and beauty.

On my way to the theatre at dusk, I snapped a couple of photos of the Skytrain that I think turned out pretty well.  I’ve started carrying my digital camera, a Fujifilm FinePix E510, with my just about everywhere because there are many interesting things to see in this city.  Plus, I was given advice that too much text in a blog doesn’t appeal to the audience.  At least, it doesn’t appeal to the short attention span audience!

Bags Are Packed and I’m Heading to the Airport

While they didn’t contain everything I wanted to bring, my bags were finally packed.  A last load of laundry was in the dryer and I unloaded the dishwasher.  Ken arrived this morning at about 6:25 and started loading the three larger suitcases into his truck as I brushed my teeth, packed the toothpaste in the trolley bag, and did the last thing on my checklist (courtesy of my father): turn the thermostat down to 55 degrees.

Checking in at the airport, I learned that United has instituted a rather reasonable policy: they now charge $25 for bags that are between 50 and 70 pounds.  Over 70 pounds either has to go as freight or has a higher surcharge – I’m not sure which is the case.  All three of my bags were between 54 and 58 pounds, despite my best efforts to mix the dense items like compact discs and coffee with lighter items like clothes and bed sheets.

Thankfully, I get a stop in New York before I depart on Sunday morning.  Many thanks to Holly Stern for letting me stay on her hide-a-bed with her cat.  Her lovely Upper East Side apartment will be packed with my suitcases for two nights.

Here’s a picture of Holly and her adopted-eight-weeks-ago Lab/Hound mix, Ally.

Mental Challenges Before Moving

After three weeks (a bit more, actually) out of the office, I show up at 8:00 am to astounded looks from colleagues.  “Oh, you haven’t left for Thailand?” is the greeting of choice.

It is hard to get a lot of work done as I’m feeling swamped by things to-do.  About 2:00 pm I head home and work from there the rest of the day, finally hitting my productive peak after dinner.  Between jet lag and being preoccupied, I’m losing my mind.

My process for organizing around the house is this: make piles in the lviing room of things that I’d like to move to Bangkok.

Pile 1: Must be moved on this trip

Pile 2: Would be nice to move on this trip but could wait until December

Pile 3: Definitely wait until December

Pile 4: Wait until some unspecified date in the future to move it

I’m sure my parents will be overjoyed when they arrive later in the week to discover piles of things greeting them.  Well, it is a method to the madness.

Panic While Shopping for Furniture

Panic, or maybe just good old-fashioned anxiety, has set in.  At first it was caused by the cost of buying furniture.  Looking at the different furniture we’d like to get in our basically unfurnished apartment, it seems that it could cost between 40,000 and 80,000 Baht (US$1,000 – 2,000).

 

Part of the challenge: most of the faux furniture (laminated particleboard) costs nearly as much as it does if purchased in the United States.  This is possibly because most of it is imported from elsewhere.  For example, a dining room table and four chairs at Index Living Mall (similar to IKEA) is on sale for 9,100 Baht.  It will last a few years as the quality is only so-so.

 

If I go to the furniture district, Bang Po, I can pay about 20,000 Baht for a custom-finished teak hardwood table with hardwood chairs padded in my choice of fabrics.  Twice as expensive but it will literally last a lifetime.

 

Part of the equation is answer the question, “How much do we want to invest in furniture for an apartment we might stay in for just a year or two?”  No sense in making a huge investment in furniture that may not fit in whatever home we eventually end up in.  At the same time, I hate to spend a fair amount for temporary furniture when the “real thing” isn’t that much more expensive.

 

The anxiety is heightened when I start thinking about the costs of flying back to Kansas City for the holidays.  At first, Tawn and I had taken it as gospel that we would go back to KC and make a side trip to San Francisco over Christmas and New Year’s.  There are many, many reasons we should do this.

 

But as we’ve been researching air fares, even for flights that depart on Christmas Day, we’ve been shocked.  To include just a trip to Kansas City may run a minimum of 95,000 Baht and as much as 155,000 Baht (US$ 2800 – 3800) if we include a side trip to San Francisco.  That’s the equivalent of between five and eight months’ rent here in Bangkok.

 

It really puts the furniture issue into perspective, doesn’t it?

 

It is now 5:00 am and I’ve been awake for about two hours.  My stomach is a gnawing pit and I’m sitting in the hotel bathroom writing this journal entry.  Through the vent I can hear music coming from the room of some other sleepless visitor.

 

For the moment, I think consideration of the Kansas City trip needs to be set aside.  I can worry about it in another week or two.  In fact, I can work at more options once I am back in the US.  In the meantime, the focus needs to be on getting the apartment organized and furnished to at least a minimal level.

 

Maybe we can take up a collection for our trip back to KC and SF at Christmas: for $50 a person we’ll come visit you.  If was can get about 60 people to contribute, the trip will be paid for.

 

See what living overseas will do to you?  And I haven’t even moved here yet.

 

 

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

 

In the United States, it has become quite popular to express disdain for the so-called “big box” retailers.  Named for the large concrete shells they occupy in suburban strip malls across the country, Walmart, Target, Bed Bath & Beyond and others are seen as homogenizing the American landscape and undermining independent, family-owned businesses.

 

In fact, I’ve jumped on that bandwagon to some extent, especially in the case of Walmart, a company whose sheer size gives it incredible leverage in determining what products vendors manufacture.  Additionally, their workforce practices are very anti-worker, forcing the larger community to absorb the extra costs of healthcare for their tens of thousands of uninsured employees.

 

Nonetheless, it is the process of setting up a home overseas that cures me of some of that big box phobia.  Trying to answer questions as basic as, “Where do I buy plastic clothes hangars?” leave me wishing that there were a nearby Target to which I could drive.

 

Sure, some of this is just a matter of landscape unfamiliarity.  I’ll learn soon enough just where the Thai populace buys plastic hangars (surely they don’t use wire?) along with towels, clothes racks, futons, and paint brushes.

 

And I’m aware that even Thailand has its share of big box retailers, although they are noticeably European in nature.  So I may be heading to a Carrefour, Big C, or Testco-Lotus sooner rather than later.

 

But in the meantime I’m taking a deep breath and savoring this moment of sublime self-awareness, as I appreciate the contradictions that moving overseas brings to the surface.  Now if only I had some plastic hangars, I could unpack my suitcase.

 

Signing the Lease on the Bangkok Apartment

Bangkok, my new home.  I arrived on Monday evening after a very long 24-hour journey from San Francisco to Los Angeles to Tokyo to Bangkok.  The LAX-NRT leg was not upgraded so I was squeezed into Economy class.  Not so bad as it could have been but I was unable to sleep and arrived in Bangkok very tired.

On Tuesday Tawn and I went to our new apartment to sign the lease and pay the deposit plus the first month’s rent.  The apartment that was decided upon is at Asoke Place tower, about a 5-minute walk north of the Sukhumvit / Soi 21 (aka Asoke) intersection.  At the intersection is both a Skytrain station and an MRTA (Subway) station, so it is quite convenient to everywhere.  Also, traffic is not too bad along Asoke and we’re on the side of the road that heads into the city.

The apartment is quite large (about 700 square feet) and is a 1-bedroom with an additional small storage room.  Tawn was able to choose paint before the handyman repainted, so the walls are a light yellow in the living area and a light khaki in the bedroom.

We spent most of Tuesday shopping for furniture and have so far made absolutely no decisions.  The big question is, how much do we want to spend?  Furniture of decent quality is cheaper in Thailand than the US, but that doesn’t mean it is inexpensive.  At the same time, we don’t necessarily need to buy permanent stuff right now.  So we are going through the joint priority-setting process.

There’s also a few odds and ends that need to be ironed out.  Anyone with any expertise in these areas is welcome to provide advice:

  • The refrigerator (about 2/3s of full size) sits more than 10 feet away from the nearest power outlet, which it would share with the TV, stereo, etc.  I get the impression that there wasn’t a refrigerator there before and it was placed there as a selling point rather than a practical consideration.  Can you put all that equipment on one outlet without a problem?
  • Similarly, the plugs in the kitchen (which are all under the counter, no idea how you run a cord under the counter as there are no openings!) all feed into one circuit, if I’m not mistaken.  So that would be a 2-burner stove, microwave oven, rice maker, and coffee maker (or combination thereof) on one circuit.  Problem?
  • Our clothes washer was originally in the bathroom, but it takes up a lot of space and was on a wall that have no drain, no power, nor a water supply.  The next logical place is on the balcony (makes more sense that it might sound) but there is no water supply and the power is just a closed junction box.  Landlord seems to think it is an easy problem to overcome.  I’m curious to see how.
  • There’s no hot water heater in the bathroom.  Cold showers, anyone?  We’ll ask the landlord on Friday whether we can pay for installation of a water heater, which will run about 5,000 baht plus another 800 for installation.

Truly, none of these are challenges we cannot tackle, but they are interesting “oh, I hadn’t considered that” situations.

Another lesson I’ve learned.  If you want to pay your credit card at one bank with money in a bank account at another, the only way you can do this is to withdrawl the cash from the first bank and then take it to the other bank and deposit it.  So we went to the bank to withdrawl our deposit, first month’s rent, and money for paying some billes.  110,000 baht total.  It is worth noting that the 1,000 baht bill is the largest denomination available.  Yes, we were carrying 110 bills in a wad in my pocket.  That’s pretty crazy.

Well, the adventure is just starting, I’m sure.  I’m extending the hotel stay by a few days because we won’t have all of the necessary arrangements made by tomorrow morning.  Plus, other than a bed and an armoire, we have no furniture.