Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Just a quick update...

I know I know... the THIRD blog in ONE day, I've been slackin' gotta catch up. Also posted new pictures! :) Enjoy

So in the past week, I have managed some free time here and there, while workin managed to see a couple different beaches after my feet got tired and I ran of shops to bug :) I also happened upon the Swatch Beach Volleyball Tour (but sitting in those metal stands lasted about 20 minutes).  

I have met a ton of cool people from all over the world and they have been wonderful and welcoming to me.  Inviting me to bar openings and nights on the town.  We went for a little adventure to BangPae waterfall towards the northern part of the island on Sunday and that was a blast! 

I have eaten at some awesome places.  I don't think its possible to have a bad meal here, whether from a street cart for a dollar or in an actual restaurant for a big 5 bucks! The beer is so so, and they love the Heineken here... I'll manage without ;)

I think although I do work a lot and wander from scuba shop to shop every day is an adventure, every corner holds something new and something unexpected.  One minute the sun is shining and its burning hot and next thing you know - you are left wondering in monsoon season is ever going to end.

I can't say enough nice things about the Thai people.  As rude as many Americans are about people who do not speak english in the US I have never once heard a Thai person complain about the english speaking (well and any other language).  Then again you have to laugh to yourself and think, guess I wouldn't really understand it if they did right?  

Sales are looking up.  I won't get into all that work stuff, but things are going well, which makes my life a lot less stressful and I also added in a little yoga and running so that helps too :) 

As much as I love this paradise, I miss you all at home! See ya when i get there!!! 


It is the only thing they know.

Before I arrived I had heard stories about prostitution, and not to exclude anyone - women, men and children.  But I really had no grasp on the prevalence and sadness of the business until I really saw it all in action.  You can not miss it here, it is everywhere - in the bars, outside the bars, the women behind the bars, the young men in the gay bars,  the older women on the front steps, the (cliche) women in the massage parlors, the transvestites on the corner, and the young girls that strut the streets of Patong with the attitudes of women who have experienced more things than a 13 year-old should know about. 

Within the first couple days here I had not done much, so I was getting up early to take advantage of the 12 hour time difference back home via the internet.  I would sit on my front porch (from about 6am to about 9am) and one by one watch the Thai girls, most appearing younger than I myself, emerge from different rooms in my complex.  Each situation was a bit different, one from the room of a retired gentleman who was here on vacation for a month, two from the suite the young Italian guys occupied, another from the room occupied by the European who visits every year, and the list goes on.  Yet they all seemed to have something in common, they all walked out with no hesitation, with no appearance of shame, all the while in heels and clothes better fit for a friday night out on the town (not sunday morning church).  There was something else I noticed - frequently BEFORE the women left I would see their customers (because to give them any other name would be wrong) enjoy breakfast or a coffee on the front porch before returning to send their "friday night fun" on her way.  

Then last Friday I joined some friends in Patong, which if you have been there it is every part of the title SIN CITY you can imagine.   These must be the nights that to turn into the mornings I had seen at the begining of my trip.  Every bar was packed with Thai women - more "employees" than customers.  You couldnt even get half way through one beer before a small Thai woman, who must have forgotten to put the rest of her outfit on before heading to work, was thrusting another in your face shouting "One more, one more, you drink one more!" "Shot! You take shot!.. I take one with you!"  

Now let me explain to you I was out with two new friends, one who has lived here for several years and has an understanding of how the world works in Patong, telling me "Don't sit down - don't do it, just to spite them - It drives them nuts,"  the other anice looking, clean cut english guy (on vacation for a couple weeks) who at 6'4" really stood out especially with his sunburn.   Take a guess where those Thai ladies flocked.  Let me assure you what I am writing in not of jealousy it is pure annoyance paired with sympathy.  The entire night I was fighting off Thai women just to be able to hold a decent BAR conversation (which we all know doesn't consist of much) with my english friend.  I watched as these 4 foot Thai women threw themselves at him, well let me rephrase that, threw themselves at his money.  I had to watch carefully and count what they were charging us to make sure they weren't drinking on our tab - offering shots to others on our tab and most of all touching you places that are just uncomfortable.  

I am not a male and so I can only assume it must be a bit different, but these women become a bit overwhelming at some point throughout the night and you just can't be nice about it any longer.  I can't tell you how many times I was asked if he was my boyfriend and thinking maybe a YES would fend them off proved me very wrong.  These were SOME of the responses I got
          "You very lucky"
  "He VERY BIG - You need help?"
  "He going home with you?"
  "He very good looking with lot of money"

There were a few in particular that favored both of us and our money - and to one who continually touched ME and hung all over me I finally had to make it clear to her that she was to leave me alone.  I start with....
           "Look, you understand english?"
   "If you touch ME one more time I will hit you HARD"
                (this was paired with some very clear sign language)
"Ok i get him one more drink"
She didnt come back much after that.

While I think about some of that night and laugh, as i am sure you did too, I also think about how bad I feel for these women.  This is the life they know.  They let these Westerners come and pay them money to throw them around and treat them like trash, but it is okay because thats what their mother does and their sister and their best friend.  In a country that is so traditional and conservative in their morals and beliefs this is the underworld into which our western culture feeds.  The westerners make this socially acceptable in a sense, well as long as they continue to pay the bills.  These men (I only point to them directly because it is what I have seen) scream at, embarrass and demoralize these women and do not think twice about their behavior, be it in public or private.  No one stops to intervene, to see if the woman really deserves the public lashing she is receiving, but its because they show no emotion in return. 

Its bewilders me to think a woman can let a man talk to her like that, to repeatedly treat her like that.  To take that blatant abuse and think it is acceptable.  It is foreign to me, as a young, well traveled and independent American woman to understand this way of living. I think, "why wouldn't she just leave, there are other men, better men?"  Unfortunately though, like I said these 20 year old women think they have to take it, think that they can't leave, think that if they do leave "then what? what will happen to me?  what if no one else would want me?"  And when you are repeatedly told this and it is repeatedly impounded into your head that you are no better than the trash on the side of the road, what more would you believe?

"Not afraid to admit... I'm that small kid..."

And things are a little different when your a westerner in the east.

So lets examine some of the oddities :)

****Driving - ok we learned by experience don't trust an american CROSSING THE ROAD (when they do it backwards) much less let them drive. That was a fun time in Jamaica, huh guys? Well I've learned not only to drive on the "WRONG" side of the road, but also to throw EVERY TRAFFIC LAW OUT THE OPEN WINDOW... well except wearing a seat belt and they are NO JOKE about that around here. U-turn anywhere you want, run a red light if you dont feel like waiting, the only "no passing zone" that exists is one that may cause death (but thats all in the eye of the beholder), I was told the other day "they dont give out moving violations so drive as fast as you want"

****Motorbikes - since we are on the topic of driving (i guess you can call it that) dont not be alarmed to see a man driving a motorbike with his wife and two kids behind him, possibly another small child and/or dog as his feet and all of them carrying groceries, bookbags and even new born babies (MONSOON or SUNSHINE). Yes folks, nothing is off limits

Entertainment (I will touch on those subjects which are appropriate for all ages)
**** Movies - Yep already saw the new Bond movie last sunday, which I found out hasnt even hit theaters there yet... guess yall dont have it all do ya?? haha Anyway lemme explain how this works, you buy a ticket and pick your seat (yes reserved seating) if you chose to upgrade from a 120baht ticket (a little under 3 buck) to a 500baht ticket (about 15 dollars) you can have a couch, eat at a buffet before the movie, watch a movie without freezing since you have your own blanket and access to the never ending popcorn. But hell when 3 dollars gets you a better reclining seat than any 15 dollar movie ticket in the states why even bother!

Oh yeah one other thing - "Please stand for the King" - for all you foreigners that I have ever heard bitch about standing for our national anthem at sporting events or even the circus, you might want to avoid Thailand movie theaters. Yes everyone stands while a video of the King and national anthem is played before every movie starts.

**** Pedicures/ Manicures - this is one thing I truly do miss. Although you can't beat a 4 dollar mani/pedi ladies please don't take that nice pedicure massage chair & hot massaging water for granted. I had my first one here the other day and dont get me wrong they did a wonderful job, but i stuck my feet and hands in buckets to soak, the young lady did my mani/pedi right there in the seat I had picked in the waiting area (the second one was less informal), but there are no desks where they do your nails, they put a throw pillow on your lap and stick a towel over it and there ya go! Wa-la!!! But hey they are still awesome and especially for 4 bucks!

**** Eating - I LOVE that I can stop at pretty much any noodle place, and by place i mean cart on the side of the road and get dinner for a little over a dollar! Can you really beat a great meal for that cheap???


** People honk at the temples as the cross the big hills into Kata or Patong for Good Luck (and i thought it was my bad driving skills)

** I think I am safer as a single woman wandering around that I would be if I was a single man - when it gets dark (well even before then) the Thai ladies come out hunting for their prey

** You can always pick out a tourist (this was pointed out to me) The guys are always in flipflops, sunburned without shirts and walking the streets with beer in hand and the girls are always in cute little sundress, oversized sunglasses and with an over the should beach bag

** Eating in a food court brings back memories of college. Fill your meal card with 100 baht and GO WILD!! Go from station to station and pick food, let them swipe you card until you can swipe no more. Sound familiar?

** The old Westerner with the young Thai lady - I will leave it at that.

"...Mama don't you worry,
They wont change,
100,000 miles ain't nothin to me..." ~Eli Young Band, Small Town Kid

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Easy like Sunday morning.

On my first day "off" since I got here on Tuesday I decided to do a little sight-seeing. If you click on the pictures link to to the left "Sa-wat-dii" (meaning HELLO in Thai) you will see the temples of Wat Chalong, a working monastery close by. Its very surreal to stand at the base of these Buddhist temples and see the intricate artwork and handcraft that construct these houses of worship. I do not know much about them so I have some reading and research to do, but as I learn more I will keep you updated.

So on to the real excitement of the night - I wish you were here to enjoy a bunch of drunk european men in their mid to late 60's, sitting at our hotel restaurant, singing a chorus of sing-a-longs: Johnny Cash, UB40, "Louie-Louie", "The Twist", and arguing about who first wrote "Red Red Wine" and where Neil Diamond was born. It really is a sight.

Just another day with the ex-pats :)

"We're a drinking team with a running problem" - Coach Moyer this ones for you.

So in a country such as Thailand ex-pats are just as common as noodles.  I learned this rather quick.  They vary in origin, the US, Australia, Canada, France, the UK, have your pick.  While I never under estimated an ex-pat's ability to out drink me, being that most of them (in my mind haha) are jolly, hefty old white men, I did under estimate their running abilities.  

My first day I mentioned to Thomas (the manager of my hotel) that I was looking for somewhere to run.  He quickly invited met to join him (Danish) along with some of his other buddies who belong to a group called the Hash House Harriers, a running group that meets every Saturday.  He briefly described it was a great way to meet people in Phuket and that they got together for a fun run which also included a lot of laughs and beer drinking - well hell, what more could you ask for?? Can't be that hard right??

Well folks let the under-estimation begin... I leave to head to the meeting point with Thomas and Kathy (a Brit staying at the same hotel - while trying to get papers to retire here), and was also told bring extra dry clothes.  The meeting point changes each week so let the scavenger hunt begin - we are look for signs that say HHH.  After arriving I am not too sure what I have gotten myself into, this cant be that horrible though... I think I am the youngest by 15-20 years! So it is quickly explained to the "virgins" (yep that includes me) that we are to follow the sprinkling of mutli-colored paper to find our way to the end - Hansel & Grettle style.  

Seem simple enough?  Oh there IS a catch - the colored paper is usually strategically placed in spots where you have choices in direction... left, maybe... right looks ok... straight, up a mountain... how about Door Number 3! Well have a go at it and if you find some more paper scattered further down the trail yell "ON ON" and keep running - otherwise come back and try again.

So the run begins - follow the Hash Horn they tell me and don't follow the french guy because he always gets lost.  OH WAIT!!! Watch our for the cows and buffalo they can be dangerous!... Excuse me?

So the first five minutes not so bad... then we hit it... the first mountain.  I wasnt quite sure it was going to end.  And let me tell you about half way up the only motivation to keep up is, that if you don't you are running the Thai jungle alone: Good Luck.  Some how I made it to the top, sweet its all down hill from here... yep straight into a creek.  Guess thats why you need the dry clothes.  

After that I figured it couldn't get too much worse - there I go again under-estimating the old white guys.  BAD IDEA!  And CRASH... right down in a ditch! Yes folks i think I fell about 3 times during the hour long run and then in addition ran through muddy water up to my thighs. At this point it was pure fear of getting left to the buffalo among the rubber trees that was keeping me moving.  God, I wish I had my camera with me.  

So 6k and 56 minutes later (not too shabby), we arrive at the end greeted with beers and food.  Things were looking up.  We all socialized, some people changed into their dry clothes. Me, I couldn't muster the energy to move from my seat to even think about changing out of my now mud covered attire and the just thought of moving my feet which now felt like bricks was exhausting.  So have a beer and relax! 

Then it was time for the circle.  Sort of reminded me of 4-H campfire but for adults.  Everyone gathered around the Grand Master for what seemed like an hour of crude language, jokes (on american politics), songs that sounded like they could be heard in Irish Pubs, inappropriate stories, beer chugging and INITIATION of THE VIRGINS. We were asked questions that my mom would not approve of then there was a beer put at our feet to chug, "get down on your knees, put your hands behind your back and DRINK!" WELCOME TO HASH HOUSE HARRIERS OF PHUKET!

I can't say I have experienced anything like it before - marathon participants, iron man competitors, religious runners, you have not lived as a runner until you have lost your HHH virginity. I have included the link to the Drinking club that I think has more than just a running problem, so you can attempt to imagine the experience.  There are groups world-wide that formed from a small group in Malaysia over 20 years ago.  I'll be back again next Saturday. Cheers!


Friday, October 31, 2008

....just thinking aloud (WARNING: this one may be boring)

People blog about everything right?? Blogging isn't just to keep the people back home entertained with shenanigans and half-witted stories, its a modern day journal of sorts, on the go - yet for the world to read and form their own opinions of the thoughts that, before, were usually kept in a "private place."  So here ya go...
So I haven't been here a week yet and I haven't seen much more than a ton of SCUBA shops that all look the same.  The language barrier hasn't gotten to me yet, doubt it really will because in this country a smile works just as good as any common word.  The Thai people are wonderful and the location is paradise, what more could you want? A free trip out here? Well amigos, I was taught a long time ago "theres no such thing as free lunch."

I studied Politics and Spanish in college, two things that don't get you too far in a European- driven SCUBA diving market, based halfway around the world from everything familiar and dominated by languages far from romantic.  I believe some people were born to sit behind a desk and crunch numbers, and I know that population didn't include me - unromantic languages here I come.  I have never been satisfied with simple and easy and I now have a dream job ( and no I am NOT writing that just because my boss has a link to this), that is far from simple and its not easy. I never once thought it would be, and so par for the course accepted the challenge paired with an opportunity to travel, took the sales position and didn't look back.

Let me tell you, selling SCUBA books is every bit of the challenge I thought it would be.  Jumping in feet first to an industry I had no previous knowledge of has only increased it.  Its like learning another language, however unromantic it maybe,  "need a BC?" "hows the viz?" yeah those are the easy ones.  Not so much like riding a bike.

This sales trip was a bit different of a set up.  I will be paid a base salary to be here in Thailand for 8 weeks, was handed a plane ticket, hotel reservations and a car and told "this place is a gold mine"... yet, it ain't free folks.   I'm not out galavanting around, sight-seeing and meeting new people, this is what independence and self-motivation is all about.  Make the money first and then you can play - well then you can AFFORD to play.

I guess the one thing I did learn in Politics and have brought to the table is a tough skin. To be repeatedly told NO and yet keeping going back for more is something not everyone is cut out for.  "No I don't like your book."  "No these aren't the species people commonly see in our waters."  "No my divers DO NOT speak english" "No I dont want to take a chance on your new product, what we have right now works just great" "Nope sorry too expensive" "NO NO NO NO NO"

Shit, if  I had given up at the first NO I would have stopped at West Plam Beach back in June. But telling myself that, in all honesty, doesn't make it any easier.  As glamorous and jet-setting as my job may seem thats far from reality.  My friends tease me.. I constantly get messages "So what country are you in today?"... Don't get me wrong I have enjoyed every minute of my travels with SCUBA dictionary, I have seen more in the past 6 months than most people could imagine seeing in a lifetime, but guys lets face reality - people aren't knockin' on my door to buy what I am selling.

Its tough disappointing people (especially the boss man), its tough dealing with the bullshit people try to feed you, its tougher introducing a new product to such a money driven industry (they like what they have and they are sticking with it), but such is sales.  You aren't going to please everyone all the time - yep thats what my mom always tells me.  Ya just move on and do what it takes to get the job done, no excuses. 

Not ever have I really known what it feels like to HAVE TO stretch my money.  Up until now I have had a steady, twice a month pay check to count on, that was enough to pay my bills, have fun, AND travel without second thoughts.  This job has been an eye-opener; when your paycheck is based 100% on the outcomes of your efforts it is stressful.  When you outcomes are effected by the weather (ie: hurricanes) or the economy (Thank you Mr. Bush - yep I went there, sorry guys) it is stressful. 

PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE, DO NOT GET ME WRONG! I would not trade this opportunity for the world... it has taught me a lot about myself, my abilities to step outside my comfort zone, my motivation to meet my goals and the worth of  my independence and self-drive.  I don't want to go home, I don't want to quit, and I don't want to be poor (who does, right?).

I just need a little time to regroup - and NO - not with a brightly colored drink with an umbrella, handed to me by Fabio, while doing some faux soul-searching from a lounge chair on the white sands of Phuket.  I need to stop and absorb the feedback, recalculate my strategies and try again, because giving up doesn't pay the bills (and the only Sugar Daddies over here are the ones looking for Thai women). I am not discouraged, I haven't been here long enough to even try and claim that one, just trying to gain my footing in an unfamiliar & rocky territory in which everyone else seems to pass through with ease and security.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

be careful when yelling HEY COW!

Hey COW!... Hey KHAO!!... Hey KHAO!!!

I must now refrain from yelling HEY COW! because although the Thai people probably would never understand the silly game anyway... they may be confused at why i am yelling for RICE... or the near by MOUNTAIN... or the color WHITE.  

Apparently in Thai a a word is not only a combination of letters but also the result of different tones in your voice.  So we can count on me offending someone simply by rising my voice when it was suppose to be low or my voice falling when it is suppose to be high - sounds a little like puberty huh??

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Some real tough decisions... Welcome to Thailand

So on my first trip to Southeast Asia I had no IDEA the decisions I would be faced with.  Heres just a taste i have been faced with by the end of day 2 in Phuket

1.  Stay up all night on Qatar Airlines, in a plush seat watching movies, drinking free booze, playing video games and eating food that should be served in 5 star restaurants 
    OR go to sleep

2.  Rice noodles, wheat noodles, fried noodles, steamed noodles, or RICE

3.  Mobility by FOOT... BICYCLE... MOPED.. CAR

4.  Ending a long day of work at the pool or the beach


So after 36 hours of travel and a week in Vegas my first day was pretty unproductive.  I managed to make it Phuket at 3pm on Tuesday after flying out of Vegas at 11pm Saturday night.  Yeah - but when you sit on your porch at night looking out at paradise you just cant complain.

So for those of you who do not know how I ended up here let me briefly explain.  Heres the set up.

1.  4 years ago talk Dad & Mom into sending me for a summer in Costa Rica
        (yeah it goes wayyyyy back)

2.  Stay in touch with those wonderful girls I met 

3.  Go to Bridget's wedding this past April (who woulda thunk it.. haha j/jk)

4.  Run into Zaid  - another friend from that fateful summer in Costa

5.  Convince Zaid to PAY ME TO TRAVEL THE WORLD selling the underwater dive book that he has written.

6. Quit my steady pay check and travel the world

AND NOW YOU FIND ME about 3 trips and 6 islands later - Here in Phuket, Thailand until mid December.