Last update from Thailand
Sam and I fly out tomorrow, so this will be my last update from Thailand! As sad as it is to be leaving, I'm definitely looking forward to seeing friends in South Africa again, spending some more time in our place in Cape Town, and planning for a Bloody Huge Party in March ;-).
Thailand really is an amazing country with a culture I've really come to respect. Almost all of the Thai people I've met have been extremely friendly and accommodating. There's always the few that will try to take advantage of tourists but they're definitely in the minority. And really, why not try and take advantage of tourists if you've got the chance ;-).
With all our travels in the past few years we've always managed to avoid major political and environmental disasters. This has been the first trip where we got right in the middle of one. The Thai floods have been quite devastating to a lot of the country and a lot of peoples' livelihoods will be very negatively impacted by the flooding for years to come. One thing I haven't been able to wrap my head around is just how resilient the Thai people are. Imagine the water level being as high as the first floor of your house (or higher) and living in it for two months or more. This is what so many people in the country have to go through, wade or swim through disgusting water (where is sewage suppose to go?) to get anywhere and never being able to dry anything off. Damage caused to your house and business that you can do nothing about until the water finally decides to recede. It's a level of discomfort so foreign to me that I can't even comprehend it even after spending several hours in it myself while our train was stuck on the way to Bangkok.
Yet somehow most of the people there are able to move on and go on with their daily lives. Even smiling and enjoying themselves! And yet, in my 10+ hours stuck in it I was practically ready to arrange for a helicopter to come and pick me up just so I could get out of it and I wasn't even wet! (though all my clothes were due to my own stupidity). The water has apparently begun to recede now so hopefully it's not long before things are back to normal.
My Thai language learning went extremely well over the past month as I found someone to help me learn! He helped me with Thai, and in exchange, I gave him Drupal lessons so it worked out great! :). In the end I mostly accomplished my goals which were:
1. Be able to read thai script. My gauge for success with this goal was to be able to read a sentence of Thai that I'd never seen before to a native Thai speaker and have them actually understand it. In the end I was able to read a sentence, but it took me probably 3 minutes, and I'm certain was excruciatingly painful for Zak to listen to :). He also helped me with a couple of words.
2. Interact with a server at a restaurant. Though my vocabulary for food is extremely limited, I can mostly do this. I still struggle to understand responses from the servers.
3. Negotiate prices at a market. This is quite easy for me now. I've gotten quite good with my numbers and asking questions about products.
4. Be able to identify tones. This one is very challenging, and I could easily spend another three months on tones alone.
5. Initially I don't think I thought I'd be able to give an update on my blog in Thai. In the end I'm 50% there... I've written what I want to say, and recorded it, but I'm too embarrassed to put it online :). I realize the original goal was to make a fool of myself, but I just can bring myself to it yet. I'm simply reading my script in the video anyway, so it's not too interesting.
I'd say overall I was very successful, even better than I'd originally imagined. I also learned a lot about language learning and I believe that every language after this will be significantly easier for me.
The rest of the trip
I haven't written a lot on this trip so far, I guess a lot of the time I've been either busy with work or busy being a tourist. I do have more to write about, and also some more photos to upload. Overall the trip was really awesome, and I hope it won't be long before we venture back for another stint in south east asia!