Monday, 27 February 2012

Say no to dairy! Say no to dairy!

I’ve been thinking a lot about vegetarianism and veganism recently, mainly because there are a number of people on the CELTA course following one or the other of these diets.  A coupIe of weeks ago I began to look into the benefits of dairy free diets, as it seems I’ve been conned my whole life by the evil milk producers who claim it’s good for us.
Probably driven by guilt, I pondered life without dairy, as I could probably benefit from being a bit stricter with myself when it comes to food. And I already tried the not eating meat thing (for over two years) and in the end the lure of the burger was just too much for me.  

As I looked on the internet, I was pretty amazed by exactly how many products have dairy in them: all the obvious things like ice cream and cheese, but then less obvious like most bread products and even cold cut meats! Unless you’re living in a western country where these needs are catered for and the ‘moo free’ chocolate range is readily available, I think being a diary-free head can be pretty tough. During my extensive research (about twenty minutes- you can't say I'm not thorough) I came across the milk-free website and was particularly impressed by what they had to say. Read it carefully!
‘As a whole, we consume unbelievable amounts of diary products including milk, cheese, cottage cheese, yogurt, and others.’
I don’t know about you, but I haven’t eaten a diary in a long time! The last one I chomped was Anne Frank, which if I remember rightly, had a rather bitter taste to it…
Cheers for the info, milk free. Do keep up the good work.
Last night we went out to Chiang Mai and everyone went to a vegetarian restaurant, except me and Lee who took the—somewhat wise as it turned out—decision to eat at the night market (corn on the cob-yeah!)  We arrived back after three quarters of an hour to find the others still waiting for their food. After an hour and a half it finally turned up. Hold on, how on earth can it take an hour and a half to cook something with no meat in it? Vegetables only need to flirt with a stove and they’re ready!
My favourite moment at the restaurant was in the toilet—a sure sign of a great night out, wouldn’t you say? On the wall was a ‘save the animals’ picture. ‘Love us, not eat us!’ it claimed. OK, I thought, looking along the pictures. Cow, fine; sheep, fair enough; dog, I guess in some Asian countries; cat, same applies; and then, hold on a minute, a parrot?? I draw the line people, I draw the line! Unless I’m missing something major here? That new Mcdonalds product parrot nuggets. Everyone’s talking about them.  If you listen hard you might just hear them say ‘pieces of eight, pieces of eight!’
I obviously need to be enlightened on this topic. And so I beg you to please stand up and show yourselves, parrot eaters!
In conclusion, I have sifted through the list of dairy products, and decided that it is silly for me to give up foods derived from milk, especially seeing as yoghurt is one of the healthier snacks I eat.
I have, however, decided to try not eating cheese and butter.
Farewell cakes! So long cheese n crackers! Let’s see how long I can last…


And while we're on the subject of restaurants, here's one of my favourite names EVER!

Monday, 20 February 2012

Down the Rabbit Hole

Week two done, and I’m still alive, just about. Sometime this week-around Wednesday I believe, I had a little mini breakdown due to over work, but all is ok now! The rollercoaster continues and is definitely a bumpy ride.
I would like to quote something from 'Chicken Soup for the Soul,' a book which more often than not makes me want to puke on it rather than being inspired to live life to the full. But anyway, this I rather liked:
When your ‘there’ has become a ‘here,’ you will simply obtain another ‘there’ that will again look better than ‘here.’ 
And so, in light of trying desperately not to wish away these four weeks and to enjoy the moment, I have endeavored to remember, and now relay to you, a couple of memorable parts from the last seven days.
The hotel that houses the course is run by a crusty old English man named Clarence who has a far-too-young-for-my-liking Thai wife. I knew old Clarence was trouble on the very first day we met him, when he announced that the bar 'closes at 10.30pm and after that we expect quiet.' On Friday night, after a grueling week, the ten of us with a desperate need to blow off steam, were ordered to leave the bar at the grand hour of eleven, and to go up to the tree house area near our rooms instead. So we did. But no more than five minutes later, we were told to leave the tree house too, by a girl who is also staying in the hotel, because she 'had work in the morning.' Seriously?  
So we went back to the bar where we were soon met by the dreaded Clarence. Lee, always up for a heated debate/argument, stepped up as spokesman to relay the opinion of the downtrodden masses. The conversation quickly deteriorated, culminating in Clarence calling Lee a 'self-centred foreigner.' To this, Lee, as anyone who knows him could predict, told old Clarence to f*ck off, and stormed out.
The episode got me thinking. Does Clarence have a point? Are we self-centred for needing to relax after a week on a CELTA course, in a place where there is nowhere else to go? In my mind the answer is firmly NO. Firstly, isn’t it a bit rich to call someone else a foreigner, when you yourself are a posh old white man? I'm not sure that you can ever get away with that, no matter how long you’ve lived in a country. And anyway, who is he to judge us- people who he had never even talked to before except to take 1000Baht each off us as a surprise room key deposit. But what interests me the most is how he could be so hypocritical. Hello, Mr Thai wife…? Talk about using your birth place and therefore bank balance as a bargaining chip to get what you want in a less developed country. The icing on the cake came later when I found out that this is in fact Clarence's third wife. That's right. Lovely.  
Last night we all went out for dinner, and were highly amused to find ourselves at the much loved 'Pauline and Mr. Chan's Pizza' restaurant. Man there's gotta be a story behind how a middle aged British woman from the 'Birds of a Feather' era and an oriental kung fu master got together, moved to Thailand and opened a pizzeria. We couldn't help but wonder if Pauline was Clarence's first wife…
And finally, a couple of poems from the past week (keeping the spirit alive Stephen!) that aptly encapsulate how I feel right now.

The game we play
is let’s pretend
and pretend
we’re not pretending
we choose to
who we are
and then forget
that we’ve
who are we really? 
                        From Response/Ability by Bernard Gunther

'Twas brillig and the slithy toves
Did gyre and gimble in the wabe:
All mimsy were the borogroves,
and the mome raths outgrabe.   
                        From The Jabberwocky by Lewis Carroll  

Monday, 13 February 2012

The dreaded C-E-L-T-A

It really is amazing how much you can squeeze in to a week if you really try. Here I am, 1 week into my CELTA, aka a quarter of the way through, and it’s hard to believe exactly how much work I’ve done as well as how up and down I’ve felt emotionally.
Here, in a nutshell (because I have to get on with a lesson plan) are my CELTA highlights and lowlights so far:
I particularly enjoyed the first class we observed before we started our own teaching practice. I don’t think I will ever experience again someone teaching ‘dandy’ as a legitimate response to ‘how are you?’ I dread to think the trouble these unwitting Thai students could get in if they went to Coventry and tried to use it.  I mean, I understand the reason for introducing slang, but seriously?
I was absolutely terrified the night before my first lesson. I don’t think I could’ve slept for more than three hours, but then the next day I was so exhausted with being nervous, that I somehow felt a bit better. Lee likened the lead up to the teaching to how it feels before you go on stage, coupled with the elation you feel afterwards.
My first class went alright; I had to teach types of clothes, my favourite part being ‘underwear,’ which the students all assured me they never wear to a football match. Never? I know Thai’s are different to us, but that’s a bit extreme. I set an activity to decide if items of clothing should use a/an or ‘a pair of’ before them. My explanation was that we use ‘a pair of’ due to there being two trouser legs, two lenses in your glasses, etc. This led to an interesting conversation between two male students over whether it is ‘a pair of bras’….
Class number two was slightly less nerve racking, but not by much. The highlight of this class was the resident monk writing ‘pray’ as one of his hobbies on his worksheet. I’m not too sure God sees it like that, but whatever.
The lessons where we are the students have been grueling, but interesting at the same time. We all had to write on the board one reason why lesson plans are good. Lee was last and most things had already been written, leading him to add ‘because they look pretty’ to the list of answers.  I wonder if I’ll pass if I just decorate my plans with flowers and stuff around the borders.
On a lowlight note, I truly had no idea how intense this course is. I can go from happy to desperate in a matter of minutes, and I actually nearly cried in one of my planning sessions with the tutor. But at least I didn't actually cry I suppose.
Well that’s it from me: I’m far too busy and exhausted to think of anything else to say. Tune in next week to see if I’m still sane!

Sunday, 5 February 2012

Elephants and Kickboxing

Thursday was Lee’s birthday, the big 2-8. To celebrate, we went on an elephant trip, which included feeding, learning to command, riding and cleaning. I tried to be brave when it was my turn to get up on the elephant, but it was really scary. The Mahouts (elephant trainers) made it look so easy. Simply give the command for the elephant to lift up its leg, then grab onto its skin, step on the leg and hop up onto the neck. Easy right? It took me a few goes, with no less than three tiny Thai men attempting to heave me up there. When I was finally positioned on the elephant, I could hardly believe how high up it felt. Much further than it looked from the ground! I was certain I was going to be thrown to my death at any moment. The mahouts were shouting commands for me to practice, but all I remember shouting were the words ‘No!’ ‘No!’ and ‘Scared!’
Lee was so good and managed both of his turns really well. I felt like the biggest wuss in the world, especially as we were with a blind guy who rode and commanded the elephant with ease and grace. Alex was a young man from Belgium, on a trip with his Mum. I didn’t know right at first that he was blind-because really I wasn’t expecting it on this trip-but there were lots of indications, such as that he kept his glasses on all the time, and his Mum filled up his plate for him at lunchtime. It really was amazing how easily he did the elephant thing. I can’t help wondering if maybe I would’ve been less scared if I couldn’t see…
I’m ashamed to admit that I sat on a bench on top of the elephant for the ride through the river, with Lee on the neck. It was far more enjoyable for me that way, although it was still damn scary! The greedy elephant kept sticking his trunk in Lee’s face every ten seconds for a banana. At one point in the journey we came to a water pipe that ran high up over the river, although not high enough for me to get under. I had to flatten right down, essentially doing the limbo from the top of an elephant.
It was great when we washed the elephants in the river and the Mahouts commanded them to blow water at us from their trunks. I got soaked, and don’t even want to think of what infections I might’ve picked up in that swampy water.
The Belgian guy and his Mum had told us during the day that they are going to Siem Reap next. When we got back to our hotel I commented to Lee over beer that I thought Angkor Wat was one of those places where it would be a really shame not to be able to see. I mean, obviously being blind in general is no picnic, but the amazing views from the temples were the best thing about being in Siem Reap.
Lee looks at me quizzically.
“What are you talking about? Who’s blind?”
It transpires that he spent the whole day thinking Alex just really liked his glasses and that he was just a 22 year old guy being babied by his Mum.
Well that certainly explained why, when a Mahout climbed up on the elephant with Alex on the first try, Lee shouted, “Why does he get extra help?!”
In the evening we went to a Thai kickboxing match. Like the big girl that I am, I really just wanted the fighters to stop and settle their differences over a nice cup of tea. I did get into it as the rounds when on though. The best part was the ‘special fight,’ about halfway in. I knew it was going to be good when the first, slightly overweight fighter climbed over the side of the ring, tripped over the rope and fell flat on his belly. What an entrance. As if this fight was sent as a present just for me and Lee, the six fighters were made to put on blindfolds! It was brilliant. Some highlights included one man knocking out another then tripping over him; several different fighters unwittingly beating on the ref; and one guy just getting up from the floor, only to be met with a glove to the face, sending him straight back down again. The ref, after receiving his fair share of punches, obviously decided he’d had enough and used the rope to launch a flying kick at one of the men. The special fight really was one of the funniest things I’ve ever seen.  

All in all, a truly great day and a birthday that I'm sure Lee will never forget.

Thursday, 2 February 2012


What do I write about now that Stephen has left me? I must say I’m going through a bit of a withdrawal period, missing his ridiculous intelligence, missing slowly and painfully wading my way through a book I barely understand. But nevertheless, I'm sure I will get over it, and maybe I can still work in the odd poem here and there. Onwards and upwards!
Today I wrote out a draft of my first blog, but on reflection there’s no way I want to post it. One way or another we’ve had a bit of a rubbish time in Thailand so far, what with missing bags and bad attitudes from staff, so the blog turned in to a bit of a depressing rant. And as you may well know, I am the absolute opposite of a cynical ranter (feel free to laugh) so I’m not going to pass the joy on to you.
My idea is this: I will write about whatever comes into my head, and that's about it.
When I got back to my room today, I was trying to find something new to read on my kindle, as I’ve finished all of the Hunger Games- which were recommended to me by a friend and are excellent, by the way. I click on my ‘recommendations’ to see what that’s saying. In case you are not familiar with the kindle, or in fact the word ‘recommendation,’ the kindle makes a list of books you might like based on earlier purchases. A few weeks ago, Lee downloaded ‘The Secret’ for me, a book which is very interesting and helpful regarding life in general, if a little cheesy. And admittedly I may have downloaded ‘chicken soup for the soul,’ which obviously didn’t help the matter, but anyway I now find that the first eighteen books in my recommendations section are self help titles. Is my kindle somehow trying to tell me something? I decide that I should be able to have a good laugh by looking through them. And I'm pleased to inform you that I am not disappointed.
The names are just brilliant: The Science of Getting Rich; Thoughts are things; The Game of Life and how to play it (I was under the impression you just rolled the dice, sending your miniature car round the board, trying to make money and have as many blue-and-pink-pin-children as possible, but I digress). The book that really caught my eye however, was one entitled Why Men Love Bitches: From Doormat to Dreamgirl. Brilliant! And the blurb is just as good, although I really do feel there’s a difference between a woman who stands up for herself, and a bitch. But what do I know? My absolute favourite part of the description is this line: ‘Full of advice, hilarious real-life relationship scenarios, “she says/he thinks” tables…’
She says/he thinks tables!!!! That is possibly one of the funniest things I’ve ever heard. And we all know how that table goes anyway, it’s not rocket science. Women say something, men think about either sex, beer or football. End of story. Sorry men, I didn't mean it, although really I did. Please let me know if you have read this book (especially if you are a man), I would love to hear of its wisdom.
Well that’s about it from me for now. Tomorrow we're going on an elephant trek so maybe something interesting to write about there!