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Archive for November, 2010

Motorcyle Madness

Anyone who’s ever been to Bangkok knows that the traffic is horrendous! Anyone who has ever been in a hurry in Bangkok also knows the quickest way to your destination is a motorcycle taxi..especially during rush hour traffic.Pretty much anytime I go anywhere, unless I get a late afternoon start, I seem to hit rush hour traffic. This leaves me with only one mode of transportation, as taking a regular taxi would be astronomical… the infamous motorcycle taxi!

Each time I go, I flag down a man in an orange vest, which is how you find the registered taximen, and climb on back, holding on for dear life. Riding on a motorcycle taxi does get you to your destination quicker, and for good reason! These drivers weave in and out of stopped or moving traffic..speeding up, slowing down..zigging this way, zagging that way..When they all stop at a stoplight, all the motorcycles being first of course, they wait until the light turns green..there’s a thunderous “vrooooom!” of the engines, and each time I think, “..And their off..!!” as numerous motorcycles whip by at alarming rates.! As I said, I hang on for dear life to the little bar that is usually behind you, as I find holding on to the taximan is a bit wierd..The people of Bangkok, however, carry on with their normal lives while aboard these zipping little motorbikes! I’ve seen ladies, riding side-saddle mind you, holding a bag and powdering her nose or one fixing her hair with one hand while texting with the other. I’ve seen people shove everything from kids to Televisions to giant boxes between themselves and the driver..

I guess Thai people are just used to this type of transportation and don’t think twice about it, but I’ve been driving with the Mom I work for, and I’m not about to ease up my grip, knowing there are drivers like that out there. We’ve almost hit numerous motorcycle taxis while driving..but in her defense, they do sometimes fly out of nowhere!

I do have to say though, I trust them enough not to wear a helmet..Sorry Mom!!..but I am NOT about to wear a helmet that lord knows who has worn, and strap a nasty chin-strap to my face to hold it on..not in this hot & sweaty city..! I’ll take my chances with the experienced drivers!! So far..so good!

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China Town/Little India

Wow..What a day!! Recently, it has taken me hours and hours to fall asleep at night..sometimes leaving me up well past 2 a.m., but tonight I can assure you I will be fast asleep by 10 p.m.!!

Today I met up with my friend Rin and her Mom at our usual meeting place, Phra Ram 9 MRT Station. We were headed to a part of Bangkok known as Little India and China Town. They are right next to each other, in an endless turf war over who can sell the most to tourists! Literally, China World is located right across the street from Indian Emporium. I guess the Chinese thought the Indians would be taking over the area once Indian Emporium went up. Oh, the life of business people!!

Anywho, we started off at Rin’s Uncle’s fabric shop in Little India and dropped off Rin’s mom while we went to look for fabrics for Rin’s collection she’ll be making for her final runway show in May. As we passed shop after shop filled with beautiful fabrics for both traditional India dresses, as well as Thai ones, and just about every other fabric you can image, we were inclosed on the opposite by booth after booth of Indian goodies. My favorite were the shoes. I now know I wear a size 11!! The place I was looking didn’t have any I liked in my size, which was rather dissapointing..but I’m sure I’ll be back soon!

After meeting up with Rin’s mom again, and having her buy us some yummy little fried balls of spice-infused dough, we headed to the infamous 3 block-long alley way filled with so many shops and people, it made my head spin. I didn’t know which direction to look! There were tons of places for fabrics and textile accessories such as buttons,feathers, liners, borders, and whatever else you can think of. Rin told me that a lot of designers go to this place, because its very cheap and there is lots of good stuff. Many of the items were wholesale, so the more you buy the cheaper the price!! =) So of course, I had to buy more..!

I had a lot of good finds..some Christmas presents..but mostly for myself! I finally got paid today, so I resolved that next week would be Christmas shopping week, which held my buyer’s guilt at bay! If you want to check out what I got, make sure to look at my YouTube blog at www.youtube.com/travelearth1 .

I would have to say, the two best things I got today were gifts from Rin and her beautiful family! Before we headed to the alley-o-wonder, Rin’s mom gave me a bag and said “here! for you!! .. your birthday!!,” with the biggest smile imaginable. I opened it and found three different fabrics, all reds, golds, and greens. Rin then explained that they would be taking me to get fit for an India-style dress and she would be designing it!! I was so shocked.. I couldn’t say thank you enough. I wish I could speak more Thai to express my gratitude, but I’m sure my face said it all..and Rin of course translated!! Later on, when we were going home, we stopped back at Rin’s Uncle’s shop and they had a bunch of Indian-style jewelry on display. There was one that was a bracelet, that went into an ornate hand piece, and then down onto a ring. I said I liked it a lot, so Rin went to ask her Aunt how much it was. Her Aunt wouldn’t tell her how much it was, and just kept asking what color I liked best. After I picked a beautiful gold and ruby studded one, she said I could just have it!! .. For my birthday!!

I’m seriously blown away by the kindness of others. What beautiful people..! Rin and her family have already given me much on my experience here in Thailand..I hope one day I can do the same for them, should they ever  come visit me anywhere I am in the world.

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So Thankful..!

I thought this post and the last deserved a separate post just for themselves, as each is very special to me. In the last I told of my wonderful Thai Thanksgiving and this is dedicated just to the numerous things I’m thankful for in my life. As there are so many, forgive me if  I leave any out..

This Thanksgiving Season, I am reminded to give thanks for my wonderful Mother, Connie Coster, without whom most things in my life would not be possible. I am thankful for the loving man that takes such good care of her and has always been there for our family, even when things were pretty ugly, John Coster. I am ever so thankful for the long-awaited healed relationship with my loving Father, Rich Mendoza and also for the wonderful woman that loves him and has seen him through the worst of times, Kris Mendoza. I’m thankful to have one brother still by my side and the other watching over me from above. I’m thankful that something as painful as a divorce could bring even more love into my life, via step-family.. that I consider my real family. I am thankful for 9 more-or-less healthy Grandparents that have taught me so much already! I’m thankful for the two best friends anyone could ask for, Kara and Jordan. I’m thankful for the amazing friendships I’ve made along the way, both at home and across the globe. I’m thankful for Facebook..yes, Facebook..for bringing a beautiful soul, filled with light and love into my world, Zyon Velazquez..and through that new friendship, meeting a whole new slew of amazingly friendly, open, and humble people.

I’m thankful for the ability to be able to travel the world, meet new people, and spread the light as I go. I am thankful for my new-found open mind and heart..as I was not always the same, nice girl I am today! I am thankful for God pulling me out of some potentially dangerous situations, and setting me on the right path. I am thankful that I get the opportunity to volunteer my time with children who need it most.

Through this volunteering, I have a renewed thankfulness for my sight, sense of smell, hearing, ability to walk, breath, and even feed myself on my own. I am thankful for the intelligence that God has bestowed upon me. I am thankful for the experiences I have lived and learned from at the young age of 20.

Above all else, I am just thankful to be ALIVE.

Happy Thanksgiving everybody..!

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Thai Thanksgiving

Let me start out by saying that there is no celebrated Thanksgiving in Thailand..So, I started my own!

My day started out like any other. I woke up, ate some rice and vegetables for breakfast, and then started my day with Miss Nadia. At about 5:30 p.m. I decided to start cooking because Art told me that everyone would be there around 7:30. By everyone, I mean her 3 friends, sister, and husband and by 7:30 she meant 8:30, because this family is always running behind schedule.

I started off by getting the dessert taken care of..Apricot Cream Cheese Bars!! There wasn’t any pumpkin puree at Villa Market, so my idea of making scrumptious pumpkin bars was out of the question. After getting that in the oven, I started the daunting task of peeling the estimated 8-ish lbs. of potatoes I bought. I was tempted to call the other maid in to ask her to help me, as I was NOT about to ask for Grandma’s help. She kept throwing out encouraging comments like “I tink you staaart too late,” “You have biiiig mess to cean up laaater..hahah,” or my favorite, “I hope it turns out okay..many company tonight..biiig partee.” Thanks Grandma.. 😛

Anywho..I finally got the potatoes peeled and in the pot. I then had to start on the Green Bean Casserole, a staple for every Thanksgiving dinner. I boiled the beans and got the liquid part ready and then had to fry up some onions while the beans were cooking, because French Fried Onions are non-existent here. Again, I was a little disappointed..but all worked out in the end. After taking out the tasty looking dessert and tossing in the casserole, I whipped up a batch of my famous cranberry sauce and started the intricate process of making home-made gravy.

Since we were ordering the turkey, I didn’t have any of the juice to make my gravy. I decided to make a white, chicken gravy instead. I started out with way too much flour and kept adding more milk and bullion cubes to even it out. After about 15 minutes of adding, mixing, and tasting the concoction, it was finally right!! The entire time I was making it I kept thinking, “I need to call my Grammy!!! HELP!!”..but in the end it worked out and I knew she would be oh-so proud!!

Around the Dad came home with the turkey, that included stuffing and turkey gravy (wish I would have known that BEFORE I went through my gravy ordeal!!), and he helped me mash the potatoes and clean up some of the dishes I had used while cooking. I was really surprised since he had just gotten home from work at 8:30 p.m.!! I kept telling him “Thank You!!” and he said, “It’s Thanksgiving..that’s what its here for!” =)

When we got the table all set, and all the guests arrived, the real fun began. Everyone gave the food odd looks, like I sometimes do with certain Thai dishes. I had to explain what each item was and what gravy and cranberry sauce were used for. They kept asking me, “Can I put gravy on this?” and “Why are there two gravies?” Later on during the meal, I got asked “What do you do on Thanksgiving besides eat?” That one was easy.. “Sleep and watch football!” =) We’ll just say it was quite a different Thanksgiving dining experience for me this year!

 As we all began to dig in, holiday music playing in the background, I had everyone say one thing they were thankful for..which is a tradition I always see on TV and movies that my own family doesn’t do, but I like a lot..so wa-lah! It’s in my new Thanksgiving tradition!!

Everyone really loved the food. They were shocked that stuffing and Green Bean Casserole could be so good, and look so odd at the same time. They really loved the dessert, too. I was just happy it didn’t burn or stick to the pan!!

It definitely wasn’t the Thanksgiving I’m used to, with tons of family and a LOT more food, but it was a really good night and I was just thankful that everyone enjoyed themselves and got to see a little positive piece of American culture!

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Today I made my way to Villa Market, the imported food store here in Bangkok. There are many throughout the city, but I went to the one nearest my house in an outdoor shopping complex, that I didn’t know existed, behind the movie theaters that I went to the other day. There is a recurring theme here in BKK: shopping and food!!

Anyhow, upon entering I saw some Japanese breads and pastries and a few American items, such as Extra Butter Popcorn and Twisted Pretzels. I was seriously starting to doubt whether or not they would have the items I needed for my Thanksgiving feast I will be preparing tomorrow. However, I turned the corner and BAM! I was in international food heaven!

People always ask me if I miss American food, and thinking of McDonald’s and other American food horrors, I always quickly reply “no!” It wasn’t until I entered this store that I realized how much I really did miss American food!

This store had all my organic favorites.. Annie’s Mac & Cheese, Nature Valley snacks, and numerous frozen goods by Amy’s..oo! I was in organic heaven now!! After spending some time in Latin American, it was a real shock to see such items on a foreign shelf! Any health nut that’s ever tried living in Mexico can attest to that!! .. After strolling along for awhile, searching out random Turkey Day necessities, I found the snack isle!!

Man-o-Man, was it comforting to see Oreo’s, Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, Hershey’s Cookies & Cream Chocolate, and of course..my forever true love.. Jif Peanut Butter.

When I whipped out my handy-dandy cellphone calculator (because honestly, who can divide everything by 30??) to see how much US Dollars the tasty little snack was, I would love to say I was shocked..but alas..I’m quite used to finding that buying peanut butter is like splurging on yourself for a day at the spa!!

I truly do NOT understand every country’s aversion to Peanut Butter, that they themselves do not manufacture it and sell it at a cheap price as they do in the States! Every place I’ve been in the world has the same problem.. Peanut Butter prices are ridiculous!! My little jar of heaven ran me about $4.60 USD, which is relatively good compared to Costa Rica, which was a whopping $6 USD for an even smaller jar of lower brand Peter Pan Peanut Butter..!

The Peanut Butter Industry must know that Americans will pay any price for a little taste of home, while abroad. So here’s to you, my deliciously expensive compadre, and all your peanuty glory!!

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Movie Night with Moi!

Yesterday, Monday, I didn’t have any plans for my day off. Most of the morning and early afternoon were spent reading a new book my friend is writing, and helping her edit the content. I must say, it is pretty amazing thus far. When she gets done there will definitely be some passages shared, as well as where you can pick up your copy..! 😉

After piddling around for awhile, I decided to walk to the nearest market, about a 10 minute walk, and then head to the movie theater that is down a ways from my house. I’ve been dying to see the new Harry Potter since it came out on the 18th! I’ve also been quite curious to see the inside of this huge movie theater complex that I pass every time I head to the SkyTrain Station.

I decided not to buy anything at the market, endured the stares at the foreigner, and made my way to the movies. It was about 3:30 when I arrived to what I know realized was much more than a movie theater. As I entered, I realized this place was a small shopping center. When I say small, I’m comparing it to the HUGE ones I’ve been to in the last month. This place still had 5 floors!!

I went and bought my ticket on the second floor for the 4:20 show..as it seemed to be the best one.. =) After I headed back down to the 1st floor and got a late lunch. I went to a HongKong Noodle place and got noodles with wontons and water for only $3!! By the time I had finished and headed up to the 3rd floor entrance to the movies and bought my extremely necessary popcorn, it was time for the movie to start. Sidenote: They offer sweet, cheese, and original popcorn. I got original..but had a few sweet pieces mixed in from the overflow..mmm!!

I headed into the movies and rode the giant escalator up to the 4th floor. I was in theater 12, so when I got to the 4th floor I had to, again, ride another giant escalator up to the 5th floor and find my theater. When I arrived there weren’t many people in the theater. As time went on, it began to fill up. I thought I was going to have the whole row to myself until a group of giggling high school boys all filed in and fought over who got to sit next to the foreign girl. It was quite amusing..

After watching some crazy Thai commercials, Asian movie previews, and then some American movie previews, it was time for something that was completely new to me. Just before the feature started there was a short message telling everyone to please stand for His Majesty, The King. Everyone stood, and a short film played that showed different clips of the King and his wife throughout the course of his reign, helping with various projects such as dams, schools, and hospitals in Thailand. Something very unique and interesting for me to experience.

The movie was amazing. It was much better than the 6th, and probably my favorite of the series thus far. I found that this one stuck to the book quite a bit more than the others did, but perhaps that’s because they decided to do this movie in 2 parts for the one book. In my opinion, I think they should have started doing that after the 5th..! But that’s just me.. =)

When I was done with the film, I took the seemingly endless rides back down to the first floor and saw an ice cream shop, Swensen’s. It’s a pretty popular sit-down ice cream place here. At first, seeing mainly groups of friends and couples in the place, I was hesitant to go in, order, and sit by myself. Then after coming to my senses I realized..hello! It’s icecream..and you’re on a date with numero UNO right now..so treat yourself!

With that thought, I went in, ordered, said “Thank You” in Thai (very pleased with myself), and enjoyed every last bite of that chocolatey goodness..all the while thinking, “this is the best date I’ve been on in a long time!” ❤

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Nadia’s Numbers

After reading through the last couple posts on this blog, I realized I’ve been talking about all my experiences EXCEPT for the one that I spend most of my time experiencing! Working with Miss Nadia..!

Here’s a little run down of the numbers that go into a day with my little bundle of Asian joy..

10 hours a day…2 nap times..1, 1 hour nap and 1, 2 hour nap..2 nap times for Miranda =)…4 bottles…24 ounces of milk…2 mini bananas…1 teaspon of honey…1 teaspoon of roasted sesame seed powder…a few chunks of fruit (mango, papaya, or other asian goodies)…20 episodes of cartoons on Playhouse Disney…1 bowl of puree rice,fish, and vegetables…2 spit rags..1 bath time full of numerous tears (she hates bath time!!)…3 towels…6 diapers…2 outfits…

Numerous laughs, smiles, items stuck in her mouth, and inevitable tears.

I’m watching this girl grow by the day, both physically and mentally. We have such an amazing bond already and I think it may be hard to leave her. Hopefully she will start speaking English words soon, or any for that matter, so I won’t have to leave her sooner rather than later. Her parents are really adament about her learning English and tell me every day to speak more English to her…

That could be a whole other list of numbers actually..How many times a day I get told to do something obvious for Nadia that I already know and do..! More from Miss Grandma..But I guess that’s how Grandmas are sometimes.. 😛

The only numbers I’m truly concerned with right now… 2 days off…! ❤

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