The Traditional Thai “Lanna” Wedding

This past weekend I had the awesome opportunity to attend a traditional Lanna style wedding. Thailand’s relaxed and go-with-the-flow attitude, and unofficial national motto mai-pen-rai (meaning no worries), was more than evident when my co-worker approached the Urban Light team and announced that her sister and sister’s boyfriend, who had been dating for nine years, had decided to get married in three weeks! Of course we all accepted the invitation, as we were all excited to get into some traditional Thai threads and see how a wedding could possibly come together in a matter of days. I headed to the Warorot market a short walk away and negotiated a price on a green, heavy, 100% traditional Thai silk shirt (still questioning the silk content) and fisherman pants (which are quite airy— I’m thinking about buying a few more to wear to bed at night).

Me and Marissa, another UL volunteer, with Aw who graciously invited us to the wedding.

Me and Marissa, another UL volunteer, with Aw who graciously invited us to the wedding.

The day of the wedding came, me nervously waking up a half hour before my 7:00 alarm (I actually set two just in case my body resisted after a Saturday night). A song-taew arrived at 8am to pick up the nine members of the Urban Light crew, and off we were (nearly ten farangs in traditional Thai dress is definitely not a regular sight for our neighbors living on our soi, or side street). When we arrived, we entered the space where the wedding would take place and were greeted by the bride and groom, both receiving us with a wai which we all returned. The dress and suit of the bride and groom looked great! I’m thinking of grabbing one of those suits before heading back to the states— goodbye wool sports jackets, hello silk!

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Of Elephants and Men (and Boys)

When I first told people I was going to Thailand for eight months, many reacted questioning the quality of the water, infrastructure, whether I knew the language, and some even asked if I was excited to be in the sex capital of the world (a disappointing question considering the work I’m doing to fight westerners appetite for “exotic” sex and eroticism here in the “Land of Smiles”). The stereotypes were all laid out on the table, and the misconceptions about Thailand that are constantly perpetuated by the media were more than evident in the conversations I was having.  If you spend your nights on Loi Kroh road or in the Go-Go bars that line many of the streets, or even hit enter one of the massage parlors lined with women cat calling you in for a “massage, massage,” it’s easy to see where people might get the wrong idea about Thailand and its locals. The people here are beautiful in spirit AND appearance and the cities boast beauty that’s only surpassed by the natural world outside of them. Of those I talked to who had previously been to Thailand, I had only heard good things, and I am definitely seeing the greatness described. From the gorgeous Wat Chedi Luang of Chiang Mai and the Royal Palace of Bangkok, to the carst cliffs jutting out of the turquoise waters off Railay Beach and the graceful mountains that call home just beyond Chiang Mai, Thailand has a lot to offer— and I’ve only just scratched the surface.

Wat Chedi Luang behind one of the many beautiful temples in Chiang Mai.

Wat Chedi Luang behind one of the many beautiful temples in Chiang Mai.

Close up of the historic Wat Chedi Luang, constructed in the 14th century.

Close up of the historic Wat Chedi Luang, constructed in the 14th century.

The GORGEOUS grounds to the Royal Palace. A must see in Bangkok.

The GORGEOUS grounds to the Royal Palace. A must see in Bangkok.

Beautiful cliffs of Railay Beach in Krabi.

Beautiful cliffs of Railay Beach in Krabi.

Under that surface of good infrastructure, overall safe cities, clean streets and an amazing trash pickup system (I’m still figuring out how they manage trash pickups everyday on every street), there lies an underbelly of Thai culture, largely driven by western demand. It’s like the many cockroaches I see every night on the sidewalks— visible, but easy to dismiss as they quickly disappear through the cracks of the sewers and walls for an escape. You can see exploitation in Thailand but must be conscious of it in order to avoid enabling it.

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To Thailand and Beyond

After just listening to David Foster Wallace’s 2005 commencement address to Kenyon College, I realize the dramatic shifts my thinking and way of living has gone over the past several years. Wallace states that sometimes, “The most obvious and important realities are often the ones are the hardest to see and talk about.” The “banal platitudes” of life are the ones that seem to be meaningless but happen “day in and day out.” Grocery shopping, the laundry, brushing our teeth— do we ever think about these things, or are these just the necessities that drive our life into seemingly endless tedium? Wallace starts his address by telling the “fish story.” Two young fish swim towards an older fish who nods and says, “Morning boys. How’s the water?” The two fish swim along for a bit and one turns to the other and asks, “What the hell is water.”

Graduating college in 2011, I, like most fresh college graduates sought to jump right into the workforce, make those big bucks, and REALLY enjoy the real world.  My frantic job search for two months landed me away from the pizza shop (shout out to Brenda’s Pizzeria, my place of employment for eight great summers) to a government defense contractor position working in Army chemical defense research (yea, cool stuff). This was an incredible opportunity to flex my research muscles and get some real world experience in the research field. With an incredible mentor and great team, I was able to do just that— attending several conferences around the country and even contributing to several papers that will be published in the near future. My love for science was being nurtured well, but an itch to get out into the world and immerse myself in new cultures had not fully been scratched.

That's one good Bronx Belly Buster Steak and Cheese Hero.

That’s one good Bronx Belly Buster Steak and Cheese Hero.

Chemistry and Biology B.S. degrees attained.

Chemistry and Biology B.S. degrees attained.

Welcoming ceremony at our research institute. Yes, Darryl and I ended up working at the same place. Great carpooling opportunity!

Welcoming ceremony at our research institute. Yes, Darryl and I ended up working at the same place. Great carpooling opportunity!

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