Back to High School!

To my Daddy!

Important Lesson Number One: A cocktail party in Thailand does not mean there will be cocktails, wine or beer. It means the water, fanta and cola will be supplied.

Uni! Yes, going there is part of the whole exchange thing. And here in Thailand, university is more like an extension of high school. WOOHOO! QUT requests that we do FIVE subjects here at Chula (which is ever so kind of them), and each class is three hours LONG, and each of these FIVE lecturers assign you COMPULSORY HOMEWORK each week, and Chula requires you to turn up to 80% of the lectures, and lecture slides AREN’T put up on Blackboard – you NEED to go to class to get them as the lecturer prints them out for you (which is convenient, and you need to turn up to uni in your UNIFORM otherwise you can’t attend class, and the classes have between 20-50 people in them (which, I must admit, is pretty cool), and life is one big holiday here in Bangkok until you remember you have homework due. That is where the fun ends. But then, like every day, there is a party that night which makes it all worth-while. Until the next morning when you have a headache. And then you read your emails and see that the apartment complex sent the university CCTV footage of the exchange students making a party in the lobby. Naughty. Naughty.

Stalker much?

A bit of the old 2-4-9!

I am studying Business Strategy, Marketing Strategy, International Marketing, Counselling Psychology and Industrial and Organisational Psychology. The business subjects are top noch, taught by talented lecturers and industry professionals (i.e. consultants, or Pepsi employees). The Psychology subjects on the other hand… for my first counselling class, the teacher thought it would be nice for everyone to introduce themselves to me (a process that took 30 mins). Luckily they were a little entertaining, for example, the teacher asked students to talk about their likes / dislikes: “I like famous footballers. I even flew to China to meet them, but they didn’t see me,” and “My name in Thai means Number One, but you can call me Sherry. I finished high school last month and I love Asians,” to which someone asked, “Boy or girl Asians?” I walked with Sherry to buy some water in the break. He told me he loves Caucasians too.

I went to my first I&O Psych class this Friday. Oh my lordy, I’ve never had a more terrible lecture in my life. I mean, I’ve heard of lecturers who read their notes and aren’t very interactive, but this teacher read the text book WORD FOR WORD, including phrases such as, “Refer to figure one,” and “This subject goes well beyond the scope of this text book,” FOR THREE WHOLE HOURS NON-STOP. It would have been okay if she didn’t speak so slow that you forgot what she said at the start of a sentence by the time she got to the end. It would have also been okay if she wasn’t speaking so loud down the microphone that not even earplugs would allow you do think about something else. What made it more funny though was she never, ever looked up at the class. NO INTERACTION WHATSOEVER! In fact, people weren’t wearing uniform as they said she doesn’t even notice. She didn’t. Also, people were just chatting in the class and walking out in groups of 5-10 and she didn’t look up from her pages. This may sound normal, but since there were only 20 people in a tiny class room, it was pretty unbelievable. I may have complained to the head of Psychology who said she’d, “Fix the problem.”

Finally, I’ll just touch of the Business Challenge (Case competition) that I participated in a few weeks ago. It has been explained in Blogs before:  In a nutshell, all these different universities from around the world send four or so business students to analyse, solve and present business solutions, it’s a bit like management consulting (Thanks Erin). For TUBC, there were 16 universities and our teams of four were locked in our hotel room for 40-hours, preparing a presentation on a snazzy Thai bank called TISCO. Between hours of banter, Ben, Caroline, Jason and I recommended that TISCO gets into Microfinancing (as well as a few other dazzling initiatives). First we needed to present to a panel of three judges, then once we were through to the finals, we presented to the public (500ish people) and a panel of 10 judges, including some CEO’s and CFO’s of the bank, the main sponsor and TESCO supermarket. In the end we won in a draw with Brazil, a group of non-bikini wearing, non-salsa dancing, non-mojito drinking, non-rainforest dwellers, and non- beach volleyball players, who we had befriended earlier. Of course, during the 40 hours cabin fever set in, which lead to a bit of casual boxing and hula-hooping. Sometimes we really just wanted to Swashbuckle!

Whoever said napkins only have one purpose was a liar!

A few screws loose?

The Winners!

Important Lesson Number Two: When Thai people strongly insist that you turn up 45 mins before the time on the schedule, they mean it. This is so you can wait for an hour.

You know I love you,

XO XO

Hangover 2 is set in Bangkok for a Reason!

To my darling sister, Annie.

SAWADEE KRAB! HELLO! I am in Bangkok! Crazy. Lights. Hot. Pollution. Bowing. Happy Time. Chilli. Massage. Mr Feet. Party. Curry. International. Poison. Cheap. Temples. Smelly. Mouldy Fish. Special Price. Special Friend. Yesterday. Tomorrow. Here. Now! Beautiful people, beautiful people…

Deciding where to begin and the extent to which I disclose information to you is quite the challenge! Needless to say, I landed here and have settled in nicely. I’ll start by telling you a bit about who I live with and where, then I’ll touch on some cultural things, and then wrap it all up with a bit of the old one-two (i.e. an Amsterdam debrief).

40 phenomenal exchange students are living in the same apartment complex as I – the Evergreen. We are in delightful two-bedroom apartments, which are lit up with four stunning people. In 1209,  I live with Axel (Swedish), my room-mate, and Michael & Kjell (Norwegian). They are really, really great (I’ll find out if they read my blog before I say more) and there are more good looking people splattered around other rooms.

It’s a serviced apartment, which means two-to-four people come into our home every morning, wash our dishes for us, replace our towels, make our beds, and have a general tidy-up. In other words, who needs a mother when you can live in Thailand. We normally do breakfast at home, and then go out for lunch and dinner. Why cook when you can eat-out for just $3 a day? Our days generally involve waking up at around 11am, going to the apartment’s pool with the rest of the exchange students, eating, doing something un-holiday-ish, eating, partying in the apartment until we get asked to be quiet, going out to party, and then most of us come home (and order McDonalds, delivered). Sometimes  people don’t come back and we think, “Bangkok has him now, and that’s just too bad.” Sometimes we have uni too.

The highlight of the Evergreen is Grace, the lady-boy whom works at reception (which is cool with me – I think it’s very forward to Thailand to be so embracing). Grace has taken a far-too-inappropriate -for-a-staff-member liking to one of the American exchange students [dodgy story has been removed]. If the other receptionist asks for your room number and name, Grace tells him before you can even open your mouth. This is a little disconcerting considering there are 112 rooms and we’ve only been there one week. Nevertheless, little does s/he know, we are interested in him/her too: on channel 12 all the rooms get live streaming of the reception-desk security camera. We never party without having Grace on the T.V. and sometimes we even just have a “Watching Grace + other guests at the reception” party. We think she’d love it if she knew (well, actually, maybe she does know, because we are quite often asking her to wave at the camera). What do you think?

One of the Californian’s here is pretty amazing! His energy and mean-as puppy-dog view of the world is awesome. Like, man, life for him is just awesome. Yea, man, the beach was awesome, aye. Oh yea, that night-out was amazing, man. Oh yea, sweet dude, that bar is so awesome, man. Dude, seriously, it was so great man. I was like wow man, this is so awesome dude. Yea that restaurant is so awesome, man. The food there is so awesome. Yea, man this exchange is so awesome etc…. I asked him, “Have you been sad before?” He said, “What’s that?” I said, “Sad, as in upset.” He replied, “No, man. How can you be sad. Life is just so like friggin awesome man. There are so many awesome people here, man. And like, we are in Bangkok man and it’s awesome! AWESOME man! Cheers to that, dude. Yea, awesome!” When I told Ben Dunphy (QUT) this story, he replied , “That’s unreal, man.” … just like everything else Ben comes across. Unreal.

Another long blog! Oh dear, oh dear. In the meantime, I would like your opinion on this interesting remark: your eye looks like an egg whose yolk was broken and stirred just once. Effective?

The other day, we went on a bike tour around the outskirts (or a tiny, tiny bit of the outskirts) of Bangkok. It was well cool, as finally I saw some of “the real Bangkok” – that place which people so often seek but struggle to find. We biked for about 20-30mins through a slum, which was ever-so interesting. The ‘track’ which we ‘biked’ along was a ‘footpath’ between the ‘houses’. But the ‘houses’ were very open so it was more like we were biking through the residents ‘living/dining/bedrooms.’ Invasive much? I think so!

I all too often hear Westerns say, “[the people living in slums] are so poor, but they are so happy,” or, “Despite our differences, [the poor person] and I are one; we are kindred spirits,” and I can’t help but think, “Oh you silly Westerners… don’t be so naive.” But, apparently it is true. Apart from a few unhappy old people, they were all wrapped to be there. Especially the children (maybe ignorance is bliss…), who were running after us yelling, “Hello! Hello! Hello! Hello!”, giving us high-fives, smiling and not even wanting to sell us something (which, for Bangkok, is very unusual). We also saw some crazy Thai boxing training on the side of the road. Mental.

SO! AMSTERDAM! It is such an awesome city, man! It’s just unreal! Having lived in the south of the Netherlands for one year, I never really got the full ‘living-in-Amsterdam’ feeling, as I was always just there for the day. But it was so great to just bike around during the day, chilling, drinking in the boutique cafes, and learning to act like a local. At night-time though, all turned wild! Haha. Na, na, na bro. Just kidding. The gay-pride parade was pretty cool – EVERYONE goes out to celebrate: the hetros (+ partners, who stick to each other like glue), the metros, the momos, the homos, the grannies and granddaddies, the mummies and daddies, the little girls and boys, the lady-boys and tom-boys, and finally, the not-quite-sure-what-category-you-fall-into’s…..! It’s absolute chaos along the canals as everyone is standing to watch Princess Tooleta-Pepsi strut his/her stuff on a canal-boat, and watch all the hotties dancing on the “Naughty boat”. There’s even a boat for children who are gay at school, which must be pretty cool for them: “Take that bullies – one:nil to me!” Then everyone goes out to party, which is also chaos, as the Dutch bars are pretty small… let’s just say it was intimate.

I’m now staying in the coolest hotel ever with Caroline, Jason and an unreal bloke called Ben from QUT. We have a case competition coming up, but more on that later.

For now,

You know I love you,

XOXO

P.S. My room-mate has some nail clippers and my nails need to be clipped. Is it social acceptable to borrow them? I mean, it’s not like we’ll be sharing underwear.

Fun, Fun, Fun, in the Sun, Sun, Sun!

To my most Ron Weasley-like brother, Nic.

Oh, how you have grown, little Won-Won. It seems like just yesterday you were boarding your first Hogwarts Express train – dirt on your nose and all – and now look at you, popping out little gingers! Flippin’ lucky that Nev was there to save you with the sword though!!!!

Having just seen the last Harry Potter movie ( – IT ALL ENDED – ),  I’m a bit sad. The series was, after all, such a significant part of my childhood. Nevertheless, I’m in Amsterdam – the land of flowers, cheese and things that please, so there’s no point being miserable! In fact, a couple nights here and Moaning Myrtle will have to get a new nickname…. (*wink*) – it’s my mother… she’s been very ill!

“But, Sam, what have you done this past month?” I hear you ask.
“Why, jolly good of you to ask me young chap – I’d be awfully pleasured to make you all-the-more knowledgeable,” you hear me say.
“Eh, okay.”
“…Banter.”

So, as mentioned previously, my first destination was London, Baby. Here I embraced some stunning friends and colleagues left-over from when I lived in the UK, and also people I know from N.Z./ Australia. There’s always a ‘feel-good moment,” when you are reunited with creatures who are so classy, chic, cosmopolitan, and NOW (minus one, who was so yesterday’s technology, delivered today). Additionally, it’s nice to see actual old buildings – a sweet reminder of how relatively recently Australia was taken over by those Buckingham Palace inhabitants. I also visited Canterbury, Cambridge, and Manchester, which are all super cool. Highlights would include 1) going to Bing-Gay (which is Bingo hosted by a Steve called Eve) and winning not just a tin of SPAM, but also a Jesus Clock and (!) a sassy toilet-seat cover (or, as the incomprehensible Chinese label called it “Floss an urinal the mat of warm” – ya-ha, one suggestion for next time: use a better translator), 2) something I can’t talk about on this blog, and 3) something else which also cannot be mentioned. Needless to say, it was fun!

For me the U.K. is a very special place, as it makes you ask yourself such necessary questions like how many times does one need to be told to please mind the gap between the train and the platform before they remember it and was the tube this hot when it was used as a bomb shelter during WWII and in the old days did people also need to treat themselves to an upward nudge of the thermostat in the middle of summer and now that I’ve seen WICKED twice will I defy gravity faster? There are also more contemporary questions, like, why should you buy whole onions when you can buy them pre-chopped and cooled? In fact, why should anyone buy any fresh food when it is so hard to come across? Why can you go clubbing with the London divas any night of the week and have guaranteed contact with stud-muffins? Will London’s infrastructure cope with the 2012 Olympics? Why do people care about my Kate and Will when Pippa’s dress was remarkably more revealing at the wedding?  And most importantly, did anyone need to see a doctor because they were sick of hearing about the PHONE! HACKING! SCANDLE!?

Then it was to Hamburg, Germany! First stop, McDonalds. One cannot go to Hamburg without having a Hamburger; just like one cannot go to Frankfurt without having a Frankfurter and just like one cannot go to Bangkok without … never mind. Then back to Berlin for the third time– oh, how I love it!

I must admit, waking up in an old-school apartment in East Berlin to the sun shining and Edith Piaf singing, I swear I felt like those people waking up on the first day post-WWII or post-Berlin Wall. Freedom at last! And Coca-cola! I stayed with  some German friends (beautiful people, beautiful people). Then, on to Rheda-Wiedenbruck: here I stayed with friends Katrin and Andrea  and their cute little mother and funny father and party-animal brother. This town was really ‘interesting’ – there were fake fat people statues EVERYWHERE! Like cute little painted fake fat people sitting in restaurants and fake fat nuns outside the church and fake fat tourists getting fake photos taken and fake fat people dancing in the town square. Did you know German’s only drink bottled water? Unbelievable.

This really long blog is almost over – sorry! One month of travelling and I’ve got a lot to say. As a break, here is a quote: “Reader, suppose you were an idiot. And suppose you were a member of Congress. But I repeat myself.” – Mark Twain.

Then, via Amsterdam, I was off to Mallorca (or, if you’re uneducated /on an all-inclusive holiday, Majorca with an emphasis on the J), an island off Spain, with my Daddy and his lady-friend Caroline. We stayed in a beautiful Spanish-style villa in the north of Mallorca and drove the most untrendy Fiat van around – luckily we saw no-one we knew.

After some cute father-lady friend-son bonding time (which involved drinking ridiculous amounts of Spanish wine and eating enough cheese to support an entire cheese factory; time to switch to skinny-water I think), we were joined by lady-friend-Caroline’s friends, and together they formed the three witches + partners (a word of advice: if you go on holiday, invite adults as they cook amazing food for you every night!!!!).

One night we heard there was a huge party in the town square and naturally, we went to shake our bonbons. As it turned out,  it was a celebration of the Virgin and everyone was wearing white – like, everyone was. Everyone but us. Too bad we missed the memo, especially since one of the witches was dressed in all black – needless to say, the message the locals got was polar opposite to the Blessed Virgin Mary.

NOW, I’m back in AMSTERDAM! It’s gay-pride week. There are rainbow-warriors everywhere – they can’t help it if they’re fabulous! Party time! Also, my wonderful friend, Caroline from New Zealand, is here. Woo-hoo-hoo! I’ll let you know how it goes later. But for now, I’ve been learning a bit about business as Dad’s Caroline is the manager for Personal Care (shavers etc.) at Philips (the Dutch electronics company). She was saying how Philips was known as a grand-daddy company, and the youth of today just didn’t want to use products that their fathers did. Understandable. So, they tried to make their personal groomers more appealing; Caroline launched the marketing initiative during a Philips meeting (with really old and conservative males) and asked them if they trim their pubic hairs with scissors (OH NO!). For obvious reasons this is very dangerous, yet a lot of them did! Despicable. Philips then made various really funny advertisements regarding electronically ‘grooming’ your man parts and the benefits it offers – i.e. your face may be the king of the boardroom, but your Bonsai is the king of the bedroom so you better present it well! Watch one of the videos: www.philips.com.au/c/mens-grooming/15259/cat/. One could almost say many a small thing has been made large by the right kind of advertising, or grooming in this case.

I’ll be in touch again soon,

You know I love you.

XOXO