Monday, January 4, 2010

My every day life

Dec 20, 2009
My every day life


Weather in Chiang Rai

Annual Low Temperature 20 C ( approximately 68 F)
Annual High Temperature 31 C ( approximately 86 F)

Precipitations (mm)/months

  J    F   M   A   M     J       J       A       S       O     N    D

12   8  19   90   204   211   308   385   268   142   61   25

 We are in the valley , approx 450 m above the see level.

Around are mountains. So it looks like we are in a cup. There was no drop of rain from Nov 1st.  There is no wind. No wind is literally. Sometimes I look at the trees and wonder if they are trees or statues, no leaf is moving. There is a problem because of that. All polluted air remains here for a long time, probably until rain will start. And air is really polluted because of motorcycles which are the worst polluters. Sometimes I feel that I have no enough air to breathe.

 My apartment

My apartment has air conditioner.
I have one bedroom furnished apartment with living room approximately equal to my living room in Columbia. It has two chairs, sofa, coffee table, table with TV, dining table with 6 chairs, and refrigerator. I also have 1 bedroom, 1 bath with shower and a kitchen. The house has 12 apartments. There are 6 such houses in which live guests and young professors. Some professors live in Chiang Rai. They have cars. All instructors and professors in the School are young, in their 30 -th with exception of Dean and me.

Transportation

I live 10 min walk distance from my office. We have open electric cars with 12 sits, which go over all campus from 6 am to 8 pm. We have only one store (7/11 - seven-eleven) , selling cosmetics, junk food and first necessity goods. For anything else people go to Chang Rai. (10 mi). Chiang Rai is the capital of province with the same name.

Students and young professors have motorcycles. Foreigners usually buy or rent motorcycles too. The inexpensive ones cost between $100 1nd $300. I was afraid of motorcycles all my life. Plus, here cars go on wrong side of the road and Thai law requires driver license for driving motorcycle. Foreigners do not usually have the driver license because police officers do not stop foreigners. But I don't like to drive motorcycle anyway, with or without driver license. There are no taxi here. I can order the University van (no charge) for shopping but I do not use this opportunity. So I am waiting until some sweet souls remember of me when they go for shopping and take me with them. There is plenty of sweet souls here. So there is no problem with shopping.

Prices

1 US$ = 33 baht.

A dish at the University canteen cost 20 baht. At the restaurants food starts at 30 baht. I was at a very chic Japanese restaurant in Chiang Rai. We, three persons, spent 600 baht, ordering many different dishes and sharing them. It was a great dinner. A big plate of sushi at this restaurant cost $3-4. But American  food at the supermarket cost as much as in America. I invited two professors from our University at the pizza restaurant in Chiang Rai. I paid for three small pizzas and three cokes 900 baht. 250 g of Kellagg's Corn Flakes cost 100 b at supermarket. There are restaurants with American food. A dish with barbequed beef cost from 60 b to 110 b (file mignon), because meet is local. There is a barbeque buffet in Chiang Rai. At every table is a coal barbeque in the center. You can take different kinds of meat, fish, see food and vegetables, all you can eat, and barbeque it yourself. Plus there are many kinds of ice cream. All this cost 80b, $2.5.

A minimal month salary is 4000 or 5000 baht. A young University instructor 's monthly salary is 15,000 baht. You can not say that 15,000b =$500, because food and everything else produced in Thailand costs 5 to 7 times less than in America, so the buying power of 15000 b in Thailand may be equql to $2500 -3500 in America. But all Western goods cost more than in America. Therefore a car costs more than a house. The gasoline costs more than in America, 26 b/liter. At these prices a car is a luxury. In Chiang Rai one can buy a modern four bedroom home for $32,000, in Bangkok it costs much more. Foreigners are not permitted to buy land in Thailand.

Thai Food

All of us know the phrase “We are what we eat” but I never took it literally. Until now. Here was a conference on apiculture. I went to a Japanese professor's presentation about the bee queen jelly. Japan produces large quantities of the bee queen jelly using it for cosmetics and medicines. How they do that? Bee larvas are only of one kind. If you feed a larva with honey a working bee will grow. If you feed a larva with bee queen jelly, a queen will grow, approximately 4-6 times larger than a working bee. The queen produces more than a million eggs for the new larvas. So one can quickly increase the production. I saw it clearly that “We are what we eat” when I was at the birthday party of Thai rich people. I wrote about this party earlier. The host and all his family, about 30 people, were tall and slim. The farmer workers , about 50 people, who came to say “Happy Birthday” to their master were small, and some of them tiny.

Thai food is very tasty. It is based on sauces. The standard dish consists of rice, meat with vegetables and sauce. All kinds of meat, see food, fish and vegetables are used. All that is prepared in a great tasty sauce. For each dish is a different sauce. All are tasty and some are very spicy. I hope to buy in Bangkok a cook book for sauces in English. Here such books exist only in Thai language.
There are many fruits I have never seen before, some of them are very good, other acceptable. The fruits I knew like citrics, pine-apple, bananas are tastier here. Apples, pears, grapes and cherries do not grow here, so they are expensive. Thai fruits cost 20-30 b/kg, while imported fruits cost 80-90 b/kg.

There are tree places with food canteens at the University . They look like food markets in US. Many kinds of food from different regions of Thailand. Thai eat the same food at breakfast, lunch and dinner: a dish with rice, different meats or fish and vegetables or noodle soup with meat and vegetables. There is very little meat in a dish, typically a few cubic centimeters tiny chopped. In the restaurant ( we have only one at campus) you can buy a dish with a piece of meat. One day I ordered rice with salmon. I haven't seen any salmon at the beginning. When I started to look more closely, I saw some pink points in the rice. It was salmon. Nanotechnology research. I told this story to one of my colleagues. She told me that all salmon is imported, i. e. very expensive.
A westerner told to me: “Thai eat a lot of insects.” I told to him: “I will never eat insects.” His response was: “You eat them all the time. Insects are added to main dishes and salads, but you don't know that”. May be he is right. I do not know. I hope he was joking. I do not prepare any food home. I did not buy any pots. I bought only a small electrical pot for boiling water. So I can prepare coffee or tee.

Coffee

Thai do not usually drink coffee or tea, only water. Coffee was not cultivated in Thai before. Now two companies started to grow coffee on Chang Rai province hills. It is a great coffee, but expensive. 250 g of such coffee cost 450 b. A fair arabic coffee costs 150 b for 250 g.  At supermarkets and restaurants is sold only instant coffee. It is usually sold as one in three: coffee + sugar + coffee mate. Something terrible (rot-gut, poshirka, poilo). It is not possible to buy coffee beans or ground coffee at supermarkets. Coffee is sold at special cafes. Coffee sold under name “Cafe americano” is great, costs 25 to 60 b and is expresso, very strong and tasty, and served in big cups. After drinking a cap of such coffee one may not sleep for 3 days and three nights :}).

Alcohol

Buddhist religion prohibits alcohol. But many people drink. They drink very little. Russians would die of laugh seeing as Thai drink alcohol. Thai produce only whisky. All other drinks are imported and consequently are very expensive. Here alcohol is sold twice a day, from 11 to 2 and from 6 to 8 o'clock.

Whisky is served in a huge glass filled with ice. At one of parties I was asked if I like to drink a whisky. I agreed. I received a big glass filled with ice and something colored smelling whisky. I remembered a scary story. It was in Romania, short time after I came there. My husband and I went to a New Year party. I was served a big glass of cola containing some alcohol. Only later I found out that cola was half and half with vodka. I drank all glass. After a short while I felt drunk, sick and duped. I decided that I am a very unhappy person. I locked in the bathroom and started to weep. I continued until I wept out all liquids, alcohol included, off my body. When I came back in the room with swelled face and red eyes, the New Year was a couple of hours old. I would not like to repeat such an experience once again. So I asked the host how much whisky is in my big glass. I was assured that my glass contain only one or two spoons of whisky. The remainder was a fruit juice. It was true. I have seen a number of times how “whisky”was prepared and it really has a minute amount of whisky.

Beer is a most popular drink. Beer is poured in a glass filled with ice. So one 0.5 liter bottle of beer is enough for four people.

Vine is very expensive and of poor quality. The grapes do not grow in Thailand. The vine is brought from Australia, California or France. The duty is very high. Many go to Burma (60 km from Chiang Rai) to buy alcohol. There it is much better and at least twice less expensive, because the duty is small.

All alcohol that 15 Thai drink at a party would not be enough for one Russian average guy, not speaking of a real Russian drunkard.

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