April 15, 2017

Songkran and Other News

Songkran is the Thai New Year. For a week in mid-April, everyone seeks relief from the blazing Thai heat by splashing water on each other.

Yes, a week-long water fight.

Last year, I got just a few buckets of water thrown at me while we vacationed in Southern Thailand. This year, we stayed in Chiang Rai. We experienced Songkran on a motorbike, which is a good (though dangerous) way to see the action.

Storefronts replace customers and products with huge barrels of water. They use small buckets and SuperSoakers to drench all passers-by, especially those on motorbikes. Green bottles of Chang beer line tables behind the barrels, and plastic glasses full of ice and Chang sit full-full, seating beads of water on the tables. Chang-filled young people wipe chalky white powder on each others’ faces and pour cups of ice water down the backs of their shirts. The water and powder symbolize a fresh start, a cleansing. It’s also the only time of the year when touching people of the opposite sex in public is acceptable.

We were absolutely drenched after just a few blocks of downtown. My bike helmet was smeared with white powder, and I was shivering with cold. In an unusual turn of events, this year’s Songkran has been filled with gusty cold thunderstorms that make it a little less fun to be wet. Most people will have a hard time believing that it’s even possible to be cold in Thailand, but let me tell you, it is. Even during Songkran.

Although it’s one of the happiest and most fun times of the year, Songkran is also a very dangerous time, which is why I ended every class last week with, “Wear your helmet and buckle up. I want to see you again after Songkran.” It’s a time notorious for traffic accidents. Alan and I saw first-hand some of the reasons why. I mean, even at other times of the year, Thai roads are dangerous due to the variety of vehicles allowed and the lack of enforcement of laws (and to anyone who wants to tell me that India, Vietnam, Pakistan, etc. are worse, that’s fine. I won’t argue. I’m just saying that Thailand is pretty bad in it’s own way). Stop signs are not observed at all, and the green light mentality extends into the first couple seconds of red light. Almost all highways are divided with a median, which means that the only way to get across the road is a super-risky U-turn. Anyway, anyway, anyway…back to Songkran. So merchants line all roads, including the so-called Super-Highway to throw bucket-loads of water on motorbikes speeding by, who then swerve from their usual position on the shoulder into traffic that is going as fast as 90km/h. Add a bunch of beer and cheap whiskey to that already bad situation, and it’s clear why so many accidents happen. What drives me the most crazy is that people don’t even wear helmets or seatbelts most of the time. It blows my mind (no pun intended) that people will go so far as to have a helmet in their lap (in case they spot a police check point), but not wear it. WHY?

Some statistics claim that 70% of the accidents during Songkran are with motorbikes, and most of the rest are with pick-ups. Kids and adults pack into the back of pick-ups, also armed with water guns and buckets to throw water on people en route. While it looks really fun, if this truck is involved in an accident, all of those back-riding passengers are at a huge risk of injury or worse. There was a public outcry when it was tried to pass a law against riding in the back of pick-ups. Especially in rural areas, impoverished farmers and workers rely heavily on riding in the back of pick-ups as a means of getting to and from their 12-hour work day. Needless to say, the law was not passed, and seeing the Songkran kiddos with their goggles and Hello Kitty buckets standing precariously in the back of speeding trucks makes me crazy.

Perhaps that’s enough rant about road safety. It’s sort of the ever-present problem around here. What has been really nice this year is to see some color return to people’s clothing. The Songkran outfit is shorts and a bright Hawaiian shirt. After six months of wearing only black, white and gray in honor of the late king, it’s so refreshing to see gem tones and neons again.

The countdown to America is getting much closer for the Orr-Lynch trio. Getting Egg to Bangkok is proving to be the most complicated part, actually. Pets aren’t allowed on flights out of Chiang Rai, due to several accidents and over-heating problems for animals in the cargo area of these flights.

We have to go to Bangkok a day early to get Egg checked by an official. That means we will basically have two days in Bangkok with our little guy in tow. Luckily, we have lots of practice. He goes everywhere with us. He’s out with us now at a coffee shop.

We’ve had the neighbor cat over for some play dates recently. Egg seems to love it. We will definitely be getting more animals when we are settled Stateside. We already have some names picked out.

Stay safe out there, Chiang Rai and beyond. Until next time...

February 28, 2017

Updates from Chiang Rai

Hello world. It's me.

I haven't written for a long time. I'm sad about that.

Here are some highlights from recent months:

1) Not a highlight--Egg (the cat) has been dealing with a serious injury to his tail that just will not heal. I think it started with a dog bite. Later a deep infection and failed sedation that resulted in me having to go to the hospital for a serious cat bite and getting a 5-shot series for rabies. Egg doesn't have rabies.

2) A highlight--Alan's brother, Andy, and his friends came to visit us in Chiang Rai. It was one of my favorite weekends that we've had here. The guys went caving (I proctored an exam), then we went to a waterfall, and out for drinks at the rice-paddy bar in the middle of nowhere aptly called "Overdose." No one overdosed. It was just beer. The next day we drove on my favorite road along the Myanmar border up to the giant Buddha in Mae Sai, and then to Chiang Saen to see the mighty Mekong and ancient city. It was so fun to share our lives with family.

3) Another visit highlight--Our good friends that we met in Turkey (Yuliya's blog is amazing) came to visit last weekend. That was also super fun! We went to Khun Korn waterfall and so many delicious restaurants. I got a foot massage with my friend before going for food and fun at the night market. They met Egg and saw our lovely campus. It was so validating to show fellow teacher friends our place.

4) Alan and I have decided to go back to the US for now. Following Alan's father's recent bout with cancer, as well as realizing just how far away we are from our families--and not even to mention the craziness taking over the world with Donald Trump at the helm--we think it's time to be a lot closer to home. It won't be easy. We need jobs, shelter, transportation, and pretty much everything, but if we can make it work in the middle of Turkey and rural Northern Thailand, surely we can handle a place like the American West. By the way, if you know of any jobs in university teaching, editing, writing, academic advising, material development, or related positions located near the Rocky Mountains, please let me know! (jenalynch13 at gmail dot com) We've been getting up at 5:30 every morning to do an hour or two of job search stuff before work. It's a slow process, but not uninteresting!

5) I'm starting a new project today for the Chiang Rai Comptroller General office. They want a speaking class taught by a foreigner--I hope they're ready for a Jena-style course!

6) I'm continuing my action research in second language writing about how students learn to incorporate source material into their writing. I've got some good stuff in the works!



January 8, 2017

Old Passport Memories

The defining feature of my 20s has certainly been travel. My passport's weathered pages are filled with stamps and stickers and visas from around the world. The passport I was issued in 2007 now has four holes punched in the cover to nullify it. I've picked up a crispy new passport from Chiang Mai on Tuesday, and I felt a sense of sadness to see my trusty be-stickered old passport be taken out of commission. As a farewell, I'm going to write a page-by-page post about the memories this passport has helped me make. The stamps are written about in the order they appear in my passport, which is a little confusing, but authentic to how a passport is stamped.

Front cover: 

Sticker: IM [Khmer script?]57. I'm pretty sure that was affixed in Cambodia. Somehow it has survived the six years of shuffle since then.

ID page:

My more precise signature of 10 years ago, where the letters of my last name are actually legible. My favorite ID pic of all time in which I look like a Russian spy, or perhaps a 19-year-old American college student. Issued On September 11. Not a great day for Americans.

Page 1

Stamp: Heathrow Airport 1 Jul 2014. LEAVE TO ENTER FOR SIX MONTHS. EMPLOYMENT AND RECOURSE TO PUBLIC FUNDS PROHIBITED. Though, feel free to have the worst night's sleep of your life in our arrival area outside of the international terminal.

Stamp: ADMITTED / CHI / DEPARTMENT OF HOMELAND SECURITY-US CUSTOMS AND BORDER PROTECTION JUL 08 2008. Returning from study abroad in Austria, one less boyfriend, one more tattoo.

Stamp: FRANKFURT 26.01.08 17. Entering Germany for study abroad in Austria. When you have German grandparetns, you've gotta stop in on your way through Europe!

Visa: VISUM. ÖSTERREICH. 15-01-08. MULT. REPUBLIK ÖSTERREICH GENERAL KONSULAT CHICAGO. Visa to study abroad in Graz, my first experience living abroad. I could sum it up as, being an exchange student is mostly about parties, the Euro was really expensive in 2008, and Schnitzel fat goes directly to your butt. Wouldn't change a thing!

Page 2

Visa: KINGDOM OF CAMBODIA [USED]. Phnom Penh, I. A. 25USD. Single. 8 JAN 2010. Capt. Ly Bunna Deputy Chief of visa service. "What have I gotten myself into?" That was a distinct thought while this visa was being glued in. Blog entries from 2010 are all about this plunge into Southeast Asia.

Stamp: IMMIGRATION CAMBODIA. 08 JAN 2010. 08 FEB 2010. P121. Holy shit. I'm actually doing this? Why is it so dark outside?

Stamp: IMMIGRATION CAMBODIA. SIEM REAP AIRPORT DEPARTED 28 MAY 2010. 08 FEB 2010. S068. I cannot believe I survived that. Hey. there's a Dairy Queen at this airport.

Stamp: ADMITTED / CHI / DEPARTMENT OF HOMELAND SECURITY-US CUSTOMS AND BORDER PROTECTION AUG 01 2015. Agent says, "So, what were you doing in Turkey for 13 months?" Sub-text: so, uh, joined ISIS lately? Please wait in the room where we've made any obviously Muslim people sit.

Sticker: JAPAN IMMIGRATION INSPECTOR. [CHARACTERS] LANDING PERMISSION. 29 MAY 2010. 27 AUG 2010. Temporary Visitor. 90 days. Narita. Officer: "What were you doing in Cambodia? So, are you planning to marry the boyfriend that you are visiting? Ok, welcome to Japan." Answers: volunteering as a teacher; uhhhhh why are you asking me that??

Stamp: IMMIGRATION. DEPARTED. NARITA. 25 JUL 2010. Well, I never saw that boyfriend again.

Page 3

Visa: KINGDOM OF CAMBODIA [USED].  Extension of Stay [Khmer script] Single. 04 MAY 2010. 08 JUN 2010. Neth Savoum.  One more month. You can do it. That prison-style calendar you've been using to count down is not so great psychologically, but you're doing it!

Visa: KINGDOM OF CAMBODIA [USED].  Extension of Stay [Khmer script] Single. 02 FEB 2010. 08 MAY 2010. Neth Savoum. Well, I guess I'm committed to at least three months. Better figure out how to make this work (brownie sundaes).

Page 4

Taped in paper: T.C. LOS ANGELES BAKONSOLOSLUGU. ATTENTION !!! WITHIN ONE MONTH OF YOUR ARRIVAL IN TURKEY, YOU MUST APPLY LOCALLY TO THE POLICE DEPARTMENT FOR ALIENS (Emniyet Müdürlüğü Yabancılar Şube Müdürlüğü) FOR GETTING A RESIDENCE PERMIT IN THE CITY WHERE YOUR WILL BE STUDYING, WORKING, RESIDING. WWW.EGM.GOV.TR. Moving to Turkey as newlyweds.

Visa: TÜRKİYE CUMHURİYETİ. GİRİŞ VİZESİ / ENTRY VISA. TRANSİT VİZESİ /TRANSIT VISA. 08.04.2014-08.04.2015. Tek Giriş. 365 Gün / Days. Single Entry. çalışma / work. Y.Ö.K Başkanlığı. 3 MART 2014 tarih. 60,00 USD. 82444403-29. sayılı olur yanıları. A. Semra GEYIK. Konsolos. Consul. KAYSERİ MELİKŞAH ÜNİVERSİTESİ.

StampT.C. İSTANBUL HAVA HUDUT KAPISIGİRİŞ. 07 02 14. We actually arrived in Turkey. I thought I would want to kiss the ground, having been in transit for more than 48 hours, but that is pretty much the last thing you want to do in the domestic terminal of the Istanbul airport. I took a fitful nap instead.

Page 5

StampT.C. İSTANBUL HAVA HUDUT KAPISI. ÇIKIŞ 17 01 15. Excited to leave Turkey for a week in the land of pork and beer: Germany!

Stamp: 17. 01. 15. 53. FRANKFURT AM MAIN. Visiting Oma and Opa in Germany for a break from Turkey. It was surprisingly hard to switch back to German after working so hard on Turkish!

Stamp: 24. 01. 15. 53. FRANKFURT AM MAIN. Back to Turkey.

StampT.C. İSTANBUL HAVA HUDUT KAPISI. ÇIKIŞ 01 08 15. Leaving Turkey for good.

Stamp: CAMBODIA IMMIGRATION. PHNOM PENH AIRPORT PERMITTED 19 FEB 2016. 19 MAR 2016. P107. e-VISA. Going back to Cambodia six years later to present at a conference. Familiar in the weirdest way.  One of my favorite blog entries ever.

Stamp: CAMBODIA IMMIGRATION. PHNOM PENH AIRPORT DEPARTED. 21 FEB 2016. 19 MAR 2016. P136. e-VISA.

Page 6

Visa: KINGDOM OF THAILAND. [USED] Non-Immigrant B. S. 80 USD. CHICAGO. 5 Aug 2015. 4 Nov 2015. ROYAL THAI CONSULATE GENERAL. Welcome to Thailand. Same Jena, different country.

Stamp: IMMIGRATION MAE SAI THAILAND. DEPARTED. 13 DEC 2015. Walking over the bridge to Myanmar--what???

Stamp: IMMIGRATION SUVARNABHUMI AIRPORT THAILAND. VISA CLASS NON-B. 16 AUG 2015. ADMITTED 13 NOV 2015.

Stamp: CHIANGRAI IMMIGRATION. APPLICATION OF STAY IS PERMITTED UP TO 23 AUG 2016 APPLICANT MUST LEAVE THE KINGDOM WITHIN THE DATE SPECIFIED HEREIN OFFENDERS WILL BE PROSECUTED. SIGNED [Thai Script]. IMMIGRATION OFFICER. 12 OCT 2015. [Thai script].

Stamp: MYANMAR IMMIGRATION. ADMITTED TACHILEK. 13 DEC 2015. One of my proudest stamps, though it's super hard to read. Myanmar represents one of the final frontiers to me, a place still largely unexplored by tourists.

Stamp: MYANMAR IMMIGRATION. Left for MAE SAI. 13 DEC 2015. TACHILEK.

Page 7

Visa stamp: NON-IMM. IMMIGRATION THAILAND RE-ENTRY PERMIT. Valid until 23 AUG 2016. ONE. Multiple. 23 AUG 2016. 12. OCT 2015. CHIANGRAI IMMIGRATION. [Thai script]

Stamp: IMMIGRATION. MAE SAI THAILAND VISA CLASS N-I B. ADMITTED 13 DEC 2015. UNTIL 23 AUG 2016.

Stamp: IMMIGRATION. DEPARTED. 19 FEB 2016. MAE SAI THAILAND. I think this was a mistake. I was not in Mae Sai on 19 Feb. I did leave Thailand to go to Phnom Penh this day.

Stamp: IMMIGRATION BANGKOK THAILAND. VISA CLASS NON-B. ADMITTED 21 FEB 2016. UNTIL 23 AUG 2016. Back from the conference in Cambodia.

Stamp: IMMIGRATION SUVARNABHUMI AIRPORT THAILAND. 16 DEC 2016. Oh! Going to America for the first time in 18 months! Very exciting!

Page 8

e-Visa: Kingdom of Cambodia. NATION-RELIGION-KING. [USED]. Tourist. 30 days. 0 Children. 25 January 2016. 25 April 2016.

Stamp: CHIANGRAI IMMIGRATION. APPLICATION OF STAY IS PERMITTED UP TO 23 AUG 2017 APPLICANT MUST LEAVE THE KINGDOM WITHIN THE DATE SPECIFIED HEREIN OFFENDERS WILL BE PROSECUTED. SIGNED Pol. Capt. S [Thai script]. IMMIGRATION OFFICER. 12 OCT 2015. [Thai script].

Visa stamp: NON-IMM. IMMIGRATION THAILAND RE-ENTRY PERMIT. Valid until 23 AUG 2017. ONE. Multiple. 23 AUG 2017.  CHIANGRAI IMMIGRATION. [Thai script]

Page 9

Stamp: IMMIGRATION SUVARNABHUMI AIRPORT THAILAND. VISA CLASS NON-B. 16 AUG 2015. ADMITTED 1 JAN 2017. UNTIL 23/8/17.

Page 10

Blank

Back cover

Sticker: GÖZEN. IST. SECURITY.  Turkey was really big on security at this time. They still are, and with good reason. My passport and luggage were covered in these stickers.

Sticker: APIS GÖZEN SECURITY. ISTANBUL.

Sticker: Security. 08/07/08. 16. FIS.