Thursday, February 22, 2007

Glazed and Confused

So what in the hell have I been up to over here on the other side of the planet?

Well, for one, its been a pain trying to locate and obtain food. I go out to lunch with the grad students every day, and they will order for me when everything at the various restaurants is in Thai, but other than that I'm on my own (Breakfast and Dinner). The first week in Chiang Mai was really hard on the ol' stomach, as I didn't yet have the confidence to walk up to the street kiosks and point at shit for them to give me to eat. The first thing I've learned here is how to count in Thai, its probably the most important lesson to learn if you're going to be in a cash-based economy like theirs. The second thing I've learned is that when you are going to travel to a foreign country, and people tell you that "everyone" in that country speaks english, those people are lying. Yeah, they all take english in primary school, but that doesn't mean they paid any attention at all. I mean, how's your spanish coming along?

In any case, my only source of protein for two weeks was this stuff:

In this picture you'll find an egg, which I was unsuccessful in cooking by saturating it in vinegar (I have no microwave or cookery items), a bag of "Taro fish snack," which is kind of like Thailand Beef Jerky, only instead of beef jerky it tastes like thick strips of paper. Its still my primary source of protein, as its made from fish. In Thailand they don't write the nutritional content on most stuff, instead they write the ingredients in percentages. And since these things are "85% ผลการค้นหาคำศัพท์" (fish protein) I figure they're my best bet for protein consumption. The next bag over is "Taotong Roller Seasoned Cuttlefish." And it about tastes just like that, like a dried fish/squid creature. Not so good. The last one is that can. That's "Tuna steak in brine" and is probably the worst tasting tuna I've ever eaten. While 'brine' is water, it is very salty water. In any case I won't eat more than one tuna steak a week for fear that the Thai maximum allowable mercury level is probably higher than ours.

Then last weekend while I was walking around this part of the city I stumbled upon a cafe. A cafe for tourists. Specifically, english-speaking tourists. I immediately ordered a cheeseburger and fries with an iced coffee!

I haven't touched those fries in that picture yet, by the way. The serving sizes are much smaller than I'm used to, but that's okay. Fries! Burger! Coffee! It was divinity made flesh. It cost a boatload (150 baht! = $4.50), but was totally worth it. Everyone tells me the food in Thailand is great, but I wasn't convinced it until I ate that cheeseburger. You can see the mayonasse dripping from it. I don't even like mayonasse, and that burger was delicious! I went back the next morning (sunday) for breakfast.

Oh yeah. Scrambled eggs, little hunks of bacon, toast, and fresh-squeezed orange juice! All for 110 baht (~$3.30). Again, that's very expensive but I was happy to pay it. I'd never had fresh-squeezed orange juice before either. I highly recommend it.

Besides that place though my options are pretty limited. There is one other restaurant I've found that I have no trouble communicating what I want to order.

Unfortunately I'm not really a donut guy, I mean, I had a couple, but its not a food you can really live well on. I'd like to point out a couple of things in the picture that make it invariably a Dunkin Donuts in Thailand. First, notice how the building is on the same level and street as the street. No sidewalks here, folks. Just road that runs right up to the buildings. Second, a boatload of motorcycles. Everyone rides motorcyles here, and rides them crazily. And third, the ubiquitous Thai stray dog sitting in the lower left-hand corner. The calling-card of any modern Thai city.

During my attempts to find food at various convienience shops (that all carry the exact same items -- there must be a small buisiness starter package or something for these stores), I found one of Tony's favorite snack foods, or so I assume, I just know he likes to talk about them all the time.

As for work. I'm putting together a laser-induced fluorescence detector for the lab here in Chiang Mai. Here's a picture of me and my labmate at a dinner last night at the PI's house.

You can tell which one's me by the guy that's trying to catch mosquitos in his mouth. That other guy is working with me on the detector and his name is Dom. Or as I like to call him, "Thailand Ted." Only this Ted doesn't argue with me all the time.

And for completeness, here's a picture of part of the system I'm working on. Science!