This morning we went to our first class at the Thai Language Institute at Chiang Mai University!
We actually don’t have a good method of getting around yet. To get to the Language Institute on campus we had to walk the entire way, which took fifty minutes, plus we had to skip breakfast! First because we didn’t have time to sit down, and second because most of the shops were closed at eight in the morning. There were a few booths selling fried eggs over rice but I didn’t see a single restaurant that was open. I think that Chiang Mai takes a while to wake up in the morning.
Walking sucked. I normally don’t mind walking but Chiang Mai doesn’t have great sidewalks. It’s often hard to find a crosswalk and there are times when you just end up climbing over some obstacle. Sometimes there isn’t a sidewalk at all and you’re just walking along the road hoping that the drivers see you. Anyway we definitely need to find a better method of getting around.
The language class itself was great, I felt like the teacher gave us a lot of individual attention and also gave us a lot of good tips. The first thing we did was go over the five tones in Thai, mid, high, low, rising, and falling. Then we went over the sounds of Thai. The teacher had a lot of tips on how to position your lips, tongue and teeth to make various sounds.
Next we introduced ourselves to the other students, telling everyone how long we had been in Thailand, and how much Thai we knew. Most of the class didn’t speak Thai, and the time that everyone had been in Thailand ranged from about two weeks to five months. There were a good spread of ages in the classroom though there were a lot of people from San Francisco, California. One woman was from New Jersey, while there were also people from France, Australia, and Austria.
Then we learned to ask everyone their name. My name is easy apparently, Helen is all said in one tone. My boyfriend’s name is said with a low tone, while his brother’s is a high tone. All of our names didn’t need much modification but Trevor, Val, and Jill’s names are all really hard to say in Thai. I guess that names that end in a “l” are hard to say in Thai.
We took a fifteen minute break and kind of hung out around the student cafeteria. There was a small cafe open and the boyfriend got a mango smoothie that was not very good. It tasted like the mangoes were still green.
After that we all went to the computer lab and went on the learning website. We went through the introduction, which covered the sounds of the language, and the first lesson which had some important phrases like what is your name? Or what country are you from?
We then went back to the classroom and learned to ask whether someone is tired, hungry, fun, etc. They all used the same form of Kun hiu mai ka? I use ka because I am female, but men are supposed to say krap. In order to respond you basically repeat the same phrase without mai. You can also use maak maak to mean very, or nit nuoi for a little bit. We also learned how to say beautiful, which is just general, or handsome which is for men only.
Thai seems like an easy language to learn but there a few things that we don’t have in English. There are no tenses, nouns and verbs don’t have to agree, and there are no articles. One of the things that I noticed is that as a female I generally speak a lot more formally and politely. I also have a slightly different vocabulary. Another female only thing is that I can use my “nickname” instead of saying dichan, which is more formal way of saying I. Essentially I speak about myself in the third person. Men have a different casual word for I.
I’m sure there was more but by the end of class I was tired and hiu maak maak.
We walked to the gate of the university and caught a Sŏrng tăa ou to Tha Phae, the eastern gate of the city. Chiang Mai just so happens to be surrounded by a moat and what remains of an old city wall.
Near the wall we went to this place called Arunrai, which had some tasty northern Thai cuisine. I finally had a chance to try the Kao Soi, which is a northern dish consisting of tasty coconut milk based curry soup with egg noodles and topped with some fried noodles. I know it sounds like so many noodles, but it was really good! I ordered it more to see what the quintessential north Thai dish was, rather than thinking I’d like it, but I actually think that I would get it again. The curry itself had more of an Indian flavor than most of the other curries I’ve had in Thailand so far. I love Indian food so this was no problem for me, but it might be for someone that prefers they taste of Thai curry.
Next we looked at renting a scooter. The boyfriend and I are thinking about getting one that can hold both of us. I don’t have any experience with a motorcycle or scooter and I think that Thailand is a pretty dangerous place to drive around, even if you’re outside of Bangkok. He’s got a lot more experience but learning to drive on the left side of the road will be a big challenge. Sharing a scooter will help us get around and I think it’s a good compromise.
His brother found one that he liked an rented it on the spot. He told us it was pretty crazy the way everyone else was driving, and that driving on the left side was weird, but he made it back to the apartment in one place which we were both thankful for.
Now we’re hanging around the apartment relaxing before we get some dinner. It’s been a long day!