Let’s learn Thai!

I’ve taken a few days of Thai lessons now, and I’m already using it to get around town. When I was studying Greek, I complained about how difficult the grammar was, particularly the declensions and conjugations: that the word for “dog,” for example, was either “σκύλος”, “σκύλο”, or “σκύλου” depending on whether I meant “the dog” as a subject, “the dog” as an object, or “the dog” as a possessive noun; and “work” was “δουλεύω,” “δουλεύεις,” “δουλεύει” and so on, depending on whether I work, you work, or he works. Thai has none of those problems: regardless of who is working, the verb is งาน, which is pronounced “tham”, with an aspirated “t”. (The script is complicated, but I’m not learning it yet.) I “tham,” you “tham,” we all “tham.” Also, “I” and “me” are the same word, written in Thai as ผม and pronounced “phŏm.” “Dog” is always หมา regardless of where it is in the sentence.

Where Greek has an advantage, however, is that all the first-person forms of the verbs end is “-ω”, with or without an accent, so it is easy to know which words were verbs: “μπορώ,” “κάνω,” “δουλέυω,” “καταλαβαίνω,” and so on: they all end in an “o” sound. Those same words in phonetic Thai? “Dâay,” “mii,” “thamŋaan,” and “khâwcay.” (“ŋ” is an “ng” sound, and the c is closer to a j.) Worse, the language utilizes tones and elongated vowels, so that “kháw,” “khâaw,” and “khăaw” mean different things – he, she or it; rice; and white. Moreover, “khâaw khăaw” means “white rice,” “klɔ̂ŋ” means “camera,” but “khâawklɔ̂ŋ” means “brown rice” and not “rice camera.”

First impressions

Don’t squat on the seat.

We have been here for a little over a week, and I’ve been slow to start photographing in earnest. Instead of exploring the city with my camera on my own, we have been settling in at the Embassy, we’ve moved to the permanent apartment and begun to set it up, and we’ve done some shopping; meanwhile, I’ve also started Thai language lessons and yoga. Which is not to say that I haven’t photographed at all; in fact, I’ve already joined one of the photography clubs in the city. It’s just that I haven’t photographed a lot yet (and what I have photographed has not necessarily been all that sophisticated. Sometimes I’m still a six-year-old.)

There are a few recurring themes so far. First is the sheer quantity of food vendors. They are everywhere, at all hours of the day, especially in the area where I live.

Admittedly, I’m not always sure what the food is.

The other thing that is everywhere are massages. You can’t swing a dead cat without hitting a massage parlor in the center of town or anyplace else the tourists frequent.

Generally, the massage spas are legit, but some of them aren’t. How can you tell?  If there is a mix of younger and older ladies in matching shirts sitting outside, and they show you a menu card with items like “foot massage” and “traditional Thai massage,” and you can see people getting massages inside through the front window, you know you’re in good hands.

Conversely, if you can’t see what’s going on inside, and the young girls (always young girls, not older ladies) out front show you a menu card where the first item on the list is “ball massage and hand job“, then it’s best not to go in.

Next: more early impressions.