Chok Chai

A merchant once said, “My spears are so sharp they can pierce any shield!” and, “My shields are so strong that nothing can pierce them!” A customer then asked, “What happens when one of your spears strikes one of your shields?” –Han Feizi (paraphrased).

Yesterday was Thai day. While the students celebrated by visiting a local temple, I was busy being driven around Pak Thong Chai and Korat by Pen, one of the teachers at Bunditnoi who has been helping Hannah and I get our work permits. So I missed the school-time celebrations.

BUT. After school, our manager Kru Kai arranged a trip to the nearby town of Chok Chai. We went with Yoyo, the art teacher, who was already in Kru Kai’s infamous truck when Hannah and I got there (Ben couldn’t come due to a commitment at his college). We drove around Pak Thong Chai for a few minutes looking for a kind Cambodian man named Chan, Bunditnoi’s new conversation teacher (he started on Monday). Once we found him, we were off!

Kru Kai dropped us off in Chok Chai and proceeded onwards, unable to join us because she had to take an exam at her university.

traditional

Thai girls in traditional dress at the Thai Day festival.

The Thai day celebration in Chok Chai was a large festival—with carnival games, fried dough and fried bugs, the works—that was focused on displaying five enormous candles.

Oh my god. The size of these things! And they weren’t simply tall, cylindrical candles. Each one was carved with all sorts of creatures and scenes from the Buddha’s life, as well as likenesses of the king and the eldest Thai princess (the favored of His Majesty’s three children). The candles were carried into the parking lot on five massive floats. When you get up close to them you can see parts of their construction—some of the biggest sections were melted onto the rest with wax, while many small details were attached by hammer and nail.

Candle

This is one candle.

According to Kru Kai, there is a candle competition in Korat every year, presumably to judge which candles are most beautiful. The candles from Chok Chai have won every year for the past decade.

One of the fascinating things near the candles was the ladyboy dressed in a red dress, a blonde wig, and extreme makeup who would approach everybody taking pictures and try to photobomb them. She would always say “Hello” to any farangs that passed—when I passed her by she even kissed her hand and tapped my cheek with the kiss.

3 Heads

A three-headed elephant: the end-piece of the second candle.

King

Bhumibol, Rama IX, King of Thailand and Wax.

After taking many pictures at and around the candles (and dancing with the Thai people who hung out near them) we moved on to find food. The people of Chok Chai had set up a sizeable market as part of the celebration.

When we passed the fried bug stand, Yoyo tried to get Hannah and I to eat some. We both had to say “Kim lao” (Already ate!) several times before she would let up.

How do I describe Yoyo? I already know that anything I say will not do her justice, but I must try because she is a significant part of life at Bunditnoi. There is a famous paradox: “What happens when an unstoppable force meets an immovable object?” Yoyo happens. She is both the unstoppable force and the immovable object.

Her English is good enough that she can hold a steady conversation, and yet she will often dip into Thai and expect us farangs to keep up. Furthermore she will often ask us to repeat a phrase in Thai, with the intention of teaching us the language, but then neglect to tell us what it means in English. No amount of questioning will get her to switch to English, and she’ll soon move on to a new phrase.

Hannah & Yo

Hannah and Yoyo in Chok Chai

In the past couple of weeks Yoyo has had three jobs at Bunditnoi: art teacher, music teacher, and conversation teacher. She began as the art teacher and very quickly started to help Ben teacher music. When Kenny, our original conversation teacher, was fired a couple of weeks ago (blog post on that to come), Hannah and I took over his classes for one day and then Yoyo took them over from us. This week Chan started up, although I believe he and Yoyo teach conversation together.

As such, one of Yoyo’s most common phrases is: “I busy too much!” Some other good ones are, “I can/cannot!” and “Don’t serious, be happy.” I am a fan of the latter; Hannah has taken to saying “I cannot!” just like Yoyo does.

Last week she showed up at our house after school, insisted on cooking us dinner, ate with us, and then left. When she needs to get your attention, she’ll give you a slap on the shoulder.

At one point Yoyo insisted she was fat—this is the farthest thing from the truth. To prove her wrong I grabbed my belly and said, “Yo, look at this.” Chan (quite the jokester, I have learned) leaned over and remarked, “Wow! You have a baby!” For the rest of the night I had to be careful lest I damage my budding fetus. It was a great time.

There is much more to the enigma of Yoyo, but as I said before, I cannot really explain her in a blog post.

After eating dinner we returned to the Chok Chai candles, and we watched a famous Thai singer perform her concert, and we watched some chefs prepare a giant wok full of Pad Thai. When it was ready the dish filled one huge basket and two platters. When it started to get dark we rode the Ferris wheel—this was shorter in height than most Ferris wheels in America, but the ride was much longer.

Ferris

View of all five candles from the Ferris wheel.

The rest of the night included waiting impatiently for a snake charmer to reveal his pets, watching a group of Thai dancers perform in the space between two enormous candles, and listening to some more Thai music. All in all, a great time!

More on everything to come.

Be dareful!

And I Ate Another Grasshopper

WARNING: some content in this blog is not suitable for work or for my grandmother

There is a reason it’s called Bangkok, sweetie. -The Hangover, Part II.

I was surrounded by animals for sale. On one side, cages full of puppies. On the other, kittens. Down the alley there were rabbits and groudhogs. In the other direction, parrots, parakeets, and fish of all varieties hanging from thin plastic bags high above the ground. There were bamboo tubs of baby turtles and frogs trying to leap out of their barrels. Giant Tupperware containers full of live, squirming maggots were at every intersection. Everything reeked of the business my father affectionately calls, “Number Two.”

I was utterly lost. And although I was surrounded by more farangs and English speakers than I’ve seen in the past two months combined, I was utterly alone.

I turned around and tried to go back the way I had come. The alleys full of pets were endless. I strained every mite of my meager navigational prowess trying to find a way out. And in an hour, I was still surrounded by the animals. I was certain: the puppies would be my doom.

And then I was out. To my right hand side was a market stand selling large, smooth, wooden, intricately-carved, inhumanly large…dicks.

I breathed a sigh of relief. At last, I thought. A familiar sight.

How did it come to this?

On Friday afternoon, Ben, Hannah and I left Bunditnoi early to spend the weekend in Bangkok. We hopped on a bus in Pak Thong Chai and 4.5 slow hours later we arrived at Mo Chit 2, the same bus station I spent two nervous hours in two months ago as I waited for the bus to my new home. From there we hopped a taxi to our main destination: Khao Sarn Road.

If you have never heard of it, Khao Sarn Road (pronounced: Koh-Sahn) is probably most simply described as, “Bangkok’s Bourbon Street.” Except that here, every night is Mardi Gras. Accordingly to Hannah, who has spent Mardi Gras in New Orleans, Khao Sarn Road is “more Bourbon Street than Bourbon Street.”

farangs

The farangs on Khao Sarn Road. Taken with iPhone.

As a farang living in Pak Thong Chai for the past two months, I was immediately struck by the number of, well, white people there were on Khao Sarn Road. That sheer quantity of people who look like me is not something I am used to anymore and it was absolutely disconcerting. In fact, a good deal of my time in Bangkok felt more like a return to American culture than a further exploration of Thai culture, and my reaction to it all was a confusing mix of joy, derision, annoyance, and relief. But I’ll get to that.

Our first mission was to find a hotel. After several misfires, we ended up at Kawin Place, a dinky hotel separated from the noise and light of Khao Sarn by at least a hundred yards. We got a room with three twin beds for the wonderful price of 600 baht a night. We put our packs down. And then we went out.

Khao Sarn

Khao Sarn at night. Taken with iPhone.

Khao Sarn Road on July 17th is as bright as Times Square on New Year’s Eve. Along its two or three blocks there are countless bars, tattoo parlors/body piercing shops, bars, massage parlors, bars, hotels, and a couple more bars. There are restaurants serving genuine Thai food, there are Indian restaurants, a Mexican restaurant, and most of the bars offer a sampling of your typical American food (hamburgers, pizza, etc). There are vendors selling clothing that have “Thai” patterns. I put Thai in quotes there because in two months I have never once seen a Thai person wear clothing in the styles that were for sale on Khao Sarn. There were standings selling fried bugs, coconut ice cream, or a quick dish of Pad Thai. At this point in the night, the street was essentially closed to traffic—all of the restaurants and bars and even the massage parlors had spilled onto the road itself and were conducting business in the middle of a crowd of thousands.

There were also the somewhat more risqué businesses—while Thailand’s recent military coup cracked down on such things as hookah bars and other recreational drugs, there is still a thriving business of prostitution and ping pong shows. In the latter, you pay to watch a woman use her pelvic muscles to shoot objects from within her vagina, such as ping pong balls. I did not attend one of this theatrical marvels, but not for lack of opportunities. Every several yards a man will hold out a sign to you that reads “Ping Pong” and make a sound with his mouth akin, I assume, to the sound a ping pong ball makes as it is forcibly ejected from a woman’s vagina.

Most of the spectacle and debauchery all appeared set up to appeal to a specific type of tourist in order to reflect what the tourist’s assumptions about Thailand are. This is what bothered me most about Khao Sarn—that people would come to Thailand and spent their first night drinking American beer, eating an American burger or pizza, buying a T-shirt that says I ❤ Bangkok (or even I ❤ New York), etc. None of it spoke to me as remotely similar to the Thai experience I’ve been having so far.

And at the same time…after two months, it was very nice to even have the option to eat a hamburger. It was nice to look around and be reasonably sure that anybody I approached would speak some English.

Anyways…that first night, we had a beer in a bar where the band was playing covers of the Beatles and Eric Clapton. We were at first relegated to standing by the bar, but when a table opened up we shared it with a Polish man who had been in Thailand for a week and his Thai girlfriend. But soon after that Ben retired—as he was to take his GRE exam early the next morning. Hannah and I explored the rest of Khao San Road together, but retired ourselves not long after Ben.

The next morning Ben was already gone when I woke up. So Hannah and I walked together to the nearest Sky Train station and road that to Chatujak (alternatively spelled Chatuchak or Jatujak), Thailand’s biggest market at 32 acres. As soon as we arrived we split up, agreeing to meet up again at the entrance at 11:30 am.

Democracy Monument

Democracy Monument. On the road to Jatujak.

If you know me you won’t be surprised that the first thing I found was a used bookstand that peddled books in many languages, mostly English! Wow! That is unheard of in Pak Thong Chai. My city is too remote and too, well, Thai to sell any English books. I made four book purchases that day at three different bookstands:

  1. Don Quixote (because I’m tired of straining my eyes to read it on my tablet).
  2. To Kill A Mockingbird (which I have never read).
  3. Red Dawn.
  4. Warbreaker, by Brandon Sanderson.

The market was full of wonderful goods—more traditional Thai clothing, handbags, toys, jewelry, furniture, decorations, Buddhist statues, more categories of goods than I could see or remember. Very close to the bookstand where I made my first purchase was the kindly old lady selling the intricately carved, inhumanly large dicks.

After an hour or so I took a wrong turn and found myself lost in the animal kingdom. When I asked Hannah about it later, she said she hadn’t seen the pet section, nor did she even know that there was one.

After the dicks helped me get my bearings I continued to shop, and left that day (after another almost comical hour in which Hannah and I tried to reconnect but kept missing each other) with two shirts (one tee; one Thai), a pair each of shorts and pants, some postcards, and two bracelets.

Jatujak

Jatujak Weekend Market

While shopping at Jatujak I experienced another odd sensation. I listened to all the farangs try to express themselves to the Thai shop owners—try, for instance, to insist that they pay two hundred (200) for a garment that the shop owner insists is worth sam roi (300) baht. That’s when I realized how much I’ve been learning over the past two months. I am nowhere near fluent in Thai but it was an easy thing for me to say to the woman from whom I bought the bracelets, “Sawat dee don chow” (Good morning), “Sabai dee mai, kop?” (How are you), “Tao rai ni?” (How much is this?), and when she replied “Hok roi (600) baht,” I was able to respond, “Mai hok roi baht, ha roi!” (Not 600 baht, 500!). To which she graciously responded, “G’dai” (okay). That might be the extent of my Thai, but it was still a nice confidence boost to watch all my ethnic peers struggle to accomplish that much.

Returning to the hotel that afternoon, all three of us were beat. We spent a good couple of hours relaxing in our air conditioned room, not using our feet. But eventually we did get up and explore a little more of Bangkok—we passed a couple of temples and visited Tammasat University, where Ben spent 40 days on study abroad in 2013.

But the main event of that night was to take part, wholly and shamelessly, in the kitschy tourist wonderland that is Khao Sarn Road.

It started with a burger and a beer. I was mostly over my strange anti-tourist prejudice and was truly delighted to enjoy some American food—though the beer was delicious Thai beer, Chang. After eating we strolled about and down Khao Sarn, constantly saying “Mai kop” (No thanks), or “Mai wani don yen” (Not this evening) to the men trying to reel us into the ping pong shows.

While strolling I decided to do one thing that was very much in the spirit of things tourists think are Thai but are really just for the tourists: I bought a bag of fried grasshoppers. I ate mine first—if you are my Facebook friend you can see an 18-second video of my reaction. As I say in the video: “It’s not terrible…but it’s also not good.” Hannah tried one next and her reaction was somewhat more adverse than mine. Then Ben, and he seemed to like it!

Grasshoppers

A look into the grasshopper bag. Taken with iPhone.

We continued to peruse the road and I ate another grasshopper (For scientific reasons: to see if they’re an acquired taste. They’re not.)

We sat for our second beer of the night at a bar that, like the others, had merged with the street itself. Partway through the conversation Ben stood and I assumed he was in the bathroom. Several minutes later I looked to my side and realized he was sitting at the table next to ours, where an attractive blonde about our age was chatting with him merrily. Hannah and I finished our drinks and mutually agreed to leave Ben to the girl and to his luck. I left the bag of grasshoppers on the table, for whomever was fortunate enough to sit there next.

Hannah and I got some more drinks elsewhere along Khao Sarn and I enjoyed getting to know her that night better, I feel, than I had so far in the past two months.

The music was loud and American (such classics as Mark Ronson’s “Uptown Funk” and Pharell Williams’ “Happy”), the people were loud and drunk, I was constantly having to turn away trays of fried scorpion or woman selling woven bracelets brandished with catchy slogans such as “I ❤ eat pussy,” “Up bum = no baby,” and “Welcome to Bangkok.”

It was past one in the morning when Hannah and I decided to return to the hotel, and strangely enough we ran into Ben who was making his way back at the exact same time.

Night #2 in Bangkok: more touristy, more boozey, more fun. It was very good for me, in my current situation, to have a short dip into something practically American in culture. All the same I feel bad for the many, many people my age whose only experience of Thailand is Bangkok and Khao Sarn Road. That is not truly Thailand.

I am now back in Pak Thong Chai after a long but happy bus ride reading my English books. This morning before leaving Khao Sarn, we ate American breakfast food, which in my book is counted as something of a miracle. In Pak Thong Chai, people eat the same foods for breakfast as they eat for lunch and dinner. And it’s never scrambled eggs or pancakes.

More on everything to come!

Be dareful.

The Incredible Intelligence of Om Si

Lots of things are mysteries. But that doesn’t mean there isn’t an answer to them. It’s just that scientists haven’t found the answer yet. -Mark Haddon

There are many remarkable students at Bunditnoi Song. There are students who have hugged me in fits of affection, there are students who have demanded to play rock-paper-scissors (the game I taught them a few weeks ago when they started to lose interest in thumb wars) after a long day at school, there are students who just like to prove that they can say “Good afternoon, teacher,” when I pass by, and smile proudly to themselves when they think I’ve stopped looking.

And then there’s Om Si.

Om Si is in the first grade of EIS (English Integrated Studies, the division of Bunditnoi where Hannah teaches all of her classes and I teach over half of mine). He has a small frame with an almost comically large head. He also has a learning disability.

I personally believe that he has severe ADHD, and Ben and Hannah tend to agree. None of the English-speaking Thai teachers have told us whether they know his actual diagnosis or not. To them, he is simply, “difficult.”

Difficult is to put it lightly. The span of Om Si’s attention is so short, the capacity of his focus so miniscule that it is all but impossible to form a connection to him. Om Si does not sit quietly in class unless he has been quite heavily medicated (which does happen, as more often than not his mother will spend the day at Bunditnoi, waiting for her son to cause a disturbance, at which point she will heroically march up to him and medicate him). When he is not on medication, he is not on a plane of consciousness that we farangs can reach. He will not communicate to me even in the little English that is classmates use (“Excuse me teacher may I drink some water?” or “Excuse me teacher may I go to toilet?”), but rather march up to me and spout a monologue of high-pitched Thai.

But that monologue is short-lived, because soon Om Si’s interest in whatever I’m doing has run out, and he has moved on to the next thing that will hold his attention for 3-5 seconds.

Om Si

Om Si is curious about my camera.

I’ve managed, once or twice, to get Om Si to sit next to me against the back wall on days that he was particularly disturbing to the rest of the class. On these occasions all I could think to do was talk to him in a low, calm voice, and allow Teacher Lheaw to carry on with the lesson. I remember one particular day very early on in my time at Bunditnoi when I was talking to Om Si about whatever came to mind, and somehow got on the topic of Batman. At the word “Batman,” whatever calming powers my voice has were broken, or some kind of recognition dawned in his abnormally large head, and Om Si shouted “BATMAN!!” at the top of his lungs.

Teacher Day

Teacher Day…a rare morning of peace for Om Si.

But all of the above is just prelude to the most notable thing about Om Si…

On Tuesday we had a test in all of the first grade classes. To begin, I wrote the alphabet in jumbled order on the white board. Up until about a week ago, we’d only been practically the alphabet in, well, alphabetical order. But now I jumbled the letters, and the students had to come to the front of the room one-by-one and recite the entire list, or a random selection of letters that Teacher Lheaw chose.

After the first student in EIS first grade performed rather poorly, Om Si ran to the front of the room. I expected him to be gone again after a few seconds, but instead he spoke to Teacher Lheaw in Thai. Lheaw nodded, and Om Si stood up straight. I knew then what had happened: Om Si had volunteered to take the test next, rather than wait his turn.

Om Si recited every single letter of that jumbled alphabet with perfect pronunciation and diction. When he was finished, Lheaw and I congratulated him, and he returned to his seat, where, honest-to-goodness, he proceeded to stick a pencil up his nose, smiling his mischievous smile.

Nasal antics aside, none of the other students in EIS first grade performed so well. Om Si’s perfect score confirmed what the Thai teachers had been saying and I had begun to doubt: that Om Si is the one of the smartest students his age.

I have great affection for Om Si, even though I know that it will never be returned. He is not stupid and he is not unaware. He very often wears his mischievous grin when he’s up to no good, but I do think it is currently beyond his capacity to connect with other people meaningfully and ignore the constant wanderings of his mind.

More on everything to come!

Be dareful.

Peanut Butter

Upon arrival in Mozambique, I was prepared to pay a pretty penny to continue enjoying peanut butter. What hadn’t crossed my mind, however, was the possibility that I would be able to make it myself.-Stephen Pope

The house we moved into two weeks ago came with a well-stocked kitchen of one rice cooker and two mortars-and-pestle. On our first weekend there, Hannah decided to use one of the mortars to make peanut butter.

Unlike in Narumbo, Mozambique, where Stephen Pope has instructed the local populace how to make peanut butter in order to fill a gap in both their nutrition and the variety of their food supply, it is not necessary for us farangs in Pak Thong Chai to make our peanut butter by hand. You can buy jars of peanut butter at 7-11 or Tesco Lotus, the local grocery store (in fact, if I’m ever nostalgic for America, I can go to Tesco to buy Oreo cookies, Ritz crackers, or even M&M’s). However, making peanut butter by hand is more nutritious, more rewarding, and more fun.

I helped Hannah shell and mash the peanuts for our first batch, while she mashed and experimented with levels of oil, sugar, and salt to get that perfect peanut butter taste. Unfortunately, that batch was less than perfect.

PB

Peanut Butter: batch #2

The next weekend I endeavored to make a second batch—though Hannah and Ben, perhaps disenchanted from the first attempt, decided not to join in. The second batch came out quite well, however, and I enjoyed it so much that I’ve made two more batches since, whenever I have a few idle hours on a weekend. My “recipe” is below. Check it out in case your food processor ever breaks and you can’t make it to the supermarket, but you have a pile of peanuts you don’t know what to do with.

Recipe:

The only things you absolutely need are these: peanuts, oil (I use coconut oil), a mortar & pestle, and a source of heat.

Ingredients.

Peanuts, oil, mortar & pestle.

  1. Start by roasting the unskinned peanuts. I do not measure a specific amount of them, but use just enough to cover my pan in one layer of nuts. Roast until the skins are partially darkened. Remove the nuts from heat and put them in a bowl.
    Roasted

    Roasted, unskinned peanuts.

    1. Roasting the peanuts improves the taste, texture, and color of the finished product. If you don’t roast them, you’ll end up with pale, powdery stuff that resembles, but does not quite achieve, the taste of peanut butter.
  2. Wait about 5 minutes for the nuts to cool off.
  3. Remove the skins. You’ll want to put skinned peanuts into a separate bowl. The skinned peanuts should be partially darkened as well. This step can be long and dull, so I recommend listening to music while you skin.
    Skinned.

    Roasted, skinned peanuts.

    1. Don’t worry about removing every little particle of skin. Roasted peanuts are easier to skin than unroasted peanuts. And whatever you can’t remove will get mashed into the product soon enough.
  4. The fun step! Toss a handful of skinned peanuts into the mortar and begin mashing. Add another handful every 5-10 minutes. If you can avoid it, don’t do this step in Thailand—the humidity will soon have you sweating like you wouldn’t believe. My typical batch of peanuts takes about an hour to mash.
    1. The peanuts will crush into powder at first. But the more you
      Mash

      Mash it up!

      add into the mix, and the more you mash them up, the more it will start to resemble peanut butter.

    2. You’ll know you’re nearing the end when you start to see hints of moisture on the mixture (say that 5 times fast). This means that the peanuts’ natural oil is emerging, and it is really the essential thing about peanut butter. It also means you should keep mashing for about 5 minutes to get the right texture.
  5. The only necessary step after the mashing is to add a little extra oil to soften everything up. I never add more than one tablespoon of coconut oil. Mix it in for a minute or so.
  6. After that, you can add more ingredients to taste (but peanuts and oil are the only two essential ingredients). I like to add a tablespoon of honey for sweetness. I’m sure sugar, vanilla, almond extract, or cinnamon would work just as well. Or chili powder for the dareful.
  7. Your finished product will look, feel, and taste like peanut butter you’d get from the natural foods aisle at the supermarket. It won’t be creamy Skippy or Jif, but it’ll be healthier and tastier!
PB

A scrumptious treat!

Man of La Mancha

In some village in La Mancha, whose name I do not care to recall, there dwelt not so long ago a gentleman of the type wont to keep an unused lance, an old shield, a skinny old horse, and a greyhound for racing. –Miguel de Cervantes

Today’s blog is a little different from what you’ve been reading so far. It is not about the places I’m going, nor the people I’m meeting, nor the adventures I’m having. It’s about the book I’m reading.

You may have noticed that at the bottom of this blog, just below the definition of the word dareful, there is a list of the books I have read in Thailand. It’s a list I intend to make much longer over the next few months.

Last week I finished reading Jon Krakauer’s ‘Eiger Dreams,’ for the second time. It’s a book my incomparable sister gave to me for Christmas in 2014. Her inscription, “I hope this book inspires many adventures after you graduate,” was part of the reason why I decided to move to Thailand for a year. After finishing it the second time, I was certain that I wanted to travel for a few weeks before returning home next year, so I decided to apply to volunteer with All Hands in their earthquake relief efforts in Kathmandu, Nepal (a city that features prominently in “Eiger Dreams” and Krakauer’s other literature) in March 2016.

Anyways, the main purpose of this blog is not to discuss “Eiger Dreams” but Don Miguel de Cervantes’ classic book “Don Quixote,” often considered the first modern novel, which is the book that I am reading now.

Many years ago, at an Indepence Day party near Harper’s Ferry, my paternal grandfather told me about his favorite book, “Don Quixote.” He spoke about it with so much passion and fervor that I was astounded. I was young enough that I misheard the title as “Donkey Hotay” and assumed the book was about a donkey named Hotay. Nonetheless, listening to him talk about “Don Quixote” remains my favorite memory of him. Less than a year later, when he passed away, I secretly vowed to one day read my grandfather’s favorite book.

Bucket List

Bucket List Item #23: Read “Don Quixote,” for Grandpa.

Several years later I was a freshman at Binghamton University in New York. I was on stage crew for a musical I had never heard of, something called “Man of La Mancha.” On the first day of tech week the cast performed the entire play, minus set changes, for the stage crew. The play began with drums—heavy, intense drums. Then five soldiers dragged a skinny, dirty man from a high platform into the depths of what would eventually become a prison. Then the man began to sing, and the words that struck me most were these: “I am I, Don Quixote, the lord of La Mancha!”

I instantly connected those words to “Donkey Hotay,” that book my grandfather told me about long before. This must be the musical adaptation of that same book! Coming home from rehearsal that night, I researched the musical online and finally corrected my error. I should have starting reading “Don Quixote” that night, but I was reading something else at the time (probably “The Wheel of Time”).

Soon after that first rehearsal I discovered that “Man of La Mancha” is my mother’s father’s favorite musical. He is a particular fan of the song Impossible Dream. It is a song about following one’s ambition and seeing it through, no matter how challenging. Earlier this year my mother played that song on the piano for his birthday. So this story, in its many forms, has in a way followed me for many years.

So far I am enjoying the book a lot! Its language is sometimes archaic, but the story is fascinating and I’ve actually laughed out loud reading it. No book has made me laugh out loud since the last time I read Dave Barry…and let that say about me whatever it will.

My one complaint about “Don Quixote” is that I have to read it on my computer’s Kindle application, since I do not have a paper copy (I am reading Edith Grossman’s translation from Harper Collins).

But that is a small complaint. Whether e-book or print, at last I am reading the book my grandfather told me about. The last advice he gave me was to read it. This is for you, Grandpa.

More on everything to come!

Be dareful.