Adventures in Errant Errands

Sometimes, I feel like I could live in Thailand forever. That feeling is usually strongest around lunch time:

The lunch that dreams are made of.

The $1.20 lunch that dreams are made of.

Other times – like when I go to immigration at 5 a.m. to make sure I get a place in line to get a ticket to get a number when the office opens at 8:30 a.m. so I can see the immigration official at 10 a.m.  – I’m reminded that Thailand isn’t really my home.

Unfortunately for me and my aversion to paperwork, my passport, driver’s license and vehicle registration all need to be renewed. Soon.  And like a Mobius strip made of red tape, I need each of those documents in order to get the others:

I need my passport (along with 2 photos, a letter from my landlady, an application form, and photocopies of my passport pages) to get a Certificate of Residency from Immigration, which I need (along with my passport, 2 photos, an application form, a heath certificate and photocopies of my passport pages) to renew my Driver’s License at the DMV on the other side of town.

Are you still with me? Take a deep breath, there’s more.

On Monday morning, my plan was to go to the Canadian Consulate, get a quick (but expensive) Certificate of Residency, renew my Driver’s License that afternoon, so I could go back to the Consulate on Tuesday morning to apply for my new passport. It was a complex, but brilliantly efficient plan.

Are you still here? If so, you’re a trooper. Carry on.

First, finding the Canadian Consulate in Chiang Mai isn’t easy. It’s not like the American Consulate, which is right down by the river, surrounded by a giant wall and guarded 24/7. That one’s hard to miss. The Canadian one is in a little out-of-the way building with a tiny little sign you can’t see until you’re right beside it…and since it’s where two lanes merge on a highway, you might be busy looking at a stampede of trucks bearing down on your little motorbike and miss it the first 3 times you drive past.

Oh, there you are!

Oh, there you are!

Eventually, I saw the tiny sign out of the corner of my eye as I was passing it, and slammed on my brakes. I coasted to a stop on the paved shoulder 2 meters past the entrance, and rolled my motorbike backwards down the highway and coasted into the parking lot.

Feeling rather accomplished, I parked my bike, grabbed my mountain of neatly organized paperwork, and traipsed through the wide open door…into an empty office.

Hello? Canada? Is anyone home?

Hello? Canada? Is anyone home?

Really – it was completely empty. For a long time.

It was deserted. Abandoned. Vacant. I could have committed mischief! Or Sabotage! Or Espionage! Or Decoupage! But I didn’t – mostly because I was busy signing the guest book.

Eventually, a shy Thai girl walked past carrying a cardboard box and trying very hard not to make eye contact with me. On her 2nd box-carrying trip, I asked if anyone could help me. She politely explained that someone had been here. They had since gone out – but they would (eventually) return.

I sat down to wait.

After about 10 minutes, Box Girl returned and gave me a phone number to call. I hate the telephone, and wasn’t in a hurry yet, and there were magazines to read, and I had been assured that the person who had left would (eventually) return.

I continued to wait.

After finishing a rather lacklustre article in an ancient magazine, I decided to call the number Box Girl had given me.I spoke with the person who had left, and she assured me she would (eventually) return … next Friday.

Have any of your best-laid plans gone awry lately?

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Adventures in Thievery

Most of the time, Chiang Mai feels like a pretty relaxed “Hey, I’m not gonna steal your stuff” kind of place.

Except when it comes to motorbike helmets. My helmets get stolen ALL THE TIME. (Okay, really only twice-and-a-half, but it feels like a lot.)

My first helmet was white, and it had a big Pucca sticker on the back:

ImageI mean really, who’s going to steal a helmet with a big dorky awesome sticker on it? Okay, on second thought, that sticker was pretty sweet. I would totally envy someone with a snazzed-up helmet like that.

Next, I got a shiny red helmet that matched my sunglasses.

ImageIt also matched my super-red Halloween lipstick.

A helmet that coordinates so well with cosmetics and accessories? Yup, that’s just begging to get stolen.

Finally, I gave up on spectacularly dorky awesome helmets, and I bought a plain ol’ black one, and no-one tried to steal it…until yesterday.

Yesterday, I parked my bike in a row of other bikes, and went to get some Indian take-away (butter chicken, palak paneer and chana masala, in case you were curious…and no, it wasn’t all for me. I did have friends to share it with). As I was walking back to my bike carrying my fragrant bag of steamy dinner, I noticed a guy on a motorbike near mine, getting ready to drive away. Thinking maybe I should get out of his way, I moved closer to the curb and out of his way, but kept walking towards my bike.

When he didn’t drive past me, I looked up and saw his bike was still running, but he wasn’t on it. Instead, he was standing next to MY bike, unhooking my helmet.

I kept walking towards him.

He got back on his bike, holding my helmet. (Apparently, he wasn’t planning to actually wear it.)

By this point, I was only about a foot away from him, and my brain was finally catching up with my eyes. My eyes totally had my back on this one though, even without my brain’s help – because my eyes had been staring incredulously at Mr.Thief the whole time he was busy snagging my helmet. So even though my brain was still playing catch-up, Mr. Thief looked up and all he saw was me giving him a wrinkled-brow “Just-what-do-you-think-you’re-doing?” look.

I like to think I looked like a totally menacing bad-ass, but in reality, I think I looked more like a kindergarten teacher about to lecture him about inappropriate behaviour.

Either way, when I reached out my hand and quietly said, “Hey, give me my helmet back, please,” he did.

Just like that. He just handed it back to me with an “Okay. Thank-you” before he drove away.

“Okay. Thank you” Really. What kind of red-handed thief says “Okay. Thank you” when he gets caught?

I don’t know what I would have done if he had tried to drive away. If history is any indication, I probably would have hurled my curry at his head and hoped for the best.

I’m glad it didn’t come to that. I’d hate to lose my butter chicken AND my helmet.

Adventures in Grocery Guesses

My house is a strange place to be on a Friday night.

I’ve never seen the appeal in going out and whooping it up, just because it’s Friday, (The fact that I just used the phrase “whooping it up” probably already tells you so much more than you need to know), but once in a while, I feel like I should at least acknowledge the fact that it’s Friday night.

Sorry…let me pause here. I also feel like I should acknowledge the fact that I haven’t posted in over a month. So let’s just get that cleared up right now. I was on holiday…and now I’m back from my holiday with lots of things to say…but I’ve discovered that blog posts take so much longer to write when I actually think about what I’m writing.

(Hopefully that same thinking + writing = time problem won’t decide to rear it’s ugly head as I finish writing my thesis…)

As I continue to process my holiday, and work on a few ‘thinky’ posts, I’ll use this Friday night to get back into the swing of things. I thought it might be nice to start with a little quiz. A grocery quiz. You see, when I was doing my undergrad, I loved doing my grocery shopping late, late, late at night for two reasons:

#1. I loved gliding down the empty aisles using my shopping cart as a giant cumbersome scooter, with my midriff balanced on the handlebar. It’s best to do this in the cereal aisle, not the jam-jar or garden rake aisles. Because, you know, safety first and all that.

#2. People shopping at midnight buy some weird stuff. I liked trying to come up with stories that would explain why the middle-age woman in front of me was buying baby powder, jumper cables, and a can of peanuts…or why the 20-something man behind me was buying 3 bags of dried lentils and a box of toaster strudel.

This where you, and the quiz, come in. As I mentioned earlier, I like to at least acknowledge that it’s Friday night. I feel like I should do something different. I should learn something new…or better yet, I should learn something old. I should resurrect some long-forgotten skill of my ancestors. Like the Friday night that this happened.

Tonight’s adventure included a late-ish trip to the grocery store (sadly, none of them are open 24-hours here) and these items:

P1020785In case the picture isn’t clear, that’s 7 litres of milk, 1/2 a litre of buttermilk, 2 bottles of wine, 2 mason jars and a stack of disposable metal bowls.

What’s happening at my cottage tonight? Leave your guesses in the comments below!