Thomas in Thailand

Whoa! Has it been a long time since I last did an update here (and the irony of this sentence is that I wrote it almost two months ago but never got around to finishing this update — that’s the whole final quarter of 2016). That one ended with me coming back to Taiwan and how I spent my third first weeks here. Okay, so what happened in the meantime, you may wonder. In the next period of time (trying to be as vague here as possible).

Courses at NTU

Concerning my Taida (NTU) life, I took up three courses this semester:

(1) the Seminar on Language and Culture (yuyan yu wenhua zhuanti 語言與文化專題研究). This is the same group meeting as I had last two semester and is the most vital class. From the very first class it became apparent that we’ve had an increase in students — two new Ph.D. students and three MA students, which is beneficial to the discussions I think, since we are all focusing on different fields, e.g. premodern Chinese, Mongolian, Taiwanese, Vietnamese, politics…

(2) Linguistics in Manga and Animation (dongman yuyanxue 動漫語言學). This is an interesting course. While the name may not sound super serious, it is nice to see a set of theoretical concepts applied to a field to see whether they hold. The main foci of this course are Naruto and One Piece, which are studied mostly in the original language, i.e. Japanese. And Japanese and comics seem to be a match made in heaven for ideophones (words like onomatopoeia). No doubt you’ve also seen comics of Batman hitting Robin while a “BAM” appears next to him, or a similar word, that expresses this. Well, Japanese does this, but just more. So much more. So very very very very much more.

(3) Manchu 滿文. Yes, the Manchu of the Manchus in Manchuria. This has been a small interest of me for a long time, ever since I did my master of Sinology in 2013-14. I remember, back then, one day we were given a small grammar overview, and a week later we had a first introduction. At the end of the seminar back-then-current-doctor-in-Sinology Mario Cams ended the seminar with an assignment: “Hey guys, you have to translate this handwritten Manchu by next week.” Naturally, we couldn’t. In fact, it took a whole semester to really get into the Manchu alphabet (or syllabary #controversions). But in the end I did get the hang of it I think. I may even take up Manchu II next semester.

Here are some pictures to give you an impression of what the script looks like. The first picture shows our general assignments (my input in this one is not 100% correct by the way): we were given some sentences and then had to transcribe to the Latin alphabet, look it up in our superadvanced Manchu-Japanese dictionary dating from from the quite years, gloss it in Chinese and then translate to a normal Chinese sentence.


The second picture just says the most Frequently Asked Question about language translation, after the standard set of introductions, namely, how to translate “I love you”. Well, in Manchu it seems to be bi simbe hairambi (I you.ACCUSATIVE love).


Autumn holidays

Somewhere in the beginning of the semester or the end of the summer vacation, I was visited by Katrin (from Switzer-Thailand and most notably from Suzhou (cf. almost all my blog posts in the year 2012-2013). And since she hadn’t finished her more-than-a-year-long Asia trip yet and would soon be findable in Thailand, I was invited over there, and, I mean, who could refuse such an offer. So I went to Phuket.


The dates were planned around 15th of October, so that’s when I took the plane and had an excellent nocturnal transfer in Singapore’s Changi airport (maybe my best lay-over so far, although Dubai is hard to beat). So eventually I arrived in Thailand, where Katrin and her aunt picked me up and drove us in the back of the jeeplike vehicle to their home, after a small pitstop, where Katrin and I tried on funny Halloween outfits.




The house turned out to have a very nice pool, but that’s of course not what Phuket is most famous for; tropical beaches is what comes to mind when you think of that place. I didn’t come in the best season, actually a few weeks before the high-season, so I did not have the typical blue waves and see-through water that entices people to go there year after year, but fortunately it did mean that there were not as many tourists either.





The Food

Next I should talk about the food. The food. The food. It was amazing! Being an ardent fan of the Thai alma back in Leuven, I now got the chance to eat real pad thai (picture 1), but also local cuisine as was made by Katrin’s cousin kopun (whom I called kapoen), more pad thai in a roadside restaurant, dinner made by the aunt. In short, if you want good food, Phuket is a nice place to go.



Fantastical Beasts and Where to Find Them

Fantastical beasts and where to find them, next to being an amazing movie worthy of the potterverse (unlike that Screenplay That Should Not Be Named which couldn’t even pass for bad fanfiction), is a title that could equally apply to Thailand. Katrin casually informed me that Phuket was the home address of a plethora of dangerous snakes, spiders, centipedes and scorpions and that all occurred around the house. On two days we found two black scorpions that had drowned in our marvelous pool. Luckily, though unfortunate for them, scorpions cannot swim. There was also the spider on the wall in my room. Here are pictures.




Touring the Island

The next day Kapoen en Katrin took me around the island. We went into the mountains where monkeys have their monkey place to await tourists and beg for food. They are pretty cheeky, funky monkeys.



Then we also went to a temple, the Wat Chalong temple to be precise. Lots of gold. While it is Buddhist, you do notice that it’s a different Buddhism than the one we have in Chinese culture. Also, when you pray and you get a bad fortune, you can casually leave behind your bad fortune by binding it to a holy tree in the temple domain — a custom that originated in Japan according to my guides.












Kapoen then also took us further around the island, to see all the tourist spots. We have views where Chinese people come take their wedding pictures, a Muay Thai gym (without any cool people though :( ).






Then we also got roti, a pancake like dessert which was heavenly. And we passed by Katrin’s aunt (one of the many many aunts) that was selling eggs at the market.



And thus ended my Autumn Break in Thailand. Next stop, Shanghai! 耶✌️~~~~


Postdoctoral assistant (Linguistics)

My research interests include ideophones, (Premodern) Chinese, historical linguistics, Cognitive Linguistics, and lexical semantics.

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