Blackboards, writing on desks, teachers losing their shit and going full psycho on a class full of monkey-goblins – this set of entries is a log of my SCHOOL DAZE.
On top of being a full-time lecturer at Rajabhat Maha Sarakham University, I am now a part-time teacher/herder at our attached elementary/high school. For the most part, it is fun. Some days are better than others. Overall, it probably makes me more pleasant to be around since I’m always thinking about what those crazy kids are doing and it makes me smile.
Just the other day, though, I held up a flash card with a photo of a monkey on it (a full-body photo, not an illustration of a monkey face) and asked the class of nine-year-olds, “What is this?”
No less than half the class yelled back, “PAUL SMITH!!!”
My most popular YouTube vid, by far, is Cockroach Reanimation with Electro-stimulation, which just passed over 200,000 views. The viewing demographic is overwhelmingly 13-17 year old boys who like to point out that the cockroach “isn’t actually coming to life, it’s something about electrical impulses and nerves and something scientific-er than that, (insert insult of choice).”
I have mixed feelings about this vid – it’s brought out all the little Mr. Wizards and smartasses and even one scary guy who requested electrocution of bigger things – but in the end, it’s nice to have a kind of popular YouTube upload that I made with a $1 electronic device and a dead/reanimated (just kidding, kids!) insect:
What you might not know is that the following week, one of the most intense videos ever recorded of a shark was taken by a couple guys who, luckily, happened to have spear guns and a camera rolling in the open ocean:
In fact, the main reason I love this obscure fruit is its Thai name: It is romanized as “fak kao,” or, “fak khao,” but the truth of the matter is that it’s pronounced more or less as “FUCK COW.”
I shit you not.
The first time I saw one of these bad boys was on a tour of a fruit orchard in Chonburi during our epic 2007 Road Trip. The tour guide spotted a bright red globe in the bushes and said it was a FUCK COW. I laughed and made sure to research it further, but it was a long time before I saw one again. Once in a while, I saw locals in Sarakham carrying around these anemic-looking ones that were a waxy pale yellow, but it never occurred to me they were the same fruit. One day I asked a friend who had a couple what they were and she said FUCK COW. Suddenly excited to have been united with my favorite fruit (that was my favorite based on name alone, I’d still never tried one), I asked all about them: Where do they grow? Aren’t they usually red? Are they yummy?
But nobody knew about them, really. The general consensus was that you cooked the flesh in a pot of rice, and that it didn’t really taste like much… It was like the world was conspiring against my ever actually sampling FUCK COW.
Then, two weeks ago, one of Nam’s teachers brought some from her parent’s home in Ubon, and I had two healthy specimens on my kitchen counter – the fruit I had waited to taste for five whole years was going under my knife. I took a couple hurried photos on the floor and cut one open. Against Nam’s advice, I dug out a flesh-encapsulated seed and tried it raw – Ahhhhh…. It was, um, OK I guess. Slightly tart, with no real remarkable flavor. Like a very bland passion fruit with a hint of copper, perhaps. Talk about anticlimax.
We also tried it cooked in a pot of rice. It turned the rice bright orange, but basically tasted unremarkable. Not bad, just not remarkable at all. the kids were disappointed since the color of the rice hinted at least at a fruity taste, but no…. All bang, no bite.
So why is this still my favorite fruit, you might ask. Two words: FUCK. COW.
Pictured above from the upper left: An unknown Thai melon, a katon (aka kraton, kraton priya, krathon wild mangosteen, santol, or sandorica. Scientific names: Sandoricum koetjape, Sandoricum indicum, Sandoricum nervosum or Melia koetjape. Family Meliaceae, Order Sapindales. Source.) somebody at work gave me, and an unknown species of banana that were selling for 20 baht/bunch at a local market.
The bananas were good but not exceptional, the katon got spoiled before I could eat it (I never seem to get sweet ones; people around here tend to eat it in a savory/spicy fruit salad), and I did what we do with all unknown melons* – tried a bit to see if it was a sweet variety. When it proved to be a non-sweet variety, we used half for pork rib soup and half in a red curry. It was the bomb!
*Let me clarify: We don’t eat stuff that might not be safe. It’s not unknown because we have no idea about it, but because our housekeeper gave it to us and told us the name, but we promptly forgot it. Now our housekeeper is recovering from surgery at home, so the name of the melon will remain unknown until such time as she recovers, returns to work, and I can remember to ask her about it.