Sunday, February 17, 2013

Misty: Movies in Thailand

Since I haven't posted since the SuperBowl, you can bet that I have plenty of stories to tell! I will try to fit a few in this post and save some for another so I can post at a more frequent rate. I've been doing a much better job with my videos-- those are easy AND quite descriptive.

This is a post about movies in Thailand:

Most recently: I just got home from seeing "Silver Linings Playbook". It was fantastic! There's a theater near all the big malls in downtown Bangkok that has $3 movies and real, American-style popcorn (no seaweed flavoring, thankfully). Anyway, the movie was a brilliant portrait of the lives of a handful of individuals with mental illnesses that demonstrates just how challenging all facets of life can be with an illness such as bipolar disorder or OCD. I'm so glad that this topic is being brought to the stage by these actors (and, occasionally, the news) for many reasons but especially in light of everything that has been happening in the U.S. for me to read overseas. Despite how I feel about the acting and the soul-moving story, the soundtrack was superb. One of the main features was Johnny Mathis' rendition of "Misty". Thank you, Hollywood, for reviving so many of my favorite songs in recent films. Here is the beautiful theater I will now frequent:

Thai Culture and Movies: I love seeing American movies in Thailand for many reasons. For one thing, I love movies in general. I also love feeling connected to U.S. pop culture (even though many movies come to Thailand months after their U.S. premiere), hearing English for a couple of hours, and sitting in a cool dark place after a long, hot day of mall- or market-walking. Here are some things about Thai movie experiences that you might not know:

  • Seats are assigned; you select a seat when you purchase your ticket and you must sit in that seat. This is so weird to me because I have found myself directly between 2 strangers every time I've seen a movie here (if I'm alone), even if most of the rest of the theater is empty. Perhaps this is for ease of cleaning the theater? Maybe for the fun of laughing with each other during the movie? 
  • Before the movie begins, there will be a few previews and then a note that reads "please pay homage to His Majesty" which means that the audience will stand and watch a short collection of pictures, videos, and songs about the King. 
  • A Thai audience may not interpret or react to emotional scenes the same as an American audience might; tonight, during "Silver Linings", the audience laughed pretty hard at some of the most intense, deep moments of the movie. I think this has to do with "saving face". I've also walked out of a different theater bawling to find that no one else had wet eyes.
  • The concessions are quite different; you might find seaweed or barbecue-flavored popcorn before you find popcorn with plain old butter and salt. You might also find Lay's potato chips before you find a box of Junior Mints. On the plus side, the concessions aren't $8 each like in the U.S.!

  • There are 3 types of available movies (language-wise): Thai movies with Thai only (or maybe English subtitles), English with Thai subtitles (the kind I watch), and Western movies with Thai voice-overs (which I don't watch but easily could if I wasn't paying attention when ordering my ticket!). 
  • Popcorn is often given in a box AND a plastic bag so you don't dribble popcorn everywhere. Which is an awesome idea! This is pretty standard in all areas of food in Thailand and I really wish we would implement this technique in the U.S.
  • Prices range anywhere from 3 dollars to 7 or 8. I've heard that there are ultra fancy theaters with recliners and provided blankets! That's on my to-do list for sure. 
As a side note to bullet number 3, the guy sitting to my right at tonight's movie was laughing hysterically throughout the whole movie and clapping after empowering moments and during the credits. In general, 18-20-something-year-old men are just really different here. "Saving face" seems to apply only to things that are sad or angering--laughter is acceptable any time. I have to say, though, it made the movie immensely more enjoyable. Reminds me of the time I went with a busload of KU students to the "Avengers" premiere and the audience cheered and laughed so much that I could barely hear the dialogue. It was really fun!

Other movies I have seen since I arrived:

"Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters"... Whatever you do, don't see this movie. Unless you're SURE that it's right up your alley. We went to see an action flick and were alarmed to sit through a gore/action flop. Jeremy Renner seriously threw off his momentum with this one. 

"Les Miserables"; I'd been excited to see this movie since I learned about the musical during my second student teaching placement but hadn't made it to the theater before I left the U.S. How I hadn't seen it or heard the music beforehand, I don't know! But I can easily say that this is now one of my favorite musicals of all time. The acting, storyline, set, directing, music arranging... it was all magical. I cried for a solid 20-30 minutes in the theater and still can't get over how much I loved the film. 

Can't wait for "Oz", like I've mentioned. Thanks for reading!


Monday, February 4, 2013

Independent Woman, Pt. 1

Personal Newsflash: 

In the past two days, I worked out twice. I haven't worked out with that consistency since high school and I haven't worked out PERIOD in about a year-- no joke. Whilst living on my own in Thailand, away from the temptations of America (TV, fast food, etc.), I have no excuse NOT to reinstate some great habits. Hopefully I will get bored with the food soon or I'll need the workouts just to maintain my current state! The fact of the matter is that I feel great about my willpower and the possibilities.

At my worst.
Absolutely wiped out!
I have a slight confession about tonight's workout: I may have been inspired by Beyonce's halftime performance just a little bit. I liked whoever tweeted "the halftime show was amazing but I'm not convinced Beyonce danced live". It was certainly weird for the Superbowl to happen on Monday morning for me. Thank you to swift video uploaders, I was able to catch the performance soon after. I thought it was pretty neat that she had a girl band backing her up. I felt fairly feminist after how inspired the video left me. Women (woman) took over the Superbowl this year!

My triceps are on their way!
 Another strange fact about today: the temperature was around 97 degrees in Bangkok. Jealous? I certainly don't want to rub it in about the weather, but I also feel like many people would choose the 55 degree weather back home.

So... my roommate for the semester moved back to the U.S. after about 9 days :(. So that's a bit of unexpected news. My next one may not come until April.. so that's another bit of unexpected news. This is why I didn't come to Thailand expecting structure and predictability. Flexibility is a great thing to learn! And something that I don't think was necessarily hard-wired into my being. As you can imagine, I have to be pretty independent-- which I can thank mom and dad for hard-wiring into me. Another silver lining: I can dance around in boxers and a sports bra to my favorite pump-up songs every morning and no one will ever know (except my readers, I suppose).

In case you were wondering about the "Part 1" in the title, take a time machine back to the year 2000. Just kidding! It's a Destiny's Child song, family. The few song references throughout my blog were added without much thought behind them but I think I'm going to stick with the theme. It nicely parallels +Aaron Gillespie's column movie reference.

Boy this blog is a weird contrast to the last-- a trip out of the clinic and into my life. It works for me, though, and will probably continue to follow such a pattern as this internship has so many facets that I want to remember and journal about. Clinical experiences, life-changing realizations, cultural differences, etc.

Speaking of cultural differences, here's a fun picture from a McDonald's I found in a mall outside of Bangkok! I love the Thai twist to an American classic. This is the Thai "wai", or bow, for when you say "Sawatdee-krap" ("Hello").

Be sure to visit my video "blog" on YouTube if you haven't for some more detailed shots of my recent happenings! You won't find a lot of me in the videos or much substance to any video, but the clips give far more detail than I can explain with my words or pictures. Also, feel free to subscribe and comment on the Blog! I'm pretty sure I'd feel pressured to write more if you did--which I want to do!

-- Melissa

Friday, February 1, 2013


In case you've been wondering how live as a music therapy intern in Thailand is going, here are a couple of great stories from the clinic this week:

Client P; a 9-year old boy with autism who communicates non-verbally:

A few days before the second session with Client P that I would be a part of, we sat down as a team to brainstorm what we could do to provide a successful environment for P. Something just wasn't working. Generally, P smiles when he sees the music therapists and is excited to walk with them to the treatment room, but screams and cries for the majority of the session or lays on the couch. Clearly he wants to be there but something is causing him some pretty serious discomfort. When handed an instrument to try, he plays the instrument extremely loudly and then throws the mallets and covers his ears. The team has found that he likes to try novel instruments but generally quits and screams in a matter of minutes or seconds. His mother explained to the team that he has a "sound sensitivity" that has developed only in the last year.

After a few seconds of watching a video of a previous session, Dr. D said, "This boy needs structure!" Aha! Of course... P. wasn't sure what he was supposed to do, where he was supposed to sit, and how long he was supposed to do any of the things we were asking him to do. Perhaps what we interpreted as "sound sensitivity" was merely a reaction to the lack of structure; he was trying to tell us but wasn't sure how. Supposing that he was reacting inappropriately and not really having an uncomfortable physical reaction to sound, we decided to start with a restructure of the environment and applications but maintain our original goals.

We added a sequence board where he would get to choose the order of the session, a visual timer set at 2 minutes, and improvised floor mats (cushions) to show where we were supposed to sit. We also arranged the room so that each application had it's own space that we could move to during the transition song. While dancing, we danced to recorded music with a pre-determined length (which we faded in and out), and with instrument playing, we added a song or chant with a pre-determined and predictable length. We also decided that we would allow him as many choices within structure as we could but we would be more insistent about appropriate behaviors (sitting up, carefully placing instruments in a basket, etc.) to avoid manipulation attempts and increase progress toward goals and objectives.

Results: No more crying, no more screaming, and no more laying down. In fact, Client P smiled and laughed the whole time. He seemed to love every application and adapted quickly to the new changes in the environment. The cushions worked well for him once we insisted that he did not lay on them and the schedule board and iPad combo provided a wonderful outline for the session that both he and I (with my limited Thai) could follow.

Children with autism typically need structure in their environment-- predictability, preparedness, well-sequenced events, a clear start and stop, a smooth transition from one thing to the next, etc. You know who else needs structure? I do! In preparing for the session, my Thai friend was pointing out that my need to have the room ready very early and know the session order was much like the needs mentioned above. But my structure may be just what some clients need. A healthy balance of structure and open-mindedness is something I continuously seek.

Pretty amazing story, right? I'm pretty sure the videos of the session, seen back-to-back with footage of the previous session, would prove to anyone watching that musical structure and an appropriate environment can all the difference for a child with autism.

Here's one more story for you:

Client S; an adult male, from England, receiving chemotherapy in an oncology ward at Thailand's oldest and biggest hospital: 

We arrived at the oncology clinic thinking that we would repeat last week's performance; providing "therapeutic music" in the environment for a ward of 15-20 patients receiving chemotherapy treatment while the patients mostly slept or watched with a smile from their beds (the music was a duo consisting of a traditional Thai instrument like a hammer dulcimer and a guitar). Things were going as planned when a man arrived, introducing himself as a plastic surgeon who had just finished his surgeries for the day and wanted to see what we were up to. We had just packed up to leave but he asked if we would get out our instruments again for another song. The next thing I know, he is singing along! The surgeon then walks over to an observing man who is clearly a "farang" like me--from England, actually-- and asks him if he has any requests. The man wants the Beatles! Knowing that I had many Beatles tunes in my "mini songbook", I whipped it out and we all sang a tune together. Afterward, the same man asked for our guitar and starts singing/playing "Yesterday", perfectly, from memory and with amazing musicianship (while laying in bed receiving chemo, might I mention).  The other patients were thrilled-- sitting up in their beds and clapping along-- and all of the nurses stopped to watch. Therapy all around! But seriously, talk about a tear jerker.... what a privilege. It was a humbling experience that I certainly won't forget.

Know that I would post some amazing pictures and videos of these experiences if I could. I apologize for the  monotony of a long story without pictures. 

Here's our MT team at a different site-- an "adult day care" rehab clinic in Bangkok. It's great fun each week! We came here during out 2011 trip for practicum experiences and I now know some of the same patients again :)