Yesterday marks three weeks of living in Thailand. I just returned yesterday from another trip with the NIST school, and am working in the office for the next four work days before another four-day trip next week. I never thought I’d hear myself say this, but it’s actually kind of NICE to be back in the office (especially with temperatures at 93 degrees plus outside) and not out on another trip. The trips are fun but tiring, and though I love working with the kids, 24 hours a day with 20+ 10 year olds is something I’m happy to take a short break from!
In very exciting, happy news, I’m feeling a little more socially acclimated to Thailand. Maura, one of the other American girls working for Magic Eyes, and I have teamed up to be “weekend buddies”, and explore Bangkok. Maura is one of those kind souls who just doesn’t have a bad thing to say about anyone, sees the world in a positive, yet realistic light, and is excellent with making children feel respected. I really admire her teaching style, and have been looking forward to getting to know her a bit more. Stan, my Australian supervisor, has also been kind enough to take us along to a Thai concert series two weekends from now on the island of Ko Samet. I’m very excited to go do something out of Bangkok for a weekend, hear some Thai music (music is a universal language, right?), and in general enjoy some fun in the sun on a white sand beach!
I must say, after years of being in my comfortable Alaskan social support network surrounded constantly by friends, family, professors, etc., it’s weird and rather lonely to be in a place where few people understand you, and those who know your language don’t necessarily understand your perspective. I realize now that this is exactly what traveling forces you to overcome (since I refuse to wimp out), and while it’s a good experience, the learning curve is steep and the process can be very socially isolating. I never realized it up until now (though my friends would probably say “duh!” to this), but I really LIKE having a broad and vibrant social community, and suddenly being without one is…well, a culture shock! Needless to say, I am now quite excited to have these new social engagements to look forward to, and new friends to do some exploring with.
Speaking of exploring… transportation in Thailand comes in a variety of forms. My personal favorite thus far is taking the buses that whiz about town. From my soi (street), I can take the 203 bus (fondly know as “the insane green bus of near-death experience”) down to Khao San Road (the backpacker’s lane) for a weekend massage (yes, they are just as excellent as they are reputed to be) or nice western meal when I can’t stand any more fried food. The buses, as their non-numerical name might suggest, are driven with the wild, reckless abandon of a convict on the getaway. They don’t ever fully stop to let people on or off, so after much observation and many missed buses, I’ve determined that the best way to mount or dismount is with a running start. I am not alone in this method, and it is not uncommon to see people in full business or evening attire running along the street in the hopes of intersecting a bus that has slowed just enough to hop on board.
The staff on the buses consist of a maniacal driver, and an individual who lurches up and down the aisle collecting bus fares. They are incredibly fast as doling out change, ripping off tickets, and remember who has just gotten on at every stop, which can be quite a challenge with the high rate of traffic during rush hour. As I live in a very Thai part of town, and most whites seem to take taxis anyway, my arrival onto a bus (or, as the case may be, breathless lunge for a foothold as I scramble on board) usually results in many turned heads and staring as I find a seat, or sway along with the lurching ride when all the seats are taken. As I have mentioned in previous posts, my 5’7″ stature puts me in the “tall” range in Thailand. This is particular evident when riding a bus, as my head nearly brushes the ceiling. I’m really looking forward to my 6’1″ father attempting this form of travel!
Besides being a cheap means for transportation (a one-way ride costs 6.50 baht, or $0.19), riding the bus also lets me see some of the sights that are otherwise difficult to see from the low stance of a taxi seat. The 203 bus drives right by the Grand Palace on my way home from Khao San Road, and it is truly a sight! I’m hoping to visit something this weekend, or the weekend after I return from Ko Samet. The buildings are so exquisitely detailed, and every aspect of the roofs (which is pretty much all I can really see over the giant white walls surrounding the palace) seems to have been handcrafted with beautiful, vibrant colors and great respect to the royal family. To enter the palace, you must have your ankles, wrists, and everything in between covered. I hear this is especially enforced with foreigners, so I will have to find a long sleeved shirt. As you can imagine, all I brought with me are tank tops with the occasional tee-shirt. How Thai women manage to survive in the heat with long sleeved shirts made of heavy fabrics is beyond me!
On a final note, I’m already starting to tempt my Thai friend Pa (pronounced with the “A” sound used in “bah!”, and with a sort of P-B combination, as in when you say hip-bag) to come to Alaska and visit. Pictures like this (taken by my dad a few years ago from our living room window in Homer) seem to work wonders!
I’ll cut this post a little short since I’ll be able to post more frequently in the coming weeks, and would like to have the right pictures to accompany the writing! Upcoming posts will include a few words about the Royal Family, the lives of animals in Thailand, and hopefully any exciting anecdotes from this week/end. Thanks for reading!
P.S. Feel free to comment on my posts, or email me if you have questions that you’d like to see addressed in further posts! I appreciate any and all feedback, especially if you spot a typo or spelling error.