"Not all who wander are aimless. Especially not those who seek truth beyond tradition, beyond definition, beyond the image."

Saturday, August 23

From a writer's perspective...

From the comfort of my apartment, I could be anywhere in the world. Sometimes, it's easy to forget that I'm here...until I remember.

This morning, I wake before the sun and go through my (temporary) morning routine before starting the hour commute to work. (The appreciation I have for my CELTA trainer-turned-roomy, Nicky, and her free apartment, far outweighs any inconvenience of a long commute). The temples in the distance are silhouoetted against the rising sun and the sight urges me to reach for my camera. I quickly realize that there is nothing to reach for--my camera is, has been, "at home" for a long time, reminding me that I've become more than a tourist. I stare at the sight in awe, knowing that the beauty that meets my eyes is more than even the best lens could capture. I take a short walk through the park to the river, finding joy in this commute, even on days when I'm exhausted. I follow the "clunk, clunk" of heels in front of me, allowing early morning runners to pass along side. I glimpse up, again, at the aerobics class taking place in the open air of the park and find my inners smiling. My feet have memorized the placement of early-morning food stalls but the sight still grabs my attention. I spend an extra second looking at the sweets stall every morning. Not because I want sweets at 6am, but because they are the most beautifully decorated candies I've ever seen and I hardly believe they are edible. I, along with 100 other work-goers load onto a small boat and cross the river to the subway. I join the orderly line that has formed, voluntarily, at the subway. I no longer watch in amazement as people on the train pile out, completely, before the line begins to file in. A uniformed teenager rises from his seat without a moments hesitation so a small child, a monk or an older person can sit. This isn't a rare occurrence. Back on the street, closer to work, I pass more food stalls. The familiar scent of food overcomes me and eliminates the other smells that go along with big cities. The scent of meat and other lunch/dinner foods in the morning once turned my stomach. I now welcome it and no longer take a second look when I see someone finishing off a bowl of meat, noodles and liver at 7am. I glance up to see a woman rising from her kneeling position, slipping on her shoes, a monk reciting a blessing over her. Moments before, she had offered up alms food to the monk, first giving thanks, and then wishing her good karma onto someone else, or onto the world. Seconds later, I pass another "lady boy" and find myself staring. No at her, but at the unaffected people around her. I can't help but notice that the mothers don't pull their children closer, the elderly don't give unapproving looks, no one points, no one stares. Just another part of an amazingly accepting culture. I walk over to the first in a line of orange-jacketed men, jump on the back of his motorbike and confidently tell him my destination. The joy I get from doing this successfully would suggest it entails more then knowing "Soi 13" in Thai. It doesn't. As we weave between cars, I notice that my knuckles are no longer white, my knees no longer grasping my driver. This once incredible frightening way of getting a few blocks in a highly congested city has become a way of life. When I get to school, I'm instantly greeted with wai after wai. I find myself wai'ing back as naturally as if it were a handshake. The power of a meaningful wai is unexplainable and it took me walking into a school to feel the true respect behind it. Soon I'm greeted by the enthusiastic, innocent Thai faces that make up one of my many classes. The children accept me as if they've known me for years, some clinging on to me, some gazing at me from a distance--but all mimicking me (and my accent) exactly. We sing a song and I'm transported back to my own Kindergarten class, amazed at how unchanged the songs are. I start the day with a choral "Hello teacher J" and end the day with a choral "Goodbye teacher J" and am reminded that, while it may not be my forever, it's exactly what I want right now. I meet Nicky, my CELTA trainer/friend/wife/roomy/mother/savior at the Irish Pub at Sala Daeng
. We meet here, at Molly Malones, reluctantly. It's overpriced, has mediocre food, and is packed with farang. But the large screen of Live Olympic action can't be beat, so again, we rendezvous here for a few hours before going home. We talk about my new apartment and how we were a great team at finding the place. I think back to the several days/weeks I spent searching....
I call a potential "winner" hoping to get directions. I'm relieved that the Thai jargon is promptly followed by "press 2 for English". I find myself wondering if Thai's feel the same frustration that Americans (or Floridians!) feel when they hear "Press 1 for English". In this moment, and others like it, this simple convenience is a lifeline for me. Time after time in my search for an apartment, my English would be rebounded with Thai. I speak more slowly, directly, hoping that this time she'll understand me. She speaks more slowly, directly, in Thai, hoping that this time I'll understand her. Exchanging first glances of "what don't you understand about this", then glances of amusement and then a mutual understanding that we don't understand...and it's ok. We'll make do. And we do. Make do. When I finally find the place I want, I'm put in touch with the manager---someone who always seems to speak at least a hint of English--to work out any last details. These last details consisted of me bargaining a bit before giving the ok. I return the next day to sign, walking down my street slowly, happily looking around at my new surroundings. They were kind enough to translate the contract to English, a luxury I wasn't expecting. The 2 woman, Kik and Pha, that are there waiting for me speak a little English and the 3 of us spend time talking after the money and contract business is finished. They quickly ask for my nickname, not because they have difficulty pronouncing or remembering my full name, but because every Thai person has a given nickname (a fact that I am thankful for). They simply don't know a life without them. So, instead of telling them that I don't have a given nickname, I offer up "J", knowing that this, once again, has become my "official" nickname. They ask if a "mister" is moving in with me and I hesitate. Although that hesitation has subsided significantly over the years, it's something that a society has conditioned me to do, and the conditioning has crossed borders. I tread carefully forward. Stuttering. Finally, they come to their own conclusion that my "girlfriend" is moving in with me. And immediately, they want to know her nickname, how old she is, where she is now. I laugh at my hesitation, hoping that having yet another moment like this will continue to breakdown my own societal conditioning.

It's moments like this that remind me where I am. What a beautiful country this is. The intimidation of big cities is something that once forced me to hurry through. Hiding behind the truth that cities are...cities (no matter where they are) I would never have to face the fast-paced, different way of life. And while I don't see myself ever truly being a "city-girl", I've enjoyed what taking a deeper look has given me.

Sunday, August 3

New Pictures/Cell Phone

I got a cell phone:

Phone number is 084 553 7894
I think you put a +66 in front of that but can't be sure. I'll be rejoining the Skype/internet world shortly...in another 1-2 weeks so I'll be accessible through that. But here's the cell number for safe keeping :)

I posted some new pictures on my shutterfly account


I cut them down to stay below 200 so you aren't so overwhelmed with pics. They go along with everything written in the previous blog and then some.