To say that time flies is an understatement. Three weeks ago today I left San Diego and began my journey to the other side of the world. These first three weeks have been incredible and everyday brings something new and different from the day before, even if just the tiniest detail. People keep referring to my state of mind as the honeymoon phase. I am in love with everything and everyone around me. Yes, I will admit, I’m growing a bit tired of the Thai food for every meal, but I also can’t complain about the fresh fruit for sale on every street corner, or the dinners that only cost a buck or two.
While I do confess that I am in this so-called honeymoon phase, I also feel I should admit that there are unexpected obstacles, hurdles, and hiccups everyday. There are adjustments that I wasn’t prepared for, and so I am learning to work with them, one day at a time.
Imminent death- People in this city drive like maniacs. At home I have been told I am less than a perfect driver, but the Thai people in Nakhon Sawan take home the gold metal for insane illogical driving. Whether I am crossing the road on foot, or riding on the back of a friend’s bike, it always seems like someone appears from out of nowhere and gets too close or swerves around us. Most people here have had a minor bike accident, but they all have helmets, which they admit made a huge difference in the injuries they walked away with. I need a helmet. I like my brain too much to sacrifice it becoming mush. But in all honesty, it’s not being on the back of someone’s bike that is dangerous. It’s the simple act of crossing the street. But this supposedly simple act becomes complicated when everyone is coming from every direction, and they don’t have any crossing paths, and traffic lights are non-existent throughout most of the city, and there are wild dogs running loose, and the trucks with the loud speaks are driving around announcing sales or government programs, and all the song taos (their form of a public bus, in actuality just a truck bed with a type of enclosure over it) are honking for passengers to get in, and everyone driving by is hollering or tooting their horns at the foreigner and I’m just almost positive I am going to be run over. If not this week, then next.
Total Energy- It is almost impossible to keep track of what you are putting in your body and what it contains. Remarkably, I have learned to communicate enough to get almost all of my orders right, and I have yet to find egg in any of my dishes. I have this weird relationship with egg where basically it functions as my archenemy. I can’t deal with the way it smells or looks, so the last thing I am going to do is put that thing in my mouth. One of my fears with coming to Thailand was not knowing how to order as a picky eater. In the past three weeks I have tried more new foods than I have in the past three years, and I have liked almost everything except for a few dishes that tasted either too fishy or too fatty. So while eating hasn’t been an issue, figuring out what I am eating, calorie wise, has been. Street food doesn’t come with a nutrition label, and the stuff they sell in stores is all in Thai. I eat almost every single meal out, and if I do buy something packaged, it lists calories as “total energy.” I am assuming those two things are the same, but once again, I really don’t know. For about the first two weeks I wanted to try everything and eat anything, and now that I’m getting used to the smells of food cooking everywhere I’m learning to pace myself. Especially after being sick for the last four days, I have chilled out on the Thai food a bit. Since I have no idea what all the dishes and curries contain, I am seeking out more that are heavier in vegetables, or filling more of my diet with fruit. Rice is served with pretty much every single thing here, so if you aren’t into rice DO NOT COME TO THAILAND. They are also nuts about adding sugar to anything and everything, and since I love my coffee and tea I have learned to order drinks with “please just little bit sugar” (using finger motions to make my point). The first few times I ordered coffees or Lattes they were so thick it was like drinking syrup. Now I need to learn how to order “just little bit rice” with my food, so that I don’t waste food.
Staying Beautiful- All cosmetics here whitening cream in them. Sunscreen, lotion, soap, body wash, shampoo, shaving cream, foundation… whatever, you name it. I wanted to darken my hair so I picked up a box of dye. The kit only came with one glove. Enough said.
Fresh meat- It appears that I am the tastiest person in Thailand, because I am coated in mosquito bites beyond what I see on the people around me. Oddly enough, about 80% of them are from the waist down, and then about 90% of that 80% are from my mid calves down. This week I counted and had more than forty HUGE bites on my feet and ankles. I thought about posting a picture so people would see how horrific it is, but then decided it probably wasn’t appropriate and I didn’t want to offend anyone with how disgusting it is. I have just accepted the fate that my feet have become what I would imagine zombie feet to look like; two poor unfortunate souls covered in scabbed and bleeding mounds that once started as mosquito bites. I don’t know why I am being targeted but I don’t appreciate it and I wish they would stop. It is Thai custom for everyone to take their shoes off in the classroom, among various other places, and this has become the part of the day I fear the most. I can just feel all of the students’ eyes on my feet, wondering why teacher Allie’s skin is so weak, so vulnerable, so… destroyed. On Sundays I teach a group of high schoolers, and during the break they went to the convenience store and brought me back a Vaseline for healing bites like mine. If chicken pox and blisters had a baby, the product would resemble what is going on with my skin. Everyone keeps telling me to give it time, the first few months are the hardest, and after three months it won’t be an issue. This leads me to conclude that after this time has passed, you either A) don’t notice B) Your body becomes immune to the poison in the bite and doesn’t react the same C) The mosquitoes have sucked you dry and you no longer interest them or D) I’m being lied to.
Poopie- Back in the states, “Poopie” was somewhat of an endearing term that my ex and I used with one another, that started as a humorous joke and kind of evolved into an all encompassing term that dominated our personal vocabularies. Part of the reason it was funny was because the term was totally detached from any real relation to poop/shit/feces. Other than my own bodily functions, poop wasn’t a huge part of my life, and I certainly almost never saw it unless it was where it belonged, in the toilet. Well, that all changed the day I moved here. There is poop…. EVERYWHERE. But this is understandable, because there are stray dogs everywhere. While often I get a stinky whiff of something walking down the street, I have learned not to be bothered by its presence. Part of the reason it is easy to ignore is that it rains everyday, which washes the city clean. However, when the rain is so heavy that the street collects a few inches of water, which is very common, there is no avoiding walking through it. So while I slosh through deep puddles and rushing water with my blister sore-coated feet, I try to block out what it is I am actually stepping in.
Temptation- In Thailand we have to drink out of water bottles because that’s just the way it is. They told me don’t drink tap water, so I listen. I’ve never been a big water bottle drinker, and so I find that I am constantly forgetting to buy more, and I don’t keep track of how much I have left in the current jug. The other night I ate a peanut butter sandwich for dinner and within the next few hours I had finished the water I had left. It was real late and I didn’t feel like running to the store to go get more, so I figured I could pass out, sleep through the night, and get water first thing in the morning. Of course, I woke up consistently throughout the night, my mouth stuck together, so thirsty and without any water. I kept going into the bathroom, washing my mouth out, gurgling, anything to trick myself into thinking I had drank water. I opened my fridge to double check that there wasn’t a small bottle I had missed, but all I found was beer and V8. Needless to say, that night was a huge learning lesson, and I haven’t run out of water since.
Electric pulse- Anytime I plug an electronic item into the outlets they spark and crackle and pop with purple light. I should start placing bets to see which gets me first, the electricity or the crazy drivers.