Wait, what?

From here on out this blog will follow the life of an individual living outside of their home country for the next year. It will focus on the total and utter confusion I now call daily life. These past few days I have come to realize that I no longer have any idea what is going on around me.

It all began Tuesday night, around 11 pm when my plane landed in Bangkok. After traveling for about 27 hours I was happy to finally be off a plane and eager to leave the airport. I quickly realized how difficult communication was going to be, when my luggage did not show up and none of the airport staff spoke English. Finally, I was able to meet with the claims office for my airline, and they told me that although my luggage had been delivered to the wrong place, they would have someone drive it out to me the next day. To hear that was both a relief and an annoyance, because I had been in the same clothes for two days, but at least they knew where my luggage was.

(Appreciation of simplicity when you don’t speak the language)

I met my boss, Mike, at the airport, and then took a three-hour car ride to the town that I now call home, Nakon Sawan. He checked me into a hotel that was completely decked out in Hello Kitty decorations, and I quickly passed out, exhausted from traveling.

(Self portrait, first night in Thailand)

The next morning I sat outside my hotel, drank some tea, and was attacked by a litter of kittens that happened to find me as I was waiting to meet up with Mike.

Mike came and met me on a motorbike, gave me a tour of Nakhon Sawan, and took me to lunch and then to find an apartment. For lunch we went to Kup Kup, a hole-in-the-wall restaurant that had about four tables, and is notorious among the foreigners living in the city. My first meal in Thailand, Pad Kapow Moo (fried basil pork), was incredible.

These past few days I have quickly come to learn that Thailand’s food is nothing like America’s Thai Food. Not only is it much tastier, but also it is so intensely spicy, even the breakfast dishes. The menus are all in Thai, which makes ordering somewhat of a challenge. I am trying to learn the names of what I like so I can order without a menu, since I have no idea how to read Thai. I have found that the easiest way to eat are the street carts. They have huge bowls of different dishes, and pointing and smiling seems to work. The only problem with this is I still don’t really understand what I am ordering. Lets just say I am learning to expand my taste pallet. Most people in Nakon Sawan don’t speak English, and since I don’t speak Thai as of now, everything I do is a game of trial and error. Yesterday as I was ordering a girl came up next to me in line and she happened to speak a little English. I was about to order what looked like a super yummy veggie dish, but noticed some type of meat in it so I asked her what it was. She asked the woman working the cart and then replied, “liver.” I decided to pass.

After lunch I found a place to live, in the heart of the city. I am renting a room in a hotel, which is much too large for the amount of furniture in it. My place is similar to a studio, except that I don’t have a kitchen, only a fridge. I am on the fourth floor, so my balcony has a decent view of the city around me.

(Mid-afternoon storm weather)

All the floors are tile and the walls are cement, so every sound I make echoes and bounces off of the space around me, which has made me very conscious of how loud I am. The other girl I got hired with, Danni, lives on the floor above me, which is really nice. I have never lived alone before, but having her upstairs reminds me of college and campus housing.

(The entrance of my building)

On my first real night here I went out to dinner with all of the teachers I work with. There was a group of about ten of us and we went to a restaurant where I got a taste of how different this country was going to be. For starters, the buildings are not enclosed like ours are. It’s more of a giant room with a roof, but no front wall. Almost every restaurant is like this, and I assume it’s because it’s too hot to keep the buildings closed up. As I was sitting at my table, I noticed something you don’t normally see in American restaurants… cats. There were cats strolling around everywhere and no one even glanced at them. They just cruise around the tables and wait for leftovers. I am surprised that they are able to handle such spicy food, since I don’t believe their natural diet would include so many chili peppers. I have come to assume they are mutant Thai Kitties. I let the other teachers order dinner for the group of us, and we are shared a bunch of dishes. Some things were kind of similar to dishes I had tasted before, and then others were unlike anything I had ever seen in a restaurant. One dish was a big fish that had been fried and cut open, and then stuffed with peanuts, shrimp, and a bunch of veggies and some things I had never seen before. The fish still had its face on and I’m almost positive they fried some of its organs. In Thailand it is illegal for them to sell booze at a restaurant, but not illegal to drink in one, so we brought all of our own hard liquor and then they mixed it for us and served it back to us. However, it is not illegal for them to sell beer, and oddly enough beer here is served over ice. This is because the air is so warm that the beer doesn’t stay cold if you pour it in a glass. It sounds funky, but the beer and ice they serve isn’t as bad as you would expect.

After dinner we went to a bar called Container, which is exactly that. The owner, God (the coolest guy ever), converted a giant old storage container into a bar. Most of it is outside patio seating, and then the actual bar is in the container, which has been reconstructed in some way to function as a building.

The Container is somewhat of a foreigner’s spot, and we were the only people there, other than God and a few others who work there. We stayed into the early hours of the morning, drinking whisky, exchanging stories, and getting to know each other.

The following day Danni and I went to breakfast at Mercy coffee, where we recuperated from the night before. Danni found Mercy, and I have a feeling we will be spending a decent amount of time there, since their menu is in Thai and English, and one of the owners, Tee, speaks a little English. Mercy reminds me of a hipster spot, with its bicycle frame art structures, vintage camera decorations, and the old-fashioned typewriter on a stand by the door.

After breakfast we spent the afternoon exploring some of the area around our hotel. Although I have only been in Thailand I can say with certainty that they are obsessed with four things-

1. Cats

2. Mustaches

3. American flag print clothing

and…

4. Hotdogs

Every store I enter has both a cat inhabiting it, as well as cat clothing. There are cats everywhere.

And next to the cat shirt is the shirt covered in little mustaches. And next to that is the denim shirt with American flag trim on the sleeves and collars and pockets.

Danni and I went in a 711 to pick up a few things and I have never seen more hotdog products in my life. Everything here is made with a damn hot dog. Hotdogs on pizza, pre packed mini hotdogs in buns, hotdogs in pastries, and they even had bacon wrapped hotdogs spinning on their hotdog grill. And their hotdogs are not like the ones you see in America. These are extra long giant dogs. I’m talking like two feet of processed meat the color of my skin. Creepiest hotdogs I have ever seen.

The snacks they sell all come in really odd flavors as well, such as spicy lobster Pringles. Danni and I probably spent a half hour in 711 checking out all the weird food and funny labels and trying to figure out what things were.

(At least some stuff is in English)

On our way back from 711 this lady started yelling at me from across the street, ran up to me, and delivered me a piece of paper with an email address on it and a note that said, “Hi, my name is —, nice to meet you.” It was from the day before, when I met the girl who told me what the liver dish was. Our encounter had been brief, maybe only three minutes, but I was told this will happen often, and soon I will have tons of friend requests from Thai people on facebook, who I have only met once, yet they managed to track me down. One of the other teachers told me she had received a message on facebook from someone she met the night before, that said “Hi, it was nice meeting you, I miss you.” I have had people shout, “I love you” multiple times as I walk down the street, or they honk their horns as they drive by. It is a really uncomfortable feeling how much they like Americans, but I was told to expect this, seeing as there are very few Westerners in this area, maybe only fifty in a city of half a million Thai.

Being cut off from communicating with those around me has been the most difficult part of this week, since it makes every interaction really confusing. Throughout the day trucks drive around the city, either blaring pop music or some sort of announcement from their roofs, and I have no clue what they are talking about or why.

I immediately learned to laugh at myself as I attempt to speak basic Thai with storeowners and those at restaurants. I have come to accept that they are either laughing with me or laughing at me, but either way were both laughing so it seems to be going ok.

This weekend I meet my different groups of students, and then Tuesday I take over my classes full time, and I couldn’t be more exited to start work. From what I have been told I have total and full creative control over everything I do, and no one ever supervises me or tells me how to teach. I get to work with all different ages so the variety of what I will be able to plan is exciting.

I couldn’t be happier to have finally made the move here, and I can tell this is going to be a life changing experience. I am looking forward to the amazing adventures that this year will hold.

(Girl in 711 with her cat)

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Promises

To harbor so much resentment and anger towards an individual just shows how incapable a person is of admitting how much someone meant to them, and how badly they have been hurt.

Forgiveness can set you free.

Happy to meet you Nakon Sawan

In my bedroom I have hung index cards of almost 50 phrases and in both English and Thai. I have placed them all over my walls, so that each day I look at the phrase in English, and then read it to myself in Thai. I am determined to learn as much of the language as I can this next year. My goal by the end of the year is to be able to spend a day traveling without needing to use any English.

Taped to my bedroom door is an index card that reads, “Happy to meet you.”

Translation- “Pom mi cuam suk ti dai pop khun.”

A creative title escapes my mind

Why do I write?

When I have free time on my hands, something that I seem to have less and less of, why would I choose to pick up a pen and press it to paper, scribbling out word after word? Why choose to sit behind the glowing screen of a computer, fingers taping on tiny little lettered squares?

Why, of all things, do I write?

To write is to speak. To myself and to you, my anonymous reader. To give you my voice, my ideas, without risking the stumble of my tongue. I am articulate, but unlike speech, my own speech, writing is organized- for the most part. To write is to reflect on events that have taken place, to reflect on my behavior, to reflect on who I am and who I’ve been, and how those two are twisted together. With writing, I can clearly see the way that my past and present are what will push me into the unknown- the future.

If writing ceased to exist, or had I chosen to excuse myself from the process, the task of the often time consuming exercise that is writing, I would not be able to track all the people I’ve been in my life. All the stages I’ve passed through. Writing is a record of my life, and as the author, I am at simultaneously  the most reliable and unreliable source. As objective as I would like to think I remain, I am flawlessly biased.

I write because I need to share my experiences. I need to share them with myself in a way that allows me to dig deeper into what transpired, and ask myself -how and why? To write is to take a step back from a painting, to see the picture in its whole, as opposed to the distance we often stand at to absorb detail. When I write, I draw a line between who I am in that exact moment, and who the girl is I am writing about. To reread my writing is a more accurate view than staring back at myself in a mirror. The reflection of your physical existence is only a tiny fraction of the person you are.

To write is to truly see myself. To uncover the things I often don’t want to think about. To uncover the things I would prefer not to remember. I write because it is the rawest, most basic form of truth. In writing I am fully exposed. Writing is spilling secrets, admitting mistakes, cleansing conscious. In writing, I take subject x and give it life, even if that is only words between lines. In those words lives a reality, and by placing them there I am faced to confront it. With each sentence I unwind the twisted and confused.

For me, thoughts are intangible when they exist only within your mind. Writing something down makes it real; there is an acknowledgment that an event took place, that you felt a certain way. My writing does not have to be read by another person for this acknowledgment to be validated. Writing allows me to remember the details of how an emotion really felt. Sometimes we forget what the happiest day of our lives felt like, or what being truly depressed feels like. It is a way of reminding myself how much better off or worse I’ve been, and it’s a way to record how I’m currently feeling, so as to remind my future self one day. It is important to remember all the people you’ve been, all the ways you’ve felt, all the things you’ve wished would passed and all the things you wished would never end. In writing I remind myself of what I want in life, who I want to be, how I plan to arrive there. My writing is like a giant sticky note of my life.

In writing I forgive. I heal. I vent. I praise. I question. I spill. In writing I release everything within myself so that there may be room for more. Memory is so incredibly faulty. It changes with time, and the more time that passes the harder details are to arrange. Details can become lost. We often replace them with new details without even realizing. I don’t want to lose the details of my life that I love. I don’t want to hear the same story so many different ways that I can’t even remember how it first went. Writing is the original copy. It’s also a paper trail to everything that came before this very moment.

The last fifteen years of my life are locked in a chest in my childhood bedroom. I’ve been a compulsive writer for as long as I can recall, and I have filled thousands of pages with my thoughts. To read my most personal writing as an outsider isn’t the same as me rereading it. I know who I was in that moment, during that time, and there is a connection with those words that another person can’t have. I’d like to be published one day. I think that’s part of the reason I started writing. My first journal was in third grade, and I think a part of me, even at that age, knew to start writing down my story. In hopes of one day having enough work to pile together into something between hard covers. No lined pages. No spirals as the bind.

To completely over generalize, so much happens in a life. The moments that mattered most in mine are hibernating in that chest until their time arrives. It is my task to figure out what comes next- how to translate my writing into a story that reaches beyond my own life. A story that closes the gap between the writer and the reader. Words that allow my stories to become yours. The ultimate goal will be finding the best way to articulate the emotions I’ve experienced over people and events that were personal and unique to my own life, into words that can be transferred into the reader’s life, your life.

We are all experiencing the same condition, the human struggle. My writing is an attempt to show that no matter how our individual experiences differ, we’re all in it together.