My students think it is hilarious to draw pictures of me.
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-
3. American flag print clothing
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)