So, I’m done crying and am now just trying to figure things out. It’s really pretty funny. At least for the Thais. Basically, I’m living an extended episode of Idiot Abroad. They say you learn the most from your mistakes, so maybe I’m actually a genius!
Saying hello. Sounds simple, right? Well let’s think about how a toddler learns to say hello. First, someone shows them how to wave. Then, the kid realizes, “hey, this is so cool! When I wave to someone they wave back! I’m going to try it out with….. Everyone! And hold on, words go with the hand motion!! Let me try that out too…with Everyone!” It’s super cute and everyone loves waving at the toddler!
Now, replace the toddler with a middle aged woman. Replace the wave with the “Wei” (hands together as in prayer with a bow) and replace the “hello” with “Sawadi ka” and rather than cute it’s just plain silly! So, I am still in the toddler stage frantically bowing to everyone, trying to figure out a simple greeting. So far, I get a big grin and a returned “Wei.” Maybe I AM super cute.
Never, and I mean NEVER go anywhere without your umbrella. So, being from the Pacific Northwest, I scoff at umbrellas. What? It’s my Northface jacket or nothing. Here, you need to bring your umbrella everywhere. I learned this after a lovely afternoon at the open market. Boat ride. Shopping. Street food. Strolling. And what happened? I got the worst sunburn of my life! Umbrella? Yes. For the sun. You sweat off every drop of sunscreen in about 3 minutes. I got this special umbrella with a silver lining just to deflect heat. I think I’ll get a real parasol when I go to Chiang Mai in November.
Never, and I mean NEVER go anywhere without a rain poncho. I learned this on Monday. We joined a gym that is about ⅛ of a mile from our house. It usually rains in the late afternoon here and the warning is a very sudden and heavy wind. The rain is often short lived. Maybe an hour. So, I think, “ I’ll ride my bike to the gym right before it rains and then work out during the rain, and then ride home after the rain.” Good plan. So, I’m on the treadmill and it starts raining. Right on schedule. But this is different. Think 2-3 inches of rain in an hour. This is serious stuff. Thunder and lightening and sooooooo much water. I’m stuck. Plus, it doesn’t stop after an hour. Damn Mother Nature! I extend my workout. I eat a salad at the little restaurant. I wait in the lobby. Two hours go by and I have to get home. So, I walk out the front door and the nice valet says, “car?” I smile and say, “no, bicycle” and make a pedaling motion with my hands. He just busts out laughing as I head into the downpour and ride home through that 3 inches of standing water…..without a poncho. Didn’t need a shower after that workout!
Take your picture?? Doesn’t mean, “Will you please take a picture of my family so we can all be in it.” It means, “Will you pose with me, a perfect stranger, so I can have a photo of a farang?” (Farang means foreigner.) Talk about feeling like a rock star! (Or maybe the bearded lady.). Interesting. I did it a couple of times. What the hell.
One of the real joys I have here is riding my bicycle to and from work. Some of you know that cycling has become a big part of my life. Rick and I have done some extended trips and are very comfortable “in the saddle.” So, I got myself an inexpensive geared bike to ride to work. My route goes through our gated Western-style neighborhood, through a traditional Thai market row, and then down a long, country road to school. We drive/ride on the left side of the road here. (Like the UK.)
So, my first morning riding to work, I am in heaven! I’m finally comfortable. So familiar! I jet past the guard at the gate of our neighborhood as he salutes me and yells “Ka!” in traditional Thai form. I nod with confidence. All is good. I turn into the market area. I’m weaving between pedestrians, food carts, motorcycles, street dogs. The farang is amazing! So talented on her bike! And then, a very old woman, also on a bike, is heading toward me. She’s going 2 miles an hour on her ancient bike fitted with grocery baskets on both front and back. We make eye contact. It’s clear we are on a collision course….,so my instincts kick in and I move……Right. Yep. Exactly opposite of what I needed to do. Haven’t crashed a bike since I was about 10. Got a nice road rash. Thank God she didn’t hit the ground too. All she did was cover her mouth and laugh hysterically. (Thai body language for extreme embarrassment.) Nice work.
Now, I walk my bike through the market. And, the market folks seem to know me. I wonder why. Silly farang.