I’m exhausted. Seattle to Bangkok. 7000 miles. About 24 hours of travel. I’ve done this seven times in the last 12 months. Even so, when I hail a taxi home, I’m startled when I open the door and the cabby says, “Madam Teacher?” I look up from my fog of fatigue and see the driver smiling at me. In all of Bangkok, the driver recognizes me. Unbelievable, but such a welcome surprise. “Chai, ka! Ramkhamhaeng Roy Goi Sip, ka?” (Yes, Thank you. Ramkhamhaeng 190, please?), I say in my terrible “taxi Thai”. He smiles and nods. And rather than taking the longer, more expensive way – he opts for the short-cut. I slip into the backseat and close my eyes. The bliss of familiarity.
Year two in Thailand. It’s the “same same” that makes it different.
It’s not all about the heat. This time last year, I wore just my underwear around the house in an attempt to stay cool. To Rick’s disappointment, I can now prance about fully clothed! I don’t have to stash a shirt and shorts near the door in case someone drops by. We manage the sun as a “severe weather condition”. Hat, umbrella, sun screen, water bottle – check. Seek AC as needed. Strenuous activities in the morning and evening – or just not at all. My friend, Christine, runs every day. However, she calls it “the Thai shuffle”. Super sloooooow and steady.
Fluency in English as spoken in Thailand. While I’ve worked to increase the number of Thai words I know – my real language success has been in mastering my speaking and listening skills in English as Spoken in Thailand (EST). When US friends recently visited, I was astounded what they didn’t understand! My God, it’s English! “Gerween CooEE Madaaaaaam?” (Green Curry Madam?) “Whe meester toodAY? ( Where is mister today?) And speaking. When I say, “Okay, okay!” it means,” yes” or it means, “I understand”, or it means, “do you understand”, or it means, “let’s just stop talking now because we don’t understand each other.” Easy.
Thai massage is no longer torture. Kuhn Bon smiles when I walk through the door of the spa. It’s all “Sawadee Ka!” and wai-ing (bowing) and smiles. “You go AaamareCA? Whe meester Reeeeechard, toodAY? Tooo ow-er for you?” So comfortable. My weekly two hour massages have paid off. My body is “in shape” for our full contact workout. Rick too has commented that between walking barefoot and consistent massage, his formerly aching feet are much improved. The therapy of this ancient art is not to be disputed. Plus, I really like these women. They are funny and kind. Always a smile just when you need it most.
I don’t carry my camera everywhere. Hailing a taxi, paying the bills, grocery shopping. These are no longer exotic adventures. “But, people ride motorized scooters with their kids on the handlebars!” Yeah, yeah. I know. And, nobody wears a helmet and people carry enormous dead pigs on the back of their scooters too. And some scooters are rigged with a BBQ on the back for duel riding/food stall functions. I’ll take a picture when I see 5 people AND a pig with a LIT BBQ on a scooter. Now that will be something.
We drink beer with ice. You read that correctly. It’s true and I know it’s fundamentally wrong. And, I’m not sorry. Thai beer is bad no matter what. People argue, “Oh Leo is the best.” Or, “I’ll only drink Chang”, like we’re talking about some handcrafted microbrew or something. No. It is all bad. Think Brew 66 or Schlitz. So, do you want warm bad beer or do you want cold bad beer? See?
Rick & I are same same – but, different. After one year, my Facebook profile reminded me of the day we moved to Thailand. I look at the picture of Rick and I. Six checked bags held everything we felt important enough to bring. Rick’s hair was short. My skin was 10 shades lighter. We look like we are heading to Disneyland with innocent grins of complete ignorance. Yet, if we’d known what was in store for us, would we have waltzed onto that airplane with such confidence? However, one thing remains exactly the same. Rick’s shirt.
It’s safe to say, that this past year has included some of the highest and lowest points of my life. You’ve likely seen my highlights on Facebook: Standing at the top of world in the Himalayas; swimming with Manta Rays; sipping a Martini in a world class sky bar; front row seats at a concert; visiting ancient ruins.
But just under the social media radar is the good stuff. The real stuff. The life stuff. Missing my family and friends more than I could ever have imagined while meeting more friends and building lasting relationships. Wishing I could get back to a school system that I fully understand and believe in while having new and amazing opportunities for professional growth here in Asia. Being completely perplexed by Thai culture and then beginning to understand – a little at a time.
So. Year two. I feel like I just got back in line to ride the roller coaster at the Fair. I hated it and I loved it. And for some reason, I want to do it again.