Nov. 17th, 2012 Bangkok, Thailand
|Thai Ronald prays before his happy meals.|
I'm sitting on a tiled balcony at my "Mansion" hotel, three floors up, looking out over an electrical line, a gravel and weed-filled field, dry lightning, and a cement house. Additionally, I'm in my underwear because it's currently 82 degrees fahrenheit with 84% humidity. What this feels like is being stuck in a hot car in the summertime after it's had about an hour or so to heat up--throw some moisture in there somehow--and then imagine being unable to find any relief by rolling down the window. Most of the city has air-conditioned stores, shops, hotels and restaurants, but I managed to find a great deal on a room ($11 USD a night for a double) that is lacking an AC unit. I've got a fan, though! Sometimes you get what you pay for. As long as the neighbors don't mind seeing my half-naked body on the balcony, I don't mind sweating through the night in my discounted accommodation.
I've been here in Bangkok for three full days now and I'm still completely blown away by my surroundings every time I set foot outside my hotel. "Blown away?" You may ask. What does this even mean? To be blown away….well… My brain struggles to find a reference point for all the stimulation that this city bombards me with. First, I thought, "Oh ok, this will feel like Tijuana minus the cheap Corona," but it's not Tijuana. It shares some of the same burning trash and sewage smells that Mexico emits, but it's a little more chaotic. It's skewered meatballs cooking over fires on the streets instead of carne asada being carved off of a spit. It's "tuk tuk" taxi drivers trying to wave you down for a lift instead of obnoxious sombrero-wearing nightclub managers trying to whistle you in to see a donkey show. It's pronouncing words like you're being pinched while you speak them (KhAOWOH!san Rd., ChOWOH Praya River, etc.) instead of squeaking by with Spanglish. It's being clueless outside of the tourist zones and not being able to ask "donde esta….anything?"
It's like being a fish out of water, knowing that you look like you don't belong there flopping around all stupid-like on the sidewalk, but not being able to do a darn thing about it.
Don't get me wrong. I'm loving this. I just know that I'm no James Bond when it comes to navigating ancient cities. If I could ride a dirt bike over rooftops here instead of paying a clueless taxi driver to get me where I need to go I'd prefer that, but I'm using my discernment and choosing safer options. These options involve me arguing with Taxi drivers to turn on their meters instead of trying to cheat me out of my money with an exorbitant set rate. Who do they think I am? Some chump? I read a paragraph or two in a Lonely Planet guide, so you best turn that meter on, fool!
The food here is delectable. And it's cheap! I can stuff myself for less than $2. And that's stuffing myself. I can put down a lot of food, but it's hard to put down $5 worth of food over here in one sitting. It's better to hit a food counter on wheels every few kilometers, get a snack and then keep walking. It's like exercising, sight-seeing, and culinary exploration all in one. But beware, spicy food in Thailand will make your belly burn, your nose drip and your bowels pucker in shock. Westerners need not fear constipation while on a Thai diet in Thailand. Oh, the burn!
I was offered a job to teach English here at school that a friend of mine works at in the city. I spent the entire day yesterday interrupting classes and playing a game with the students to help engage them in conversation practice. It gave me a first taste of what teaching English will be like for when I start my volunteer work in Indonesia next month. I will consider the possibility of teaching here after my time with World Relief is up. Who knows what the future holds? I'm taking it a day at a time right now.
That said, I'm really excited about what I've got lined up for next week. Hint: it involves paradise and becoming a warrior. Stay tuned, my friends.