Saturday, armed with a bottle of water and a smile, I set off to explore my new town. For breakfast, I had some grilled bananas. At least, they looked like bananas; they were tiny, sweet, and somewhat bland but not bad. I just wandered up and down streets, trying to stay out of the sun. The locals looked at me like “what is that crazy farang (foreigner) doing?” I found a fruit cart near my apartment for all my fresh fruit needs. There is a little open aired coffee shop, which looks cute, a block past my apartment I never knew about. I stopped by an iced drink truck and got a coffee slushy bubble tea drink. It was so good; usually I am not a fan of the bubbles in bubble tea but these were delicious. Maybe it was the coffee or maybe it was just Thailand.
I found a fruit market for when I want apples and oranges and other basic or exotic fruit. I found two temples along the way. I also stumbled upon a Thai massage place, maybe my next adventure will be to stop by there. There were countless coffee shops (one with live music), some ice cream places (even a Swenson’s, which is an Asia chain of ice cream parlor), a dtac center (my cell phone provider), a movie store (pretty sure they were pirated movies), pet fish shops (for when I get really lonely and want a pet fish), plenty of food stalls, internet cafes, and several dead cockroaches in the street. I saw a woman sewing one of the straightest hems just by eyeballing it. I also saw a Thai motorcycle gang or Thai street racers. They were all decked out in their helmets and padded jackets on their fancy motorcycles. Most motorcycles are put-put motorcycles, or mopeds, or tuk-tuks, but these were fancy. There were a lot of wheelies and revving engines, and when the light turned green, they shot off.
Thailand is known as the land of smiles. Thai people smile a lot, and smiles will get you far in Thailand. We were warned that smiling does not mean understanding. You can ask for something, they will smile and walk away, but that does not mean they understand what you were asking for. They have a concept of saving face, avoiding conflict and not doing anything to lose face. They do not show anger openly and raising your voice or shouting is frowned upon because that would lose face. Most people look at me curiously, probably because I am a farang and farangs do not really come to this town. If you smile at them, they smile back. I smiled at an elderly woman; she looked me over, smiled, and declared “suay” (beautiful).
I decided to go back during the hottest hours of the day (about 12-3) and nap. The sun was brutal, I was glad I had my water. I really understand Thai time now. Thai time is slower than normal time; it is a little faster than island time if you ever had experience with island time. Things happen when they happen and there is no rush. I started off my adventure with pep in my step and ended it ambling along. There was no way I was going to go faster than a slow walk; it was just excessively hot. When I got back to my apartment, I turned on the air conditioning and napped. I also understand why some countries take naps during the hottest hours of the day; it is just too hot to do anything other than sleep. Even with the air conditioning on, you can still feel the heat seeping through the walls. However, at work I think they have the air conditioning set to artic because sometimes I have to go outside to warm up. It does not help that my window faces west so that hot afternoon sun blasts into my apartment, but it does give a great view for a sunset. I have a new appreciation for the Thai custom of multiple showers a day. A cold shower cools you off really quickly after a hot walk. The Thai’s do not do casual walks or running unless it is evening, I understand everything now.
The ants are back, in the bathroom this time. I have moved the ant trap into the bathroom because I want them gone. Is that too much to ask? I just have to remember to take the ant trap out of the bathroom before I shower. They have three entry points that I would have never known about if I had not watched them so closely. I also found out my faucet leaks. Everything here is an adventure. Since toady is Halloween (not that Thailand recognizes it) I had some Pop Rocks, courtesy of one of my best friends who made me a bunch of “Open when…” letters. Today’s letter was “Open when it is Halloween,” there was a card with a trick-or-treating elephant dressed us as a ghost and candy. At first I thought it was confetti and was dreading having to sweep, I have to sweep anyways but that is beside the point.
I went out again later for dinner. Since I do not have any kitchen facilities, not even a fridge, I have to eat all my meals out, as most Thai people do. I found a food cart marketplace where there were tables and a bunch of food carts all around. At orientation, they told us that Thai’s eat grasshoppers and they taste like potato chips. I found the grasshopper food cart! That is another adventure for another day. I had something that tasted like a much spicier version of orange chicken; it was good, just too spicy for me, and hardly spicy for Thai standards. The food was so spicy I finished my water so I treated myself to some strawberry juice. I think there was salt in it because Thai’s put salt on their fruit to help them retain the water. You know you are becoming Thai when you start putting salt on your fruit. However, it was not bad, especially when all the ice started melting and it was a bit more watered down. I found my Thai doppelganger; she was wearing a purple shirt, purple pants, a purple apron, and purple shoes. On the way back to my apartment I stumbled across some Thai Zumba, I think I might try to join one day. Except, I did not pack any tennis shoes, just hiking boots and sandals.
There is a flattened frog outside my apartment. I thought it was a leaf until I saw it had toes and eyes. I have hung some photos around my room to make it more mine, but the heat is causing them to fall down. The evening is cooler than the day but my apartment retains all the heat, and it absorbs the heat from the two floors below me.
Sunday morning the ants are gone from the bathroom! I am waiting for them to show up somewhere else. The ant trap was a good investment. I went to church today. Thai church is very different from what I am used to, it was more of a revival style. The whole service was three and a half hours long, and then there was a lunch afterwards. It started with music, not organ music, but I thought I was at a concert kind of music. There were drums, guitars, a keyboard, and singers; the congregation was going crazy jumping up and down, running around the hall, waving streamers and pompoms. Today was their 19th anniversary as a church so it was an occasion to celebrate. The music lasted for an hour, and then they had a birthday celebration. They showed videos of the past 19 years and blew out candles on a birthday cupcake cake. Communion was between music and birthday. The birthday part was a half hour. They had a guest pastor do the sermon and his sermon was an hour and forty-five minutes long, then he prayed for fifteen minutes.
The whole service was in Thai but for us foreigners they had a translator. I was not the only foreigner; there was a man from Norway, a man from Ohio, several Chinese, and several Africans. We were given headphones that linked to a microphone the translator had. I was able to listen to the service in English, though it was broken because the translator would sometimes talk to her friends and stop translating. When I met the man from Norway, he thought I was European because of my pale skin and blonde hair. He asked where I was from and I said “America.” He said that Americans are very self-centered because they always answer America when they are asked where they are from. There is North America and South America, so Canada is America too, so it Mexico and Brazil. So when people ask you where you are from, say USA or United States. The only problem is that most places know the United States as just America. In both China and Thailand, they refer to the United States as America.
After the service, there was a celebration lunch with lots of local Thai food. The seafood was divine. As you can probably tell, I really like food. This was authentic cultural food. There was this one dish, so to say, that was a stick with this stuff on it. The stuff was a curry seafood paste that is then grilled; I am not big on curry but this was really good. For seafood, we had shrimp and egg fried rice, and you would squeeze lime over it, delicious. There were seafood bowls with shrimp, squid, muscles, and octopus in them. They had a spicy butter that went with them but it was too spicy for me. For dessert, there was ice cream and the cupcakes from the cupcake cake. They tasted like American cupcakes; it was like tasting home. If you have never been in a different country for an extended period then you do not know how much you miss familiar things like cupcakes.
The Thai language puts syllable stress at the end of the word. When they speak English, many of them still follow this pattern. Teacher becomes teach-AH, and Susan becomes su-SAN. When a native speaker talks, the syllables seem to flow together but when a non-native speaker talks you start to hear all the different syllables. I have never been so aware of my name and its pronunciation before.
For dinner, I was so full from lunch that I only wanted something small. I went to the fruit cart near my apartment. The woman was so nice, she knew a little bit of English, enough to tell me all the fruits, their prices, and to ask questions like where I was from, how long I will be here, and where am I teaching. She told me to come back every day. I got half a pineapple for dinner and it was some of the best pineapple I have eaten. It was cold from sitting on ice and a perfect dinner. I also went to get more water, hydration is important, and I did not break anything this time!