I slept like a rock last night, if that rock had ears and lived next door to a 24 hour shooting range. I should clarify though, it wasn’t any fault of my surrounding that I was awake so late. No the blame for my insomnia lies solely in the HBO program, The Newsroom, which I was turned onto recently by my friend Jes. I have made a routine of downloading an episode or two (ok two) every night and, because the internet is slow and they don’t finish downloading until late and I have no will power, immediately afterwards watching those said episodes. So this morning when I was awoken by a knock at my door shortly after 9 A.M., I groaned with a slight hint of dissatisfaction. Outside the door stood my host father who told me that it was the afternoon (the afternoon starts a little earlier when you wake up around 5 A.M.) and that I should take a shower and come eat breakfast. I nodded in agreement and as I headed for the bathroom I noticed two Thai women I didn’t recognize sitting at the table outside our house. “Great” I grumpily thought to myself “I was woken up to sit at the table, smile, and pretend I have the slightest clue what is being talked about”.
After my shower I threw on a pair of shorts and a t-shirt and headed out to the kitchen. I made a pit stop at the front door, where I figured I would say hi to the guests and be lucky enough to duck back inside and bury my face in a bowl of corn flakes. However, when I poked my head out the door and exchanged the traditional Thai “Sawatdee” greeting, I definitely did not expect it to be followed up by “So I hear you are from New Jersey!”. At that moment my jaw made a dent in the ground. I am used to hearing Thai’s attempt the limited English they know when communicating with me, and my co-teacher at school has great English, but this woman sounded almost native. “Uhhh” I responded, my brain not used to using English in a social context anymore, “yea I’m from New Jersey…you speak English?”. “It would appear that way” she replied. Dumbfounded, with my jaw still hanging open like the gates of Mordor, I said the only thing I could think of…”uhhh I’m gonna get some breakfast…I’ll be right back!!”.
I learned that both women, mother and daughter, spoke perfect English. The mother simply explained that she had studied a lot, and that she now worked on Koh Samui, and island that was a hot tourist attraction in the region. Her daughter, Jet, was born in Thailand but grew up in Texas before returning here after highschool. I absorbed every phrase in my native tongue as I shoveled corn flakes into my mouth. I found out that the mother, whose name I now I realize I never actually got, grew up in this village and went to school with my host-parents. She then started telling me a little more about the village I was residing, and the area around it. Everything she said was mindblowing as I slowly realized I knew next to nothing about the real history of where I was living. She told me about the communist presence when she was a kid, and how men with guns would order people to turn over their crops. She told me the communists had taken refuge in the mountains where they battled the Thai government forces, and that as a kid she used to watch bomber planes rib the hillsides to shreds. She told me about the plane that had been shot down, and how it crashed in Ban Song killing a government official, and how it all ended with a cease fire. She also told me that the reservoir nearby used to be a village, until one day the water level underneath caused the ground to give way, and the whole village collapsed into a sink hole. She told me a few other things about the area that I probably shouldn’t write about, and so I won’t, but needless to say I was hanging on every word. Then she asked if I wanted to hang out with them for the day and check some of these sites out. I had my shoes on before she finished her sentence.
Unfortunately this is about as far as the excitement got. We drove into the mountains to check out Camp 357, an old communist camp which was still in tact near a massive waterfall. However, when we finally got the base of the trail, inclement weather had set in and my counterparts weren’t up for the hike. No worries, I now know where it is and can ride my bike there, and I plan to. I spent the rest of the day being shown around temples and other cool sites in the area, but my appetite was wet for some sort of dangerous adventure and so I was a little bummed. Nothing a pint of ice cream from 7-11 and an evening run couldn’t solve though.
Now while it seems like a lifetime ago that I first arrived in Thailand, in reality its only been about 4 months. Nevertheless, the novelty of some things is starting to wear off. That’s not to say that this country doesn’t consistently surprise me with its rich culture and amazing beauty, but some of the little things that at first caused a little stir in my mind i now barely pay attention to. So, before I completely forget about them, I wanted to make a little list. That way future-Colin can go back and be like ‘Oh yea that was weird at one point’, and anyone interested in moving to rural-Thailand can get a better idea of what they’re in for. Here goes:
No that doesn’t mean ‘bites’ in the sense that things aren’t good, it means that everything literally takes bites out of you. Things you formerly viewed as friendly (dogs, little kids, sea water…or the tiny little things in the sea water that bite, i don’t know what they are I’m not a scientist) things that have always been a nuisance but now pack more of a punch (ants, mosquitoes, some kind of poison ivy plant from hell) and then things that you probably haven’t had to deal with before (monitor lizards, scorpions, etc.). All of these things should not be, but will almost definitely at some point, be tangled with…minus the lizards and scorpions, I’m doing my best to avoid them. And speaking of lizards…
Lizard’s are a home’s best friend:
At any given time I can pick enough gecko’s off my host families wall to make 10 year old-Colin pee his pants with excitement (I had three lizards as pets when I was a kid, there names were Larry, Curly, and Moe…they died). My current host family members are not fans of these reptilian intruders, but thanks to my host-family during training, I know these little guys eat every insect in site, and so in my book they are cool. Plus they’re lizards!!!…alright calm down 10 year old-self.
There’s never not chickens:
On the side of the road, in the middle of the road, crossing the road, in cages, in trucks, I have not gone anywhere in Thailand that I have not encountered a chicken. Most roam free which makes me want to yell “Just run away! Don’t you know what awaits you? They’re going to eat you! I am going to eat you! You’re delicious! Nothing good is in your future!”, but I don’t because that would be weird and on the off chance they actually did run away then I would have to eat fish every day.
Eat with caution:
If you are consuming food in the space between the borders of Myanmar, Malaysia, Laos, and Cambodia, then chances are your food is going to be hot. If food doesn’t look spicy, it is probably spicy. If food does look spicy, then chances are it will literally commit mass genocide against your taste buds. Once you’ve consumed one of these foods the only hope is to scarf down as much plain white rice as possible, water is no friend of yours. Don’t get me wrong, the food is delicious, and if you like spicy food then Thailand is a utopia of amazing flavors. But just know that the spiciness is a whole other level compared to what we are used to in the United States, and that should I become fully accustomed to it before I return to America the the first thing I am going to do when I get home is enter a hot-wing eating contest.
Volvo makes insects:
The bugs here get bigger and bigger by the day. I’v already told people about Mothra taking up residence in my host-family’s bathroom, or the butterfly the size of an F-22 that attempted to break down the bathroom door when I had to make a late night pit stop. But how scorpions and spiders the size of my hand, or the inch long ants who pop by every time it rains and they don’t want to get wet. Or the giant red and blue-ish caterpillar/millipede things I see whenever I go running. It literally looks like every bug here has been given some kind of growth hormone and then been sent on their way with the instructions “Reproduce as much as possible! Seriously, just go nuts! Cross breed with each other, what do we care?”. I’m not sure who that is that’s saying that, just picture it as Doc Brown from Back to the Future and maybe Bill Nye. Yea so the giant bugs are pretty cool, just so long as they don’t try to become buds with me…or use my skin as a nest for their 1000 illegitimate kids.
They just don’t exist.
“When we said we were leaving at 4 we really meant 3, and when we said we were going to a temple we really meant a temple, a funeral, a market, and anything else cool between here and there”. Thailand is a country that definitely knows how to make the most out of a trip, and there is never any issue with deviating from a “schedule” for some sanuk (fun). While it makes figuring out day to day activities difficult, the spontaneity of life here is pretty refreshing , although that’s not to say it isn’t taking a lot of getting used to.
The number of people that can fit on one scooter is limited only by that scooter’s weight bearing capabilities, and the imaginations and physical flexibility of all those on board. Thais are nothing short of artists when it comes to seating 4-5 people on a motor bike and still managing to navigate it successfully. At first this was mind blowing, now if I see one person on a scooter it just seems empty.
I’m sure as my time in Thailand continues, more and more things will become normal for me, I just hope that I never fail to appreciate what an interesting, bizarre, friendly, wonderful country this is, and I really hope it never stops surprising me.
Its no secret that I’m no fan of the feline species. That’s not to say I don’t occasionally find their actions funny, or interesting, but I just don’t want one of my own. I just feel they’re always judging, and plotting, and I have the sneaking suspicion that they are one ‘opposable thumb’ away from waging full out warfare on the human race.
My host family has two cats. Its possible that when I moved in I was given the room they liked to hang out in, because even now if I leave my door open for more than 2 minutes they manage to find their way inside. Occasionally I’ll leave my room to find them both just sitting there, staring at me…waiting. On more than one occasion they’ve actually managed to breach my fortress walls. The first time it was dark, the cat was dark, and I tripped over it. The second time I came back from a run, went to the bathroom, came back to my room, sat down on the floor to cool off, and noticed a set of paws hiding behind my clothing rack. Those two are sneaky and I don’t trust them.
So last night I was using the internet in my family’s common room when I noticed both cats had joined me. One cat looks kind of like Garfield. He’s fat, spends most of his time on the chair from where he can observe his domain, and from what I can tell is the brains of the operation. The other cat is has darker fur and is clearly the ‘muscle’, I’m gonna call him Tank. So last night Garfield was perched on his throne while Tank was scratching at something behind a box near the wall. I walked over and saw that when he was going for was a gecko that had hidden itself behind the box. Seeing the gecko was in a difficult position, I tried to help out, and reached down to pick it up and bring him outside. He wasn’t down, and scampered away, as geckos often do. “Alright buddy, you clearly got this under control!”, I said to him. He blinked at me because hes a gecko and geckos can’t speak English. So I went back to my computer-ing, and he went back to his hiding.
About an hour later I noticed there was a half eaten gecko body outside my bedroom door. “Hmm” I thought to myself. I considered throwing it out, but I wasn’t sure if the cat was done with it, and frankly I didn’t want to be next. I mean was this cat trying to send me a message? Or was he presenting me with an offering of peace? Either way I left it where it was, went inside my room and fell asleep.
So now I’v decided to dedicate some of my resources towards getting to the bottom of these cats intentions. Its on like Donkey Kong bitches.
Evidence to suggest cats are ruthless killers