One of the plentiful downfalls of impatience and eagerness is that often in places, one will arrive early, because they can’t simply stand just to sit at home and wait.
The spring orientation for Webster University Thailand Campus starts on January 7th. However somehow in the midst of my bubbling enthusiasm I decided that I couldn’t bear to wait any more days at home and thus took off, arriving in Thailand on precisely the 2nd.
Never once did I think that maybe I would be the only one so zealous and eager to begin my studies that I would be roaming about the condo, the beaches and the town for about four days with me, myself and my little old lonesome. Waiting like a forlorn child, counting down the minutes till their promised play date, for all the other students to appear.
I suppose we could call it bonding time.
And lots of it.
That’s good. A little time to inspect the insides and pluck the outsides is always necessary.
Figuring out where one stands, the tenants of ones own life and the foundation upon which all mental concrete is laid is essential to the growth of human kind and groundwork towards eventual self actualization and enlightenment.
But all that aside.
It gets kind of lonely.
Of course I’ve got my book of New York Times Sunday Crossword Puzzles to keep me company, you’d be amazed the one liners they come up with.
I sat and stared at the beautiful ocean today.
I told myself it was to understand the gentle rhythm of life and the continuous repetition of Mother Nature.
But secretly I fell asleep.
And then a balding man with a bulbous stomach approached me and declared in the thickest Midwestern accent it was smothered clear through in corn bread and baked beans. “Why hello there, I’m Bill. I’m from Kentucky.”
“I can tell.” I replied. Because I could.
We got to talking and he told me the ins and outs, the whose and what’s, the where’s to stay away from. He must have sensed the lost puppy, “Please take me home with you” vibe that I was undoubtedly giving off, because he invited me over to have lunch with him and his wife at their Condo.
Coleslaw and Spaghetti.
My very first Thai meal.
Sounds almost sacrilegious.
I won’t mention the garlic bread.
They were having other guests over as well, their Thai neighbors. This created an interesting scenario seeing as both Bill and I spoke not an inkling of Thai beyond, well, literally not an inkling. Bills wife, a native Thai woman, spoke both Thai and English fluently, and as for all the others, Thai it was.
But nonetheless we ate, we drank, we were merry, and we endured only a minimal amount of stale silences.
One thing Bill told me that I really grabbed a hold of was how he said; “Someone is always watching you, no matter what. No matter when you think you’re alone. The only one on the whole barren beach, you look around and there is always a pair of someone’s eyes, somewhere.”
So I looked, and it’s held true to his word, each time I glance around there is always at least one someone to be found occupying the shadows or sitting obscured besides the sea. With a mouth that smiles but eyes that watch.
Three helpings of coleslaw later, I headed out the door in search of a rumored shopping mall across the street and to the right of the Condos.
This task involved crossing the road.
A feasible concept.
That is unless you thoroughly understand the dynamics of Thai culture.
Particularly including driving.
The first thing that threw me off is when I opened the door of the car waiting for me at the airport and stepped inside, only to find that I was sitting at the steering wheel.
With my driving record and familiarity with these roads, it was probably not the best of ideas to have me navigating through town. I quickly shot the confused driver a sheepish look and slid over to the other seat.
All driving is also done on the left side of the road. However there are no roads going both ways with cars moving opposite directions side by side, all roads are only one way with a long strip of cement creating a barrier between each direction of traffic. There are lines on the roads intended to create lanes, however it would be just as effective if they were nonexistent, because Thai people will never condemn themselves to being a color between the lines type of people.
Cars rush and rage within the road, cramming as many cars possible horizontally half driving someone off the road into the motorcyclists darting ferociously on the sides of the street. Thai’s bounce about in the backs of trucks, sitting on the tailgate so casually you’d expect them to be sipping Margaritas as they weave in and out of traffic zooming over potholes and in between cars. I swear the Thai version of the ever so popular see how many people you can fit in a telephone booth game, is to see just how many folk you can cram on the back of the motorcycle, the more the merrier. Sitting four, five strong all holding onto each other for dear life straddling a motorcycle, with the vibrant colors of their cloth and hearty smiles, it looks like some picture straight out of a Doctor Seuss book, minus the rhyme.
All of this occurs at speeds that can minimize a normally three-hour trip to Bangkok and slim it down to about one and a half hours.
Efficiency at its finest.
I saw one car to which a clever man had taped a broomstick onto, extending about five feet out the back of it to prevent people from tailgating him.
I should be taking notes.
Somehow I don’t think that’d fly to well back in the States.
I darted across the street haphazardly stepping into the chaos of an overabundance of automobiles; bright orange and pink taxis, overzealous tuk-tuks and large tour busses. And raced across the road panting to the other side, it was only about a fifteen-minute walk left on the side of the street to arrive at the shopping mall. People yelled things, they honked, they pulled over and offered me rides in the back of their truck, and more than once I had to jump out of the way of an oncoming motorcycle.
I doubted if a couple of bargain priced towels was really worth this life endangering roadside trek beneath the sweltering sun.
And just when I thought I’d received my lifetime portion of humility, an enormous tour bus drove by filled with Japanese, and the tour guide pointed at me and announced something over the loud speaker. Unfortunately my inability to speak Japanese left it all up to my imagination. So for the rest of my trek I spent inventing various dialogues between Mr. Tour Guide and his bus. The most probable being something to the effect of, “And to your left is a stupid blonde girl, noticeably American by her pasty white skin on her way to a shopping mall to consume. At least she’s being patriotic and following her countries ideals.”
At last, reaching the front steps of the mall and dodging a few tourists’ cameras, I pulled open the grand front doors only to realize that each treacherous step had been well worth my while.
There was air-conditioning inside.