Wednesday, May 25, I started an improptu 8 a.m. wet t-shirt contest before smoking hookah alongside feral dogs. In case there was any doubt, I am, in fact, in Thailand.
Still trying to handle the jet lag, I was up at 3 a.m. with little to do aside from a trip to the mini mart, 108, and watching TV. I dicked around with my camera to try to get good night shots, but nothing came out like I would have liked. Three hours later, I was still goddamn awake. Time for a run, right? Right.
I ran outside of my room just after sunrise, which was beautiful. Unfortunately, about fifteen minutes into the run, my dormant asthma kicked in because of the weather and my sweat glands began unloading their contents like a sinking ship does its ballast. Back in my room and swimming in sweat, I checked the temperature: 89 degrees and 94 percent humidity—at 6:30 a.m.
Showered and fed, it was time for an all-day marathon of meetings and orientations, which apparently is how one translates ‘death’ in Thai.
I walked across campus to get to the meetings, which isn’t a bad walk under normal circumstances. Alas, I got lost and was in a shirt, tie, pants, and dress(ish) shoes with a messenger bag draped across my chest. By the time I got to where I needed to be, my white shirt was soaked through; if you looked hard enough, you could probably see my nipples. I don’t even think the shirt was white on my back; I have a feeling it was completely clear because of the wetness.
Trying to put the body monsoon behind me, I settled in for the first half of orientation. The school president talked, and then an ASSISTANT professor from the Philosophy and Religion Department, followed the president for a second time. From 8:30 a.m. to noon, the pair talked about new quality assessment measures in response to Thailand’s federal push to better its school system via internal and external evaluation processes. Admirable, no doubt, but not something the entire faculty needed to hear about in depth. The whole thing panned out like a bad corporate retreat: PowerPoint, buzzwords, vague and unannounced acronyms, flow charts, redundant flow charts, repetitive flow charts, and PowerPoint slides with definitions—all in Thai-accented English. What should have taken fifteen to thirty minutes each lasted more than three hours for these windbags. I probably would have burned the whole school to the ground if it wasn’t for the president’s philosophical aside on “The 9 Things that Will Die in Our Life Time,” which included postal mail, books, checks, newspapers, music (seriously), and privacy. I tried to control my giggling, but was only moderately successful in the face of his unexpected doom and gloom.
Lunch was a goddamn feast. Ten big courses, easily, shared by a table with the same number of people using a lazy Susan. I’m a pescatarian who prefers to be a vegetarian, so I didn’t have many choices from the smorgasbord, but I still ate until I felt murmurs of satiety. (Did I mention I have a bottomless pit for a stomach? Think Star Wars, but with fewer hovering vehicles.)
After the food came the meeting for the English language department, which took as much time as the morning session but was more candid and to the point. All of the teachers—new or experienced—seem pretty great, so aside from the fact that this was an administrative meeting, no complaints here. I even may get to milk the department for some funding to do research on pair of papers I need to polish and maybe even an overnight stay in a Bangkok hotel for a conference. Academic holla.
To decompress and exorcise the trauma of the orientations, I went to the gym for a bike session, ate SPECTACULAR pad thai with an iced coffee—necessary food-redemption for the previous day’s all around gustatory shittiness—and took a cold shower.
At night, a group of us, maybe eight total, headed out to a bar called Oldderns for a version of my ideal night. The place is just dive-y enough without being grody (a word we should bring back) and has inexpensive beer towers and hookah with all the flavors of a Skittles bag—and all just ten minutes away. We sat around a low, shoddy wooden table, simply bullshitting and laughing and talking about Thailand. There were even a few feral dogs running in and out of the bar. It was the perfect low-key night—exactly what I needed after the frustrating Bangkok Blowout. The small, local bar with good friends and low, wooden tables is one of the reasons I came to Thailand.
Going to bed after Oldderns, I began to feel less like a person who just got off the plane and more like a person who isn’t just off the plane.