Up at 5 a.m., my body’s time clock is still trying to calibrate itself and shake off the exhaustion of travel the morning after I arrived in Thailand.
The trip started off far too conspicuously: starting to pack around 10 p.m. on Friday and mentally preparing myself for my—at least as my mother and I recalled—2:45 p.m. flight on Saturday out of JFK in New York, I decided it’d be good to check my trip itinerary again; enough people had been asking, “How long is the flight?” I figured it’d be a good time to actually find out.
I was wrong about the flight time. My flight was at 8 a.m. on Saturday—not 2:45 p.m. There went my embattled night of sleep and leisurely packing routine. My family and I had to leave at 3:30 a.m. from Philadelphia, Pa. to be at JFK with enough time for me to feel comfortable about boarding an international flight on time.
Thanks to my brother, his girlfriend, and my mother, I got all of my stuff together for my contracted year-in-Thailand—which brings me to why I’m currently sitting on a college campus in Bang Na, Samut Prakan, Thailand.
About 90 days ago, I began to apply for teaching positions in Thailand. I was working at a local news station in Philadelphia writing for TV (bleck) and their Web site (yahoo!). It was a hell of an opportunity, but I wasn’t ready for it: aside from family, I had no reason to stay in Philly—hell, I actively did not want to stay. Oh, and did I mention I was living with my parents? Needless to say, I was getting a bit antsy. I was applying to jobs all over the country—probably 200 in eight months since I got my degree and started looking—and nothing was biting. After posting some frustration about jobs on Facebook around the end of March or April, a friend of mine who had been in Thailand for the last year told me to apply for jobs there.
So I applied for teaching jobs in Thailand. Thirty days later I had a job offer. Forty-five days later I landed in BKK airport.
The flight was a flight: long yet somehow atemporal, oscillatingly well- and under-serviced, and full of in-flight TV mixed with the short nap. In fact, the worst part was probably during my layover in Heathrow, where I got eggs on toast. The dish was awful; it looked and tasted like a scrambled egg sneezed itself onto two pieces of limp bread and covered itself in butter. I could have eaten it through a straw, bread included. I figured I could take refuge in whatever British Airways served on my flight to BKK.
And then passed the next 11 hours on a plane.
Bleary eyed but kind of giggly, a super friendly representative of the university met me at the entrance of the airport. We took a shuttle to the campus, where she took me to the front desk of my dorm room (big ups for subsidized housing five minutes from work). After filling out some paper work, the representative looked at me and said, “See you Saturday for the meeting,” and left. That was on Sunday.
I think something along the lines of “Holy fucking shit-balls” ran through my mind as she walked out the door, and definitely became verbal when I closed the door to my room and stared at its white walls.
At least it has a hell of a view, huh?
I unpacked for a bit, took a shower, and studied my Thai phrase book before I couldn’t ignore my screaming hunger. I made my way over the to mall—complete with restaurants, laundry services, a barber, and mini mart—which was still very empty since classes don’t start for another week. I took a lap downstairs and then upstairs, looking for a place to eat that advertised a negotiable mix of English and Thai.
Then jackpot: a trio of native English speakers (NESes) walking up the steps facing me.
“Hey guys, where’s a good place to eat here?” I asked.
“IndiThai. You new here?”
“Yea, about three hours old.”
This is how I met Zack, Bernardo, and Kit.
We ate and talked. Each of them had been here since at least October and knew the ropes, so they filled me in on life in Thailand while I gave them my general background. Thankfully, though, the dinner involved more bullshitting than formal get-to-know-yous, which was a relief after “See you Saturday.” There were tentative plans to go out in downtown Bangkok—my campus is 40 minutes outside downtown—but they fell through, which was fine with me and my fatigue. I ended up unpacking some more and checking out my Lonely Planet guide—all with some Thai game show(?) involving scuba diving—before popping a sleep aid I didn’t use on the plane around 10:15 p.m.
Seven hours later, I’m awake. I grabbed a cold shower and used the dorm’s Internet café for a second round of family e-mails before walking to the convenience store for some breakfast because it was, by then, only 7 a.m. and the mall still closed for another.
I walk in, give a presumably awful “Hello” in Thai, and am hit by an incontrovertible fact: I am in fucking Thailand. Sure, the inside looks like a standard mini mart, but that sure as shit isn’t English written on the food’s packaging. Don’t get me wrong, I was and still am very excited to be somewhere where my English skills won’t get me far, if anywhere, but the fact that English isn’t only spoken but also not written probably still hasn’t computed. Again, this
is fine—fuck, I have no choice—and totally exciting, but still a bit mind bending.
I ended up with microwaveable Spicy Thai Basil Seafood Pasta and a chocolate soymilk to be enjoyed later. Pretty damn good, to be honest, even though my presumably awful “Thank you” in Thai was met with a confused nod of the head by the cashier.
Which brings me to here, in front of my computer, listening to Raphael Saadiq’s Instant Vintage, and typing my first entry for my blog before heading off the gym (a hopeful nonlinguistic refuge).
And, if nothing else, suddenly farang.