Seven Months

25 Feb

As of Friday, we will have been in Thailand for 7 months. In honor of that occasion, I have made a list of all the things I thought were strange at first, but I now find myself accustomed to. It seems one can get used to almost anything. In no particular order, they are…

  • Driving on the left side of the road. My first few taxi rides in Bangkok were terrifying, partially because the drivers are maniacs, and partially because it looked all wrong to me. It took about a month for me to stop thinking cars were making turns incorrectly, and it took me even longer to adjust to seeing the driver on the opposite side of the car. Many a time I looked up at an oncoming car to see a toddler, a dog, or simply nobody in the “driver’s” seat and freaked out, only to realized my mistake. About a week ago I realized this now looks like standard issue practice.
  • The heat. Granted we are currently in the tail end of the “cool” season (less humidity, little rain, cooling off at night slightly), but during the heat of the day the temperature is still in the 90s. The first month here, I was an exhausted, sweaty mess. The heat was really draining, and my face was perpetually shiny. Now however, while I am warm on any given day, I am not a miserable, sweaty mess. One week I even wore a light sweater in the morning. Progress!
  • The smells. Good smells, bad smells, overpowering smells – Thailand is extremely odiferous. Imagine raw meat, fruit smoothies, fried fish balls, noodle soup, and durian (the world’s smelliest fruit – I describe it as rotten garlic) all sitting side by side in an open-air market in the heat. Having never been to Asia before, my first market experience was an assault to the nose that I was completely unprepared for. Even the relatively small market on the soi (street) near us was overwhelming. Two weeks ago, while walking home from dinner, we walked through said market and had a good laugh about how normal the market now seems. It still smells, but it doesn’t bring about the feeling of overstimulation it once did.
  • Being farang. Orestes and I are clearly not Thai. Thais refer to us as farang, meaning foreigners. They call us farang to our faces when we enter restaurants, spas, stores, etc. Sometimes it feels like they are ringing an alarm to accompany our entrance: farang, farang!! Some friends and I got foot massages and the ladies kept giggling “Hok farang, hok farang” (6 foreigners), like they couldn’t believe their 6 massage chairs were occupied by 6 non-Thai women. I can’t say that I love it, but I have stopped registering it in indignation.
  • Not understanding what’s going on around me. It had been a while since I traveled to a country where I couldn’t speak the language, and at first I felt frustrated. I felt awkward when trying out my few Thai phrases, and completely messed up the tones because I added a questioning lilt to my voice. On a few occasions, my confused brain tried speaking Spanish to taxi drivers. Now however, I just assume I won’t know what’s going on. Last week in a taxi, I used my minimal Thai to give directions, we headed off down the road, and my driver tried to strike up a conversation (why I don’t know – it’s doubtful my pronunciation was accurate enough to convince him I could genuinely speak Thai). I just smiled, nodded, giggled, and shrugged. (oddly enough, this didn’t deter him) 6 months ago, that would have made me feel awkward, but no longer.

On the flip side, there are two things I have not gotten used to…

First, seeing older Western men with younger, attractive Thai women. It’s a common sight here, and I understand why (the reasons run the gamete from exploitation and the sex trade to genuine love and affection) but I don’t think I will ever get used to it. It makes me go ick. I’m sure this topic will eventually occupy its own blog post, if only so I can rant to a new audience (Orestes finds the topic uneventful). Second, the Thai mentality. While I don’t like to stereotype, in general there is an overall lack of foresight taking place in this country, which I find particularly difficult to handle since I am a planner. Their national slogan is mai pen rai which basically means no worries. It’s great to be relaxed, but not so relaxed that you start construction of a wall, choose weak building materials because you don’t want to pay more for sturdier ones, finish only two thirds of the wall, and then lose interest and leave a partial wall standing abandoned. Those who have been here a long time joke about the 75%, as in only 75% of something ever gets done. Thus far, I have found this to be fairly accurate. Again, I suspect this will be the topic of a future post.

And now, some photos of our neighborhood, Tarakorn:

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3 Responses to “Seven Months”

  1. Amy February 25, 2013 at 12:49 pm #

    Very well written, and funny too!

  2. Colleen February 25, 2013 at 1:29 pm #

    This is so much fun to read, Darce! Love it.
    I think I’d have a hard time with the lack of foresight as well… I also don’t know if I could ever get used to the heat! But I’m glad you have 🙂

  3. Bob Preis February 25, 2013 at 9:32 pm #

    Wow what a descriptive masterpiece!! I see my Buddy OJ is in good hands…Bob the builder

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