It has felt like a long time since we have been anywhere to call home. The knowledge of a looming departure always kept our location in context: temporary. Now, we haven’t gotten pregnant or married yet and the whole point of this endeavor is travel, so the 5 months lined up here aren’t technically permanent, but relative to the nomadic last 5 years, never in one place for more than a semester, this feels close.
I just work up to a knock on the door and cold Chang beer. My new neighbor is great. Yes, living next to Cengiz is even better than living with Cengiz. Now, we have our own rooms, balconies, and bathrooms to escape to for naps or some reading. Yet, by living next to each other we still reap many of the benefits of a room mate- someone always there ready to have a drink, get food, listen to music with, or discuss the shabby state of the Cleveland Browns. It’s a lot like sophomore year of college, living it up in Dematthias Hall at Saint Louis University (without all the other frat dogs roaming the hall of course).Oh, and a couple other discrepencies…
We don’t have a flushing toilet or hot water. Now, there is a toilet, but you manually flush it by pouring copious amounts of water into the bowl. As for shower, it’s just not to be found. But, we do have bathrooms with a central floor drain and cold water spouting hand-held “shower head” (very similar looking to a garden hose). Oddly, those are the only two modern amenities we don’t have: both rooms are equipped with a Balcony, A/C unit, fan, and WiFi internet (though so far, it appears not to work for Cengiz and has a very low connection for me). Each apartment is one big room consisting of an armoir and queen sized bed, capped with an intricate head board full of places to hide things like an iPod or book. The balconies are clearly the highlight, with a view that looks like it could be country side rice patties or Florida Everglades more realistically than a patch of suburban Bangkok (we are in a bit of a gray zone- Bangkok has grown so massive, that we are basically on it’s outskirts, though technically the area isn’t considered Bangkok and we are actually closer to ancient Ayutthuya).
Getting to this paradise was not easy. The trip began at 6:30 pm Friday. After crowding into the back of a pickup truck (aka Taxi) in Chiang Mai, we were driven out to a gas station where we boarded a “V.I.P” bus. Really, this was a 30 year old coach with busted A/C unites and chairs that looked like fire hazards and felt akin to the rock groupings I would lounge in during a camping trip to Rocky Mountain National Park. We procured some very high dosage sleeping pills from our pharmacist, Gina, before leaving, but they did not solve the problem. Instead, we spent the next 12 hours falling in and out of drooling dozes that often left us completely discombobulated or unable to fully use our body. Since mine was the only seat on the bus without an arm rest, my trance like sleeping was often interrupted after falling into the aisle, or getting my head stuck between Cengiz and my seats. Our company was of the highest variety- all European travelers wearing an identical uniform of flip flops, a Sure shirt, and Ospray pack. I feel fortunate that we had to look horrifying (cavernous eyes, foaming mouths, leaking noses) because our fitful sleep was left to its own and we only had to talk a couple times. When we did finally get to Bangkok, we were left off next to what appeared to be the remnants of a car bomb. There was a completely decimated passenger van left on the round about our bus dropped us at. Our cab driver told me it was an accident that left 8 dead, but the burn marks and ash looked like the occupants must have been high level scientists transporting jet fuel.
When we finally got into Bangkok, it took a while to make it to the apartment. The first step was a 40 min cab drive. We were left off at an Esso gas station, across the street from a University, waiting to be picked up by a liaison. We spent a good hour and a half waiting and snacking on gas station delights before being delivered. Thankfully, our liaison turned out to be the angel promised. After taking up to the apartments to shower, drop off our things, and throw on a collard shirt, we headed down the street to see the campus. We are teaching at a private school and you sure can tell. There are two large gated buildings, 1 for the elementary and middle schoolers, the other a compound of joy complete with swimming pool and blow up, moonbounce, obstacle station for the kindergartners. The desks are all nice and the classrooms are stocked with books and school supplements worthy of Richy Rich’s nursery. There are computer labs full of flat top monitors, a cafeteria, several meeting rooms, a library, and teaching offices. We met the director of the English Program along with the head administrator of the school and also received our weekly schedules. Looks like they tried to sincerely consider our strengths: my schedule includes 24 classes a week and spans age groups in the Intensive English Program (a schedule that is reminiscent of the variety of ages I taught this summer, though without the respite of H.S and college classes) and Cengiz’s intimidation can go to work on ego bloated middle schoolers looking to cause some trouble during conversational classes, akin to what we planned for the monks. After touring the campus, we had more errands to run.
At about 11:00am, we made it to a Thai Walmart. I think our guide could see how hungry we were, so we started with a Thai style hot pot lunch at a fast food restaurants called MK. It was delicious. In out boiling pot we cooked greens, pork, salmon, more pork, squid, and noodles which were devoured with some dim sum style dumplings. Not exactly American fast food. We even got to try a traditional Thai desert of crushed ice, coconut milk, and an unidentifiable pink thing.
After lunch, we headed it to pick up towels, pillows, a chair, sheets, trash can, iron, soap, toilet paper, and cocktail glasses. It was a lot like the first day of college with a lot less easy mac. For about 100$ we furnished both apartments with nearly twice as much furniture as I brought to school senior year (now I realize anything multiplied by zero is still zero, so if you did the math, twice as much would still mean nothing, but since I actually have a chair I think the description is accurate). As we scoured the lanes looking for necessities, we got to know our new contact pretty well. As a result, we made plans to meet up to celebrate Halloween, which uncovered another glaring need- cell phones. So after successfully avoiding the issue for the last three months, we finally bought and set up some phones. We were then dropped off, told to expect a call that evening, and were left to finally moving in. Packing was ferocious. We were moved in almost instantly, the desire to nap fueled us to work at a superhuman pace. As soon as everything was away, the lights were out and eyes closed.
Two and a half hours later, we find me here. I just finished the beer Cengiz woke me up with; I am filled with the satisfaction of knowing I got some work done on the blog; and, I just got a text from our new friends saying to meet at RCA tonight. Now, I’m not sure what that means, but she seemed as excited as I could hope a person to be for Halloween, so it should be enjoyable. Hopefully the taxi can get us there, otherwise I will just shove the cell phone into his hand, with her on the other line waiting to instruct in Thai. I am going to wake up, Thai style, with a cold shower, have another drink with the man, get to know our new neighborhood a bit by finding some food, and jump back into the fury of Bangkok by finding these celebratory new acquaintances. Hopefully, none of it goes smoothly, as each day seems to cement the reality that unexpected detours and troubles tend to end well. I would rank last night’s bus ride along side water-boarding and shock therapy on the list of things I hope never happen to me, but in the end, all things considered, it worked out- we’re “home.”