Sunday, September 21, 2008

It's up to you...

I know I already posted something for today... and my post before that was hardly concise, but I'm mostly keeping this blog as a journal for myself - so forgive me/ignore me as I blather on about every little thing that happens here.

My last night out with Short Aussie we were talking about living life to the fullest, and how you just need to step outside your front door and see what happens. Technically, this is true where ever you are... just start engaging in the world around you. But I think it's harder in the US, we're all closed off and insulated from each other. We get around in cars, windows up, radio on. We work in cubicals and communicate via emails & cell phones. We barely interact with the people around us in our day to day lives. I think if you make the effort... just talk to people, interact, walk down a different street, shop in a different store, you can combat the isolation a bit... but it's hard to break out of your normal routine. Something about being here in Thailand makes it easier for me...I think it's partly because I have no set routine yet. But I think it's also because the country is so warm and open physically - it reflects on the attitude of the people.

I am officially a minority here. I saw only two other white women yesterday in Tesco, and I think maybe one today (but it was from behind so I'm not sure what her ethnicity actually was). I stand out quite a bit. Walking down the street today a couple kids said "hello" and just stared at me. Another little boy, was even more outgoing. He said "Hello" and stuck out his hand. I shook his hand and said "Hello" back which greatly amused him. On my way back down the street he said "Hello" again, and I one upped him, giving him a High Five as I passed. His whole family smiled and laughed.

I'm gradually exploring my neighbor hood and I discovered a big food-market. In addition to chicken parts and pig parts (allllll kinds of parts), there was a lot of seafood, including crabs, muscles, shrimp, and squid. I even saw several skinned frogs. It was a bit disturbing, I have to be honest. But I also found the 7/11 and a booth that had your standard variety egg rolls... so I was happy. I also located a big restaurant-stall pavillion. I made a couple of laps around trying to figure out what there was to eat. Again, no menus, so I decided to just go by sight and point at something that looked good. That was a good plan!

I found a stall serving the yellow-rice chicken dish that I really like but can never remember the name of. But I realized that I knew what two of the words were - rice & chicken! So I went up to the vendor, pointed at what the guy at the table was eating and said "kow gai." I was feeling quite pleased with myself until the woman replied "Yellow rice?" LOL. Clearly the Thai know more English than Ido Thai... but at least I'm trying. She told me to have a seat. There was no empty table, so I picked the one with a college-aged woman sitting there and asked/gestured could I sit there... she nodded. My food came and it was AWESOME! But that wasn't even the best part.

After a minute the woman says to me "Excuse me..." (except that's a really hard thing to say so the Thais say "e-cuse me") "where are you from?" =) I reply that I'm from America and she asks what I do. I tell her I'm a teacher. We exchange a few words, where does she work, how long have I been here, etc. She asked my name, and she told me hers was "Naam" and we both gestured towards our water glasses (naam = water) and laughed.

I asked again what my dinner was called and she told me "kow mok gai" (I had 2/3 words right!). She tells me that she had taken English classes for a while, but stopped. But then she says if she went again she would want me for her teacher. I asked why and reitterated that I was new and didn't actually know how to be a teacher yet. She got a bit animated and was really trying to explain something about her last English teacher. I managed to get that he was not friendly. I thought back to a couple of my French teachers of years past and completely understood. I told her that it wasn't right because learning a new language is hard, and you have to be friendly so that the students know it's okay to make mistakes. It really made me feel better, this vote of confidence from a total stranger. I may not be a great teacher, but I know I'm not mean.

After a while I notice she's looking over my shoulder looking concerned. I glance briefly and only notice a girl at the other table. I wonder if she knows this girl or if she's just lost in her thoughts. A minute later a man comes up to us selling sugar cane. She said "mai kaa" (no thanks) and I did the same. She nods towards the street and says "What do you think of that?"

I turn my head and there is an elephant right there on the street - not more than 6 feet away from our table! I was so amazed. I mean, it was right there, eye to eye with us, I could have walked two feet and petted his trunk. It was so beautiful. It was so unreal. I told her "I've never been this close to an elephant!" I was also able to pull out another vocabulary word "chang" (which I know only because Chang Beer has an elephant on the label) Suddenly I understood that the guy was selling sugar cane for us to feed the elephant and I reached for my purse. I mean, how often in life do you get to feed an elephant like that? But I remembered hearing about elephants begging on the street and how it's not totally kosher. I asked Naam "Is it good, or is it not good..." looking back to the guy with the sugar cane. She replied, in typical Thai fashion, "It's up to you." I looked back at the elephant and put my purse down. I turned to the sugar cane guy "mai kaa." As they walked away she said "I think it's not good."

I have to admit, there was a part of me that really wanted to have my tourist moment - to get a picture of myself petting the elephant so I could post it here. But I think I made the right call.

TAG - for me Mango... for that poor elephant...I don't even know.


Exuberant Color said...

Ijust caught up with your last three posts, and wow what an adventure. I think you are adapting really well and the Thai sound friendly. Private lessons are probably the best thing to start with, not all the distraction of a bunch of people. I hope you find someone to hang around with soon.

gl. said...

ooo, that's a good story. "it's up to you" and "i think it's not good": it sounds like you're fitting into the culture more than you thought!

Bezzie said...

Yeah I think stranger lady has it right. Sometimes the newbies make the best teachers b/c they're not set in their ways and like you said--routines--yet!!!

I dunno. I don't think I've led an isolated life. I've seen and experienced quite a bit of life here in the US in my 30 measley years. We've got quite a few different sub-cultures (and I'm not talking like goths/hippies! hee hee!) in this country, and I've had to adapt to each of them as we've moved. I'll never forget the Texan response to us moving to NYC/NJ. They couldn't believe anyone would want to do that...and now that I think about it, I don't think I've met a Texan outside of Texas!!!