Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Safety Dance

For those of you who read Random Meanderings - this will be an old rant... but I'm going to rant about it anyway.

I had my business English class tonight (and my first woman student) from 6-9pm. After the lesson we sat for a minute just talking. They asked where I live, and I told them (it's about a 7 min. walk - what's that- half a mile?) and they asked how I get home. "I walk." Then they started getting concerned. "It's too far!" "Do you have a friend to walk home with?" etc. It got to be a bit much. I feel safer in Rayong than I did in Portland. Yes, it gets dark early... but more people are outside their homes... or inside with the doors & windows open. From the food court where I eat dinner after class to to home I walk by the same people everynight. First the prostitutes (at first I thought they were just waiting for a ride... but now I'm pretty sure they're looking for business) Then I walk past the laundry guy who always asks me "Where you come from?" and "Where you go?" (the literal English translation of a Thai greeting like "How's it going?") and then the family with a little shop and the boy who says "Hello" to me. Then I go past the restaurant (all open air again) and the guys sitting at the table across the street. Then when I get to my building, there's the parking attendant/security guard greeting me at the gate. This is along a relatively well lit 10 minute walk.

I'm not naive, I know that there are dangers everywhere. And I realize not knowing the language or the culture here puts me at a disadvantage. But I also know to keep my wits about me, eyes open, aware of what's going on. And I know that the US has one of the highest rates of violent crime of any developed country... so I am statistically much safer here than 'back home'.

Honestly, the most frightening thing about Thailand for me is the traffic. I have to cross 8 lanes of main-road traffic to get to school - with no cross walk or traffic light. Every day I take my life in my hands stepping onto that street. (The rule is, wait for a half-way decent gap, and just go. Don't slow down, don't speed up, don't make eye contact, just go. The traffic will swerve around you. If you hesitate - if you panic, you throw off the rhythmn of traffic and you're dead.)

But the students really got worried. Especially when I told them I went out for dinner after class. They told me to eat dinner before class so that one of them could drive me home. It was sweet, really. I do appreciate their concern. But it was also irritating. I'm an adult, and I don't like being told what I should or shouldn't do. More than that though, I don't like being told that I should be afraid.

After class I stayed behind a minute to put my papers away and when I left the building two of my students were leaving the parking lot. As soon as they saw me, one hopped out of the car and ushered me into the front seat. There was no arguing with them. They drove me to the food court and lectured me the whole way. "In every country there are good men and bad men. Be careful! Carry an umbrella with you." Etc etc. I wish I knew exactly how dangerous this neighborhood was.... but I've only been able to find general stats for the country - which confirmed my feeling that Thailand has far less violent crime than the US. But maybe it really is a 'bad neighborhood' maybe people get attacked here all the time. I don't know. I just know I can't live my life in fear. I just can't.

I intend to get a motorbike once I get my first real paycheck (end of October) and then at least I'll get home more quickly. But until then, I'll take my chances.

TAG - Pineapple

Oh - and I have actually gotten to teach three repeat classes, and am already starting to feel a bit better. It's nice to *know* what we covered last time so I can spend some time reviewing before getting into that day's lesson. Of course I have a bunch of new classes for October, so the anxiety will be back shortly. The roller-coaster keeps zipping along.


Exuberant Color said...

I don't think they would warn you if there wasn't some danger. However in their country, maybe women don't walk anywhere alone at night (because of their culture) and therefore they don't understand your bravery.

Bezzie said...

Amen. And what's to stop the bad men from ripping open your door and pulling you out of the car? Bad people will find any way to be bad. Maybe you should share what a drive-by shooting is. Do they have those in Thailand? At least you can say it's a cultural thing, they might honestly just not know what to make of a woman walking 7 minutes home in the dark.

Chance said...

Carry and umbrella? Are the bad men going to rain on you?

Michael5000 said...

If you ever take out a bad man with an umbrella, try to do it in a very public place, because I am totally going to want to see it on YouTube.

Rebel said...

I asked a couple of the gals about the safety of my neighborhood and they said that in general Rayong was safe... but you know, don't be stupid. So, yeah, I'll be sure to carry an umbrella in case the bad men break out the water-pistols. =/

turtlegirl76 said...

While it's nice of them to be so concerned for your safety, it is a bit ridiculous to think that we can't walk 7 minutes alone anymore. My how times have changed since we were children.