Sunday, November 2, 2008

Ta lai

I'm feeling back to normal again, and it's my day off so I went to the beach. One of my students had printed out a couple pages of google maps for me, and had thoughtfully put in some landmarks in English. I'd kept hearing about the beach that was closest to Rayong (can't remember the name though) and he wrote out the name in Thai so I could ask around at the Songthaew station.

I got up, put on what I'll be calling my "trunk-kini", swim trunks & a tanktop, and headed out. The plan was to take a songthaew, any songthaew along the main road to the songthaew station and then just show people my piece of paper until someone pointed me towards the right one. A good plan, but I didn't even get that far. A block or two from the main road a police officer on a motorbike said something to me and indicated the back of his bike. I really wasn't interested in going for a ride, so I just said "mai kow jai"... but he was somewhat insistent about helping me out. So I figured I could at least try to ask him where to find the songthaew. I got to practice the newest phrase that I've learned "Dtong gahn" which I was told means both "I want." and "I need." (fascinating!).

So I said something approaching "I want songthaew ..." and showed him my piece of paper. He said the name of the beach and I repeated it (we did that a few times, and I still forgot it) and then he motioned me onto the back of his bike and I just climbed on. (Do you see how easy it would be to scam me? Oh btw - I have my passport back, all is well). We start driving and he asks me something about "ta lai." Now this is a word I know! One of the teachers always orders stir fried veggies with seafood - pad pak ta lai. So I thought he was asking if I liked seafood. I got to use another phrase I learned this week "Mai choorp." (I don't like.) But then he asked again something "Ta lai? Ta lai?" and I remembered that the other day at lunch, while the teacher was eating her "Ta-lai" we had a conversation about how "ta-lai" literally means "sea" and that the literal word for "sea-food" was "ta-lai something something". Aaaaaahhhhh! And suddenly I could make sense of what he was saying "Bi ta lai?" "Go to the sea?" "Chai chai chai - bi ta lai. Chai haht" "Yes yes yes go to the sea. Beach." I finally told him. Check me out all speaking Thai!!!

We actually didn't go very far, just along the main road and up one of the main parallel roads when he stopped and pointed to the songthaew and he and I both told him the name of the beach again & I hopped on.

It is quite a bit closer than the beach I had been going to... it's also not nearly as fancy. One of the things I like about Rayong is that it's an industrial town - it means people have good jobs and the city actually produces stuff - petroleum products and seafood are the two main industries (and you really don't want to get those two mixed up!). I saw a number of oil rigs and fishing boats along the way to the beach.

The beach itself is not fantastic. But that means there aren't any tourists... so pros & cons. The sand is coarse, and very loose. As I waded into the water it shifted under my feet in a quicksand-esque manner, and that was not fun. There's also a deceptively steep slope into the water. I could tell by how the waves were breaking just a couple feet from the dry sand that it got deep quickly. I took a few exploratory steps past the foam, first step ankle deep, next step over knee deep. Not being able to see the bottom freaked me out and I almost decided to give up and head for Ban Phe. But then I came to my senses.

I am a good swimmer. I'm not a great swimmer, or a fast swimmer, but I'm extremely boyant ;) and I know several strokes. I also have a decent amount of ocean swimming experience, I know that when you want to get back to the shore you match your efforts to the waves so they do most of the work. Not to mention the several years I did water areobics. On 'deep-water' aerobics days we'd practice treading water about a dozen different ways, just arms, just legs, hands up out of the water, elbows out of the water (killer!). I figured... it doesn't really matter if it's 5 feet deep, or 10 feet deep or 100 feet deep. I can swim, I'll be fine. Sure enough - four steps in and the water was up to my shoulders. It felt really good so I just hung out swimming and floating and just standing there in the water for a good long time. Then I got out (tricky - with the sharp increase and the shifty sands... but again - you just have to let the waves push you). This is not a beach I would recommend for non-swimmers!

I laid out in the sun for a while (and yes, reapplied my sunscreen!). Eventually I could hear that a family had arrived... complete with screaming children. I sat up and contemplated calling it a day. But then the kids waved at me and screamed "Hello" so I said "Hello" back. We did that a couple of times, and I thought I heard them saying something in English but I couldn't quite make it out. One of the girls came over and started talking to me.

"Hello" she started
--"Sawadee ka" I replied.
"What is your name?" she asked.
--"Chan chu Rebecca." I replied slowly, and with great concentration added "Kun chu arai?" (By this time her sisters/friends were coming out of the water to join us.)
"My name is Boom. Where are you from?"
--"Kun bin kun American!" Only after she left did I realize I had told her, most enthusiastically, "You are an American person!"
"Aaaah America! Do you want to swim in the sea?" she asked - still in English.
--"Passa Thai for 'swim'?" I asked.
"wai naam" we all mimed swimming and pointed at the ocean- repeating the word a few times.
--"Dtong gahn wai naam ta lai." I replied, and from her reaction, I think I got close to saying "Want to swim in the sea." So off we went!

I don't know why I'm so popular with the 10-15 year old beach crowd...but it's kind of fun. I mean, I was not a popular or well liked kid growing up so even at 34 - having kids come up to me and want to play with me is doing it's part to heal some very old wounds. We played in the water for a while. Then my new friend said "Dance in the water." at first I thought she meant swim, but she mimed dancing and said "Sing a song!"

Fortunately, I love singing. I sound terrible, but I do enjoy it. So I gave her a few bars of the Sesame Street theme song. =P (Well, what would *you* sing if you were put on the spot like that?) Plus, it was really sunny and I was inspired. I asked her to sing next and she did so beautifully - a fairly long song actually and her sister joined in on the choruses. On my next turn I sang one of my favorites - You are my sunshine. She could understand a few words of it and liked the "You make me happy" part. The second time through I sang each line slowly and she tried to follow along. It was cute - she's a *much* better singer than I. After singing we swam some more... had a bit of a race to reach their uncle who was floating along in an inner tube with his baby boy. I asked for the word for baby and learned it was "dek lek lek" (child small small). One of the family said that I spoke Thai well, and I replied "nit-noy" (a little bit) and the baby said "nit-noy" which was awesome and cracked everyone up. That little one year old boy is my linguistic equal, and he'll likely surpass me in the next 6 months. =P

Oh, it was a fun... but eventually I got tuckered out and called it a day. A Code Mango day for sure.


turtlegirl76 said...

It certainly sounds like you had a wonderful day! You're really coming along with the Thai language!

Stacey said...

Wow, that sounds so much fun :D

jovaliquilts said...

What a great day! I'm enjoying following your journey, and I'm so impressed by everything you're doing! The beach loves soooo wonderful. :)

Michael5000 said...

Check you OUT! This installment of the adventure was teh awesome.