Some very good things happened this week!
First and foremost, Gabe returned to civilization and after two days of failed attempts (bad internet connections, “international” phone cards that aren’t international on top of a 14 hour time difference) we managed to get ahold of each other and talk. It was so good to hear from him, know that he made it safely out of the Grand Canyon and realize that he’ll be here in just a little over a week!
Secondly, after my little rant about the terrible running here, I decided to cross a street that I don’t normally cross and discovered that my short path actually extends for quite a long way! I’ve had 60-90 minute runs for the past few days, in a much nicer and less congested area and feel so much more balanced! Aron also told me that he knows a way to get to the parks on foot, but that it’s impossible to explain…he’s going to walk it with me one day this week so that I can run it. These sound like such small things, but to me, running conditions play a MAJOR part in the way that I feel about a place.
Due to running a new route, I discovered an actual sit-down restaurant with an actual indoor dining area and an actual patio with actual greenery and actual menus! You’d be amazed at how hard that is to find in our neighborhood…I love the eating options here, but every once in awhile it’s nice to have a place to go and sit down at. Raina and I took a walk there the other evening and it was wonderful – delicious food (still extremely inexpensive), really friendly waitstaff, and an atmosphere that almost made it possible to ignore the incessant traffice roaring by.
The entire past week was test week, which essentially means that I did not have to do anything. I have several tests on Monday as well, so the past week was just spent reviewing, something that actually gets these kids to be quiet! Monday is also payday which I am anxiously awaiting – it’s been two months since I’ve had any income and I’m getting a bit tired of it! We get paid in cash – I’m making about $1000/month and I’ve spent roughly $300 (this includes setting up a room and several trips!!) since I got to Bangkok a month ago. At this rate, I shouldn’t need to go to an ATM again until at least Christmas!
Last night was pretty low-key and I was planning to just hang around here, as we have several friends coming into town tonight and I don’t need two nights out. I went to a payphone down the road around 9 to give Gabe a call, and as I was walking back I passed some of the street vendors next to our place, all sitting at their little plastic table as they do at all hours of the day.
One of the women waved me over saying “come sit, come sit!” I grinned and walked over, one of the women gave up her seat, insisted I sit and then went to find another stool. The woman who had called to me spoke very good english and handed me a glass of whisky and soda water, asking “Thai whiskey okay? You have!” I couldn’t turn down such an offer, of course, so I accepted and we did introductions.
Mao (which coincidentally means “drunk” in Thai) was the english-speaker, and she works in a hotel nearby, which explains the language skill. She introduced me to Goy, a little man with a huge, permanent grin who apparently owns the mechanic shop we were sitting in front of. She listed off the names of the four others, but I honestly couldn’t repeat any of them.
Mao told me that she works very early during the week, going to work at 4:30, but that on weekends she always comes to this corner to visit her friends and have a drink. She made me promise that we would stop and have a drink on weekends whenever we could, and that if “you need any help, I help you. The Thais, they think you tourist so they not always tell truth to you.” I practiced some of my Thai on them, making sure to tell the tea lady that her tea is “A-rroi mak-mak!” (delicious) – they loved it and one way or another, I was able to spend an hour “conversing” with a group of people who can’t even say hello.
This morning when I went out to run around six, the tea lady and two other women were still out there. She yelled “Hello! A-is-on!” and raised her beer bottle to me. Yes, at six a.m. I laughed and pointed at the rising sun, she just shrugged and laughed then took a drink from the bottle.
I will certainly be back to visit with them, and things like this are starting to change my opinion of Bangsue. The longer we’re here, the more smiles and waves there are – people are getting used to us and realizing that we’re not obnoxious tourists flashing our money around and knocking stuff over. You have to remember that this is a pretty low-income, low-educated area and it’s always tough to be different in such a place. These are people who are making about $200 a month and who will most likely never even leave Bangkok, much less Thailand.
When I put it in perspective and then think back to the all-too common view in America that “if you don’t speak English, don’t come here,” it’s absolutely amazing how much these people work with us. I’m in Thailand, working in a Thai school, barely qualified, making seven times what a Thai teacher makes and I hardly speak a word of the language – somehow, people remain extremely friendly and helpful.
At home, so many people are so vehemently opposed to the Mexicans (or whoever else) who show up wanting to work, yet don’t have a good grasp on English. They’re wanting to work jobs that most of us would refuse and they’re told to “go back to where you came from!” I’m so glad that I have the opportunity to live and work here for awhile, as it is opening my eyes so much more than a vacation ever could!