To those who visit here, we wish a safe journey and the joy of discovery. –William Sanford Nye
When you go into an experience expecting very little, you’ll find that just about everything is a discovery.
I am sitting in my own apartment in Pak Thong Chai. It is my second full day in Thailand, 8:30 in the morning. I was awoken this morning to the sound of my new alarm clock: the rooster that lives in an unknown somewhere behind my apartment building. The sounds of the town are phenomenal. In the morning (and throughout most of the day), it’s roosters. At night, around 9:30-10:00, the packs of stray dogs that roam the streets will band together and howl for a grand total of five minutes. When you walk down the street, people smile and stare and shout, “Hello!” or sometimes the Thai version, “Sawatdee!”
Another great thing about Pak Thong Chai is the view from the apartment. From the third floor, you can see Wat Po, the nearby temple, and the International Buddhist College, where my cousin Ben is studying for his Master’s.
I got to Pak Thong Chai on Friday afternoon, on the twelve o’clock bus from Bangkok. I had told Ben I’d be on the ten o’clock, and missed that one by two minutes. There was no internet connection in the bus station so I couldn’t tell him I’d be late…so when my bus arrived in the station he said, “Thank God you were on that second bus!” If I hadn’t been on it, he would have believed I’d accidentally gone half way across the country!
But I did arrive safely and since my arrival there has been an onslaught of experiences (including the world’s best bowl of fried rice). There has been much to adjust to including the roosters and the heat. The air is thick with humidity, making it occasionally difficult to breathe. Everybody stares when I walk through town, because I am one of three white people in the entire town, and the only one with a beard. In Thailand, whiteness is a quality to be desired. On billboards and advertisements everywhere, models are made up to look white. Another adjustment is the bathroom situation: I am lucky that there are actual toilets rather than squatting holes…but toilet paper is virtually unheard of here! There is some for sale by the roll in the local 7-11, though.
My favorite thing about Pak Thong Chai is, so far, a little girl whose name is either Bom or Bop (it seems to me that the pronunciation changes every time she says it). She speaks very little English other than, “Hello!” “How are you?” “I am good thank you and you?” and “What is your name?” But she is drawn to me, Ben, and especially Hannah, the other English teacher. When we walked through the park in town last night, she rode her bike close behind us and we taught her the English words for “tree,” “road,” “football,” and “basketball,” which she shyly repeated to us. She is sweet and always smiles when we teach her a new word.
More on everything to come!