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balance (2): February 2005

Monday, February 28, 2005

help!

why hello again signpost, didn't i see you last time around this circle, the one i am going round and round in? what's that you say? out of my mind, am i? sigh... i fear it's true. this trying to eek a living out of a country that is trying to eek a living out of me is sort of foolish... but somehow i can't quite give it up yet. i started an intensive TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) class today, so i can have a certificate to fall back on. which means i can make about $700 a month here- yippee! enough to pay my rent, work way too many hours, slurp noodles every night, and maybe have a beer once a week. but hey! i am where i want to be- right? nevermind that my skillset and thus my real career will fall by the wayside, and there will be a huge gap in my resume. nevermind that i am way too shy to teach classes (today i learned it entails a lot of theatrics), or that i can only take so much of children (not to mention thais) before i start to feel murderous, or that the islands and jungles i love dearly are nowhere within reach.... i am an expat now right? rrrrg.

when i am chugging down the canals in the morning in my klong boat, being assailed by the tropical heat, the smell of fried pork, the laughter of children hanging from vines on the bank beside me, the 'luk thung' music floating on the breeze ... i feel at home. but when i consider my standard of living, my hopes for the future, my having to come home at night to a tiresome man who is blatantly using me and refuses to leave... the inescapable fact that i am a farang and a farang i will stay... well it's just hard is all. i can either give it a try and see if i surprise myself, or i can get while the getting is good (i have been looking up tickets to san francisco lately).

i have picked up more projects- editing documents for businesses for about 1200 baht per. writing for a travel website (haven't started yet due to an unwillingness to distract from my own). still selling stuff on eBay though they have cancelled most of my auctions due to copyright infringement (oops). and yes, i can teach, and yes, it might be fulfilling for a time. but i can also go back, get a job within a couple of months as an information architect, and have in 5 months the same money i might make in 5 years here. and be legal.

fark.

Sunday, February 27, 2005

jaded much?

i received an email from a girl who wanted tips on how to meet thai guys, which prompted me to write a list of advice for girls who want a thai boyfriend. take this with a grain of salt, as these are generalizations. maybe not every thai boy is like this, just every thai boy that i know. :)

(...drumroll...) advice for farang girls who like thai boys-

1- if they speak good english, it’s probably because they have been with a lot of english girls. the ones who have direct contact with tourists are the worst of the lot- especially bar boys, who literally have a revolving bedroom door and a plethora of lies and tricks to draw from to keep it that way.
2- if they don’t have a steady job and income (and this does not mean a stall on the street), be prepared to be their ATM machine... better to look for a “hi-so” boy who makes more than you do. and don’t bother suggesting they get a job, they’ll insist it takes time away from being with you. whatever you do, don’t get yourself into a position where you are paying their rent, buying their clothes, feeding them and keeping them in alcohol. this is their primary goal; if you let them win you are a sucker. their sweet talk (and yes they are sweet) is hard to resist but this is their country, they are not as poor as they make out and they will always be able to survive on their own as they are guaranteed to have a large social network.
3- wear a condom no matter what you feel or they say- thai men are notoriously promiscuous and hate condoms... get both of you tested before losing the johnnies. every single girl i know who did not wear condoms with her thai boyfriend has contracted herpes or worse.
4- be prepared that every time you leave the guy he will have someone else to take your place... in thai culture, males are horrendously non-monogamous... look up the concept of a “mia noi”, as well as how large the thai-only sex industry is... thai men regularly visit prostitutes from a young age. they have no qualms about lying to you, no matter how much they profess to love you or how long you have been together. they will even parade other girls in front of your mutual friends when you are not around. you either have to embrace the concept and do a little sidework of your own, or don’t bother with the facade of a relationship at all. some girls go years without realizing that their man is already married with kids up north. if you suspect this, it wouldn’t hurt to hire someone to do a little background check. i bet stickman would be willing to do it for you.
5- don’t expect them to be eager to give oral sex- buddhists consider the lower half of the body unclean... also be prepared to take a shower before sex, every time...none of that natural pheremones crap. thai boys are fumbling and get most of their knowledge of sex from porn videos, so be prepared to play the role of teacher. it is, however, a myth that all asian boys have small penises.
6- be prepared to be embarassed by your man constantly- when he is drunk and stupid (thai men can not hold their alcohol), when he starts fights for no reason (usually prompted by alcohol), when he is displaying his shocking lack of education or class in a serious conversation, when he smacks his food loudly or hawks a loogee or jams his fingers up his nose while talking to your friends.
7- don’t expect your guy to talk to you honestly- thais will say anything if they think it makes you happy or to avoid confrontation... they are impossible to draw out. the more you prod the more they close up. don’t expect him to listen to you or have any cultural sensitivity either. it’s all about him and his needs. thais avoid any sort of deep analysis or introspection, they prefer to live solely in the moment.
8- don’t go anywhere near the family unless you have gifts and are prepared to be cooed over and mussed with to no end (fake), bringing cash and whiskey is appreciated, don’t be surprised if they invite themselves to an all-expenses-paid-by-you trip to your country. if he has rich parents they will treat you to dinner, but they will talk about you behind your back with disdain all evening in thai, even as they smile effusively at you- disappointed that their son isn't with some vacant white skinned hi-so thai girl of their choice.
9- don’t be surprised if a thai man expects you to be submissive, silent, wants to get married prematurely, tells you he can make good babies for you to take care of, and refuses to discuss business matters... you are after all a girl.
10- don’t be too nice to his friends, it can initiate a fight out of blind jealousy. don’t wear clothes that are too revealing or get phone calls from male coworkers or even email your brother. though you are not the only woman in his life, he expects that he be your only man.

....this is not to say there are not ten good aspects of a relationship with a thai male. there are! they are incredibly sensual and kind, generous and sweet. they don't have the ego that western males do, and the ridiculous addiction to testosterone-fueled televised sports. i am sure i can think of more good aspects. yeah... i'll write a more positive list...someday.

Friday, February 25, 2005

?

it's amazing how listening to old music can transport you and make you doubt you are now or have ever really been you.

it's also funny how a torrid affair (even if it is mostly in your head) can make you feel so alive!

Monday, February 21, 2005

writing

my first ever published article has now been posted on the khaosanroad.com magazine site. take a look!

Sunday, February 20, 2005

guilty(?)

my thai boyfriend ‘o’ and i had a rather vicious fight today in which i asked him to move out and start taking care of himself because quite frankly i am sick of being his ATM-machine-slash-babysitter, and i don’t like how abusive i can get with him because of it. for some inane reason it’s often tempting to me to take care of him/teach him for the rest of his life, but i can’t expect the relationship to be balanced if i more or less own him, and it’s doubly hard for me to retain any respect for him. we’ll see what happens....

but as benevolent fate would have it, after ‘o’ left steaming to his mother’s house, i went for a celebratory glass of red wine and pasta and ran directly into the gorgeous thai man that i really want, and have felt this strange pining connection with for the past few years since i first met him....we’ll call him ‘p’. quite the opposite of ‘o’- he is a real man. and a damned fine specimen of one too! we never run into each other these days, so tonight of all nights it seemed rather destined. not sure how it happened, but i ended up driving with him to his (mindblowing) penthouse apartment and making out with him under the tropical plants and lovely moonscape overlooking a breathtaking view of the city on his balcony.

heh? since when does this kind of thing happen to me? all i know is it’s been a long time since i was really infatuated with someone... i felt like i was on ecstasy and i kept squealing to myself and thanking the gods whenever he walked out of the room. his kisses were long, deep, soulful, and hot. he smelled like soap and pheremones, and tasted like cream.

but to totally complicate things (besides his being ‘o’’s friend), he has a very rich girlfriend who has provided said penthouse, along with a brand new car, trips all over the world, and just about anything else he could want. can’t really compete with that. and i don’t want to. i refuse to be number two, or a ‘mia noi’.... so though it may have been the most admirable exercise of self control i have ever made in my life, i didn’t sleep with him, and turned down an invitation by him and his friends to go stay at their beachhouse and go fishing for the next 3 days (though i was dying to go), and i managed to get home with my dignity intact.

someone once told me that when life wants to punish you it gives you exactly what you want. in this case it gave me just a glimpse- enough to know it cannot be. :(

Saturday, February 19, 2005

bye bye malaysia

left malaysia (multiple entry thai tourist visa in hand) with a curious reluctance to return to thailand. though penang is not my favorite place in the world, it does have a strange lure to it. i didn’t see much of it (especially today, as i woke up horribly ill), but i saw enough to know that i definitely want to go back. i had lunch with a nice guy from slovakia (or maybe slovenia) before it was time to go. on the way to the airport i saw the same lecherous indian man on motorbike from the other day. i flipped him off as i got in my taxi.

Thursday, February 17, 2005

year of the rooster



too lazy to search for native food in the sweltering heat this morning, i tripped next door to the chinese-owned cafe and had an american-esque breakfast. it was accompanied by malaysian coffee, which is curiously sweet and has a deep nutty flavor almost like chicory. i was enjoying this cup over the (ridiculously overdramatic) chinese soap opera on the overhead tv, when i was approached by a chinese man named ang. he was sort of an idiot savant.... meaning he was exceptionally smart but not able to communicate it very well despite his good english. he works as a tour guide and i felt a sales pitch coming on, but instead he invited me to go down the street to the hainan temple with him and he would show me around for free. so i went. the hainan temple is gorgeous. he explained to me that chinese temples are more like social clubs than places of worship. this one had been handed down through the generations by his “klan”. old black and white pictures of them lined the walls. he took me upstairs to the ancestral room, where they believe the souls of their dead relatives can be conjured. they make a tablet (similar to a headstone) with the person’s name painted on it in beautiful chinese calligraphy, and it often has a small picture of the person as well. they burn incense and leave offerings of fruit and sweets to tempt them to come often and feel comfortable. ang swears if he concentrates long enough on his grandfather, he can feel him sitting in the nearby chair.

next we went downstairs, where there were two main rooms. one is the actual temple room and one is a school where they teach the chinese opera and the lion dancing. the main room had 4 small alcoves, each with altars to different gods and goddesses. red is the predominant color, which chinese believe to be auspicious. to be honest, i have no idea which religion this was, but i am guessing buddhist. there were also elements of taoism, including the attention paid to feng shui, by balancing the position of the female goddesses with the male gods. there were huge golden stupas in the two front corners, covered in amulets with written names on them. ang told me that the stupas point towards the heavens. people come to make wishes or say prayers, leave their amulets behind, and send the energy up the stupa into the sky. ang insisted that the chinese are not especially religious. he said a lot of their gods were mere mortals, who are worshiped as models for their bravery and wisdom. he said chinese people don’t so much pray as they do come to exchange energy with a certain god who might feel most relevant to their life at that point. “energy” is a recurring theme. they do believe to a certain extent in actual spirits though, hence the many offerings laid out at every altar. several wrinkled and toothless old ladies hobbled in to light incense, shake a weird can of sticks (i forgot to ask what this was for), and burn candles to the goddess of wisdom or the god of the sea.



ang led me outside, where he pointed out the gorgeous and intricate carvings of different myths which covered the walls. then it was time for his sales pitch- he wanted to take me on motorbike around the city to see various sites- the beach, the snake temple, the botanical gardens. he told me to call him at 3p if i wanted to go, and otherwise i could meet with him at 7p to go with him and another traveller to a chinese new year’s celebration dinner and lion dance.

i set off in the horrid heat towards the penang museum and art gallery, not far away, dodging uniformed high school boys with the propensity to stare openly, and the whistles and waves from older men on motorbike whose heads kept whipping around to catch another sight of the solo white girl. the museum was small but to me, fascinating and definitely worth seeing. (it was also thankfully air conditioned.) penang is a blend of three very prominent cultures- chinese, indian, and muslim malaysian. they each have their own unique history, their own food, their own clothing, and their own customs. even their own unique buildings! it was interesting to see the different approaches to living, and fascinating that these 3 very different sets of people can all live together with virtually no tension at all. as ang had said, on one street you might hear the muslim call to prayer and see the men in white with their pointed caps and the women covered in headscarves heading out of the coffeeshops towards their mosque. simultaneously you might see indian women dressed in saris and carrying baskets of samosas headed for the hindu temple, or you might see an old chinese man lighting the huge sticks of incense that stand in front of their dark wooden shophouses, and painting watercolors while his wife plays mah-jong at the temple. it’s really a wonderful mix, and i love the diversity. my favorite thing in the museum was an installation that showed each culture singing a traditional nursery rhyme. the chinese one was great, and if i can find a copy of it online i will post it here.

i spent so much time at the museum that i didn’t have time to go meet up with ang again for the 3p tour. so i decided to wander through georgetown despite the heat. i peeked my head into the shops along the way- fragrant chinese herbal apothecaries, beautiful indian batik paintings, malaysian antiques. there were also many street stalls filled with cheap clothing and kitchenwares, as well as various foods and fruits. everywhere you go is the smell of incense, the sound of the rickshaw bikes tinkling as they pass. i walked towards the ‘komtar’, supposedly the biggest mall in the area. i was confused to find it half desolately empty, and filled with a lot of frankly cheap crap. yet there was a mcdonalds in the back doing brisk business. i didn’t stay long, heading towards the 7-11 for doritos (!) and tea and back to my room to pass the rest of the hot day reading in my room under the a/c.

at 7p i went to meet ang, who showed up annoyed at me and cancelled our trip, i think out of spite because i hadn’t joined his earlier tour. i felt a little bit bad and also a bit disappointed, but shrugged and left, remembering his own advice that it is hard to get close to a chinese person with anything but a blood tie or money. i had the inclination to go see the other side of penang, near the beach, but was reluctant to catch a taxi in the dark (i have a recent fear of taxis), so i wandered down to the bar i had been at yesterday to drink a beer and think. it turned out they were screening ‘aviator’, and being a leonardo fan i decided to watch it. i thought it was a horrible movie, and overlong. in fact, it didn’t end until well past 12am. i left to find the streets mostly deserted, except for the occasional painted, panting transexual prostitute fanning herself in the shadows, and the loitering men in cars. penang has the most sinister undertone to it at night that i ever remember feeling in any country (except maybe costa rica). i was not happy to have to walk the dark sidestreets home alone. i looked around and saw an older european guy heading down my street (who also looked rather nervous), and ran to catch up to him. i walked behind him most of the way, but soon overtook him and was again by myself. out of nowhere a white van with dark tinted windows showed up and slowed, following next to me the rest of the way to the doorstep of my hotel. i glared at the invisible driver and ran in to my room to sleep safely.

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

penang

i gratefully was able to get a little space and a much needed dose of novelty today by hopping an air asia flight to penang, malaysia. ‘o’ saw me out and admonished the taxi driver to drive slowly, as they have a tendency to go mad on the freeway to the airport and for some reason no taxis seem to be equipped with working seatbelts. i arrived to the airport in one piece, and an hour and a half later touched down in penang. my first impression of malaysia is that it is extraordinarily lush and green. it is also ridiculously hot! by the time i had caught a taxi to georgetown i was already soaking wet and in need of a shower.



georgetown is the backpacker’s street, but it in no way resembles the more modern khao san road in bangkok. there was not much catered to westerners at all, just a few internet cafes and coffeeshops. the buildings are all small and dark, with mostly chinese signs. if i hadn’t already gotten a recommendation of where to go, i would have had a hard time finding anything. i managed to get myself to the agency first- NJ books; a small, dingy bookstore run by a couple of pushy indian guys behind a screen. they grabbed my passport, along with a 320 ringgit fee, and promised to have it ready to pick up in 2 days. i wandered out into the traffic and the searing heat, and after a couple of wrong turns managed to find my hotel- the 75 traveller’s lodge. it was sort of dingy as well, but at least it was clean, and my room had an air conditioner. the proprietors were friendly and gave me a map of the city and a list of bus routes to popular attractions.

i wanted to make the most of my time there, but i unfortunately had caught a bad cold from ‘o’, and that coupled with the heat made me reluctant to leave my cool room. i did venture out around noon to visit a coffeeshop. it was run by an old chinese couple, who served me spring rolls and a ‘skor’ (local beer), and several elderly expat men sat around watching the news on tv. suddenly i heard a man behind me hissing and saying “you- girl!” i turned and saw a large indian man with a mustache holding his helmet and sitting on his motorbike. he leered at me and said “i can see your panties... would you like some company?” i told him to please not bother me and turned back to my beer. again he started up- “i want to touch your body, can i come home with you?” i rolled my eyes at the other patrons in embarassment and ignored the man until he went away. i have to say, writing this later on, that i have never in my life had so many problems with disgusting, groping, leering men as i ended up having in penang. i don’t think i’ll be eager to visit another muslim country again. but anyway i left the coffeeshop (after realizing that the smiley chinese owner had intentionally shortchanged me) to walk around and turned down an empty sidestreet headed towards my hotel. i heard a motorbike and turned to see the same man, following slowly behind me. he grinned and said “i want to go to your room with you and massage your sexy body.” shuddering with revulsion i yelled at him “leave me alone, i don’t want your massage, go away!” instead he drove down to the end of the street and turned back around in my direction. “you know you want me to touch you”... and on and on. he circled back and forth while i walked the entire length of the street. finally i saw an old chinese lady up ahead and i screamed “go away!”, hoping he’d be embarassed and leave. but he circled around one last time and came as close as he could to me without being on the curb. he whispered loudly “i want to lick your p***y” as his grand finale, and sped off. men are fucking idiots. indian men are the most revolting, horrible, stupid, sleazy men on the face of this earth, and i feel sad for indian women who have to choose among them. also, again i regretted coming alone. ‘x’ used to ridicule me for my reluctance to travel solo (my first indication that he really didn’t give a rat’s ass about me or my welfare), but men simply don’t understand how often a girl who looks any more appealing than a dog gets mercilessly hassled. i don’t like feeling that my safety is in jeopardy. in the case of a man, it might be conceivable that if someone bothered them they could trample the person flat. in my case, if i get really unlucky, there is not much i could do in my defense. ‘o’ always says i am the only halfway pretty girl he has ever met who travels alone (i never meet girls travelling alone period), and he doesn’t blame people for wanting to fill in the vacancy as partner... but what kind of man thinks i am interested in hearing him degrade me? ugh. i stomped back to my room in a foul mood, wishing i had thought to at least get his license plate number.




when the heat had died down a bit i went back out. i had a list of places to look for in georgetown but all of them had since been closed down. i couldn’t figure out where or how to get food, until finally i stumbled upon a small restaurant and bar. i sat and had a beer. almost immediately there was a tap on my shoulder, and i met a half indian guy (born in malaysia) who had coincidentally just returned from thong nai pan yai in ko phangan. he teaches tantric yoga and massage, as well as salsa dancing (?!). he was relatively unthreatening and friendly, and we talked for a couple of hours and he had a lot of great insights. the chinese new year (year of the rooster) is being celebrated all this week, so he invited me to come with him down to the waterfront to see the festival. i agreed, despite knowing that he probably didn’t just want to be friends. but then a weird thing happened. he went to the bathroom and after i swallowed the last of my beer i realized i needed to go as well. so i followed him back, to his obliviousness. our stalls were right next to each other and i could hear everything clearly. suddenly i heard a slap-slap-slapping and heard him sighing and groaning. was he-? noo..... yes by golly he was! masturbating in the stall next to me. i left to go back to my table and shake my head in disbelief.... and much later he emerged as well. i didn’t quite know what to do after that... i mean a guy is perfectly entitled to a good chicken choke now and then, by why then? it gave me the willies. when he also started telling me he wanted to “heal” me with his tantric massage, i sighed, faked illness, and stammered that i didn’t think i wanted to go with him to the celebrations after all. he looked totally crestfallen and i felt bad because he really had been nice to me, but ewwwww! he asked if i wanted to do yoga with him in the morning and said i could meet him in his room at 9am, and i agreed with no intention of meeting him, shook his hand, and left.

when i arrived to my hotel, i had intended just to shower and go back out, but a sudden storm erupted. the rain pelted the windows and there was loud thunder crashing. at the same time, all the chinese firecrackers started to go off around the neighborhood. these firecrackers sounded more like bombs, i was actually afraid they were going to burn down my hotel and i planned an escape route in my head. those crazy chinese. i lay on my bed reading a couple of malaysian magazines and listened to the racket late into the night, finally drifting into a dream-filled sleep around 3am.

Saturday, February 12, 2005

luv (again)

‘o’ comes home from his massage class limping. i never realized you could have an overdose of massage but it’s true, his leg is numb from the hip down. he lays on the bed and i step on him, thai style, to try to revive some feeling. “will you still love me if i am crippled for life?” he asks, and rather than the laugh he expects i mumble weakly that i would, and look away guiltily. we sit quietly together, i try to translate the thai game show on tv, he shakes his head disgustedly at the contestants for being so stupid. i wonder if i do love ‘o’, and i just can’t see it. maybe i have to lose him before it hits me. i wonder if anyone truly loves anyone, or if “love” is something we convince (delude?) ourselves is real. when i was in high school i stalked a boy for 2 years. i knew if he could just see how interested i was in sharing his life he could not help but be overcome and love me back. he played along for awhile- when he went away to college before i did we wrote each other poetic letters full of dramatic promises, painting doctored pictures of ourselves.... one day i realized i was not the person i was projecting and he was not the person who was receiving. people spend their lives looking for the perfect person- that one soul who will be smart enough, loyal enough, handsome enough, creative or eccentric enough to make us happy..... maybe love is more subtle than that. maybe love is just being able to share the mundanities of life without killing each other. maybe the only place you should really bother looking for love is within yourself, for yourself. ot kisses me goodnight before i sleep, he wraps his arms and legs around me like he is a spider trapping a victim. i have troubled dreams.

‘x’ writes to tell me someone has followed some overlooked trail from my site to his “underground” site and now his job is in jeopardy. i don’t take him seriously, knowing that if anything there might be a bit of whispered gossip in the cloakroom, but as i have agreed with myself not to tell the whole truth about him since it can only be biased (and he himself likes to disguise and prettify his version of the truth) he has nothing to fear. either way it’s nobody’s business what he does in his personal life, they should just be grateful that he is willing to share his perspective. a web designer who happens to have a dark side (that being subjective in itself) can still be a perfectly respectable web designer in his day life. who among us is not wearing a mask?

i miss ‘x’ quite a bit. i am not sure what it is that i miss, or who. i am prompted to look over his new writings, and see that there hasn’t been a miraculous change in the past four months, despite all his prophesizing that he would be reborn once i was out of his life. he still drinks diet cream soda. i am willing to bet he still wears no pants while he paints. he still doesn’t like people staring at him on the subway. he still locks his door. i am struck though by the fact that i did not realize how much he needed to be loved despite everything, & the twin fact that he never realized how much he was loved despite everything.... in his writing he mentions nothing of me- i read back to his earlier accusations that i am petty, negative, miserable. and it’s true- i was! it’s a terrible thing to disappoint someone, to know that you can never be what they want, and it’s difficult not to resent them for not seeing who you really are and what you really have to offer. maybe the key is not to look, not to hope, to just ‘be’. maybe ‘o’ knows much more than i give him credit for. the illusions we created for ourselves brought ‘x’ and i together, but in the end, it was the mundanity of imperfect reality that killed us.

Wednesday, February 9, 2005

superstar

i was surfing an expat message board the other day and saw a posting wanting foreigners to do a t.v. show pilot (the ‘farang show’). having nothing better to do at this point i emailed them and volunteered. they asked me to meet them at 3pm yesterday in lad prao- a very long way from where i am. so not knowing what to expect i caught a taxi around 2. it was one of those instances where the taxi driver mistakenly thought himself to be a racecar driver- though none of the urban streets we raced through remotely resembled a racecourse- and one of those taxis mysteriously not equipped with seatbelts. 40 bone-rattling minutes later (after narrowly avoiding being sideswiped by a very large bus and wondering absentmindedly if thai people have ever heard of the rule of driving that says to keep one car length ahead for every 10 miles per hour they drive) i jumped out, dizzy, tried to stop shaking long enough to hand the driver his 100 baht, and plopped onto the curb to reel in shock. argh. at that point i was forced to regret my decision to go to lad prao.

nevertheless i pressed on. i met up with the production manager, a small, suspiciously friendly thai girl who immediately launched into her most intimate personal details with me as we waited in an air conditioned foyer through which various film-related workers traipsed in and out, laden with camera equipment. i heard all about her abusive boyfriend, and her fear that she had something stuck inside her womb from the last time she had had sex 4 weeks ago. She gave me her phone number and insisted i call her later to be best friends.

i was led into the main office, where various young, hip professionals peered at me disdainfully over their macintosh screens. a curly haired ladyboy plopped me into a chair and proceeded to paint on at least 5 gallons of makeup, and to remonstrate with me for being so incredibly thin (it’s true, i weigh 109 pounds right now, a terrifyingly emaciated weight for me). he pulled my hair straight back and sprayed it until it was a solid block on top of my head and i resembled some sort of munster. he handed me a traditional thai costume to put on (long silk skirt, shapeless jacket, gaudy gold belt). i sweated profusely under the thick material and bright flourescent lights. he dropped a cheap gossip magazine in my lap and i read comparisons of celebrity boob jobs while i waited for the other farangs to arrive.



my cohorts were a few typical english men, long time expats, who knew the staff well. we each were assigned a role that was quintessentially thai- one man was to be a tuk tuk driver, one a family mart clerk, one a policeman, and i and a man named tim were designated to be greeters at a thai restaurant. apparently the big joke is to show farangs in everyday occupations normally reserved for thais. hrmm. i started to wonder if i was the butt of this joke.

not long after the men arrived and were being made up, i realized that i was in the midst of a little clique of which i was not a part (which makes me unbearably shy), and they all seemed a bit bitter about thailand. a british girl who could only be referred to as a hussy & who appeared to be a manager of sorts took to joking about how thai people often mistake her for an ATM. one of the men bemoaned the fact that there is little to no money to be made and thus a life in thailand, once you’ve resigned yourself to the fact that it won’t be the island paradise of your backpacking days, is a life of drudgery. the thai girls all exclaimed and guffawed at my mentioning a thai boyfriend, and launched into the same admonishments i hear every time the subject comes up with anyone, being that thai men are worthless, will cheat mercilessly, and will eventually rob you blind. while i do believe these are all true, and hit especially close to home right at this point, i prefer to ignore those facts on a daily basis and live in a stubborn relative peace. sigh... by this time i was ready to get the hell out of there.

finally we piled into a luxury minibus and headed to our assorted venues for filming. we attracted many amused stares from passersby, not helped by the fact that i was tripping every other step on my long skirt. the family mart guy hammed it up, the security guy looked the part, and hours later, my partner and i dutifully though weakly wai’d ‘sawat dee ka’ at the camera and then gave shit eating grins and cheesy thumbs up. i must say i felt completely retarded, and found myself hoping the pilot never takes off, or that at least i was unrecognizable in my costume.

the rest of the group hung around to drink beer and gossip, but i changed into my street clothes and grabbed my 1000 baht compensation with little hesitation, and whispering an awkward goodbye that was largely ignored, i snuck off to shock an old, feeble taxi driver (who drove slowly but still had a penchant for running red lights) with my exaggerated makeup, on the way home to very welcome normality.
and thus my acting career in thailand was concluded.

Tuesday, February 8, 2005

what to do

my plan for bangkok was to get educated in something which i can fall back on to make some kind of living. i signed 'o' up for the thai massage course at wat po (to his delight), which gets him out of my hair until i decide what to do with him, but i am not entirely sure what i am going to do with myself. i had planned to get certified as a yoga instructor, but the one place in bangkok that offers classes refuses to teach me because i am a beginner (?!) and the only other place that offers classes (coincidentally on ko phangan) is full until next year. i am quite disappointed at this fact, as it leaves me only english teaching as an option. in fact, i am starting to get cold feet about staying in bangkok. when i made the decision to stay in thailand it was based on the offer in thong nai pan to build up my friend’s bar, which i thought i could do legally. barring that option, i am not sure i am willing to live a 9-5 existence working for $500 a month in this lovely but simultaneously putrid city. i put out a few feelers for web work, and have sold some things on ebay which might keep me afloat, but overall it’s coming back around to the same question- quality of life or money? are they intrinsically linked or can they be separated?

well, for now i have nowhere else to go. after a spontaneous search online for jobs in the US i was surprised to find they are abundant right now- however i much prefer a life of drudgery in bangkok to a life of drudgery in the US. i am gambling with myself that the risk is worth taking, and my horoscope for the chinese new year (tomorrow marks the year of the rooster) says every aspect of my life will be drenched in good fortune this year, including an impending financial windfall. that is laughably doubtful but i am still crossing my fingers.

Friday, February 4, 2005

now

'o' drags me around banglamphu, with my spluttering and protesting under a million degree sun, looking for an apartment... after a couple of fruitless inquiries, finally he sits me down on the curb, kisses my forehead and says "wait here, i'll go find something". i sigh gratefully and wait obediently in front of a noodle soup lady who insists she has no cafe yen, though i see all the ingredients spread on top of the table in front of her. i scowl at her and crouch in a small spot of shade on top of my bags, trying not to melt, and think.

coming back to bangkok has been a sort of culture shock- did i really leave my utopian village? the smoky nightly decadence, the pleasant guilt of feeling like everything is too perfect, the friendly moon, the sensual sand? i try to imagine my life here- commuting through bangkok's nuclear dust, dodging scabby soi dogs, surrounded by thai women in dark suits and gawky expat men in khaki trousers. i imagine teaching english to children- walking into the front of a room of 28 of them and having to command control (something i am surely too shy to do). there are other things i can do... the yoga school insists i have a guaranteed job as an instructor if i take their 5-month class. i imagine myself being able to stand on my head without the support of the wall- seems very unlikely as it's a chore for me to walk staight without tripping over something. erm, maybe i can write for an english publication- i'll mail a few sample articles, perhaps someone will find my blathering quaint or (even worse) accessible. maybe i can appeal to the masses, find a common denominator, be a uniter. what about my "career"? am i throwing that away? throwing away the key to america? ...i stop thinking because something in my head is beginning to panic. the busses are loud, the tuk tuks screech to swerving halts on the corner, the drivers look lazily sideways at me drowning in the sun. i try to scrunch up smaller, hide.

'o' always says not to worry, to take things a day at a time. "this is my country", he says. "i can take care of you if you can try to live simply. you'll be happy when you stop feeling like you need tons of money". can i live without money? can i commit myself to a life of running in circles and getting nowhere? 'o' comes back smiling, says "follow me". ten minutes later we have a beautiful apartment. the room is large, brand new, with a balcony, a/c, hot water, cable tv, a refrigerator, furniture, and even high speed internet access. it's 5500 baht per month ($130). i dutifully hand over the rent and 2 months' deposit. sign away my life. we flop onto our new bed under the air conditioner, and i freak out. i am living with 'o', something i swore i wouldn't do. it's not the lack of love, it's my propensity to hurt him almost constantly by my independence, my american drive, our cultural differences. it's mostly intellectually that we don't match... but something underneath always wins, a certain calm. when we took mushrooms together i remember marvelling at this calm of his. "you are like an ancient indian", i told him, laying my hand on his chest and soaking in the healing peace. 'o' is unphased by my constant shifting, he is steady through all my abuse. can i love him for that? i think i do, to some extent, and this sort of love is much preferable to the sort i had with a certain ex boyfriend, that unrequited passion, the desperation of never being able to be enough. i am more than enough for 'o', and though he will never be enough for me, do i really need him to be anything? i sigh, close my eyes. 'o''s hand creeps into my pants, he is on me, kissing me wetly. we haven't had sex in 2 weeks, the kissing is too much. "it's too much", i say, pushing him away. i try to wrap myself into myself. he doggedly comes at me again, i give in and we fuck. 'o' and i always fuck. he growls, i sigh. he pulls my hair and pushes into me, it takes about 3 seconds for him to come. he rolls off and looks at me curiously, sadly. "happy birthday", he says. he heads for the shower and i am left unfulfilled, lost. uncertain.

Thursday, February 3, 2005

moving on

it’s my 29th birthday and i feel like i do when 'x' used to tickle me too long and i would laugh hysterically until something in my head snapped and i would end up sobbing in a corner, having more or less lost my mind for a few moments. that hair- pulling, silent screeching feeling of no control. i mean, you would think by 29 i would have things together, but in reality i am far from the ideal picture of someone entering their thirties. does anyone meet this false standard we set for ourselves? it’s funny how you are never quite as stable or secure or successful or wise as you believe yourself to be... and how anything solid in your life might vanish with the blink of an eye. i suppose i just have to remember that even at the top there is no guarantee that everything won’t do an about face suddenly and knock you back to the bottom- or vice versa. as my thai friend says often, no one can possibly control their future. it’s best not to worry and to take things as they come. climb your way up and hope you get somewhere and see some things before it’s your turn to fall.

this introspection comes with my departure from thong nai pan yai... the place i can say honestly that i have been the most happy of my entire life. i feel silly in retrospect, having believed that such a paradise could ever be real life... the undeniable, breathtaking natural beauty, my faithful and loveable dog happy, my little family made of the mysterious and overly generous whit, with whom i fell in love in a brotherly fashion; the offbeat and rather disturbed geeda, so boyish, who awakened dormant sexual fantasies and made me feel like a human being by his openness and acceptance of all the things we as humans prefer to hide from each other; the miraculously happy and inspiring claudia, who is writing a (definitely strange) book and making me jealous and who doesn’t shave her armpits and who taught me xi gong and who always made me laugh despite myself; the loveable and lost klaus, with his constant stream of brilliant though unrealized ideas and irrepressably good natured conversation, his bulimic tendencies with drugs, and his self conscious affection. for the first time in over 7 years i felt loved and i loved wholeheartedly in return. i am sure these people would think me silly for feeling so emotional towards them, as i am sure they have lots of other, more personal friendships... but having been estranged from good society for as long as i was in the US, i feel worshipful and grateful towards them for being real, for treating me like a real person, and for making my nights lovely for a time. they made me remember how important it is to be good to people, to share and to love. they helped me get over the fact that i lost x, who still lingers in the back of my throat like a lump i can’t seem to swallow, but whom i have realized could never have loved me or accepted my perspective. they made me remember who i am and what i want.

not to mention the utopian days spent in the kitchen and at the bar with 'o', shooting the shit, dancing to music, living life. we simply had to leave before we lost all sense of reality... before we convinced ourselves that we could live for the rest of our lives in this one mile square wonderland, self sustaining on only love and peace. if only... well, i suppose if things had worked out like we hoped then we would still always be pining for something other... the grass is always greener & all... i can only consider myself lucky to have lived the past few months as i have, and i have to accept my return to real life with graciousness, or die.



so, i am now in bangkok, floundering, scrambling, not steady on my feet in the least, but i feel like a different person than i was last time i was here- i am more at peace with some things and less with others.... i want to do something meaningful with myself, i want to change my life so i feel like it has some value. but i don’t know quite how to go about it. i have lots of half formed ideas, though not much money to make most of them come to fruition. i plan to put my finger in several pies and see which one ends up being the best one for me. i just hope i don’t end up having to go back “home”. tomorrow i will search for an apartment and then i will look into classes for 'o' and i... funny how education suddenly seems so valuable, i hope it’s not too late! and then we will proceed slowly towards whatever is our fate in thailand... but i have a feeling things will work out because if nothing else, i have a hell of a lot of good karma headed my way. welcome to another new life.

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