Sometimes the randomness of Thailand really irks me. I can’t count how many times someone has showed up to my house, unannounced, and a scene unfolds similar to this, in Thai:
Thai Person: ‘Have you showered yet?’
Me: ‘Uh, no?’ (Why do you care, do I smell already?)
TP: ‘Have you eaten yet?’
Me: ‘Uh, no?’ (Please, please don’t make me eat that spicy food again.)
TP: ‘Hurry up, we’re late.’
Me: ‘Uh, ok?’ (Another day in the life.)
This usually means going on a day trip somewhere and for all its craziness, I’ve had some pretty good experiences being ‘Thai-napped.’ A couple of times I was taken to get pizza, got to see a really cool wat, and the really ‘big tree’ (no joke, that’s what the sign said in English). The best of these so far has been my trip to Rayong Beach with my homegirl Pii-Chaai.
Our story last left off with day two of my family’s monk ordination. Another day, another 4:30 AM wake up call and the activities started early. It’s never good when Thai people start drinking whisky at 6:30 in the morning. We had another parade, this time going around the wat three times and there was a sort of coin toss (coins were wrapped up in cute little bows that my host-cousin threw them out into the crowd, I had no idea what was going on, totally normal occurrence, so I only got a few of them). It was then that I mentioned to Pii-Chaai that I, as of today (being April 23rd), was allowed to go somewhere and stay overnight, but not take any vacation days during the week. It was then she offered to take me to the beach with her and her family to see their parents (that’s what I thought I heard, I was wrong). My response …….uh, yeah! She told me to hurry up and pack a bag because we were leaving soon. I was surprised that we were only going to go for one day and we were leaving so late in the day…. and then I looked at the clock when I got into the car. It was 8:54 AM; oh this was going to be a really long day.
It always amazes me how Thai people are able to stuff an unseemly amount of people in oddly small places. Five people on a motorcycle, 250 people in my driveway, and this time, six people in the cab of a pickup truck. The Thais also have an uncanny ability to stop an obscene amount of times, like at almost every single 7/11 gas station rest area in site or in this case, in Bangkok to eat lunch at a relative’s house (and then stopping three more times to feed your farang pizza, hamburgers and ice cream, no I wasn’t hungry for a week afterwards).
I was just happy to finally arrive in Rayong. It took nearly eight hours, but when I could finally see the ocean, every faded away. Rayong isn’t the most exotically beautiful location with white sands and totally clear blue water (well, the water was pretty awesome), but it was a nice sleepy little beach town with a minimal number of farangs there. The most exciting part though, there was enough farangs to warrant something I thought I wouldn’t get to see for another two years. Drum Roll please……ladies and gentlemen from Rayong, Thailand comes the little known wonder of a wholly legitimate IIIIIIIIIIIIIII-taaaaaaaaaaliaaan restaurant!!!! (Crowd, you are going wild) Nuss’s (their spelling, not mine) Pizzeria had all kinds of all kinds of selections of pizza, lasagna, and pasta with actual cheese. Oh dear mangos, how I miss things that I can define as ‘cheesy.’ They bought me a large and I ate the entire thing by myself (outside of giving Kun Yai and Kun Dtaa a taste, I’m happy to report that they actually liked it! I shall spread the love of pizza to their country whether they like it or not!).
I should mention here how wrong my translation of what Pii-Chaai told me was. Let me provide an example of a regular ‘day in the life’ of my Thai translation. In one point of the movie ‘500 Days of Summer’ there’s a split screen of what the main character thinks how a situation is going to play out and in reality how it actually does. What I think is going to happen: hanging out with Pi-Chaai and her husband (actual Thai friends instead of randoms coming up and molesting me with attention and laughter at my language abilities), meeting her parents at the beach, laying out in my bikini, catching some rays, and generally having a relaxing escape from the craziness at home. Reality: We had three packed full cars, including the Poo-yai-ban and his family (turns out Pii-Chaai is related to him somehow, and another three families worth of people, I still don’t understand how they’re all related) and a fun filled weekend of playing in the water, riding the ‘banana boat,’ and doing so fully clothed, just like a Thai person, all at the crack of dawn, you know, so our skin didn’t get any darker than it already is. The good thing was, unlike in the movie, although the reality wasn’t what I was expecting, I had a really fantastic time. Even learned a new word for fun, besides sa-nook.
Because of the early morning blast session that I got, I was out around 8:15 PM, not totally unusual in this country as the early morning is usually the most comfortable part of the day. Any beach vacation I’ve ever been on though has been contingent on basking in the sun for a few hours before being able to stand jumping into the freezing cold Atlantic. However, this is Thailand. I was a little dubious going down to the water around 7 AM (this is after a full breakfast and IRB time with the extended family), but the water was amazing warm, like a comfortable bath. I’m one of those test the water types, you know, one toe in at a time before easing myself in, but not this time. We were ready to jump in right away, riding the inflated banana boat until it whipped around and threw us off. I don’t even remember how many times they got me to go on it, but I can’t explain how awesome it was to be included in this kind of situation, making these kinds of connections.
I won’t go into play-by-play for the Thai-napping, it’s not necessary, but I will say the best part of the entire weekend was seeing Thai people in ‘fun mode.’ There’s a reason why they call this country the land of smiles. I don’t think there’s anything quite like the smiles that light up the faces here in this country, a perfect example being the Poo-yai-ban of my neighborhood, Poo-yai Dang. Poo-yai Dang is a man of little words and I rarely see him smile or act goofy. This is usually because when I do see him, it’s while he’s doing official duties like making speeches at Monk ordinations or watching performances at the end of school celebration. It wasn’t until I saw him with his son that I saw the love and kindness that I’ve seen reflected in so many of the people here.
It’s times like this that I realize that I don’t have the language to participate fully. This is something PST can’t teach us in ‘Cross Cultural’ lessons or prepare us for with Adjaans putting on skits for us. I can try to pretend to blend in with what I think I should do, but it’s really the generosity of the Thai people that accept us not just as volunteers, but as people, that help us integrate as fully functional and participating citizens into our communities. I might not be able to understand every conversation and every joke. I’m confused about what’s going on the majority of my life here, and I’m never quite sure who is going to show up, at what time to take me some place that I’ve never gone before and wasn’t that interested in going to in the first place. But within all that randomness and the frustrations that come our way are the times like this. Times that we will never forget because of what people of our host country show us, teach us, share with us. I think it might even be worth being Thai-napped.