A Taste of Thailand

I probably bike a good hour and a half each day -- which is good, getting some exercise in with all the food I'm eating. I take a shower when I get home, maybe wash my clothes by hand (not the most enjoyable of pastimes, and not intrinsically rewarding in some kind of hokey, sweat-and-blood sort of way, in case anyone idealizes that whole Wordsworthian "common man" mystique), and then wait around for dinner and by the time that's done I'm pretty spent so I usually jot a couple lines in my notebook and then hit the hay. For the first time in Thailand we were able to kick back yesterday and have a sort of party at one volunteer's host family's place, where we had grilled fresh fish, sliced pork steak (this place is drowning in pork - I guess it's cheap) and some beers, plus a lot of wacky food like green jello-like squares, cookies that taste like burnt birthday candles, fried dough balls, and roasted banana on a stick. Mmm...

Moved in with my homestay family last week, just the parents and one 12 year old kid, whom I have to admit I took pleasure in beating in driveway badminton some days ago. He's a cool kid, but he always wants to play ping pong in the house, by which I mean just hitting volleys back and forth with the paddles, since there's no table. We've also played darts with plastic magnets, and every so often he'll randomly show me a magic trick from a little kit he's got. He's like the Thai Harry Houdini, except he's 12 and the tricks are pretty bad - he doesn't let me mess with the deck and even turns around at one point and I'm like "Nap (that's his name), dude, come on...this trick blows." One time he showed me a DVD of Terminator: Salvation, didn't say anything, just showed it to me, I guess to draw my admiration at the mere fact that he possesses it. Kid needs to watch better movies...

So it's hard living with a host family, as you might expect, since you don't speak their language and there are misunderstandings galore and you feel misunderstood and yadda yadda. It's double tough living with Thais, since status and hierarchy and indirectness and social niceties combine to form the way of life here. But I'm hanging in: I've got a sweet little corner in the living room all to myself that I like to call the Boom Boom Room, even though it's more like a square than a room. But, damn it, it's my square!

In the desert
I saw a creature, naked, bestial,
Who, squatting upon the ground,
Held his heart in his hands,
And ate of it.
I said: "Is it good, friend?"
"It is bitter - bitter," he answered;
"But I like it
Because it is bitter,
And because it is my heart."
- Stephen Crane, from "The Black Riders"

I have to admit, though, sometimes living with a family has its funny/cool moments, like me desperately trying to splash my poo down the squat toilet with a bucket of water for 15 minutes, only to have it resurface, and then having my mae (Thai for mom, with a falling tone) embarrassingly teach me how to do it. Or my paw unleashing his gloriously spherical belly during dinner and slapping it with ferocious alpha-male abandon to show everyone just who downs the most rice around these here parts.

Other cool facts:

I got a perfect score on my biking exam/demo. I was pretty excited about that, until I found out they use it to determine how far away from the school they post you...on the plus side, my legs are gonna get ripped.

  I've had mosquitoes bite me pretty much everywhere, especially my bumosaurus rex.

My mae thinks I have five girlfriends at home, because when she asked if I had a "darring" (darling) or "lub" (take a guess) - after which she started shrieking and giggling insanely - I held up my hand to show I had no ring, and she took that to mean five.

  A couple weeks ago, at our welcome dinner, me and a couple other guys went on stage to kareoke "I wanna dance with somebody" and I busted out some moves for about a minute straight...so now I'm that guy. I got some compliments the next day, though, and some requests for dances, esp. from the older women...don't know what that means exactly.

A neighbor made a marriage proposal on behalf of her daughter to me and another volunteer on our first day at homestay, told us she was beautiful and to take her back to the States. And she was only half joking.

During our training session, one volunteer brought up the issue of Thais picking their noses a lot, only to ask if he could do it as well. When in Thailand...

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“Sunset at the Railroad” by PCV Nicholas Baylor Hall. Namibia, 2011.