Time flies. I recently found myself scratching my head over the fact that two years have passed since ‘Kat’s Window’ began. As my father would say, “You think time is going fast now? Just wait until you’re my age!” Scary thought!
Early issues of ‘Kat’s Window’ found the author staring at Thailand in amazement, confusion, utter disbelief and affection. After over three years of navigating life here and two years of reporting on it, I still feel the same way but perhaps have the ability to take things a little bit more in stride.
I have learned a tremendous amount of useful skills over the years. I can now identify fruits and vegetables, bargain to get a good price, use a squat toilet without batting an eye, possibly find my way home if given enough time, dance the ‘ramwong’ in decent fashion, navigate bustling markets and find what I am looking for, drink beer with ice cubes in it, sit with monks and not be terrified, give a rather proper ‘wai’, speak enough Thai to either get what I am after or provide all listeners a good laugh, sit side-saddle on the back of a motorcycle taxi whizzing through traffic, and walk around not feeling like I am totally out-of-place and about to make a tremendous blunder at all times. Progress.
I have yet to tire of listening to monks chanting, exploring temples, heading out to listen to traditional Thai country songs, watching a fast moving game of tak-kraw, strolling through a park, taking a long-tailed boat ride through the khlongs, gazing at water buffalo, marveling at the diversity of wares at the local markets, admiring a particularly handsome rooster, the Thai ability to have fun and/or smile through most any situation, marveling at just how much can be fit in the back of a pickup truck or of the silly songs that play over the loudspeakers at my grocery store. Actually, the only thing I have truly tired of is papaya. I guess I ate too much of it.
I am still overheating most of the time and my ankles are filled with mosquito bites as the pests still can’t seem to get enough of me. I still get annoyed when the taxi driver plays the “I don’t have any change” game in hopes of making an extra buck or two. I continue to fall prey to the ‘Bangkok belly.’ Shopping for clothes my size can be a drag. Bangkok traffic can and does drive me to the edge of my patience. Sometimes I really do wish rolls of toilet paper and high-quality napkins would make appearances more often. And sometimes I really miss my Mom. But living in Thailand is worth it.
On the days where I would rather pull the covers over my head and dream that I could teleport myself somewhere else, remembering all of the amazing things I have discovered and wonderful people I have met since coming to Thailand (and partially because of the need to write this column) gets me on my feet and out the door. Talking to people on the street about their lives is something I truly love. Trying to understand the rituals and reasons behind Thai Buddhism is challenging. Receiving emails from people around the world who are either Thai or have an interest in or connection to Thailand is fascinating. Hey, I love this job!
Living in Thailand has changed me. For the better most would agree (or perhaps there was nowhere else to go but up!) I am calmer inside and out. When I am back in the United States, I find myself wondering what everyone is so stressed out about and why they rush around so much. I realise that I walk slower now and have a much cooler heart (‘jai yen’).
Yesterday as I was buzzing through town, I glanced over to see a guy driving a motorcycle wearing a welding mask as a helmet. The protective visor stuck way, way up in the air and made him look like an alien of sorts. It is moments like these that make me wish I could reach out and physically hug the country that sometimes also has the ability to drive me nuts. But it’s the policeman wearing big umbrella hats to protect themselves from the sun, the old woman sitting on her front porch chewing betel, people sleeping on crates of coke bottles as the delivery truck below them veers, swerves and vrooms through traffic, the children who shriek with delight and yell, “Hello!” as I walk by, and the blind karaoke singer sitting at the entrance to a pedestrian overpass that make up for the frustrating sides of life here.
One of the questions I am most frequently asked is, “How long will you stay in Thailand?” I still don’t know the answer. Someday I want to go to graduate school. But for now, everything is indeed ‘Sabai, Sabai.’