Kat's Parents Come to Bangkok

December 10, 2001

As I sit writing this article, Mom and Dad are out wandering the streets of Bangkok again. My parents don’t often venture far from their own kitchen table. On top of it all, this is their first time out of the United States. Dad’s size-13 feet aren’t doing very well on all of the staircases in Bangkok designed for size 6 feet. He can’t stop grazing at the street vendor stalls no matter how firmly I remind him of ‘the Bangkok belly.’ I am hoping that they don’t fall into an open sewer drain or get run over by a motorcycle driver. I hope they don’t get lost. I am also beginning to wonder who the parents and who the daughter is lately.

They both keep getting up at 4 a.m. and running out the door like firemen to find out what new level of chaos and question marks await them. To name but a few, the hustle and bustle, piles of trash, methods of construction work and the variety of food available on the streets has left them dumbfounded. So has the fact that US dollars aren’t101201k1.jpg accepted here. The lack of safety standards makes them cringe. Truth said, they are handling Bangkok amazingly well and hanging out with them is giving me a fresh perspective on the city. I was getting jaded, I guess. Motorcycles with seven people on them don’t impress me like they used to. But oh, my parents’ minds are completely blown on a minute-to-minute basis. Their eyes are getting wider all the time as is their global picture, if you ask me.

“Where is everyone going? What are the traffic rules again, please? How does this city function? Have you looked at your water system? How does a noodle vendor make a living? Why is everyone so happy? What rules, if any, are enforced in this city? Where are we? Where is the house? Did you know that there are 30 street dogs one block from here? Did you know that at 4 a.m. your neighbourhood is in full swing? What kind of engine is used in a long tail boat? Do you always get stuck at red lights for 15 minutes? Where are all of the101201k2.jpg fire trucks?” The questions come pouring out. Some simply have no answer and sometimes there are just too many questions.

Dad has been out making friends. He has been invited to go fishing and has been given free food. He knows about ten times more about people in my neighbourhood than I do and he’s been here for six days. He will stand on the corner and say hello to anyone. If they don’t understand English, he will simply talk louder. Mom will take some pictures as he does this, do some shopping, smell the food he’s about to eat and sometimes even try it for herself. Mom has even gone grocery shopping. They also have walked around my nearby park a million times.

We had plans to visit the Grand Palace, head to the beach, and even check out Kanchanaburi. Mom and Dad, they don’t want to leave my block. “We’ll be right back!” is the war cry. Several hours later they pop back up again.

They have found plane engine dealers, cement block factories, flea101201k3.jpg markets, ceramic producers and spent several hours at my local open-air market. Everything is an adventure. Dad helped a taxi driver fix his alternator belt on one of his recent journeys. There is no boredom. I can’t keep up with them.

They are always amazed that up to eight people wait hand and foot on them but nothing seems to go quite right despite the professional appearances. Managers can’t find the keys to the glass cases they want to look in. Things are never on schedule. Traffic jams slow their progress. “This is Thailand,” I tell them again and again.

“The people are so friendly here!” they proclaim before passing out in bed. They are making me look boring. I guess I don’t know these people that have landed at my doorstep as well as I thought, but yes, they are indeed my parents. They seem to think that Thailand is a new, abstract and improved version of Disneyland. I won’t point out that living here is a different story indeed and eventually some of the charm might just wear off.

At any minute I am expecting them to announce that they plan to retire here or move in with me. It is going to be hard to get them on the plane back to America. My parents are amazingly happy and I am happy for them. So I say thank you Thailand for the pleasant reminder of just how magic you are. And please, let my parents find their way back home today.

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