Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Weekend Images

I never tire of the changing scenes in the street life of Bangkok. Each day I always see something that I've never witnessed before. One of the pleasures of living abroad is the opportunity to add to one's knowledge of diverse cultures. Thailand is one of the growing Asian countries, its culture influenced by its past and traditions, as well as subtly accommodating perspectives from other regions each with a unique cultural footprint. The result is a country with strong cultural beliefs and practices, overlaid by a blend of people and traditions from around the world. Following are a few photos of a typical Saturday as we run errands.

Shoppers at Victory Point night market

Fortune teller at Chinese Temple, Minburi

Street sweeping crew, Sammakorn Village

Fish monger, Chatuchak 2 market, Minburi

Friday, September 9, 2011

A Day in the Life

Every so often, I realize just how unusual my life must seem to others. I have become so conditioned to living in Thailand that it just glides by me each moment of every day, and I don't stop to think about how unconventional it is. Surreal, really.

So, I decided, in a cloud of Thai beer buzz, to chronicle one day. Here goes...

The alarm wakes me at 4:50 AM, and I stumble downstairs to prepare breakfast--first for the rather insistent Maine-born cat, Guido, and the rescued Thai street dog Baba Ganoush as Kat takes Baba on her ritual morning walk. Next comes the chilled fruit and "Healthy Breakfast" shake procured the night before at the shop two streets away. We dress in our "workout clothes" and wait for mr. Chanachai to pick us up as usual. He is prompt, pulling up to the
gate at 5:45. Traffic is light at this time of day and we speed down Ramkhamhaeng Road and onto the 3 km (2 mile) speed bump laden "Soi" 184 that takes us to school where we enjoy a quiet half hour of exercise in the weight room or pool before moving on to our classrooms.

I feed the various animals in my Biology room and await the Friday "Assembly bell" at 7:10. We laugh at a primary school skit and listen to the rarely seen director and stand at attention as the national anthem is played.

The day is standard global school, except that I am interacting with primarily Asian students who need occasional admonishment to speak English. I say hello to former students who have returned from university to visit; one brings me oyster shells from the Gulf of Thailand to add to my specimen collection. I join Kat at the French restaurant on campus then complete my day with clueless IB students, who if tradition holds, will step up and record the highest Biology averages in Thailand as seniors. It is an amazing transformation.

Once outside the school environs, the surreal begins. I share a taxi with an American and two British colleagues, then head to my weekly three hour Thai and oil massage just a minute from the house. Kat is off to her favorite spa in another part of town. As I rise groggily from the massage table, I become aware that the daily rain deluge is in full throttle. Sipping ginger tea, I plan my escape, but in reality, I just have to pedal away through the downpour. The masseuses laugh as I take my. sandals from a shoe tree inside: they will be soaked in a minute.

Pedaling axle deep through the flooded streets, I decide to stop at a local Thai "saloon" for dinner (and to escape the deluge). As I down a fish burger and potato wedges, chased by two large Leo beers, I strike up a conversation with a young Thai man (Yod) who informs me that his father also likes classic rock that is pounding from the speakers. I notice that inside, the large screen TV is showing, of all things, a Thai "western" that appears to be taking place in Arizona, but with a completely Thai cast. CCR, Harry Chapin, Fleetwood Mac and Aretha blast out into the flooded streets, interrupted briefly by a commercial for Lowe's. The program is, of course, being streamed from somewhere in the States.

The rain subsides as it tends to do a couple of hours after beginning, so I pay my bill and pedal off in the flood, splashed by occasional passing cars. I pass the "banana man," who despite the hour and meteorological conditions, continues to sell his fruit at 9 PM. After all, it is Friday, and people come home late.

Lights from various shops and restaurants illuminate my way home. I make it just before the next drops of rain begin to fall, and park my bicycle under the roof overhang. Toads and frogs send out a deafening chorus and guard dogs remind me not to venture too close to our neighbor's castle.

It is time for bed, the fan swinging lazily in a cooling arc. Tomorrow we head to the weekend market after an American breakfast at our favorite Thai-run cafe.