Thursday, May 01, 2003

First Day in My New World

[E-mail sent back home]

Hi Family,

Thanks again for smoothing my way to Thailand. All the help at the Saturday garage sales, follow-up cleaning at my house, taking me to the airport, etc. I hated to leave the departure lobby so quickly, but short and sweet was preferred to drawn-out and gut wrenching, wouldn't you say? I appreciate your tenderness, though. Just think of me as happy as a bug-in-a-humid-rug, getting to live a life I've only dreamed about for a couple decades. I am truly lucky and God-blessed.

I arrived in Thailand about 24 hours ago, fairly well-rested (slept about six hours on the flight). The plane was half empty, so I had a middle row of five seats I made into a bed with about six pillows and four blankets, plus my big winter coat I brought with me--oh yeah, like I'm gonna need that desperately!.

Because of the SARS epidemic, I went through 5 check-points at the Bangkok airport (interviews, taking my temperature, questionnaires to fill out, etc.). Apparently, I passed and don't have to wear the dreaded stuffy hot surgical mask (which I had to wear in transit at the Taiwan airport--miserable! Biggest hassle: it fogged up my reading glasses, so I couldn't enjoy my books I brought along!). Well, if that's the only trial I have to go through in this adventure, I get off pretty easy indeed!

Weather-wise, it’s not unbearably hot. I expected the high-90's (that was last week's weather, they tell me. Instead, it's about the mid-80's with high humidity. I'm sweatin' like the circus Fat Lady, but I believe I'll be used to it in just a few days.

The apartment for the foreign teacher, moi, is not yet ready (memories of Anna and the King movie), so I get to lay up in a three-star hotel for about $8 a night. Do-able, I'd say. Instead of shopping for bedding, a gas stove, and household items, I shopped for a bicycle (decided to wait on the motor bike), cell phone, and shirts for teaching. It's giving me a good chance to jump into the Thai language (today I learned my numbers 1-10 so I could start to understand the prices on unmarked items. Only a few thousand numbers to go!).

Tomorrow, I open a bank account, set up utilities, etc. All the stuff in reverse of what I've spent the last month doing back in the USA. I think my vocabulary will get a real stretch on that one. The student aide who met me yesterday in Bangkok, and has been tagging along on my excursions around town is already getting weary of all my questions and need for translation, so it is spurring me on to "get it on my own", and that's what I really needed (instead of relying on his brain).

As I jump into the culture, the thing most remarkable to me is how laid back everyone is. Even the negotiating for the bicycle price was a pretty docile affair. In just a few minutes, I got them to bring the price down considerably, they added fenders (nice for the coming rainy season) and a five-month guarantee. All with big smiles. No rancorous hard-driving debates. I wound up with an 18-speed mountain bike ("that's what the Mormon missionaries bought" I was informed by the helpful salesman), for about $90. Similar bike would have been $300-$400 in the states. I'm happy with it. It's blue with silver trim. Every place is flat around here, so pretty easy ridin'.
OK, not quite the Harley Davidson, leather and gold chains y'all had me pictured with.

I'm really, really enjoying myself already, and can't wait for school to open to plunge into a whole new work culture. Because I arrived with a few thousand dollars, I'm still living the illusion that I'm rich. Instead of taking the bus from the airport (which would have been agony, trying to haul my 200 lbs. of luggage on and off the bus), I rented a car and driver for the two-hour journey from the Isan airport to my town. Cost: $19. For lunch today, I bought for two people: very western spaghetti, chicken salad, orange juice, and two huge ice cream parfaits. Just under two dollars. For school, I bought two high-quality smooth cotton short sleeved dress shirts (one light blue, the other maroon-color) for three dollars each. I'm enjoying "living like a king" now, but I know reality will soon set in.

Take care everyone.

And the adventure goes on . . .

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