On a Bilingual Keyboard, Without Spellcheck
The concept of two months on the whim of my desires; the abolishment of schedules, routines, familiarity, family and friends is overwhelming. Although I operate pretty well within these paramenters, I am curious to see how their complete alteration will affect my days, thoughts, feelings; life. Who will emerge through such an all-encompassing change of daily living? What details might I find pleasure, annoyance, fulfillment, nostalgia through? A trans-hemispherical flight is an ideal place to begin to ponder this.
The 17-hour direct flight from JFK to Bangkok was surprisingly tolerable. I had plenty to keep me occupied: movies on demand, books, free New York magazine acquired from the Band of Horses show a couple of days ago yet worlds away, my thoughts, the passengers around me, the inertia of the plane as I sit strapped between two men (one sleeping Thai and one American watching the Simpsons movie and laughing freely). I watched Lars & the Real Girl. Intended to write a review, intended to snap photos of my special vegetarian in-flight meals. But part of me wants a few days to shrug off “to-do” and self-made obligations of little consequence. The structure I hope to support my everyday life with, the poles under the circus tent… they’ll just have to take a backseat to “to be determined”.
After immigration, customs, baggage claim and currency exchange, Kai greeted me and drove me to my homestay. We drove 45 minutes north of the airport to Wangnoi, far off the beaten tourist track. The drive from the airport on the outskirts of Bangkok to Wangnoi offered just a small glimpse of my new home for the next 9 weeks. The highways are similar to that of the states, 7-11 gas station conglomerates, scattered industry, abandoned dwellings and ramshackled homes. Kai and I spoke of mango trees, Thai baht versus the American dollar, the difference between marriage in Thailand and the States and plans for the next week as I begin my 2-week volunteer program.
At the homestay, I have my own private room. It’s bare-bones but with an air conditioner in very good working order. My things look uncomfortable and confused in this room but I sleep very well in the bottom bunk covered in cow sheets. The AC switches off every 3-4 hours and begins to dictate my sleeping patterns. I wake up hot and clammy and fight through very vivid dreams, quickly orientating myself back to reality. My dreams are of people from America, my friends and family. I put real effort into moving them into my waking memory but they all dissipate. I look out the screen window and I’m still confused.
When I woke up again, I peer out the screen window again. The legnth of the car-lines block in the haze of of early morning, I could be anywhere. As the morning progressed the details came into focus: the license plate of the cars with their ornate Thai lettering, the colorful trim of the homes, the subdued volume of a female Thai vocalist played from a pick-up truck street vendor, products swaying from its canopy. There were blinking lights around a tiny shrine of Buddha. The morning birds chirping, the overcast of blue-grey haze of dawn diminished these details as I peered thourough the vertical blinds of the room… all I knew of Thailand so far.