After completing two lunch periods with the Thai students I emerged with a many new acquaintances and lots of new information. Many of the conversations while centralized around very basic information, such as family, school, and home life were really interesting and taught me a lot. All of the students I encountered were really genuinely friendly and interested in speaking to us, especially in asking about our homes and way of life. While all of my talks produced some memorable aspects there was one in particular that confirmed for me firsthand a stereotype very prevalent here. Talking with a student and Ajarn Lexi about Riverside, where the student works, the conversation turned to the great live music that is featured there nightly. The student then told me I should attend and as i've heard it is rather expensive I questioned the price. Yet, instantly after asking this I was greeted with a stream of responses about why would I even ask such a question as all farang are very wealthy and don't have to worry about money. At first taken aback by the response I tried to give my own answer and was once again met with a second stream of speculations about my life and monetary situation. Then upon trying to explain school loans and financial independence I think a bit of the conversation was lost and took a much lighter turn but it left me feeling somewhat disregarded. Never having been in a position of significant wealth I was extremely uncomfortably being spoken about in that context but, after reviewing the conversation again the stereotype became clear. Backed not only by western media and the ever-present tourists here who deem it necessary to flash thousands of baht when purchasing a 35 baht lunch the principles behind their assumptions are completely understandable. It was somewhat surprising how the ladder of inference here played a role for both parties and how these split second speculations and preconceived notions have the potential to negatively affect intercultural relations.
intrinsically linked in my mind to the harsh jolts that occur between one area in space and another, this meaning for the first time has found it's way into my life on the ground. while life continues around these bumps they work their way into the small particles that comprise everyday existence. thus leaving you slightly nauseated but so unbelievably aware that most would pay money for the sensation. due to these recent proceedings my heart and my head have recently settled on a meeting place and the world has never appeared larger. with a small side of terrifying. now don't let these initial words create the illusion that i am unhappy as in no way am i, on the contrary i may have found what it means to be purely alive. striving for existence is seemingly so unattainable yet results in a blinding consciousness that makes the struggle for it more than advantageous. while this proposed prophecy of sorts is susceptible to altercations with the passing moments, the clarity of the thought is something i've begun to value. life is entirely too short to be discouraged. a lesson that becomes clearer with every encounter in the midst of these ancient lands. especially with the children i'm teaching, all burmese refugees living illegally within the thai borders. it is their only hope for solace from political corruption, sex work, and the predetermined title of child soldiers at 12. what a world it truly is. despite teaching in the evenings from 5 to 8, after for most what has been a 13 hour work day of pushing fruit carts or working in the construction camps they sit before me with pencils poised. all congregated on the floor with their sole notebooks outlining the lessons previous. the energy that casts from them takes a direct path into my body and soul and courses through me with alarming potency. this same experience defined my valentines day as it was spent at a lawa orphanage outside the city. no older than 14, in the childrens class, their souls have truly lived a thousand years and their eyes are the only aspect to give away the plight. devastation and poverty are not the exception but the rule. a humbling experience doesn't do justice in any way to touching how my heart and western thinking respond. teaching english to them really is simply that though, as our separate backgrounds are put aside to allow for mutual understanding of the alphabet and the issues surrounding foot-fingers. i sometimes fret that they are teaching me so much more, and i don't yet have a way to convey how much. even if english will simply change their opportunities from dishwasher to waiter, my sincerest hope is that it will.
Sitting on a sidewalk in the late afternoon sun the weathered and unusually dirty feet of many foreigners and Thais' a like pass by in meandering step. My placement leaves me central to activity on a beautiful Sunday, as I am about 40 feet from Thae Pae Gate at the cross section of the night market. Arriving early, there is a steady stream of people winding in and out of the sidewalk vendor stalls; who are still working to lay out their commodities. The atmosphere is jovial and lighthearted as scantily dressed foreigners peruse and Thais laugh and make conversation. Interactions between the two groups are fairly limited, as it's relatively unpopulated, at least in comparison to what will pervade the scene in an hour or two. Yet, the occasional exchange of accented English and well-versed sa wat dee's resound. Setting up in front of me is a group of four men, adjusting themselves and instruments in a straight line directly in the center of the walking path. All of the men, disabled, are accustomed to their placement and soon begin to play in rhythm. This is one aspect of the market life that is different customary practices in the United States. As there are many more avenues open to the disabled population and are seen much less frequently in this capacity. I resume my focus as the dusk settles in on the influx of patrons to the now fully lined street just as the entire bustle ceases. Playing in the distance the king's song can be heard and it seems for these moments the entire world stands still. The westerners in the area all seem to have caught on to the daily practice except a few whose expressions of sheer confusion go unmasked. Just as quickly as the ebb and flow stopped it restarts and the noises of an entire city return to life. Seemingly moving slower than before as the density of shoppers is increasing by the second. By now all the vendors have completed their displays and the practice of bargaining is in full force. Noted by the presence of a calculator in almost every hand. These interactions are quite fruitful to overlook as many times the language barrier leaves the exchange to rapidly typed numbers and the inevitable swap of baht for goods. Two women adorned in traditional tribal costume and jewelry man a highly frequented table across from me; in general as one addresses customers the other scrutinizes and overlooks the interaction. When the stand is free they sit and exchange quiet conversation with one another, with laughter piercing the air on regular intervals. This general overtone of Thai culture is something I take with me as I stand to continue down the seemingly never ending lined pathway.