Quotes from my dad and other such waffle
When I told him I liked living in Bangkok...
"Kerrie. You were going to go around the world. You've been to Bangkok. For 3 years. Not very good is it?"
When I showed him where I lived
"Well. It's not as bad as I thought it'd be..."
On the idea of a Thai bf...
"What guy here is gonna take one look at you ? You're better off at home."
When I told him I was definitely go to go back home in November.
When I told him that I was going to come back 10 days later, and backpack around Thailand for a couple of months before leaving here for good.
"Haven't you done enough backpacking.. You can't be a backpacker forever."
When I told him that the person I wanted to ask to go back with me disappeared for 3 weeks on the very day that I was planning to ask him and now, seems to have stopped talking to me altogether.
"You should be grateful. It's saved you 500 quid."
When I told him I'd still have to pay that money (to ferry around 20-30K of excess baggage home...)
"You should just bin it."
On being back at home, having a job, settling down here.
"After a month or so, you'll forget all about all this. It'll be like it never happened."
They're safely tucked away in a 'posh' resort in Pangwa Cape at the moment, so its OK to complain about them for a bit. For the last couple of months they've been asking me what I will do when my contract runs out at school and suggesting that I should think about my future, and about coming home.
My dad's words 'You can't be a backpacker forever' are now etched into my skull. I spent most of last month trying to work out what, if anything is the best thing for me to do next. I like teaching but, if I'm honest, I'm not that good at it. I have a job at a good school in Bangkok. It's well resourced. We have air con and a computer in every class room and we're encouraged to do fun activities such as games and crafts rather than getting the kids to follow the text book word for word. Most of the kids are quite sweet. I enjoy teaching them. Deciding to leave it at the end of this month wasn't easy.
But something much more important than work... working out how to appease my parents (instead of argueing with, rebelling against and contradicting them like I normally do) as well as giving myself some time to think about what I really, really want to do next. A crappy office job in England doesn't seem that appealing. Neither does cold weather, crappy English food and the fact that, should I want to come out here, or even go someplace new, it would take me at least a year to save up enough money to escape again.
I've rarely thought about home in 2 years. Until last month, I'd never seriously thought about what it would be like to live there again. It's not something that I've wanted to think about. I tend to live for the moment, enjoying what happens rather than face up to the future, or, as my dad sees it, my total lack of one.
Maybe a quick trip home will put things in perspective, make me see the good and the bad points of being back where I'm supposed to belong.
There are definitely plusses to going home. I'll get to see my family and my friends again, friends that used to be able to understand my moods and emotions and how I feel. I say 'used to', as I'm not sure they will now. I've changed a lot in the last 3 years.
Last time I went home most of my friends wondered why on earth I'd chosen to stay in Bangkok. At home Thailand's beaches are marketed as a tropical paradise. Most people would love to visit them. Bangkok, in contrast is seen as sex city. It's a place gangs of 20 something lads go to pull. A week in Bangkok, Pattaya or Phuket is the new '18-30.' A week of getting pissed, wrecked and laid, and, flights aside, a very cheap one at that.
It's also seen as a place for older men who want 'tink-tonks' (English slang for young thai, or phillipino brides.) Old men tired of their aging wifes, unwilling or unable, for whatever reason to make their marriages work. Most people at home have heard of Pattaya, and Patpong, not as the beautiful beach resorts that Thai people envisage but as meat markets, places to get that gorgeous, docile and more importantly dirt cheap Thai girl or, if you're gay, guy.
Most of my friends see it as a sad place. They don't really understand why I like living here. They see my photo's, of tuk-tuks in the street, of crowded markets in Yarowat, of dreadlocked backpackers with spaced out looks on Khao San. They do nothing to convince them that it really is a fun place to be. They have nice ordered lives in a nice, quiet city in England. Chaos and urban sprawl really doesn't appeal.
They've seen photos of my friend's houses upcountry. Small wooden buildings on stilts, surrounded by rice fields. They look beautiful. Well, to me they do. My friends take one look and say things like 'I wouldn't fancy waking up in the middle of the night and having to get down them steps to go to the toilet.'
I have a friend in Bangkok whose mum and dad live in a wooden house by a canal in Ayuthaya. I went there, last April, to see my friend's cousin become a monk. We had a wild time. I e-mailed a couple of the photos I took to friends back home. One really wanted to go there. She thought it looked nice and peaceful. I was quite surprised. I'd expected her to find something wrong with it. But another came out with the kind of response I'd been expecting. "I hope you don't drink the water or eat fish when you go places like that."She said. "It looks disgusting. It'll make you ill."
Even pictures of Thailand's stunning coastline fail to appeal. 'It looks just like the lakes in Italy' or the beaches in Spain, they say. True, the limestone cliffs in Krabi look a bit like the ones in Limone, on Lake Garda in Italy. The coconut palms, hammocks and chill out bars on the beaches here probably resemble those on beaches in Ibiza (I don't know I've never been, or really wanted to go to Ibiza.)
Friends at home (the ones in Sheffield) like hoildaying in Europe. They can go to spain or Italy and eat English food and meet other English people doing the same thing. They're not into long flights, or anything too unfamiliar. They seem to like the fact that I came out here. They say they like reading my e-mails and are always tell me things like 'It must be so cool to be able to live your dream' (its not really... but that's another blog methinks...)
But at the same time, underneath, they probably think I'm a little bit crazy for refusing to do the 'normal' 'sensible' thing. They have jobs, pension plans, husbands or steady bf's, kids, houses and plans for what they will do with their careers and the rest of their lifes. They've had them for years. At the moment, I have nothing. I'm 33 but in my head, I'm longing to be one of the 20 something backpackers I see wandering wide eyed, down Khao San every day.
I took my parents to Khao San last Wednesday night. My dad loves it there. Its like Camden market on acid. The place heaves 24-7. Anything and everything is for sale. Postcards, shoes, beer, tattooes, hair extensions, tailored suits, trips to beach resorts, fake ID, bus tickets to laos and Cambodia. Old ladies in hilltribe gear flog silver jewelry and wooden frogs. Bars and restraunts line the pavements. Cheaper cocktail stalls fill in the gaps. Those too skint too afford these crash on the pavement outside 7-11. Those too skint to drink wait in the shadows ready to pounce on the empty beer cans. Every 2 cans is an extra baht.
I loved seeing my dad walk down the street. It was like he'd gone back to being a teenager again. I guess it's OK for him to do this. He has the wife, the kids, the good job, the house etc... already. My dad's always been very sensible.
I guess I've never been into doing the sensible thing. When I was 17, I was determined to go to university in London, against the advice of almost everyone around me. I moved to London, only to decide to date a guy in Liverpool and spent my first 2 years of uni traipsing up and down the M6 at weekends. I refused (much to my mum's disappointment and disgust) to go to my grauduation ceremony. It was the degree that was important, I'd said. Not whether I put on a poncy black gown, wear lippy and do my hair up.
When Trainspotting came out, just after I'd graduated, the poster "Choose Life" was plastered acrooss my wall. I had the book, the movie. I even brought the T-Shirt. I wasn't into the drugs thing but I loved the idea of the film. Why would anyone want the washing machine, the electric tin opener, the mortgage? I was 20 something and determined that I was never going to be old. Old, in my eyes meant conventional and anything conventional was bound to be boring.
When I had a good job in London, every penny saved was squandered on music festivals, trips abroad or Friday night beers. It was only when I wanted to travel 'around the world' (5555) that I finally grew up enough to do something called 'save money.' And that was only for 4 months. Just long enough to pay for a flight, an English teaching course in Bangkok, a '2002 Lonely Planet - Thailand' and a 3 month budget jaunt around Asia. At the time I had no idea that 3 months would turn into 3 years. And now, 3 years later, who knows what's next ?
Much as I love my friends at home, I can't see myself turning into one of them. I can't see myself ever thinking in the way that they think. I can't see myself caring about things like jobs and furniture and pension plans. I know I have to. I can't think like a teenager forever, but the more I think about having to be serious, and start a 'real' life in England, the more it depresses me.
My parents have been here for a week now. We've been out and about in Bangkok (seen a couple of temples, a thai house, the boats making their way up and down the Chaopraya river and Chinatown), to the countryside (Damnoen Saduak and Kancahanaburi) and now, they're in a swanky (well I think it is) beach resort in Phuket.
Last time they came here they didn't really like it that much. My mum had persuaded my dad to book a flight out here. My roommate had died 3 months earlier and, despite her cheery phone voice, my mum was really worried about me. She'd thought that I wasn't coping OK. I hate to admit it, but she was probably right. One annoying thing about mum's and dad's - Whenever they offer you advice that you don't like, they're nearly always right... Even when they arrived, I still wasn't the happiest bunny in the world.
I took them to see the places I liked, places I thought defined the city. Khao San, the river, the Grand Palace, the night market at Suan Lum. I introduced them to my work friends. I sent them to Ko Chang for a few days when my boss sent me to Hong Kong. They liked Ko Chang. My mum has always dreamed of going to a tropical island resort. It fitted the bill. My dad thought it was too quiet but liked the scenery. Neither of them liked Bangkok much. It was too noisy, hectic, and crazy for them. They couldn't see why I liked it either.
This time things have been much more relaxed. I'd more of an idea about how jet lagged they would feel, so I didn't plan any whistle stop city tours. I'd planned a trip to see a floating market last Saturday but, otherwise, left where and when to go out totally up to them. They both seemed much calmer than I remember. They even, to my surprise, seemed to enjoy Bangkok. Dad, not really a temple lover liked both Wat Arun and Wat Po. Neither of them minded a quick trip on the Klong San Saeb, or taking tuk-tuks, taxi's and even, at one point, standing up on an already overcrowded local bus.
Now, I think my dad can see and understand why I love it here. He likes travelling too, and this time, seemed to love the hussle and bustle and general craziness of Bangkok (although he also says he can't understand why I chose to live there and not somewhere upcountry.) My mum can't really understand it at all. She still wishes that I were at home. But, now she can, at least accept that I like being here.
Me? The city's the same as it always has been. I have a love - hate realationship with it, the same way I had a love-hate relationship with London. On days when I hate it, it's a polluted, crowded, depressing and very lonely place to be. it makes me feel really miserable. On days when I love it, I smile at, or am amazed by almost everything. Even the traffic jams make me smile. They give me a chance to read my book or to stare at the giant billboards and see if I can make any of the thai letters into words, or people's names. To see if I recognise the faces on the photos. To have fun reading the tub-sup (English words written in Thai) in both a Thai and an English accent.
I felt the same way when I lived in London. Some days I loved the city, other days I hated it. But, Bangkok sends me more schitzo than London ever did. Emotions seem more intense. Feeling lonely in Bangkok seems ten times worse than feeling lonely in London ever did. But feeling high feels much better too.
I'm now in Phuket town, sat in a cheap internet cafe near the bus station. I'm not sure I like it here. It's an ugly sprawling place, not quite the tropical island my parents had described or that I'd envisaged. Everywhere is either a resort or on its way to being one. I walked up to Ow MaProw earlier today - to take the songteaw into town. I passed 5 building sites. All look like they will be luxury resorts. In a couple of years time, the area where my parents are staying, Laem PanWa will be like Benidorm, or Torremolinos, except it will be a more exotic, more expensive version.
It's a place for westerners who want a santisitised Thai holiday. A holiday where they sit by the pool or on the beach all day, talking to other English people, comparing suburban estates and paper back novels, taking a quick trip to 'James Bond Island' or to ride an elephant so that they can say they saw the 'real Thailand.' A place where the hotel staff speak ecellent English. Earlier this morning, I heard someone say "Oh the Thai people here are so lovely. Their English is very good too, not like I'd heard." Of course it is. It's 'cos they're not Thai. They're from Burma.
This Thailand, of Panwa Bay Phuket's definitely not the same Thailand that I've lived in and loved this last 3 years.
I always complain that, much as I love Thailand I don't think I'll ever fit in here. But, just listening to the English accents at breakfast and overhearing snippets of conversations... a couple of 40 something's talking about what this summer's glastonbury was like, people comparing the rain to rain back home - "well at least the rain here is warm luv.. It'll clear up in a bit.. Not like at home where it throws it down all day..." and even one guy telling his new found friend how to mend his patio door back home... made me realise that I'll probably find it hard to fit in back home too.
So where does this lead to ? I'm not sure. I guess I'll find out once I'm back from England next month and the real journey begins...
|Create Date : 03 ตุลาคม 2550
|Last Update : 3 ตุลาคม 2550 15:43:06 น.
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