I was in Thailand two weeks before deciding to come home to the States. I totally understand that two weeks in Pattaya is no way to get a full sense of a country and a people. I am also here at a devastating time. A large portion of the country is flooded by water. Pattaya is flooded with people. Pattaya is more than a tourist town, it is second to Bangkok in sex trade, girly bars, and special massages. At the same time there are a lot of Europeans and their families that live here. The largest population of people is Russian with a sprinkling of German, Norwegian and Scandinavians. The languages mix with the Thai, but very little English is heard by my ear. Condos and hotels rise up shadowing the soi
My friend Ken lives in the middle of Jomtien Soi 7 . At one end there is a market and on the other end there is the beach that is crowded with umbrellas and vendors walking around selling things from Omega watches, handmade necklaces, steamed crab, fried shrimp and ice cream bars. Restaurants, souvenir carts and food carts line Beach Road. Western and Thai food is offered at a larger price. I often went to the market. My regular was sam tam, pork spare ribs, salted fish, chicken wings and fruit. Everything in the market is fresh, but it is a tad bit more expensive than the food choices in Vietnam. I like the variety in Thailand much better.
I’ve lost more weight. I’ve reached 85kg, almost hitting my personal goal. I feel fit, having access to a roof top pool for circle swim Why am I leaving? I am not feeling the country or the people really. I realize that I have only been here two weeks…In the land of smiles, that’s all it is. I feel a lack of substance. I want what is behind the smiles. I want genuine emotion and knowledge of the people. I don’t trust what I don’t know. I had a different reality in Vietnam that I truly appreciated. Granted I didn’t like some of the meanness and aggression. There was a certain curiosity the Vietnamese had for foreigners. There is also a different mindset of a people when their homes and country have been invaded and colonized that I can relate to. This isn’t so in Thailand. Don’t get me wrong. I have seen beauty in the land. I just don’t understand when I ask about the people and the country that I am not told, not allowed to know about the struggle I am sure they have had to deal without outsiders.
My first week in Thailand involved some beach time with a book and a cold coconut. Mornings were consumed with job hunting on Ajarn.com. I have yet to receive a response from any school, but I am sure that is mostly due to flood conditions. Ken went to work early, making a 45 minute drive to Rayong. I was up by eight to skype with K at the café at the end of the soi. Thursday I went to work with Ken at Garden International School. The white building rose out of the greenery. We had a breakfast of grapao at the café across the street and had some more coffee. It was nice to be in the classroom and soak up any knowledge of teaching and style I could. Ken is a great educator. He has energy, patience and control. I had opportunity to work with a special needs child using finger phonics.
Thursday was a long day. It was Diwali and the school held a program in the evening. All wished that the rain wouldn’t come, but it did. Nevertheless, families showed up to eat some amazing Indian food, watch some poetry recitation and dances. I really enjoyed being in the small international community. The children were delightful; although I am sure they have their moments. The highlight for me was when they danced to Kesha. The show went without a hitch as Ken made the show flow even in the torrential down pour and in fear of electrocution. Ken does a lot in his school and I am finding that his hard work will only provide him more success.
The weekend led into his October holiday. It seems that the British school system has breaks every six weeks or so. We tried to make plans to go to Bangkok for my job search, but found that the news was giving us information that made us decide that it wasn’t the best option. We changed our plans and followed his friends to for a few days. We took a ferry after a 3 hour drive. The dance music ended as the iPod charge died, but we popped in some island music from Hawaii to set the mood.
Island View Resort sits on a pier overlooking islands in the bay. We took our initial moments there to chill out, stretch our legs and have some lunch. The lunch fortified us for a kayak trip to a white sandy beach far in the distance. Ah, the beach…We had limped along in a two man kayak with three. My paddle was broken and Oliver who sat in the middle and attempted to help paddle with his hands but only succeeded in putting more water in the boat and all over me. The distance was much further than we thought. The beach was great once we got there. The water was awesome. It was clear and alive with crabs and sea urchins. I found some sea shells as the kids played in the sand. And before we knew it, it was time to return for a shower and some dinner.
Dinner was amazing. Mango cashew fish, sautéed shrimp, and tom yum. (pic)We deserved the feast after the kayaking we had done. Kayaking on the ocean is really hard. We had to fight the wind and the current. Arms were weak, but not too weak to shove fried mango fish into my mouth. (pic of dusk)
The next day was action packed. I got up early with the kids and went to the pool for a swim and some aqua aerobics. I almost joined them in their game of freeze tag but knew I would have been it the whole time. After kayaking and swimming I decided that an American breakfast was in order and it needed to involve a pancake. It was the first time I saw KaoTom (rice soup) and knew I would order that the next morning.
We wanted to set out fairly early to beat the heat. There were plans to ride elephants and see waterfalls. Dieter, the resort owner sat down with the drivers and explained what was possible to be seen in one day. Koh Chang is a fairly large island. The side we stayed on was very quiet. The other side comprised of hostels, bigger resorts and more beer bars and clubs. Dieter pointed out a large mangrove to walk through, waterfalls to climb and where the elephants were located.
Our first stop included food as some didn’t eat at the resort. It was kind of expensive. I watched as the motorbikes buzzed around. The kids played a Lilo andStitch game that was included in the ice cream. Once we were on the road we stopped at a waterfall. It was a little hard getting to over the rocks, but there was a rope we used as a guide. It wasn’t the biggest waterfall, but the flow was quite strong. We tried to swim up to the first spill out, but it was like swimming in one of those small exercise pools. The water was crisp and cool, cold in Thai terms. It was nice once you got fully in. I didn’t stay in it too long because the fish would begin to bite you if you stayed in one spot too long. After we cooled off in the hot morning we walked through a large mangrove. Roots reached down from the branches into the water. The walk way wound around the grove and some had to stop afterwards for some ice cream. We thought that after we would try to get to Long Beach. We were ready to cool off once more and lay on the white sand. We turned onto a small road that had a warning sign as we entered. As the road had a sign saying Road to Zion, I felt we needed to at least try to get there. Well, the road was broken. It was also a bit harrowing turning the large truck around on a hill as we only managed to make it to where the road was literally broken. Motorbikes continued on a small path to the right of the hole, but we needed to turn around. Most were quite nervous and scared, but I didn’t have any fear.
We took another break taken at a beach side resort called Bay View Resort. It was a nice, quiet and romantic looking resort. I thought that it would be a nice place to stay with K. It reminded me of Hawaii. It was very quiet and rustic looking. Once we left all I could think about was getting back to our resort for a massage. I was quite tired from all the excitement and just wanted to chill out. Young children can be exhausting. We stopped for some chicken and sam tam and before I knew it we were on our way for another waterfall trip. I backed out of this adventure. I was just too tired. I lay back in the bed of the truck and relaxed a bit while everyone else took a small jungle trek. This is where I thought about how I wasn’t clicking with the people or the land. It’s my own colonized mind for sure, but honest for me. I really looked forward to that massage and a nap before dinner. Others spoke of burgers, but I wanted some crab.
Well, due to the wait I had and disappointment of not being able to book a massage, I ordered a cheeseburger with no veggies. I didn’t want Thai Tummy. It was the last of their burgers and it tasted really good, to the disappointment to others on my trip that had a burger in mind. I went to bed with a full stomach, but was exhausted. The next day we would return to Pattaya. We hadn’t listened to any news while we were out and Ken and I were surprised to find the city swollen with people. People were escaping the flooding in Bangkok. We found that the stores no longer had bottled water. I had received no responses to my CV. I began to think that Korea would be my next stop.
The next few days I began to focus my job search in Korea. Each response I received was informative. I was informed that I do not have the proper paperwork to get a proper work visa in Korea. The effort I would need to make while abroad would take just too long for me to gather for the work permit. I sat down with my friend Ken and talked a bit more about my options in Asia. It seems that I have impeccable timing. Asian countries are really cracking down on how foreigners are hired for teaching jobs. A TEFL is enough, but there is more documentation people need to have to begin teaching out here. As much as I heard it was easy, it just hasn’t been. I began to review my own goals and decided that the best thing I could do was to return home to my wife. I decided that I will return back to the United States with plans and intentions on furthering my education and get a proper teaching certificate, possibly with a Master’s in education. This way I will have everything and there will be no question to my qualifications or experience.
I am not sad about my decision, nor do I feel defeated. I might have a little disappointment and may feel like I might have let some people down, but I persevere. It has been a crazy two months for me. Deep down I do wish it had gone differently. I’ve done the best I could have and with that I need to figure out all the lessons to be learned from this experience. I am sure that there will be more blog posts concerning this crazy trip while I am in the States. It has been more difficult to put into words the feelings and rationale I have. I look forward to searching myself some more, but back home with my wife and kitty cats. I also missed family and friends. I look forward to reconnecting to my life in San Francisco. I look forward to surfing the momentum I have created by the experience of travel.
I know I will come back to Asia. I know I will be able to have a different appreciation for the places I haven’t had a chance to see. But now, I look forward to having some steamed crab on the beach on my last day here in Thailand. See most of you soon.
Zed (Z in British English)