Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Away With Darkness and Gloom


No, I'm not Depressed, why do you ask?

I sat out at a little bar on 101/1 (my soi) last night. It was a beautiful night, warm but with a cool breeze and the setting sun making the few clouds pink and purple. I had good, spicy food and a nice cool beer, and a decent book to read. It was a wonderful night, and highlights just how easy it is to have good times in Bangkok even without profundities of liquor and prostitution.

Of course 2 hours later there was so much rain I was half inspired to collect animals two by two, but the rapid weather changes just remind me of home.

After I got a couple of emails from my last several posts asking 'so how are things, really', I realized that perhaps my blog had been negative recently, and that was giving the wrong impression. So first and foremost, allow me to say:

I am having a lot of fun in Bangkok. 99% of the time I do not regret moving out here, and even though I am looking forward to the possibility of going home next July I do know there will be things I miss here for the rest of my life.

Are there things that I think are messed up here? Yes. I will not miss the idle wondering whether another political protest will turn into a giant clusterfuck. I will not miss the curious looks I get every time I get off at the Nana BTS station, with the locals wondering if I am another farang looking for a hooker (for the record, my embassy friends live near Nana).

I will not miss the truly silly situations I seem to get in to at school, the overly sensitive hippy dippy kids glove approach that makes me (the uber-liberal-sensitive-pinko) wince and long for a little bit of tough love. I won't miss the raise I was supposed to but never got, or the particular breed of fly or ant that seems to come from my upstairs neighbor in to my apartment. Or the cockroaches the size of my thumb.

I won't miss the smell of the city, or the flooding, or the trash; it might be kind of nice, I concede, to come back to a city where 'City Planning' is more than the punchline to a joke, and the sidewalks do not have more protrusions than a military obstacle course.

But when I do come home there are going to be a whole host of things that I will miss about Bangkok and Thailand. Some of them are the comforts, some of them are more emotional or ephemeral.

Bangkok is the first city in which I have had my own apartment. No roommates, not paid for by my parents or our student loans or a combination of the two, but an apartment paid for entirely out of my pocket and entirely in my own name. Sure it is the size of a hotel room and no kitchen, but it is mine.

Teaching at Glory is the first job I've ever gotten as a Bachelor of Arts, since I got it after I graduated. Sears I was essentially graduated for, but given their hiring policy required a pulse and we think did not exclude someone who wanted to eat the still beating heart of every third customer, it doesn't count. This job required me to have gone to school and gotten my silly and meaningless degree, rather than just thinking it was cute I had it.

And this is the first time I have lived more than an hour away from my parents in my life (not accounting for traffic). I didn't go to college across the country, and even with crazy stupid I-25 traffic I was still no more than two hours away. This is the first time I've been away and as close to totally on my own as I am likely to ever get.

Beyond those emotional milestones there are also the myriad of comforts that Bangkok offers. It is October, and when Denver is always on edge for a blizzard it has not been below 70 degrees farenheit here. We had an outdoor SCA event in October and were not freezing, or running from precipitation.

I can have a feast of a meal, as I did yesterday, and spend a pittance. A plate of ka pow gai (spelling incorrect, a chicken stir fry with rice), a big beer, two cokes, a plate of som tam (spicy papaya salad) and sticky rice all for six dollars. And that was going absolutely wild; I can eat for a dollar and twenty five cents a day.

I like not having a car, and my life is so much cheaper for it. If I could realistically ditch my clunker back in the States and survive, I would. As limited and in need of expansion as Bangkok's mass transit system is, between cheap taxis and a skytrain and the subway, I can get anywhere I need to go in a good amount of time for a variable amount of money. The same cannot be said of getting places in the Denver Metro area. During rush hour the skytrains show up every three minutes, as compared to fifteen or thirty for Denver. And they run from 5 AM until 11 PM.

Thai movie theaters are without peer in comfort, and as much as you want to spend there is that much more comfort. A Thai movie will never be oversold on accident because there are assigned seats; you may get a bad seat, but you have that choice going in. And if you want to spend 600 baht a person and get a huge sofa sleeper instead, well there are theaters that offer that.

Thai malls make American malls look small, diseased, and uninspired. Central World makes the Mall of America look like it was designed by people with limited imagination and small, pitiful dreams. Without fail every Thai movie theater has at least one food court, restaurant row and either a bowling alley or a movie theater. A majority of them, at least the big ones (MBK, Siam Paragon, Central World) have both, or more than one. And the malls are more than just clothing outlets with a Sbarro's (I'm looking at you, Park Meadows). Siam Paragon and Siam Emporium are the upper crust malls, Central World is the everything mall, MBK is the bargain and teen and cell phone mall, while Pantip is the Electronics Mall. Pantip might have a couple of clothing stores, but you go there to buy a laptop or a camera. Even Cherry Creek is primarily clothing stores or bedding/housewares stores with some other things thrown in.

I never figured how Nathan could be bored in Denver. I moved from Denver to Greeley when I went to University and that was quite an adjustment; getting used to the idea that if I wasn't out drinking or eating, the town closed at like 9 PM; certain movies would never open in Greeley, which was new. Moving back to Denver was coming back to the big city after a long absence, being back in a city where there were multiple play houses and concert venues and there was hardly ever a movie that didn't open there.

And then Bangkok, which is one of the great metropolises of the world. I can see now how Denver would seem restricting when no matter what you want to do there is some way of doing it until about 4 AM in Bangkok. The only time I have ever seen things really closed is a brief stretch from 4 AM until 4:30 AM when I came back from Laos the second time. Other than that New York cannot have anything on Bangkok for being the City that Never Sleeps, because Bangkok must be one hell of a power napper not to collapse in a heap.

I live, I work, I play. I am the founding seneschal of an SCA group where there has never been an SCA group before. I autocratted (ran) the first event in the group, even if I didn't win the Coronet. I have seen things maybe one percent of America will ever see, and done things no one I know has ever done. I have had a seder in Bangkok, celebrated Songkran (even though this one was Black Songkran), and toasted events and milestones (birthday, first sca group) with great people I respect in settings both high and low in this great city.

So I am not alone, or depressed, or bitter and raging against the world. Do I wish that Brits would come over here and be less stupid so they don't paint us all with the brush of their whiteness? Yes. But except for the fact that my family is elsewhere is there anywhere else I'd rather be?

Absolutely not.