30 January 2011

The Devil and the Wizard

At 3am on New Year’s Eve a fifty-something man dressed as a Wizard danced recklessly with a twenty-something girl from the Midwest wearing nothing but red body paint and Devil horns.  Back home the man is probably an accountant.  But here, in Thailand, he is a psychedelic drug munching Wizard.  People come to Thailand thinking they can do whatever they want, and in certain places they can.  But, outside of those places where Thailand is itself life is familiar.

If you were to walk down the streets of Surat Thani you would recognize life.  You would see children being picked up from school, families gathering at restaurants, people exiting convenience stores with minor essentials.  Imagine coming home and finding your living room rearranged and painted in colors you’ve never seen.  At first you would be overwhelmed by the newness of the space, but eventually the familiar would come into focus and you would realize that despite its differences the space was still home. 

My life here is different but not as different as you might think.  If you blur out the edges where places like Ko Samui and Bangkok lie I am a man who wakes up on Monday morning, drinks a cup of coffee, goes to work, comes home, eats dinner and settles in for the night.  Tuesday repeat.  Wednesday repeat.  Thursday…  The biggest differences are not related to language or location.  The biggest differences are time and convenience.

At home I spent two hours a day getting to and from work in my nice expensive car.  Here I spend ten minutes a day commuting via scooter.  At home I sat in an office for 8 hours a day staring at a computer.  Here I stand in front of a class for 4 hours a day talking to students.  At home I settled onto the couch at night and thought about reading and writing while watching TV.  Here I settle onto the couch at night and read or write with no concern for TV.  Life was easier at home.  Life is simpler here. 

I love California.  It has my family and my friends.  It has perfect weather.  It has beaches and mountains and great cultural cities.  It has some lucky SOB riding my sweet-ass cruiser bike on the strand.  California is my home.  But, California is too easy.  In California I am distracted.  In Thailand I am focused.  In the three months I have lived here I have read dozens of books, I have written more than I did in the previous decade, I have seen new places, I have learned new words.  I miss California and all it contains.  But, I feel like this place with its abundance of time and its lack of convenience is healthy for me.  That is why I have decided to stay awhile.

My initial contract is up on March 31st.  I have agreed to work for a different school here in town starting on May 9th.  Which means that I have a five-week vacation quickly approaching.  For less than cost of a weekend in Vegas I will be able to spend those 5-weeks traversing Vietnam, Northern Thailand or anywhere else in South East Asia I choose to go.  Abundance of time is a beautiful thing. 

Cute Thai Student Moment of the Week
Me:  Fluck!  Stop looking at Jet.  Turn around and face the front of the classroom.

Jet:  Teacher Michael!  Him looking at me because me is hamsome, hamsome! (He says posing and profiling)