Mai Pen Rai

So I’m getting ready for my first full week of real teaching and we had a 3 day weekend this weekend so I figured what better way to relax than to go down to Koh Tao, a small island about 2 hours from here. My friend Tara was going to join me, but we ended up postponing the trip because she may have to do a visa trip next weekend and you have to have a couple hundred dollars set aside for those. Fortunately for me, I got a Multiple entry Non B visa, so I can enter and exit Thailand as many times as I want until next year. But anyways, Tara still came to the city for the weekend to visit (she lives in Thung Kha, AKA the middle of nowhere). We decided to go to the local beach yesterday and that’s when I was reminded that Thai time is a very real thing. They do what they want, when they want. You go to a restaurant, they may bring you your food 30 minutes later and it may take another 30 minutes after you eat to actually pay your tab. I’m actually getting pretty used to that, but it’s hard when it encompasses all aspects of life. We stopped for lunch then headed to where we were told the yellow songthaew (a pickup truck that has a modified cover with bench-like seating in it) would pick us up and take us to the beach. We found it without a problem, but the drivers like to take breaks whenever they feel like it. They also like to wait until the songthaew is at its fullest capacity, with about 4-5 people standing in the back, before they are content enough to drive us to our destination. So we get to the beach around 2:30pm and the songthaew driver says he’ll be back at 4. This wasn’t really what we had planned, but we figured we’d just wing it and try to ask around to see if there were any later pick up times. No one could really tell us much though, which we should have expected. After a very relaxing five seconds on the beach, we managed to miss two different songthaews on their way back to town. As the evening went on no more seemed to be coming so we started walking aimlessly down the street. I kept trying to tell myself “Mai Pen Rai” which means “never mind” or “no worries.” Thais live by this phrase and it’s basically just a reminder to go with the flow. I think it was working because at this point I wasn’t frustrated at all, I just felt like I was floating along with no direction, wondering if we’d ever make it back to the city. Then we spotted some Westerners, if anyone could communicate with us we figured they’d be our best bet. We ended up at their little tiki hut bar-type place with some French men and a very Bob Marley, hippie vibe going on. The man told us he’d call us a tuk tuk to pick us up, and that it would be about 20 minutes. We agreed and sat down to wait. After about 35 minutes and 2 more French men, we were both feeling very out of it. Everything just felt so out of place and I just wanted to be back in the city. When the tuk tuk finally came and returned us to my apartment, we were so relieved. After just being here for 3 weeks, being surrounded by French men for an extended period of time seemed so strange for some reason. Walking down the busy main street by my apartment and seeing all the food stalls, smelling the smells of delicious meat and fried rice, mixed with some fishy smells and the smell of shit, seemed comforting. Yes, it’s still very much foreign to me, but it’s starting to become a familiar type of foreign.

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