The other day we bought fabric softener instead of laundry detergent and did an entire load of laundry before realizing it. Even inspecting the bottle now, I can’t tell from the Thai letters what exactly it says. So I assume it’s fabric softener. It could be drain-o for all I know.
We’ve been here for four months now, with just two more to go. I forget completely that I live abroad sometimes, and it’s not until I post a picture on Facebook of my kid sitting in a rickshaw with a big sign in the background in curvy Thai letters, that I remember: Oh right, I live in Thailand.
I know which meat-on-a-stick to buy and it’s been a long time since I’ve accidentally ordered chicken hearts or chicken fat, thinking it was it’s much tastier cousin, the pork stick. I know what the price for a tuk-tuk is, so I don’t have to sweat getting ripped off. I’m used to the spiciness, in fact, tonight I put six Thai chilies in our dinner and remarked, “Wow this has no heat.” There’s fish sauce, oyster sauce and ground chili pepper in my pantry. Everyone knows my son’s name, as long as you think his name is, “Cole-Cole-Cole” which in Thai actually sounds like Col-Col-Col with the softest “L” ever. I actually enjoy the sound Thai being spoken now. We watch kids cartoon’s in Thai and I sing along with the alphabet song (it’s catchy).
Yet, occasionally, I still get tricked. The other day I went to brush my teeth and as soon as the toothpaste hit my tongue I gagged and spit it out. “WHAT!”
Oh right, that fizzing bubbling image on the front isn’t baking soda toothpaste, it’s sea salt. Yikes.
I’m almost used to the face-saving techniques of avoiding confrontation and saying “yes” to everything, but still, we got caught in a “yes but no” situation when arranging a van to Yee Peng. The owner assured us our group could be accommodated, but in a flurry of last minute calls, the price kept inching up, until we were at three times the original quote. Yes, maybe I should have structured my request more open-ended to avoid getting a false “yes” when what I wanted was obviously not possible. Oops.
I work at night, after the baby goes to sleep. Between midnight and four AM, that’s my free time. I could hire a babysitter or a nanny or send him to daycare (it’s only $100/month for full time care) but I can’t do it. And I say I, because I’m perfectly aware that my outgoing son would be fine spending the day without me, but I have the luxury of not having to make that decision. Well as long as we all agree that by luxury we mean, the ability to work through the middle of the night.
Things I can’t figure out: why do people give us so many bananas! Also, how do you keep fresh basil from going limp within 6 hours of buying it? And where can I find tinted moisturizer in a culture where every lotion has “whitener” in it as a matter of course?
It’s the strange thing about becoming an expat, that explains why I never read anything that truly captured what it was like, before I traveled. In order to talk about a culture, you have to get closer to it, live with it, get used to it. Then in that process, it begins to feel like your new normal. You forget what was strange and unusual, so it’s difficult to report home about the comparison.
Here’s the other thing, right now, I could stop traveling. I could live here. Forever.
Yet even as I write that I kind of laugh at myself, because while I like it here, even love it, I’m also half thinking about where else I can go. I’m wondering if we should still attempt the trip to Angkor Wat given the flooding, then I’m wondering if there are any flight sales to somewhere else. Maybe Bali. I’m thinking about where to go for Christmas and what China will be like in January if we make it there.
I could totally settle down, I think. And then I plan another trip.
I like to think it’s just because I haven’t satisfied my curiosity. But really, I think I’m addicted to the little rush, the slight excitement, the added vibrancy when you’re in a new place. Not just the next town over – but somewhere exotic. Someplace where you have no idea what to expect. For whatever reason, right now, and for the past few years, I’ve needed that.
But that’s only half my brain. The other half is in domestic bliss, planning a dinner for tomorrow night with a friend who is visiting from Burma. Until my two worlds decide to agree on what kind of life to have, I guess I’ll just continue to juggle them both.
Or not. I still need to go to the Philippines and check out this island I heard about. You see? This is how it begins.