Saturday, February 7, 2009

Farang! Farang!

Farang! Farang!

2/3/09 7:45 PM (local time)

I'm trying to think of a clever way to sum up this afternoon, and words are simply failing me. So here's the play-by-play narrative.

We met the local governor today (I'm still not entirely sure how the break down of region, province, city, village works out) which was a pretty big deal, as meeting with any high-ranking official is. All us farangs (that's foreigners) got to wai (hands together, slight bow, bigger bow for him because of his status) and introduce ourselves (in our mangled Thai, of course). There were some speeches in Thai and English, and the we had a coffee break and got to socialize a bit. By the way, the Thais do GREAT pastries, which makes up for Nescafe being the only coffee drink that I've found so far. (On a side note, I heard that there is no official hot drink of Thailand, which was surprising at first, but makes sense considering the climate. They DO have a wide variety of iced drinks, including tea and coffee.)

Anyhow, the whole event was a pretty big deal, but for me, it paled in comparison to what followed.

After coffee and chatting, most of the government posse dispersed, and after a while, the room began refilling with Thai people. These were, of course, our host families (krap-krua), or at least the member(s) who were picking us up. After waiting for the volunteers ahead of me, I met Suria, my new father. We had a chance to speak for a while via one of the Peace Corps staff (he doesn't speak any English, and I really don't speak any Thai). He is about 50 and a council member of the local SAO (I don't recall what that stands for, but it's local government stuff) and has a small farm with a few cattle and chickens, and he grows sugar cane, corn and rice (cash crops). Eventually we loaded my stuff into his truck and he took me home.

My new home is awesome! I have my own room (which I did NOT expect, as I had been specifically told I would be sharing one) which is actually a separate building. I have mixed feelings about the seclusion, but it is and will be nice to have my own private space to decompress in, and I certainly feel welcome. I have one pii-chai (older brother), Don, who is 28 and a teacher. He speaks a (very) little bit of English (though a whole lot more than I speak Thai) which was (and will be) tremendously helpful. I also have a noong-saao (younger sister), Feng. I didn't share many words with her, she had a couple of English phrases, but we failed to have any meaningful exchanges. I'm hoping we can trade some language lessons in the coming weeks. It sounds like I also have a noong-chai (younger brother) who is in the city at school and will be around on the weekends. I think I've figured out that the pii-saao (you figure it out) I was supposed to have is actually my mother (which I was lead to believe I would not have).

I spent a good long while sitting quietly and smiling at people and watching Thai television. At one point, a group of people came by to buy a bunch of huge sacks of khao (rice) and I hung out and greeted them with my farang friend who is living just up the street and had stopped by with his host father on the way to go shopping. It was really nice to have a chance to speak coherently to someone.

I had a super tasty dinner of rice and Thai omelet (fried seasoned scrambled eggs and tomato in this case) and tom yum goon (I think that's right), a vegetable soup with a little bit of ground pork in it (yeah, I'm definitely not a vegetarian any more, though I want to be). There was also some fried or grilled whole fish, but I kinda failed at figuring out how to eat it. Anyhow, it was probably one of the best meals I've had so far (and that's saying something), though I still haven't had anything spicy!

I took my first bucket bath! I'm really glad we talked about the proper way to do that in a session this morning, because I certainly would have made a foul if we hadn't. The toilet (if you're wondering) is not a squat toilet (which I had been told it would be, I guess I can attribute all the misinformation to the fact that the Peace Corps IS a US Government organization), it's a western-style toilet, though it doesn't flush. I'm not sure how it handles solid waste, and fortunately I haven't needed to go, so I figure I'll wait and ask my ajaan (teacher) about it in our session tomorrow. And then I headed to my room. Tomorrow I will take a bunch of pictures, and when I upload this, I'll post them too.

I feel very welcome here, but the language barrier is tremendous. I now have that much more empathy and respect for every person who's had to learn English in America.

And now I have nothing more to say but, “Tomorrow is another day.”

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