Tuesday, February 03, 2009

A View From My Thai Deck v. A View High Above The Chao Phraya

Bangkok, Thailand

I've written a bit about my neighborhood which I would liken to living in Queens. The pictures above are the view of my neighborhood, or at least the lane that abuts my apartment building. Although there isn't a person in sight in these pictures, each of these concrete structures is inhabited by someone. And I see them at various times in the morning when I sit on my deck to have tea and toast. Or at night when I wash the dishes ( my sink and hot plate are on the deck since I have no kitchen ) or have a glass of wine at the end of the day. My Thai neighbors are quiet. No yelling, loud music. Nothing except an occasional yip from a little Pomeranian who lives just below my window.

In contrast, the river view pictured first, is panoramic and shows the river where ferries shuttle Thais to and from work and play every day-- a major transportation option-- and barges bring fuel and dredged silt to be deposited up river. The world looks different from this aerie. The one that most foreigners would see if they were staying at a river hotel. No noise, lots of English speakers, lots of Western food. A different Bangkok vantage point.

But I've come to rather like my microcosm of Thai life. Last night I walked home from the office after dark instead of taking the songtau. I walked along the street market that goes on for about a half mile past every conceivable kind of food from raw meat to sweet cakes. Men were drinking rice wine, smoking and having a chat, their shirts open against the thick, hot night. Motorbikes were competing with songtaus, tuk-tuks and taxis, dodging and weaving, revving their noisy engines as they sacheted along the narrow street without grazing a single human or dog or even fruitstand.

I turned onto the road leading to the Rio, and for the second time yesterday walked all the way home. Even at 9 pm, there were Thais having their evening meal at small card tables set up next to food stands. Two or three motorbikes are parked haphazardly on the curb; a hot pink Thai taxicab has his blinkers on close to the curb as he sits at a nearby table grabbing a quick meal. I walk by a series of businesses which consist of a concrete, one room open air room--and there are twenty five men glued to soccer in schoolroom-type chairs. I'm guessing there is more than watching going on, maybe a little betting as well.

"Assimilate" was one of the vocabulary words this past week for my monk students. The context: people who came to the United States ( says the students' text ) had to" assimilate" to the culture leaving their old culture behind.

I guess I'm assimilating--in reverse.

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