Thai Party Part 2
The bus pulls out of the terminal. In front of me, about eighteen inches from my face, the video screen plays some Thai movie that mildly holds my attention even though the words mean nothing. It is rush hour…we move at a snail's pace through Bangkok traffic. Fully one hour of the 3 hour journey consists of just getting out of the city.
This isn't the best seat in the house. No one wants to sit so close to the video screen. But it really wasn't so bad. No one sitting beside me, so I can stretch to the side a little. I have a clear view of the driver which comforts me a little as I can see if he is drowsy while driving. After forty-five minutes the video either fails or comes to an end, it is hard to determine which of these events occurred.
The heat outside is oppressive at almost 40C but inside it is relatively cool. The hostess walks down the aisle pouring a coke for every passenger. I smile at her and accept my drink from her, while worrying the cup holder until it opens.
I should point out that I am not really a womanizer, definitely not a Soi Cowboy person. Frankly places like that scare me, I am out of my element, don't know how to act and fear making a fool of myself. Coming off of a divorce, I have a natural reluctance to hop back into any kind of serious relationship or fun relationship that makes any kind of demands. Not that I avoid an opportunity that presents itself and I am sort of prepared for those, but suffice it to say that I am not on a "hunt".
The bus reaches the outskirts and the speed rises to 100 kph or greater. I am used to Thai driving now. I watch vehicles scatter in front of us. The old survival of the biggest rule certainly applies here. The speed never seems to change unless we enter a big city. The condition of the road, the amount of traffic or passing through a small town has no effect. But a casual glance at the driver as he talks to the hostess seated on the step, shows a guy who is alert and concentrating on his work. So I lie back in my seat, close my eyes and think about the meeting Lek for the second time.
It isn't the first time That I have traveled to meet an Internet Thai woman. Actually this was how I came to visit Thailand in the first place. For a year I chatted with two Thai English teachers before one of them insisted I apply to her school as a native English teacher. At first I resisted the urge but then to shut her up I sent in my resume and was accepted, sight-unseen, by the Director of the school in the return e-mail….forcing my hand. It has been very interesting and now that I have five months of teaching experience at M4/M5 level I feel comfortable and will do it again some time. The woman who "recruited" me is friendly enough but we are just professionals…nothing romantic ever developed.
My other Internet friend lives in Udon Thani. That again spawned from my helping her with her lessons. She teaches Science/Technical English which is really what I would like to do as I am long on experience in science and business and have degrees but no Masters (sigh). Over the year or so that we corresponded, we were very professional but I did get glimpses into her personal life when her guard was let down. Life of a Thai teacher is not an easy one. It seems that they are almost slaves to the school where they work. Now, having worked in the system, I understand the situation. They build up experience and salary level with one school but if they want to apply at another school they must start all over again at the bottom….unless they are actively recruited by that school, which is rare. Considering how little they earn in the first place it seems patently unfair.
I stare out the window at the passing rice fields and roadside vendors. I smile, thinking that when I first came to Thailand I would have been glued to the window, drinking in the scenery but now it is the same and very repetitive.
I didn't see this when I went to Udon to visit my friend. I took Thai Airlines, so I missed the scenery. I met her at the airport and fell into an easy conversation with her as we traveled to her home…after all it was like seeing an old friend after an absence. We didn't kiss, we didn't touch. She was very friendly with a wonderful smile. She looked very Chinese actually and was relatively tall for a Thai woman at about five foot six inches, very nice. I was often told that a real "Thai Lady" was almost Victorian in personal relationships and this described her very well.
I stayed in her small home, met and fell in love with her fourteen year old daughter but during my three days and two nights I don't think I came within more than two feet of her unless by accident. The only physical contact was a hesitant hug at the airport, but I swear that you could have slipped a stiff piece of cardboard between us during the hug.
I was there for the King's birthday so there was a huge parade to watch and she took me to all of the points of interest of Udon and the "Friendship Bridge" connecting Laos. We laughed, we ate and felt very comfortable with each other. It was exactly what I wanted and needed at the time. I will be back there again for sure…she is a true friend.
Lek…In many ways she is different. I am not sure what she does for a living. She is divorced and says she sells property. But I know lots of real estate people in my time and she doesn't seem to fit the mold from my brief meeting a month ago. She wants me to come to Khorat to visit her and I need a break from the school. She seems pleasant enough and there are no red flags from our conversations…so what the hell…
It is getting dark now. The sun is starting to set. We are traveling through Thai mountains which would be a joke where I come from. I live near the Rockies in Canada. My city is 3000 feet above sea level and the mountain peaks are 10,000 to 15,000 feet high there. These 500 feet "mountains" are what are known as "yahoos" where I come from. A yahoo?? That is the size of the hill given by how many "Yahoo's" you can yell as you ski from top to bottom…these are only one or two yahoos, hahaha. Still, it is a nice break in the scenery….
I am about thirty minutes from my destination. I glance at the driver and see that he is alert. I'll just close my eyes for a while and the time will go faster…..
(to be continued)
Hurry up. Get to the good bit!