Breaking the Chains (Part One)
I really needed to get out of Thailand. I was sure that if I didn’t get out soon, I would snap. It was getting so bad that I couldn’t leave the house and face society.
What happened? When I came here ten years ago I fell in love with this place. You couldn’t keep me away. I think at that time I was promoting the country more than the TAT. For those first years everyday was a dream. The Thai world was amazing and I was so damn happy and so much fun to be with that everywhere I went it was like magic. My Thai friends’ faces would light up whenever I was near. Now they just look at me with concern mixed with fear. They try to hide it with their smiles but it's plain to see.
As I said, these days I can barely look them in the eye. I feel I have let them down in some way. I’m not the happy go lucky clown that used to make their lives just that little bit better. I’m not that guy anymore, and with the vast resources my colleagues and I have regarding human behavior we cannot for the life of us figure out why things are different these days.
Beyond some simple vague ideas regarding the pathology of expat life in regards to time and immersion within the respective host culture, we are left with nothing that will actually provide a cure for this malady that seems to have infected many of my expat friends…and myself.
I can’t understand why it all went titties up. I’m not rich, but I am old enough to know that the money I do have should last the remaining years of my expected life. I could sit here and stare out the window at the ocean and the mountains everyday and do anything I want. I have a new car, a hot sexy Chinese Thai girl that works her ass off at her corporate job and lets me do as I please. I literally have everything that I always dreamed of back in the days when I was an English teacher living in Bangkok.
In those days I could barely make the rent! We lived in a Thai apartment building on Soi Sailom next to the Army Barracks in a large room with a bed, and no kitchen. I washed my work clothes in a plastic tub and then ironed them by hand. It was a long hot process, followed by a long walk to the sky train in order to save 6 baht.
Occasionally after work we would stop at 7 Eleven and grab a beer and make sort of a party of it out in front of 7 Eleven. On the rare occasion we would stop at a karaoke club near the apartment, buy 2 large beers and get one free. The three of us would split the bill for the beers and share one hostess. Every twenty minutes she would move from one to another of us and keep us company until the hour was up.
We spent a lot of time out in those days just exploring the city and talking to tourists and expats. We went to great lengths to find all the fun and really inexpensive things to do in Bangkok. We would help tourists with their travel plans and end up who knows where mixed up in all kinds of adventures. The tourists were so grateful they would often pay for everything. One guy gave me a thousand baht note and then even rented me and the misses an expensive bungalow on Samet for a weekend – food and drinks included. We didn’t do it for the money – we did it because it was fun and we never really expected anything in return. The whole thing was sort of a fun game for us.
We don’t do anything like that these days.
These days I do some local television stuff as well as a bit of international stuff, hang out with some Thai celebrities, surf, and generally do as I please, but I can’t help but think back on those days in Bangkok when I was a bumbling dufus and that perhaps those were the times in my life that had real substance. Nights in which I could taste the Bangkok air and sense the unknown things that waited in the darkness. The thought of it would always warm my blood and quicken my step.
In those days we never knew what would happen next, good or bad. In fact now that I look back on it we really didn’t know much of anything back then. It almost makes me laugh. We were just another group of greenhorns wandering around and round the Big Mango in a dream that never seemed to end.
These days I'm pretty sure that all my friends from those days have been zombified by some process that I am still trying to make sense of. We always knew it might happen to us. Even in the early days we saw them wandering around Sukhumvit. My friend gave them the moniker, “Pods”. I guess he got it from the old American “B” movie “Invasion of the Body Snatchers.” We would laugh and say, “hell, that’s never gonna happen to us.”
As I said, in those days we really didn’t know that much.
I can relate to this. I really can. I too have given it much thought but simply cannot come up with the "why".