Taking A Nap In Thailand
Winston Churchill was fond of taking naps, and often lectured his subordinates, who would be wilting at 1 in the morning while Churchill was as sprightly as a pixie, on the benefits of a short siesta during the heat of the day.
When I first came to Thailand to teach English I was a relatively young man, and saw no need to waste time in the middle of the day while there was so much that needed to be done and seen and traveled to.
I recall stewing silently once when I had gone to the local Immigration Police station at noon, only to find the officers, all of them, tidily piled on top of their desks, snoozing away. I had to sit on a distinctly uncompromising wooden bench while waiting for these Rip Van Winkle bureaucrats to awaken. There were a mess of other people waiting as well, and with hindsight I now realize that they were the smart ones, since they, too, toppled over onto the bench and began sawing wood. I was the only sentient being in the whole building, and could have probably rifled purses and wallets with impunity. Instead of blissfully slumbering, I had to stay awake and give myself worry lines across my forehead that are still there, and getting deeper.
So I have learned over the intervening years that when life hands you a lemon, you should sleep on it. A noonday nap, especially in a tropical country like Thailand, is just part of the natural bounty, like coconuts and girls in sarongs, that should be appreciated.
In the West naps, especially on the job, are excoriated as time theft, immoral, and fattening, among other things. “Asleep on the job” is a terrible accusation to make in the West; and can possibly lead to a firing squad. “A napper winds up in the crapper” one of my bosses in the West once told me.
That, I should think, would be reason enough for anybody to pull up stakes and move to a nap-friendly country like Thailand.
I often found myself miserable at Thai schools when the days would drag out like a tooth extraction by an inept dentist, until I discovered that many of my colleagues broke up the monotony of the day by finding a little hidey-hole in which to curl up and slumber. Thai schools insist you stay on the grounds between the hours of 8 and 5, even if you’ve only got one class at 10 in the morning and one at 3 in the afternoon. So it behooves the wise teacher/drudge to find a quiet corner where the world does not intrude for a soothing siesta when the lesson planning and grading become too much.
I found that a 20-minute round with the sandman was all I needed to revive under the hot tropical sunshine and maintain my beaming demeanor around my scholars. Then when the long school day was over I still felt dapper and ready to face my bus commute or motorcycle taxi ride, and a mess of somtum wrapped in a banana leaf sold by the hag on the corner by my apartment.
As I have grown older I find that I value the siesta even more, and usually manage to make it stretch out to an hour or two. Of course, the Thai gf, sensing my immense enjoyment of this harmless, costless, pastime, immediately decided that it would not do. After lunch I must walk about in the merciless sun, prune the orchids and do battle with the red ants, rake the yard and start a bonfire with the dead palm branches and rancid jackfruit that litter the ground of our half-acre paradise.
Stuff and nonsense!
What a man needs after a filling meal of fried squid, sticky rice, fresh cucumbers, grilled pork livers, and a half ton of mango slices, is the embrace of a hammock. The Thai gf can bluster all she wants, rant and rave about heart attacks and gout and whatnot, but a man has to draw the line somewhere, and I draw it right in front of the shady nook where I can avoid the eviscerating heat of midday. The Thai gf usually leaves in a huff, to go buy shoes or drink innumerable cups of iced coffee with her girl buddies down at the market. So be it. I choose the arms of Nepenthe at noon, the better to attend to my work and my gf as the evening shadows lengthen and the Oriental White-eye returns to its nest with a long, drawn-out, warble.
I have a set routine for napping, which I am glad to share with you, in the hopes that you, too, will come to appreciate this harmless pastime that makes our stay in Thailand so much more pleasant.
Remove all restrictive clothing; meaning, get out of your pants and shirt and get into a nice plaid loin cloth, as all the men do up in Northeast Thailand. If you are a women, shed the blouse and dress and wrap yourself loosely in a sarong (if you need help doing this, and are under the age of 30, I will be glad to come over to your place to assist.)
Then I take a brief shower. Just dip the bowl in the barrel and pour it over your head a few times. Don’t bother to lather up. This will electrify you at first, but immediately afterwards a sense of serene drowsiness will descend, as you sternly inform every fiber of your body that you are headed for the hammock, and not for the bus or motorcycle.
Make sure you have a copy of the Bangkok Post with you. Not to read, but to wave idly about until the flies and mosquitoes depart, and then to put over your face – they print the newspaper with some kind of narcotic ink, I suspect, for once it is over your face you fall asleep within seconds.
When you awake, refreshed and renewed, the Thai gf is back, ready to make amends for her earlier obtuseness, you have developed a healthy appetite, the sun has gone down, and you can do some work or go to the beach, as the case may be.
Me for the beach, and a papaya smoothie . . .