Constant State of Confusion

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If you have ever seen the movie, “Mary Poppins,” you are familiar with the scene where all the nannies are in front of the house, waiting to be interviewed, when they are suddenly and mysteriously all swept away by the wind. There are nannies flying in all directions; upside down, backside up, backwards, forwards, flipping around, flopping around…you get the picture. If you have seen that movie, one thing that you can visualize is the nanny whose umbrella flips inside out and drags her backwards. I want you to picture that nanny riding a motorcycle and then having that lovely little incident happen to her…today, I was that nanny.

That’s right. I’ve had numerous “movie moments” during my time in Thailand. It really is a bummer that I don’t have a candid camera following me around all the time, catching the moments when my skirt falls down in front of the class, or when I sneakily try to hide my food somewhere, pretending that I have eaten the exotic no-name meat that smells to high heaven. Today was no exception. It was the end of the school day, so I was walking with my umbrella across the football field (which is basically a sand field that turns into a small lagoon during the rainy season) and one of the teachers offers me a ride on her motorcycle. I have never turned down a ride, so naturally, I jump on the back, excited that I don’t have to walk home in such stormy weather. I wanted to TRY to fit in here….I know that seems like sarcasm, but I really did have a goal in my head today that I would try to fit in. I have been observing how Thai people drive motorcycles in the rain and many of them will drive holding an umbrella. So naturally, I thought this could work. It’s a bummer that my umbrella cost 50 baht (about $1.70). I only thought of how cheap my umbrella was after my little incident.

Anyway, my friend is driving me down this incredibly bumpy dirt road filled with potholes. We are swerving back and forth…kind of how I swerve in Mario Kart when I am trying to race on Rainbow Road. As we’re swerving, there is a car that comes up behind us (I had to include that in the story to tell you that I had an audience watching me). We continue swerving left, right, left, left, left, right, right, oops, left again, oops, I didn’t see that pothole..eeekkkkk to the right! Suddenly, a huge gust of wind blows so hard, it grabs my umbrella (I seriously think the wind legitimately grabbed it) and twists it inside out, just like the nanny in Mary Poppins. Of course, when you are driving on a tiny motorcycle, barely even gripping anything to begin with, your body is naturally going to fall back with the inside out umbrella. So there I am, trying to hold onto the motorcycle for dear life while my inside out umbrella is pulling me backwards. It makes it even better that my friend speaks only Thai and I am learning only Burmese, so it’s pretty difficult to communicate to her what exactly is going on in the backseat of her motorcycle. So we continue driving, I’m just sitting there yelling, arms wide open like a bird, left hand grabbing the motorcycle seat while the right hand is way up in the air, holding the inside out umbrella. I couldn’t see anything the whole ride home as I was awkwardly squinting to avoid the huge Thai rain drops that showered my face. This happened for a solid mile and a half (luckily I live pretty close to the school) and then I was finally dropped off at my house, completely drenched, but still smiling (because that’s the only thing I know how to do here). As I turn around, I realize that the same car had been following us the whole way down the road…so they saw the whole thing…and they’re probably sharing the story about the crazy white girl and her umbrella at their dinner table right now. Just another day in the life…

You are probably wondering about the title of this blog post….”constant state of confusion.” It’s pretty self-explanatory. Anyone who has lived in Thailand for any period of their life will understand and relate to this. It’s just a fact of life around here. I never, I repeat: NEVER know what’s going on. Some people tell me that we have school tomorrow, some tell me we don’t. Some tell me that the school uniform for Monday is white and green, some say it’s blue and black (so naturally, I come in wearing the wrong uniform). Some say I have to accompany students on the piano while they sing, some say I must sing a solo. Some say this bus will take me home, some say that bus will take me home. Some say the school bus comes at 7:15, some say it comes at 8:30.

I have come to the conclusion that even if I do learn the language, I still will never understand what is happening around me. I feel like my mind is always going a million places, just trying to figure out what will happen next. Who will grab me and put me on a motorcycle, who will shove food in my face, who will yell at me in Burmese, who will grab my arm and laugh at its white complexion, who will stroke my hair, who will take a “candid” picture of me as I attempt to eat Burmese noodles…the list goes on. I wish I could explain in a better way just how this “constant state of confusion” works, but you really just have to come here to experience it…and it’s not like I have another American friend here who I can exchange confused looks with when somebody shoves me on a bus and I don’t know where I’m going…nope. I’m all alone here! Which kind of makes it more exciting, honestly. I really like having this experience as my own experience. I feel selfish in that way, but I’m really happy that I am not living with another American or teaching with any other Americans…it makes my experience here a little more legitimate. I’m obviously still the foreigner who stands out like a sore thumb, but that always has its perks as well.

They were enamored by my white legs...so naturally they took a picture with me.

They were enamored by my white legs…so naturally they took a picture with me.

I’ve had a lot of people ask me about the food here…oh man…where do I begin? I can say right now that I am living in Thailand, but I can count on my hand how many times I’ve actually had Thai food. I’ve been eating Burmese food every day, which is a little different from Thai food. If I never have to smell and eat fish paste ever again when I go back to America, I will be pleasantly happy. If I never have to eat random frogs, snakes, and fish that were caught in a tiny swamp just outside my house, I will be pleasantly happy. But if there’s one thing I will not miss, it’s the prawn-like shrimp alien things…let me elaborate:

I really don’t know what they are. The only way I can describe them is by having you picture this: it is a long-lost relative of the prawn-like alien in District 9. It’s pretty sad that I had to describe it in that way…I feel like I am insulting the Burmese cuisine and culture when I say it like that, but hey, I call it as I see it. The other night, I was eating dinner at a friend’s house. She likes to put food on my plate and not let me help myself…which is a problem. She takes the District 9 aliens and dishes out about 7 of them onto my plate. I just stare at them and instantly visualize the prawns in the South African movie being utterly obliterated by the machine guns…and realize that I am about to eat one of them.

Look this alien prawn in the eyes and TELL me you would eat it for dinner.

Look this alien prawn in the eyes and TELL me you would eat it for dinner.

I can’t do it. I just can’t. I have been here for 35 days and have tried literally every food that has been offered to me (my new nickname is “the girl who tries everything). That’s just what I do to avoid being culturally rude. And this time, I had had enough. So every time my friend looked away, I quickly scooped the alien prawns back into the serving bowl. The trouble is, every time she looked back at my plate, the alien prawns were gone. So naturally, she thought I absolutely loved them and she continued to place more on my plate. When she wasn’t looking, I put those alien prawns back as well. Then she looked back…and put more alien prawns on my plate…this continued for the entire dinner, which lasted for an hour or so. Towards the end, she dished out more onto my plate and then looked at the serving bowl and was like, “Wow! I cooked a lot! I didn’t realize that!” The things I do to avoid eating alien prawns…

I have many more stories to tell, but am running out of time at the moment. Seriously, I have an abundance of stories. I don’t even know where to begin. Maybe I should just write a book…it would be something like, “The Ginger Unleashed,” or “White Girl Takes on Thailand.” I’m open to any book title suggestions since mine seem to be fairly lousy…or better yet, let’s just make it into a movie…

"White Girl Takes on Thailand"

“White Girl Takes on Thailand” *insert epic journey music*

"The Ginger Unleashed"

“The Ginger Unleashed” (Uh oh…what’s gonna happen?!)

2 thoughts on “Constant State of Confusion

  1. Oh my goodness, as soon as you mentioned the nannies from Mary Poppins, my mind jumped straight to the nanny with the inside-out umbrella. Imagine how much I cracked up when I saw that you mentioned it!!! And your stories about the food–totally been there done that and that made it all the funnier to read!! (although I’m quite certain I’ve never been tempted with alien prawns–gross!) You’re a really good writer, as I read your stories, I can visualize them quite well; it’s almost as if I’m there. I wish I could be, but I’m so glad you’re enjoying the experience 🙂

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  2. SOPHIE! Oh my goodness! It looks and sounds like you’re having an incredible time! What an incredible opportunity! Those kids are very fortunate to have you as their friend and mentor. You are making such a huge impact on their lives and Im sure they’ll never forget you. Keep changing the world with your determination and smile! ❤ Stay safe and away from texting, scooter riders.

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