Around the World in 38 Days

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I always admired the movie, “Around the World in 80 Days”….mostly because Jackie Chan proves himself to be the studliest Asian that ever existed. But I also loved it because of the idea of traveling around the world. I always wondered what it’d be like to travel all the way around the world. I always wanted to do it just to say that I did it…and now I finally can! When I left Thailand on April 13th, I flew from Phuket to Seoul to Los Angeles to Colorado Springs. When I left Colorado on May 21st, I flew from Denver to New York City to Dubai to Phuket.

Granted, I spent the majority of my time people-watching in airports and trying to keep down the “mouthwatering” airplane cuisine. Since I sat in the emergency exits every time, I had the pleasure of sitting next to not one, not two, but three screaming children. One child even jolted towards the emergency exit and tried opening up the door several times. I only notice after I hear a scream in terror from a mother…a scream so horrific that I thought the world was going to end….then I look to see some toddler trying to pull the emergency exit door. After that, several adults would jump up to grab the kid. This happened a total of 11 times. I counted. Crazy Asian children.

I’m glad the airplane emergency exits aren’t that easy to open. It really would be embarrassing to have my family find out that I died because some toddler opened up the door during my flight and I got sucked out. Glad that didn’t happen. I prefer to leave this world in a more majestic and mighty manner.

I can still say that I made it around the world in 38 days. Woohoo! Making my way up (or should I say “around”) in this world.

So yeah, I guess that’s my big claim to fame. I can pretend that I am now old and experienced in traveling since I’ve done the big round-the-world excursion. The only thing that I realized (well I realized this a long time ago, but it made me realize it even more) was how small the world really is and how many places I want to visit before I die. I’m having a hard time staying put, even in my luxurious spider-infested apartment located in (what I call) “Little Burma.”

I used to think that I’d find my special place somewhere on the other side of the world, immerse myself in the language and culture and “settle down” for a while. But now, all I want to do is get up and go see a new place with new faces and new cultures. But for the moment, I guess I’ll stay put.

One of the greatest “welcome home” presents I’ve received since I came back to Thailand is what any foreigner would get: the typical “Wow! You’re so fat!” comments. This is a shout out to all white people who have ever lived in Asia before: If you’ve ever been called fat by your Asian friends, know that you are not alone!

Ever since I’ve been back, I’ve somehow become the town gossip. All people talk about is how fat I am (they really seem to highlight that), how ugly I look with pimples, and how white my skin is. The white skin part is the only positive part, apparently it makes me 50% more beautiful (yes, there is a formula to beauty, according to the Asians). As for the pimple part, I can’t help it that I’m still getting over this whole puberty thing. And the fat comment thing is just normal. I still haven’t gotten used to the fact that the guys will literally look me up and down, walk around me, and then finally say, “Ohhhh Sophie is so ugly and fat!” Gotta love cultural immersion, eh?

The other day, one of the girls picks up my arm, rubs my arm hair, looks at me and says, “You have very hairy arm. Your skin is pink. Your arm is fat. The same pork.” So that’s been my new nickname around here: Pork Skin. Apparently it’s catching on in the Burmese community, much to my excitement.

I’ve been trying to find ways to avoid being called fat, but there’s no way around it. Every day I get about 10 comments or so. I was even sitting in a meeting and was so thirsty, but I knew if I got up during the meeting, someone would look at me and comment on my weight. But I didn’t care. I was dying of thirst. So I stand up and walk towards the water cooler. Two seconds later, I hear someone say, “Ooooh Sophie! Wa de, no?” (‘Wa de’ means ‘fat’ in Burmese) and then everyone is agrees.

I would really like to find a place to get up and drink water where I’m NOT called fat. But apparently those places are non-existent here.

But you know, that’s just another perk of living with some crazy Burmese people. You never know what’s going to come out of their mouths. Even when my sister came, one of the guys says, “I don’t think you and your sister are related. She is very beautiful and you are very ugly. Why is she beautiful and you ugly?” Yay! The brutally honest words of Asians! Gotta love it.

I just thought I’d address this issue of Asian honesty in case any of you “body conscious” and incredibly insecure people want to come visit. You’ll soon realize that my gap year hasn’t been filled with smiles and laughs and feeling awesome while speaking Burmese. It’s basically a fat middle-schooler’s worst nightmare.

So what have I learned after traveling around the world in 38 days? I could be praised in America for being the “crazy non-conformist 18-year-old who put off college to teach some Burmese kids, ultimately carving their paths for a better future” and I could gain the nickname of “Pork Skin” all in 38 short days.

I guess we’ll just have to wait and find out what other nicknames I’ll be given!

This is Pork Skin signing off. Oink oink.

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