“Where is the trash?” and other questions

“Where is the trash?” and other questions

While walking down any street in the states, you are bound to come across more than one Starbucks and you probably find an odd comfort in knowing that no matter where you are, you’re never too far from mediocre coffee and overpriced oatmeal. Well in Thailand, 7 Elevens are the equivalent. Thirsty? No worries, cheap bottled water wrapped in a plastic bag served with a straw awaits just around the corner. As do singularly packaged bananas, slushies, and questionably delicious croissants (packaged of course).

Despite the Thai fascination with bagging everything at least three times over, finding a garbage is near impossible. And recycling? Don’t even think about it. Aside from the obvious being-in-another-country-it’s-weird feeling, the use of bottled water is a concept I have yet to get used to. As Americans we have a luxury of clean drinking water from the tap, but Thailand does not so it’s either install expensive water filters or buy bottled water. In all honesty, buying it here makes infinitely more sense than in the states but I still feel off doing it.

Another cultural shock? The traffic. Before this, “traffic” to me referred to backed up cars on the beltline during rush hour. Here, there are lines in the road (I think?) but they seem more like suggestions than rules. Motorbikes rule the road here and it’s not unlikely to see a four-person family sharing a single bike. The other day I saw a woman holding an infant baby in one arm, holding a standing young boy between her legs and driving the motorbike with the other arm. If that isn’t multitasking, I don’t know what is.

Bottled water and traffic aside, in my first week here I have been truly blown away by the kindness of the Thai people. The “Land of Smiles” could not be a more accurate representation of the way of life here and everyone approaches situations with patience and a smile. Exhibit A: In Bangkok we took a two hour boat tour down the river which took us past some of the most famous temples and landmarks for only 750 baht (roughly $23) and at one point we went under a bridge where a bride and groom were taking wedding photos. They saw our boat, waved ecstatically at us and the bridge yelled down to us “Welcome to Thailand!” Would anyone ever do that in the states? Probably not. Have I ever experienced that kind of enthusiasm for travelers in other countries? Definitely not. The Thai are a people I can and maybe need to learn a lot from; they approach everything slower (which may be from the heat, I myself am a lot slower here) and with a laid-back attitude. They are eager to help even if they can’t and are quick to smile at a complete stranger.

Made it to Hua Hin a few days ago where we’ll be for a month while taking the TESOL course. It’s a smaller city right next to the beach and much more manageable than Bangkok. More on that to come!

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