Honey, we're not in Kansas,er, PA anymore..

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

When you travel to a different place, especially one with a vastly different culture, and even more especially, one with a different language...you are bound to make an ass out of yourself.  We did, more than once.  In what ways did you embarass yourself, Tabitha and Brandon?  Let us count the ways...

Challenge:  Language
After our original bus was cancelled for "its broken," we caught the next bus (2 hours later) to head to the train station for our train to Bangkok from Surat Thani...granted we had about a 15 minute buffer in between to make the connection, so I was a little frantic about getting there on time.  The bus we were actually on was to the town of Surat Thani which is 30 minutes from the train station, so even though I had already told the bus driver (by pointing to our train tickets) that we wanted dropped at the train station, I was still nervous that he didn't get it.  So I searched our Thai phrasebook and started practicing the Thai phrase "kor long tee rot fai Surat Thani ka."  I love language and I think its important to make an attempt - and a good one at that when you're speaking to Native speakers.  So it was important to me to sound at least a little bit right.  Second, Thai uses intonations to convey meaning in words.  So the same group of letter sounds could mean more than one word - but the way you say them (for example:  sliding up in tone or staying in a low, flat tone) will mean different things.  So not only did I have to practice the wording, but the tones too.  At about the hour mark, I looked at Brandon and said, how does this sound and I slid my way through the tones of the  phrase.  And he asked what the hell was I saying about a rat fair?  I kept practicing. 

Finally, I got up my courage, walked past rows and rows of native Thai people and made my way to the ticket collector.  With my head held high, I stammered out, "kor long tee rot..."  and the ticket collector looked at me and said, Yes, yes, train station, no problem.  I walked back to our seat, totally defeated and see Brandon laughing his head off.  So, you spent the last two hours practicing that phrase and she didn't even let you finish?  Can't a girl get a chance to make a fool out of herself with horrible translation without getting made a fool out of herself by trying to speak Thai to someone who can already speak English? 

Challenge:  Travel
Our last train ride from Surat Thani to Bangkok left at 7:28p on Saint Patrick's Day.  We arrived at the train station around 7:08p after a 45 min tuk tuk ride and a 4 hour bus ride.  We were hungry, tired, and missing booboo.  So I waited on the platform with our backpacks and watched Brandon make his way back over the train tracks to the other side of the platform to pick up some food.  We had already learned that the train foods price highly exceeds the quality; so we were hoping to get some take-out for the ride.  It took B all of 5 minutes to make his way back with two bottles of water and two bags of chips.  um?  So we got up on the train at about 7:14p and I took a stab at getting adequate dinner for the night.  Unfortunately, I stepped back on the train with only two packets of cookies at around 7:21p.  We were feeling pretty deflated, so Brandon said, ya know what we need in honor of St. Patrick's Day?  Some Chang, and he hopped off the train to get us some last minute brews to my warning, you better hurry up; i'm not getting split up from you over some Chang.

I was sitting there organizing our bags and setting up our seats for the evening when the train started moving.  MOVING.  and my husband was on the platform.  as in NOT ON THE TRAIN. 
here's what we experienced (tab in pink, brandon in blue):
frantically search the train entrance for brandon
no brandon
flip around from the cashier in panic
start running towards the train
drop the bag of Chang and dent three cans
jump up and run to the front of the train car
see tab running through the train
locate train conductor
we need to stop, my husband is on the train
yes, yes, bangkok, go sleep
no, wait, my husband [pointing to my heart] is not on the train [pointing out the window] we need to wait
yes, yes, bangkok
train conductor on the platform says, not leaving, just moving
worry that tab is going to grab backpacks and jump out of the train like a maniac
run back to seat to grab thai phrasebook
contemplate grabbing backpacks and jumping out of the train like a maniac
neighboring Thai train rider says, its no leaving, just moving up to reconnect to other train
see Brandon on the platform laughing and smiling
see tab laughing and smiling and flipping him the bird on the train

Challenge:  Wildlife
I am sweet.  I am so sweet that I have a serious issue every summer; mmosquitoes can't keep their grubby little noses off me.  So when we go to tropical locations, I really should know better and have a 20 gallon bottle of bug spray packed.  But I never do.  And then I get eaten alive by mosquitoes.  This trip was no different.  The thing that has become increasingly apparent in the past few years is that I may have somewhat of an allergic reaction to non-PA dwelling mosquitoes because not only do I get an outrageous number of bites - but they swell up to the point that people start giving me double takes.  I know, I'm embarrassed to even write this. 

While walking through Bangkok, a random Thai woman stopped me in the street and gave me a jar of what appeared to be lip gloss and told me to apply it to my bites.  That's how bad they look, strangers stop me in the street to try to help me.  We tossed her a 20 baht coin and thanked her and I applied that lip gloss like my legs like my life depended on it.  So by the time we had made it to the beach, we had to head to the Thai pharmacy to get some antibiotic cream for all my bites.  Somebody, please, remind me before the next vacation that I need to pack the bug spray...come on, tab.

Challenge:  Relaxation
During our trip, we were approached multiple times by the women standing outside of massage parlors asking, Thai massage?  So, finally, on our last day we made a point to stop at a Thai massage parlor; Brandon for an hour long massage and I wanted to take advantage of their special that day:  15 minute Fish spa & foot massage. 

Brandon was quickly swept to the back for his traditional Thai massage while I was handed a cup of tea and instructed to put my feet into the large fish tanks filled with tiny green fish along the wall of bench seats.  I am enormously ticklish, so the moment I dipped my feet in the tank and those tiny fish started a dead foot skin eating frenzy (ew, so gross, sorry for the image), I started cackling.  Its supposed to be calming and soothing with the light music and hot tea; and there I am full out busting my gut about these fish chowing down (i know, sorry, again).

After a very long fifteen minutes, I was relocated to a reclining chair and given more hot tea for my foot massage.  The kindest face of an older Thai woman started my traditional Thai massage and I immediately recognized that Thai massages are not unlike getting the crap beat out of you.  seriously.  In not wanting to be culturally impolite, I grinned and bared the pain while my eyes started to water.  I was making mental notes of every torture she inflicted on my right foot and leg, because I was fully aware the same pain was soon to be administered to my left side.  What I didn't know was that my foot massage was over an hour long and also included a short neck, upper back, and arm torture massage.

By the time my sweetest/meanest masseuse had moved onto my arms, Brandon turned the corner and took his seat to wait until I was released.  I tried to search his face for how it went but he was completely blank.  When my masseuse stepped away to get me more hot tea, I ask him how it went and he said, i just got the piss beat out of me.  After we left, I discovered that not only was he also subjected to severe grinding, elbow digging, and on-your-back-walking-on-her-heels type of massage; he also was asked to change into an "outfit."  Now, my husband is not the tallest guy by any means, but in comparison to the majority of Thai males, he's pretty dang tall.  So this "outfit," as he explained, was about 4 inches too short and he couldn't button the front of the shirt because his chest was too wide.  Later that weekend, back at my sister's apartment, we rehashed this story to Kayla and my mom and even got a glimpse of the positions that my husband and I were subjected to during our massages. 

 If you're interested, in any way, to see my husband on the floor on his back with his knee to his chest while I try to tell this story through hysterical giggling, just ask.  We're happy to reenact for ya.

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