In Thailand, the main mode of transportation around the town is the motorcycle. However, Peace Corps prohibits me from riding one, so my main mode of transportation is the bicycle. I would prefer walking, however if you walk anywhere beyond a block, everyone starts becoming concerned and worried. They think, “Why would anyone walk in Thailand when it is so hot and you can take a motorcycle”. So I bike. Biking has become one of my ways to detox. It gets me out of the house, clears my mind, and is exercise—win all around. Some of the best encounters have happened when I have gone on my bike rides. Here is a summary.
People for food—especially on Saturdays for lunch, it seems I go for a bike ride to my favorite noodle place or a random spot to eat and I end up getting in a conversation. You never know who you will meet when it is concerning Saturday lunches.
Walking on beach—one day I went for my Saturday bicycle ride, and I was on the edge of the river trying to be invisible. It almost worked, but a woman discovered me. She ended up taking me on a walk along the sand bar in the river; it was quite a pleasant surprise. Experiences like these, I think, are what makes the Peace Corps life.
Meetings—twice when I have gone bicycling, I have noticed that my neighborhood is having a district meeting (which no one told me about). These are some of the best times to get to know the community and ask questions. Even though I don’t understand the vast majority of the meeting, I enjoy going to them.
Visiting the elderly—one time this past month when I was biking to church, I noticed a whole group of people, including the vice mayor, walking past. They were visiting the old people who were bedridden in the neighborhood (at least that is what I figured out). They invited me to join them, and I figured fulfilling Matthew 25 was a pretty good reason for being late to church. It was a very interesting sight. Most of the people were laying on a mat on the floor with just a fan blowing on them. Flies were crawling all over their bodies. There was one lady with what looked like a huge burn, about 8 inches long, on her leg. All their teeth were black. In my opinion, it looked like they were waiting to die. We gave them eggs and milk and took pictures. One lady returned the favor by giving us a blessing. The experience made me wonder, what is the best method of caring for elderly with conditions such as I had just witnessed. I don’t know when, or if, this will happen again, but I hope to be a part of it.
Most of the time it seems all I have to do is give just a little effort, and it will be greatly rewarded.
Random Thai-ness, the nail:
If you look closely, you will notice that a lot of Thais have an absurdly long pinkie finger nail, I’d estimate an average about 2 centimeters. Now, it is not just girls either, men have it too. This is definitely a difference of cultures. While Thais find it normal, I think it is a little disgusting. I once asked a man why he has the nail, and he responded “because it is sexy”. I find nothing sexy about it. I did some research, and I guess it shows status that you have a nice enough job, you don’t need to break your pinkie fingernail. Anyway, the other day I met a girl (a very nice girl) with the fingernails that trump all other pinkie-nails. ALL of her fingernails were, I would guess, between 2 and 3 inches long! I was shocked. I am pretty sure once I noticed them, my eyes grew. My first thought, are those really real?! Second thought, they look like finger nails one would wear at Halloween if she wanted to dress as a witch. Third thought, how does she type on the computer?! I actually asked the third thought, and I guess she doesn’t need to type that much. She told me that she has been growing them out for at least 2+ years. I think some hadn’t been cut for 5 years. I couldn’t do that; at least one would definitely break before I got that far. Also, it would inhibit me in playing the violin, typing, playing the piano, soccer and much more than I can’t think of right now. Needless to say, once I got home I went straight for the nail-clippers to trim my own nails.