Further Around the Coconut
Hello friends. I have not posted for so long that the gulf of Mexico still had shrimp in it.
One of the reasons why is that Mary Ann and I are getting pretty settled in and few things surprise us any more. Plus, she is working so hard that the weekends turn into R&R, which she deserves.
But two big things happened this week. The university finally came up with our housing, and I took off for Thailand!
I left the same day Mary Ann moved into our on-campus housing, so I have not seen it. From what I hear, she likes it, which is what counts.
Me? I am writing you from Bangkok. First impressions? This is no Dubai.
It is a bustling city with very friendly people. Prices are OK to low. Bartering is the norm. The language barrier is my Berlin wall. In Latin America, I was fluent. In the UAE they speak English. So it works like this. They type a price onto a calculator and you shake your head and start to walk away. They chase you down and hand you the calculator. You type in an offer. So far, my first counter-offer has been accepted every time, I am sure that means I am overpaying. From now on, I will risk insulting them with my offer. They are such nice people they will smile and accept the challenge.
So what have I bought? Four silk shirts and an elephant skin wallet. Actually make that 5 silk shirts. 4 off the rack at street vendors. The fifth was a way to help out my Tuk Tuk (pronounced Tooktook) driver. He reminded me of one of the students in Robin Williams Englsh class in Good Morning Vietnam, an old gentleman desperately trying to speak English and humoring me the whole way.
I met him thusly. The hotel I am staying in told me they would book my flight to Chiang Mai, the town I will be in for the next three months while dentists give me new teeth. I realize I am drifting in my narrative, but that is why I am in Thailand, cheaper to come here and have the work done than to stay at home and have it done in Dubai. OK, back to the story…The desk clerk handed me the printout for my ticket. I asked if I needed to pay him or at the airport. He said “no please U pah at sebenleven” It was 10 o’clock, I was tired, and I asked in my best Pidgen “what be sebenleven?” He nicely took me by the arm, to the front door and pointed down the street to a familiar orange and green store front and repeated “sebenleven.”
He went on. “you musht pah befoe 2:00 tommorow, BEFOE tuh”
Fine, pay for an airline ticket at sebenleven, how exotic. So this morning I got up, had breakfast on the street (chicken claws and noodles) and made my way through the throngs to sebenleven. The clerk said “this uxfire”
Once I figured out what she had said, I finally carefully read the paper work. It turned out my 2 O’clock deadline was 2 friigen A friggen M.
So I walk out of sebenleven and started standing around looking like the dumb lost fahrung (gringo) that I am. Seems how I am a foot taller and 50 shades whiter than the locals I must have resembled a lit up statue of liberty on a dark NY night. I was looking for a travel agency.
This is where my tooktook driver finally enters the picture.
He motors up to me and asked “whatchoo want? You want tur?” I dismissed him nicely and told him I needed a travel agent, and walked away. A block later, like some apparition from a Tolkien novel, the same old man pulled onto the sidewalk out of an alley in front of me. How he got there I will never know, I prefer the mystery to an explanation so I did not ask. He pulled out a business card from a Tourist agency and a map of Bangkok. “Ahgunchy heah, we heah, 50 baht there bachk.” 50 baht is about buck and a half. He had already earned that be appearing in front of me like Golem from the smokes of Mordor. I hopped onto the back of his tooktook. He proceed to drive me all around this part of Bangkok. Zooming between cars, gesticulating and showing me stuff. “That yo unbussee, you merkin yes”. At this point I was just along for the ride, when suddenly he veers over to the curb and says “Ahgency, I wait”
I went in and got treated like I was booking an around the world cruise on the Queen Mary. Huge smiles. Cold water. I noticed my driver was talking to a clerk type and the clerk handed him a little card. I thought nothing of it. I walked back out and climbed into the tooktook again, and he said “It would help me if U see another friend of mine”. Not knowing what he meant, having spent all my cash at the agency, wearing a cheap watch, I figured I had nothing to lose. He showed me the little card the agancy had given him. It was good for one liter of the lamp fuel he uses to run the tooktook. If I went to another store with him, he would get another “piece of the paper”. Why not? He took me to a tailor shop. This where the UAE and Thailand touch. Tailor shops every where. I intend to leave Thailand with a suit, but now now. The tailor then “sized me up” figuratively and showed me a Hawaiian shirt he makes. “Finest Thai silk” he said, and oh yeah, it was nice. He led me to a rack with hundreds of bolts of silk. I chose one,he sized me up physically and I made sure he left plenty of room around the neck and my fat gut. I expect it DELIVERED to the hotel by 9 tonight.
So far, so good. I’ll post again soon, thanks for reading this tripe, it means a lot to me,