Stuffing my face, mostly.

Still in the Big Kok. Still not dead. Not only am I not dead, I’m actually almost officially a teacher now. Got my certificate, got a job. Just waiting for the visa and the all-important first pay check.

I’m 3 weeks in and on the hunt for somewhere to live. Staying with my cousins is luxurious and free, but it’s miles from anywhere and I’m keen to have my own place again. Saw a place yesterday – bedsit, small, clean, has a balcony that faces onto another building. The mattress is covered in plastic faux leather and the windows don’t open. S’cheap though. Might move in, just for shits and giggs. Yeah, that’s right, giggs. I’m a teacher now, I don’t have time for two-syllable words (except for all the two-syllable words I have time for, obvs).

Living in Bangkok isn’t quite what I had in mind when I left, and I’m reserving judgement for now. The thing with big cities is that one is as the other is as the other. Same-same, as they say out here, only different. All buildings an’ that. Tall. Ugly. Impressive. It’s coming into rainy season and the storms are frequent, impressive. Pass me my thesaurus. Rain comes down like it’s the final judgement. Thunder cracks and sounds like you’re standing too close to someone shooting a gun – so bloody loud you can feel the air jolt. Lightening forks from the sky and it’s all National Geographic, up-close and personal, widescreen, HD. The heat is slimy and intense, and the smells too: filthy smog, sweet, charred meat, simmering broths, exhaust fumes that cling to the skin, piss, rot, coffee. Sometimes I pop into a 7/11 just to cool down and get a breath of fresh air before diving back into the furnace outside.

It takes me an hour and two separate modes of transport to get to work on a morning. All my most terrifying and lots of my most wonderful moments in Bangkok have been on the back of motorcycle taxis – crazy, dangerous, infinitely exciting. I work weekends and get Mondays and Tuesdays off.  I wear DRESSES now, like it’s normal. It’s not because I’ve suddenly developed fashion sense, it’s because I have to be smart and it’s too hot for trousers. I’ve walked for miles around the city in my free time, not going anywhere in particular, just following the roads, and yet I’ve hardly been anywhere – the Big Kok is enormous and there’s lots to pack in. The thing I did most when I first started wandering was exploring the shopping malls. I apologise for the Americanism but the British version, shopping centre, does nothing to convey the sheer scale of these things. I’m not a huge one for shopping but they’re IMPRESSIVE(that fucking word again), almost comical in their exaggeration, like upper-class caricatures of themselves. One has a massive multiplex cinema at the top and a bloody aquarium at the bottom.There’s MBK, a multi-story indoor market with food court and bowling, an entire floor devoted to mobile phone things, and, and, and. There’s a bowling “league” at work and I’m trying to bowl away my hatred of bowling in order to socialise. I even have bowling socks. Yeah, bowling socks, that’s right. Who wants to fucking touch me.

On work days, I’m up early and back late. I often bring work home. At least I don’t have to cook: I usually eat on the street or bring street food here to eat in the air-con. The street food is incredible. My favourites are ALL OF THE ONES. I don’t eat Pad Thai as often as you’d expect. I go for chicken noodle broth when I can get it (sometimes with a claw, sometimes with mystery objects that don’t taste like fish but are), or for Hainanese chicken and rice, or mystery curry, or simmered pork (<3), or Som Tam – Papaya salad – when it’s not so stuffed with chilli that it makes me feel like my tongue’s going to burn right out of my face. I often use the power of The Point, often go for things I couldn’t name in English let alone Thai, and I have yet to taste something I didn’t like. The other day I ate what I think were patties of deep-fried cornstarch with spinach inside. Sounds gross but it came with a mouthwatering sauce. They have corn on the cob for sale from vendors on the street and they dip it in salted sugar-water to cool it so you can eat it straight away. Meat or fish skewers are being grilled on every other street corner, and you can get a bag of sticky rice on the side for only 5 baht. They sell fried chicken everywhere, with chilli sauce if you want it, and whole salted fish, freshly grilled. I’ve not eaten one yet but it’s high on my list. I’m not keen on mango and sticky rice – the texture of the mango makes me squirm a bit – but BANANA and sticky rice is the food of the gods. I’ve only had it once, from a street food fair, but I’ve always half an eye open for it when I’m walking.

Ah, the food. Between that and the lack of elite roller derby madness, I’m twice the woman I used to be.

Day 52: EVERYTHING BEGINS (tomorrow)

I have arrived at my CELTA accommodation and tomorrow EVERYTHING BEGINS. I’m not even being dramatic except that I am. But, having said that, this might genuinely be my last entry for a while. It’s about to hit the fan and I may not get time to write about the splatter pattern. Upsetting.

At midday today I left the balcony that’s been my home for the past 11 days, and the narrow dorm bed I’ve shared with two 40l bags, and I’m now stretched out on a four-poster bed in an enormous room with pool view, a flat-screen LCD TV, an en-suite shower with three settings, one of which is “rain”, and enough space to swing a songthaew should the mood take me, the opportunity arise, and Herculean strength… etc, etc.

Yes, I am used to sleeping on only a sliver of mattress because my belongings were strewn all over my dorm bed. And yes, we mostly had no toilet paper because we had to buy our own. And yes, it was hotter than the sun. Life was rough at JJ’s. A girl had to be a little tougher to survive, had to be ready to kill if the situation arose. Here things are different. Yes, my room has a desk, a dressing table, a complimentary dressing gown and two large comfortable chairs with a little table for – presumably – Thai afternoon tea. Yes, there are two beds in case sleeping in one becomes too dull. And yes, my towels are changed twice weekly. But I’m not going to let it change me as a person. Deep down, I’m still the rough-and-ready adventurer you all know and loathe. Promise, yo.

Today I met 8 of my CELTA-mates. I happened to meet another at JJ’s a couple of days ago on the Balcony of Dreams, so we came here together. She was a children’s book editor for 12 years in Sydney so naturally I am in awe of her a bit. She’s also seen Robert McKee speak. Twice. If that means nothing to you then you obviously have a heart of stone, or didn’t go to Bretton Hall from 2003 – 2006, or haven’t seen Adaptation, or aren’t that interested in writing. So far my CELTA-mates seem like nice, normal human beings. I can only hope that this is a deceptive facade. We ate dinner together tonight but none of them exhibited any signs. It’s early, though. I can wait.

We got here at 2pm, settled in, had a swim in the pool, and then went on a shopping trip to Big C. “Big C” is a rubbish name for Big C. At the very least it should be called “Fucking Enormous C” or “I’ve Never C-n Anything Like This Before In My Life” (LOLZ I MADE A JOKE!). It’s like a supermarket except not. It’s like a supermarket that sells everything the world has to offer, but that also has a food court with ALL food, and also food stalls with additional food, and also an indoor market selling ALL objects that exist, and also plural actual shops selling further multitudes of objects, just in case ALL the objects that exist weren’t quite enough. We went to get stationary but I got distracted by the snacks isle and came away with mostly crisps and wasabe-covered things, and a pack of panic-bought A4 paper I picked up when – at the last minute – one of the guys reminded me what we’d actually come for. Then I thought I’d lost the room key that I haven’t paid a 1,000 baht deposit for, but turns out it was stuck in the lining of my expensive £2 bag which has huge holes in the bottom.

My Chiang Mai experience had continued to be wonderful, by the way. Some brillzville people left, other brillzville people arrived. I had a prison massage (incredible, relaxing, non-stabby), watched Muay Thai (5-way blind fight = hilarious; professional fight = captivating) and went to the Reggae bar so many times I’d memorised the playlist. Hartley and Callie (<3) came in from Laos so we went dancing, had a kebab, and then this morning they separated after 4 months of travelling together.  Last night we ate ourselves into celebratory/lamentory food comas, a result of getting over-excited by a sushi and shabu-shabu buffet. I ate not brains and a mushroom that was actually a bit of squid. Could happen to anyone. Temperatures in the city continued to be crazy-high; people continued to melt away. Time passed.

Anyway, I’m falling asleep. It’s almost midnight and I have a paper to read and an impromptu yoga class to get up for in the morning. As well as the entire first day of CELTA. Already anxious.

Before I go, I would just like to say the following to my Gma, who is reading this blog post on paper because my dad prints out each entry in Germany and posts them to her in the UK so she doesn’t miss out: HI GMA! I MISS YOU! I HAVE BROKEN MY MOBILE PHONE BUT I WILL SEND YOU A POSTCARD OR LETTER SOON. AND I WILL TRY TO PHONE YOU AT SOME POINT AS WELL. I HOPE YOU’RE OK AND STAYING OUT OF TROUBLE. HUGS AND KISSES AND LOVE xxxxxx