On the road again

I am still in Bangkok. Honestly, it’s amazing how quickly adventures can morph into mundane daily life when you’re not looking. One minutes you’re all goggle-eyed gazing around like a newborn and taking every opportunity to expose your miserable, cave-dweller skin to the sunlight, and the next it’s just another Monday morning and you’re grizzling over the 14.54 minutes you have to spend outside sans aircon. And you don’t even notice that the moon is the wrong way around any more. Welcome to Taking Things For Granted 101.

BUT! Guess what! After many months – too many months – of being stationary, Enid’s Adventure Blog is going back on the road again. This time we’re off to that most recent of Zealands, The New Zealand (famously explored in gripping 3-part documentary series, The Lord Of The Rings). We’ll hang out with The Beard’s friends and family, hit up the north and south islands for beaches and shit, skate with NZ roller derby teams and checkout NZ skateparks, have goodfuntimes with adored lifepals and fellow adventurers, NicandRob, eat “fush und chups”, head out for long walks and generally be Going Around. It’s going to be good, people.

Yes, it will mean leaving beloved cat-bastard Mr Miaowgi with a friend for 2 months, but I count it as payback for all the times he’s bitten me in the face in the past. Little angel.

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So! Help a sister out, gang. What should we see, do, eat, stay or avoid? Any and all pro-tips welcome!

Cats, cakes and chicken coups

Well, here we are. It’s early evening and I’m sticky both because it’s the usual amount of too-much-hot and also because I’ve just finished eating my third mango of the day. Allow me to repeat that: my THIRD mango of the day. I didn’t even like mango before I got here. Too mushy, too sweet. But that was YELLOW mango. I had no idea that other kinds of mango existed. Green mango is where it’s at. Green mango is sour… unless you buy them soft and let them overripen in your fridge, at which point they level up into SUNSHINE JUICYSWEET OMNOM OF THE GODS. Fuckin’ A.

But let’s restart. Relax back into the chair. Fingers poised over the keyboard. It’s early evening and I’m sticky. FUCK. Remember that you were boiling water for a cup of tea? Run the two steps to the fridge, atop which is the “kettle”, notice that it’s almost boiled dry, that the room’s hotter and more humid than a Bangkok sauna filled with caricatures, fill it (the kettle) back up to the tea line with water from the one baht machine and – well, you’re near the fridge anyway, right, and you’re writing tonight, right? – grab a yoghurt, pour in some roasted sunflower seeds, DEMOLISH. Water’s boiled, pour the tea – I really need to find a ceramic mug, this plastic thing is starting to taste plasticy – and get back to it. Hold onto your hats, people.

And wait. An ellipse; a pause; the space between breaths; please note the mounting anticipation on your way out.

Well, here we are (again). It’s early evening and I’m sticky both because it’s the usual amount of too-much-hot and also because I’ve just finished eating my third mango of the day. Curfew hasn’t kicked in yet but I’m at home on my balcony and have no plans or desire to go out nonetheless. Yes. You may have noticed the word ‘CURFEW’, there, and we’re not talking about the kind that your parents gave you as a kid. I live in a country that has a MILITARY-IMPOSED CURFEW. It’s the grown-up version. How exotic.

Imagine, if you will, a public space in a hot country that is not your own. A train station, perhaps, or a popular public park. Imagine this place at 17:58: busy and crawling with commuters, hustlers and bustlers, wishers and liars, world-losers, world-foresakers and magic bean buyers. Imagine the heat. The moving bodies. The activity. Here, jogging; there, selfies; skateboarding; running for the train before the doors close; laughter soars above the chuntering clamour then drops like a stone; sharp kidcries tear the air and fade away. Random, unconnected, continuous action. And now, imagine this place at 18:00, after the warning beeps, when the music starts to play. Commuters turn to statues at the tune. Activity ceases; everyone freezes. Look around, the still bodies, breathing, warm with the memory of action. Like the slow zombies, like a brainwashing sci-fi, like a real-life dystopian novel. It lasts a minute or so. Uncomfortable. Try not to let that inappropriate and mildly hysterical burble of laughter slips through those strictly serious lips, ok?

I live in a country where the rush hour commute ceases for civilians to pay homage to their country, where running groups and badminton players pause their game to meditate a moment on the interconnectedness of their nation, the unity of their people. It’s pretty cool. It’s pretty weird.

We were living a fantasy adventure in Dreamland when we discovered that Thailand had lost it’s shit and declared martial law. And then, afterwards, I was looking forward to an evening at the Cat Cafe, eating cake and cuddling kittens when we discovered that there had been a military coup, as of 6 minutes ago, Tom said at work, eyes Twitter-bright and eager. There is a vague sense of excitement and of inconvenience, and of interest – how long? what will happen? will we have to cancel roller derby?

The chicken coup d’etat has some quite serious implications. Curfew meant we couldn’t go to the Cat Cafe so I was left lacking kitty cuddles for the entire evening (therefore bogus). On the other hand, the chicken coup d’etat meant that two of my students cancelled their classes today (therefore bonus). It means that if I want to go out and see friends, I have to make sure I’m at the BTS way before it closes at 9pm, and that I can no longer make last minute night-out decisions, and that maybe, just maybe, the 7/11 at the bottom of my road is closed (GASP). It means that I have to carry my passport at all times, and genuinely – apparently – be in my home by 10pm.

Of course, there are other things to say, other meanings. But I won’t say them. I think about the wrong things all the time, anyway. Doesn’t coup d’etat sound like a delicious pastry? How does someone declare a coup? Is it ever OK? Who are the army accountable to, and who regulates their actions? If it’s so easy to coup the shit out of a government then why doesn’t it happen all the time? Is there just one button to shut down all the TV channels in a country or is it a complicated process? Did they prepare the static Please Bear With Us As We Have A Coup image before the actual coup, after it, or did they just have one lying around ready to be beamed out around the country? If you live in the sticks, do you have a curfew? Do you know? How much do you care?

Anyway. Here I am. It’s late evening and I’m tired and I need to go to bed, and I’m sticky because I’ve been sitting in the sweltering heat of my balcony for 100 hours, relaxed back into the chair, fingers poised over the keyboard then rolling, tapping out rhythms like piano hammers. Curfew’s well and truly kicked in. In the distance, a few cars, dogs. A siren or two. The sound of water from somewhere below me. My gurgling fridge.

As usual, I’ve written 1000 words and told you absolutely nothing. Happy days. Good night all.

(Night Gma. I’m fine, honestly. Miss you.)

woman selling food sits in sunshine at the foot of the BTS

 

bangkok, in real life

The weather’s changing. It’s January and it’s already heating up. There were a few weeks of comparative cool. There were a couple of nights when it was cool enough to use a thin blanket without melting into a sweatpuddle. But all that’s over now – the Mercury’s rising and all is getting sweatsome again.

The nature in my flat is also changing. The ants haven’t been biting for a while – I sorted them out by spraying a fairy ring of insect repellent around my bed (no really, I’m not kidding). The roaches come out now and then – often a baby with a teenager for protection – but I just swear repeatedly and murder them and it’s all OK again. They’ve started following me to work – the other day I made a coffee without checking the mug beforehand. When I went to take a drink there were 5 roach corpses bobbing about. They’re obsessed with me, I think, because I possess a certain cockroachy allure that they’ve never seen in a human before and don’t fully understand.

The new bits of nature that live in my flat are spiders. They stick to the corners so I don’t really mind them. They make webs and hang out and collect red ants and idon’tknowwhatelse. Maybe they eat baby cockroaches? I’m not sure. Either way, I’m unwilling to get rid of them as yet. As long as they’re not jumping out at me from ledges in the bathroom like the bastard roaches, or trying to snuggle me in bed with their teeth like the ants then they can stay. But this leaves me with a problem: if I want them to stay, what do I do about the cobwebs? If I leave them then eventually my room’s going to start looking like that scene in the second Hobbit movie, but if I brush them away then maybe they’ll move out and the rest of nature will move back in? But if they stay, maybe it’ll encourage the geckos to come back, but then the geckos will eat them all which’ll leave it free for the ants and the roaches to take over again. Fucking nature – why is it so complicated? And INSIDE MY APARTMENT?

When not obsessing over my little insect guests I mostly live a slightly dull normal life over here in the Big Kok. I get my water from the water machines outside my building because you can’t drink the tapwater (you can’t drink the tapwater but you CAN go to a high-so shopping mall with a cinema and an ice rink and buy a Louie Vuitton bag. OBVS. Life doesn’t make sense) and I wash my clothes using the 30 baht laundry machines. On weekends I often sit about wasting time on the internet, or go skating at the park, or read books, or go for a horrible jog, eat dinner with people, sometimes go for drinks, or see films because the cinema here is cheap and they are everywhere. At the moment the Bangkok Symphony Orchestra puts on a concert in the park every Sunday, and I like to go when I’m not skating – the evenings are warm and it’s nice to listen to classical music as the sun goes down, especially on the grass and especially with people you like to hang out with. One bad thing is that I’m often not skating right now because my foot – which isn’t broken, I’ve just ripped the tendonligament thingy – still hasn’t fully healed. I’ve done a lot of sitting on my balcony (from which there’s a captivating view of the wall of the building next door, who’d want to live anywhere else?) and reading books (Dracula is hilairmazin) and internetting (thank you, Pinterest).

On work days my morning routine is shit hot. Alarm goes off at 6.30. I surface from sleep hating my life, hating the world, lamenting the fast-passing weekend days and resenting the selfish intrusion of WORK into my social life. Then I pause my alarm and promptly go back to sleep. It goes off again 5 minutes later, at which point all curses are repeated but with slightly less venom. I pause my alarm again. The third time my alarm goes off, I get up. Resentfully. Agonisingly. I shower. Dress. All in a state of semi-consciousness. I get the BTS to work – it’s only 2 stops so no real need to change from autopilot to manual. Get to the office at about 7.50am, turn the computer on, the hot water machine, the printer. I clock in. Breakfast can be rice soup picked up from my BTS stop, or unsweetened yoghurt and banana and sunflower seeds, or KFC, or banana or taro in sweet sticky rice wrapped in banana leaves, or any of a bunch of other options from the street. I have my morning coffee, and that’s me for hours. Clocked in and working. I plan my lessons, then teach, then plan and teach some more. Teaching is sometimes depressing, sometimes hilarious, sometimes exhausting and sometimes it hypes me up. It depends on the lesson, how it goes, on the students… all kinds of things. I love role plays, teaching intonation, functional language, imaginative drama-style stuff, and even just chatting, if the student’s interesting and talkative.

Once my day’s teaching is done, I generally stay a few hours and plan for the next day. Afterwards I go home, or for food with friends, or for cake/ice cream, or to the cinema, or for a wander around the city or the malls or just hang out. I buy fruit from the fruit guys along my road. 3 green mangos for a quid, cut papaya or pineapple or watermelon for 40p. Not bad. Rambutan don’t seem to be in season at the moment but surely it won’t be long now – I miss those crazy, hairy little guys. If I’m not eating with friends then I often get food off the street. Not scraping it off the pavement, OBVS, but eating at a little streetside place: soups or spicy meat with rice, an omlette, occasionally some pad thai. If not, I can cook at home. Kinda. I can make Mama noodles and popcorn, and what more could a girl possibly want in life? Not much, let me tell ya. And that’s it, really. Except that it’s not it at all, it’s just that it’s getting dark and I’m getting peckish so I’m off to scout out something to eat, and maybe get a haircut or a tattoo while I’m at it.

How long will it last is a question people ask me, like I’m some kind of grown-up who plans for the future or who has any clue what I want out of life or how I should go about getting it. All the fives. Here is a truth: Bangkok Roller Derby is here. I made it. It is my child. Here is another truth: my contract at IH is up in June. And one more: I will be trekking in Nepal the day I turn 31. In between those things, some decisions need to be made.

Any takers?!

in which the author has A Moment – NO LIKE SRSLY YAH – and thinks she’s john bloody keats or something

Happy New Year, people. It has been many days since my last instalment. I haven’t really known what to write. There’s a whole lotta life going on out here, all the bloody time in fact; the stuff never seems to stop and it’s hard to keep track and get it all down. So fuck it! What’s gone is gone and there is only now, this brand new year. 2014. I hope to turn 31. What a hilarious and worrying joke that will be.

Oh, hang on. Actually, there is also Earlier On. You know why? Because earlier on I had A Moment. Oh yes. And you get to read about it. Lucky you. Here y’are. Try not to strain your stomach muscles by guffawing too hard, K? Less lofty and ridiculous service to be resumed shortly.

Probs.

06.01.2014 – Monday – 14:52

Something just happened. I had A Moment.

I was sitting on my balcony reading Anansi Boys by my arch enemy, the loathsome (no, definitely not because I’m jealous, I don’t know what you’re talking about) Neil  Gaiman. My laptop – open, turned on, idling – suddenly caught my eye. The screensaver had switched on, a slideshow of random photos, the change in brightness making me glance over. Filling the screen was the blackboard in the kitchen of the old house on Cliff Road, and on it was this quote, written up in my own angular capitals:

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I couldn’t help the grin. There was a sudden soaring of the heart as I read it, this uncalled for message of support from the past, from someone I had known and someone I had been, unconsciously yet keenly needed. One minute you’re reading a book and the next it envelops you, an utterly random photograph transformed into a reaching out, a message seeming sent by past selves through time and space in an otherwise inconspicuous moment.

It gladdened my heart.

Then the photo changed, paused, then continued to change and to pause between changes. Snapshots of my life rolled past. Things I had forgotten or not thought about in an age were suddenly right there, brought back, remembered anew: the locket from my brother holding scraps of paper – on one scrawled “love”; on the other, “you”; a beautifully overexposed shot of a friend on the beach at Filey, sand and sky equally white, interrupted by Rob’s dark shape, the grey arc of his footsteps, and the faint line separating land from sky; the lounge at Cliff Road a bright, cheap wonderland and full of laughing people in fancy dress; Bronwyn on her hen night holding her mouth wide open as an unseen person holds up a cock-shaped straw; a roller derby shot, on track, Shell and Philly with their heads together, helmets touching, all sweat and smiles; a dry stone wall and the rolling Derbyshire countryside beneath a blue-washed sky; the moody polished-wood library at Chatsworth house; a row of cows from a walk with my dad in Norfolk; the house on Etling Green; the scoreboard from Stuttgart, all blurred; my mum one Christmas day…

The things I have done. The people I have loved and still love. All the places I have seen and lived and been. I welled up, happy to be reminded. And a thought came into my head and lingered there and made me still more glad, more tearful – these are my best bits. And not only that but it’s ALL my best bits, all of life, and it’s happening now. And now. And now.

And it’s still true. My best bits are life and life is happening now and all life is my best bit. Every moment is a best bit because I am alive, and Doing, and safe and well and LIVING – I have those privileges. I EXPERIENCE with every passing second, and it demands to be appreciated – the good, the bad – because it is all evidence that I am alive and not in pain and that I have more than I can ever need; and even when I am in pain it reminds that pain can happen and you can still exist and experience and when it ends – because all things end – it will just be pain that happened but that did not last for all your time, and if it is gone and you are there to contemplate it then it did not kill you, it was not the end, and nor shall it be the next time, unless it is in which case you won’t BE in order to contemplate it and so it will not matter anyway.

You are overcome with an immense sense of perfect balance and wellbeing. You didn’t realise you felt worried or sad until you saw a photograph, by chance, saying what you didn’t know you needed to hear; and it is followed by other photographs – more and more – that remind you how good life can be, of how much you have already done and how much there is that you can still do. Everything feels like opportunity. Your worries no longer hold you back. Being is all that matters.

You realise, by which I mean that something which has always been true and real slowly or suddenly becomes true and real for you, and you understand why we use idioms that involve light brightening – it dawns on you, a light switching on – because you feel lighter and brighter and broader of mind: things have been uncovered. It is not like a light switches on at all, in fact, but it is as if you only now realise that the light has been on all the time but you never before thought to notice.

It lingers, the Moment. It is quiet and calm and happy. I wanted to write about it, to try and keep the feeling as long as it will last and, when it fades – for “everything fades in time” –  to remember.

 

Or something.

*****

In other news, Bangkok is in cold season and is seasonably warm, the ants are biting and the cockroaches are frisky. NYE and Xmas have happened and work is happening again. I have mangoes ripening on the table and water cooling in the fridge. I ate all the chocolate. My foot is not broken and hardcore rest has been prescribed.

Three Greek men like the beginning of some joke – a scientist, an ophthalmologist and a gynaecologist are at a streetbar in Bangkok; a campervan that plays only Shaggy music; a Skybar overlooking the city; a restaurant decked in fairy lights; a long, cool pool; your littlest brother telling your mum You’ve got beautiful bunions… All these weird things really happened and keep happening. Who can understand it? Happy new year, folks. Let’s have another good’un.

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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.