I haven't updated this in almost two weeks so there's a decent amount to write about.
Despite a solid effort on my end, my birthday happened. I was a little hesitant that it would be strange having a birthday away from all my close friends and family; I've never made a big deal out of it in the past, and in a different country with new people I thought skipping it was the best option. Well congratulations, Universe. You win.
By that, I mean my birthday turned out epic. And not in the overused, nonsensical slang of the word: if a celebration like this happened in Ancient Greece, Homer would have written about it.
The first half of the day was wonderfully misleading. It was devilishly hot out, classes were more boring than The Sound of Music (if that comparison was confusing, it may help to know I hate that movie), and apart from a couple of slaps on the back (thank Buddha this was before I was sunburnt) my birthday was passing comfortably under the radar. The sun went down, my head hit the pillow, and I thought I had stealthily slipped through.
A knock on the door and some serious harassment later and I gave into the festivities. My group made me a card, which was truly appreciated (Happy Birthday Pussycat), and we had a fun pre-game here at dear old ABAC. But what followed was legendary. We bar-hopped every place in the area, causing chaos and confusion everywhere we went. Frenetic dancing, copious drinking, jumping on furniture, getting crazy with the Thais, it all happened. None of us are entirely sure how, or when, but we know it did. I think I bonded a little more with everyone that night, which is what made it so memorable despite the hysteric confusion and unbearable hangover that followed. That part I'm way less a fan of, and I doubt I'll ever experience it again, but my birthday here in Thailand- well I gotta admit it was a hell of a night.
So that was a pretty lengthy birthday summary; other things that have been happening:
We took a boat ride today through some riverside towns around Old Campus. The boat ride went on for far too long thanks to some classic Father Kelly mixups. But the warmth of the people- expressed simply through waves and smiles- was something I haven't felt since Uganda. Those who know me well know that this is something I've missed terribly since my stay there; I know it's up to me now to make sure I maintain that connection with the people here and seek out that warmth.
I've found a couple people here that I'm starting to become more comfortable with. I don't think I've been coming off nearly as shy as I actually am, which I suppose is a good thing. If I can walk away from this trip with just one or two people I feel genuinely connected to, I'll be happy. That said, everyone has been very nice and open so far and I'm sure it will continue to progress that way. It can be difficult sometimes because a good portion of the group came with a large number of friends, but this is an accommodating and open bunch of people, and admittedly not what I expected.
Classes are easy. I'm averted to work in a pretty unhealthy way, but ABAC seems to understand that. Perhaps that's why we watched South Park in Ethics class and some caveman special in Thai Civ. And I can't forget to mention that 80-100 is an A.
I am probably going to miss comedy/ the Nevergreens the most from Loyola. I find myself talking about it too much, trying out bits and stories that could become sketches or standup, and just overall trying to find the humor in every situation. I'm sure it's incredibly irritating for all the people on this trip with me, but I hope everyone can tolerate it long enough to survive this trip.
Thai food can absolutely beat the hell out of me sometimes. But I'm learning to fight back. Sometimes it's just intolerable though. Also, I have an all too real addiction to McDonald's. The first step is admitting you have a problem.
I've often been asked by friends what Thailand is like, to which I respond 'crazy.' I think that's indicative of how different it is, and yet intangibly so. I had an easier time describing Africa- I could rant for hours on it, especially given the radical and instantaneous differences. But when asked to describe Bangkok, I find myself hesitating, stumbling over generals and fumbling around particulars. One way I've found to explain the differences is by describing how typical and essential daily functions happen:
Let's say I want to go to the mall. I probably take a motorcycle taxi, which weaves precariously around traffic, allowing me to brush with the cars on either side of me as well as Death Himself as I let go of American Inhibition and accept I probably won't die (but I might). The taxi would drop me off at the river for around a dollar. The docks of this river are shanty and not exactly stable. The smell is putrid and the humidity is kind of amazing in its ability to discomfort. Eventually, the Klhong, which resembles a giant speed boat, arrives and dozens if not hundreds of Thais cram on. I wiggle my way in (if I'm lucky I grab a seat), and pay my 60 cent travel fee. The boat drops me off at a similar dock in the middle of a sprawling city. I weasel my way through a thick sprawl of street vendors and climb the stairs to the 'skywalk', an elevated sidewalk type deal. This leads me to the mall, which is about 8 stories tall, and actually has everything. I have to remind myself to use these details and descriptions because to me, they are becoming perfectly normal and unremarkable.
I miss my closest friends dearly. I hope they know and reciprocate. Keep in touch, loves. You know I'm always here.
This was a lengthy one. I hope it satiates both of the people who read this (ha). Class requirements make you do silly things....