The Times They Are a-Changin’

© 2012 Tiago Marques

“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” ~ Mark Twain

Journal, 16 January 2012. Khao Lak and Phuket, Thailand.

LEAP OF FAITH.

Breakfast at the Wicked Café. Lots of hangovered people around.

I chat up this fellow called Yuli, Swedish. He was so bored with his job and life in Sweden that he decided to become a professional dive instructor, bought all the Wicked Diving training courses and moved to Khao Lak three months ago. Funny thing is – he had never done any diving in his entire life before getting on that plane to Thailand… Total nutter? Or bolder than most…

Isa shows up and joins for breakfast, already packed. The next bus to Phuket is in thirty minutes? Crap, alright, I’ll quickly jump to my hostel, pack my stuff and be right back.

Two hours later we arrive in Phuket. Pasha is also in town on business and has generously offered to host us in her hotel room for tonight, so we quickly hop on a taxi to meet her and drop the bags, and head out to Robinson shopping mall to have lunch with a friend of hers.

We meet Joe, an American CSer from Hawaii, been in Phuket for three years now as an English teacher. Also had zero experience when he moved here, but tells me that if your English is good enough and you’re willing to make a fool of yourself in front of the kids, then you can easily handle the job.

We head to MK for lunch. I like Joe’s vibe, he seems to have his feet solidly on the ground and his head on his shoulders.

LINGUA FRANCA.

I feel my ego twitch when we begin discussing about British and American English, and Joe arguments that American English is easier to teach and learn because (1) the sequence of letters reflects more clearly the sound of the words as there are less hidden letters – “center” and “color” reflects the actual sound of the word, unlike “centre” and “colour” – and (2) kids nowadays are more exposed on a daily basis to American English through movies, cartoons and music.

Despite my affection for European English… I must confess his argument is a sensible one. I also learned a more international English and had to adapt to the British one when I moved to London.

Joe mentions that in general Thai labour works six days a week, 10-14 hours a day and are paid an average of 300 baht per day… Crap, less than £7 per day? That’s crazy.

English teachers in Thailand are another curious (and slightly ironic) situation. If they’re Thai they can earn up to 10,000 baht per month – but if they’re from a native English speaking country, then they get up to twice the pay check.

At the bilingual school where Joe works, kids are initiated into the English language when they are just 18 months old – and that makes an entire difference to their career and financial future, mostly because of all the money tourism brings into the country.

ONCE A GENTLEMAN…

Pasha, stubborn and sweet as always, offers to pay for lunch. Despite her gentle look, I’ve already learned not to argue with her when she sets her mind on something.

I manage to convince Isa to not go to Koh Phi Phi tomorrow so she’s free from schedules and can enjoy her last day in Thailand on her own terms and time.

The two of us rent a tuc tuc so we can move around more conveniently for the afternoon. We hang out for a bit at this place where apparently you can watch an amazing sunset. We enjoy a refreshing drink, chat and laugh, and pass by a beach and a viewpoint on our way to Patong Beach.

Patong. Flooded with tourists. The energy here is different, almost palpable, and the air is charged with the smell of debauchery. More half-naked Thai girls dancing on top of tables in open-air bars than I’ve seen in almost three weeks in this country.

I’m harassed in every direction to come and watch a “ping pong” show. The curious side of me is easily tempted by the unconventional and exotic, and watching a woman give birth to a ping pong ball clearly ticks both checkboxes… but for some reason I’m feeling completely detached from this over-touristy environment.

Plus, with Isa around I have more on my mind. Her company and warm laughter overwhelms me with tenderness, and it’s been a while since I felt genuinely connected to someone. And this is so much more worth my time.

Lobster dinner at a local seafood restaurant. Hmmm I think we’ve been ripped off on the price as the meal cost us a small fortune, but Isa is happy and had never tasted lobster, so hell with it.

We explore the area a bit more and get a taxi back to Pasha’s hotel. The girls share the bed, I set camp on the floor besides the bed and fall asleep after a bit…

GRATITUDE.

• Pasha’s generosity.
• Joe’s insights.
• Isa’s tenderness.
• Being healthy and strong.
• Being able to afford this expedition.

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