Some of you may know that I, Jason, spent last year living in Northern Thailand as an English teacher. A similar subset of you may also I know that I catalogued my experiences, revelations, and bowel movements on a little blog called This Land Is Thailand, the entire contents of which can be found in the archive of this, the Business Flannel, blog.
This Land Is Thailand was so popular (earning praise from outlets such as Le Monde and Short Hair Magazine, as well as (rather puzzlingly) making Peter Travers's list of the 10 Greatest Films of 2009) that I knew that I would have to revisit it some day, just as The Rembrandts know that at each concert they must play "I'll Be There For You ("Friends" Theme)," or like how Thomas Friedman knows he has to make a totally incoherent metaphor involving a burrito every column.
And so I am back, for three weeks, to catalogue the inanities and mundanities and insanities (and, most of all, the vanities) of being a white person (and more specifically, a white person who is also an intellectual elitist douchenozzle) in Thailand.
Here are some highlights of the first two days:
1. NI HAO, I'M IN A GLASS CASE OF EMOTION
Because I am a quote-unquote artist, I had to search for the cheapest flight to Thailand possible, which was an Air China (not to be confused with Hooters Airline, Air 'Gina) flight that happened to include a 17 hour layover in Beijing.
Not wanting to shell out too many yuans (speaking of which, hey, China, yuanna raise your interest rates and stop artificially deflating your currency?), I opted to spend the night at PEK, which I always thought stood for Penis Enlargement Kreme, a failed donut shop product spinoff of the late 90s, but which is apparently also the Beijing airport code.
Staying in the ticketing area of a Chinese airport went as smoothly as you might imagine it would: the internet was down; the temperature hovered around the freezing point; and I could only find a sleeping bench next to the escalator, which was constantly screaming at everyone who used it that night to BE CAREFUL MIND THE STEP [in Chinese], to which all passengers found it necessary to scream back. It's refreshing to know that the Chinese are in such healthy dialogue with their technology.
Mercifully this died down around 1 AM and the airport became quiet and empty. I took two Tylenol PM and laid down on my bench to sleep. And I did. And the pain of being alive at that moment drifted away into darkness...
...only to reappear two hours later, when I was awoken by a Chinese girl of about 17 on the bench across from mine, on her cell phone, sobbing uncontrollably, yelling at the top of her lungs in between gulps and gasps at the person on the other end of the line. I can only imagine what she was upset about (CAN YOU BELIEVE "LOVE AND OTHER DRUGS" WASN'T NOMINATED FOR BEST PICTURE???), but I can describe the volume and demeanor perfectly: just imagine the Chinese-dubbed version of "Anchorman," during the scene in which Will Ferrell is in the phone booth crying and screaming about being stuck in a glass case of emotion.
And this is what woke me up. At 3 in the morning. In sub-zero temperatures. On a bench. In the Beijing airport. Next to the escalator.
I was not able to fall back asleep the rest of the night, as this went on for 30 more minutes. Feel free to play that clip 10,800 times to get a sense of what my night was like.
2. DO GET A DICTIONARY
I made it to Thailand without incident. One of the first things I saw was a merchant on the street, the owner of a clothing shop, organizing her inventory for the day. She was a Thai, about 35 years old, wearing a lovely black and pink knee-length dress.
Well, the dress was almost lovely, at least, save the English words that were printed on the butt of the dress. I stood in the middle of the sidewalk staring agape at her rear end and the words there printed:
No thank you, Thai woman. No thank you.
3. OR NOT SO GOOD
File this under "Non-Native English Speakers Attempting Puns."
The name of a bar near my gracious host Elena's apartment building:
Sofa, So Good
Even Kevin Costner doing his absolute worst Boston accent doesn't pronounce "sofa" like "so far." I'm headed over there now to request an audience with the management to explain the problem, and to attempt to convince them to change their name to a more accurate and relevant pun:
Shofar, So Good
Now THAT'S a jokey bar name that everyone can get behind.