Monday, November 7, 2011

Poker Face

I don’t play poker. I never learned the rules of the game, and I find lying difficult. I’d much prefer to be absolutely silent than to have to lie, or shout. So you may have noticed times I’ve been a bit quiet. Some of that is out of being busy. More often it’s because I’d rather not lie.

That’s a funny thing living in the land of smiles, because you have to lie. You have to lie to save face. You have to lie so someone else can save face. You have to lie, because you simply didn’t know you were lying – that’s the version of the truth you’ve been told. You have to lie because that’s what is expected, or the truth that is expected is impossible, so you have to twist it to get it to fit into the circumstances you’re given. Not all of the smiles are real. Statement of the obvious. You have to lie because you don’t really have free speech. Or you can only tell half the truth, or less. But you’ve got to do all this while being polite, mild mannered, and not losing your temper, and trying to let everyone keep face. Oh how I hated wearing masks in America, and what have I gone and gotten myself into? The same.

So here’s the deal.

Firstly, I’m not done in Asia.

I’ll let that sink in a few line breaks.

Got that? Staying. In. Asia. ☺

I’ve been waiting for months to formally say I plan to stay longer than a year. Sure, plenty of you saw that coming before I’d stepped on that first plane out of Indy. But not everyone pushes beyond the one-year abroad mark, it hasn’t always been easy and I haven’t been completely forthright at all times.

Secondly, yes, Bangkok is not exactly gumdrops and sunshine lately, as I believe has made it to international news by now (how accurately I’m not sure) but I’m not leaving it yet either.

Third, I’m not even writing this from Bangkok. I’m in Penang, Malaysia for a week.

I’d rather not lie. But I don’t particularly like answering tons of questions either, especially repeatedly. So let’s run down the list:

1) Did you leave Bangkok because of the flood? Yes and No.

2) Is your apartment in Bangkok flooded? No.

3) Has your area experienced flooding? Yes, but not extensively and not even knee deep. We experienced some ankle to mid-calve deep water during the high tide periods at the end of October.

4) Is anyone you know in Bangkok affected? Yes, including a lot of my students.

5) How has this affected your school? The start of second semester has been delayed two weeks, from Nov. 1 to Nov. 14.

6) Do you have emergency supplies in Bangkok? I have multiple liters of bottled water, rice, pasta, soup, etc. I also live on the third floor.

7) What will you do if you need to evacuate/School is delayed further/The world is about to end? Well, I’ve already visited my friend here in Penang, so my next two options are Northern Thailand above the flooded area or Kathmandu, Nepal, where I have another friend I’ve promised to visit. Air Asia for the win! But don’t kid yourself on not checking a bag for it.

8) Will the floods really reach your area? Even though you live right by the King’s actual residence, the Grand Palace and a bunch of other stuff they are trying to keep dry? As previously stated, depends on so many factors I could write a PhD thesis when this is all said and done (which I won’t). But I think it’s likely that I’ll be dealing with more water at some point. The mass of water looming above the capital is too great to merely block and divert by the current means, and it’s slowly working its way through any way.

9) What about disease outbreaks? I’m staying informed. 20% DEET is good. Yes I’m aware that’s not all. Did I mention Air Asia?

10) Should anyone travel to Thailand right now? The southern provinces and islands are fine, as are the north and northeast above a certain point. The Bangkok International Airport is still operational, and domestic flights do operate from there. I would avoid Bangkok if just going on holiday. If you live or work there it’s a bit different. Evacuation orders have been put into place for 11 of 50 districts of the city. The government waits until the bitter last minute to issue an evacuation, but believe me I’ve been watching closely. Did I mention I live in the tourist ghetto? As in, lost revenue, lost face? Mmm, right then.

11) So what are you doing in Malaysia again? Eating. Sleeping. Breathing. I ate frog for the first time that I’m aware of. And some duck, I’ve had that before but it’s tasty. And I saw a monkey, but we missed the sea turtles by about a week apparently.

12) And you’re going back to Bangkok in its current state? Yes, I have to sign in once a week even though school is delayed. Did I mention Thai, Government, and school? Ok when I use those three things in the same sentence I refuse to explain any further why something is necessary. And since I’m a foreigner, this is lenient. Row row row your boat, where’s the sign in sheet? I jest.

13) So when are you coming home? *Sustained awkward silence* I told you I don’t play poker.