Saturday, July 29, 2006

On the Humidity..

33 days, 0 regrets. I love it here.

However, to delay the vicious, bitter jealousy my stories will invariably ignite, I will first talk about the humidity in Bangkok.

On a scale of 1 to 10, I would say the humidity in Bangkok fluctuates between about a 5 and an its-a-rainforest-in-my-pants-and-everyone's-invited. I am learning to walk around in this humidity and the heat that accompanies it, and really as long as you keep drinking and don't sit down any place where you will leave obvious assprints, it's not a big deal. In fact, I am still going running outside every other day. If you wait until the sun goes down it is tolerable, not unlike one of those nights back home when it never quite cools off. The humidity is annoying, to be sure, but I am dealing with it...

...most of the time. There is one situation in which the humidity is absolutely maddening. Which brings me to Naked Time.

Naked Time, although the name might suggest otherwise, is one of the few unpleasantries of living in Bangkok. Naked Time is the essential period of at least five minutes during which one must remain unclothed after taking a shower. This is the only way to get completely dry on an I'm-steaming-potatoes-in-my-trousers kind of day. No number of towels can replace Naked Time. No amount of rolling around on your bed like a dog with an itch on his back can replace Naked Time. Nothing can replace Naked Time. Nothing.

I learned this today.

It was one of those potato days, but I went running anyway, and then took a shower. When I got out, I realized I was late for a dinner with people from work. After using five (yes, 5) different towels and carrying out several impressive renditions of the Curly Shuffle across my bed, my back was still more a candidate for a squeegee than a shirt. However, I didn't want to be any later, so I skipped Naked Time.

Do not skip Naked Time. Never, ever skip Naked Time. If you skip Naked Time, here is what will happen:

Threads snap as you force your white cotton t-shirt over your dripping torso. You pull on a second shirt which immediately becomes damp to the touch, indicating that your undershirt has already soaked through. With equal speed your boxers become saturated, and by the time you walk out the door your jeans have visible wet spots. They only remain dry at all because most drops of condensation (it's not sweat... yet) manage to run entirely down your legs and into your socks.

As you run to the Skytrain, rivers of perspiration erupt and run down your face and neck. Sweat and condensation take flight with each movement of the arms. Nothing evaporates, and you struggle to climb the stairs to the platform. Usually even a short ride on the air conditioned Skytrain will cool you off, but if you skip Naked Time on a potato day, you will be standing in puddles before the trip is over. Or, if you decided to sit, you will be held responsible when small children drown in the foul pool you leave behind.

Do not skip Naked Time. Never, ever skip Naked Time.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Takeoffs and Landings.
At 11:45am on Monday June 26, 2006, I sat down in the last row of Thai Airways flight 973, the only direct route flown from JFK to Bangkok.

It is now Thursday, July 27. If you don't count the 11 hours I lost somewhere over the North Pole, today marks the one-month anniversary of my departure. That is, if you go by the calender- but it can hardly be trusted in this case. The second lifetime born on the heatsoaked runway of Bangkok International Airport could never contort itself into a mere July and some leftovers of a June.

Somehow, Time lost track of me during the flight. I bet he tripped and fell hurdling over one of the time zones. He always was more of a distance runner. I know he'll catch up to me eventually... he'll come hobling up, spout something about slow and steady winning the race, and then start complaining about the International Date Line like he always does.

But for now, Time is nowhere in sight, and it's a good thing because it means he can't see how much I'm getting away with. Each day is saturated and bursting with more sights and sounds, more smells and tastes than normally are spread over a year. The people are wonderful, the food is AMAZING, and the few dollars I managed to bring go a long, long way. It's also never cold. Ever.

And, for some strange reason, the girls here seem to find me exotic.

On June 6th, less than three weeks earlier, I had no idea any of this would happen. I thought I was staying in Ithaca for the summer. Summers are "gorges" there, and working for Kaplan was paying the bills (if not much more). Plus, I was about to start teaching the LSAT, which I thought was pretty cool since there is the slightest possibility that maybe someday I'll want to take a real one and I would be getting paid to become an expert at it (although I already scored 174 on the practice test I took to qualify to teach...). I also had some research lined up with Professor Weiss, the WWII prof. who made me rethink academics and conceed that maybe some professors do actually care about their students. Obviously I wasn't thrilled about another summer in Ithaca, but I was quite content with it all.

Until, that is, my boss at Kaplan and I started chatting. He asked me what I wanted to do now that I have graduated, and when I started to answer in terms of the summer, he was like, "No, I mean what do you want to do now that you are done with school? What's next?" So I mentioned the idea of teaching (which I would be doing if TFA hadn't inexplicably turned me down... but I suppose at this point I should thank them!), and then we go off on a tangent about living and working abroad somewhere. I'd always thought this would be amazing to do, but only in an abstract way. He mentioned having seen an ad on the internal Kaplan site for a full-time teaching position in Bangkok, and said he'd send me the link. Sure, ok... really I didn't think much of it.

The link came the next day, Wednesday the 7th, and I decided to send an email and a resume. Within 24 hours I had a VERY interested response, and after a few emails were rapidly exchanged (around midnight for me, noon for them) I agreed to a phone interview, which the center director said she would like to do THE NEXT NIGHT. So, 11pm on Friday I had a phone interview, and around 11:30 I had an unofficial job offer. The real contract arrived in my email box on Sunday morning.

So... I went from no plans to the definite chance to go live literally halfway around the world for a year. And they wanted me to start by July 1st! Yes, in 20 days from the day I go the offer, which would mean leaving in around two weeks. TWO WEEKS! Two weeks to move out of Ithaca (a hard enough task in itself), visit family, sell two cars, and otherwise tie up or neatly pack away every loose end of my American life. Plus, I had to go to NYC for my visa and passport, which are things that cannot be acquired in a single day. Not to mention I still had work commitments in Ithaca until June 21st.

It seemed impossible.
But here I am.