Sunday, July 13, 2008

The Barfies

My coworkers Ahn, Oay, Muu and Arom were kind enough to plan a day of sightseeing for me, with a stop at a human rights workshop that Raks Thai was hosting for migrants at a wat (temple) in Mae Khlong, aka Samut Songkhram, the next province over from Mahachai.

We got a late start on our trip to the floating markets at Damnoen Sanduak, which is in Mae Khlong. Guide books recommend getting there as early as 6am to avoid the masses of tourists, but we didn’t arrive until nearly noon. By that time there were more tourists than fruit vendors on the river, and they were stuck in a floating gridlock because there was no room for the scores of boats to pass each other in the narrow waterway. My recommendation: heed the guide book, get there early.

We had lunch at the Raks Thai office in Mae Khlong. Muu and some of the Mae Khlong staff ordered an elaborate meal including tom yum soup, som tum (green papaya salad), and fried rice with eggs. They spread newspapers on the floor of the office and we sat around it picnic style and barefoot.

I’m sure the food was delicious, but my stomach was starting to get angry with me about breakfast.

“I didn’t like those eggs you ate this morning,” it said.

“Justina,” Oay said, pointing to my food. “Delicious?”

“Yes,” I said.

Muu looked at my half-empty plate, then at her own, licked clean. “If delicious, you plate like this,” she said.

“It’s delicious, really,” I said. “But stomach feel bad. I think eat bad eggs for breakfast.” I’ve started to speak in simple English to get fewer non-comprehending stares.

Sure enough, two hours later, as we were parked in town and waiting for Oay to run some errands, the eggs staged an uprising and evacuated themselves onto a small plot of grass in front of someone’s shop.

Muu had followed me out of the car and was murmuring and patting me on the back. “Okay,” she said, handing me a tissue. “Feel better?”

Everyone was so great. Oay came back with some medicine and put me back in the car, directing Ahn to take me to his house. I was still dizzy and faint so I barely remember walking through a small jungle with wooden planks spanning across a marsh to get to his house.

Ahn’s mom padded out to greet us as Oay and Muu helped me through the house. No one had said anything about Ahn living in a wooden stilt house on the river, a common style of housing in this area. It was a small and simple wood structure, but picturesque and breezy.

We walked through the house to the back porch, which looked out across the river. Their boat was docked at the foot of the porch. Ahn’s mom laid a blanket and pillow on the floor and everyone encouraged me to sleep. No problem. I was on my back and snoring 30 seconds later.

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