Tuesday, August 5, 2008

The Heat

Even though I don’t understand anything my coworkers say, my initial impression is that they’re all pretty nice, and they love to laugh. Our finance officer, Jaep, asked me yesterday how my work was going, and I told her that I felt a little neglected by Bangkok, and that some guidance and support would be nice.

Today she told me she had talked to Caroline and Dr. Khin, and they agreed to help me with my work and be my translators. Jaep gets stuff done. She’s the Thai version of that person who whips out her cell phone everytime she needs something, and 30 seconds later it’s taken care of. The Thai version because she’s always laughing, and never in a hurry.

Also, she, like everyone else, refuses to walk outside for even 100 yards. Thai people don’t walk. They drive to avoid generating any body heat that would add to the heat already generated by the climate here. Makes a lot of sense, but I feel ridiculous piling into the car and driving 100 yards to go to lunch. If everyone else is doing it, I won’t make a spectacle by walking alongside the car (since we never actually leave the parking lot when we do this), but a few days ago I was alone in the office and had to find my own lunch. Usually someone orders out, or sends Ahn to pick up something, or cooks something. So I walked about 150 yards to a restaurant across the street that served chicken and rice – two words I know how to say in Thai.

I joined a pool! There’s this small resort-type conference center across the street from our office, and it has a lap pool. Last Friday I harassed one of our field officers, Pak, to help me get a membership (by being my translator). The best part of the whole incident, of course, was that he drove me there. It’s literally about 70 yards away. I even said, “We can walk together.” And he said, “No, too hot.”

Which was true. It was two in the afternoon and just a sauna outside. So he got the keys to one of the Raks Thai vehicles and we drove for 20 seconds across the street. Twice, actually. The first time we just went to the membership office to ask how I could join the pool. Then, since I didn’t have my wallet, he drove me back to the office, which took about three minutes because the parking lot is one-way so he had to circle around and go the long way.

The pool is gorgeous. It’s outdoors, which I find to be a luxury after all the indoor pools built for cold climates like San Francisco and New York. But if you think about it, an outdoor pool is probably cheaper to build than an indoor pool. You don’t have to put a building around it.

Pak had pointed out the women’s locker room to me last Friday, but this morning when I arrived I’d forgotten which one it was. The signs above the entrances were all in Thai. Fortunately there was no one around, so I ducked into the locker room with the coral-colored tile. Lockers, toilets, showers, sinks. I ducked into the locker room next door, the one with the blue tiles, and took a quick spin around just to make sure I was in the right place. The blue tiled locker room had urinals. My first guess was right.

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