Hello From Deutschland

A winter sunset in Köln

I have been keeping my move under wraps for many months – partly so as not to jinx it, and partly because I was so sure I would fail. But it has happened, and I am here.

My work situation had become unbearable, and while Bangkok was great and I loved that big city, it became quickly apparent that what both of us were looking for was a bit more stability. I never thought I’d be the one to say it, seeing as I moved countries every 2 years previously. However, it just struck me that there is more to life than being a slave to a corporate during my young and best years.

The result is this gamble.

I don’t really have a job, I’m not really a student, and I can’t really tell what the next year will look like. But, I am free from a job that affected my mental and physical health, I am closer to my partner’s family, and closer to my niece, the apple of my eye.

And while winter like this is something to get used to, I am now in a unique position to consider extraordinary what most people in the blogosphere consider normal. It’s interesting to watch people’s reactions when I call something regular “exotic”.

Like this warm reception I received when I first landed here.

For those who often look at social media feeds and wonder at the big adventure that is my life, I have this to say – it isn’t. It’s gut-wrenching and soul-crushing, you don’t really get to see the blood, sweat and tears that go behind a big move. It isn’t easy, it isn’t fairy-tale like. I have had to take big risks and giant leaps. But if there’s one piece of unsolicited advice I can give you, it is this – take those risks.  You will look back on those gambles as the best times in your life.

Homey

I’ve had my fair share of ‘homie’ directed at me and it makes me feel good to have my ethnicity misunderstood again. I like being of an ambiguous race that makes me a true citizen of the world. However, this homey I’m talking about is a bit different. I’m starting to daydream and long for things I never thought I would – this includes owning, adopting, purchasing, fantasising about things I haven’t thought of as a priority before.

I have changed my geographical locations every two years on average, and have managed to fit in a tonne of travel in between those times. I have also managed to live half off a suitcase, being only half unpacked in the two years I have been in this ‘new’ location. And when things got a bit stressful, I’d lose myself into a deep internet rabbit hole of exotic locations I could make my next home in.

Over the past few months, though, I find myself daydreaming of a proper kitchen where the walls aren’t white and you can indulge in a fancy bread tin without worrying where you’d store it. I find myself wanting a shelf to store all of my negligible personal belongings (most of these belongings are in the form of books, letters and postcards). I long for a nice table where I can assemble wind or solar powered robots or do my 3000 piece puzzle. Mostly, I find myself looking at animal shelter websites and going through their portfolio of pets up for adoption.

Is this what adulthood is supposed to be? Have I finally attained that magical phase in my life?

The Subtle Art Of Blending

Bangkok green spaces! #parks #thailand #skytrain

A post shared by AL (@cupitonians) on

If you’ve come here for a makeup tutorial, I’m afraid you’re going to be very disappointed – not just at my serious inability at the art, but also at this post’s lack of anything useful. I’m talking more in terms of our ability, as humans, to blend into whatever situation/geographic location/circumstance we are thrown into.

I’m coming up to two years in Thailand and I walk the roads that once cause me anxiety like its something I’ve always done. I am able to hail a cab and direct the driver without breaking a sweat. I walk past monitor lizards like they are neighbourhood strays. I add P’ (polite prefix that means brother or sister) in front of people’s name and end my  sentences with a ka, even when I’m travelling out of Thailand. I have blended in so much that I don’t even break a sweat at 37 degrees heat, I know the corners of the skytrain to squeeze into during rush hour, and I carry flip flops and an umbrella in my bag because duh, how could you not?

Humans have an ability to adapt to anything, and to do it without even realising it. When I went home for a short break home a few weeks ago, I casually mentioned something funny P’Thor did or that the mister’s favourite student is Boeing. It took me a while figure out that the looks of confusion and the extra jovial laughter was because they still think of Thailand, its quirks and culture, as strange.

I didn’t even bat an eye-lid when I found out that Boeing’s younger sister is called Airbus. I just nodded. It’s now a completely normal name to me. In my new world, evening markets are a norm, mom and pop ramen shops are around every corner, just next to a 7/11. Cats say me-o, trains make a ‘poon poon’ sound, and saying ka does not make you an imitator of crows! I am at ease with people in various stages of transition, and am never confused about what pronoun to use for whom.

Funny this transition from strange to familiar.

We Live In Trump’s World Now

A few weeks ago I had a run in with an middle-aged American man. I haven’t had any confrontation with anyone here since I moved hear nearly 2 years ago. While there’s always a bit of subtle racism going on in this country, I’ve never felt like I don’t belong here. It is why this incident stood out in my mind.

My partner and I were having a lazy Sunday afternoon stroll down one of the many charming streets in Bangkok, and we could hear Darth Vader huffing and puffing behind us. He took offence to us strolling and wanted to overtake us but didn’t want to waste his breath on an ‘excuse me’. He decided to spend it grumbling instead.

Being the overly sensitive person that I am, I told my partner to give way so Mr Grumpy could walk ahead. When I did that, he loudly threw a few choice expletives at us. I don’t know if he assumed I was Thai and therefore didn’t speak English or if I was another clueless native, but he didn’t seem to care that he was being a complete jerk.

When I reacted with a ‘wow, calm down old man!’, he screamed a few more expletives at us and then said something about Donald Trump and free speech. He did all this without so much as looking at us. He just kept walking ahead of us slow enough for us to hear his opinions.

Funny thing is, we both live in a military run country with a very strong monarchy. The rules of Lèse-majesté are enforced here. Foreigners have to do a 90 day report to immigration in which we mention our place of residence and the details of our social media accounts, doesn’t matter which country you are from. However, Donald Trump winning the American elections somehow means that his ‘no-holds-barred’ rules apply even in this part of the world (at least in the minds of the MAGA clan).

While pondering this as we continued to stroll (ain’t nobody going to ruin our Sunday!), we saw him standing at the shade of a tree, out of breath, red, flustered, I saluted him. He called me a bitch after I walked ahead of where he was. Being the feisty person that I am, I went back and asked him what he said. I thought he would have a heart attack. Suffice it to say, he wasn’t so brave when I asked him to uphold his freedom of speech in front of my face.

Its the debate with no clear answer- do you confront people like this? Or do you just shrug it of? Or will shrugging it off give them more reason to spread their mindset? Or will it be the confrontation that changes them from being moderate to extreme right wing. At the end of the day, in my head, a white man insulted me and thought it was okay to do it because of Donald Trump’s weird version of freedom of speech. In his head, a brown lady (debateable!) got all up in his face.

Anyway, we did manage to get the great views we were hoping to get on our long walk (more on that in the next N-N-1), but we also did run across this ironic graffiti ‘art’ just next to it.

Koh Sichang

A lot of people warned us against going to this island as there was nothing to see or do. It is a quick day-trip for locals to spend the day at a beach without it hurting the bank and without it being a free show of the dreadful farang infestion (their words, not mine!). However, Koh Sichang blew our minds. 

Yes, it is a small fisherman’s village and in that lies all the magic. It is small, tight knit and laid back. And while there is development in terms of restaurants and roads, it still is a place stuck in a magical time bubble. It is beautiful. 

Only 100kms from Bangkok aka 2 hours by an air-conditioned bus from the Ekkamai bus station and a 40 minute ferry and you are far, far, FAR away from the madding crowd. Pure bliss. 

The ferry is at the Sri Racha pier, the name sounds familiar cause they are also a hot sauce we all love (there is a chilli factory in town that we didn’t, unfortuntaley, get to explore). You get off the bus at Robinson’s – you’ll know when half the passengers get off here. A short 50 baht tuk tuk ride away and you’re at a park that also acts as a pier. 

Depending on what time of day you come, you get to climb up or down to a boat. It’s quite adventurous navigating the tide. 

And then you reach Koh Sichang. While I can wax ad nauseum about how amazing it was, I’ll let the pictures do the talking. If I am guilty of not taking to Thailand the way most people do, I am slowly changing my ways. 

Koh Sichang (3)
First view of the island – an unused lighthouse (Unseen, billions of trade ships and barges)
Koh Sichang (2)
Shrimp boats aka the chariot that makes divine seafood grills a reality
Koh Sichang (4)
Unique ‘tuk tuks’ that are half way between a bike and an auto.
IMG_20160521_105524_HDR
A birds eye view of Koh Sichang
The Yellow Buddha, guardian of Koh Sichang
The Yellow Buddha, guardian of Koh Sichang
Koh Sichang (22)
The amazing views he gets to enjoy everyday
Koh Sichang (24)
My noble steed. Allowed us to explore the island from end to end twice over
A 1000 year old tree brought to the island from Bodghaya in India.
A 1000 year old tree brought to the island from Bodghaya in India.
View from the old chinese temple at the top of Koh Sichang
View from the old chinese temple at the top of Koh Sichang
You can see the end of the island from this point in Koh Sichang
You can see the end of the island from this point in Koh Sichang
A shrine to Queen Elizabeth?
A shrine to Queen Elizabeth?
And another to Septa Unella from Game of Thrones? #SHAME
And another to Septa Unella from Game of Thrones? #SHAME
Wishes hanging from the cave inside the old Chinese Temple
Wishes hanging from the cave inside the old Chinese Temple
Guardian of the wishes at the old Chinese Temple at Koh Sichang
Guardian of the wishes at the old Chinese Temple at Koh Sichang
LOW TIDE!
LOW TIDE!
Views of the 'only' beach in Koh Sichang.
Views of the ‘only’ beach in Koh Sichang.
Koh Sichang (29)
Some private beaches that require a bit of effort to find
Some paths begging to be explored
Some paths begging to be explored

Koh Sichang (19)

You are rewarded with spectacular views if you trek a bit
You are rewarded with spectacular views if you trek a bit through the volcanic terrain
Someone's been stacking rocks. A bit scary!
Someone’s been stacking rocks. A bit scary!
Another relic from India - Buddha's Footprint
Another relic from India – Buddha’s Footprint
Some private beaches that require a bit of effort to find
Another beach
IMG_20160521_183020_HDR
If you can capture a moment of zen in a picture, this would be it