Tuesday, January 31, 2012
My English Connection
This is Rod, my new buddy at the condo. The restaurant in the picture is a Scoozi, one of a chain of pizza parlors in Bangkok. They adjust to suit the neighborhood, or their surroundings anyway, some are plain and some are fancy. This one is in a new mall, “outdoor style,” close to our building, and although the neighborhood is decidedly mixed demographically, with many students, this mall is very hi-so (Thai for high-society). So this Scoozi is quite fancy, with a high-line menu, a very nice layout, and a big wine list (fifteen to forty-five dollars a bottle; four dollars a glass).
We stuck with the pizza, and it was great. They deliver, but it’s always cold by the time it gets there, so a visit is the way to go.
Rod is very simpatico, and, being from Illinois, he is fluent in the American idiom of the English language. I had been spending weeks at a time without having a conversation with a native English speaker, so it was a real joy to meet Rod. He’s a smart guy and a very experienced ex-pat, and he’s a great source of reliable information. It’s great to have someone to speak with in the mother tongue, not having to slow everything down to a standstill and simplify everything. But I’ll tell you, we still avoid talking about anything that would provide clues to our real hearts-of-hearts.
That would be silly, after all. One of the best things about being in Thailand, we agree, is that no one can tell if you are a damaged person, if you are depressed all the time, if you are overly cynical or unremittingly negative, no, they cannot tell at all, not even if you tried to explain it to them. If you are a failure, or if you have made horrible mistakes in life, all is forgotten. We love the fact that one can re-invent oneself over here. If you keep a smile on your face and remain cheerful and polite you can become what you present to the world. Thanks to the language barrier, which I assure you is deep and wide, all conversation is reduced to platitudes. If you're careful, you can almost forget those other nasty details yourself. It’s great, it really is a great blessing.
Rod, I'm sure, has nothing in his past to hide or be less than thrilled to recall. It's just a phenomenon that interests us.
The situation is helpful clinically as well. The doctors will tell you that any depressed person has his triggers, words, thoughts, people, things that set off the darkness. Most or even all of the triggers can be rendered harmless in a place like Thailand. Even beyond the helpful language barrier, Thai culture avoids negatives on its own and tries to keep everything on a nice, even keel.
Rod and I have a great time talking about things. We have wide ranging discussions on a full range of issues. We talk about things that affect only us and others so situated, like VISA and travel issues, we talk about our friends and our activities, and we talk about weird aspects of the American experience in the Twenty-First Century. We self-censor though, to keep our old, less pleasant realities safely tucked away.
We’ve simplified our lives. We’re not seeking adventure, we’re running away from it (and stumbling into new and more manageable adventures along the way). We’re the lucky ones, having found a clean, safe, friendly place to do so. We appreciate our good fortune. It just might be the basis of a nice friendship.