“Sometimes I give myself the creeps / Sometimes my mind plays tricks on me / It all keeps adding up / I think I’m cracking up.” – Green Day
“I was alone / I took a ride/ I didn’t know what I would find there … Then I suddenly see you / Did I tell you that I need you every single day of my life / Got to get you into my life.” – McCartney/Lennon
The Peace Corps is supposed to help me become a better person, but I’ve acquired a new addiction since arriving in Thailand. No, I have no interest in cigarettes and haven’t had a cigar since I got here and I will never contribute to the world of prostitution (both ways).
Like in the states where every new town visited I would seek out the ball park and microbrewery, I now find myself searching each new amphur of Thailand for one thing: a stationery store. This country does not have very good beer or any baseball, so I will have to settle for notebooks.
There’s something sexy about a brand new blank notebook. Like a centerfielder who quickly rose through the minor leagues and is in the starting lineup on opening day at the age of 21; there’s so much potential. So much vital information could be placed within the pages (my 11th grade ancient civilization notes) and there’s also the potential for complete disappointment (my journal – age 18).
The grandiose thoughts of a good notebook have been traced throughout history. I’m currently reading Team of Rivals by Doris Kearns Goodwin. This book wouldn’t be possible without the journals and diaries of those who were close to Abraham Lincoln. I’m willing to bet Honest Abe’s cockles were warmed with every new leather-bound journal he purchased. The name Anne Frank would be one of six million we never got to know if it wasn’t for her diary.
The notebook I’ve always wanted to duplicate in its value and chaotic organization is owned by Dr. Henry Jones (played by Sean Connery) in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. The entire film revolves around the answers within Dr. Jones’s father’s diary. Many men are killed in the battle to take the diary which holds the map and riddles to find the Holy Grail.
“The quest for the grail is not archeology, it’s a race against evil. If it is captured by the Nazis the armies of darkness will march all over the face of the earth.”
This is the possibilities I’m talking about with a fresh unused notebook. There’s no telling how pertinent the information you write in it will become.
The notebooks in Thailand are not your standard spiral-bound, wide/college-ruled, 69-cent Target back-to-school specials. There is a wide variety: from very cheap staple-bound, paper-back, 30-page notebooks that come in packs of eight, to leather-bound, high-quality journals with snapping locks (my cockles are warmed just thinking of them). Every stationery store has something different.
Some notebooks can be very entertaining. In the states, the standards of any words printed on the covers are high. Any English words will be read by English speakers thus, the words must mean something. I once asked my language instructor is any of the Thai people understand the English words printed on their t-shirts. He told me no, they just find it fashionable to have English printed on their clothing. The same goes for the notebooks. Horrible, broken English is printed on many of them to hilarious results.
Erin has a notebook with a drawing of a rainbow and a bear and a small boy walking together on it with a caption that reads, “He described in bright colours the happy and easy life of scholars in calcutta society.” Borat couldn’t have come up a sentence as incomprehensible as that.
I am fortunate enough to not have to go through this addiction by myself. Erin also suffers from the same low-priced ailment. Sometimes at night we talk dirty about the sexy new notebook we just bought or saw at the store. I’m looking forward to traveling together where we can sought out the nearest stationery store together and salivate over the pages of bound potential.
Raan kruang-kian yuu tii nii krap? (Where is the stationery store?)
Rann kruang-kian tii noon dtit gap raan soo-pee-nii. (The stationery store is there, next to the brothel.)
I already have one small notebook filled with my journal, another with notes from my language class, two pocket-sized ones filled with useful Thai words and expressions and another where I’m teaching myself to write Thai. There’s a new notebook that is filling quickly with journal entries while the another is used to practice Thai. Two years is a long time. I’m not planning to find the Holy Grail, but I’ll settle for a good stationery store.