Note: my internet at the office has been horrible lately, thus I have not been able to post blogs as often as I’d like (or send a simple e-mail). This hasn’t stopped me from writing however. I have a number of blogs written and ready to post. Thanks for reading!
My weekend in Bangkok with Erin was highlighted with red wine, the book store (again) and a gift at the Peace Corps office from the gods.
I was scavenging through the bookshelves when Erin said from the other room, “Oh Jeffrey, you’ll never guess what I just found.” I never thought I’d be so fortunate.
Erin and I were beat after arriving at the bus station. It was a short ride, but we hadn’t eaten lunch and knew we would have to face the chaos of Bangkok before finding a good guesthouse. I was shocked when the woman at the front counter said the room was only 350 baht a night (about $12). Then we got to our un-air-conditioned concrete stuffy box and realized why. At least we had our own bathroom, even if it was on the other side of an old-west style swinging door at the head of the bed. We also noticed there was no blanket. It would not be needed.
Upon entering the Peace Corps office in Bangkok, it feels as though you’ve entered an American compound because you have. Only staff members and Peace Corps volunteers are allowed on the premises and a large gate and two guards make sure of this. We felt safe and the air conditioned volunteer lounge made us feel at home. I made a beeline for the bookshelves and quickly spotted a Woody Allen book and was quick to realize luck was in my corner. Moments later I spotted a Charles Bukowski book of short stories and it was after this I heard Erin’s voice.
One part of the volunteer lounge has the bookshelves full of books, DVDs, CDs, magazines and even some games left by volunteers from over the years. The other part has reference books about the language, culture and travel as well as a box with clothes and accessories left by volunteers.
“Oh Jeffrey, you’ll never guess what I just found.”
I knew she found something worthwhile by the tone of her voice. I walked the hardwood floor to find Erin Cooper holding a wood baseball bat. Thank you, God. Thank you, Babe Ruth. Thank you, Kirby Puckett. Thank you, Erin. Thank you, whoever is responsible!
I found a baseball bat in Thailand. You try it!
Erin was shocked when I started swinging it in the lounge as if I was Reggie Jackson in Game 6 of the 1977 World Series (I also had by shirt unbuttoned).
I felt I evened the slate later when I found a book Erin’s been excited to read for a while – The Heartbreaking Work of a Staggering Genius by Dave Eggers. Fantastic memoir. Read it.
Thankfully, Erin found a good backpack otherwise there would have been no way to carry all the books we found back to our guesthouse. Erin, being the fantastic lady friend she is, took all of my suggestions (A Prayer For Owen Meany, Frankenstein, and the Eggers novel) and put them in her pack. I managed to score a Dennis Lehane novel, Setting Free the Bears by John Irving, Hard Times by Charles Dickens and Heart of Darkness.
Walking back to our room through the dark streets of Bangkok, I felt quite secure carrying my Rawlings baseball bat. It was one of the few times I almost wanted a mugger to pull a switchblade on me so I could show Erin my best Jason Kubel impersonation.
We didn’t know the transportation nightmare that was ahead of us when we woke up Saturday morning. We only wanted to get to Siam Square to do some book shopping and eat some Italian food. A woman who spoke English at the guesthouse told us to get on the number 16 bus down the street. She didn’t tell us which side of the street we should get on it. Because of this, we sat on an un-air conditioned bus for over an hour in bumper-to-bumper traffic in the wrong direction. Thankfully, we had a large breakfast and were well hydrated.
When we were the only ones left on the bus, I asked the attendant if the bus went to Siam Square. She told me to get on the same number bus on the other side of the street. We got off, sashayed through the still traffic and made our way to a bus stop. We were tired of buses, so we grabbed a cab. It took so long to get to our destination I was wondering if the driver was lost. He wasn’t. One-hundred and twenty baht ($4) isn’t a lot to a tourist with a steady American paycheck, but it’s a lot to a volunteer. When we finally walked through the sliding doors of the Paradigm mall into the air conditioning, it felt as though we’d jumped from the hot tub to the pool.
After taking our sweet-ass time walking through the mall and book store (managed not to buy anything) we walked to the Italian restaurant only to find it wasn’t open until 5:30. To kill some time we took the BTS train to check out the JJ Market on the north end of town. We walked around for about an hour and a half and didn’t begin to approach seeing half of it. There were so many vendors with so many items. Erin bought a Beatles t-shirt and two others for 370 baht ($12).
The Italian food was good. It wasn’t the food I was excited for, but my first glass of red wine since January. It was served chilled. Really? Really? When I warmed it up with my palms around the glass, Erin and I decided to order a half liter. I asked the owner if we could get it warm he said, “I’m sorry, we have to keep it cold.” No you don’t! It’s red wine! It won’t go bad! Who drinks cold red wine!
I still enjoyed it as well as the meal where we were joined by a number of other volunteers who were staying the neighborhood as well as the owner’s dog that made its way from friendly customer to another.
The next morning was short and a bit sad. After two weeks of friends and laughter, Erin and I were the last two standing. We couldn’t even share a taxi as we went to separate bus stations. A quick kiss, she grabbed the first taxi and I grabbed the second. We were on our own again and back to the toughest job we’ll ever love.