Tag Archives: Asia

The Raccoon Cafe

Somewhere more photographic evidence exists, but I only took the two pictures on my phone and Jasmine isn’t handing any over! 

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The conversation went something like this:

Jasmine: “We could do a theme cafe. Like, a cat cafe or a dog cafe. There is also a raccoon cafe.”

Me: “Raccoons? It is a cafe with raccoons?” 

Jasmine: “Yep, you can pet them and play with them and stuff.”

Me: “That sounds like a horrible idea. We obviously have to do it!”

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And so we did. You drink the coffee before playing with the raccoons, but otherwise it is pretty much free rein. 

Turns out, raccoons are spoiled brats. 

I was petting one and it climbed on me and stole my hair clip. It then hid in a corner and gnawed on it. I won’t lie, I was all for letting it choke and die on the thing, but Jasmine took sympathy and tried to steal the hair clip back. 

In thanks, it bit her. 

It also managed to finish consuming my hair clip without choking. 

It was one of those experiences I’m glad I did because now I can say I played with raccoons but also it took my ambivalent dislike for raccoons and turned it into loathing. Not sure that is what the cafe was going for. 


Where Normal People Shop

I feel like I leveled up again in my Thailand experiences. After living here 5 months, I finally found a place where normal people shop.

See, prior to today the shops I found fell into two categories: Wal Mart or Prada. Either you go to Tesco or Circle C and get cheaply made clothing for a cheap price or you visit a super pricey mall and pay through the nose for something of extremely good quality. Which really begs the question, where are the Kohls? The Targets? The Shopkos? (Sob, Shopko is bankrupt.) 

Today my friend took me to a mall I had yet to visit and I feel like I finally found where normal people shop. Like most malls here, it topped 6+ stories. Unlike the malls I previously visited, however, it lacked organization. Basically, imagine the chaos of an outdoor market but indoors. But with affordable prices. And better quality clothes. 

In a sense, it reminded me of visiting Goodwill. You never know what you will find and you cannot return it. Except you also cannot try anything on because this is Thailand and for some reason trying on clothes before you buy them seems a foreign concept outside of high quality malls. 

But I am pleased. I may have less than a week to go here in Thailand but I’m still learning new stuff!


Church Family

Especially lately, I often feel like my frustrations with Thailand keep snowballing into bigger and bigger drama where I just throw up my hands up in exasperation and count the days till I get to go home. But you know, there is one area where I have no frustration and only gratitude. One area I probably don’t talk about enough on this blog: my church family. 

I am so grateful for my spiritual family at Calvary Baptist Church in Bangkok. They’ve been my strength, support, and encouragement this semester. From opening my eyes to the plights of the countless refugees in Thailand to filling my Wednesday night with laughter and fellowship, this church has served as a rock in an often stormy and confusing environment. 

I’m often inclined to make sweeping statements like, “I only have 3 friends in Bangkok.” Which is true if I look at the students I connected with at school. But if you look at the people I see every Sunday and Wednesday, the people I talk and laugh and eat with, the people who get me out of my apartment and out of my head, I must have easily 3 dozen friends!

I have friends from the Philippines, from Vietnam, from China, from Japan, from Australia. Friends from the U.S. and, yes, even from Thailand! I am so blessed to have had these last three months with them. I will miss their fellowship more than anything when I leave. 

It is easy for me to focus on the negatives: a taxi driver who ripped me off, a class presentation gone wrong, the perpetual stink of sewer in the air. But woven throughout my experience this semester, God’s love came pouring out through His church. I cannot imagine this experience out them. And I cannot wait for the day when every tongue, every tribe, and every nation will gather and we will experience even better fellowship for all eternity. 


The Little Things

My first two months living abroad were an exercise in powerlessness. By powerlessness, I mean the feeling of “I don’t know what to do.” Everything around me came with a learning curve. Transportation, food, working the air conditioning…literally all of it took effort. But over time, I mastered them. And then I moved on to the next set of challenges: developing a social life. It took a while. Again, though, I eventually made friends and found a church and braved the masses playing tourist. The last two months I feel like I really hit my swing.

But there are days like today when the last four months rewind and I feel powerless again.  When that happens, I’m generally not in a situation where you would expect powerlessness. I did not lose my debit card or miss my bus stop and end up on the outskirts of Bangkok again. I am not battling with hundreds of people to get my visa renewed. No, I feel powerless because all the little things keep adding up and I finally crack. 

Little things like:

  • My bus to school costs 14 baht instead of 13 baht. And I do not know why. Did it change permanently? Is it because I’m riding on a Thursday? Or because I’m riding ten minutes later than I normally do? Was I just taken advantage of? It is the same distance. The same bus. The same commuters. But some days I’m charged 13 baht and some days 14 and sometimes even 15. And I cannot find the pattern, the rhyme or reason. A tiny thing in the big picture, but then…
  • My professor absent-mindedly starts speaking Thai, or shows a slide in Thai, or tells us “since you all took Thai Civil Procedure, I will not spend any time on this part.” But of course I have not taken Thai Civil Procedure. I do not know Thai. I feel like I am missing something critical. Maybe a classmate sees my confused face and leans over to translate. Maybe the professor apologizes and explains to me. Or maybe I am just left in the dark. A little thing, but for a few moments I feel helpless and like I am missing something critical. I feel like a failure for not grasping the subject. 
  • My school cancels class. Again. Or schedules a make-up class with less than 24 hours notice. Suddenly, I’m scrambling to remember what is going on and where I am supposed to be. Chances are I have a class conflict. Then I’m wondering which course I should attend and if someone will grab notes for me in the other one. I feel like a terrible student but I do not know what to do. I cannot be in two places at once. I haven’t been to Fundamental Rights in 5 weeks. I’m a failure. 
  • The convenience store lacks whatever I am looking for. I cannot find the pattern for when they carry certain things and when they don’t. Some days the store overflows with food. Some days the shelves look bare. Some days I can find cake; some days they carry Oreos. But then the next month they do not carry either. Such a weird thing to leave me feeling unstable, but I do feel unstable. I am used to stores running out, but I am not used to stores not quickly replenishing their stock when they do. Or, you know, not ever carrying that thing again. Imagine a Wal Greens where the snack options randomly disappear and reappear every few months and only endless rows of dried seaweed and ramen stayed the same. But you have no explanation for why. It just is.

In the big scheme of things, none of these things matter much. An additional class, an extra baht, one less day with chips. But added together, these little moments of powerlessness add up. I cannot find the pattern. I cannot accomplish the thing. Panic sets in. And even though it is just momentary panic, add enough of them together and I feel a bit like a pin ball machine. 

Then add extreme heat, humidity, millions of other humans, and taxi drivers with a perchance for charging you triple the actual price and I start thinking nostalgically of the misery that was my schedule last semester. 

My friend, Ginnie, sent me a quote from a book she is reading and I love the way it sums up the emotion (albeit of Vietnam, not Thailand specifically): 

“Because life in Vietnam is one body-crushing, must-do, crowd-throbbing, mind-heavy, event after another. It takes all my energy just to react.” Listen, Slowly by Thanhha Lai

All my energy just to react. Welcome to life abroad in Asia. 


Walking in the Sun

If I am walking down a half-shaded sidewalk, I will walk on the sunny part. If someone whips out an umbrella to use as a sun shade, I will politely decline. If waiting for the bus, I will avoid the shade of the tree. 

I do not know if it is an Amy thing, or a non-Asian thing, or an American thing, but it keeps happening and my friends here keep commenting: I gravitate towards the sun.

Partially, I think the reason is that I take other steps to avoid the sun. I wear floppy hats and sunglasses and long sleeves. I look like I have a sun allergy half the time. I might as well enjoy my protection. 

Partially, I think my Asian friends avoid the sun because they want to avoid getting tan. I have no fear of tanning. I mean, I burn. And, yeah, lobster red is not my favorite color. But I know at the end of the day it will fade and I will go back to pasty white. So, I do not fear the consequences of the sun (outside of a general fear of skin cancer, of course, but I doubt standing under a tree will help me much there.)

Partially, I think I gravitate towards the sunny areas because no one else is standing in them. There are so many people in Bangkok. If I see a square foot without another human being, I’m going to go stand in it. Because why not? 

Partially, however, I think I gravitate to the sun because…why not? Maybe I do not know better. I have managed to avoid bad sunburns. And while it has been warm, only recently have the temperatures consistently reached three digits. (Plus, once again, I doubt being under a tree will help much when it is 101 degrees with 70% humidity.)

But whatever the reason, it is noticeable enough for people to comment on my weird affection for the light!

(Joke is on them because as a redhead I need less vitamin D and will therefore survive longer when the apocalypse hits and we all hide in basement bunkers.)


Happy (Belated) Resurrection Sunday!

Happy (Belated) Resurrection Sunday, everyone! I got back late Friday night from Krabi and discovered I had a presentation due Saturday morning. For better or worse, after staying up late finishing it, I showed up to class and the professor decided to cancel all presentations. 

On Sunday I attended a pot luck at my church. I brought root beer and Doritos, thinking it a fitting American combination. This was a mistake. The non-native English speakers couldn’t get past the word “beer” in “root beer.” I kept trying to explain it was soda, but no one believed me! Half the group refused to try it and the other half furtively shoved cans in their respective backpacks and purses without making eye contact. 

I convinced my friend Sunny to take a sip and after the teeniest of swallows, she announced: “Bitter beer!”

Which was, of course, the nail in the coffin. 

The pastor and his wife are from Texas and found the whole thing hilarious. To the rest of the church, however, I am the girl who brought two cases of beer to the Southern Baptist church potluck.

(Potluck being another confusing English phrase, half the church confusing it with “jackpot” and assuming some form of gambling.) 


Whitening Lotion

Today on Weird Problems I Did Not Expect When Moving to Asia…I cannot find body lotion that does not contain a whitening agent. Think tanning lotion but in reverse. And if there is one thing I do not need, it is whiter skin. 

In an ideal world, I am looking for lotion that won’t clog my skin with chemicals, but I’ve recently decided to broaden my search out of just plain pure desperation for some lotion. And yet even with a broader search, I keep running into the whitening stuff! It is even in sun screen!