I have spent the last 24 hours mainly sleeping. Jetlag is a killer and after a 24-ish hour journey to get here, my body was never going to be raring to go this morning, and it’s a good job. It is chuffing hot. With a high of 34 degrees, I tried to take myself on a walk to find my bearings - which I did, I found the bus stop and the local 7Eleven (a local supermarket - as common to Thailand as postboxes to the UK) - but I did not walk far from the house where I’m staying, one where you feel as if you’re in paradise in a garden housing a plethora of tropical plants. It’s the house of a family who know my father-in-law. He knows people all around the world and having stayed with ‘strangers’ before, I have become pretty used to it. By the end of my time with them, I can safely say I will probably call them friends. We haven’t spent too much time together yet, but their hospitality has been incredible. They have already served me three meals, all of which were delicious. It would be pretty easy to let myself feel lonely right now, what with some of their English being limited, and the little public transport around here, but I am taking my time to just let myself sit and appreciate the privilege it is to experience another culture.
One of the first things I learnt was a greeting. When Mary, one of the ladies of the family, picked me up, she asked me ‘have you eaten?’ I said yes, because I’d just eaten some weird breakfast thing on the plane but she later explained that ‘have you eaten?’ is the Thai equivalent of ‘How are you?’ She said that quite often Thai people will not ask you how you are but they will instead say ‘have you eaten?’ And if you haven’t, they will take you somewhere to eat with and fellowship with them. I thought that was pretty cool and actually much better than our customary British ‘how are you?’ and then our sudden, ‘oh I better listen’ response when someone says anything other than the expected ‘I’m fine thanks, how are you?’ It made me wonder about cross-cultural greetings and how actually, there are many things we don’t understand about them. On the face of it, if you were to notice that people don’t tend to ask ‘how are you?’ (I personally wouldn’t notice because the offer of food would probably negate any other thought process at the time), you may think they are being rude or they don’t care about your welfare? But that’s not true. Equally, I’ve noticed today that the family were up early - I mean really early. I needed the toilet (as you do) at about 6am and got up to ‘creep’ to the bathroom without disturbing anyone. To my complete surprise, the family were all up chatting, some dressed, tv on, making phone calls, the works! I thought ‘huh, that’s odd’ but then went back to sleep. Now it comes to between the hours of 10am-2pm and I’m awake, ready to do something or go for my walk (very short-lived) and they are sleeping! What is going on?! As soon as I half-died on my walk and actually thought about this - obviously it's because it's so hot here! Us Brits and probably most Western places (the hot places will have air con EVERYWHERE) are up and at it most of the day but here, you can’t do that all the time. That got me thinking about things too - if you were to hear that grown people and not just teenagers slept through the afternoon, you could think ‘that’s wasteful’ or ‘they’re not very productive, are they?’ But you would have made that judgement without considering the full truth of the situation. That this is their culture, this is what their family does, or they might be poorly or heck, it is a Saturday! I hope they’re not poorly, because that would be coming my way too. I guess what I’ve learnt in my first 24 hours is when traveling somewhere new, there’s something quite nice about a recovery day to take stock and observe the things around you and try to understand them more and in that way, you can understand and relate to the people better. So I’ll report back on how that’s going later in the week!
For now, I’m sitting outside and sweating - I need to go back to the fan in my bedroom before perhaps heading into the local town.
A final passing note - the family has a cat. I am really allergic to cats, but apparently, not here? I’ve had next to no symptoms. Huh, funny. Is that because of the heat too? I’ll have a Google and find out.
P.s. don’t tell Stephen - he’ll have us relocating to a hot country just so we can have a cat.
Until next time and have happy days,