(No) Banana Man

My walk to work in the morning used to take me round the corner or Sukumvit and Thong Lor. Everyday (ok well nearly everyday) I would walk past breakfast- stalls piled high with fried rice, fried noodles, rice porridge and other dishes, all ready to be put in a white box or a plastic bag and taken away. Busy people jostled about, their money ready, only to pay and then become the slowest walker ever as they continued up the street, me following closely behind trying to overtake on the right, no on the left, no ok the right… desperate to overtake somehow.

In amongst all this were two of my favourite sellers of breakfast. One was a lady who sold toast. Oh.. but not just any toast. This was delicious barbecued bread. Once the bread had been sufficiently browned over hot coals, it was covered in margarine and then dusted with sugar, or drenched in sweetened condensed milk. Cut up into triangular squares, I would take the sweet sticky bready mess and devour it later on.

Next to her was another barbecue. This guy was selling little banana leaf parcels, neatly held together with a cocktail stick at each end. One day I bravely asked for two, ‘ow sorng na ka’ and squirrelled them to work to find out what they were. To my delight, inside one was sticky rice and something sweet, mushy and lavender coloured (I later found out this was taro). To my disgust, I bit into the other one and… banana.

I.Hate.Banana. With a passion. Ewww. Yuck. Gross. Euuuuuurgh. I mean really.

So, from then on, in my bid to avoid banana poisoning and get the ones I liked, (and because I can be damn determined when I want to be) I attempted.. Wait for it.. I attempted to speak Thai. ‘Mai chop gluaay’ – I don’t like banana. Simple, easy. I wouldn’t get the banana ones again.

Simple… pssht. Every time I attempted the phrase the man would look at me blankly, and put a few parcels in a bag. Every time I would get one banana, one taro… Of course ‘mai’ means a bazillion different things if you change your tone slightly, and ‘gluaay’ well who knows.

Everyday I would try again, say it a different way, draw out ‘gluaaaaaay’, say ‘mai’ high pitched, say ‘mai’ low pitched. No avail. I tried English – ‘No banana’ – and…recognition! ‘Banana?’ he would say, and when I got it back to the office – two banana parcels.

A few months ago I changed jobs, turning my morning walk round the corner to a 25 minute train ride. I also, as it happens, began to officially learn Thai language. My breakfast, however, became something from 7Eleven, or a pastry from a self service bakery. Talk about boring.

This morning I left an hour early for work as I had to go to the bank near my apartment (and I never know how long things will take when they involve me speaking Thai). As I walked back, I saw ‘Banana Man’ as I had since affectionately called him, standing in his usual spot, blue apron on, tongs in hand, midway through rotating all the little parcels so they were evenly and perfectly cooked. I stopped in front of him, smiled, and said ‘No banana’, in English, wondering what the outcome would be.

He smiled back at me. ‘Banana?’ oh no not this again. ‘No, no banana’ I repeated. Confusion. He screwed his face up. Then, out of nowhere, ‘No banana? Uhhh! Mai chop gluaay’, he said. ‘You no like banana. You like taro’.

Cue jaw drop.

Early bird

 

CowsinBruges

One of my favourite things to do on my days off is get up early.

Let me explain. My working week consists of midday starts and 9 pm finishes, meaning that by the time I get home it’s half 9 at least, if I’ve gone to get some food it’s 9.45, by the time I’ve eaten it, probably 10.45 to be honest. And I find it almost impossible to go to bed straight after I’ve eaten. All in all it means I go to bed relatively late. And so inevitably… get up late (ish) the next day. I leave my house at 11, I do have time to do some things in the morning, but always have to consider work, what time to start getting ready… etc etc.

I deliberately set my alarm early on a day off because that whole day is mine. I get up, and do things that need to be done – and do far more in the morning than I would on another day. Then, the time when I would usually be at work is time for relaxing, doing whatever I want to do. I don’t have anything hanging over me.

My days off are often not at the weekend either. This month I have Thursday and Friday off. Meaning that I am relaxing while my colleagues are at work, and while most other people are at work.

There’s something I love about not working when other people are. It feels almost naughty, and somehow makes me relish my free time even more than if everyone was off too, like at the weekend.

I remember being ill one day, not going into school and staying at home. I must have been… in year 7 or 8 I think, so maybe 12. My dad had the day off too, as he works shifts at the airport, and so he looked after me. He had a dentist appointment – and took me in the car with him to where his dentist had a private practice in a housing estate. I sat in the car when he went in. And… there was silence. Everyone else was at work. The dentist was at work. There were no cars at any of the houses, no people walking on the streets. It was an eerie kind of silence – and I loved it. What was everyone else doing? Rushing around, thinking about things they had to do, maybe feeling stressed, finishing things for deadlines… and I could just sit here. I wasn’t bored, I wasn’t lonely, I wasn’t fed up (though I suppose I must have felt ill). Just content.

It’s the same feeling I’ve had before when I’ve had interviews in London. I lived close, but not in London so I had to take the whole day off, (or I was unemployed at the time). I would go up on the train, to London Bridge, or Victoria, get the underground, go for the interview. And then, because I had no real reason to get back.. and the train journey probably cost me a fortune… I would stay in London for a bit. Sure there were tourists around and people in suits on the phone, people meeting other people… but, especially around London Bridge and by the river, it was considerably quiet. Around the docks too, Canary Wharf. I could feel the low gentle buzz of the city, coming from inside offices and tall buildings, all the thoughts going on, the strategies and new ways forward being created.  All the quiet energy. And then suddenly at lunch time it would come bursting out onto the streets. An hour of free time was grasped and people would make the most of it by rushing around to get food, get things done, talk to friends, anything they needed to be done. Then back to work again.

This morning I got up and went out to buy breakfast. A bit later than usual on a day off I have to admit, the early morning fruit lady was packing up her stall and the daytime fruit lady was just setting hers up. ‘Sawatdii ka’ to the daytime fruit lady as I walked past and popped into 7/11 – I hate them and I love them at the same time. I hate them because they are a chain, and I’d rather not take business away from little corner shops. However – they do sell some amazing stuff…and so a Big Pao Moo Deng (Red BBQ pork steamed bun), a yoghurt and a bottle of green tea richer, I stepped back outside onto the pavement (sidestepping the rather porky soi dog that lazily sleeps outside the entrance). I can’t not buy some fruit now… it’ll be the second time I’ve walked past fruit lady… and so I stop to get my usual ‘sabarot’, (pineapple) already cut up into bitesized chunks and with a stick so I can eat it without any washing up.

As I walk back up my soi (lane) I am hit with a terrific urge to go to the beach. The sun is shining, so much so that I cross over to the shade, the street barbecues are out, and the smell of charcoal and cooking meat is everywhere. It makes me think of barbecues in the back garden when I was about 8 – me and my younger sister taking control and donning our shades to stop the smoke getting in our eyes. Barbecues on the beach with friends and digging out the sand so the flames wouldn’t go out all the time. Sitting on Brighton beach drinking cider during Pride festival.

Note to self – need to look up any possible daytrips from Bangkok to the beach. I think there are some if your own car is available, sadly I don’t own one.Hua Hun or Cha-am soon. Then Koh Chang.

Now I’m sitting here, listening to Chopin Nocturne number 2 and wishing I could play the piano. The whole day ahead of me, I’m going to go to the park (when it’s a little cooler) and read, practise guitar (just bought a new one and am soo excited to be teaching myself again). I need to study Thai today too, I have been somewhat lazy as of late. If I had a pool I would swim. Unfortunately I don’t. When I have my medical certificate back I’ll sign up for the public pool down the road. Then this evening maybe a catch up with friends.

And you…? Early bird or late riser?

People

Isn’t it funny how some people remind you of other people? Some people, even though they may be separated by continents and cultures, have similar mannerisms? I often find this intriguing. My mum suggested the idea to me that there are only a certain number of ‘types’ of personality/people in the world – is it this? Or is it that I want to remember my friends, so I project my memory onto other people?

I write this because one of my Thai students totally reminds me of a South African friend back in the UK. I swear he smiles the same, laughs the same, is roughly the same size/height, maybe a bit younger…but so alike. And another student today I considered if she knew one of my friends from the US, I totally think they would be great friends, the way they talk, the things they like.

Hm. Random post :) But it always gets me thinking. And gives me a warm feeling inside. Maybe people aren’t so different after all…?

Cultured

Just a couple of pictures from one or two visits to the Art and Cultural Centre on my days off. It’s free, which makes me incredibly happy – me and hundreds of other people can go and see the different exhibitions they have on, no excuses. At the moment there is a display of artwork from Chiang Mai University students.. I believe.  One day I will actually get some photos of the inside…

Statues and people make interesting subjects…

© Drawing Cows in Bruges