There's quite a bit to report this time. First of all, a scary story. Don't worry though, everyone's all right. We just had one awful night in Bangkok.
We were in town for our group's Mid-Service Conference. One night I was on Kao San Road with my friends Chris and Dave. The bars all close at 1 am. But, there's a place nearby where they lay down mats on the sidewalk and sell drinks out of a truck. I'd been there before. It's a chill spot to drink with falangs and Thais, or so I thought. Also, it's after-hours and, I guess, illegal, so someone's paying off the cops to be there.
Anyway, one Thai girl who worked there was really drunk and, for whatever reason, didn't like the three of us. I don't know what her problem was. I think she didn't like the Thai girls we were talking to or maybe she was mad that we weren't paying attention to her, who knows. Anyway, she got even drunker and started saying things in our direction. We ignored her.
It was late. There was this British dude playing the guitar. The girl came over and yelled at him to stop playing. Chis (one of the nicest, chillest guys) laughed and said, in Thai, "He's just playing for fun, we're all just having a good time, let him keep playing." She got really pissed off, some more words were said, and she kicked him in the head! (She had been standing, he had been sitting)
In Thailand, the head is sacred and the foot is considered dirty, so insult was added to injury. Chris and I stood up. We were both calm and asked "Why did she kick him in the head? What's going on?"
She ran and grabbed two of the guys who ran the place. I don't know what she told them. Maybe she told them that Chris hit her. Anyway, neither of us made any threatening or physical movements. One guy ran up and punched Chris in the face! The second guy, out of nowhere, beat him in the head with a wooden club! Chris was down on the ground, his glasses broken, his head bleeding, stunned. I helped him up and said, "We've gotta get out of here now." We both took off running in the direction of the nearest police station.
While we were running, we passed a gang of guys running in the opposite direction. They were all carrying more clubs and one had a foot-long machete! They were obviously part of the same gang and had been called in for backup.
We found some police. We explained what happened and I brought two of them back to the scene. I pointed out the girl and the two guys. The police did absolutely nothing. Welcome to the third world. They're obviously on the payroll of these guys.
The police took us and the girl back to the station. We were calm and collected. We explained that we were Volunteers here doing development work in Thailand. We said we weren't tourists and that we didn't want any trouble and had never before had any problems. We told our story over and over again. I must say though our Thai was on that night--maybe it was adrenaline, but we were almost fluent. The girl's story kept changing. Still, the police did nothing.
Finally, we called Peace Corps and our Security Officer and Program Manager arrived to help translate. They added a little weight to the situation and also added that we're US Government and connected to the Embassy. In the end, they had Chris file a police report.
The girl's final story was that Chris hit her twice and that she hit him with her flip-flop in self-defense and that it was her flip-flop that caused his wounds.
While we were waiting there (for hours and hours) we saw two falang tourists come in who were bleeding. After seeing them, we realized that these cops probably see bleeding falangs come in every single day.
So, will the police do anything? No. They know who these people are. The guy runs a gang and an all-night illegal bar, also he was pointed out to the police by myself. PC could lean on the Embassy to lean on the police, but it's all doubtful.
There were a number of witnesses. The falangs all took off . Dave ran into two Thai girls when he was getting coffee next to the police station. They saw the whole thing. He asked them to come in and help but they said they were too scared of getting hurt. They also said that the girl does this sort of thing all the time.
So, nothing will come of it. Chris is all right by the way. It was really scary and we were pretty shooken up. I will never go back to Kao San and don't even want to go back to Bangkok. Thailand lost a bit of its luster that night. In the end, though, we had the rest of the week to talk about it and shake it off.
So, that happened.
On a completely different note, here's a disgusting story!
While I was in Bangkok, a rat had burrowed a nest inside my mattress! Pretty gross, huh? What's grosser than that? Read on....
Not only did she burrow a nest, but she then had babies inside the nest! Grossed out yet? Oh, there's more....
Not only were there baby rats living inside my mattress, I failed to notice them for 4 days! This morning I woke up to the sound of scratching and discovered 5 baby rats inside my bed....
I jumped out and screamed and ran around my house a few times in utter disgust. There are few things I hate more than rats. Then, of course, I had to kill the baby rats, which I did not enjoy one iota. I also set out a trap for the mother rat.
People laugh at Peace Corps Thailand and our cell phones and internet and running water and electricity and paved roads, but I think I earned my stripes when I woke up in a bed full of baby rats.
Mid-Service Conference. We're past the halfway mark and this was an opportunity to bring our group together one more time before our Close-of-Service Conference in December. Hard to believe that there's only ten months left. The Conference was fun and it was great to see everyone again and catch up.
My group nominated and elected me as their representative to the Volunteer Advisory Committee! The VAC is a body of PCVs who meet regularly with the Country Director and other key staff to discuss PCThailand policies and PCV issues. I'm the voice of the PCVs. I'm excited about the opportunity, as it's something different for me (politics, what?). Unfortunately, it also means more trips to Bangkok, just when I decided I was done with the place, but so it goes.
The Conference was also a good chance to discuss work with the rest of the group. The Community Enterprise Committee, which I'm a part of, gave a presentation which sparked a lively discussion. Everyone seems pretty jazzed about what we've been doing and the resources we've created (surveys, trainings, etc.). I got some good ideas from the discussion. Hopefully, I'll be able to implement them at site. Also, the CEC got to town a few days early and visited some NGOs in Bangkok. We made some good connections. For example, we found one NGO that does small-business trainings in rural Thailand, exactly what we've been looking for! Of course, they don't have any money, and neither do we, but they were excited about working with us.
Oddly enough, also in Bangkok were a couple of other PCVs from Mongolia and Kirgizstan. Bangkok is the medical hub for PCVs in Asia. Anyway, the guy from Mongolia, Sean, happened to be at my going-away party in San Francisco back in 2004! Ironically, he was there looking at my soon-to-be-vacated room. Talk about a small world! It was cool to talk to some PCVs from other areas. The girl from Kirgizstan said she cried in the taxi from the airport when she saw how developed Bangkok was. We assured her that Bangkok is nothing like the rest of Thailand. But, on the other hand, we have cell phones and she doesn't even have water. I wonder if she's ever had rats in her bed.... Also, my friend Josh had a friend in town who was a PCV in Ukraine. She said when she was there they also referred to the Ukraine as the Posh Corps. But, now she realized that Ukraine is not the Posh Corps, it is Thailand....
I got my yearly check-up and I'm healthy. I've lost four pounds since I arrived in Thailand. Also, I had a cavity, which I got filled (love the PC medical benefits). We all agreed that our dental cleanings were ridiculous! Seriously, I felt that there was a bar-fight in my mouth. I've never had a cleaning that rough, that painful. Everyone walked out clutching their jaws. Scrapings, pokings, strange noises, bleeding gums.... Beware dentists in Thailand....
Otherwise, I'm now back at site, broke and staying put for a while. It's good to be back where life is simple. The hot season is ending (slowly) and the rainy season is beginning. People are already out in the rice fields plowing the earth and laying the first seeds. I hope to be out there myself within the next couple of weeks. I'll tell you all about it. Until then,
Much peace and love,