Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Line Up, Pleeease!!

I... am... happy!!! Yay!!!

Back at the language school, with less than two hours to go before my first interactions with the kiddies, I was informed by my boss that the shoelace-like substance in my bun was in fact, pork. My boss, to his credit, managed to stifle his laughter as he explained to the long term vegetarian that Thai people are not especially fond of plain things and often put meat in the center of the bun to add a little flavour. 
Craig, who was also in the office, listened to our conversation with a smirk on his face and kindly offered to take me out to dinner to P’roons. He knew the owners there and was sure they could cook me something delicious and pork free. Craig's  favor meant the world to me. Knowing where my next meal was coming from enabled me to ignore the gnawing ache of hunger that was eating away at my stomach's burnt-out remains, and focus on the lesson I was about to observe. I was thankful for the noise from the arriving students drifting up the stairs, because it just managed to override the hungry, looping growls from my stomach.
 We quickly headed downstairs to greet the students. There were 5 of us teaching at the language school, Craig, Ira, Bonnie, Jamie (fellow Canadian!) and I. I was supposed to be taking over my boss's class so he could focus more on management duties. 
We stepped out of the office and into the heat wave of the hallway. I knew I was only observing today, but I was still nervous to meet my future students. When I get nervous, I become a middle aged construction worker, I begin to sweat and fart uncontrollably. I also get sudden and undeniable urges to poo. I figure this is my body’s way of removing me from a situation that my brain has deemed too stressful. However, the spicy gruel of this morning’s breakfast thwarted my body's carefully constructed plan because I was pretty sure that I had already let go of everything that was (or had ever been) inside me. So, even when my brain tried to tell me I needed to poo, I could over ride this order, secure in the knowledge that my stomach’s contents had been effectively evacuated this morning.
We turned the corner in the staircase and there they were. About 40 students stopped dead from the games they were playing and stared up the stairwell. It took about 10 seconds before they erupted. They each began shouting their individual teacher’s name and gathered at the bottom of the stairs in a mob with hands outstretched. Ira was the first to dive into the fray. He received a group hug from about 5 students. Then he leaned back and face up at the ceiling he shouted “How are you?!”  A sing song chorus of students shouted back, “ I am happy!! Yay!!!” Then things settled down, as the majority of students resumed their games and began watching cartoons on T.V again.
 Two beautiful pre- teen girls approached me and shyly asked my name. “My name is Victoria.” “Ahhh,” they answered, “Wicdoria.” “What are your names?” I asked. “My name is Pim “ the young lady on the right answered. Then the on the left perked up and responded, “My name is Oum.” “Nice to meet you” I said. They chorused back at me “Nice to meet you too!” then they drifted off to the corner of the lobby, presumably to discuss if the new teacher had passed the test.
Just from looking around the lobby it was easy to tell that everyone has a distinctive teaching style. My boss and Jamie were the perfect mix of disciplinarian and clown. They goofed with the kids, playfully bopping the younger students on the bottom and picking them up and tossing them to the ceiling, while occasionally shouting at the older ones to stop roughhousing.
 Ira was just a goofball. He was engaged in a wrestling match with four of the students and I could see his smile beaming from under the doggy pile.  Craig was a mellow teacher, he was sitting on a bench with the older students watching T.V with them and sharing a snack that looked like long, yellow shoelaces. (I was getting concerned about this fascination with shoelaces and cuisine.) Bonnie was a comforting, motherly teacher. She sat down on the floor with the more relaxed little ones and I smiled as I saw one of them lean their head on her shoulder and the other put her hand on Bonnie’s knee. 
Just then, my new boss paused the television and bellowed “Line up, Please!” All the students rushed to the staircase and lined up in front of their respective teachers. Game on.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Dontcha put it in your mouth.......

Angels singing.....


Ring of fire. Seriously. My morning gaff of speaking too harshly with my new boss had resulted in me finishing my entire bowl of chili laced gruel as a form of apology. Now, 4 hours later, I was sitting in my heat box sauna of a bathroom alternately pooing fire water and being violated by the ass hose. It was an unpleasant way to start off my whole ‘try new things’ lifestyle.
( If new things result in fire poo, then new age folks can have them, pass the mayo and ketchup please.) 
As I sat on the toilet giving the ass hose the evil eye I realized that I would have to stay true to some of the old me. I was in this for the long haul (a YEAR at least!) and I must pace myself.  Staying strong and healthy was probably the best way to keep being able to try new things, so I decided to swear off spicy breakfast, and head to the 7-11 about a five minute walk away. My new boss had taken pity on me and told me that they had bread and banana muffins there, so I had decided to stock up.
It was hot. Not Canadian summer hot, where you are so grateful to wear a t-shirt that happiness seeps out of every pore, but Thailand hot where you are so scared to get caught in the sun, that you dash from shade spot to shade spot and sweat seeps out of every pore. The 7-11 was on the other side of the street (of course!) so I had to engage in the crossing the street warfare yet again. Luckily, I had been trained earlier that day. 
I waited for a gap in the traffic on my side of the road and bolted for the white divider line, and then I stood firmly as the cars whizzed by and I waited for another gap.  Once I had successfully reached the other side of the street I was filled with an enormous amount of pride because I had done it all alone. 
(When I was planning my trip overseas I had visions of myself mastering the Thai language, doing charity work, and generally taking Thailand by storm, but since ‘effective street crossing’ had been added to my list, I knew I would have to revise these goals.)
With the swoosh of an automatic door and a blast of air conditioning, I knew I had found heaven. The staff behind the counter greeted me with the standard, “Sawasdee Ka” and I floated toward the aisles. It seemed like a very normal 7-11. Sure, it was missing a few of the staples from back home, like nachos and good chocolate, and the chip flavors had been altered for the eastern palate, but it was like a climate controlled paradise. I grabbed a shopping basket and picked up the essentials like a new toothbrush and toilet paper, then I moved on to the fun stuff. Food shopping. 
My stomach had finally calmed down after my breakfast of spicy rice soup and I looked at the shelves of bread with a homesick longing. I carefully selected two non-offensive looking buns and placed them in my basket. I also grabbed a bottle of orange juice and some gum. I laughed again at the exotic chip flavors, ranging from Spicy Dried Squid to Nori Seaweed, and then headed for the cashier. It was such a relief to know that the prices were pre-set and I would not have to do any of the haggling that the east is so famous for.
The check out went fine. The price was clearly marked on the monitor and I merely had to hand over my money and receive my change. I managed to say thank you in Thai and received a beaming smile from the cashier.  This was the first task that I felt I had successfully conquered. I stepped back out onto the street so full of confidence and happiness that I didn’t even mind the sun. The glare suddenly seemed perfect because I felt so much brighter on the inside. 
I set off to meet my new boss at the language school, about a 10 minute walk away, and reached into my bag to pull out the glorious bun. I first took a few big chugs of orange juice and then I opened the bun from its plastic packaging and took a small, savory bite. It was a little on the sweet side, but it was heavenly bland.
 I took another big bite and felt something dry, stringy and furry in my mouth. Without caring about the other pedestrians watching the sweaty farang on her walk, I spit the furry bit out into my hand. It looked exactly as it had tasted; like dry, furry, thin, brown shoelaces. Damn it. I tossed the barely eaten bun back into my bag and heading toward the language school, no longer prancing in the sunshine, but instead darting again from shadow to shadow.

Dontcha put it in your mouth....
Dontcha stuff it in your face....
'Till you ask someone you love
If it's okay to taste.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Spicy Breakfast

Thai oatmeal


Entering the small restaurant I noticed a slowly rotating ceiling fan. I am sure it was originally a cream color but the dust and spider webs had collected and turned it a grainy shade of brown. It’s drooping head and slow motion reminded me of my own state of mind. The heat felt like a contagious fog that had permeated every pore. 
Breaking my intense bond with the slow motion ceiling fan, my boss cut in and asked,
 “This is a rice soup breakfast place would you like it with fish or with pork?” 
Startled, I realized that I had yet to mention that I was a 10 year vegetarian.  “Don’t eat the meat” I said and immediately regretted my casual response when I saw his face drop. 
“Ohh, ummm, okay. That makes things a little difficult. You eat eggs? “ 
“Yes, I do. I quite like them.” I hoped my over enthusiasm for eggs and egg products would make up for the obvious disappointment of my no death policy. 
“Good then. You can have rice soup and egg.” My boss waved over a waiter and ordered our soup in Thai. 
“So,” I awkwardly broke in, “will my vegetarianism be a problem in Thailand? I though the whole Buddist thing would make it easier.”
 My boss cleared his throat as he prepared to break my Buddha bubble, “There are a few options for you but basically Thai Buddists think of vegetarianism as something you do for a period of time, as a cleansing, then you go back to the meat. I fear you will have limited options, but there are plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables.”
 “I am sure I can figure it out!” I responded with a persistent cheerfulness that was even beginning to irritate me.
The waiter brought over our soup and placed it on the rickety plastic table. With instinctive Canadian courtesy I responded, “thank you” and I received one of those famed Thai smiles.  My boss put away the array of training papers he had lain out on the table and then from the center of the table he grabbed a tin and glass, four leaf clover shaped spice holder. He proceeded to put a small spoonful of dry red chili flakes into his soup and politely offer the spoon to me. I turned down the exotic looking spoonful while explaining,
 “I think I will take it very easy on the spice for my first little while. I grew up on salt, pepper, ketchup and mayonnaise. I can handle rice soup for breakfast, feels a little bit like porridge, but adding hot peppers? My bowels are already screaming just looking at that little spoon.” 
My boss managed a smile but I saw some dismay in his eyes and I realized that by talking about bowel movements at the breakfast table, I had potentially compromised the instinctive Canadian courtesy.
The soup did indeed remind me of the stand-by camp breakfast of porridge, but it was missing the option of whole cream, brown sugar or maple syrup. Instead, I had the option of dried red pepper flakes, green and orange sliced peppers in a clear sauce, some kind of plain black sauce as well as a black sauce complete with good-time floating peppers. 
None of the options appealed to me at 8:30 in the morning. In fact, the concept of eating spicy morning gruel when I already had a visible sweat line creeping down my spine seemed downright sado-masochistic. 
“Spicy breakfast is a first for me” I told my boss as I played the child’s game of ‘move your food around so it looks like you are eating it’ (doesn’t work so well with rice soup, can’t really rearrange it). 
“The food can throw many people at first but soon you will come to love the spice and you will find that food without the spice becomes quite boring.” 
“I suppose I might,” I replied as I noticed a few extra drops of sweat appear on his brow every time he took another spoonful. “but eating has never really been about pain for me. Spicy food is painful and it makes me sweat more, so logically I am not very interested in it.” 
My boss stopped eating and looked up at me with concern, “Victoria, take a moment to remember that you are in Thailand and things will not always be the same as where you are from, in fact, the way things are done here may seem to defy ‘logic’ as you put it, but it is always best to try new things.” 
I returned my boss's gaze, thought for a moment, and then reached for a spoonful of the dried red chilies, “I get the message.”

Now be a good girl and add some chillies
to your breakfast.
(A phrase Mum never used when I was growing up.)

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

How the farang crossed the street in Surat Thani.

Take a deep breath, close your eyes and run.
(maybe skip step 2)

Feeling grateful that I wasn’t about to die, I got dressed quickly and cheerfully started walking to the end of the alleyway, it was only 7:45 in the morning but the heat was already in full swing. I walked in the shadows of buildings as much as I could, only stepping into the sunshine to dodge the blue trash barrels where a cluster of chickens now hovered under a haze of sun-drunk flies. 
  Those trash barrels seemed to support a lot of life, flies and chickens during the day, rats and cockroaches at night and mangy dogs at all hours. I continued past the trash barrels passing two faded yellow, one story houses and an off white three story apartment complex that had many pieces of re-bar sticking out the side. I stepped even further into the shadows at the requests of a passing motorbike. The driver beeped his horn to warn me, then waved and shouted “Hey You!” as he passed.  I smiled back, unsure if I had just been reprimanded for uncouth walking etiquette or merely greeted with a Thai version of good morning. From the smile on the motorcyclists face I figured it was just a kind greeting, although it did sound quite aggressive.
The end of the alley way spilled out into the major street that my new boss and I had driven in on the day before. There was a lot of traffic, mostly motorbikes and huge pick-up trucks, which offered an interesting juxtaposition. It looked as if the pick-ups were hunting the little motorbikes, waiting for the right moment to attack and crush them.  Amongst the fast moving pick-ups and motorbikes there was also a lady in a wide straw hat, pushing a large cart filled with ice and fruit.  I recognized watermelon and pineapple but couldn’t identify anything else. The fruit lady smiled as she past me and said “Farang.” I had read about this word, used as a blanket term for most foreigners. I wasn’t sure how to respond but shouting “Thai!” back seemed a little uncouth so I just smiled at her and over her shoulder I noticed the boss's car pull over on the opposite side of the road. 
 To get to my boss's car meant I had to cross the busy street, which was even more confusing because the cars were driving on the left hand side of the road. I stepped toward the edge of the curb, shading my eyes from the sun and waiting for a break in the traffic.  There would be an opening coming from the right hand side but then the other side was always flowing steadily. A couple of times I saw a brief opening, figuring I could make it if I really ran, but in the second it took me to decide if I was going to go for it, a motorbike would shoot out from behind a slowly approaching car and force me back on to the sidewalk. 
After 5 minutes of unsuccessful attempts, which felt more like 20 because I knew my new boss was watching me from behind his tinted windows, a young man from the key making shop behind me stepped out onto the curb. He didn’t say a word, merely motioned for me to follow him as he stepped out into the street. We had an opening on our side of the street but the opposite side was still flowing with traffic. The man just walked to the middle of the road and then stopped. I stood next to him as cars, trucks and motorbikes flowed by on both sides. We stood together, in the middle of 60 km/hour traffic, my heart beating faster at every burst of wind from a passing vehicle. Then the traffic cleared on the opposite side of the road and the man motioned for me to cross.  When I had safely reached the sidewalk, I turned back to say thanks, but the man had already re-entered his key shop.
I approached what I thought was the passenger side door, only to see the tinted window roll down and my boss's smiling face. 
“You expecting to drive?” he laughed good naturedly. 
“Sorry, still getting used to all this.” I replied as I rushed to the other side. 
The air conditioner was on full blast and it felt like Freon heaven.  “You have a good sleep?” my boss politely asked.
 “Sure, the roosters were a little frustrating but I managed to catch a few hours.”  I replied. 
We drove toward the restaurant in a comfortable silence. I watched the town pass by, marveling at the amount of people that could fit on one motorbike and also at the apparent anarchy that seemed to rule the road. My new boss swore softly under his breath as a four door pick up truck cut directly in front of him, but we reached the restaurant safely and in less than 10 minutes.
 I opened the car door to a wall of heat and realized that Thailand won’t easily let you forget how far away from home you are.
Heading to school.
My Dad used to drop me off in a cop car,
 pretty sure his ticket finger would constantly be twitchy in Thailand!

Thursday, June 28, 2012

The Thai Cock Croweth

That cock!!

Nothing can really prepare you for waking up to your new life in a foreign country. I woke up to my alarm at 7:00 a.m. feeling displaced and irritated.  I had previously woken up at 4:30 to the barnyard sound of a rooster crowing. I laughed at the thought of a rooster in the middle of a city, but figured it was only a logical addition to the filthy cockroaches,  kamikaze rats and x-mas bulb nipple dogs. I was exhausted and easily drifted back to sleep. 
Until 5:00 a.m. The damn cock was still crowing. I thought roosters just did the one wake up call and then went to eat their grain or whatever it is that roosters eat, but this particular rooster seemed to have a snooze button. It went off every half hour for about 7 minutes straight. So, when my actual 7:00 a.m. alarm went off I was feeling very groggy and not at all well rested. I had to take a minute or two to remember that I had moved halfway across the world and my new boss was picking me up in an hour.
I went through the usual morning routine. Toilet time, shower, get dressed and go. The first item on my itinerary went smoothly. I even remembered that Thai toilets cannot handle flushed toilet paper so I had set a plastic bag on the bathroom door for the used paper. I was impressed with my forward thinking until I reached for the toilet paper and realized there was none.There was not even a toilet paper holder. Dammit. 
 I turned my attention to the hose next to the toilet. I had read about these fabled hoses before I arrived in Thailand. Apparently Thai people use the ass hose instead of toilet paper. Bidet style, except it is a hand held hose. I decided that even though I had had a horrible sleep I was not going to let it ruin my Carpe Diem attitude that I had promised myself to adopt in Thailand. I grabbed the hose, positioned it, and then I pressed down the trigger button. 
Holy Hell. I threw down the hose in shock. The lack of serious water pressure from the shower had lulled me into a false sense of security about the ass hose, but it seems that the plumber had just re-directed all the pressure from the shower into the ass hose. The ass hose had seriously violated me. Now, I am open to a lot of things, but I do believe in asking permission, and here was this dirty, dirty ass hose just going wherever he pleased without even asking my name. I kicked the hose to the side, deciding we were no longer on speaking terms, and cleaned myself off in the shower.
I used a lot of soap during that shower because about half way through I remember that I had forgotten to ask Craig about where to buy a toothbrush (or toilet paper for that matter). I finger brushed again and when I spat on the floor (Not being gross, there is no sink.), I was alarmed to see a small puddle of pinkish toothpaste froth pass between my bare feet and disappear down the drain. 
I had horrible visions of some Thai Vampire Spider having bit me in the middle of the night and now the infected pustules were exploding, but I assumed a bite from a Vampire Spider would hurt and I didn’t feel any pain. I spat again and sure enough my spit was still the color of diluted blood. I began to panic. Second day in Thailand and I would need to be admitted to a Thai hospital. Dammit. Why didn’t I purchase that health insurance like my Dad told me too? Why don’t I have a damn mirror so I can at least look inside my mouth? 
I sat down on the red plastic chair in my living room trying to take a few deep breaths before I got dressed and knocked frantically on Craig’s door. I looked at the moldy pillow and thought that maybe I had been infected by fatal mold spores. Oh, god. I had seen a CSI about mold spores. They really can be deadly. Why didn’t I take that damn pillow to Rat Town last night? 
Then I saw it. The inconspicuous, empty bottle of red wine sitting beside the pillow. In my lazy, softly drunken haze I had gone to sleep without brushing my teeth.
Eventually I would dub these 'hand spiders' and
 be quite comfortable with them hanging out on
the ceiling in the bathroom. But at this point in the
journey they are Thai Vampire Spiders and compel nothing
but tears and screams!

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Rat Army General vs. Prairie Girl

Rat Town. I was still reeling from the phenomenon of ice in the beer glass, flying roaches, and the red wine splattered across my new shirt. I supposed that the next logical step would be to visit a little place called Rat Town. Bonnie was already hoping off the stoop and heading down the alleyway as she shined a flashlight in to the sky and shouted, “Onward to Rat Town!!!”
I followed behind Bonnie, but the process of moving in a straight line was proving slightly difficult. The beer and wine were working their magic on my overtaxed, jet-lagged body and on my over-stimulated yet strangely dulled mind. The bouncing glow of the flashlight had a strangely soothing effect on the otherwise harsh surroundings of the alleyway. 
It was too dark to clearly see the large amounts of litter lining the sides of the alleyway. The only reminder of the squalor was the soft rustle of plastic bags as the breeze pinned them against walls and fences. I could still smell the sweet stench of rotting fruit but it seemed much less abrasive in the fading heat of the evening. The soft growl of motorbikes passing seemed much farther away and a shiny Cheshire cat moon was becoming visible over the flat top of a three story apartment building. It was beautiful, and I began to feel smug and warm about my decision for adventure. I had moved, alone, to a foreign country and here I was taking an evening stroll with two kind people in a moonlit alley.  I felt strong and renewed.
My comfortable drunken reverie was interrupted when I saw Bonnie stop abruptly and put up her hands in a command for Craig and I to follow suit. Bonnie crouched down and had us join her in a squatting huddle. “Okay, Rat Town is about six feet away. We have to move quietly so we have the element of surprise. Also, we have to move in darkness. Trust me, you gotta do it this way to get the full effect. You guys just follow me and when I stop, line up beside me.”
 Craig shook his head and let out a sigh that suggested he had done this before but was resigned to making the trek again. Bonnie stood up and motioned for us to line up behind her, back to front. We literally tip toed about six feet up the alley, keeping a perfect, straight line formation. I realized that we were headed towards the big blue garbage bins that I had earlier seen the mangy dog eating out of. I could see the silhouettes of the three garbage bins. The garbage was pilled so high that it had spilled out and around the bins. The wine was obviously settling in because I remember thinking that, in the dim moonlight, the garbage bins resembled the three wise men wearing their funny shaped hats. Bonnie’s hand suddenly shot up and I could see her fingers silently counting down from five. When she hit zero, she turned on the flashlight and all hell broke loose.

Think about Templeton from Charlotte's Web...
It is not so bad, just....
Think about Templeton from Charlotte's Web...
The spotlight shone directly on the garbage bins and illuminated about 24 beady eyes that stared straight back at us. That first blast of light froze all the rodents. They turned to look at us but stayed completely still. These rats were bigger, glossier and angrier looking than any rat I had seen before. They bulged in the middle, giving the impression that each of them had acquired a hairy beer gut over the years. I could even see the paws of the beasts, gnarled mini hands, which clawed at white plastic bags. Craig shifted his weight and the sound of his foot scraping on the pavement of the alleyway sent the rat army into a fluster.             They exploded in every direction. Some rats jumped deeper into the bins, some jumped off the side landing on the over flowing mass of garbage and scurried off into the vacant lot.
 One rat, he must have been the Rat Army General, (I swear I heard him shout, “Save Yourselves!” to his rat buddies)  kamikazied off the front of the garbage bins and landed on the concrete with a thick thud. He quickly recovered, gave himself a shake, his beer belly rolling with the motion, and starting running directly at us. I screamed and jumped behind Craig, nearly pushing him over with my self-protecting zeal. Bonnie assumed a combat position, her legs slightly bent and the flashlight following the rat general’s every move. I thought she was going to kick the rat but when he was only three feet away she shouted “Run!”,  grabbed my shirt and took off  towards our row houses. We collapsed on the concrete stoop, sitting side by side and laughing, that unique kind of laugh which is born of fear, pride and desperation.
Shortly after the episode with the Rat General, we collectively decided that it was time for bed. It was nearing midnight and I had to meet the boss in the early morning. We stood in a row on our concrete stoop, each of us searching for our keys. Bonnie unlocked her pad lock first and whispered good night. I opened my door and the smell from my pillow, which was still sitting beside my door, hit my nostrils. Craig waved good night as he disappeared into his row house and I stepped inside and stood staring at my pillow. There had been a slight breeze outside, giving the illusion of a moderately cool evening, but the day’s heat had not escaped my sauna and was still curling around my body.
 I went to turn on my fan but quickly remember the jet engine noise it was now emitting and figured my neighbors might not appreciate sleeping next to a runway. I laid down in the dark, the moldy smell lingered gently in my nostrils so I tried to breathe only through my mouth and, after about 5 deep breaths, I was fast asleep.

I wish your screen was scratch and sniff.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Beer, Ice and Roaches.

I woke up four hours later to complete darkness and a soft rapping at my door. I had fallen asleep without any lights on and now my wonderful little heat box was pitch black. I shouted that I needed five minutes but the long nap made my voice sound like an aging bullfrog. To my great relief the door knocker responded in English, “My name is Craig. We are just having a couple beers outside join us when you are ready.”
 I turned the light on just in time to see a very tall shadow walk past my cloudy window. Craig? Right, my new head teacher. I quickly rinsed the thick layer of crusty sleep and sweat off my body with relatively cold water then I went to brush my teeth. “Dammit” I muttered as I applied toothpaste to my finger hoping to rub off the layer of film on my teeth. I threw on some clothes, tried to take a quick look in the mirror, realized I didn’t have one, then took a deep breath and unlocked my door for the first time that day.
I saw three figures sitting outside, the tall one must be the head teacher Craig,  one was a smaller, balding man with a kind smile and the last was a beautiful young woman with curly black hair.
 “You must be Victoria!” the woman stated as she shifted over on the concrete curb to let me have a seat, “I have really been looking forward to you coming, I have been the only girl for over a month!”  
I didn’t know how to respond but I was certainly glad she was happy to see me. I sat down on the curb next to her and the shorter, balding man got up and approached to introduce himself. When he stood up I noticed he was actually quite short, a good few inches shorter than my 5’6, and he had a bright, kind smile and adorable jug ears. “My name is Ira. I’m from New York city, been here around 6 months. Nice to meet you.”  Then the tall one, my work superior,  stood up behind Ira and approached to shake my hand. I stood up to greet him and said rather redundantly “Hi, My name is Victoria.” 
“I’m Craig, from America, you want a beer?” After living inside my own head, which had been living inside a breezeless sauna, for the past 7 hours, a beer and some company sounded absolutely wonderful.
“What are you doing?” I was trying to gratefully accept the offer of beer but when Craig began to put ice cubes into my glass I had to protest. It was unheard of. I just said no. Chris laughed at my shocked protest and replied “You can say no to the cubes but it’s a pretty hot country, as you may have noticed this afternoon, and beer tends to warm up pretty quickly and then taste like warm piss. The cubes combat the warm piss phenomena and hydrate you in the mean time. Your choice though.” Looking around I noticed that everyone had a glass of Singha beer with ice. I turned back to Craig and  I nodded to give the go ahead about the ice and muttered something inane like “When in Rome…”
After about five small glasses of beer, with ice no less, I was starting to feel much more relaxed. The girl with the beautiful, black curly hair had told me she was from Louisiana and her name was Bonnie. She was very easy to chat to so I related my stories about my hellish stay in the airport and about my traitor fan and pillow. She laughed hard and made me feel 10 times better. 
It was a wonderful way to spend an evening, sitting in a narrow, concrete alleyway staring up at the night sky, bonding with new co-workers and having a drink. I was much more relaxed now. I was a little put off by the tired, hungry looking dogs that meandered and skittered by. Some of the older lady dogs had nipples that hung down like old Christmas bulbs, but they gave us wide berth and I almost managed to ignore them. “Would anyone like some Canadian wine?” I asked, feeling a relieved solidarity with my new friends. Ira told me that he was heading off to bed but Craig and Bonnie were very interested in trying some Canuck vino, so I went to get it from my room.
I had just poured each of us a glass when a giant, shiny, fist-sized cockroach jumped up from the drain sewer grate built into our stoop and took off running between us and the row houses. Sensing that it was trapped, the cockroach stopped short, wiggled it’s finger long antennae, shook out its wings and began flying directly towards me. I screamed, jumped forward about 5 feet, which landed me on the opposite side of the narrow alley, and I managed to spill the rest of my wine half down my shirt and half on the ground. Craig and Bonnie were in hysterics, laughing so hard both of them were bent over the stoop gasping for breath. 
When Bonnie finally came up for air she looked at me with I dare you eyes and said,  “You feel like checking out Rat Town?”

He can fly. In your mouth. (Theoretically)