My first day learning Thai Massage didn´t start very well. We had gone to the school two days ago, Iñaki and I, to check the place, see if I liked it, learn how to get there. Bangkok is a city where places are hard to find, even if you have maps, Google maps, directions. I have resigned myself to the fact that I should always allowed twenty extra minutes and some extra ommmmm the first time I go somewhere. The second time is always easier, and the next times child play.
The thing is, I didn´t sleep much the night before. We have a wonderful gang of roosters living exactly under our window and while they usually start their co co ro co song around 6 am, they were restless that night. They started around 2 am and I am not sure they ever stopped, I left them there lungs full potency on when I left for school. Walking like a zombie, half asleep, I ventured out to start soon sweating in the almost 40 degrees that welcomed me to the street, in my “decent” looking clothes (“no sexy” as they say here, which means long loose trousers and a top which covers the shoulders and don´t expose cleavage).
I walked to the bus, focused on finding shadows, very alert to the traffic around me, which is going on not only on the road but also on the pavement. You soon learn there is no safe place to walk in Bangkok. You always need to look around carefully no matter where you walk, as the pavement is always broken, stops abruptly, or you have to share it with street vendors, tables and chairs, motorbikes and cyclists. Crossing the streets is quite an endeavor too: you need to remember cars will stop when you cross the road and not wait until they stop, for they never will if they don´t see you crossing.
It was hard for me at first. I always took Iñaki’s hand to cross, feeling safe in his resolved rhythm, walking fast near him and getting amazed over and over every time I saw the cars stopped to let us cross, nobody honking at us, not even angry faces staring. When I went out on my own, I used to cross only in group, getting close to Thai people and waiting until they started to move, hurrying my steps to be as near to them as possible, almost tempted to take their hand. This is when I started to notice they didn´t cross in the kamikaze way we crossed, they wait until traffic is a bit slower instead and then extend their hand and arm, in a “I beg you to stop” kind of gesture, which they complete with a head bow thank you while they cross, looking at the drivers. I was in awe.
Thai people are always so polite, so respectful. I know that. I just didn´t expect it would go as far as to thank drivers because they stop to let them cross. But then, the more I think about it, I wonder, why not? They greet me every day, they smile at me, genuinely, when I have done nothing to deserve it, nothing to be proud of. I sometimes read or hear that Thai people are kind of childish in a nice way, because how much they like a good joke, having fun, enjoying life. For me, it is in the smile. It happens so often, I lock eyes with somebody and soon this big honest smile appears, in both our faces. And I feel like I have finally found my place, my people, because all my life, I have always smiled like that, most times to people who never smiled back. I have always thought it is their loss, not mine, because smiles cost nothing, and give back a lot. At least to me.
They smile at me here, in the joyful, innocent and genuine way my nephew smiles at me when he sees me, out of his joy of seeing the face he loves and knows loves him. And it really amazes me, with him and here. It makes me feel so valuable, so alive, so much part of the universe. So loved 🙂