Picture me sitting outside a McDonald's, using vulgar hand motions to mimic putting on a condom, and you have a pretty good idea of what my life is like these days. Life is absurd; sometimes there's no way around it. Most of my time is spent working on website content or trying to hear tones in Thai class. Some of my time is spent trying to answer questions about sex from teenagers who hustle in the city's various red-light districts. The youth are at various stages of adulthood, more mature in many ways since they have worked all night long since they were little. I really just sat in on an existing English class and the kids had questions that I couldn't sufficiently answer with my Thai. Thankfully there was a qualified, Thai speaking adult leading the conversation. I came to Bangkok to volunteer with friends who are doing work I believe in. Slowly, incrementally, painfully at times, building relationships with people who live at the margins of society. They have been faithfully meeting with mainly women and kids where they are, showing them love and support for the last seven years. I can come alongside them and show up for English class, or sex-ed, as it was, because of the groundwork they have laid, the trust they have built.
The banal, boring part of building an organization -- spreadsheets! meetings! -- is unfortunately what I'm good for. That and teaching English. I have never been somewhere in the world and haven't been asked to teach English. Gah. My secret fantasy is that I'm the one they call when something dramatic was happening - Oh no! Call Constance, there's a disease outbreak! or Beyonce is coming for a concert for human rights and her backup dancer is sick! Where's Constance?! - but it's more like, do you know how to apply for grants in the private foundation sector? Why YES, as a matter of fact, I do. I also came here for brunch, evidently. Thailand is one of the most-Instagrammed countries in the world. It's factual. So it might appear from Facebook photos that all I do is brunch, and that's not wrong. But it's mainly a reflection that people here Instagram every. single. meal.
We've been in Thailand a month now. Moving here was so much harder than I thought it was gonna be because you people made it so damn hard. Everyone was just so nice and supportive. "We love you!" you said. "Here are some cat leggings!" you said. "Wish we could keep hanging out forever!" It's really hard to leave on a cresting wave of love and crash on the shores of a big, anonymous city, unpack your two sad bags in fifteen minutes and not feel a twinge of regret. I've made a huge mistake, I thought, more than once, in the Arrested Development intonation in my head. When I moved away at 25, it was "Oh man, we're missing ACL. I miss tacos. Blah, blah, blah." I missed things. Moving away at 32, I miss my dog, my community and watching tiny house shows with my grandmother. Is missing people progress? Maturity? Does this just mean I'm losing my edge?
But I trust in the process. There is transformation in the leaving, in the tearing down and building back up. And there is so much learning to be done - about urban migration, about Thailand, about people, about myself. I might be here for administrative work and not emergency humanitarian backup dancing, but there is adventure to be had. I mean, I already found a cafe where you can play with meerkats and fennec foxes while you drink coffee. That would totally be illegal in America! Adventure! In the meantime, you should sign up for my after-hours McDonald's sex-ed class. Pretty riveting stuff.