Days after I arrived in Thailand, my friend took me to one of the many shopping malls in Bangkok. The inside was beautifully decorated with lights hanging from above with big monitors showing hot items on sale. There were also food stalls of exotic delicacies lining both the entrance and the exit of the mall. By the way, when I say exotic, I meant it literally. Where can you find a place where bugs, crickets, scorpions, you name it are the favorites?
When I saw a kid eating a worm – I was like “WOW”, I mean “Yuck”. I was flabbergasted thinking what I saw in movies and television shows really exist. My friend told me it was just normal in Thailand just like a balut in the Philippines. Foreigners found balut very gross too. A balut is a boiled or fertilized duck embryo, eaten in shell, served with salt, and is a popular aphrodisiac in the Philippines.
Not long after my occasional stares to the boy eating a worm, we head off to feed my own worm inside my stomach. While sitting, I was immediately engrossed in eavesdropping the people talking beside us, helping me forget the boy and the thing he was eating. Their language was surely fun to listen to.
After we savored my very first Thai food in the mall’s food court, we hurriedly checked other goodies in their grocery section. My friend, by the way, arrived in Thailand four months before me but his Thai was still terrible. In fact, he can’t still hold a very basic conversation like asking the nearest washroom. And because I needed to use the washroom, I asked him if he happened to know where the nearest john was. We searched for it for like forever, looking at signboards but to no avail. We tried asking people who passed by in English, thinking they would be able to help us. But why oh why! Most of them ignored us or waved us away. Others bowed in shame because of the language we used to communicate.
Just as we thought that even the silver lining in our darkest hour left us, we found the security standing near the gate of the men’s RTW. Since most of the people we asked failed to understand us, we decided to try using their language. Mustering his little known Thai combined with few English words, my friend asked the security, Tee nai washroom? Those were his exact words, not sure what that meant. The security then smiled and my heart leaped in joy because finally, my sacrifice was over. Or so I thought.
Arai na? (which means WHAT in English), said the security. My friend repeated his words slowly and clearly but the same Arai na? came out of his mouth again. Cutting the story short, he didn’t understand my friend. This is going nowhere, we burst out simultaneously.
I was about to explode. I can’t hold it anymore. I’m going to die. I decided it was now or never. I eased my way in front of the man and showed him my index finger, put it in front of me, swung it like a pendulum, produced a sound of a splashing water, and said WHERE? The security was taken aback seeing I was sweating profusely. By then, more eyes were on us. My thinking? WHO CARES? I just ignored them. He saw us having difficulty in moving so he waved us to follow him. He was walking fast and showed us where the washroom was, four stalls on the left. He then left us without a word and we both sighed in relief because finally, the sacrifice was indeed over.
I can’t believe until now that the swinging pendulum I learned in science when I was in high school was the very thing that helped us in finding john. And oh, my real name is JOHN.