Enter: Matt and Roman into Soi 17. Soi translates as street, but definitely not the type of street that you are thinking about. In the slums, “street” can mean as little as a 3-4 foot wide concrete walkway raised precariously over the trash swamp. Knowing that our host grandpa is crippled and has a wheelchair, the first thought that crosses my mind is, “This rickety walkway is definitely not ADA compliant. I really hope I don’t drop grandpa into the swamp.” As we step into the soi, a second thought cro
Everyone in Thailand wants to be white. The Photoshopped models all have white skin, commercials on TV advertise “extra whitening” skin treatments. Girls with beautiful bronze skin think they are ugly. Well, I am a genuine #nofilter white person and let me tell you, light skin is not all that it’s cracked up to be. I’m on a team with five other people. All Asian. When I was first introduced to my team I honestly did not think much of the race factor. “I have plenty of Asian friends, sabai sabai (it’s fine, it’s fine),” I thought.
“I’ll give you 50 baht to eat this,” I say to my teammate, Steven, as I wag a crusty slice of foot skin, freshly picked from my new calluses. The amount of calluses and punctured skin on my soles has taken an extraordinary spike thanks to our nightly barefoot football matches with the community children.
My teammate, Beth, and I share a room with one of our hosts, Sohm. She is 17 years old and loves rugby and singing. During the first few days on our site, I felt awkward with my limited Thai and slow adapting of a new culture. I wanted to connect with her beyond formal greetings, but wasn’t sure how or even where to begin. It felt like we were worlds apart. An unexpected opportunity arose one evening just before we were about to go to bed.
In some ways, the last 10 days since mid trek retreat have felt like us starting all over again on the Trek. We moved to a new community, a new host family, and have begun to work in Conexion Mosaico's summer courses. It has been such an incredible time here in San Sebastian; we've had good days, we've had days where we've struggled, but in all, we are continuing along this Trek adventure.
There's a saying here in Mexico about Mexican and Japanese crabs. There's two pales; one with Mexican crabs, and the other with Japanese crabs. The Japanese crabs work together, and together they escape the pale. On the other hand, the Mexican crabs fight and pull each other down. Eventually, they resign, defeated and distant from each other, still in the pale.
“Sabai Sabai” is the motto here in Thailand. Directly translated it means “chill chill.” Basically, “sabai sabai” is an all purpose phrase synonymous with “It’s all good!” For example, if you’re running a little late, it’s “sabai sabai” – no big deal. This past week, our team encountered injustices here in Bangkok at which Thai culture shrugs its shoulders and says, “Sabai sabai.” But, our hearts break and we want to see change.
This past week was full of so many new things for those of us in Khlong Toey. We went from Khlong Toey to the Red Light District to caring for Yai to this past weekend for our mid-project retreat at the beach. It was a huge contrast. I asked the members of my team what their thoughts were between these contrasting realities in one society. Here is what they said:
It has already been about 3 weeks since we’ve arrived at our site. Daniel, Matt, and I have been placed at Phra-praedeng, a slum community for leprosy patients. The community has been generous with their love in welcoming us to Phra-praedaeng, but the presence of poverty is still strong here. Most of the buildings are built over swamps and open sewage. Stray dogs and cats roam the streets. Broken families, alcohol and drug abuse, as well as gambling are strongholds in this community.
You are the man in the yellow shirt at the metro station. You are the man in the yellow shirt who made me stop and look twice. What a rarity that is in a city like this where there is too much to do and too much chaos to stop and look. I thought you were dead. But you were alive. Your heart was still beating. Your lungs still inhaling and exhaling the same air I breathe.