Friday, February 16, 2007

Carnies Without Borders!

Have you ever wanted to join the circus? Screw that, join the Peace Corps instead! So what if you can’t throw knives or walk on tightropes? Your pale skin and round eyes will have them urinating themselves with laughter and wonder like no freakish flexibility or warped pituitary gland could ever provide you. I pity the man who gets shot out of a cannon every Friday and Saturday night to put food on the table when all he’d have to do is come out here, eat some sticky rice on a mat with his bare hands, and say, “Delicious!” to put the crowds in a frenzy. Step right up, folks, come one, come all, see what all your friends have been talking about – the AhhhhhhhhhMAYZiiiiiiiiiiing… FALANG!

Today was one of those days when you get home, sit down, and say to yourself, “what the fuck just happened today?” Well, each day is a new adventure, and seeing that I haven’t yet had the opportunity to insult a midget in my blog, I thought I’d jot this all down for you.

I live on a twelve lane highway that daily prompts me to swear under my breath at the rural community I imagined when I joined PC. The way to my gov’t office is like a “Choose Your Own Adventure” of how to get killed on the way to work. I play frogger with drunk, sleepy truckers and keep my eyes peeled for ten year olds piled four-deep onto motorcycles, zipping by following no lane or traffic rules. If I stay past dark, I have to swerve to avoid transsexual prostitutes who come running onto the street to grab my bike, yelling, “Sexy, you, you, I, boyfriend, handsome!” How many brothels do you pass on your way to work? I pass eight. Seriously.

So anyway, this particular day I was waiting for an opening across the highway when a yellow gas truck came rumbling into view. A man was standing on the top of the vehicle, holding a walking stick and wearing a ski mask. I repeat, a masked man was standing, unsupported on the top of a gas truck. He pointed at me, tilted his head, and stared at my strange figure as the truck rode past. God, I wonder what this guy must have been thinking, seeing something so unbelievably weird.

I eventually get to the gov’t office where I “work”, and am impressed and saddened. The local gov’t administration has built a new office, away from town, right next to the factories that pay the taxes it lives on. It’s ridiculous. It cost 1 million, 700 thousand dollars. DOLLARS. I really can’t explain how much money that is here. That’s obscene. Our old office was fine, but nothing you’d call spectacular. Well, that’s what the village fund is for! I talked with my counterpart as we sat shaking our heads at the calculator. He assured me, “the desks and chairs are included in that price.”

Our office does not have internet, by the way. That’s not a real necessary purchase. Instead we boast, and I mean boast, that we have water heaters for instant coffee in each of the twenty rooms. What I love about the place is that since Thais are scared to death to eat, sleep, or be alone, they all pack into one office and leave the rest vacated. Barren, devoid of life whatsoever, except the water heaters, boiling and re-boiling water for no one.

So anyway, I asked the President of the TAO why they built this new office, and he answered me that they paid for it through the King’s 60th anniversary fund, and that he had hoped to teach the entire TAO English so that the King would come and visit. One million and seven hundred thousand dollars. ONE MILL>GD*Y#(*#%#.... (Editor’s Note: My head just exploded.)

As we descended the steps and walked out in front of the almost finished building, I passed and heard people start laughing. In a normal world, maybe I had toilet paper trailing behind me. In this world, that’s not necessary. I turned around to see the construction workers pointing and laughing at me, and I swear to God this is true, one of them was about six-three, and the other a midget. They were holding a rail level, the midget with his arms above his head and the tall guy looking like he was curling him, like a dumbbell. There they stood laughing hysterically trying not to drop the rail. Nowadays, I spend a significant part of my life trying to figure out if I’d entered the Twilight Zone. I thought a second, thinking, I guess it’d be impolite to laugh at a midget and a tall guy. I looked up at the President, who chuckled, put his arm around me, and led me outside.

There we stood under the giant portraits of the King and Queen blocking the front windows of the new building, as the Nayok explained to me his grand plan, and how it had included the Peace Corps. It’s too bad, he said, that we finished the new building so late, because now the workers won’t learn English and the King might not visit.

Which is exactly why the circus comes to you. From thousands of miles away in some cases.

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