As we are embarking upon our second week in Thailand, I've been reflecting on the events thus far:
The first week in Thailand was...eye opening and a bit confusing to say the least. You are forced to face situations and settings from everyday life that you never really think too hard about. Only you must think about them because there is a language barrier (and not surprisingly) no one is going to walk you through purchasing pajamas in a Thai shopping mall.
Do I leave the clothes I don't want in the dressing room cubicle? There's no return rack... Maybe I should quietly return them to the racks I found them on - oh, no, there's a store attendant and we made eye contact...
That was when my attempts to gesture and stumble over my questions in English in the hope to convey to her my situation. Her Thai responses, that I'm not sure were actual responses, gave little light to the situation. Finally, the message that "I want this one" was understood. I knew essentially no Thai, the woman spoke a little amount of English, but we communicated. Somehow.
Knowing that these are potential mistakes I am allowed to make helped me manage to stay relatively calm. No crying, on a small adrenaline rush. After all, the Thai people (especially in Chiang Mai) are in no rush themselves and will allow you to bumble through. They even bumble in return. But they usually have a smile for you regardless.
I now know simple Thai phrases and am definitely more competent and friendlier. People at cafes and in the walking street market smile when I greet them and thank them in Thai - because hey, I'm at least making an effort.
Throughout the first week, I've had to rely on very interesting morsels of knowledge and instinct to get what I need or want. In the shopping mall, finally, I had seen what looked like a department store. Inside I saw displays of women's underwear. I was right in assuming the pajamas weren't far behind. Despite only knowing a handful of phrases in Thai and being in a completely different culture, simply by observing and using rarely used knowledge, it's actually pretty easy to manage your way around Thailand. Especially if you are friendly with others.
I've definitely been stepping out of my comfort zone. In the walking street market I managed to at least attempt to haggle for some pants. It's true that if you begin putting away items, they'll lower the price. I need to remind myself to be more confident because haggling is the norm here. It's very hard to get away from the thinking that things have a concrete price.
Also we're allowed to be a little late here???? Thai-time is definitely something to get used to. Because of our anxiety and constant fear about being late, Carrie and I have been showing up early, which is a bit out of the norm here. But knowing that has definitely helped my anxiety. The only time I was close to panicking really so far was trying to get out of Walking Street. There were too many people and we had to return to our songthaew to get back to our hostel. It was hard not to send people angry faces because here people try not to express displeasure and I respect that. Their phrases of "jai yen yen" and "mai pen rai" are both phrases I am very much attached to. They convey the value of being calm and not being easily upset. It's very relaxing that you know people aren't going to be upset with you - at least not outwardly.