My fortunes and worries were soon to be put to rest, though, upon visiting the International Office at Thammasat University. I remember walking through the campus for the first time admiring the architecture (point building tops, yet small in height overall for a building) The strange, hut-like structure is exotic to a Westerner. But, I later learned that most buildings were smaller in stature (height) because the Grand Palace was nearby and there was to be no obstruction of the view of the sacred temple. This intermingled with the amount of orange-robed men (monks) that I began to see brought the focus of Buddhism close into mind. To me, the mix of tradition (the monks) amongst the clearly modern atmosphere of Thammasat was a strange mold of confusion. To someone who comes from a country where tradition is often muted or private, seeing such a blatant mix was both perplexing and enlightening. With one flash of the eye, it seemed like you were blasted to the past (even though you weren't) and with another flash, strung back forward to the modern world I'm used to. I realized finally that it was the best of both worlds. And, the fact that the Thais make it work, was something that immediately perked my intense interest. How were they able to "pull-off" such a feat? What factors encouraged such an open and incredible respect for religion among what I perceived to be a secular, modern world? These were questions I would work to get answered.
Visting the Thai McDonald's. The local customs prevail despite the multi-national corporation.
In no time, I was meeting other international students who also were arriving in Bangkok. For some, they were in my boat: first time in Thailand, knowledge of language little to none, and a bit nervous. Others were here before, coming back for some more because they hadn't got enough, and with almost fluent language skills. One of these fluent speakers would become my roommate, from Australia. Within little time, we had moved into an apartment complex, PSB Apartments, across from Thammasat and quick 5-minute ride of the ferry in the morning to get to campus. I was thrilled by this. And, now that I had a stable, settled environment around me, I was becoming calmer and more willing to explore on my own. The first thing I did after moving into the apartment was to learn all the road names near our home. This would be useful in transportation. Telling the taxi where I needed to go to get home. I walked the streets aimlessly for awhile to gain a good enough perspective. For those of you who have been to Bangkok, I live mere steps away from the famous Siriraj Hospital. My front doorstep is a massive food/clothes/accessories market. I walk out in the morning to get rice for breakfast right near the doormat of our complex. It's both convenient and good for more exploration. We quickly found several family-owned restaurants in the back soi's (the Thai word for ally) with some incredible Thai food. We also found some hilarious (yet still good) Americanized food in the soi's as well: EZ Grille was the butt of many jokes for some time, as it was also one of the first food experiences as well. The mix of MTV music with all of the Thai food stalls outside of it was just another one of those seemingly odd contradictions I will talk about plenty in the future.
I took some time to visit the Thai McDonald's and to visit wat's (temples) in the first week as well. Now there's a nice mixture. As the week came to a close, and orientation at the university ended, it was time to realize: classes were about to begin.
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