PHUKET: Do you miss your childhood? Wish you were young once again? You can be... just move to another country. It feels not only like moving in space, but also like moving back in time – to the happy days when everything was new, exciting and mysterious.
Since I moved to Thailand I have often felt like a toddler as I explored the world around me.
But first things first. What every explorer needs to learn to start with is walking. Moving from the wide, empty sidewalks of my home country to the obstacle course of Thai sidewalks filled with food stalls is a challenge in itself.
It takes time to master walking here or to adapt to doing as the locals do and quit walking once and for all. Just take a motorbike to cover distances that you’d happily walk back home.
Then there is talking. What I say sounds like baby gibberish to the people around me and what they say sounds exactly the same way to me. So I learn my first words – not exactly “Mama” and “Papa” but rather ped mak mak
and jai yen yen
and others, and it feels like being one year old all over again.
And it’s not just my attempts at the new language that sound childish, I sound childish speaking English too, learning to speak its childlike version: “You go”, “I not like”, “Why you not like?”
Next comes the food – a thousand new tastes, flavors experienced for the very first time, a fantastic journey of discovery.
Learning to enjoy having moo ping
for breakfast as much as I used to enjoy Froot Loops when I was five years old and discovering that I despise rad na
as much as I despised the gooey vegetable soup my mom used to force on me.
Finally, one thing I find myself doing every single day is asking questions – dozens of them, just like a child. Why? What? How? The world around me is once again filled with mystery.
Why are there kites being sold on every street corner in Phuket in January? Why do motorcyclists put their helmets in the front baskets and not on their heads? Why are women carrying umbrellas around if it’s not raining? Why are there winter clothes on display in shops if it’s 30 degrees outside?
Is it to dress up for cinemas where the temperature drops to next to zero degrees thanks to immoderate use of air conditioning?
It’s been three years since I moved here. I understand the world and people around me a tiny bit better, and I have learned – somewhat – how to walk and talk. I have found answers to a number of questions. But it’s a long way before I’m grown up, and I sure hope I won’t get there soon.This article first appeared in the February 1 – 7 issue of the hard-copy
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