The exhaustion is sudden and all consuming. I live in two modes, sensory overload, and dead sleep. This introvert can barely cope with the constant stimulation. And there is no routine. At home I ate the same granola and frozen blueberries covered in 1% milk for breakfast every morning. Here, my afternoon consists of figuring out how to get myself fed. It’s not as if I have to scavenge for food. There are restaurants on every corner. But still, it’s the choices. So many choices all the time.
I could write out my Trader Joe's grocery list right now. Any of my roommates could probably do the same. It is short and utterly unwavering. I promised myself I would branch out during my travels. Eat something new every day. Tonight, I nearly found myself at McDonald's. Now, it’s not all that shocking I guess, the overwhelming desire to eat something familiar eight days into the most life changing relocation I’ve ever put myself through. Still, I haven’t eaten McDonald's since I read Fast Food Nation the summer before my junior year of high school. I am morally opposed to McDonald's. Happy meal toys are replacing village crafts and I was ready to eat a Big Mac.
I blame the hunger. It wasn’t the normal kind of hunger. It was the traveling in a foreign country kind of hunger. The kind that says that we have been walking and walking and Jim, can we please just eat here because the kids are starving and my blood sugar is low and we’re never going to find our way back to the hotel before dark anyways so let’s just stop trying. It’s the kind of hunger that passed up a perfectly good restaurant ten minutes back in hopes of something “more quaint.” Ten minutes later this hunger is ready to eat “more quaint.” And a Big Mac. Still, I couldn’t bring myself to write a blog entry on the end of Thai culture and then eat at McDonald's. Hypocrite much? Although, I suppose I would have been embracing my own culture had I done so. Oh well, our little dinner group split. Half were taken over by the hunger. They got their Big Macs, which I hear involved some sort of rice bun. The other half of us landed in a dirt lot.
Calling it a restaurant would be a stretch of every sense of the word. I mean, yes, it had a menu. And food. No floor, no roof, no walls. The kitchen was next to the street, consisting of some random pots and pans, some jars of I don’t want to know what, and a large flame. Then there were the dogs. They were curled up in the most random places. One of them tucked away under the cooking area, inside a dusty cupboard. Another sprawled out next to an empty bunny hutch type structure. I don’t know what animal this hutch was supposed to hold, chickens maybe? There was a “house” behind the patch of dirt where we gingerly placed ourselves upon bright red plastic chairs. A house in the sense that it had four walls, and probably even a roof. It looked like a large version of those shacks people patch together out of boxes and tin in Tijuana. It should surprise no one that this meal was the best I have eaten so far in Thailand. Stir fried morning glory over rice. As a large rat scuttled across the tilting fence fifteen feet from my plate, I barely paused to voice concern. “Oh, a rat,” I thought. “Oh well.” I have had some, um, bad experiences, with rodents. But you know, I was busy eating, and at least I could be certain that I wasn’t chewing on that specific furry creature.
I like this way better. I like the dirt floor and open flame. Last night I ate at the oldest all-teak restaurant in Chiang Mai. Right on the Ping River. Beautiful. It was filled with a bunch of people like me. White, carrying cameras, you know the kind. I didn’t come halfway around the world to eat in a fancy US restaurant. I don’t want to be able to order a baked potato. Rice. That is what you eat in Thailand. Rice and noodles. And dirt adds character, right? Or was my dad always lying to me?
Now I must sleep since I’ll be hiking through the forest tomorrow. Then camping out with the Hmong hill tribe. Dirt floors it is.