My thinking spot lies on a large cliff overlooking Patong Bay, shaded by mangroves and palm trees, tucked away from the hustle and bustle of this tourism capital on a steep upward climb of the mountain. It’s more of a sea wall than a cliff as man was nice enough to construct a series of steps down from the sidewalk that serve as chairs, beds, parking spots or often landfills. The very last step where seawall meets sea, before the jagged ocean rocks I’ve claimed as my throne—unless, of course, some Thai construction worker happens to be taking a siesta there, in which case I move up a step and hover bird of prey style until he feels uncomfortable enough to leave.
Today I make the trek from the apartment to my spot, hoping to get a little journaling in before hunger claims supremacy and I’m forced to quell the sleeping giant with some pad thai gai. Luckily enough, the masses of farang decided to stay near the massages and hair braids, so my spot wasn’t crawling with Nikons and speedos. A few resting Thai people littered the steps looking more like piles of dirty clothing rising and falling in sync with the waves. I set my things down, place my earphones in to drone out the world and begin to write. Moments later, I feel a presence lingering over my left shoulder and turn my head to be greeted, nearly in the eye, by a small brown anteater.
|And he's on the move|
|Making his way on over|
The little brown exposed one donned a dirty blue shirt, but managed to misplace his pants somewhere between the 20 feet between his sleeping mother and myself. I’d noticed him when I first walked up, but clearly hadn’t made a point to check out the lower half of his person, perhaps because the image of a mother snoring deeply while her toddler sat by her head nearly a foot away from a lofty drop to jagged rocks was engrained in my brain more so than his missing pants. I attempt to disregard the sensation of a small, uncircumcised penis grazing my arm while I furiously scribble down nonsensical earlier daily accounts hoping that if the mother awakens she doesn’t think I’m using her baby as a still-life model for the nude portion of my drawing class. I’m not certain what kind of parenting practices I’d envisioned for Thai people, but I doubt allowing your small toddler to play flash-dancer on the side of a cliff crossed my mind. Eventually the brute arises from her hibernation and realizes her half-naked cub is playing weenie sticks with a tourist girl’s arm. She yells something in Thai, prompting geysers from the young boy’s eyes and he scurries back to receive a swift smack on his bare ass. Moments later Houdini reappears on my right holding my ipod in one hand and rubbing his genitalia with the other. I’m still not sure how the little magician managed to scurry around me and grab my electronics without me noticing. I glance over and super mom is again passed out while her son continues to proposition me in the subtlest method he knows—peen to the face. This time I walk him back over to the mom and point over the sea wall to the death plunge, repeating the word ‘dangerous’ a few times. She smiles wildly which makes me wonder if she’s got the kid there for that very reason.
|My little naked friend|
Now, I know car seats, seat belts, hand sanitizer, tissues, soap, medicine and other frivolous Western parenting tools don’t culturally match up, but I mean for the love of God your half naked baby is scaling seawalls while you sleep like a clubbed seal. I’m not sure how far the cultural disparities can run until it becomes just plain common sense. Earlier today in one of my classes, I noticed a small girl looked as if she was crying. Tears streaming down her face, swollen red eyes, clear discomfort—all signs pointed to crybaby. And I did what I usually do when a younger student cries: I pretend not to notice and hope the Thai teacher does.