Monday, April 29, 2013

Don't Leave After Dark

I moved into my Thai apartment late one night in the middle of rainy season.  My school coordinator walked me through a dark parking lot, past the outdoor school canteen, up a steep flight of stairs and ducked around a corner to my room. An older man met us, the janitor, who spoke no English and let me inside. My coordinator left me with a stern warning, “Don’t leave after dark, it is not safe for a girl.  I will pick you up at 9am tomorrow.” 
my school during the daytime
So I found myself alone in a 100 square foot dorm room. There was no food, no Internet and a TV that played about four channels. I did have two hard beds and A/C. I laid down feeling less than excited about my accommodations. The next morning my coordinator picked me up to run errands and only made things worse. She told me she could not guarantee that the janitor, a construction worker or any other random person wouldn’t try to rape me. Thanks! I was instructed not to walk around the town at night by myself and to stay in my room every evening.  I felt my hands turn to ice and goose bumps formed on my skin, again. 
the view from my apartment
As soon as we got back, I immediately called the director of Overseas Education Group (OEG), my teaching program. He was of little help.  “Oh, it’s just a language misunderstanding. I’ll have one of the Thai-speaking girls call your coordinator - she was just overreacting. You’re safe, I promise.” It was hard to believe that he could be so callous, brushing me off with a promise that my coordinator wouldn’t talk like that anymore, rather than send someone to make sure that I was safe or try to find me a better place to stay. I was alone, after all, in a strange and now scary country. If they even could help, it was clear that they weren’t going to.
my neighborhood at night
Fortunately, my situation turned out to be a (very) little bit better than I first thought. I discovered that the janitor was a very nice man.  He lived with his daughter and was friendly and helpful whenever something broke in my apartment. The school surrounded me and insulated me a little from the rest of the city – a good thing considering how rough my town could seem. Traffic was terrible and crosswalks were non-existent. Another teacher told me the park next to my school was a place to buy drugs. I lived next to a jail (right next door to an all-girls school, of course). On top of that, I stood out as the only American in town.
the vegetable market next to my apartment
As you can imagine, I had a lot of free time in my apartment. From sundown until I went to bed, I would be in my little room with spotty Internet access, waiting for the weekend.  How did I pass the time and was I productive?  Find out tomorrow! 

1 comment:

  1. I would've just said Fuck It and become a meth head.