Thursday, January 27, 2005

Home again

Well, I'm back in California. And I made it through customs with all of my grandma's odd gifts. (I doubt many people understand the risk of embarrassment at having to declare dried shrimp and dried fish bladder to U.S. customs agents)Everything looks different--the difference in cleaniness is amazing. And I was a little weirded out when I got off the plane at SFO and saw non-Asian employees for the first time in a couple of weeks.

Gotta mention that while I was in Bangkok, I got a haircut. Normally, I would never get a haircut in another country; I have a hard enough time trusting salons in this country. But my sweet cousin Somchai wanted to treat Jen and I to "girlie" activities and took us to this hairdresser near his own home. The stylist, a skinny Thai man with a shaved head except for a small clump tied back (yes, he was gay) was astoundingly deft and fast with scissors and a comb/knife. It was like getting cut by Edward Scissorhands. Although it doesn't look like the picture of Reese Witherspoon that I had pointed to, it's growing on me. I don't think many American stylists could pull it off. After the cut, the assistant stylist blow dried my hair. She had a great haircut--like a long-layered-Jennifer-Aniston coif going on. After we finished at the salon, Jen, Somchai, Somchai's sister Ann and I got into the car. Then Somchai dropped a mini-bombshell and told us the assistant stylist used to be a man. We thought he was playing a dumb practical joke 'til Ann (who knows almost no English) said "Yes, ladyboy." I know my radar for transsexuals isn't exactly at the highest signal, but I had no clue. I kept thinking about how I had admired her figure and the cute flower-belt she was wearing. Do I even still use feminine pronouns? And she was so gentle when shampooing my hair. Apparently, Thailand is actually a big sex-surgery capital because it's much cheaper than other countries. The things you learn...

Anyway, the last day, before I had to catch a 10:25pm flight for Tokyo, the entire family piled into a 10-person van with driver and we rode the train on the memorial Bridge on the River Kwai in the city of Kanchanaburi (may be spelling it wrong). After lunch, we stopped off at an elephant park and I got to feed a baby elephant. The elephant even knows how to bow. That's more manners than a lot of people. We tried to pack as much quality family time. Somchai hired the driver to stay longer and drive us to the airport so almost the entire gang could come along for the ride. Jen and I had an entire entourage carrying our luggage into the airport. After we exchanged goodbyes and hugs, the two of us walked into passport control. While in line, I turned around and saw the entire family was still out there waving to us--not quite ready to say farewell. It occurred to me at that moment that I really hit the jackpot. Besides reuniting with my grandma for a little while, I discovered an entire branch of relatives whose company I truly enjoy. I now see where a lot of my personality traits--good or bad, hehe--come from. Although I'm glad to be home in my own bed, a part of me is still in Bangkok. Hopefully, I'll be able to visit again soon and keep my new familial bonds growing.

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