Europe, I miss you!

spainDP is totally comfortable in Bangkok… he was relaxed from the moment we arrived. He wears the chaos and the disorder of Thailand like a second skin. He never seems to mind the uneven stones in the sidewalk or the way that water sometimes squirts out from under the pavement when you step in the wrong spot. The behaviour of rude (and let’s be honest… ever-so-slightly corrupt) taxi drivers doesn’t faze him… nor does the heat that hovers around 32 degrees Celsius. When it rains, which is practically every day in the rainy season, he just rolls up his pant legs and wades through our street which becomes a river.

(There… I’ve just listed all of the things that bother me about living in Bangkok. Not so bad, right?)

I admire DPs ability to adapt so quickly and I often (as in, daily) wish that I were as skilled as he at forming that casual shrug of the shoulders. That exquisite letting go of the things we cannnot change. He is my Yoda.

Before I am tempted to be too hard on myself, I must also acknowledge that the chaos and unpredictability of South East Asia is actually DP’s preference. It is not mine. When we moved to Europe from Monterrey, I never looked back. Although I missed our school and the students and our friends, I never missed the city. I did not miss the cockroaches, the construction workers hanging from billboards without safety belts, or how traffic laws were regarded as guidelines at best. “Goodbye, bedlam,” I said. “Adios.”

I emerged from the womb craving order (some would say that I demanded it) and I’m quite certain that I am not the only Canadian who suffers from this particular affliction. When I was in university, my girlfriends and I made a list of things that made us happy; there were hundreds of items (in alphabetical order, no less) and we decorated our residence suite with these lovely, happy-making lists. I wonder, now, if I thought to include relatively mundane items such as friendly and efficient service in restaurants and stores and government offices, or mail that arrives on time, or well-maintained sidewalks. I expect not because, in my early twenties, I was blissfully unaware that most of the world’s population lives without those luxuries. That was my age of innocence.

Europe is certainly not consistently efficient or clean and Europeans don’t always wear their lovely manners like white gloves at afternoon tea. But Europe was, for me, knowable. I could decipher Barcelona and I could normally predict what would happen next. We had been in Latin America for many years so I often had a reference point for how things worked in Spain. As an amateur anthropologist, living and travelling in Europe provided me a better sense of how Canada developed as a colony.

Aside from the question of understanding how and why things worked the way they did, I simply loved Europe. I adored it. I loved the cafe-life… and the sitting on benches in plazas while little children played soccer… and going to the cinema in Barcelona and Paris and finding my tribe of like-minded people who would never speak out loud or answer their mobile phone during the film. (Sigh.) I wore Europe like a second skin that glowed with health and happiness. Europe was my deeply-held, bred-in-the-bone preference.

As a blogger, I read a number of interesting and entertaining blogs written by kindred spirits engaged in courageous acts of travel and living overseas. Unfortunately, from time to time, a travel blogger will boast, or insinuate, complete open-mindedness to all new experiences that the world has to offer. Fiction, I think to myself. Fiction. Ex-pats and travellers are humans, after all. We need to know ourselves… and to be honest about our preferences and the stuff that makes us crazy… in order to live well and prosper in new places and cultures. The truth is that there are bad days on the road. (It’s not just the competitors on “The Amazing Race” who bicker when travelling.) Ultimately, there are some cities that take our breath away and others to which we respond, “Good, not great.” So far, I’m at “good, not great” with Bangkok.

I miss you, Europe. That doesn’t mean that I won’t grow to love Bangkok as well but it might take a little while. DP, on the other hand, is already there.

3 comments

  1. Hola, Monna,Yes, we are only human after all. and it is only human to cling to things and routines and sights that comfort us.If it is any consolation, I feel stressed whenever I go to Tijuana, BC, Mexico, a chaotic city. I always feel like I'm going to be in a car accident. (And, no, I do not feel that way about the rest of Mexico. Tijuana is is in a class all by itself.)And I hear you about Europe. Even London reminded me of Mexico. And La Madre Patria–Spain–it was like being home.

  2. Lovely to be reminded of our "happy-making lists." And yes, I believe we *did* have mundane everyday items on our lists (I am suddenly reminded of "neon baseball caps" and when OC Transpo arrives on time). On BKK and Asia, I am sure she will grow on you. I have a feeling … 🙂

  3. Amen Monna – there's no point in keeping a travel blog if you aren't going to be honest! I know that you will find much to love in Bangkok (certainly I envy the opportunity for eating street food there) but the things you mention here would drive me nuts too.

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