I no longer *feel* like a foreigner in Thailand.
Oh, I am one – but I don’t *feel* like one.
I do not speak the language – but in the past 19 days I have learned all I need “to survive.”
I noticed it when I was riding up the escalator from the metro (subway) system. I was looking into the faces of the persons coming down – mostly Thai – though this is a diverse city – with many persons from many places here. A few days ago when they looked at me, I “felt” like an American – like a tourist here. And while I still am an American – and still have tons and tons that I could “tour” to see – I no longer feel like this is a “foreign” land because today when they were looking at me, I "felt" like I "belong" here too - in some way. I did not feel like an outsider.
I think it’s because I know how to get around in all ways. I’ve been on busses, in taxis, ridden tuc-tucs, boats and I know how to use the skytrain (overground rail) and metro. I have been to and from the downtown – by transport and on foot. I have been up and down the river and know the timetables. I have been to several (I think all) of the city’s main parks. I know several places to exercise (when I’m not walking for miles on end) and have taken advantage of enjoying “watching” people during the day or in the evening when I have been “out and about.”
I have been to and from the airport and the main train station, more than one time – even taking an out of city excursion for a weekend alone.
I know where the “Superstores” are – several of them – and several meat/fruit/vegetable markets. I’ve seen – I think – everything that is for sale by vendors on multiple city streets.
I have been by and around the malls – but not in them except for a few brief floors – it’s just not my thing. I have eaten at several restaurants and of course driven/walked by hundreds more! And, I know more than one place to get a good-ol’-fashioned 7-11 slurpee – or an A&W Root Beer on these hot and humid summer days! I have eaten at least three "dishes" or individual items of local food each and everyday - making that perhaps a hundred new fruits, pastries, cakes, noodles, drinks or other items that I've now sampled and nearly all enjoyed.
In short, I know how to “get around” even if I don’t speak the language and – I don’t feel like a foreigner here anymore. I certainly still am foreign – and it would take years to learn the culture in invested ways.
But it sure feels nice to do what I’ve done and know what I know already.