As departure day looms, a mixed feeling of excitement and trepidation grips. Excitement is a built-in emotion, one I have always felt when due to travel or travelling. The trepidation comes from a complex set of emotions. I am stepping into the world of volunteer teaching, willing to give, yet unsure I can deliver. As I grow older, doubts surface regarding what I can and can’t achieve. Ability and confidence once had in abundance: now subsided. When news filters through that anti-government protests have begun in Bangkok, this adds to my doubts. Self-doubt is inhabiting my world.
Landed in Bangkok at 22:30 local time. Plane on time, but no contact pick up (Neelat). Although I have his phone number, my phone battery has long since expired. I have packed a cable and adaptor, just need a power socket which the friendly advice desk attendant provides. Within minutes I have contacted Neelat and explained my location is exit number four. He tells me (in his halting English) he will be fifteen minutes, and as stated, he comes into view. A stocky chap with a huge grin, the epitome of his country motto: ‘The land of smiles.’ Accompanied by his friend, who assures me he ‘knows Bangkok better than the back of his hand‘, we roar off in 3rd gear. For the next four hours we drive around Soi 21 looking for my accommodation. Finally, tired and dishevelled, I reach my destination. After check-in, I persuade my two colleagues to have a couple of beers, but the atmosphere is muted from our exhaustion, and with my words of thanks filling the air, they depart. Although a small hotel, the room is clean and the bathroom adequate. A tepid shower briefly resuscitates me, until the cool linen sheets allow my mind to slip into the world of sleep.
Next – Bangkok: Soi 21