Sunday, April 26, 2009

My Guide

My guide, Wan, is a middle aged Thai woman who is accustomed to giving western men tours of Bangkok with a decidedly sex tourist angle. I am interested only in so far as I want to see what there is to see without further expense or involvement. She is somewhat confused by my interest in the food and street culture that tends to be what attracts me. I found the short exposure to the sex bars last night really uncomfortable. It seems considerably more straightforward here than in Cambodia, but seeing so many western men, they look like they're lumbering overweight Germans or Aussies to me and in reality there are probably just as many Americans. There are also a lot of Arabs but here they are with their wives also to some extent and now they look like tourists instead of inhabitants as they did in Egypt.
Seeing a white girl with her tatoos and multiple piercings makes me wince as much if not more than at home. I have no doubt the people in the countries I have visited don't quite know what to make of the man with two earrings either and in truth I feel like being as invisible as I can, as identifying myself with the flip flop shod, baggy shorts and printed tee shirts on the over sized men with skin as white as mine is something I find disheartening to confront.
In one of our last conversations in Egypt (I think it was) Jesse laughingly called me an elitest and maybe I am, though I certainly don't see myself that way. I simply don't identify very strongly with the ephemeral nature of passing fads. I think of an elitest as someone who imagines themself to be superior in some way and if anything I struggle with the opposite most of the time. I identify with the ones I see struggling, even though to them I must look like I live like a king. In material terms, perhaps I do, and I need to see my way to a much less expensive cost of living than I have in the states. It is a constant struggle to know where to fit in, to ask myself if I am only ogling another culture as though I were going to the movies to seek some exotic entertainment, or if I am learning and enriching myself, which is how I tend to view these expereiences generally.
The asian attitude towards sex is certainly more matter of fact than America, there are endless vendors offering new dvd's of pornography. In that conversation where I was observed as an elitest (or perhaps it was a different one) the observation was that American women had more power than Egyptian women. Perhaps they do, but then the Egyptians don't show the obsession with sex that Americans are always trying to reconcile and is that power or is that exploitation?

I take for granted the social equality of women in my culture and in fact bridled at the traditional expectations of a homemaker that my mother and sister embraced. The spectre of a woman as a luxury object a man affords to raise children and show the world he's prosperous to me is not the same as the man and woman actually sharing most of the same burdens equally.

Men come to Asia to find a sexually compliant and subservient woman, at least that's the common assumption. I cannot see the cultural and linguisitc complications as anything but barriers to the kind of intimacy I have sought in relationships, whether successful or failed, but tried all the same, perhaps it is naive of me at this point in time to expect intimacy to be on a human and emotionally vulnerable plane. Perhaps I am the one who is an elitest to expect such lofty assumptions as emotional honesty and an open hearted caring for each others well being.
There is lightning flashing and thunder crashing and the rain is pouring down.

In Egypt there were thousands of cats in the city, I wanted so to pick them up and did once or twice but it was obvious they were not clean given the environment in which they exist and an economy that can ill afford pets commonly as a luxury item as we do in the states. I miss my cats terribly. I even thought about adopting a cat in each country I visit, but that's an indulgence beyond my means.

I am supposed to take a boat tour in some canals this afternoon and it has been rumbling thunder for the last hour and now is pouring rain. I brought no rain gear. I'm sure it will be interesting what ever it is.

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