Endless job hunting is all it takes to make a tropical paradise like Thailand tedious. Too much time has been spent in buses, motoring from one dreary place to another. Stranded in Surat Thani, we were forced to eat raw bacon and pay outrageous bus fares to escape. The main departure point for the countless back packers making the pilgrimage to Ko Samui, Surat Thani is one huge shady travel agency. And don't ask about the omelet lovingly prepared in a Fri-a-lator It looked like an angry chunk of lava rock and hemorrhaged grease.

It took twelve bus hours to return to Bangkok. The frantic city bustle was a sweet reprieve from Surat Thani's mercenary chill. Though I tried to draw him out with my rudimentary Thai, our Bangkok taxi driver remained sullen and unresponsive. That is, until he saw a man on the side of the road sneeze forcefully and almost topple headlong into traffic. Our driver started to giggle maniacally and was in hysterics for the rest of the drive.

Like many Thais, the driver was fascinated by the tensions between America and Afghanistan. He pointed to Muslims walking along the street, calling them all "Taliban" and laughed fiendishly. "Ba-ba bo-bo," he would say, which translates loosely into "Crazy."

When I replied "Ba-ba bo-bo mahc-mahc," (very, very crazy) to describe the abundance of transvestites in Thailand, he nearly drove off the road in a fit of giggles.

I tend to make small talk with taxi drivers because I spend so much time with them. Bangkok traffic is legendary for its breakneck pace and infinite gridlock. You sit in traffic for long stretches either terribly hot and sticky or half frozen from the air conditioning. Suddenly the driver spies a small opening between two motorbikes and lunges forward only to lurch to a stop twenty meters closer to your destination. It was quite a surprise when our driver suddenly turned down a darkened road without a car in sight. We went barreling along as if on a country road. The driver pointed at a pair of Muslims jogging, "Taliban ba-ba bo-bo mahc-mahc ha-ha-ha-ha-ha." He then immediately pulled off the road and jumped clear of the vehicle, apparently abandoning us to terrorist fitness nuts.

Kristin and I both bolted to attention, looking this way and that to figure out what our driver was up to. He was peeing on a light post behind the taxi and laughing to himself. The darkened road was a fine shortcut and we were soon installed at the Atlanta Hotel for a brief respite, before venturing on to more job interviews.

Since braving terrorist joggers and eating well in Bangkok, we've taken jobs in Rajaburi in a Catholic school's bilingual program. The school is wonderfully disorganized and friendly. Kristin has a full schedule of English and art classes. I have a part-time schedule of math and English. Rajaburi is a small city an hour and half outside of Bangkok, with a murky river winding through it and only two large department stores. The people here are bright and open and have welcomed us warmly.

Niwes owns a photo shop in Rajaburi and it's easy to see how we'd become friends. I am single-handedly revitalizing the flagging Thai economy with my obsessive picture taking. Niwes smiles more than most Thais, were that even possible, and is delightfully scruffy. Asian men are often more primped and tidy than the women, so a guy like Niwes, with a five day shadow, mussed up hair and comfortable clothes, is a pleasant change. And Niwes gives everything 110%.

When we needed directions to the Robinson Department Store, he gave us directions and offered us free use of his blue-green motor bike.
When my camera lens stopped spinning, mucked up with sand, he made arrangements for repairs and loaned me a lens.

When we asked for help finding a place to live in town he offered us his house. We refused, picturing him forcing his family into the street so we could be comfortable.

Instead of explaining, he sent out of the shop with his son, Kui, who guided us down a commercial street, smiling broadly and failing to say anything at all helpful in English. Behind two sets of retractable steel security doors was our prospective new home. Our actual front doors would be heavy plate glass bearing the Kodak logo. It was Niwes' old shop.

The tired structure is completely unoccupied, meaning we'd have the whole five story structure to ourselves. The building is vast and dingy. With the security doors closed, the bottom floor is crypt-like, except unlike other tombs, it has cable and a fridge.

We climbed each set of stairs, poking our heads into dank bathrooms and testing to see which light fixtures didn't work. I was drunk on the space. After three months of living in tiny hotel rooms, mashed hip to hip into sweaty vinyl bus seats and daily cramming my life's possessions into a back pack, such empty space is thrilling. I've done nothing but whine about the sheer volume of stuff we have needlessly brought on this trip ("Pants?! Who the !@#$ needs pants?!") but this building would swallow us and all our belongings in its dimness.

We'd be lost forever.

While there's a certain charm in living on a busy commercial street in a small, but bustling city, the local townhouses seem considerably brighter and more homey. Niwes' price of 'speaking English' is hard to pass up, but the town houses rent for a hundred bucks a months, which seems a small price for sunlight.

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