Saturday, February 26, 2011
I lived in Bangkok about eight years in total and lived in various locations throughout the city during that time. One of my apartments was located just off Sukhumvit road one soi over from the infamous sex soi Nana. But I am not going to write about the sex soi here; instead I am going to write about some other people who lived as I did, in the proximity of the sex soi.
I know these people because I could see them everyday, watch them sleep, eat, play and watch them perform their unmentionable bathroom functions. These were the street people that lived in the vacant lot in front of my high rise condo building and in the derelict rebar and concrete structure next to the skytrain platform at Nana which would have been another high rise housing project if the economy hadn't collapsed in 1997.
I watched the people in the rebar and concrete house while I waited for the train. I saw their baby sleeping under a pink canopy of lace set on a piece a oilcloth to protect the child from the sting of mosquitoes. I saw the adults drinking Leo beer at 7 am when I headed to work on a Saturday morning. I watched them ride a bike between the levels of the skinless condominium and wondered where they had found it or stolen it. I watched the green space around the base of the building to try and determine which movements were those of birds foraging for seeds and which were rats waiting for the humans to disgard a morsel of food.
These people I watched from the platform, the other people, those in the vacant lot, I walked past on my my way home to my comfortable 2 bedroom, 2 bathroom, 2 balcony apartment on the fifteenth floor of a condo with an Olympic sized swimming pool. There in the abandoned lot stood a makeshift hut of boards, plastic tarp and corrugated iron sheeting. A family of unknown number lived there; some kids a man and several women. The man always greeted me as I walked by; me in my high heels, skirts and dress shirts coming from work and he in a Thai sarong or possibly tattered shorts. He usually lifted a bottle of Sangsom Thai whisky to greet me in the evenings.
Eventually I got used to these people and I would occasionally bring them home food from the school cafeteria where I worked. It was the same food they could have bought from street vendors themselves but the cost on campus was half what it was in the outside world.
The man and I became friendly, he could speak very good English and my Thai wasn't too bad at the time. On my way home, if I had time, I would pass by way of their hut and talk with him for 15 minutes or so. His family was from the Northeast of Thailand. They came to Bangkok like most people did to make a better more prosperous life and like most people, it didn't work out.
I was friends with the family for several months when money must have came in from somewhere to develop the vacant lot and the family was pushed off their squatting ground. I was not there to see the event. They just weren't there one day when I came home and in their place was a small excavator.
All of life is transient. No wonder Thais are Buddhist; they live it's key precept every day.
Note: this picture shows both the rebar condo and the vacant lot at Nana Station