Saturday, January 21, 2006


I am outside a Wat in front of a giant Budhha in Ayutthaya. It is sunny and I am surrounded by walls of cross-legged stone Buddhas. I feel a hand touch me softly on my side and look down to see a young Thai boy, about 8 years old, looking up at me. I wait for him to ask me for money. He doesn't. Instead, he shyly looks down and draws a perfect yellow flower from behind his back. He hands it to me as he kicks the dirt in an "aw-shucks" kind of way. I wait for him to ask for for money. He doesn't. I am shocked. He just continues to look at his feet and kick the dirt. Then he runs away.

I try to call after him, but he has hidden behind one of the Buddhas and will only peek out at me. As I walk around the wat, I see that he is following me, pretending not to stare when I turn. Eventually I call him over and try to ask his name. He does not undersatnd. I ask if I can take his picture. He agrees but will only scowl seriously for the photo. I show him the photo and he begins to laugh uncontrollably. He walks at my side, silently, to the exit of the wat and waves. I trun around as I leave and I see that he is still staring at me.

Since then, I have begun to notice that Thai men stare at me. Not in a gross, sleazy way, but in more of the way that boys look at girls in grade eight. They are interested in talking to me, but are strangely afraid. It seems innocent and does not freak me out.
I am not used to this. This does not happen to me in Canada.

They take double takes as I walk down the street. They jostle their friends and giggle as I walk past. They slow down their car in an obvious way so that they
can stare at me and smile. As I look at giant reclining buddhas, wats and ruins in Ayutthaya, countless numbers of them politely ask to take photos with me. After I while I can recognize the ones who are mounting the courage to ask me for a photo. I cannot comprehend this. I always think they are asking me to
take a photo of them, but instead they want a photo with me. What would any of them want with a photo of a girl they had never spoken to? I make sure that none of them grab my boob as we pose. And as four men jump to help me to put my bag away on the train, I realize that in Canada I am plain, but here in Thailand, for the first time in my life, I am exotic.


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