*Solo en la soledad nos derrite esa espesa capa de pudor que nos aísla a los unos de los otros; solo en la soledad nos encontramos; y al encontrarnos, encontramos en nosotros a todos nuestros hermanos en soledad. Miguel de Unamuno
I was alone in the four bed female dorm room in Bangkok. It was okay, because I felt like everything around me throughout the day was in conversation with my senses. In the bus en route to the hostel’s neighborhood, I observed an older European couple express relief when they discovered that a passenger on the bus – an older Asian man hugging a tattered green Jansport backpack – spoke English. I was listening as the white man eased his way into a conversation with him. The Asian man hugging the backpack was a transplant from Taiwan who expressed how bad the economic state was in; that jobs were more difficult to attain, how he learned English simply by watching too much American television and having the guts to talk to foreigners, his job as an engineer, and why Bangkok will always be his home. Listening to the conversation, the sounds in the city, smelling the food being prepared at the local market, and making accidental eye contact with pedestrians, all felt refreshingly busy, like my initial honeymoon phase with Seoul. However, the few hours that I was exposed to Bangkok made it seem like another chaotic city.
Having been a transplant for the past two years from the United States in Seoul, I’ve become aware of the dividing worlds: that of the local and of foreign/traveler. Being Asian (but Western) myself also puts me in a confusing spot for others as a traveler. It’s difficult to explain my status as an American when clearly, I am “not.” But I travel not to not disturb, but to observe and quietly celebrate. It’s from witnessing private moments growing up as a minority, privately witnessing immigrant moments that are both hellish and beautiful and most profoundly, humbling, and a bitterness for my lack of history in “world history” – an education that, growing up, was so central to the American point of view, that traveling is like a humbling thwart to the head with some balance of being a cultural minority.
Anyway, the few hours that I was exposed to Bangkok made it seem like another chaotic city. The staff at the hostel was genuinely kind; one young guy tried to talk to me outside. I slept alone in a four bed dorm with the door open, and the sound of Thai music blaring from below where a group of young guys sat around and hung out.
*“Only in solitude do we find ourselves; and in finding ourselves, we find in ourselves all our brothers in solitude.” Miguel de Unamuno