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Killing Time
April 2003 - Following an article I’d written quite a while back highlighting the ins and outs of daily life within this snake pit, many of you were wondering when I would resume the sordid tale. Well, your wait is over.

The post-breakfast scenario here can be as varied or as routine as you wish to make it. There are a vast range of activities in which to participate, provided you don’t easily tire of playing basketball, football, or takraw (kind of like Thai volleyball), and don’t mind getting your head broken.

Once you transcend that hurdle and have accepted the eventuality of serious pain, you’re ready to play. If, however, recreation and healing from lingering injuries aren’t your forte, there are a host of other things to occupy your morning schedule. I just can’t think of any right now, as my brain’s still a bit scrambled from yesterday’s pick-up game of two-on-two. Being a Western foreigner, you are exempt from the required work routine – they can’t begin to pay us enough here to justify enslaving us behind a sewing machine making jeans eight hours a day like the unfortunate locals – so you are usually left to find some way of entertaining yourself during the monotonous morning regimen. Which does nothing more than bring you to deal with the monotonous afternoon regimen.

If you happen to be physically fitness challenged, you may want to search out a tranquil spot where you can kick back for some less demanding academic pleasures. Good luck. An escape, even within oneself, can’t be found amid this ever-hectic, zoo-like environment. I mean, try taking War and Peace into the center of a Sumatran jungle on a full moon night, when the primates are going apeshit, and you’ll know what this ‘Monkey House’ is like.

One time-consuming outlet in which a lot of guys become involved is tackling domestic chores. Things like food preparation and laundry are duties which most convert into a form of meditation. It’s just sorta hard chopping up a kilo of beef using a sidewalk-sharpened soup spoon. And getting serious about one’s laundry while rinsing with putrid river water can become a frustrating exercise in futility. A definite advantage to either of these jobs is that most guys can profit from their labour – not just financially, but also in killing the time it takes to do it. The latter is a definite plus, as after you’ve been around for a while one of the most valuable assets you can acquire is finding appropriate ways of making the time pass.

Occasionally, when you’re at your wit’s end from the incessant boredom, and you simply can’t get yourself to walk around the building just one last time in a desperate search for something to do, some angelic intervention may appear in the form of a travelling visitor or two. At some point along the line a couple of guys from the UK dubbed these thoughtful folks “Banana Visitors” because one of them received a visit from a guy who’d brought him a lone, sweaty banana in a plastic bag. He was rather peeved that of all the items on the outside the visitor could’ve brought, he’d sent through this pathetic piece of fruit.

It didn’t take long to remind him after he’d returned to the building with a plastic bag held out well in front of him as if it held a freshly soiled baby’s diaper – that regardless of what people bring along with them, simply taking some valuable time and energy out of their tight vacation schedules to come and alleviate even a fraction of our ceaseless monotony is certainly a commendable thing. Either way, “Banana Visitor” remains an often used term, although generally not in the pejorative.

Whether it’s in the morning, or in the afternoon, eventually reality bitch-slaps you with the stinging reminder that no matter how you occupy your time, it will have no bearing on the inescapable fact that you are still obligated to be locked down for the night at 4pm – just like the night before and then the night following – only to endure the very same realisation that you’ll be awakening to a whole new yet never-changing day of sanity-testing boredom. Sometimes the emotional impact of all this becomes a bit much to handle. So please excuse me while I seek out another game of full-contact basketball.

Garth Hattan
Building-2 (Now Released on Transfer Treaty)

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