February 1st was the very first day that I set foot in Thailand, and immediately had mixed impressions of the very heavily rain forested country. First one was actually rather fun. We were told that we would have to eat MRE's for the day until we get back to ship, but this country really doesn't hold any value for us eating the MRE's instead of trading them to the locals. First, a short little Thai guy drives up in a little minivan and starts yelling "Chicken! Two dollar!", which prompted most of the platoon with money to go buy a nearly live chicken. I say nearly live because the only thing that wasn't attached to the chicken at the time of it being fried were the feathers. Head, neck, feet, they fried it all. For those of us who didn't have money, and yet still felt like puking over the thought of eating an MRE, there were other options. Organizing a four man party armed with bayonets and cammie paint, we pushed into the jungle. Pig hunting? Not really, but we did come back with some unripened miniature bananas, some kind of fruit call a Jack Fruit (tastes like Juicy Fruit...), and an armful each of different sizes of coconuts. The bananas were a bad choice, immediately drying your mouth as you ate it, the Jack Fruit was absolutely amazing when we figured out which parts were good to eat, and the coconut required a hammer, axe, crowbar, bayonets, and violent throwing against sides of tracks in order to open. We poured the coconut juice into our canteens, and set up all the food we got like a meal in the back of the track. It was the best I had eaten since I was in the states =)
But, as it seems to be whenever I deploy, the beach wasn't done throwing surprises at us. On one of our walks around the beach looking for fish, something else floated out of the water that brought back sordid memories. The torso and arm of a Thai man was discovered, and local Thai police were brought in to investigate. That was quite a shock, and rather colouring of the rest of my visit to Thailand.
On the 5th, we splashed back onto the beach, and went to work with the AAV's that the Thai's had and show them how to use it. It was the most I have ever sweated in my entire life. Working for eight hours out in 90 degree weather, 100% humidity will drain you the minute that you step outside. It wasn't all work, though, and we got the chance to sample some of the Thai food for 30 Baht (equal to roughly one dollar), as well as trade the locals for all sorts of different kinds of foods and items. On the 10th, we got to play soccer with the Thai, as well as do several......different kinds of relay races involving balloons and pennies and wheat. The soccer was actually really fun until they all came out in matching soccer uniforms. Then we all pretty much decided that we were done. We came out better then most of us thought we would do (2-1 Thailand), but we still lost.
That night, we had a little karoake party with a huge local feast involved. I saw some kind of soup that looked like Italian Wedding Soup, and I thought it would be really good to try out. While eating it (and thouroughly enjoying it, some of the best I had ever tasted), one of the Thai guys I got to know pretty well (Dek), came up to me and asked me if I liked it. I replied that it was actually very good. He smiled, nodded, and said that not many Americans will actually try pig testicles, let alone like them.
After much more daily interaction with the Thai Marines, I came back on ship with a Thai Marine Corps baseball cap, an assortment of Thai shirts, an 8 point Thai cover, a *muffled sound because it is a gift for my beautiful wife*, a flag of Thailand for my wife and I's international room in our soon to be house (*wink*), and a full set of Royal Thai Marine Corps cammies. Oh, and nearly got killed by flying bees the size of my pointer finger, and spiders the size of my head. All in all, I liked the experience, and the things that I got from it, but I am ready to move on to a different country, if only it brings me closer to home =)
Oh, and if you are ever in Thailand, and you see white little oval things that look like meatballs floating in soup, eat the shrimp.