“I am trapped in an enormous house on the highest hill in the suburbs of a small Thai island with eight men I barely know”.
This could be a perfect scenario for an R18 rated movie. This could also be the beginning of a horror film, but who am I kidding? I was going to spend 5 weeks in Thailand with eight coworkers who I knew long enough to feel safe around but not close enough to be entirely comfortable with; in my book this fits way better into a porn-series than a psycho thriller, where I torture and slowly kill them one by one, eventually making puppets out of their bodies. (Most likely, I would be the victim in this scenario, but we are experiencing a new wave of feminism and this is my article, after all.)
I sensed something was about to happen when my boss said, “Let’s make a deal: What happens in Thailand, stays in Thailand”, and the nine of us sealed this deal with our last pint of Guinness before the 9-hour flight from Moscow to Bangkok. However, the only orgy that took place there was when I got so pissed I could barely walk, and two of the guys had to carry me up the hill and put me into bed (I’m still not positive whether I managed to get undressed and put a bottle and a glass of water by my bed myself or they helped me).
Since I can remember I have always hung out with boys. It wasn’t my conscious choice back then, but I guess it happens when you’re growing up with two brothers. This played a low-down trick on me when I realised I was one of the dudes and a best friend, while the rest of the girls were some guy’s teenage love interest. Not that I’m complaining now, because the prospects of marrying my high school sweetheart have forever bored and scared the hell out of me.
I grew up in Eastern Europe, and I am already lost and hopeless to that society — I will be 25 in a month, I’ve slept with more men than an average twenty-something year old girl from my hometown, never been married, and am starting to think that I might be child-free.
I deliberately chose male flatmates and although now I need to rush to the drugstore when I run out of pads, this was one of my best decisions because the guys don’t ask who I fancy and who that cute boy that stayed over the night before (my gay best friend) was, and they certainly don’t use my coconut oil. I don’t sleep with either of them to a big surprise of pretty much everyone, if that matters.
So I was sure I was ready to take this Thailand trip by storm, and I’ve never been that wrong in my entire life. It was challenging enough to go to the other side of the world with your colleagues, let alone to be the only female in that group.
Disclaimer: You might think of this piece of writing as yet another unsatisfied feminist, angry at each and every man because she had once been dumped right in the middle of sex, complaining about an albatross she has around her neck living in a man’s world. And you are absolutely right. Except you’re not.
Despite those things written above being nothing but the truth (seriously, he could have come off me first and then ditched me), I’m not going to drop the “F” word and play the victim for I naively reckon that every intelligent person is an “f” regardless of their gender and social status.
So partly as an act of rebellion – and because who in their right mind would decline a paid 5-week “winter retreat” in Thailand? – I took this work trip with my eight male colleagues. And there I was, trapped in a beautiful villa on the small picturesque island of Koh Samui.
I had been working with this Mighty Eight for about a year at this point. I knew all the crass one-liners (and didn’t mind them at all) and even got introduced to some of their girlfriends, so there was not a dash of romance there. We were bantering about music and our movie collections on the airplane and cracked the usual dick jokes when the cabin crew said, “Ladies and gentle”.
I posted sunny “Look, I’m drinking fresh coconut water straight out of the coconut that was picked up a minute ago” cliched selfies and wrote witty tweets bragging about how cool it felt not to wear any makeup except for sunscreen and how blessed I was to be the only female in that gang. It definitely looked good on paper and I wanted it to, but if one read between the lines they would know that I kept using the word “trapped”, not because I wanted to sound quick-witted.
For sure, none of the beach photos and 140-character stories were fictional but there was always more than that.
These 5 weeks in Thailand turned out to be a social experiment (one of those they show you as part of your “qualitative research” course at uni) rather than an office getaway. It is fantastically hard to find a lover (a significant other, if you may) that would still excite you a month into a relationship, and it is so much harder to find a travelling partner that you wouldn’t want to murder in their sleep after a week of spending 24 hours together.
At one point or another I wanted to kill pretty much every person I was with on that trip, even my friend of 6 years who I had been through thick and thin with. I ran away and switched my phone off to get at least an hour for myself, and I know that those who travelled with other people are now intensively nodding their heads in agreement and understanding.
Being the only female didn’t make it any easier.
If you consider yourself a true traveller and especially if you are an Eastern European (read: Slavic), you’ve been to Thailand at least once. If you for some reason haven’t yet done so, you should know (and I bet you do) that mind-blowing sunsets, dare-not-to-cry spicy food, and picturesque beaches are only a small part of the Thai experience.
I was more than excited to go to see a ladyboy cabaret show but ending up in a strip club was not exactly my idea of having a fun night out. I certainly could have chosen to go back to the villa, but motorbike riding while drunk isn’t how I plan to die, so yeah, I was boozed enough to find this as a good new experience.