Right now I am sitting on a train rumbling through beautiful hilly green Thailand, preparing to spend a week of intensive study on the book of acts. It is about 7:30 in the morning and it is gorgeous. So peaceful, not a sound to be heard save the clickity-clack clickity-clack clickity-clack-clack of the wheels and the rail tracks. I never really remember how much energy it takes to simply be in the city, living in our neighborhood until after I’ve gotten a good many miles away. I tend to forget that I can actually go to beautiful open green spaces. Places where there is room to breath, and fresh air too! And yet I thank God for my forgetfulness, because I think it helps me to understand the experience of our guys a little bit more intuitively. You see when we are surrounded by a particular environment for a long time, we might remember what other places are like, but we forget that we can actually go there. Instead we just keep plodding along, talking about the outside, but never really doing anything to change our situation. I’d like to introduce you to “B”. He comes from somewhere not too far from this gorgeous green countryside I’m travelling through right now, but he’s been living in Bangkok with his mom, dad, and twin sisters for a long time. In the months that we’ve known B he has worked at 2 different male massage parlors and presently an A-Go-Go bar. B is my age, “rung-diawgan”. He is bright, generous, easy to hang-out with, and he has been doing this sort of work for a long time now. So have his twin sisters. One day we were walking in a market on his day off and I asked B, “So what do you normally like to do for fun when you aren’t working?” He replied, “Oh, I like to walk around.” “Where do you go?” “This Market.” “Why” “Because I used_ to be a masseuse here too.” “Who do you normally hang out with, who are your friends?” “Friends? I don’t have any friends…. The only people I ever see are my co-workers and my customers.” “The only people I ever see are my co-workers and my customers.” You see, B works nights, at least 6 days a week, unless a customer has decided to take him away as a private boyfriend for the week. He goes into work in the afternoon, works till early in the morning, and then goes home to sleep for a few hours before waking up late and going back to work. Even if he wanted to, B doesn’t really have the opportunity to get to know anyone outside of the scene. And so he doesn’t really remember that there is a world outside of the guys streets. One of the lies that B believes is that he can make more money doing this type of work. There is some truth to that – you certainly make more money in one hour of male sex work than in one hour of just about any normal job. But there is no consistency, sometimes you can wait for a few days in between customers, and then your average income is lower than if you were working at 7-11. Poverty works in lots of different ways. It is connected to our income to be certain. It is connected to our education. And in significant ways it is related to our network of relationships. If we only know other poor people we assume that life has to keep working the same way for us as it does for each of them, that it will never get any better. We rarely tend to think that we have options outside of the options that our friends are pursuing. And if, like B, we never have the chance to get to know anyone outside of the industry, then we assume that all we will ever be able to do is the industry! I am grateful for the chance I have to ride a train this morning, to remember that there are beautiful places outside of Bangkok that really aren’t very difficult to get to. And to remember that sometimes all it takes is our remembering that we can leave, and that things can be different.
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