Monday, September 12, 2016

The GROW Factor

The X is definitely not the large vat of paella cooked in the polluted open air of the Chatuchak Market that is hawked at an obscene 150 bath per paper plate serving, nor the cold Singha beer from the bar at a pricey 100 bath per bottle, or the small tables and stools of the borderless restaurant, but the chef himself, heavily built and engaging, almost an Auguste Gustueau with a beard and an Italian accent, big nosed in a Caucasian way like my extra large Oriental snout.

Yes, noses vary from each country and continent although mine is not exactly the regular Filipino size, like my Austrian first name and Spanish surname, or the name tags on display at the entrance to the cavernous ballroom of the Eastin Grand Hotel that are spelled and written uniquely, each exuding its own X Factor as the annual GROW global face-to-face rolled off to table workshops and regional breakout groups, and shiny heads rise amidst a forest of hairy cascades. 

Thai food served buffet style is definitely an X factor in Bangkok, so too the Singha and Chang beer that Derk ordered on his own account for almost everybody, and so are the eternal breakfast muesli and limitless sashimi lunch at the Glass House's buffet table, plus the coup de grace of boundless pies and ice cream that breached hard into my imposed calorie intake, so hard that the calorie savings I earned pedalling to the Bantayog ng mga Bayani and the Quezon Memorial Circle in Manila was depleted with one meal, and had to be complemented by fake jogging and virtual biking at the hotel's 12th floor gym.    

Welcome to the GROW Factor in Bangkok, where gluttony and expansive rooms and beds are the norm, where jasmine rice is organically grown and sold in high-end markets, where uncontaminated fresh fish is offered to those who can afford the price of safe food, and to plastic cups of organic plum smoothies and vegetarian sandwiches. 

I believe in the Organic Factor but I am also a citizen of a developing country with a limited per diem for dinner, just enough for a nuked to-go 7-11 meal of spicy pork and rice, my counter-buffet, which is good enough with a couple of Laotian beer plus the Triple 11 neon green running shirt I got from Alex. 

In the end, Asia and Australia bested the GROW entries from Europe, the US, and Africa to become the 2016 GROW Factor champion, the inequality of Unequal Portions rebounding off the glass windows as I make a plea in behalf of Cluster B, while the Belgian chocolates from Marc melted into the pockets of my camera bag.  

I went home with some consolation jingling in my purse, small coins for a possible rice campaigning opportunity and bigger ones for a nationally driven ASEAN engagement, no paper money yet, just the sullen reality that my open-ended contract will actually terminate in March 2017, the sure uncertainty of not being there next year to help defend Asia's GROW Factor crown, and to familiar bike trails to diffuse the effects of a week-long buffet and two Johnny Walker-laced nights.

This is our GROW Factor and I do hope that it will be a factor enough in transforming an unequal world.

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