cuz my mind is definitely half in madrid and half in bangkok…
since we’re the only ones in our VIS group who chose not to travel this weekend, last night, meredith & i took a leisurely stroll to Puerta del Sol, widely regarded as the heart of Madrid. Sol is a major transportation hub filled with all kinds of clothing stores, tattoo parlors, coffee shops, bars, fast food places, fountains, benches, and all kinds of people at all hours of the night as it morphs into morning. We went to (where else) a very swanky McCafe, one of the nicest McDonald’s i’ve ever had the pleasure of enjoying from the 2nd floor. we got cookies and greek yogurt and all that good stuff and sat for a while just chatting about life and love and spain.
it was a great place to people watch, and we looked down to see tons of interesting people milling around everywhere in the plaza. but once the novelty of the families, couples, and weird looking teenagers wore off, with a start i noticed that the street was lined with prostitutes up and down Sol. Spanish women spaced out pretty evenly on a street leading to the most crowded part of Madrid, arranging their skintight skirts, lowcut shirts, texting on their iPhones and making themselves generally presentable. Unlike Thailand, prostitution is legal in Spain.
seeing so many women gathered by 10 or 11pm to attract customers was a very unsettling experience. Seeing them brought back instant memories of the KT Guest House, sitting and listening to Ivan, a missionary in bangkok who ministers to male prostitutes in bangkok, handing out condoms and listening to stories and praying. images of Nana, a red-light district in bangkok that caters to Western tourists, flashed in my mind. Feelings of first and second-hand shame as a mama slaps me on the butt with a foam stick touting sexy ladies. Anger at seeing white men surrounded by beautiful Thai women. Surprise at a more forgiving reaction to Asian men. so many women that came to Bangkok in search of a way to live and found only decay, at least on the inside. I remember my heart just breaking with empathy that I couldn’t explain: the need to be wanted, to feel beautiful, to excite and be everything to someone who could make you feel important or loved or at least better than you were before. Lights and smells and skin and eyes focused on the cracks in the sidewalk, darkness and brokenness and prayers that couldn’t rise above Nana, that couldn’t escape high enough for God to hear.
the overwhelming sights and muted panic of bangkok red-light districts are a totally different experience from the toned-down desperation of puerta del Sol. the women aren’t wild or naked or dancing. they just stand and wait. we see a man appraise one particular women, up and down he checks. he smiles and they walk off together. i look over to see if meredith has noticed; i can only grimace when she returns once more. ill never forget the chills i got when we walked down Sol and a woman asked someone in our group if he was interested in what she had to offer. what was her story, that someone made in the image of God, someone that He sent his Son to die for, a beautiful woman like her, was out on the streets of madrid asking a 20 year old american student to pay her for sex? did anyone know? was she alone in this world? the prostitutes have iPhones and designer bags and really expensive clothing; something about prostitution in spain, in comparison to the poverty of bangkok, seems even more sinister and rotten.