Stickman Readers' Submissions November 29th, 2002

Life Goes On

By Mr P

This is a more detailed description of my last trip to Thailand (Isaan) visiting my GF.

He Clinic Bangkok

My situation as described in the ‘Finally I filed for divorce’ chapters was complicated.
Changing a family-in-law within the same family is something you better avoid, if ever happens to you at all. But nevertheless it was an interesting trip; difficult but interesting.
Again I’m trying to write this as honest as possible and I do not want to blame my ex-family-in-laws. Under the influence of their working daughter/sister/aunt they changed too and developed a misperception about right/wrong, health/sickness and…money.
Before our marriage my ex-wife took care of her family very well; a house, money in the bank and every month 10-20K bath. As soon as I entered the picture we saved some money on a Bangkok Bank account and my mother-in-law was entitled to withdraw but only if she told us the reason. But I did not send a monthly allowance since they had enough (to my opinion). Over the years we bought some stuff like a TV, a stereo, fridge, car, and various motorbikes. We even bought a piece of land and a number of cows.
As soon as it was clear that our marriage was over we talked about our possessions and I agreed to take the money from our bank; the rest was hers (or her family).
Their situation is now…still some 200K in the bank, a nice house, a 1 yo pickup, various motorbikes, land & cows. I think they are well-off; definitely well-off in Isaan.
Next to the house of my ex-family-in-law lives the brother of my ex. They are crazy about each other. Whenever he asks his sister something; she will give it to him.
He’s a pretty spoiled guy, he’s got a nice house too, sponsored by my ex lately…
Most of the family lives in part A of Isaan, only the older sister of my ex live in Part B; 15 kilometers distance between the two villages…

And the older sister is now more or less my new mother-in-law or…the grandmother of my wife-to-be is my ex-mother-in-law. Complicated? Yes, sure…

So I flew to Bangkok and arrived on Don Muang on a sunny Sunday-afternoon where my GF was waiting for me. We stayed in Bangkok a little while; doing some shopping and visiting some friends we knew. And then it was time to travel to Isaan where halfway we were picked up by the brother of my ex. He drove us to a near-by village where I told him that I would like to buy an amplifier/equalizer (and speakers) for my synthesizer.
On top of that I selected a VCD-player (to make my GF happy) and our karaoke-system was ready! Suddenly I noticed that the brother of my ex and GF were talking while my GF looked embarrassed. I asked her what was going on and she said ‘nothing’.
But I knew something embarrassed her so I asked her again and then she said ‘he want same same’. How to deal with such… I was about to spend 8K, mostly for myself, and he expected that I would by the same for him…fuck no…
But I was lucky only to have 10K bath in my wallet; I showed that to him and said ‘sorry’. Both of us did not lose face but I thought ‘you will never, ever get one satang from me anymore’. So I arrived in the village of my ex where I was to load all my personal stuff into the truck before I took off to the village of my GF.
I was expected to come back since they had decided I could only sleep in my old comfortable bedroom. I only had to find some kind of excuse to overrule that.
In the village of my GF there was a very warm welcome; they unloaded the truck and I was receiving and giving sawasdees like a pop star on tour.
To my very surprise the father of my GF had constructed a very basic bedroom for the two of us; from his own savings he had bought all the materials and worked on it for a couple of days; I was touched by that. I knew I could only sleep here, even if that meant that I was supposed to sleep more or less on the floor.
Time to go back to the family of my ex where I had dinner and then ‘Oh holy shit, I forgot my medication; I really have to go back; it’s getting late as well so I better try to sleep there’. They understood and I was happy to travel back to the village of my GF.
This time not by truck (my truck, no my ex’s truck) but with my motorbike, no my ex’s motorbike. Nobody liked my bike (Honda Phantom 150cc), to heavy, ugly, using too much gasoline but since I broke up with the ex there was 1000km more on the clock…
I knew I had to find a solution to this transportation problem soon.

CBD bangkok

Back in the village of my GF and after a surprisingly good night of sleep I tried to fit in the daily village routine as fast as possible. That basically means…doing nothing at all.
Waking up, going outside and sitting near a campfire (it was fucking cold so early in the morning); drinking my coffee and trying to get on speaking terms with the family dog who promised me to rip me to pieces as soon as I would touch him. ‘I’ll be your friend in 5 days, remember 5 days’ I told him; he showed his teeth…the family laughed…

So I took a closer look at the house of the family; rather big but dirty, no windows and an old garage door as the main entry. Mud floors, no toilet, not even a squat toilet, just a whole in the ground under a sink roof. This family never profited of the fact there was a farang in the family; all other family members did but never shared one baht with them.

I felt the other family had cheated on them and I felt incredibly rich and spoiled.
I had planned to go to a Southern Island with my GF afterwards but it only took me 5 minutes to cancel all of this. For sure I would spend some money on this house; just to bring it on an acceptable level. Since I’m a contractor and my current contract runs out in a couple of months I needed a home base in case I would decide to leave Farangland and wait for new opportunities to arise. So I was willing to spend a bit more then I normally would have planned.
But I did not wanted the other family members to be jealous; I did not want to upset my ex by spending too much money on GF’s house. I still needed her corporation with the upcoming divorce. So suddenly I had the perfect plan in keeping both worlds happy.
I would ask my brother-in-law (husband of the younger sister of my ex) to be the contractor for some work on the house. That way he (the brother-in-law) could earn some money and I showed my respect to my ex-family-in-law. Complicated? Yes!
After talks with my in-laws and GF it was decided that we would go for tiles on the first floor, a bathroom/toilet with hot running water, 3 windows and a proper main entry door, inside and outside paintjob and a concrete path around the house. Brother-in-law calculated labor at 15K bath and materials at approx. 50K baht. Cost of labor would be due at the end of the job (fixed price) and it would be ready the 25th (fixed date). The only variable factor would be the materials; I would buy and pay whatever and whenever they needed something.
That was a deal and the next day a huge truck arrived with cement, tiles, paint and various other things. That same afternoon out of nothing three other guys showed up and the team started to hammer, drill, crush walls, each on his own; to me it seemed without a noticeable plan. He…..this is Thailand remember?

Getting crazy of the ongoing noise, the dust and the absolute mess in the house I went shopping with my GF in the nearby city (50km’s). I thought we need some transportation so let’s buy us a motorbike.
So I took her to a shop and knowing the Thai way of doing business a bit, we selected a bike (semi automatic) and then I left the shop. Up to her; I would only complicate matters. Man, I was wrong; I had never driven a semi-automatic bike and back in the village I tried and tried but I was a major case of kamikaze. At the end the family more or less forbid me to drive that bike again…they were right. I need gears AND a clutch, or no gears and NO clutch, but gears and NO clutch is rocket science to me.
So the family was very, very happy with the red shining turbo Yamaha (and everyone was able to drive it) I was still convicted to be the passenger…
That took me two days to realize that I needed my own bike (like I had in the other village), so back to the city and this time I bought a Honda Phantom 200cc.
Yeah, 6 gears AND….a clutch, auto-starter, that’s my baby; I felt good about having a bike of my own again not having to ask if I could borrow my ‘own’ Phantom 150 anymore. And this bike was a major improvement over the old 150, much faster and a much, much better sound. Instead of ‘tang-tang-tang’ it did ‘bom-bom-bom-bom-bom’.

wonderland clinic

Back in the village the house was still a mess and although everyone seemed to work hard there was not much progress to see. But, I’m an office guy (computers) with little or no knowledge of construction work. So I just relaxed, explored the village, visited the local school, some friends and had fun. Drove my bike from here to there, always held by my GF sitting behind me holding me tight.
Lot’s of looks…wow a farang….wow that bike…wow that lucky girl.
Lucky girl? Lucky me!

At the city nearby was a festival going on with every night a special event and one night Carabao was to perform…I had to go!
I took my bike and GF and off we went, booked a hotel room because we intended to stay overnight and do some shopping over there.
It was packed with Thais, young and old, sober and in every state of drunkenness. It was party time! Lots of beer, lots of whiskey, lots of fights and…a lot of police.
We were a bit late and could not get near to the podium so we settled for a place near the mixing tower. That was an almost major mistake as well…
Since I entered the festival with my digital movie camera openly over my shoulder I thought it would be no major problem putting some of the performances on tape.
As soon as Carabao had started I began to film. After a while my GF tapped me on the shoulder and I nodded ‘stop, stop, I want to film this’. She tapped me on the shoulder again and again I nodded ‘don’t do this!’ This time someone else tapped on my shoulder but this time it was much more powerful. I looked into the eyes of a very angry young Thai guy (obviously from the Carabao crew) who showed me his raised fist.
I understood the message, tried to calm him down and stopped filming.
But this guy left the tower like he was looking for someone; I guess he needed to know what to do with me (or the film), so we disappeared. My GF was very nervous and as far as she was concerned the party was over. Shortly after the incident we left for the hotel and the performance over there was much better than the performance of Carabao.
Didn’t regret leaving early…

The next morning we had breakfast at the restaurant of our hotel and suddenly my GF said to me ‘you no look, Et Carabao go breakfast’. I didn’t believe her so I continued my breakfast. ‘No, ching ching Et is here’. I looked and yes, there was Et.
My GF told me, ‘you sit, you no look Et, you no go see him okay?’
Errrh, yes, I will look, stand up and walk to him to have a chat.
She was embarrassed. I sawadeed Et and told him I enjoyed his concert. We talked a bit and he invited me to see his band again that evening, unfortunately some 100 kilometers west. I thanked him and whished him and his band well. He seemed a very nice guy.

Back home the usual mess was going on, every worker seemed to have his own agenda, and despite the fact we tried to give them some priorities to work on first, it was all in vain. Better laugh about it, but who will be the last one to laugh? Well, not the farang as I would find out later.

But, we need to buy some construction material so I’m driving my father & brother-in-law to a nearby village in a borrowed pickup truck.
Halfway there is a roadblock from the guys-in-brown and there is a queue of 3 cars and ours. Every driver hands over one or two 100baht notes.
Father-in-law gets nervous and takes 200baht out of his wallet. I tell him ‘put that back, we are definitely not going to pay’. Knowing that the average Isaan Police guy will not be able to talk English (apart from ‘hello sir’), I’ll play stupid and only talk English to him. If he still wants money then I’ll ask for a receipt…this time in Thai.
The police guy walks to our car and I open the window. You see him thinking ‘shit!’.
He starts to talk to my in-laws about my driving speed but I interrupt him by giving him my driver-license.
It’s ME driving this car, if you have something to tell me then talk to ME.
He stops talking looks at my drivers-license and looks puzzled…That doesn’t look like a Thai drivers-license…and IS it a drivers-license? The expression of his face shows that he wants to end this without losing face…
The suddenly he says to me ‘Amazing Thailand!, pai pai’ and gives us a big smile.
I thank him in Thai and off we go. That was the first time ever my father-in-law experienced that he did not have to pay the well-expected tea money.
But, 2 hours later we approached that same roadblock again and the in-laws are looking forward to a repeat-story. Unfortunately the officer recognizes the car and waves us through. Sorry folks…

My usual morning routine consists of sitting near the fire, drinking my coffee and a well deserved smoke. Most of the time chatting with bystanders or just dreaming away.
Suddenly a tiny black baby dog grabs my cigarettes and runs off. Everyone laughs and after 10 minutes or so someone is able to catch the dog and returns my (broken) cigarettes. I promised to get back to this particular dog later; they all laugh again.

Then my brand-new-father-in-law shows up with his gun; ready to go into the mountains.
Dreaming of controlling the construction workers with a gun I asked him where I could buy a gun of my own. That seemed quite difficult since the type of gun I fancied (compressed air gun) was highly illegal. But he pointed out some shops where I could start my inquiry.
So on the bike again, GF strategically holding me (ever driven some 50 kilometers on a bike with a hard-on?) and off to the city of illegal guns.
From shop to shop, ‘no have…go there’, ‘go to Nong’, ‘Nong no have, Tau have’ and finally we entered a shop and hear the famous Thai words ‘wait 5 minutes’.
5 minutes means – stop your bike, have a drink or two, smoke if you want and relax because the first 30 minutes nothing…NOTHING will happen.
Coming to Thailand for a number of years now I have learned to accept this and I just go with the flow; I can’t speed up things by getting angry.
Then suddenly a guy turns up on a motorbike and wants us to follow him, but he wants us to keep distance. Okay, if that’s what you want…so we follow him into a Soi and the whole operation starts to feel highly illegal. She stops his bike, opens a door and enters the building. Shortly after him we arrive as well; I knock on the door and he let us in.
Looks like an office without windows but we were lead into another room, through a corridor and suddenly we are in a small room stocked with guns…
A young Thai guy shows us the available guns and we choose an AK-147 like compressed air gun. In the backyard we give the gun a try and we negotiate the price down from 3.6K to 3K bath. But, transportation is another problem so the gun is put in a box, giving my GF a hard time holding both me and the box. Remember, remember, drive slowly…I don’t want to lose my gun….eerrrh GF.
As soon as we passed the last known police-control I stop the bike, take the gun out of the box and put the gun over my shoulder. GF now really holding me tight in order to prevent people (police) from seeing the gun between the two of us.
She’s freaking out but I’m not really scared, we will be home in 30 minutes or so.

Safely at home my GF asks me what I want for dinner. I say ‘either phad khrapauw kai or thod man kai’. In both cases chicken…..’Kai no have’, ‘No have? Look around…chicken everywhere’. Grandmother (the owner of the chicken) is consulted and one of the chickens is given the death penalty. For no other reason then that the farang is hungry.
No trial, no witnesses, and no jury; grandmother says you will die today…
As far as I know there are a number of ways to execute a criminal and a fire squad is one of them. And…..we have a gun and a trigger happy GF.

At 17:00 the chicken is taken from death row to an isolated place to be executed.
A brief medical examination and a go ahead from the authorities (me).
GF loads the gun, points and…..missed.
The chicken is protesting loudly.
She aims again and…….missed again.
Chicken is protesting again; this time it sounds like it cached a bad case of flue.
Mother-in-law shows up and says to her daughter ‘if you don’t kill it within the next shot then I will kill it the usual way’. (means…knife)
The last shot……she aims……and fuck….missed again…
Chicken-protest to the max, but sounds funny, feathers all over the place but still very alive!
Then in a rush the chicken is taken to the kitchen and I hear it protesting again but then it suddenly stops…

The autopsy showed that my GF shot that poor chicken three times in the neck, none of them deadly…the knife was. But it tasted good. Khap Khun Kai!

Early that evening I sit on the second-level veranda (with the gun) because we are going to ‘jing nok’ (shoot a bird). Expecting to see something like eagle-sized birds I’m confronted with tiny, nervous little creatures that have no patience to sit anywhere longer then 2 nanoseconds. I’m unable to even aim at them.
But then…I see the little back thief (the dog) and I instantly load and aim my gun.
The owner of the dog looks frightened in my direction… asks me (in Thai) what I’m going to do. I shout at her (in Thai) that I’m going to kill that dog.
‘Why? I love my dog!’ she says…’I’ll kill him because he stole my cigarettes’ I reply.
‘But he’s just a baby dog!’ she says…’That’s not my fault’ I tell her.
She looks shocked…then I smile and put the gun down.
Maybe 15 people watched this and they all started to laugh; for sure I made some impression speaking Thai to her. It was the talk to the town for a couple of days.
It was the point the village accepted me…

The daughter of my ex (back in Isaan, read ‘Finally I filed for divorce’) is giving us a hard time. She is obvious disappointed that she’s back in Isaan and that I was in control.
She upsets my GF by telling her that if SHE would want me then she would have me.
Because I told the daughter back home I loved her…how stories can be twisted around.
But to me she is as sweet as sugar. Pagwaan all over the place in order to prepare me for another ‘please help me with a visa story’.
I’m not stupid so I tell her ‘it’s up to your mother, if she wants me to help then I will do, if she does not then I can’t do anything’.
So she starts to spread the rumor that I’m running out of money, partly true because I only could take out 10K from an ATM in a nearby city on a given day. Had to go back the next day for another 10K. Never have this problem in Bangkok.
She also tells everyone that her (her mothers) boyfriend will five her 1 million bath when he is coming to marry her. And I’m only fixing a house for a little bit of money…
Well, let her talk, we know the truth…

Tonight back to the city to see Loso. This very popular band is attracting a huge audience and to be honest; I like their music, even back home there is always at least one CD in my car. So we traveled again to the festival venue and this time we are early.
Cool, because I want to see them from close…near the podium.
But, police is circling around, looking very aggressive and all the Thai’s back off and are to afraid to go near the fences. But he, I’m a farang, doing nothing wrong so I can walk to the fence without a major problem. I sawasdee the police and they smile; walk to the fence and take position. Nobody is going to occupy this space. My GF feels secure that she is covered by me and apparently by the police as well. All the other Thais stay behind… Between the fence and the stage is an inner circle with boys-in-brown again.
These guys look dangerous; guns, clubs, flashlights, no one smile. He guys, here is another crazy farang ‘sawasdee khap’; they smile and I have a brief talk with a couple of them. I know now that I’m secure; whatever will happen; they will protect me (I hope).
The supporting act takes more then 2 hours and the crowd wants to see Loso, riots start to break out, fights all over the place and everything is happening behind me.
The police acts strongly; they first point at you with the stick but no second warning is given. The second time the officer uses his flashlight to direct the other police-guys to the offender(s), seconds later they jump over the fence and again seconds later the offenders are dragged over the fence to be seriously beaten up first. Some of the police officers only seem to be there for the molestation of the offenders; some LIKE it!
Then they are handcuffed and moved out of sight. By jumping over the fence they do not care about the innocent bystanders having a good time. And as soon as Loso starts there is an intoxicated guy touching my ass. I turn around and tell him to back off. He does it again; this time shouting ‘falang, falang’. I protect my lady, turn around again but this time I feel someone gently sliding over the fence; a policeman. Seconds later this guy is dragged over the fence and has his ass touched too. This time by the shoes of a number of policemen. I felt sorry for him but was pleasantly surprised that the police in fact protected me and my GF.
And it was the first time that I noticed that the police went over the fence so gentle…
For the rest we enjoyed a good concert and went back to our hotel to…well you know.

Even a blind man can see that the construction work is not exactly on schedule; I start to worry because the 28th we want to have a small kind-of-engagement party.
So I talk with the brother-in-law and he assures me ‘no pomplem, finish 25’.
But rumors are starting to kick in. My father-in-law start to push the guys and they tell him ‘mind your own business, the farang gave us this assignment, not you’.

And then, by surprise, they announce ‘overtime, overtime’. Yeah they finally go to put some serious pressure on things. Overtime…that means start at 10 o’clock in the morning (the day will be long) and a nap at the temple at 3 o’clock in the afternoon and a break between 17:30 and 19:00. They stopped ad 21:30 because it was to dark to work…
They even worked less hours then normally…but this is Thailand.

And I hear that our contractor needs more money (15K is not enough, 20 or 25K will do).
I start to calculate and knowing the rate per day for all the workers is a fixed 120 baht I know that my brother-in-law is trying to rip me off.
My GF told me that one guy was cut 20baht a day because my mother-in-law gave him some sort of breakfast every morning. So my brother-in-law is cutting 20baht because my mother-in-law is giving some food to a worker???? He’s fucking crazy.
He’s already getting 300baht a day and is trying to get more money for himself. I don’t like that idea.
Whenever he would share the profit with all the workers I might agree but since he’s trying to pocket the extra’s himself he can forget about it.

It’s the 24th now and the work is not finished. The tiles, the floor, the windows and the main-entry door are there but the bathroom is not finished, and what about the paintjob and concrete path around the house???
It’s obvious that they want more money but that does not make sense to me.
By paying them more they will not be ready by tomorrow. The outstanding work is to my calculation more than 5 days work. I’m not going to argue about it; that same evening I sent the crew home with 15K bath. Up to them.

My GF is being bothered by the daughter of my ex ‘how much will he give you when he marry you? she asks… My GF does not want to answer but this question goes on and on and my GF gets a little tired of this. 1 million she finally says…
Oh….my boyfriend will give me 2 million when he comes to Thailand, forgetting that she just increased the amount of money with 100%.
But my GF feels very guilty that she talked about money but I told her ‘no big deal’.
That evening we had a talk (GF, father and mother and me) where we discussed the matter of the sin-sot. They did not want any…They were perfectly happy with the 5K per month what they considered to be too much anyway. And furthermore I fixed their house what would they want more? I was happy to hear that but the 1 million baht thing had start to spread around like a virus. Well, no big deal…if necessary I will show off with 1M but it will be MY money, even the day after the marriage.
The family feels very relieved…

Volunteers from the village are ready the next morning to fix the remaining work and as fast as lightning everything gets done. They also do overtime…from 6:30 in the morning until almost midnight, with very short breaks for food and drinks. The day before the upcoming party the last wall is painted and I give each a whopping 150baht per day with 30baht overtime (I’m instructed to do so).
Later that night we all go to a sing-a-song bar and they get drunk as hell (on my expenses).
They are delighted, I’m delighted as well that the work is finally done.

The day of the party is a day like any others. And I worry a little bit because I see no preparation whatsoever. What about the food, I ask…No plomplem, Drinks, where are the drinks? No promplem. How many people are invited? No direct answer.
Okay, I’ll relax, if anything goes wrong then please don’t blame me…
But the party is a blast and many people showed up. Everyone wants to see (and hold) the gold my GF gets from me and according to their reaction I’m accepted as ‘jai dee’.

Relieved and relaxed I prepare myself for the trip back home; it’s been a good trip and it
was beyond my expectations. I’ll be back in a couple of months I guess.
And about the dog? Yes he’s one of my best friends in the village now, but probably because I fed him some pig ears…

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