Delightful Farangland – Ning And I In Europe (1/4): Arrival
There she iiiiiiiiiis!!!!!
Through the huge glass wall I see her standing in front of the immigration booth! Niiiiiinnng! Touched down in Europe, bound to spend three months at my place! Can you believe it!?!?
But she is standing in the wrong line. Ning! With all the other papers for the embassy, I had sent her a drawing, painfully squeezed out of CorelDraw 11 back then, of how to get through airport. I had clearly pointed out where to line up for non-EU citizens – and now, no paper in hand, she waits at the wrong booth. Niiiiiing! She cannot hear me there, but she turns to me now – our eyes crash onto each other, her face bursts with shear joy and surprise! I gesture her to the other booth, she looks questioning, then walks over – and forgets her carry-on luggage in the other queue… I can't call her through the glass wall… oh, now, she runs back to pick up her daypack, laughs at me again, walks back to her line…
To be honest, I am glad I clearly remember her face here. We've only met for about ten days in her country, and that's some months ago. She likes to experiment with her looks. This evening the airplane drops a lot of good looking Asian ladies, intelligent face, beautiful bodies, I wonder what they do in my country and if they have a lover here… and a few times my heart had already jumped half-high at least, because I thought it was her; but it was not.
Now it is her time to show the passport. Will she get in? She has the visa (she said to me), but will she really get in? Anything can happen at that point, as I know from the depressing internet forums for mixed couples in my country. Can she talk to the policeman? Actually, I can see, he looks at her kind of grandfatherly. With a good natured face, he leafs through her passport… smiles… stamps it… nods a 'you can go now' to her… she walks through the door – then she is through, then she is IN MY COUNTRY!!!
Now Ning is out of sight, she waits for her luggage and will come in a few minutes. Heck. Sorry to you other people waiting for loved ones, but I had to occupy no less than five chairs in the tiny arrival area, to spread flowers, thermos with tea, still mineral water, fruit, biscuits, a welcome poster in her language and to have a place for us to sit down. God, how I had raced my car to the airport, nobody knows better than me that THAI is notorious for touch-downs ahead of schedule here, had managed not to faint over the parking fees, grilled five info counter ladies at gunpoint about her arrival point – NING!!!! There she comes with her bag!!!!!! We sprint into each others arms, her face is 1000 percent beams and joy, she even looks young and fresh and BEAUTIFUL despite her long distance flight, she feels warm and cosy and already a bit familiar!
20 minutes later we are ready to go to the car. I grab her suitcase – and almost can't carry it! What is this? "Thirty kilograms", she smiles. – "Thirty kilograms", I ask back? I never knew she owned 30 kilograms of things, or did she bring her TV? "Thirty kilograms – what is it?" – She just smiles.
Her trip had been smooth. A family convoy had taken her to the airport. Waiting at the gate, a farang had talked to her endlessly; she says she was happy not having him beside her in the plane. Changing aircraft in Bangkok had been smooth; she had asked THAI staff for assistance, and they had been very helpful. She says she is not tired now. I notice she doesn't look at the all-new surroundings. She has never been out of SE Asia before. I explain to her that the big city is behind that forest and my area one hour down south, nicer than this scrub here. I tell her it is 8.30 p.m., but not yet dark, different from her country. But she doesn't seem interested, so I stop lecturing.
Three months on a tourist visa… I told her before she came: "I cannot promise you anything, I am just happy to see you here, ok for you?" She had said yes. What will be after three months?
Back then my car had just picked up a strange disease – out of nothing, it would stop in the middle of smooth driving. Five minutes later, it would go on without any complaints. Fair enough, all the way to the airport there had been no involuntary pause. Now zooming back, I tell Ning, "sorry, you must use safety belts here, please remember, always"; and I also warn her my bizarre car might stop somewhere, but we could continue soon after.
On the freeway just south of the big city, the irrepressible vehicle burps, farts, bumps and bounces to a halt. Ning looks at me with a question mark in her eyes; she doesn't remember my comments about the car. "My dear", I go, "you know we can drive on in five minutes. We have no problem, I am sure. But what do you think, now you visit your 'rich western boyfriend', but then on day 1 his car is too broken to take you home, right?" She smiles. She shakes her head. She gives me an adoring look. She puts her hand on my leg, the first touch after our hug at the airport. She says: "Have you with me – happy already." She looks like she means it. I worry she loves me.
It is dark now. We have left the freeway. On small district roads we slalom to my home. In the middle of the forest, the car decides to take another break. We can do nothing but wait, with the lights kept on for security. Suddenly another car passes, stops, and a man walks towards us. Ning looks with horror.
Now let me tell you that I live in a rural, but prosperous part of Old Europe. An area where people know each other, greet each other, talk to each other, trust each other and help each other. Ning sees the foreigner in the night and expects an armed robbery. I know better. Under her very sceptical eyes, I open the window, and we hear: "Hi, saw you standing there, do you need any help?" I say "No, but thank you very much" and "Good bye", and I explain to Ning he just wanted to help us. She can't believe it: a lone car in the black night, and somebody else stops and offers help – this is new to her.
Five minutes later we drive on, of course. We have one more unplanned stop just one kilometre short of my place. And again, another driver approaches us. Ning now should be used to the crazy helpful locals of my area, but she still looks bewildered.
We drive along the house. When I left it around 4 p.m., I had turned on the lights in the street front rooms. Now it is shining nicely. Ning is impressed. I lug her 30 kilo bag into my place.
Will everything be fine for her? I have chased two cleaning ladies over every single tile, sink and floorboard, I have raided the local Asian store for Mama noodles, Chinese noodles, rice and all kinds of sauces. I have set up a second computer with a borrowed monitor for her, I have installed an extra cupboard plus small table and chair in the bedroom for her, I have installed a new mirror in the corridor and a few more variations of my Asian language welcome poster in different rooms. I even bought the essential Asian dining accessory, toothpicks. But will everything be fine?
The First Evening
She doesn't need food or drink, she doesn't need to shower or sleep. She just wants to arrive. Me, when I come to a new place, I am most curious about all the rooms. They reveal so much about the people living there, don't they? I do not want to show off, but I want Ning to feel at home, to feel very sure about everything, so I suggest a tour around the house. Ok for her. Now the place is not small, and it has recently been renovated with lots of delightful natural materials. She doesn't comment anything. Only the bathroom has not been renovated; it displays super-ugly tiles from the seventies, up to the ceilings, ugly old style crystal lamps and even an ugly worn-out shower curtain. It has about seven meagre square meters. Ning beams: "Oh, what a nice, big bathroom".
The living room has a fat carpet with inviting floor cushions. That is familiar to her, more than chairs. She sinks down and says "Uuuuiiiiiiiiiiiieeeeeeeeeee." – "You okay?" – "I'm fine", she smiles. She stretches out, no more comments. What I see on her face is something like "hmm, after all everything is true, he didn't lie to me".
She had reacted differently when we had talked earlier. Back in Asia, I had told her about my house, my home office and job – I saw disbelief on her face. Back in Asia, I had invited her to Old Europe – I saw more disbelief on her face. From Europe, on the phone, I had announced to send her all the many papers for my embassy – I heard disbelief in her reply. When the embassy had promised her a visa, via satellite I announced to send her an airplane ticket within three days – I heard disbelief in her voice again. And that I would meet her at the airport and fold her into my arms – I saw she did not fully believe it would happen.
We go back to the kitchen. She opens her bag. She takes out some fruit – the one I liked so much, the one she introduced me to back in her country. "Wow, good idea, thank you very much for remembering my favourite fruit!" She takes out some more fruit: banana, mango, mangosteen, pineapple, dragon fruit… then some more fruit, and some more fruit, and some more fruit, including several completely unknown vitamin bombs. She smiles softly: "Fresh from market this morning – 18 kilo of fruit in my bag."
I also have a bag with some welcome presents for her. There are a few picture-heavy tourist books about my area, in English. Then a few books about my language; no grammar, just comic-style, as easy as it gets. I also bought her a compact camera with a nice tele lens. She smiles: "Oh, I have about the same camera at home." – I: "But you didn't bring it?" – "No – lazy…". She keeps the camera anyway.
I want her to be as independent as possible: I give her a house key – she can go and come as she likes. I also give her a mobile phone with a prepaid card, plus her own number and wireless phone on my landline phone in the house. I tell her she can call and receive calls without asking one question. Tomorrow I will show her to the second hand bicycle I bought for her – the best individual transport she can use without a licence. I want her to be independent.
Finally, she finds the envelope with money.
I thought, 500 USD might be enough pocket money for three months? I don't want her to ask me for money if she needs cosmetics, souvenirs or anything else. I even want her to be able to run away from me – I don't want her to stay just because
she lacks the funds. And finally, it will be interesting to see how she handles this gift, right? I prepared a whole bush of small notes for her; so she can get used to the different denominations, and it is easier to spend anyway. I say: "This
is just for you, if you want to buy souvenirs, dress, or lady things. It is NOT for buying food or train tickets. I will pay for food and tickets, ok?" She doesn't count the money in her hand, she just looks sceptically at the heap:
"But that's too much, dear!" – I: "No need to spend everything, up to you!" – The money goes back into the envelope, envelope back into her welcome bag, welcome bag into her cupboard.
11 pm. Is she tired now? No. But we could go to bed anyway, I suggest. She agrees.
Next morning, we stumble into the kitchen. Now – can she survive a Farang single man's well designed, but empty kitchen? In Asia, except for select pizza places, I never saw her eating any western stuff. I show her my usual western food, and she is not too happy with this. But here we have Mama noodles, a Thai import, and her face lights up! Mama noodles come with some strong spices, fine for her. Luckily, I have a bit of salad, which she wants to chop into the broth. Then she opens her bag again – and brings out about five glasses and boxes of different pastes and sauces, mostly based on chili. I know we both like the same style of tea, and I start to prepare it right now; so, finally, her breakfast is complete! The right food is important to her, and now she has it.
"You have to work a lot today", she asks? "Oh no", I say, "I have YOU now. This week I have no deadlines, maybe just a few e-mails and phone calls in between." She seems surprised.
Now looking back, I feel I've thrown her into my world too fast. On this, her morning 1 in Farangland, we say hello to a few neighbours and bring them some of the SE Asian excess fruit; I see she is very shy and not happy to meet all those Europeans in their nice houses and dresses. "They all rich and clever", she complains back at my place, "different from me".
I suggest a trip "to the market", which means to the district capital. I ask her if she prefers car, bicycle or local train – it is five kilometres only. This is maybe a difficult point. In her country, she is free to go anywhere with her nice Honda Dream motorcycle. Here, for her own transport, she may only use the bicycle. And over there, the bicycle is not an option, as it gives her un-ladylike sweat, tan and muscles, plus bicycles do disappear so easily. So how would she go? "What do YOU like", she asks back? Me, I prefer the bicycle, it's part of my rural lifestyle. She: "Sure, we can go by bicycle." I think, oh how nice, she likes the bicycle. Later I learn that many times she simply does what I like most.
Anyway, for her I have bought a used lady bike with three gears and an extra shopping basket. We set off on field roads. When we first meet other bicyclists, I warn her, "you always give way to the RIGHT side, ok? Not one time to the right, one time to the left, like in your place!" I am not sure if she sees my point. "And when you see people walking, dear, don't just act like you are stronger. Be careful, be polite, ok?" Very strange concepts for an Asian commuter.
Oh, and there is an electric cow fence. She doesn't know about this danger. I lecture her to never touch it. She doesn't really understand my point. I can't throw her into the wire for educational reasons, as some locals do with their horses and dogs, so I have to act it out: "This fence has electricity – like light on your house!" I mimic peeing on the fence: "Some men, when drunk, they pee on fence, and – OHHH (I grab my willy and start to cry) – big pain too much!" For three months she never touches an electric fence.
We cycle through fields, then neat residential areas. This is a very new environment for her, but I don't see her looking around. We finally drop the bicycles on a little square to walk into the shopping area. While I head towards the action, she doesn't move away from the bikes. "Why don't you come?" – "You no lock bicycle?" – "No! Here, people too rich and too lazy, no need to steal bike!" – She doesn't believe one word. – "Sure, I am lazy to lock, we can go!" I get a very disapproving look, then she follows me with a look like "up to you, stupid rich man, it is your equipment after all".
After breakfast, we had discovered that she might need nice leather shoes, so we find a shop for that. I don't think the district capital is a good place for delightful shoes or dresses, but she manages to grab the only stylish pleasing shoes in
town. Funny. This is a perfect occasion for her to use her pocket money from me, and she brought it all. So at the cashier I don't help her right away, I just stand by should any problems arise. She pays smoothly, and we walk out. Her face
is pale, she doesn't look at me. "Ning? Are you ok?" She looks onto the pavement: "I didn't know… shoes in your country… 100 dollar!!!!" This is five to twelve times more than in her region. Anyway, there had
been a price tag right on the shoes she had tried, but obviously she hadn't cared for that. Her shoes had not been overpriced by standards of my area – by her standards, it was absolutely outrageous.
Then we need veggies for lunches and dinners to come. I don't take her to the supermarket, but to a special veggie store which I like for extra quality and good service. This is not a self service place, maybe I should have told her. Anyway, this is what she likes, almost like a market, huge displays of many different healthy fruits and veggies; she squeezes about every cucumber, every zucchini and every aubergine on the premises, rolls a few apples, tomatoes and carrots in her hand, too. No local customer would ever touch more food than absolutely necessary. Still, the shop ladies watch her patiently; they see she is a far travelled visitor who speaks English only, so she is forgiven for her haptic odyssey through the greens' shelves. I pay, and only on the street I tell her that she should not touch every food in there, but that it was no problem doing it once as a newbie to Europe. "Sorry", she says – "but how can I check the vegetables?"
Next is the tiny Asian store. Ning's face had been very serious for the last hours, all those new uncertainties and crazy prices, but now she lights up 100 percent! Here she knows something at last! All those soy sauces, fish sauces, sesame sauces, rice bags and cans of coconut milk she had bought herself all the time in her country! There is ginger, chili, Thai basil, of course Mama noodles, Chinese noodles and anything else an Asian housewife might need. The shopping cart is full soon. I had checked the grounds two days before, the friendly old manager is married to a Thai wife who stays at home, I had asked him to sell me something for her first breakfast, and his advice about the Mama noodles had been most useful. Now he tries to interview her about her trip to Europe and about her first impressions. But Ning is shy, she doesn't want to talk, she definitely does not like these benevolent interviews, after all he has a shop in crazily expensive Farangland while she has not, so he must be more "rich and clever" than her, she wants to go quickly. Oh, she grabs one more fish, I pay, and off we go.
We walk back to the unlocked bicycles, and she realizes with disbelief that they are still there. Cycling home, we pass a delightful restaurant which I like for its outdoor terrace and for good, light food including decent Asian dishes (they buy ingredients from the Asia store, actually). I suggest we sit down for lunch. She knows I would pay for that. But "no need", she almost entreats, "now we have vegetable and fish already, we can eat at home, not so expensive!" Believe it or not, in the next three months with my Asian lady, I rarely make it to all the restaurants and cafés I like to visit, because she cares so much about the money (and doesn't like to visit people's places).
Delightful Farangland – Ning and I in Europe (1/4): Arrival
Delightful Farangland – Ning and I in Europe (2/4): Taking Over
Delightful Farangland – Ning and I in Europe (3/4): Togetherness
Delightful Farangland – Ning and I in Europe (4/4): Departure
© Pothole Research
I really enjoy these stories of taking Thai girls to the West. EXCELLENT!