Delightful Farangland – Ning And I In Europe (3/4) Togetherness
How could she stand the cold, and how could I stand female company around the clock in my private territory – two of my main worries when I prepared for her visit.
Into the Cold
11 p.m., I enter the bedroom. To my surprise the windows are wide open. Waves of chilly cold air float into the room like artificial fog on a rock band's stage. I wrap my arms around me against the coldness. Then I notice something on the bed. A bronze body, uncovered from toe to fontanel, moving slowly on the mattress like a trout in a crystal clear and ice cold stream, exposing every single pore to the cold flow. "So cold, so wonderful", I hear her murmur, "and it is free – no need to pay for air condition."
While at her home she only has cold shower, in Europe she uses my hot shower. One time by accident there had been no hot water, and she had been okay with cold water too. She only tells me about the cold water shower days after it happened. She says: "Cold water, no problem." – I tell her some people first shower hot, then finish cold. – She: "WHAT? First hot, then cold?!?" Twenty minutes later I hear the shower. Forty minutes later a very excited SE Asian lady with attractive wet hair darts through my house like a schoolgirl on ecstacy: "You know what I did – shower hot, cold, hot, cold – oh, very good!" Later she says she always ends with a cold shower: "Finish with hot shower, I feel I have no shower at all."
We sit on a pebble beach near a small river. I tell her some people like to bathe in that river, but actually it is way too cold for that, because the water comes from a cold mountain. She: "WHAT? Can swim in river?!?" Believe it or not, now my shy lady is able to change dress on a public beach – she takes the spare shorts I brought. She walks into the small river – god, I freeze when I see it. She sits down on a boulder with ice cold water flowing all around her and falls in kind of a trance, a bronze skinned black-haired Loreley. I want to walk near her through the water to take her picture, but I can't – I can't walk on the stones in the river, and the water is simply too cold for me. She watches my ridiculous efforts with an enchanted smile.
One chilly cold midnight we walk onto a local hill. It is June 21, the longest day of the year, and we want to see the stars and the bonfires on surrounding hills. It is so cold we can see our breath. I would like to go home quickly and to cuddle up in bed (windows closed). Ning dives deep into her borrowed down jacket and gives me a smile as solid as a hug: "You know: cold weather, but I have good dress – I like that very much." One more warming smile – she really means it.
A Trip To the Capital
I have to attend a business presentation in the capital. After receiving the invitation, I had asked the presenter if I might bring "one more person". This is most unusual; still I want to introduce Ning to as much Farang lifestyle as possible – especially I want to show her a contrast to the casual countryside living we both enjoy every day. As the organiser is keen on seeing me there, they finally agree I may bring "one more person". So Ning gets her own accreditation.
I buy our train tickets from a touch screen monitor and we sit in a super modern train, but she would never comment on things like that. We walk into the City Hilton and find the convention rooms. We are welcomed by three oily marketing guys and get our name stickers, one for me, one for Ning. She says "Nice to meet you" and receives her sticker with a busy smile. About forty people listen to a boring PowerPoint presentation; a visitor on my right side who knows my travel history whispers to me: "Who is she – you brought her straight from Asia? What? Great! Does she like it?"
And then I show off: Normally I ask my questions after the presentation, to have the information all for myself. This time I hold up my arm and interview the presenter during his speech – and sure do I get admiring looks from the good-looking bronze lady to the left.
In a pause she needs restrooms. I know the toilets are quite a walk down the hall, around five corners, so I go with her. Maybe it looks a bit weird to the others that I walk to the restrooms with my cute eastern import; but I want her to find the establishment smoothly, and I want her to find the establishment for *ladies*. I do NOT want her to enter the men's loo and to run into any colleagues or business partners there!
After the presentation it's "business lunch buffet", standing around high bistro tables. Hilton dishes up "California Fusion cuisine" or so, anyway, there are lots of vegetables, light meats, no greasy fatty bits, that looks fine for her. So I encourage her to grab whatever she likes. Then we stand around high tables on the carpeted corridor, munching. My curious colleague interviews her about her impressions of Europe. But she is most shy and gives me a lot of desperate looks. I try not to help her when I know she has enough vocabulary to answer his questions on her own; and he is a friendly chap. But comfortable she is not. Then a few sales guys in striped suits make their rounds and drop name cards on everybody: my colleague gets a set, I get a set and Ning – she gets a set of name cards, too. She receives them with a "Thank you" and a nonchalant smile and gives the cards an interested look.
All in all, Ning never lets me down. Whether we lunch in the grass, visit friends, customers or businesses, and also with friends and business visitors at home, she is always a bit shy, but graceful, delightful and super-decent. I guess she makes a better impression than I do myself.
After the event we have time to look around the capital's shopping mile. She likes to go window-shopping, of course, and if she wants, she can use her pocket money for any purchases. First I steer her to the most expensive street, and we see a window full of handbags around 1000 USD; I think at that moment she has cancelled all ideas of shopping in my country.
We walk into an underground station, and there is one of her most impressive sights in all of her trip: A dirty, poor bag lady sitting on the stairs, holding out a plastic cup for a tip. Ning stoops, looks twice, cannot walk on. "WHY", she asks, "I think in your country government helps poor people, no?" She can't believe to see this: a dirty, poor bag lady begging for change on a subway stairway – in a super rich country.
I then have to go to another, smaller meeting, where I can't bring her. She wants to browse through dress shops meanwhile. We agree to meet in the big book shop where she can sit down on a couch and wait for me. After coming back, I see her in front of the book shop – she was too shy to enter on her own.
We walk back to the train station, and she is very silent. I ask if she did buy something, if she did see something, if she had problems finding her way. Her answers are very short. Then I ask if she did talk to anybody. "No!" she claims. I ask again – "no!", she sounds annoyed! Only after half an hour on the train she opens up a bit: A man had talked to her in one department store. She says she answered "No, I wait for my boyfriend." He had touched her hair and smiled and she had frowned and said "Stop! You cannot do this!" He then just moved one meter, but kept watching her from that distance. That's what she says.
I feel very sorry. She is not from Bangkok or Pattaya, but from a very decent, hard-working provincial family, so she has no experience at all with slimy Farang males. And while she has the usual bad opinion about Asian males, she never experienced eastern guys touching her hair in an unwanted manner in a shop. And remember, she already had to get rid of the talkative Farang man at the airport gate. I feel sad for her, and I hope her opinion about Farangland won't sink too low. But her idea that the average western man is more decent than an Asian male is definitely shattered.
A few days later she finishes a handwritten letter to a friend in her country. While I want to convince her that she can use the fax machine on her own, finally I myself have to feed her words into the machine. Of course I do not understand anything of her Asian writing; but in between I see the English words "business presentation" – our morning in the Hilton seems to have impressed her.
A Trip To the Doc and Into the Past
When we sat by the water in her country, she had showed me a small scar on her arm. A motorbike accident of course: "Now I shy to wear short shirt or T-shirt. Not beautiful." Heck, this little scar! I tried to convince her she looks most delightful anyway, but she wouldn't believe me. And then, in a rush of jovial patronising, I had said the sentence that brought her to Europe.
Now we are in my district capital in Europe. We walk to the skin doctor who wants to check that little scar on her arm.
Thing is, her obligatory health travel insurance won't cover the treatment of a three-year-old scar. Of course my own health insurance wouldn't cover her treatment either. I want to ask the doc if he can write the bill in a way that one insurance
has to pay for it. We go to a doc a friend has recommended; I am told the doc is open for tricky questions like this.
We enter a hyper-modern starship-like clinic full of flat screen monitors and slick nurses. As usual, Ning wouldn't comment. The doc is flat and slick too. He checks her scar and first diagnoses a "beautiful bronze skin". He says he can try to fix the scar, but he cannot promise great improvements looks-wise. Also, after the procedure she has to shield her arm against any sunshine for at least six months.
He suggests we think it over and come back if she still wants the treatment. About the bill, he says he wouldn't like to cheat. But he would not charge us for his work, only for medicine and bandages, about 25 USD all in all. For his counselling, he never sends a bill. Great.
We walk back to the car. My thoughts meander to that afternoon on the water's edge in her country, when she had first revealed the scar and her problems about it. Back then, with a self-contented voice, I had said: "Ning – you come to Old Europe, and we go to a good doctor to remove that scar!" She had given me one of her looks of disbelief. From her Asian ex she had learnt that men can lie indeed. I had seen from her face she didn't believe one of my words. Just sweet talk, her look suggested. I brought her to Europe partly to prove I didn't lie about seeing the doc.
I never believed, though, she would survive the procedures at the embassy. Still I bought the health insurance for her (100 USD) and the government paper that confirms I do have money and space for her (20 USD) and rushed it all over by DHL (55 USD). I just wanted to show her I do try my best, and I never told her how sceptical I was. She herself wasn't: She switched family property to her name, stuffed up her bank account with her uncle's money. With all those handy papers from Europe, her government and her bank, she still had to get through the interview at the embassy. They asked her about my name, my town and my parents. Luckily I had shown her pictures of my area and my family, I always carry a family flip album in SE Asia to entertain new friends. So she entertained the embassy staff with my family's saga – part of it sheer fiction, but embassy staff didn't know better and was impressed! "Show us a return airplane ticket, and you get a three-months-visa", they promised. I was deeply shocked. Then I called my travel agency and DHL again.
This is what I think when we walk back from the doctor to the car. I had promised to take her to a Euro skin doctor, and I did. Does she remember that afternoon by the water's edge, too? My Asian lady, silently she walks by my side. Then she says: "No need to go back to doctor. Cannot help much, I think."
Sometimes I feel I failed having her in my house. I had been very decided to lead a normal working life – after about two welcoming weeks, that is. Working life sometimes means loooong hours in the office and very little fun for quite a few days. I wanted to try "normal couple life", if she and me can do it, then maybe we can do it a few more decades? But with Ning in the house, I fall for the easy ways: work a few hours in the morning, and when she calls for lunch I forget the industry. When we lean back on the couch for our after-lunch-cappu, I clearly know the office won't see me back today. Is that the office phone ringing? Heck, let them babble to the answering machine.
I can't tell how she would be around me in everyday life. I never managed to lead everyday life. With her, I slip into three months of semi-holidays. See, you run around the house to retrieve the brown tape or green marker pen you left somewhere; what you do find is an Asian lady lying on the carpet with a book – flashing a delicate bronze line of flesh between T-shirt and jeans. How could you return to your dull home office? Screen savers run hot these days.
I want to say, Ning never demands any attention. She expects I have to work always and she is prepared to spend a lot of time with house work, garden work or English books. Still I see she wouldn't like me to read my usual dose of newspapers and books during breakfasts, lunches and dinners; she would feel ignored and neglected, even though we rarely get into a discussion over lunch.
But while she maybe is too silent and maybe has too little general interests, of course I am thankful that she is not talkative or missionary. I am kind of a weak person; mostly, when I talk three seconds, people interrupt me to unload their own topics/opinions/directions onto me, and for three commercial-free hours. So I deeply enjoy Ning's more contained ways. Before, I had western friends staying at my place for a few weeks; they used to assault on me in kitchen or living room with all their raves about what had happened to them on the street and on the internet today. Never let me say one sentence in return. Actually I only provide all this free content to stickmanbangkok.com, because it is one place where I may finish a sentence. With Ning I can stay, because she is not at all obtrusive.
Of course, like most Asians, Ning does not suffer from logorrhoea. Only once or twice she gets into a talking mood, that is when she recalls happy times with her family. But it is actually difficult to find out more about her past or about her solo shopping trips to the district capital. She never forces her stories onto me. Silence is a real option with her, how I enjoy that – of course silence with a reassuring smile now and then.
Before Ning's advent, I used to listen to news radio while preparing my food. Now with Ning, when she allows me to help in the kitchen, I am shy to turn on news radio, she wouldn't understand one word. All in all, I am cut off from my usual news supply through paper and airwaves. I end up checking the news on the internet before we meet for lunch. I even feel kind of clandestine when I flick through my radio station's news site. Stupid, but when I'm in the house outside the office, I want to be with her quickly; and when we are together, I don't want to turn on a radio or read something. Or maybe I want, sometimes, but I am shy to do so.
Reading before falling asleep is another of my favourites. This never happens as long as Ning is in the house. It might even be ok for her, I guess. Both of us do have no illusions that we should only cling to each other every day and night and that we should be like fresh lovers every night. Still I can't manage myself into more independence and time for myself. It is my problem, not hers.
Sometimes when I run around the house to look for something, tape or pen, I see my lady lying on the floor with books and magazines around her – sleeping. I have even ordered half a ton of mail order catalogues with ladies dresses, by her request; she likes to leaf through them, but never orders anything even though she could.
But there she sleeps between all her printed matters. She can say "I am not tired, but I can sleep" – and snooze off in a minute. It is a sad sight. I feel she waits too much for me. I don't want this situation, and she doesn't want it either. One time in her country she had told me: "Only stay with boyfriend – too boring. I want my own business." I would be most happy if she can take up responsibility somewhere here. So what could she do? I ponder to ask the Asia store man if he needs a helping hand. Or maybe the Third World shop in the district capital wants an authentic Third World inhabitant to show off? I know from Asia she has a talent for points of sale and shop design. But in all of her stay, she never picks up more than seven words of my language. Thus, she could not even work in a restaurant kitchen, I guess. Cleaning work in family homes might be available for her; but I I simply don't want to see her on that track unless she does explicitly demand it. All kind of work would be illegal, of course.
On the other hand, she might simply enjoy her holiday. She has spent a life full of hard work, mostly to support her family, with little pleasures. I feel she has deserved a time out in Europe, and I am happy to comfort her. But then I think I don't want to make it all that easy for her. Should she come back next year, I might ask her to pay ten percent of the airplane ticket; I want to see if she is serious enough about me and the trip to sacrifice one hundred dollars or so. Just when I ponder this, she says: "Should I come back next year, you have to pay me some compensation for my time in Europe. In your country, I cannot earn money to support my father and family. I lose money when I stay here."
Yes, it is my own fault. I have planned things for her she doesn't like, and now I am angry.
There are many nice daytrip destinations around my place. But when I go out alone or with friends, we mostly visit the same places. With Ning ante portas, I expected to discover my own area fully in her company, thinking she would like touring around more than anything else. Just like me in her country. I had collected a ton of information about my area: Many nice illustrated brochures and trip guides for her to choose from. But she didn't want to explore. I was shocked.
I remember two serious quarrels, I mean when the atmosphere was thick more than two hours.
One time I want to go to a different town to buy something, and on that trip we can explore a few sights around the area. But she says she doesn't like to go – I should go alone, she would stay at home. Suddenly I don't want to go anymore, I feel deeply disappointed for her general lack of interest. I don't remember the revealing fact that I know many more places of her country than she herself, and it is not because I have more money to travel.
Ridiculous in my dependency on her, I try to convince her to go with me, the trip seems devalued without her. Again, ridiculous. But while mostly she does everything to see me content, this time she locks up completely. Finally I open the door to go out for a shortened version of the trip I had been looking for. Only then I hear her calling from the living room: "Wait, I want to go with you!" Too late, stupid girl: "NO", I yell back and storm off. When I come back it is still tense. Only late at night we both feel it would be stupid to play angry, whilst everything could be so much more pleasant indeed. In bed, she cuddles close and whispers: "You know, this morning, when you say 'NO' to me so strong, I like that very much. So strong!" One more Asian girl who likes a father figure. She smiles with delight. She means it.
The other quarrel is even more bizarre. I have bought a used mobile phone and a prepaid SIM card for her. When she cycles to the district capital alone to buy fish, chili and other daily essentials, I drop the cell phone into her shopping bag. But she refuses to take it! I argue: "Dear, maybe you have a bicycle accident, maybe you get lost, maybe police stops you – anything can happen, and with the mobile phone, you can call me and I will be there in 10 minutes." She doesn't want to: "No need!" I don't know why I insist so much, but I also don't know why she refuses so much – this time she storms off and stays out really long. When I finally hear her key in the door, I do not go to welcome her – difficult as it is, I manage to stay buried in the office. She does not come to say hello either. No special souvenir for me. Again, reunion does not come before bedtime. "Today I think maybe you send me home", she whispers in my arms while we drift off to lala land: "And if you say I must go, I will go."
Until today I am not sure why these quarrels had to happen. It was not because she wanted time alone in the house. She was alone in the house often enough anyway.
We walk through the forest. She stops suddenly and jumps into an obscure bush. What is this? My Asian lady has found a bush full of unknown berries, and she will eat all of them here and now! From our walks in her country I already know that she has the eye – and the lust – to find mangoes on the moon.
In Asia, can you eat anything that hangs colourfully down from a bush? I my country you clearly can not. I know we have some berries that are ok for the birds, but nasty for a human stomach, but I can't identify them. I beg Ning NOT to eat those wild fruits. She keeps picking and delays the actual feast for a few seconds just to clear out my objections. She can't believe that I don't like her to eat those berries. She looks at me like a little girl who gets stupid orders from a dull auntie.
I manage to drag her away from the forbidden fruits. She looks like "oh, I will come back here solo, and then I swallow them all". Maybe she has already munched those berries off another bush on a previous solo walk.
Shortly after that, we walk through the local produce market. She stops suddenly and points firmly to a heap of fruit at one stall: "What is this? Delicious, no?" – "Dear, these are cherries, you don't know them? We buy 100 gram and you try if you like them." The fruit lady notes her interest and gestures her to try the cherries. Ning descends onto the unknown fruit like an eagle onto a rabbit, and she is most delighted! Not a bad investment for the market lady: We walk off with 500 grams of bought cherries. After this, whenever I come back from solo shopping trips, I always remember to bring home a few 100 grams of cherries for Ning. She likes this gesture as much as the fruit. We experiment with putting cherries into yoghurt, ice cream or whipped cream.
We've been walking silently through the fields for more than an hour. I am a bit tired now, and I guess she is, too. There have been a few invitingly convenient banks. But I walk on, because my favourite bank is yet to come around the next bend. I think it is not an obviously more beautiful place than the other banks, still it is my favourite, special place. When we reach this bank I ask Ning if she likes a break. "Oh yes!" I have not told her that this is my personal favourite place. She looks around her and beams: "Here very nice! When you must work, I come back here to read and sit down."
We've been cycling along the river for more than an hour. I feel a bit tired now, and I guess she feels tired, too. There have been a few peaceful river banks to sit down. But I cycle on, because my favourite river beach is yet to come around the next bend. I think it is not obviously more beautiful than the other river beaches, still it is my favourite, special place. When we reach this beach I ask Ning if she likes a break. "Oh yes!" She sits down, sighs, grabs for the water bottle, looks around her and beams: "Here very nice. I can come back here alone when you must work!"
So we hang out on this river beach for quite a while. I ask if it is ok for her if I flick through the local newspaper I had smuggled into our bag. "Sure! Can! Please you read, I just relax!" I tell her that a local celebrity died in a nasty car crash. She wants to see the horrible picture of the destroyed vehicle. Then she wants to see the picture of the dead man. I say we don't have pictures like this in the paper. She cannot understand that corpses are not in the newspaper. I ask her why she wants to see a torn corpse. She cannot tell, and I cannot understand her request.
In the local paper I read about a cabaret evening – tonight in the district capital. It is just local talent on stage, and it might be anything from bizarre to awkward to entertaining for me; it might be anything from boring to disgusting for Ning. So at first I don’t dare to ask her if we should go. I know anyway she doesn't like to go to venues with many people, and she wouldn't understand one word. I know she has bought chicken and veggies for a nice dinner, and she likes to pamper me with her cooking. Still, now I lie on this riverside beach with her, and I know we could make it to the show in time if we hop on the bicycles soon.
"Ning…?" I worry it is a bad turn for her. She would prefer a homey night with self-prepared dinner and her man. But then, sometimes I do have to get out of our golden cage, I do have to see people, I do have to inhale new ideas, especially cynical, ironical, crazy, skewed ideas, away from our idyllic comfy bourgeois togetherness. I ask her if we could go to see the cabaret without believing she likes it.
"Sure! Can! We go!" she says most positively! She nods at me affirmatively as if I had to make an important decision in my life, and she wants to support this. I remind her: "But then we can't do the dinner you had bought, and we will cycle home in the black night. Ok for you?" – "Sure! Can! Food ok tomorrow, too, no problem!" She is so positive! So many times I feel her strong support, and it really carries me on. Ten minutes later we pedal towards the district capital.
Another time I want to see a football match. I feel most guilty, because once I had a Farang girlfriend who clearly knew that watching football is not politically correct, and her displeasure about broadcasted football steamed out full-on. (I like to watch about two matches per year.) So I am most careful and wary when I ask Ning if it is ok for her if I do watch a match on TV. Will she despise me for my bloody passive male football-watching misbehaviour? <Come on pal, we are starting to see a bit of weakness here. You wanna watch the football (or the rugby, cricket or whatever, you watch it! Done! – Stick>
"Sure! Can! You watch football, why not, up to you!" she goes! It really seems no problem for her! Again there is her very affirmative, positive look – as if I were doing something great. Ning: "But who is playing?" – "Real Madrid
versus an Italian team." – "Oh, I see. Well, I like more the one in red shirt; Manchester United, no?"
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
My e-mail: PotholeResearch@aol.com