Readers' Submissions

First Trip To USA Part 2

  • Written by Claymore
  • October 16th, 2004
  • 23 min read

There we were just getting back to normal after the jet lag from the trip. I got the submission "First trip to the USA" off to Stickman's website by email and then "feedback" emails started to pour in. I got good "feedback" emails from all over the world and they were all positive and asking for more about the trip. So guys here it is. I hope it lives up to the first one.

I have to set the stage a little about the trip. First it was my Thai wife's first trip to the USA and we went to Connecticut which is in the Northeast colder part of the USA just North of New York City. The following tale relates to her experiences in my old hometown which is fairly small at about 9,000 people with a couple of "road trips" to New York and some larger cities thrown in. This submission could also be an update for farangs that don't get back to the states as the changes in lifestyles and what's new in the states still catch me off guard and I get to go back once a year. So remember when you are reading this the "stuff" I talk about may vary by where you go in the USA and if you have had different variations please send them in a submission to Stickman.

One real big surprise for my wife is when we went into the bank or post office and there were no lines of customers!! I tried to explain that most Americans now are online in one form or another and no longer have to get in the car and run down to the bank or post office. Every one of my friends had said they haven't sent any letters (snail mail) since they had gotten their computers. I told her it will be a long time before the people in Thailand have enough money so they can buy computers and reduce the amount of people in lines every where in Thailand.

We also saw why there were no people inside, they were all in their cars at the drive-up windows for everything in the USA even drive-up pharmacies, fast food outlets, banks, and the post office. No wonder everyone was so fat – they never get out of their cars and walk anywhere.

One thing we saw even had me wondering. What is up with men in SKIRTS? We saw one on the plane leaving Bangkok one in Japan and two in the states. The skirts look like kilts but made of stiff cloth that looked like canvas. The guys weren't "ladyboy" types they were normal looking guys but all seemed to have lots of tattoos. Did I miss something, when and why are men wearing skirts?

Inside the house she really liked the loads of TV channels available on US cable systems. It was bad enough at home in Thailand with UBC and her channel surfing but with 200 channels in the states it was a nightmare. She couldn't even understand most of the English and none of the Spanish but that didn't keep her from surfing around the dial driving everyone in the house nuts. If you bring your lady to the USA be sure you keep her away from the remote!! For me it was nice to watch TV without all the commercials full of Chinese and Japanese influences like you see all the time on Thai TV.

While surfing around she came across the drawing for the multi-state lottery called "Powerball" and nearly fell out of her chair when she heard that she could win 10,250,000,000 Baht for first prize.

Being a retired State Trooper we watched the TV show "Cops" a lot as it is on one channel or another at all hours of the day and night and when we got back to Thailand she had that catchy song from the beginning of the show stuck in her brain and she was going around the house singing the theme song "Bad Boys what you gonna do?" for days, you had to see it, a young Thai lady dancing around the house singing that song. Now whenever I do something the slightest bit "wrong" she breaks out in that song wagging her finger at me in time to the song.

One thing that almost lead to a bad time was the electric stove in my mother's apartment. Being the good Isaan girl that she is she had never encountered an electric stove always relying on "Gas" powered stoves. I tried to explain the workings of the stove to her but could see that her eyes were mesmerized by the glowing red burner and knew I had to work quickly to avert a painful encounter. You see way back when I was a young whipper snapper of about 9 or 10 years old I was playing around in my father's car, whenever no one was home, and I "discovered" the electric cigarette lighter in the car. My eyes lit up the same way hers were now glowing when I saw the glowing red element of that cigarette lighter. Now I thought I was an "expert" at all things hot as our favorite thing after throwing snowballs at "Cootie" girls was playing with our plastic "army" men. When we got bored with just moving them around "playing war" we would light them on fire and listen to the cool sound of the burning plastic falling to the ground "zit zit zit". One thing always leads to another and we found out the hard way that burning plastic really hurts when it hits your hand and that it sticks to your skin. Back in the car I just had to touch that red part of the lighter to see if it was hot. Yep it was and I had a half-moon scar for the next few years to prove it. Now she had that same look in her eyes and I knew I had to stop her from putting her hand onto that hot burner. I finally showed her that it would boil water and she was convinced but she forgot that the burners were still hot when shut off and she would put plastic plates onto them resulting in a couple of my mother's plates having "burner scars" on the bottom.

One thing the "do gooders" did for the environment about 20 years ago that is really paying off was the "recycle cans law". My wife saw some people stop their car and a kid ran out and grabbed a discarded can off the side of the road and ran back into the car with the can. She asked what the heck that was all about and I told her that when you buy soda, beer or other beverages in cans or bottles you pay a small deposit on them and then when you are finished with them you can return the can and get your money back so "poor people" drive around collecting the cans that have been tossed out by other people (only in America could you have "Poor People" driving their cars around to pick up discarded cans). She had to see for herself what happened to the collected cans so we took one to a machine in front of a local grocery store. The machines are the size of a giant coke machine and you insert the cans into a hole in the machines front and it lets out this loud noise and either squashes or shreds the can into small pieces and spits out a receipt that you can take into the store for your money. Our roads have never been cleaner with nary a stray can in sight.

My wife loves money in every form and she collects money from every country that she has the opportunity. So it came as no surprise that when she saw the new quarter dollar coins in the states have special designs from all the different states on the back she had me checking my quarters every time I got change so she could grab them and secrete them away for her special coin collection.

While we were out and about she commented that she never saw anybody walking and that it was nice to jump into the car and drive off without having to think about the time to avoid traffic jams like in Bangkok. When we stopped for gasoline she was again incredulous that there were no attendants to pump the gas, that you just insert a credit card pump, your own gas and you are gone.

It seems that in the states now people pay for everything with a credit card. In one fast food restaurant the lady in front of me paid for a $1.20 (50 baht) cup of Coke with her credit card.

One place you can't use a credit card was at "Tag sales" for you guys that have never heard it called that, a "Tag sale" is when you pull out all the "good used stuff" (junk) that you have collected over the years and put it on your front lawn and try to convince (Con, scam) other people that they need to buy your old "Stuff". Lots of people (mainly blue haired old ladies) love these things and if you see a bunch of cars parked around someone's house on the weekend it's most likely a "Tag sale". Well being the packrat
that most Thais are born to my wife loved all this "Stuff" (junk) and tried to convince me to buy a white glass punch bowl set that she just had to have and with some quick thinking I told her she could have it BUT with this in the suitcase there would be less room for "New Stuff" that we may happen to buy, that did it and we were off to look for "New Stuff" at the Mall.

One of the first "stops" on our shopping trips was a "Gun shop". Yeah I know some of you out there never had guns and dislike those of us that do but this is our story so if you don't like guns skip to the next section. My tilac had shocked the crap out of me one night after we had started living together, we were watching some war movie or another and she was in the kitchen doing something when she came out with "that sounds like an "AKAA" (Thai speak for an AK-47) and she was right. On the TV that's what they were shooting. I was dumbfounded and asked her how in hell she could tell the difference in gun sounds? It seems that her village is right on the border of Thailand, Cambodia, and Laos and during her younger years first the Lao Army would cross into Thailand and the Thais would throw them out then the Cambodians would come in and both the Thais and Lao guys would fight the Cambodians resulting in an "interesting" childhood. So she had heard guns fired in anger many, many times and the villagers had learned the different sounds so they could tell who was shooting right over their heads. All the families in her village had dug "Bomb/ Shooting shelters" in their backyards and at the first sign of trouble they would head below ground. She went on to tell me that the Thai Army had trained some of the men in the village to be a local defense force and she had even learned to fire an RPG (rocket propelled grenade). That made her, in my book, an even better catch for a mate. When we go to her village right now at this time we still have to cross through 3 Thai Army checkpoints and at night local men go out "Patrolling" for invading Cambodians now only looking for food not fighting. There are still signs up in her village warning people not to walk off the trails as there are still loads of landmines that have never been removed. So there we were looking at all the shiny new guns and she wanted to buy a few and it was one of those times that I had to disappoint her and tell her she could not buy any.

Non-gunners can resume reading here, Her nickname is Apple (Bun) and she was enchanted by her first sight of Apple trees full of nice red apples and we ended up taking about 20 photos of her in the apple orchard and even had to take a photo of a local road sign, of course it was Apple Road.

In all our travels she was really envious of all the wild animals we kept seeing along side the road, Black bear, wild turkeys, many squirrels, Hawks, rabbits, deer, and skunks. She said it was too bad that the Thaïs were so poor that they killed and ate anything that moves in the "Bush" and there were not many animals left to just look at. She liked the clear as opposed to "muddy" water in our rivers and streams until I had her stick her hand in the water and she pulled it out like she had put her hand on a hot stove (I couldn't resist that one) because the water was SO COLD.

After looking at all the "Hills" around my old home she now knew why I kept telling her I didn't like Bangkok as it was too flat. The sight of the leaves on the trees changing colors from green to red, yellow, and orange had her jumping up and down in her seat and we had to take more photos of the colorful trees.

A trip was made to the cemetery where my father is buried and it took some time and gentle coaxing to get her out of the car as she was afraid that the "Pi" (ghosts) would get her. She thought it was really nice of the government to supply a headstone because my father was a veteran, and she was really impressed that the government had supplied an Marine honor guard for the funeral even though he had fought in WWII and it had been many years since he was a Marine.

The big trip to New York city for a NY Yankees baseball game was on, after hearing so much about New York City on TV it was a big let down for her to finally get to see that big grey monster. As we were driving into town we passed one apartment complex, Co-op City, where 10,000 people live and breath and some never leave in their entire life and she could not fathom how that many people could live in so few buildings. She keep looking out the window with a perplexed look on her face and finally came out with "why are there all these strange paintings everywhere?" she had discovered graffiti. When I explained that the local natives just painted their names and gang names wherever they felt like it she still couldn't understand and it would take a better man than me to explain it. Then I said "They are like dogs pissing on every tree in sight marking their territory" she finally got it. She didn't understand what was going on at the ballpark but was having fun after getting into all the fans madness, when she found out the prices for food, 500 baht for hotdog, 250 for a small coke, she refused to eat and that is no small feat for any Thai. She was humming along with the "National Anthem" and when we got home to Thailand she would hum a few bars and at the end yell "Play Ball" like they did at the stadium. It is really surprising what she will pick up without even thinking about it.

Back at the mall the next day she found and fell in love at her first sight of a "Victoria's Secret" shop. Victoria's shops are full of sexy women undies in all styles and shapes. She got me to follow her in as I was reluctant to enter the realm of "Womenness" but with red ears I finally crossed the threshold and it was like being in one great big Bra section in local shops. Every time I turned around I was looking at Bras and undies in all colors with women everywhere and me being the only guy. We made it out with a couple packages but I'm not getting into than in this forum.

While at a Mall my wife spotted a mobile phone shop and that was that for the next 20 minutes while she "shopped". I kept trying to interrupt her to tell her that these phones would not work back in Thailand (well except for the few GSM models there but who's telling). She loved all the new "bells and whistles" the phones in the states had, as would most Thai ladies that I know, and was flabbergasted that they were so cheap, and that poor salesman kept up his patter for 20 minutes and it was a big let down for him when I finally got through to my wife and we left, leaving him open mouthed in disappointment in losing what I am sure he thought was a sure sale.

The last part of this submission should be called "Adventures in Farang Foodland" as we all know that food is near and dear to all Thaïs hearts.

Like most Thai ladies my wife did not have much experience with farang food other than the occasional taste of whatever I was eating so staying in Farangland and trying to find something to eat would be an adventure.

While trying to instruct her in using a microwave oven I had selected one of my favorites "Orvell Redenbacher Popcorn" in the bag you put into a microwave to cook. Now when you open the big package and take out one of the smaller bags to "Cook" in the microwave it is almost flat and looks like an empty bag. My wife was turning the bag over and over in her hands with a perplexed look on her face and came out with "where is the popcorn?" and I told her it was in the bag. She did not believe me so I told her it was FM (yep I was being a BAD boy but I was on vacation and had to have some fun). She let it go at that and we put the bag in the micro and let her rip. I told her to keep her eyes on the bag while it cooked and started chanting "mystical, nonsensical, gibberish" while the popcorn cooked. I kept asking her if the popcorn had arrived yet and right then the popping started and the bag began to expand with the rapidly cooking popcorn and her eyes got real big and she started shouting "honey the FM is working" soon the bag was full and 4 or 5 times the original size. We quickly removed the now full bag and when she got it open she dove right in and started eating. After a couple bites she asked "honey what is FM?" and I had to tell her that FM was "Fucking Magic". After a couple seconds for this answer to sink in she popped me on the arm so hard I had a red mark. She continued to make popcorn in the micro for the whole vacation but every time she did it she threw me "dagger looks" while muttering "no FM" under her breath.

While cooking the popcorn we needed something to go with the popcorn so I ran out to the local Deli and ordered sandwiches. Now in the states when you get a sandwich you get a SANDWICH I mean these thing are huge. She unwrapped hers and looked in amazement at the 1 inch of ham stacked up in the middle of the sandwich and said "I can not eat that it is too big" so she ended up eating the insides out of the sandwich like she did with the "Philly Cheese steak".

One "food adventure" was to effect our entire trip. I had heard about the new craze in the USA "Krispy Kreme" donuts from my good friend Galen who lives in the southern east coast of the USA. I love donuts (no cop and donuts joke please) and took my wife to the local shop that had opened with great fanfare a couple months earlier. Like most Thai ladies my wife doesn't eat much sweet stuff so I went in an got one donut to try them out. I took one bite and it was a GOOD donut and handed the remainder to my wife. She took one bite and could hardly talk fast enough to order me back in the store to get "More for the trip home". We made the discovery that these donuts we sold in the local grocery store and from that first day all our road trips started with a stop to get more donuts. I was flabbergasted, here is a lady that loves spicy hot, Thai food and she was obsessed with these donuts. All these trips to the donut store were my undoing as I gained 10 lbs on this vacation. So if you take your girl to the USA and are looking for something to eat try the donuts at Krispy Kreme.

I introduced her to American orange juice and it turned out to be the most embarrassing moment on this trip, well maybe the trip into Victoria's Secret was just as bad. The new cartons of orange juice in the USA have a twist off cap on the top side so you don't have to half tear the carton open to pour out some juice. I opened the carton and poured her some into a glass and she sampled it and said "it is too sour to drink" so forgetting where I was I lifted the open spout to my mouth and took a swig to test if it was spoiled, well you would have thought I just killed someone. My 81 year old mother started giving it to me up one side and down the other for…….. drinking out of the carton. Now admit it, every one of you reading this has done this at some point in your life and here I was a 55 year old "senior citizen" getting "Dressed down" by my 81 year old mother for this heinous crime. The juice was not spoiled my wife was just used to the sweet stuff they have in Bangkok. The worst part of the whole incident didn't happen until we got home to Bangkok and the first time I started to drink out of MY OWN COKE BOTTLE, in my own kitchen, my wife caught me and started yelling "I'm going to call your mother and squeal on you" causing me to start laughing… bad thing to do with a mouthful of coke, the coke flew out my nose and mouth causing bad burning to my nasal passages and coke all over the kitchen floor. Don't let your lady see you drinking out of the bottle!!

One of our trips was to a BBQ rib joint that we were driving by. My wife had tried the BBQ ribs at Tony Roma in Bangkok and found them OK so I thought she would like them here. She really loved them and had a good time with all the waitresses fawning over her because she was so "Cute". We were getting ready to pay the check when I heard the guy at the next booth say "I will have the Birch Beer" it was like a bear sniffing honey for me as I had not drunk a "Birth Beer" soda in about 40 years. For those that never heard of "Birch Beer" it tastes something like "root beer" but different if you know what I mean. In my younger days "Birch Beer" was really popular with me and my friends and we must have drunk barrels of the stuff. My grandmother even used to make it at home and some of my fondest memories from my childhood were Sundays at my grandmother's house with all my cousins watching and turning bottles full of homemade "Birch Beer" so the sun would hit them just right. When my grandmother deemed them "ready" the sensation of drinking something you had just helped make was something you remember forever so I had to try this "New Stuff". It was as good as I remembered and the waitress said it was beginning to take off again in the USA …… Good deal!!

Being a normal Thai lady she loves seafood in any and all of it's forms so one of the stops was to a seafood place for some "King Crab". she had seen them on "Discovery Channel" and was ready to try some of the giant legs on these crabs. Her eyes lit up when she saw these monstrous legs and then the big letdown. When a Thai eats any seafood there is always some "nam Jim" (Spicy dipping sauce) and here there was none in sight. When I explained that farang eat seafood with melted butter not "nam jim" she looked like I had kicked her in the stomach. She said the crab was all right but refused to eat anymore seafood the entire trip.

One thing that made her day was "Strawberry Twizzlers" which were like the twisted black liquorish from our younger days but strawberry flavor. She liked them enough that we had to buy three bags to bring back for her father.

Well I am about out of ideas so this will have to do for this trip report. She had a good time and except for the cold and no "Nam Jim" did pretty good in the food department. My whole family was together for the first time in about 20 yrs as we normally "miss" each other coming in from all over the world so it was a good trip for me and the family all loved her. So if you can manage it I can see no negative aspects to bringing the love of your life to the states except the cold and she may want to stay.

Stickman's thoughts:

Great stuff again!