The Four Plagues Of Thailand – The Third Plague
The Third Plague
The Plague of Village Life -Buddha, Critters, Insects, and NOISE!
Living in the village is definitely different for a poor, unprepared falang. You're not used to a lot that goes on there that is just being taken for granted by your love and her family. Natch! I understood this in the beginning, but was not really prepared for the VAST differences in life between village life, and life in the good Old U.S. of A. Or just between Surin and village life, let alone Bangkok. The village is just that, a freaking farm village. Picture living in a very small, dirt poor, farm town in the U.S. Midwest, or maybe Andy of Mayberry R.F.D. for you older T.V. watching Yanks, with rice fields, lots of wooden shacks, and quite a few drunken Gomer Pyles and little black haired Opies. And an Aunt Bea who doesn't cook pies, but rice and noodles instead.
Now you have to remember, most of the people you'll be living with don't speak a word of English. Maybe three people have more than a fifth grade level education; the village school teacher, the village boss man, the head monk at the temple, maybe, and YOU! You are a friggin' College Professor compared to most, if you figure the level of education you've received in the States, or where ever you hail from, compared to most of the villagers. BUT, never assume these people are dummies. They are very "Village Smart" as I call it, it's a version of "street smarts". You'd better believe it brother, these farmers are no slouches in the gray matter department, especially if it comes to money matters. They're all mathematical whiz kids where money is involved!
Also the things you take for granted, such as; hot water showers, sit down toilets, a normal gas stove, soft comfortable seats and sofas and chairs, window screens, air conditioning, CHEESE, BREAD AND BUTTER, canned goods, trash collection, home phones, all night 24 hour convenience stores, BEEF, police and fire departments and ambulances, hospitals and doctors, street gutters with water drainage sewer drains, sidewalks … all this, and more, are virtually nonexistent in the village. You can get them in the city, but that's an hour's drive away, like I said. Oh, there are a few places, mostly the home of a falang's family, who'll have a hot shower and sit down western toilet, a washing machine, and a/c, screens in the windows, and such, but these are very few and far between. The villagers are mostly poor, and live off the earnings from their rice farming. Some have small village businesses that put them a step up from the farmers, but basically the farmers are their customers, so they can't make much, or charge much for their goods and services. You are in poor Thai rice farming village, and brother, it is different! I rather like it, but there are times when even I get stressed.
Thai villagers are very religious, especially the women, and every few days seems to be a holiday, or holy day, or whatever. This can be a pain, as the family is always asking me to attend services with them. Sometimes I do go if it is a big Buddhist holiday, but hey, the guys living across the street from me rarely go, and they are Buddhists. I'm Catholic, lapsed some would say, and probably be right, and if those suckers across the street don't have to go, well then, neither do I. Hell, as I explained to my lass, even if there were a Catholic Church right next door to our house I would never probably go there, except for Christmas and Easter, maybe, or a wedding or funeral. I am not going to sit through services for hours, for a religion I don't even belong to, in 97 degree heat, on the stone tiled floor, on a woven rice mat, and spoken in a language I barely understand, when I won't sit in my own air conditioned, cushioned pewed, English speaking, Catholic Church, which I do belong to. Well, marginally anyway. As I said, if those Buddhist guys don't have to go, then neither do I. I'll go on the big holy days, just to please my lady and make her happy, 'cause I love her too much. The same as my atheistic Swedish Grandpa used to do for my devoutly religious Irish Catholic Grannie. I'll be very happy in hell, Buddhist or Christian, if that is where I have to go for skipping church and temple. Shit, all my buddies will be there anyway, so we'll have a good time visiting.
One day my lass and her family went to the temple, leaving me to my own godless devices. They left me there, after making sure I was well fed and watered, and comfortably ensconced on the couch watching TV, with a beer Chang in one unholy hand, and a smoke in the other demon paw. Off they went with the others, banging their drums, and tooting their whistles, and chiming their little cymbals, happy in their holiness and righteous beliefs, and chattering away, and smiling and laughing. I guess in the village the temple is a focal point for getting together and bonding and such. Brother, these guys are nuts for Buddha. I love them! I prefer the village's seemingly weekly parties as my focal point for getting together and bonding with my village brothers and sisters though. Hey, to each his own I say.
Once they were gone, and the noise quieted down, I stretched out on the couch and got reeeaaalll comfortable, and watched a movie, yes, in English, I had been saving for just such a gloriously lonely moment of peace and quiet. I even have a couple of those little shiny silken pillows you see in the back seats of all those Bangkok taxi cabs on my couch for just such occasions of rest and relaxation. Never thought those little pillows had a real purpose did you? Being thus relaxed I watched my movie until I was overcome with a completely overwhelming lassitude and fell asleep halfway into the flick.
Something woke me later, I don't know what, maybe my Spiderman super spider senses tingling or something, and … I opened my eyes. There, not five feet from my face, was a small furry critter, sitting on the table next to the TV set, and EATING MY LEFTOVER FOOD! "Freakin' nasty little varmint." I thought to myself.
It's a FRIGGING RAT!!!!
Quick as a Bangkok beggar will grab a 20 baht note outta your hand I grabbed and flung one of my taxi pillows at the friggin' beast, knocking it, the plate, and the food all over the damned floor, and breaking the plate into a million pieces. I jumped up with the other pillow left on the couch in my hand, and, in bare feet, I pounced, ready for the kill! Nothing. Where the heck did he go? I had nailed him good, but the little bastard was nowhere in sight, and I was hopping around tippy toed among the broken glass shards in bare feet trying to cut my soles to ribbons. RATS! I hate freaking RATS! Shit.
The family arrived as I was cleaning up my mess. Double rats.
"What happen, darling?" my lass queries me.
"Uh … I threw the pillow at a rat that was on the table eating my food." I explained.
"What is lat?" she asked, puzzled.
"You know, a RAT!" I said, while making my hands into a resemblance of a rat-like stance, and wiggling my nose in imitation.
She laughed out loud at my play acting, and said, "Oh, you mean Lat!"
"Well, yeah. That's what I said, dammit. Rat! With an “R” dammit, not an “L“." I grumbled back at her, while she helped me clean up, by shooing me away, and taking over cleaning up the mess my hunting prowess had made, and pointing to the broken plate and my bare feet. "I said rat, dammit!" I snapped to her while in retreat, dancing around the slivers of glass tippy toed. She smiled, and shook her head laughing and chattering to her sister and our daughter in Thai, while obviously making wise cracks about my attacking a rat with a little silken taxi pillow, and breaking everything and making a mess in the process. Everyone was laughing but me. I hate rats!
So there are rats, and cats, and dogs with balls hanging twelve inches down between their legs, and frogs (shitloads of them), and huge damned hop toads, and scrawny ass road runner like chickens, and quacking ducks, and snakes, and hairy ass spiders the size of your damned hand, and water buffalo, and elephants, and pigs, and oxen, and birds up the ying yang, and who knows what the hell else is crawling, and hopping, and slithering, and skulking about the house at night out in the dark? I intend to see. I'm curious. It's like being at a zoo living in the village is for chrissakes! I'm the big white hairy ape, a featured attraction.
All right. Here's a story for you all. First of all, you got bugs here in Thailand. Serious goddamned bugs! Bugs you ain't ever seen before and you have no freaking idea if they bite, are poisonous, or sting, or what. You've never seen bugs like these in all your life. You aren't familiar with THESE bugs, so you try to play it cool, and watch and see how the Thais react to different bugs. If I see them swatting a bug I go and see what the hell it is they killed, if they got 'em, and ask them what the hell it is, and why the hell were they killing it so viciously. Ooooohhhh, this bug bites, huh? Then I kill the same bugs if they come anywhere near me. Right now I have no screens in the windows. Took me a year to find a guy and a place in Surin that sold and made screens to fit, and now that the house is done I'm putting screens in all the windows and doors.
When I first proposed this it took me an hour to explain to my lass and her family what the heck I was talking about. At night the lights are turned on and boy can you see some funky ass bugs flying around the room then! Every half hour or so someone gets a whisk broom out and sweeps all the bugs that fall on the floor from the overhead florescent lights out the door. You can't really close the windows, as it's too darn hot, and the bugs just come on in. The screens will be up soon, thank God. I've been sitting in the house, and if the ladies weren't there I swear I would a screamed like a little girl a few times, and danced around the room like a ballerina flailing my arms about, after spotting a few of the monsters I've had land on my bare flesh. Looked like some creatures from the movie "Alien" I swear. Big ugly bitches! And I don't know if the suckers will bite or not. I just look at them now, grimace, and hold back my screams, and flick them with my finger onto the floor with the rest of their bug friends, to be swept out later, and hope the bastards don't bite me before I get 'em off my skin. Damned Alien bugs!
Late one night while I was asleep I woke up and found I had to take a crap. I got up in the darkened bedroom, and fumbled my way to the bathroom in the gloom, turning on the light as I went in. Closing the door behind me I sat, on my western style throne, thank a god, any gods, as I hate those Thai squat toilets, and started to take a dump. Something moved in front of me on the wall about three feet from my face. Opening my sleep filled eyes, to my horror, there in front of me was the biggest goddamned spider I've ever seen in my life, outside of a cage, or a National Geographic TV movie, clinging to the wall. Oh shit! The damn thing was as big as my hand, covered in silver grayish fur, with big black fang pincers moving about, and seemingly fastened on me, sitting naked, and trying to take a dump. Good thing for me I was already sitting on the hopper! What to do? Well, I talked to the damned thing and told him to screw of course. Something like, "Screw you big hairy ugly bastard! Can't you see I'm trying to shit here? Get lost, vamoose you big ugly prick!" Damned if he didn't start moving up the wall away from my voice. Good thing too, 'cause I probably would have sat there all night. He looked like he could kill rats no sweat all by himself, and eat them whole. Big rats too! Damn, I hate spiders. Creepy looking bastards. Especially the ones that look like you'd need a baseball bat to kill 'em!
One thing about village living that can sometimes drive you bonkers is the noise. The ever present plague! Thai people are not quiet people. They shout, and joke, and yell, and bang things, and play loud music, and scream to each other to be heard, rather than turn down the music. They watch TV with the volume blasting at Cinema levels! And then you have the people coming by selling foodstuff, honking horns and yelling through loud speakers. Plus the kids are all playing around and yelling and screaming, and there are a lot of kids in the village. The motorcycles all seem to have faulty mufflers as they whiz down the road.
The guy across the street from me has a metal working shop set up in his front yard, and he's banging, and grinding metal, and banging with a mallet on the metals, and yes, someday I will probably shoot him. Then there is the village boss who has a microphone and speakers which are set around the village on telephone poles, so he can get up at 5 a.m. and waken the village to go to work with his Buddhist homilies, and exhortations to get up and rise and shine. He's going to get shot too someday, I swear. Then there are the frigging assholes, sorry, but they really are, with the trucks with the huge one million watt loudspeakers who prowl the streets day and night hawking their political candidates. Them I'm using an armalite rocket launcher on someday! But someday soon I'll be able to close all the windows and doors, crank up the a/c, and put on the stereo, and not hear a thing.
Actually I won't most of the time, because this is what the village is, noisy, dirty, critter and bug filled, with neighbors running about, and laughing, and yelling, and buying and selling, and cooking, and working, and making music while going to the temple. It's what makes it so different, and what gives it its flavor and allure. It ain't Boston. Thank God! And yet it all seems so civilized, and right. I miss it when I'm not there. Go figure.
Once in a while maybe I'll close those windows and doors, and crank up the a/c. It is nice to have that option anyway!
(The Central Scrutinizer)
More magic from Cent!