Chok Dee For You And Me
I get to do some serious driving in the LOS during my many times there, and now, as I live there most of the year, I drive all over the place, all over the country. This can be a serious matter if you've ever seen the way some, well most actually, Thais drive. (LOS is an acronym meaning Land of Smiles, a nickname for the country of Thailand. An apt one at that.) As I post this old story today I have just returned from bringing my wife to visit my daughter in the hospital. My daughter has pneumonia. She's doing fine, responding well to the treatment and meds, and should be out in a couple more days. On the way there I saw a pickup truck run a red light right in front of me, broad-siding a woman on her motorcycle, knocking her and her motorcycle clear across the street. Watching her legs slide along the pavement with her motorcycle on top of her, and realizing she's wearing only shorts and a T-shirt, and luckily, a helmet at least, I wince at the thought of the pain she will be in very shortly. I've been there and done that, at 60 mph at that, years ago on my Honda Magna V. Have a bum knee ever since. They were both doing maybe 25 or 30. She got clocked good though. On with the story.
I rented the old red shit box pick-up truck from my lass' girlfriend once again and she met us in the Thong Tarin Hotel in Surin the day we arrived. We got in at 4:30 a.m., her friend showed up much later, as usual. I'm gonna strangle her some day I swear. Either that or buy her a Timex watch and bring it from the States and give it to her as a present. One or the other, I still haven't decided which! The woman is always late! Thai time isn't even close to any other country's time. Well, maybe the Bahamas. Those guys are slower than the second coming of Christ too. It must be the tropical heat.
After getting the truck and driving to the village I found out I needed to go to the village down the road to pick up some stuff for the family and Mama. About an hour's drive round trip further into the boonies and rice paddies. "Yeah, no problem, darling. Let's go now and get it over with so I can relax and have a beer, okay?"
"Have beer now, darling?" she comes back with.
"Shit yeah, why not?" I say to her.
She cracks me a cold beer Chang and we jump in the truck with her sister and head on down the road to her Momma's sister's ville.
I love driving the back roads up-country in Isaan, as long as it's not raining anyway. We pop in a Lao country-music cassette and glide on past the rice paddies. Guys on their strange looking rice paddy tractors are plowing up the fields for planting next season’s rice crop. The sun is burning my right arm black as it hangs out the window while I sip my beer and slowly wander the dusty rural roads. Water buffalos stand bellowing along the roadside as we pass, and women in large straw hats, with their heads and faces wrapped in black bandanas, hide from the broiling hot sun as they work the paddies in knee deep water, doing back breaking labor most falang (foreign) people would die from having to do all day, every day, for a week or two, now-a-days, let alone every day for a couple of months. I know my back couldn't handle this work.
Other water buffalo plow through the waters in the ditches along the road side with only their heads showing, munching on what ever grasses come within their reach, their huge crescent shape horns bobbing from side to side as they wade slowly through the paddies. In the distance the sunlight reflects off a neighboring village Wat's variously colored broken pieces of mirror decorations imbedded in the concrete walls, and sparkles like a fairy tale castle from a story written by an Asian Aesop. Small stands of bamboo occasionally break the monotony of rice paddy dikes and fields, and a lone tree stands forlorn in the distance, providing small shade to a couple of workers sharing some sticky rice and tea during a break in their labors.
The air smells sweet, and you can taste Thailand in the back of your throat if you inhale greedily the glorious scents of this strange and beautiful land. I'm home, and yet far away from home. Happy, yet sad. Happy to be here, yet sad I'll once again have to leave home to go home. Funny isn't it how much you can love a people not your own? Still missing your own, yet never wanting to leave.
I sometimes feel I've but dreamed Thailand, and I'll someday awaken and have to kill myself from the grief of knowing it was all but a dream. Especially to lose the one sitting beside me now forever. Her fat, funny, wise cracking sister is laughing and joking with her as my wandering mind soaks in the glimpses of this dream and releases my soul to soar above the land like an eagle on wing.
A movement on the road breaks my reverie. A snake, a big one, a cobra, about three feet long or so, is side winding across the road some meters ahead. I bring my ladies attention to it, and, with perfect timing and deft control of the steering wheel, run over the snake, but, having put it perfectly centered between the wheels of my truck, I pass over him without touching a scale on him. Looking in the rear view mirror I see him rear his head from the tarmac and turn his head to watch my receding truck. Lucky for him he wasn't a bit larger or he'd of been a goner.
My lady and her sister have twisted their heads around and, spying the still unharmed snake watching us drive away, they shriek with glee and start yakking in Thai together and tell me I have "big good luck" today. Or "chok dee mahk" as they put it.
"Why's that?" I ask them puzzled.
"To see snake cross road is big good luck!" they exclaim, beaming.
More Thai superstition, but I felt glad I hadn't run the snake over. I turn to my lass and say, "Yes, today I have big good luck. Today I am with you, darling!" Her sister makes a gagging noise, reaches around behind her and smacks my shoulder and calls me "Pak Wan" (sweet mouth/flatterer) while laughing and giggling. My lady rests her head on my shoulder and sniff kisses my neck and whispers softly in my ear, "Kup koon Ka darling. (thank you)"
"Jing jing darling, jing jing. (It's true.)" I mumble into her hair while I return her sniff kiss.
Yes, today I am a lucky man! One of the luckiest by far.
(The Central Scrutinizer)
More magic from Cent.