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Back In Thailand

  • Written by Graham
  • April 27th, 2005
  • 9 min read

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After 6 months chemotherapy in Melbourne we’re back in Thailand, for what is a permanent move. First item of business was to check out our new house, which has been built while we’ve been away. With our approaching move back here the builder
had variously been promising the place would be completed in January, then 15th Feb etc, but when we get here is far from finished and he doesn’t seem able to provide a plan of when it could be completed.

So sit down in big discussion which results in us keeping him on, but we’ll put in various subcontractors to finish most of the work. Next morning we go round to see how the new arrangements are working and there’s the builder
and a mate sitting down drinking beers for breakfast, while the workers have been told to relax for a while. Obviously yesterday’s arrangement isn’t worth shit so now the builder is a minor player with no further responsibility.

Next day the saga continues when the builder fails to show up. Contact him on the mobile phone and he’s at another site. I organized for the brothers-in-law to come round with a fleet of pickup trucks and we went round to the builders
house and loaded up everything that we thought might be ours. The building process continued with us controlling the subcontractors, and while it was definitely more expensive than using the original builder the finished product was completed
to a far higher standard.

When I last wrote about the house Stick mentioned that his Thai contacts believed that most houses would cost twice the original estimate; and his words are truly prophetic. But the basic house is looking really good, and the finished product
will be really comfortable for our little family. The house is about 160 sq metre with a living room of 7 x 11 MTR, and has potential to enclose various external spaces to provide additional rooms if required. And even with the additional expenses
we should be able to come in with a total budget of about 1,400,000 baht which includes the land, or less than $50,000 Australian.

Porta (Father-in-Law) has recently had a new place built along-side the woodyard, but after 6 months it’s only half finished and he hasn’t really been interested in getting it completed. But my sister and her husband were coming
to visit, so all of a sudden both houses have to be completed before the visit. Once the subcontractors finish with my place they are to move on to do Porta’s, so it’s going to get flash tiles to replace the bare concrete floors
and nice plaster walls instead of the old corrugated iron. Mare Yai (Mother-in-Law) is very happy, but would have preferred that he had finished the house for her rather than for my sister.

– Welcome to the village

The village council was building a new pavilion for the Village Deity (god of village) and the leader of the village came round to ask the wife if we would be able to contribute to the cost. It was going to cost 4,000 baht to build a new
home for the god, and if we could pay the lot it would really be appreciated. After a brief discussion I agreed to help with the construction, and would be prepared to pay half and the village can pay the other half. I was down by the railway
station the other day and the new pavilion is complete and looking very flash. He must be a very happy little god.

It’s the season when young men become monks for a period, and we were invited to a party to celebrate the occasion for one family. They had organized the party at the local school with dozens of tables, a stage for the singers &
dancers, and lots of coloured fluorescent lights. While we were enjoying a magnificent meal a small rain shower came over, and it’s the first time I’ve ever seen the Thais being safety conscious – the fluorescents were tuned
off during the shower. We have been contemplating having a big party for our house warming, along with Thai opera as entertainment. The wife had been thinking of getting the family to help organize the food, but after seeing how well the monk
party went she is now firmly in favour of us having “Chinese tables”.

About 10 pm a motosai roars through the school and a man in red shirt and trousers leaps off and dramatically attacks a guy dancing in front of the stage. He’s a big fella and wild with his assault, attacking anyone within range. It’s absolutely
amazing to see the reaction from the partying village folk. Most of the family groups promptly got up and left. Dozens of the local lads joined in the fight to hit the man in red. While the host family all try to press in to stop the fighting
– to no avail. The man in red soon realizes that he’s bitten off more than he can chew, and with odds of about 40 to 1 it’s a surprise he lasted as long as he did. So he takes off behind the stage trying to make an escape.
But the party is being held in the school which has a block wall all around, so there’s no escape that way. A few seconds after he runs behind the stage a single shot rings out and the unfortunate man in red becomes the ex-man in red. There’s
nothing like a fight to spoil a good party, so after everything quietened down we said our goodbyes to the host and departed.

While we’ve been waiting for the house to be completed my dogs have been at the family woodyard. Now that we’re moved in I brought the dogs down to the house. They are only 8 months old and excited by the move and bark at everyone
passing the gate. This is one side of Thai character that I just don’t understand. That night they poison one of my dogs. To say I’m angry is an understatement. Currently I have a very sick Dalmatian, and a German Shepard and a Rotweiler
that are a bit subdued. My house has a decent fence and gate, and the dogs were chaned. So there’s absolutely no chance of them hurting anyone. And yet someone still chooses to poison them. Mai Khao Jai.

A crematorium has just been completed at the village Wat and a ceremony was being held to open it. The ceremony involved a complete funeral, including a coffin but sans body. My little family attended and participated with the rest of the
village, before finishing up sharing a large meal in the wat. It ended up being a fairly poignant time, as this is the place where my body will end its days, although hopefully not for a while yet.

So can I follow in Cent’s footsteps and live happily in the village. Too right.

– Education

Our 16 year old daughter had a bit of trouble with her schooling last year and ended up changing schools half way through the year. Having lived in Farangland for 5 years she’s picked up lots of farang traits; things like independence
and sticking up for herself. The types of things that don’t go down very well at a Thai school. She ended up being fairly unpopular with both students and staff. Her karate skills meant she didn’t need to worry about the students
(especially after proving herself against 3 girls at once) but when she left the school many of the teachers either failed her or gave her a zero mark. I was back in Thailand 6 months ago when she changed schools and I had a good talk with her
about keeping her thoughts internal and wearing a Thai face when dealing with people. It seemed to work and she made many friends and got good grades at the new school from most teachers. Except for one teacher who failed the entire class, more
a reflection on the teacher than the students. But the whole class had to turn up for summer school to retake the subject. On the first day the daughter asked the teacher what she had to do and the reply was “Hrm, give me 15 baht”.
And that was summer school completed, and the report card was updated to show a favourable pass. Now that she’s finished high school she wants to go onto college to study English, with the thought in mind that she’ll return to Australia
once she’s finished all her schooling. But the bad marks on her report from the first school meant she was rejected immediately when she applied to enrol at college. A good lesson in humility as she had to approach each teacher and ask
to have her mark reappraised. Previously her English teacher had wanted her to enter an English contest in Korat, but she had refused and he had consequently given her a zero mark. And when she approached him to have the mark changed his reply
was to the effect that you wouldn’t do the competition for me so I’m not going to change the mark for you. A zero in English when that’s the subject you want to study is definitely an insurmountable hurdle. So the wife had
to get involved and go and talk with the teacher, and after purchasing various teaching aids the report card was duly updated and the daughter is now going to study English at college.

– A slight miscommunication

The wife and I were discussing getting internet access at home and somehow the topic got twisted and the next thing I know satellite television has been ordered. The installation team arrives and decides the best place to mount the antenna
is on the “mook” (Thai verandah) but there’s very little room to position the ladders. So when I go out to see what’s happening there are two ladders standing in half a metre of water in the kids pool, while the blokes
up the ladders are happily playing with all sorts of electrical bits and pieces. It’s funny how everything you learned in Farangland gets turned on its head in LOS – little things like water and electricity don’t mix. Mai pen rai.

Stickman's thoughts:

A nice snapshot of village life.