The White Thai
Gents, I want to tell you a story that is so unbelievable that you could take it as a piece of Jonathan Frakes US series 'Beyond Beliefs'. Fact or fiction, I can't tell you the truth. Decide on your own if you believe or not. And please: Excuse my bad English as I am not a native English speaker.
I met this young bloke in a German Pattaya bar. Where else do you hear the most unbelievable stories about Isaan? In the last outpost of civilisation before the white spot on the map where, from time to time, a ragged bloke returns from the wilderness to report his unbelievable experience. That's why we go to the bars, isn't it? The beer and the stories.
Well, this young bloke, 24 years old, had worked for a few days as a cook in the bar. The typical kind of loser you see so often in Pattaya. No money, ragged clothes, no perspectives but absolutely refractory to leave the country. And typically he was on the lowest level on the ladder of hierarchy in the bars, threatened like a dog sometimes, the boss shouting and throwing the dishes on him. He got 10 baht per meal he cooked. Let's say B150 per day on average down to nothing if he had bad luck. Truly said too much. He couldn't cook, absolutely not. And I would leave it by that, by his depressing appearance. If he hadn't this piece of fire in his eyes that had to tell a story. His eyes that were hard to get a view of as he was mostly looking down and getting orders.
So when I thought the time was right and the kitchen closed I invited him for a beer on a lonely table what he accepted with a big smile. Beer, something he desperately had to miss on his low budget.
"Once upon a time", he started, "I wasn't that poor. I was rich, really rich." Of course, everybody has a rich uncle or something like that and it's just a matter of time when money is raining on him. But then he became bitter and started in his childhood. His growing up really was not bedded down on roses. A children's home, a violent stepfather and vice versa. The time with his stepfather was filled with any form of violence against him you can imagine. As proof he showed me his right hand where one finger missed a phalanx and one was so deformed that it was obvious that the hand was smashed horribly in childhood. I demanded to spare the details because I saw him running in rage. He was a very emotional bloke but the order of two fresh beers got him smiling immediately. Well, life and childhood isn't fair in many places of the world, but that shouldn't be the topic of this story.
When he became 18 he got a sudden inheritance. About 100k Euro he told me and that was the ticket to leave Germany immediately, the country where he had only endured violence and humiliation. He took a plane to South East Asia, Thailand only a part of his trip. As well he found Singapore, Philippines and anywhere else where he could steam dissipated parties in girly bars. He barfined whole staffs off gogo bars to party his life in any relevant country of SEA and many bar owners called him their best friend. To make a long story short, his money was gone in less than two years. But as the end of this time he fell in love with the most beautiful girl he had ever seen in his life: A gogo dancer in Pattaya. In two years of SEA he had never felt to have real friends and never felt to be in love. But this girl was the most beautiful in the world. He knew he had hit the jackpot. This was the girl of his life. With the rest of his money he could give her a few weeks in the best hotels. They ended up in her home village in Isaan and his last satang went on their marriage. After the ceremony he was absolutely broke and exhausted but happy. He became aware that money isn't the thing to make you happy but love, only love. But this is just how the story begins.
The father of the young German's wife was quite old. He was too weak to cultivate his rice fields alone. The wife's mother had died years ago and besides her daughter, the father had two sons. The sons, older than the daughter, were absolutely lazy and refused to work at all. They drank Mekong whiskey every day and lay in front of the TV all day long. The electricity bill alone of the TV was a burden for the father to deal with, so poor was he. But since the mother died the father had no authority over his sons anymore. He was simply too old and too weak. So he tried his best to get by alone in the fields.
He gave a piece of land to the young German bloke as a wedding present. That made him very proud because it gave him a basic position. Well, the father couldn't use it anyway. So the German started thinking about what to do. He decided to build a new house on his land for him and his wife. The house of the father was in a miserable state and his sons were not really comfortable to live with. Not to forget that he had no satang left in his pocket. He made a deal with a neighbour who had a forest and wanted to get rid of the trees. And so the German got started in his new life with nothing else than a ripsaw and his pure man power. Believe it or not, but I saw the hands of a hard working man and he absolutely convinced me that he sawed boards with bare hands out of the trees. And his boards where of such a good quality that he could barter them for other goods and some neighbours even bought them. He worked every day for several months from sunrise till after dark. And he heard the mocking people in the evening, already drinking and calling him a fool when he still worked, even when others already were at dinner. Nobody believed that he was able to finish his house alone. Even his wife couldn't believe it. She was on his side but couldn't help because she took care of her father and had to serve her brothers. But in the end the German proudly presented his house. A really decent Thai style house in the legendary quality of German handcraft. He could even get white colour to paint the house and when the village neighbours saw that they were really astonished. It was the first time some people began to wai him.
Early one morning big trouble started in the village. It was the German's father in law who began shouting. In a vitality that nobody had seen him with for a long time he hurried through the village loud shouting: "My buffalo has gone! Somebody stole my buffalo!" He drummed all the people of the village together and some even left their beds to see what was happening on the street. Everybody left his house and crowded around the shouter.
"Dear! What happened?" Some asked.
"Somebody stole my buffalo!" The old Thai shouted in rage. "We have to get the thief!"
"Cha cha." Somebody answered calming. "I know where your buffalo is. Just follow me." He lead the father to the German's home and all the people followed. The German had untied the buffalo before sunrise to plough his land around the house. He had began to cultivate a rice field alone and so early that nobody had seen him lending the buffalo. When the father saw his son in law working he smiled and shouted proudly to the people: "Look! This is my son, my flesh and blood. This man can do everything alone. Nobody is to mock him anymore. My son, so it should be!" The people smiled and went home in honest recognition.
"This was absolutely the best time of my life." The German told me still and his eyes looked into the distance. I ordered new beer. He stood two years in the village and was the happiest man in the world, so glad and proud. The money had never made him happy. Now when he had built his own house and had a beautiful wife and worked hard he was really happy despite the poverty. He made enough rice to feed the family and it was even enough to sell some for other needs. They shot lizards with a slingshot and put it and everything else that crawls on the ground into the rice plate. That was enough to be happy. The ghosts of his childhood were gone.
"And then?" I asked him. He became very serious.
"I went to father's house." And entering the house he went into the worst nightmare. He saw his wife crawling on the floor and her oldest brother in rage again and again kicking her in the womb. The other family members were sitting around that and nobody dared to say something or to involve. The German had learned that the oldest son is superior in a Thai family and that girls are underprivileged. But this form of presentation got him mad. Why did the brother do that to his sister? Was he just the envy of her successful husband? Probably it was just rage that she doesn't make money like in the old days. Well, the German wasn't a great fighter. He had never fought in his life. He had always ducked in his life when it came to violence, he had never dared to resist. Tears shot in his eyes and he jumped with a cry on the enemy. With all his power he strangled the Thai with the left arm in the sweatbox and the right fist hammered in his face. Crying and shouting like crazy, the German ran berserk. He kicked the brother out of the house down in the dust and beat and kicked him all over the road. The German's wife clipped on his legs not less crying and shouting, "Stop that! You don't know what you do! No, stop, they kill us!"
Exhausted, trembling and crying, the German and his wife returned arm in arm to their house leaving the motionless body of the brother behind, his blood streaming in the dust. They broke down on the floor still crying and holding each other tight. Slowly he began to realize what happened before.
In fact it was a sacrilege to kick a son, especially the oldest, out of his father's house. It means to disrespect his position as the coming leader of the family. To not accept him in the family anymore and at all. That is such a loss of face that the condemned could never be an accepted member of the village society anymore. To save the family's reputation, the father had to discipline the intruder and chase him away – eventually even kill him! "I was really afraid of our lives." The German's voice trembled when he told me this part of the story and he seemed as same nervous as he was when it happened. Sure we had one more beer and he continued.
Hugged by his sobbing wife the German sat on the floor and looked through the door of his house… He saw a few men with dark faces coming closer trough the dust to his house. He recognized his father in law, someone he knew was kind of important, a monk, someone else. They entered and sat down in a circle around the married pair. The father held a pot and sat down in front of the German, opened the pot and began to whisper religious phrases. He took cinder out of the pot and scattered some on the German's hair without stopping to whisper this mysterious words.
"Do you know what he's doing?" The wife shouted shocked at her husband and cried again in bewilderment. "He is making you his son! This is the cinder of my dead mother! You are now their own son! My brother is condemned! You are now the following leader and in full responsibility for the family!" She broke down in her husband's arms and cried tears of redemption. And they laid there on the floor till late in the night in loss of all power.
"Pooh." I said. "So your life was again okay then?" "Yes, it was okay. But luck didn't find back to our hearts like before." And he told me that a day came when his wife went away. She just went away without saying a word. He woke up and found her place empty. He looked and asked everywhere for her. A friend of hers told him the truth. She didn't like the poor living anymore and went to Pattaya to work as a gogo dancer again. She went to make money to support a better life for the family. The German didn't hesitate to leave his beloved home and followed her tracks. She was everything for him and his home without her was not a home. So he returned to Pattaya after two years in search of his wife, in ragged clothes – and without any money in the pocket.
"You can't imagine how you fear this city if you have no money." He continued and took a swallow. He was already used to the peace of the countryside and the city was hell when he returned even if he knew the city from the trips 2 years before. But this time he was a poor sucker and he got to know how helpless and vulnerable you are in that case, like a straying dog and never knowing where you are safe. He gave me a good idea how poor girls from the countryside feel when they come to the city. It must be a nightmare.
So he strayed through sin city and went in search of his wife to the spots he knew from the old days. He entered the bars and got chased away like a dog, his fellow countrymen who demanded him to go on quickly and became laughter when someone thought to remind him. But after all his search was successful. He found his wife dancing at a pole and she fell happily in his arms. What luck. They were absolutely happy to see each other again and went at first to a restaurant when she saw him in that horrible state and his obvious loss of weight. She was very impressed by his effort to find her and promised to never leave him alone again. She already had bought a condo because she saw it as a good investment for her earned money and insisted to make the money for living from now on. The German gave up in his fate and has been living with her in her condo since then. He became to feel useless and so his career as a cook started. It's not worth talking about his part of the mutual income, but after all it's better than nothing.
So the story could have a happy ending here if there wasn't this incident with that American guy. A quite wealthy American businessman planned to retire in Pattaya. He already had a nice land and house in the outskirts and spent a lot of money on the German's wife. Obviously he had the idea to make her part of his retirement and it must have been a hell of a lot of money he spent. More and more the German felt to lose this competition because the offers of the American were just too lucrative to the girl. Well, the German was already Thai enough to keep his interests without any money. One night he waited for the American in a dark corner, pushed him into the darkness and pressed his fist to his neck. His fist with the deformed fingers holding the biggest knife that could be found in the kitchen. I don't know about the conversation but I'm sure it was quite impressive. In a last letter to the girl the American apologized for any more meetings because he saw a problem with the German husband that he did not want to deal with. From now on the Thai girl knew that the German was the only man for the rest of her life and promised to never let him alone again or in doubt. She swore true and everlasting love.
At this point our table was crowded by customers and the boss of the bar, listening open mouthed to the young German bloke who had such a story to tell that was out of mind for most of us. Nobody called him a poor sucker anymore. Anyway, he lost the job soon after. Some people saw him in another kitchen working, but not for long. Nobody has seen him since in Pattaya. Maybe he is living happily in his house now. Maybe he is again pursuing the track of his wife, her having a new idea of supporting the family. Let me set the end point here before it becomes a never ending story with some open and honest words of the young German bloke:
"You see, I have as much as nothing. But everything that makes my life worth living is here in Thailand. If I must go back to Germany I die."
True or not, who knows, but knowing Thailand, there is every chance that it could be true.