Chicago to Isaan
I realize this starts off as another tale of woe from Isaan but bear with me and you will see the difference.
I had managed to get a job as food and beverage director at a large tourist hotel. The money was adequate. Not like I had been used to in Chicago but adequate. At first it was difficult because of the language barrier and the distrust of a Farang but I managed to cope. I hired some other people from Chicago, a chef and a bar manager and things were going well. So well in fact that the general manager was promoted and I got his job.
I was now making big bucks even by Chicago standards. I bought a new Volvo and had a number of suits made for myself. All of my shirts were custom made and I thought I looked rather dapper. I tore down some walls in a few rooms in the rear of the hotel that we did not use too much and built myself quite a nice suite and furnished in traditional style. I was living large and life was good.
I happened to meet a stunning woman, 17 years my junior one evening. She was staying at my hotel while her father received treatment at the local hospital. He was a farmer with 8 grown children, two near do well boys, two girls and two successful large scale rice farmers. The stunning young woman was the spiritual leader of the family.
We went to bed together that night and she told me she would divorce her husband to be with me. He was a sergeant in the police force. I checked on him and it seems his scam was buying stolen farm equipment and running it across the border and selling it. It was rumored he had killed a couple of people in the course of this practice and that had given him much face. He was also well connected with the local mafia or mob or what ever you want to call it.
At my hotel I fed all of the local high ranking police and political figures for free and gave them rooms for their hanky panky activities. It was a few years ago and I still considered myself a tough guy so I was not too worried about the husband or soon to be ex husband.
It turned out that the lure of free food and rooms and me knowing where all the skeletons were buried was more juice than stolen tractors and I was able to get him transferred to another province and my lady and I were married. Sin sot was minimal as was the wedding because we both wanted to keep it low profile because of her ex husband's position and the threat of retribution if we made a big deal about it.
She soon tired of me running a hotel, she was a country girl at heart. She referred to my job as many cash registers and 500 bedrooms. What can I say, I may have been indiscrete a couple of times. The main difference between a cocktail waitress and a hooker is the hooker gets paid for it all of the time and I did employ a lot of cocktail waitresses.
My wife convinced me to move upcountry and build her a beauty shop adjoining her parents home. It was a 1000 sq foot house and in addition to the beauty shop I put another 1000 sq foot addition on for us to live. I got a job teaching at a local University. I took quite a hit in pay. I went from $100,000 a year to $17,000. But I was happy. I bought a 750 cc Honda Shadow and rode in the hills every day and maybe started drinking a little too much. There was not much else to do.
Her father and I got along. We would walk the fields and I would talk to him although I am sure he only understood one word out of ten that I spoke. My lady didn’t cook much and her mother and I did all the cooking and this cemented a bond between the two of us.
In addition to being beautiful my wife was a very good beautician both in hair cutting and make up and it wasn’t long before she had done a couple of local beauty queens. Rice harvest bimbo or whatever. With those lovely creatures frequenting her shop the wealthy local guys would come for haircuts to check out the action.
After a year or so her parents both passed away. Although we were doing OK on our combined income it was not the city lifestyle she had become used to when I managed the hotel.
It didn’t take long before I was replaced by a wealthy retired guy. She sold the house and beauty shop for a sizeable profit. She even sold my motorcycle. I got the clothes I was wearing when she kicked me out and my lawyer actually had the gall to ask her out on a date after the divorce.
Does this story have a moral? Yes it does. The above story occurred in Yell County, Arkansas, USA.
Dear friends if you ever get the notion to travel to or retire in Arkansas there is a couple of things you should be aware of.
Arkansas has the most beautiful women in the USA but they are prepared to lie and cheat and defraud Mr. gullible Farang with complete impunity and such conduct is not only condoned but supported by those in the town with not the slightest criticism amongst their peers if their wealth becomes excessive and/or is the cause of much hurt to others.
Learn as much as you can about the culture before you head to Arkansas and try learning the language, it is not the same as English. You will never be able to speak it like a native and you will always be an outsider susceptible to flagrant fraud and manipulation.
But there is a bright side to this story and a silver lining to every cloud.
After you have been a big city boy living in rural Arkansas you will be well prepared to live in Isaan.
You will have become used to eating peppered road kill, snakes and parts of animals that are not consumed in any other place in North America. You will be used to eating catfish and all species of carp cooked in a variety of ways that would make a dog food manufacturer proud.
You will be used to food being left out on the table all day without refrigeration and worthless relatives dropping in and drinking moonshine and eating your food all week long and asking to borrow your pick up truck. And you will have learned how to survive without speaking the local language. You will have also become used to talking about nothing for hours at a time and not become bored. You will understand how to bribe police and politicians with impunity.
Flies will no longer bother you nor will smells of pigs and chickens wandering in and out of the front yard. You will also not mind rampant discrimination and cronyism. And if you have been a teacher there you will understand how education works in a third world country.
My experiences in Yell county Arkansas are by no means meant to degrade that wonderful State or the kind and generous people who live there. I dislike ethnocentrism wherever I find it and since I was not native to that culture I can’t hope to really understand it.
This submission really has two purposes. One to point out that Isaan is alive and well in other locations besides Isaan. Two, where you have subsistence farming you will have women who are trying to better themselves and their families by whatever means are available.
If you are ever driving your big Farang SUV down a little road somewhere in Isaan and see a "Go Razorbacks" sign on the mail box I have a couple of daughters you might want to meet. We can work out the Sin Sot. Ya all come in and I will cook up a mess of greens and some possum and I just brewed up a batch of shine. My buffalos are looking a tad sickly but don’t let that worry you.