The Education Of Mr. Lucky
There are two kinds of luck and I've got heaps of both. I have been blessed with a varied life in which unpredictability is the norm and the one thing I can count on is that I have no idea what happens next. This works just great for me, being a
guy with an attention span "the length of a frog's tail," as my wife would say.
My wife. Hands down the best piece of luck to ever swat me on the ass. I met her at Nana Disco a few years back and I have to congratulate myself daily on the rare intelligence I exhibited in abandoning my wayward ways to her. I'm not often smart but, man, that time I was freakin' Stephen Hawking. That same night I also came up with a Unified Field Theory that resolved the inconsistencies of gravitational and quantum theories of the origin of the universe, but I forgot to write it down.
What I do remember is that I chose to overlook the facts that she was uneducated, from a backwards country, and dancing with a crowd of prostitutes in Bangkok's most disreputable den of iniquity. I took her home and eventually made her my wife.
I wasn't looking for a long-term relationship when I moved to Thailand and my standards for the short term were pretty astronomical. So when this perfect beauty grabbed me at Nana Disco on a night when I was there just to observe some weirdness and go home alone, I wasn't really impressed. That is until I noticed that she wasn't trying to be sexy or seductive. In fact she seemed to be a big dork and, when we got to talking over an after-hours beer at the Grace Hotel, I was sure of it. Who could have imagined a tall, slim, busty girl with big eyes, a blinding smile, flawless skin and a great ass, could be such a big spaz?
Over the course of a month I fell in love. The following month she went upcountry and I used that time to think coolly about a possible future with her. I played the field a bit with hi-so, lo-so and so-so girls but it just wasn't as fun. When she returned to Bangkok I had space for her in my apartment. The rest is history. A really funny history worthy of a Mel Brooks film.
A year later we married. Really, the smartest thing I ever did. I thought she was a good one and every day she proves me right.
Skimming the contents of this site, I guess I'm an exception. The word "money" comes up 17,500 times on Stickman, while "love" makes a poor showing at only 14,100, and I suspect it's used sarcastically a good percentage of those times. No, I didn't go through and count. I Googled it.
Anyway, the decision to finally get hitched to a 'lo-so' Thai girl, after a couple decades of highly successful dating in the US and Japan, turned out to be brilliant. While our marriage has seen the expected cultural, educational and linguistic differences, I was up for the challenge. In fact I liked it. Usually it's hella fun and every so often it puts a new fold in my brain.
Education. People who don't know better are apt to make much of our differences in education. Even on Stickman's forum, while most seem undaunted by cultural and linguistic differences, I've read more than a few warnings over the dangers of committing to someone whose childhood wasn't spent behind a desk.
Like many in the countryside, my wife had to give up schooling so she could work to put her younger sister through school. At age 14 she was on a crew building a condo in Rayong and sleeping on temple floors. Since then she's been through some hard, unimaginable s**t, but she still approaches life with the open playfulness of a barefoot country girl. It's damn impressive and, though I wield a degree in Phenomenology (don't ask), I'd be spending half my pay-check on therapy if I'd lived her life.
Though she never attended university and what time she spent in school often involved jumping out the window and running away, she is easily my equal in most matters and I wouldn't make a move without enlisting her input.
Our difference in education has never been a problem for us in the least. In fact I'd go so far as to say it is one of the pillars of our marriage. Some might say that we have nothing in common and to them I would say, "Bingo! You got it."
It might be nice to spend a life with someone who has learned most of the same things from a standardised school system, but that's not for me. The way I have come to see it, my wife and I both managed the feat of reaching adulthood in our own separate and equally valid ways. I did it with the help of a s**tload of teachers and at huge expense to my middle-class parents. She did it with zero help from teachers and everything she knows is from personal experience.
The result is that we come at life's challenges from complementary angles. I know how to learn and she knows how to trust her gut. Together, we're undefeatable. If something needs to be analysed, synthesised, learned from a book or pulled off the internet, I've got that covered. If a snap judgment based on intuition, street smarts and a profound knowledge of human nature at all levels is called for, then you want to talk to my wife.
There are certainly times when we argue and disagree, but we both have the patience and desire to talk our way to a resolution. We are invariably both better for it, having learned something new.
More often, when we do agree on something, reaching the same conclusion from opposite quarters, we can be damn sure we are right. I know a bit about cars and I can usually tell when a mechanic is trying to bulls**t me, but for any expensive repairs I won't trust a guy until my wife says he's clean. When we were working out a design for our house, she wanted to put it on stilts, and that was good enough for me. I wouldn't have thought of it, but she tells me it's a great way to cut down on the snakes, scorpions and centipedes.
In a funny way, she provides me with financial security. While I seem to be able to haul in enough money for the two of us to live in Phuket and buy a house, no man is truly financially secure. Anything can happen, from health problems to economic meltdowns. But I'll be OK because in her words, she "knows how to be poor." I hope she never has to teach me, but if we ever have to live on zero, she knows how to do it right.
Beyond the practical, our differences are a constant source of entertainment. As mentioned above, Mr Lucky is sometimes known as Mr Short Attention Span. Yet, for the first six months we were together I didn't have a TV and I didn't miss it. We've got one now, but with her in the house there is really no need for additional stimuli. There's always something happening in my wife's world and it usually involves a lot of animated laughing and yelling.
My wife is a firm believer in ghosts. When she was a kid a posse of them used to parade by her bed every night. "It was so boring!" she said once.
Thinking she got her English wrong, I asked, "Don't you mean 'scary'?"
"No!" she said. "Boring! I had to look at them every night and I couldn't go to sleep until they walked past. They never said anything. Just looked at me. It drove me crazy!"
Since early childhood she's been a target for ghosts and more than a few times I've awoken crawling with goose-bumps at the creepy sight of her wide-eyed and whimpering, pointing to the doorway at the end of the bed.
I've now got to be careful about how I behave around the supernatural, which is difficult since I never know when they're around. However there is, apparently, a general set of manners. My wife reprimands me sternly for touching any food that happens to fall onto the table or floor, at least until the end of the meal. She says that hungry ghosts are trying to dine with me, so they knock food off my fork. This was kind of a relief for me. I guess the scattered mess that I leave after every meal is an indication of how popular I am in the spirit world. And here I thought I was just a slob.
In addition to ghosts, my wife is also terrified of worms. Seeing that she comes from an Isaan farm, that is practically the definition of uselessness. She's a rice farmer from a family of rice farmers, but worms, caterpillars, centipedes, millipedes and leeches throw her into a shrieking panic. Her mom eventually banned her from the rice field because everyone got tired of chasing her all over the village trying to remove a leech from her leg.
That's another odd thing. She has a totally irrational fear response. Instead of running to her dad so he could burn the leech off with his ever-present hand-rolled stogie, she'd take off around the fields in random directions hoping the poor leeches would be terrified into letting go.
When she's scared she loses it. Although I once paid for her to get a driver's license, I will never let her drive. When anything freaks her out – a worm, a ghost, or me just standing in a different place than she expected – she yells something that sounds like, "Oi! Häagen-Dazs!" and throws both hands up in the air. Not a good reflex for a driver. In fact I don't understand how such a reflex might evolve at all to emerge in my beautiful wife. You'd think all the dinosaurs and lower primates who threw up their hands in the face of danger would have been eaten into extinction by now.
I once asked her what "Oi! Häagen-Dazs!" means in her Isaan dialect. Roughly translated it means, "Hey! Who's biting my ass?!" I can't tell you how cute it is to see a pretty girl with a potty mouth. Though I don't know anyone else who goes around saying this so I wouldn't recommend incorporating it into your Thai vocabulary. As she says for a lot of her idiosyncrasies, "It's just my idea."
While on the subject of biting, these Isaan people are like a hoard of locusts. I don't know if Isaan was ever covered in lush jungle, but it sure ain't like that now. They will descend on the countryside eating everything, leaving it barren of anything that crawls, slithers, hops, waddles, swims or flies.
Watching Animal Planet or Discovery Channel with my wife is a hoot. Every so often she'll sit up, excitedly pointing at the television saying, "Ooh! I love those!"
"Yes darling," I'll say as we watch a bunch of fuzzy hamsterish creatures innocently scurrying around. "They're very cute."
"And delicious! I want to gut them and roast them over a fire and eat them with chilli sauce right now!"
And her all-time favourite meal? That would be porcupine. When I got done laughing at her look of ravenous glee as she tried to describe how savoury porcupine meat is, the thought struck me that she was probably right. Why else would they have all those spines? They must be protecting something really delicious. I asked her if we could have porcupine next time we visit her family. "No, cannot. No more porcupines left in hills. I ate all." If you can find a porcupine and want a taste, my wife recommends boiling the beast first. "The spines come right out."
She does come up with some funny ideas sometimes. She's quite the environmentalist and loves trees more than humans. In fact she'd quite happily feed a human to a carnivorous tree, I think. One day, looking at a pile of stinking garbage, she said we should just dump it into space.
"That's a good idea darling," I said, "but it would cost too much to send all the garbage up in rockets."
She interrupted me before I could go on about air pollution from rocket engines. "No problem," she said. "Just find the place where the earth touches the sky and push all the garbage off the edge."
I could only respond with a huge grin. My wife was a Flat-Earther. Sometimes I don't want to soil her pure, wrinkle-free brain with worldly knowledge but later, when we she was looking at a map and noticed that Hawaii was on both ends, I hinted that the earth might actually be ball-shaped with all gravity pointing towards the centre.
Some might ask, "What do your friends back home think of your 'uneducated' wife?"
The answer is, I have cool friends. They are smart enough to know that there are other types of education. They love my wife and they barrage her with questions about her life, her culture and her world view every time we meet.
Her English isn't great but when she talks about how her dad used to fight communists in a little war the US papers didn't mention, and how she used to clean her dad's AK47, pistol and grenades (don't pull the pin honey) when she was
five years old, you'll see a bunch of university graduates who are at a lack for words.
There are certainly times when the differences in our sources of education are glaringly apparent. I'm a writer but she can barely read. If we were lost in a jungle I would starve but she would thrive with food, shelter and medicine. But so what? When I want to talk about heady literature I have friends for that and, if we're lost in the jungle together, she's got a great recipe for grilled porcupine. We're a team. We need each other. The whole is greater than the sum of its parts. It's called marriage.
This is one of those classic submissions that if read by someone in the West who knew little about Thailand, they simply would not believe it!