On Acceptance, Political Correctedness, And More…
I did receive some negative feedback on my last article with regard to the reasons why some ‘farang’ are looked down on, a point being made that many locals themselves do behave quite similarly.
I do not disagree.
There are some wooden tables around the front of the provision shop, and the workers from the factory opposite come in after work and open a bottle (or three) of Mekhong and keep the farang guy company. Yes, they can get quite boisterous, but it is a fairly Thai social thing to drink, make conversation, snack and laugh. Quite like a night out at a pub with the boys, Thai style.
The farang bloke is usually just sitting and staring into space; his attempts at conversation also include a lot of hand gesticulations, I assume to put his point across. He behaves a lot like the typical loner in the pub; he keeps to himself most of the time, is tolerated by the regulars, but still makes them nervous.
If one of the Thais has a bit too much to drink, his friends will usually find a way to bring him back home, much like your pub mates would. They’d definitely not leave him to sleep it off there, unlike some pubs where they put the drunks out the door at closing time, with the justification ‘The cold’ll wake him up soon enough, mate’.
Sure, there’s a retired Thai guy who does some weekend drinking as well; he has his first beer at the auntie’s shop sometime around mid-morning, then brings his two bottles back home with him where he proceeds to finish them (I assume in front of the telly) and does not come out after that.
Hey, I like my beers too, and prefer to consume them in the comfort of my own home. If I do go out with friends for a couple of drinks, a taxi is just a call away.
Oh, and to hopefully lay this controversy to rest, the word ‘farang’ can be found in most Thai-English dictionaries. It is not demeaning, and is meant to refer to fair skinned persons. It appears to have been derived from the name for France. So, French people would be called ‘kon farang-set’, eventually shortened to ‘farang’. The Thais now tend to use this word to refer to all Caucasians, just as the Caucasians tend to call the Asians, Asians.
Political correctness has fortunately not reached these shores yet, people here still call a spade a spade.
The word ‘Taang Chart’ means ‘person from another country’ and so is used for all other nationalities, so for the sake of bruised sensitivities, it is the phrase I will use from now on.
On the issue of integration/ acceptance of us ‘Taang Chart’, how far do some of us carry it? Take the case of my good friend, JT.
I’ve known him for years, and we’ve become close friends. He’s based in Asia with his wife and kids, though not in Thailand. He comes through Bangkok practically every week, so he has a long-term arrangement for a house here. The kids are still in school, so his wife typically does not travel with him. His wife is a well-educated Asian lady; they come across as a well-adjusted family. I have met them as they sometimes do come for some weekend shopping, sometimes staying a bit longer during the kid’s school holidays.
JT’s also good with languages. Over the years he’s been passing through, he’s managed to get a firm grasp of Thai; I know he’s fluent in at least one more other than English. He’s also the kind of person who likes to talk with like-minded people. I remember being with him once in a first-floor bar in Nana Plaza, one of our usual places where we’ve been going to for years and know most of the girls. They know we’re married, we tell them from the start, so they don’t expect anything. It was a slow night for them, and they knew we were there only to chat. As a habit, I’ll buy a drink for the mamasan and the two or three girls who I know well. The rest looked quite dejected as there was no one else in the bar. Realising that they depended on ladies’ drinks, he got up and rang the bell. Lots of whoops and cheers and clinking of glasses, and us a couple of thousand baht poorer, we left through a sea of smiles. Pavlov would have been proud.
I guess just as Thailand is home to me, it’s a second home for him. He’s got his favourite eating places, just as I have. Perhaps his shopping preferences are slightly different than mine, but he knows where to go to get a bargain. Plus he’s got his own circle of people he deals with, and has made a lot of friends, both Thai and ‘Taang Chart’.
One day a couple of years ago we got together for a drink. He had this sheepish look on his face and said to me, ‘Well, SWB, now I’ve gone and done it.’ ‘Done what? Tell me the story.’ He goes on, ’There’s this quiet little place near where I stay, I like to pop in for a quick beer or two. I also like to chat with the girls, like I normally do. Anyway, there’s a girl who I sometimes see there, she apparently works as a part-time cook. But if there’s nothing to do, she’ll come and join everyone at the table. I’ll call her Ning. Good sense of humour, drinks and smokes in moderation like me, you could see she was different.’ Hmmm. ‘Okay, go on.’ ‘Well, I found myself looking forward to seeing her, but she wasn’t always there. I heard she worked as a seamstress in a factory during the day, and had been asked to help out on occasion as her cooking skills were quite good.’
‘One day, after frequenting the place for almost a year, one of the girls there had a birthday party and had invited everyone from this place including myself. It was a bit way out, but I had many navigators to guide me there. I was a little disappointed not to see Ning there, and I think it showed. Well, lots of knowing smiles appeared around eight, and when I turned around, there she was! She had to work overtime, and so could not come earlier.’
‘What a party that was! It lasted till way past two in the morning, and I had to think about getting back. Well, Ning hadn’t brought her motorcycle, so I offered to drop her off on my way if she gave me the directions. She agreed, so off we went. Well, I missed the turn and it would be quite a distance to backtrack so I joked with her, ’Oops, looks like you’ll have to stay with me tonight.’ She said ‘Okay.’ My blood froze.’
‘So what did you do?’ ‘Well, I couldn’t jolly well bring her home, could I? No, we ended up at a small hotel somewhere. And yes, we slept together.’ ‘So now what?’ ‘I don’t know. I like her a lot, she likes me, we’ll see.’
I didn’t see JT for a couple of months, it was like he had fallen off the planet. When we eventually met up again, he seemed his old, usual self. And what of Ning? ‘After that night, I guess we were both willing to write it off as a one-off incident, but deep down I guess we didn’t really want to. She knows I’m married, so doesn’t want to interfere in my life. She’s divorced, doesn’t sleep around, and is taking care of her two kids in her rented room by taking in extra work over and above the factory job. So, because we like each other, I’ve told her I’ll pick up her room rent and give her some extra for the kids, it’s not a lot. If I visit, it’s over at the room, and I’ll bring extra beers for her friends too. It’s a social thing. However if we do feel the urge, we’ll occasionally sneak off somewhere. She can break off the arrangement anytime, as can I..’
Fast forward to the present.
JT still comes through Bangkok as usual. Nothing seems changed about his routine. I do see the family sometimes if they’re up, it’s as it has been for years.
Meanwhile, he and Ning have built a small house in a little village out near her old factory. They are respected as a couple, and are invited to weddings and ordination ceremonies quite often. The people in the village are aware of their relationship, but it doesn’t make them any less respected. Her children are already grown up and earning a salary. There won’t be any more as she had the good sense to have her tubes tied after the second. She has an acute business sense, and is slowly saving up to get a small business going. They’re happy.
When we last got together for a drink, I asked the question, what’s it like? ‘Well,’ JT says, ‘my wife is already in her late forties, and I can see the hormonal changes. She’s beginning to find fault with everyone and everything so much so that even the kids are beginning to stay out of her way. She doesn’t listen to anyone anymore, either. We don’t jump into the sack as often, but it’s still good for both of us. I still love her, and I know she loves me.
As for Ning, well, I can’t change what has happened. Yes, I love her, as she does me. She’s a good listener, probably the only source of sanity I have left when I need to talk to somebody. I’m there if she needs someone to talk to as well. She’s also well aware of the fact that she’s in her early forties, and recognises the fact that her hormones are also changing. She tells me she does not want to become a nag, and is preparing herself mentally for it. Sex has always been good, but if you love somebody and you know she loves you back, it’s always fulfilling. You know I’ve never looked at any other women, right?’ ‘Right.’ And it’s true.
What a strange world. Here is a guy that has two good relations going, while many readers struggle with one.
And he is not alone. It was only when a consultant on one of the older projects passed away recently, that his wife found out he had a Mia Noy. All the company staff, both locals and foreign, were aware of the relationship. All except his wife. I’m
sure there are more.
So even the farangs do take Mia Noys. Oops, I meant ‘Taang Chart’.
Mia nois….now there is something that hasn't been covered that well. Anyone got any experience there?