Stickman Readers' Submissions July 28th, 2006

The Trip Upcountry Had A Hidden Agenda

The Hidden Agenda Of The Trip Upcountry

it was a long weekend and instead of hanging around in quiet Bangkok, the wife suggested that we should go and explore Isaan as it’s a place I have not ventured out to that much. So we book a flight to Udon Thani and when I get there I negotiate
and get a really cheap deal on a car hire for two days so that we can go and explore a bit more. Now I haven’t driven a car in the 18 months or so that I have been in Thailand and the wife, as is Thai fashion, couldn’t quite believe
that I could drive one either despite that fact that I have a valid international and real Thai motorbike and car licences in my pocket. As a consequence, for the first 10 minutes of me being behind the wheel, and this is no reflection on my driving
I might add, my wife is in the passenger seat with her eyes shut going “Ewwww, ooooh, waahhaaa, eeeeek” until it eventually dawns on her that I can indeed actually drive a car, so she decided to do me a big favour and shuts up squealing
– finally peace and quiet – but then she discovers the radio and spends the next five minutes doing my head in as she flicked through all the buttons and listening to as many Thai crap music channels that she could find. I ask her
to start doing something useful instead, like giving me directions as to where we should be going because she apparently has some distant cousins, other relatives and friends in the region and as such knows her way around a little, but I soon
give up on this idea as well after she continued to be crap at it by telling me on far too many occasions that I should have turned left ‘back there’ as I went past the junction she didn’t tell me to turn at in the first place…
Strewth! I did try to explain to her that it helps to give me ‘some’ forewarning and to say Leo Sai or Leo Quar or Dtrong bpai once in a while, preferably before the junction but she couldn’t quite work out that I couldn’t
suddenly swing left or right with a shout of “Tee Nee” as we where in the middle of the junction as it went past on the left or right.

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If you have never been to Udon Thani, it is a place with two very noticeable things. Number one, there seems to be a lot of foreign men there which speaks volumes all by itself, and number two there seems to be quite a lot of attractive ladies
milling around too. One in particular came in and sat in pizza hut ‘alone’ while I was eating some spaghetti and she was just absolutely stunning. She wasn’t dressed in a sexy way either, in fact she was simply dressed, wore
denim jeans and a short denim coat with a white t-shirt and white training shoes but she was just an absolute corker and had me dribbling sauce on my chin as my jaw dropped open. I tried to get the wife to go and do some shopping in Robinsons
but she wasn’t haven’t any of it and I was just too far away to get her photo with my digital camera otherwise I would have posted it on here for you all to see. Instead I managed rather disappointingly to catch some of the other
local leggy birds as I discreetly walked back to pick up my hire car, but they weren’t the prettiest ones I saw in Udon Thani.

Eventually we managed to drive our way down towards the upper end of khon Kaen and it was there that we eventually drove down some long road and ended up in a typical farmers village where all the houses where a mix of concrete and wood downstairs with
a mishmash of corrugated iron construction upstairs. As we pulled up I couldn’t help thinking of the shanty towns of Soweto in South Africa and the hovels you see pocketed around some of the Moslem villages in Malaysia and Indonesia. To
say we were in poorville would have over estimated the value of the place. I got introduced to one of her distance cousins and it was also at this point that she decided to inform me that this is where we were to spend our first evening. Ooh!
Lucky me, I have always wanted to live and sleep in a shed for the evening!

As I entered the shed like home, I noticed that someone in the house was an avid Liverpool supporter because the walls downstairs where decorated in about seven posters, all of them of Steve McManaman, and here I was, a real life living descendant from
that city looking at someone who represented and reflected a part of the city I was born in, quite bizarre really!

Whilst I was upstairs, I also noticed that there really wasn’t anywhere for us to sleep, so they quite generously made a mock up of a bed for us to sleep in instead with a make shift very pink mosquito net. The interesting thing was
that every time I stood up that it had an interesting view from the open air windows between the corrugated iron walls across the rest of the corrugated iron village. I made a mental note to remember that point when I was getting undressed later
that evening.

Remarkably the toilet and shower were western style and I couldn’t help but wonder who had paid for it as it was certainly most unusual for a Thai family to have western style amenities, especially in a poor village of this type. None the less,
I wasn’t complaining because it saved me having to shower under a bucket of water and stand or squat either side of a hole in the floor. The rest of the day was quite boring (for me) and I didn’t have my lap top with me either but
thankfully my PDA kept me in touch with the Internet and the real world, so for a while I just sat out on the front veranda keeping an eye on a potential source for a H.591 virus attack.

After a while, we went for a walk around the village and although it was very poor, the thing that I started to tune into was that they all seemed to be a very proud lot and everyone seemed to be following a code of doing their level best to keep the village clean and tidy and there where no obvious signs of rubbish tips or dumping grounds anywhere. Furthermore the main road leading to the village was quite pretty and had all these red plant pots with flowers all the way up the road. it was quite quant and tranquil actually. The other thing I noticed was the distinct absence of any young ladies or guys around the village. I saw maybe a few teenagers both male and female but the ones in the age bracket of 18 to 30 where distinctly lacking. I makes you wonder where they all where.

As we walked around, I also spotted amongst the corrugated house with some amusement that a smart house had emerged and it was quite obvious that it was the local Farang funded house that someone was helping to fund, or rather had helped to fund. I of course could be totally wrong with this initial assumption and so I asked about the family who lived there. We were invited into the house and I was met with knowing grins from the Thai family that now resided from within. The house appeared to have been recently completed, I would say within the past 3 months at least.

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The inside of the house was completely finished and the walls and floors well decorated and furnished throughout but the very poor Isaan people who were now living inside this very pretty house where living like pigs in a sty. it was as filthy as hell! I asked who the owners where and four pairs of mucky hands raised themselves in the air. it became pretty obvious that there was no way that this family who claimed to own the house had the sort of funds to build such a property, but where was the original fund raiser I asked myself? it appears who ever he or she was, that he/she was no longer part of the equation or at least didn’t live anywhere near the house itself because it was an absolute state inside. The house was very pretty though, but it did stick out like a big sore thumb in amongst the rest of the corrugated village.

We continued to walk around and at one point a woman came out of her house and shouted to the wife: “Where are you walking the Farang?” but before the wife could answer, I managed to get in with some Thai of my home by answering: “Hey! I’m not a dog, I can walk myself thanks” it I did want to add ‘You Thai Twat!” onto the end but managed to restrain myself instead. As we crossed the picturesque road, we came upon the local temple which I thought was very pretty considering the poorness of the village and just across from the temple was the local school.

We took a walk into the grounds of the school and I couldn’t help thinking what kind of tuition went on here. There was no air-con that’s for sure and it was very basic. it also had the appearance pf being quite run down and I though it
was abandoned. But as we got closer, I could see the class rooms where locked and that up to date pictures where posted on the outside of some of them to celebrate the Kings 60th Anniversary.

I asked the wife if she knew the age of the students being taught here and she told me it was for 5 years old up until 12 years old. After that they go onto another school some 5 km away. I met the Thai teacher who taught the Kindergarten kids at this school and she was lovely and quite cute too it who knows if it doesn’t quite work out with the wife I can always go back there and look her up, personally though I wouldn’t like to work at this school as a teacher but I can imagine it would be a big boost and rewarding to do some teaching sessions in English here, it was a pity it was closed for the long weekends it would have been interesting to see some of the kids.

Later that day I was sitting outside the house again on H591 bird alert when one of my wife’s relative came out to join me. Well he didn’t come out to join me per se, but instead he came out to slurp down very noisily some rice soup and as such went on to annoy my
peaceful tranquillity by endlessly slurping away. Clearly table manners are not high on the village life agenda. I couldn’t help but look at the shape of this guy and he had a major curvature of the spine as he sat. Clearly he had spent many a year bending over things. I later found that he was a carpenter before he retired and now just works the farms. He is 75 years old now and had hard rough hands and a body that looked like an oak tree. He was also a very proud guy and kept on asking me if I would like to go and have a look at his farm which I later accepted and went to look at his paddy field and other bit of land with stalks growing out of it. I later overheard him talking to the wife about how having a buffalo would be too expensive and although he would prefer a buffalo, he said at 20,000 baht or so that it would be too expensive to buy. So he asked the wife instead he she could ask me if I wouldn’t mind funding the purchase of a mechanical rotivator instead for turning the soil over on his farm land. The cost was apparently only 2,700 baht but as I figured that he didn’t want to ask me direct and as my wife didn’t come and mention it to me either, that I suddenly had a case of selective hearing and promptly forgot about it, besides I could always play the I Mai Kow Jai card and pretend that I didn’t understand a word he was saying to me.

Later that night as I was lying in my make shift pink mosquito netted bed with the wife snoring peacefully next to me I listened to the noises of village life as they washed over the village, and couldn’t help but notice that many of these noises where of the bzzzzz, crunch and crack nature. There was also a huge storm that night and with the open air windows and corrugated iron walls, it made it sound like I was in a rotating drumit needless to say my sleep wasn’t great that night. The next morning the wife was up and out of bed at 5:30 (ish) with the first cock a doodle doo and along with the rest of the out laws were all getting ready to go off to the temple. I tried to ignore them, but the conversation through the gaps in the floorboards kept me awake and I just lay there with red rimmed bulging sore eyes staring at the different shades of silver and orange in the roof as the wife pottered around trying to get ready. There was a general buzz of excitement about the air with the family and a general disinterested one from me. I wasn’t having any of it and merrily sifted back off to sleep as they all pegged it out of the shed and up towards the temple. Ah! Peace in the house again it that is until about 6:30am when the Monks decided to wail their sermon across the village. I woke up with a start and tried to stuff two huge teddy bears that happened to be close by down my ears it but it was too late, there was just no way I was getting any more sleep, so I decide to go and get showered downstairs in the western toilet before they all came back and put my modesty to the test.

After I got showered, I got dressed and went and made a cup of bland coffee that I managed to seek out and as I was sitting there watching the chickens scamper about, I heard a small shy giggle of a child behind me. I turned around and there was my wife with her niece. This is the one cute little girl in the whole world of Thailand that I simply adore,
and she came up and gave me a huge hug around the knees, so I picked her up and gave a huge hug by return. When ever I see this little girl my heart just melts, because she has such a wonderful personality. But just what is she doing here I ask myself? How did she get here? Wasn’t she somewhere else with my wife’s parents? I asked all these questions of course from the wife, but I was just told she was here because she wanted to see me. I didn’t believe this for a second, but decided to not push it any further and so instead spent the day with the wife walking around the village (again) with this lovely little girl for company. When we got home, we sat down and started watching TV together and the family had some cartoons on DVD so we decided to watch them. They where of some historical Thai figures; a bit like the statues that you see on some temples or on the government buildings. She loved it, and as I sat there watching them with the wife pottering in and out occasionally, this little girl would just sidle on up and sit right down next to me and she would never leave my side. She was never any trouble, always quiet, always fun, and always as cute as a button.

Anyway, as the day wore on, I started to hear conversations that had my name and Farang in them. So as I tuned into one that the wife was particularly yabbering away about, I heard the English word of ‘adopt’ get mentioned. So naturally my ears pricked up and after some straight questions, I managed to get the gist that the whole trip had been orchestrated by the wife so that her niece and me could be together so that we could all see how we got on. I originally got to meet her niece on a family trip and we immediately clicked with me playing her Dad for two days a few months back and little did I know that my wife was cooking things up. If you have read my previous submission called ‘Honey, when are we going to have a baby?’ you will know that I left it hanging with me thinking I had won a two year reprieve. In actual fact, what the wife had gone and done instead, was tuned into my comment about having a child just like her four year old niece by deciding that it may be a good compromise if we just went ahead and adopted her 4 year old niece anyway thus killing three birds with one stone instead. This is typical thinking from my wife who forever keeps proving me wrong about many things in her Thai way of thinking. Well you can’t argue with that kind of logic and thinking now can you? I was gob smacked of course and it brought home to me in stark clear reality that the issue of kids is very important to the missus.

So we discussed it in depth and I had to say it was and it still is a very appealing proposition. If the niece wasn’t as cute and as lovely as she is I wouldn’t be giving any of this a second thought but here is a kid who I adore and who I would actually be very proud of to has as my daughter. So I had to ask the obvious, and asked what did the little girls parents think about us adopting her?

The answer it She didn’t know because she hadn’t asked them yet. ‘Jeez honey so much for forward planning’, but she did say that she wanted to see how I would react and what my thoughts where first. Ok I cannot argue with that. Anyway we spend the rest of the day with her niece and she was just so lovely to have a round. No trouble at all.

Later that day, we had to leave because we had booked a hotel in Udon, besides I didn’t
fancy another sleepless night in the shed, so as I came out of the house to pack the car, I caught her niece with a frown on her face grunting away at the door of my car. She was desperately trying to get into the car and all she wanted to so was sit on my knee and drive the car all the way back to Udon with us. I am sure, she would also have tried to get on the plane back to Bangkok with us as wel lit it was hard I must admit to say goodbye to this little girl and she asked as we left when it was we would be coming back for her. it wrenches the heart strings it really does.

Two days later, we received a call from my wife’s brother in Taiwan, he had decided that ‘yes’ it would be a great idea for us to adopt his daughter because he believed we would be able to give her the best chance and education in life. Unfortunately as is typical of the Thai’s they hadn’t thought any of it through and most certainly hadn’t considered the implications of what they where proposing. You see by now, I had two days or so worth of thinking under my belt and had managed to get my head around it all as well as to start thinking things through in detail. So I presented them with a list of conditions that would need to be fulfilled first if I was expected to become the adopted father for her niece. For example, the full legal ownership of her niece would have to be ours as a couple. That meant her Taiwanese mum and her Thai dad (my wife’s brother) would have to sign over the adoption papers legally. They would also have to sign away all rights to see their daughter again, or at least until she was 18 when she would then be able to make her own decision and be curious enough to seek them out if she wished and basically I wanted things done legally, properly and above board. You see, I explained that there was no way I was going to adopt their daughter, take care of her, feed her, educate her, bring her up with my love and care, only for them to swan in when it suited them and take her back. Not a chance!

I also asked what would happen if the missus and I got divorced, and what would be their thoughts about access rights to what would effectively be my child and all these basic things that people take for granted. Needless to say, this prompted an intake of breath from the Thai side and they have gone back to consider their position about us adopting the niece now. Her nieces dad is saying how he loves his daughter and doesn’t really want to lose the fact that she will still see him has her Dad (yeah well why is she in Thailand while he is in Taiwan with his other daughter then if he loves her soit) and that is an issue he is going to have to resolve. I also suspect that somewhere someone along the line is probably thinking about what number to ask me to pay in compensation for taking the niece away. I already have an answer to that one that begins with them paying me instead rather than me paying them for the costs of bringing up their daughter.

Anyway, as it turned out I did get my reprieve in the end, albeit for a short while. The wife has conceded that she will wait and address this again in another year and has started to focus on her MBA studies with renewed vigour. Her brother has asked for us to wait until he comes home again at Christmas time to see his daughter and will then make a decision as to what he wants to do with regards the adoption thing, but personally I think it will never raise its head again, and me, well I am just waiting to see which way the wind is going to blow on this whole subject.

Will I give in and give her the children she wants? Hmmm I am not so sure, but my instinct says that I won’t, will this affect our long term marriage? Probably, and I believe Vietnam may be a good place for me run and hide in and Singapore is looking appealing again right now. In the mean time though, double thick condoms are the order of the day, as are dirty magazines and vigorous left hand motions as you just never know, I may be requested to fly over to Indonesia pretty soon to make a handsome test tube donation.

One thing is for sure, living in Asia certainly makes life interesting.

Stickman's thoughts:

A very nice report indeed.

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