Random Ramblings On Thailand
This FR is based on a late-night excursion in January, 2006.
Expats and Farangs
I am aware that many readers of this website do not like it if they are called Farangs. I do not share this touchiness. I belong to the school of linguists that is sure that the expression Farang is derived from the word "Franken". Now this Franken is a region in Central Europe, which is the home of Siemens, the electronics giant, whose ads in Thai TV finance many soap operas. So for me to be named "Farang" sounds respectable, even more than "hansom man".
On the other hand, as English is not my mother tongue, I have problems to recognize the whole spectrum of meanings that the English speaking find in a certain word. One example for me is "Expat" which long nosed yuppies in Hong Kong or Bangkok don't mind to hear. For me the word expat comes from the Latin and means "out of fatherland." One of the first expats to be remembered is the Latin Poet Ovid who was exiled to the Black Sea and there wrote a Book he called "Tristitia", what means sadness.
I do not see any cause for sadness in the lifestyle of young executives, exiled from their companies to work in South East Asia.
I also remember a Latin proverb which says. "Ubi bene, ibi patria", meaning: "where it is good there is fatherland." Now as many Farangs living here feel quite good, shouldn't they call themselves "Inpats" instead of "Expats" as they now are "in" a country, "ubi bene"? As I said, English is not my mother tongue, so I am not an authority on this question.
The Feng Shui of love
Sometimes I wonder if all king-size beds are created equal, or if some have more fire under their bottoms than others. Maybe it depends on their location. If I look back at places where I have been especially happy I can see: A mountain hut in the Alps. The Dunes of Maspalomas. A hotel room in the Rue de Saintes Innocentes in Paris. The double bed cabin on a rolling steamer in the South China Sea, or the endless tropical night on a seaside balcony of Singapore’s Sentosa Shangrila, where they have no mosquitoes biting the lovers.
All these places have one thing in common: They have a certain ambiente, which makes it easier for you to embrace your partner. And vice versa.
The Chinese call this ambiente "feng shui", and even though I do not share this superstition, I must admit that some places have a higher position in the Richter-scale of love making than others. Thailand much more than its neighbour states.
I am convinced that many of the so called sextourists who visit Thailand do not come in the intention of buying sex. They may have heard about playgrounds in the Land of Smiles, they may have some wishful thinking but in reality many sit shy in a bar beer and do not know how to make contact.
What makes them eventually cross the Rubicon is the ability of the girls to open their mouth and “tell you what you want to hear and you have to admit that it does sound pretty good,” as Frank Visakay pointed out convincingly.
The great danger in hearing and believing is that one can be overwhelmed by the longing for deep passionate love. This is the nucleus of many personal tragedies we hear about on Stickman's website.
But do not let us despise those who suffer from this kind of "mental sickness." Being deeply in love is one of the best things that can happen to a man. And what is the cause of this? The feng shui of Thailand.
It was Graham Greene, the father of "The Quiet American", who complained about the "endless tropical night" with all its mysterious sounds and the mosquitoes attacking like stukas.
Indeed, night breaks early, all the beautiful sights disappear, and as I am not an early to bed and early to rise type, I am sometimes gripped by a kind of horror vacui what to do until midnight when I go to bed. There is of course UBC, but if my partner watches Thai soap operas I prefer to stay in another room.
In most hotels and homes the lamp light is too weak to read novels by Christopher G. Moore or Jake Needham. You can put in a brighter light bulb, but this emits a heat which dries up my eyes and my ears. So the best solution for reading in the night is my laptop. Some people cannot concentrate when reading from a screen and turn it off after a few pages. I think this a consequence from using a small font (the size of the letters) which many producers of notebooks and software use as a default value. They have never seen which influence the bright sky or the dark room lamps of Thailand have on readability. I usually choose a font size of 18 points in demibold.
If you want to read a book on your computer, there is absolutely no need to fall prey to those professional scam-artists who want to sell you a special e-book-reader and charge for every download of a book. You can download hundreds of literary works – and other books – free of charge from gutenberg.net.au which has nearly every line that Virginia Woolf wrote, and if you are afraid of Virginia Woolf they also have Edgar Wallace and many other mystery-authors. You can save and read all these books as simple text-files.
Another occupation. I am an opera fan. Thanks to the multimedia progress I can buy dozens of operas on DVD and play them on the optical drive of my laptop, using an earphone. There are operas from Verdi I can hear every week without getting tired. The same is valid for your favourite pop artists. Did you ever react negatively when you heard again "Yesterday"? Maybe you prefer some "Tomorrow". You will know where to buy it on DVD.
Reader / contributor BKKSW wrote he missed that he could not receive a decent radio station. Well, I can. There is one pre-condition. I have a seven foot parabolic antenna. I if I turn this antenna say to the Asiasat-satellite which carries Deutsche Welle TV, than I can also receive half a dozen radio programs from Deutsche Welle, including an English program which is professionally made (not at all teutonic) and a twenty-four hour music channel. I think all broadcasting satellites in the sky carry radio programs, quite a lot, and the reception is clear, much better even than FM. And once you have installed your antenna everything is free. My favourite TV station is the French TV5, which is also available on UBC. But nearly every time the signal on UBC is nixed by a rain cloud, the big satellite antenna still holds a clear picture.
I went into a pharmacy in Europe and asked the pharmacist: "Do you have condoms of different size?"
"All condoms have the same size", he answered. Then he turned to his colleagues and shouted: "This customer asks if we have condoms of different size. Ha, ha,ha."
"Ha, ha, ha!" They answered in chorus.
I left the pharmacy with a red face.
Next I visited a sex-shop close to the travel agency where they sell tickets to Thailand.
"Do you have condoms of different size?"
"Of course we have. Please tell us your measurements."
I had no idea, and the sales girl was not willing to lend me a helpful hand to get the data.
Change of Scene. A Chinese friend of mine discovered in a transit shop in Beijing airport a box with 100 condoms at a very reasonable price. She bought them as a present to her Farang brother in law, who was married to her younger sister.
At the next family reunion her brother in law winked her asides.
"What is the meaning of these rubbers?" he asked. "Should I put them on my fingers for foreplay?" Sister in law blushed deeply.
When my daughter worked in Japan, a Japanese colleague confessed to her, that she preferred "gaijin" (Farang) men, because with them she could "feel something", which was not happening when she met Japanese men.
Some times later I learnt from the Book "China Blues" that the United Nations started an enquiry about the size of male instruments in different regions. The reason was that they wanted to distribute condoms all over the world to stop AIDS.
Here the outcome: The smallest condoms were needed for Japan and its neighbour countries. Good sized ones were recommended for Western Caucasians, and the largest were to be given to men with a very dark skin.
Now don't be disappointed, Co-Farangs, a lady of the Caribic told me that black caballeros were indeed favoured by nature, but that their endurance was not up to it, meaning they were unable to accompany a woman to the high tide mark, for which twenty minutes are needed.
Another result of the enquiry: while we have big regional differences in the constitution of men, women do not differ that much. Some have broader hips, some smaller but they all have the same passageway through which our successors must pass.
Especially in Thailand the use of condoms has been propagated widely. But I learned from announcements at my neighbourhood temple, where the dead are burned, that the main reason for the decline of AIDS in this country was the high mortality rate.
While the use of condoms lessens the joy of sex, the protection, they provide, is limited. I mentioned the Japanese lady who told that she can feel something with "gaijins". The same should be valid for Thai women. That is a plus for us Farangs.
But when a woman develops feelings, she is able to react strongly. And in this state she might easily rip off the condom from the place where it belongs to. The happy couple discovers this fact only when it is too late.
What did I do when this happened to me? I took an out time of three month to wait for the outcome of an HIV test. I might well gamble with my own life, if I embraced women, whose health state was not completely clear to me, but I had absolutely no right to risk the health of new or older girlfriends.
Luckily I never tested positive. You see that condoms not only offer protection but also can make life difficult.
There was a discussion here some time ago about speaking Thai. Dana proclaimed that Thai is a language that is not spoken but sung. Another contributor maintained that if you go to a foreign country you should be able to grasp at least a minimum of its language. I think the outcome of this discussion was influenced by English teachers, who are convinced you can learn everything.
There exist people who are colour-blind. This is accepted by the society. There are other people who are deaf to the difference of tones. Such a man or woman cannot say if he hears a high or a low note. It sounds to him all alike. These persons – me including – are not equipped by nature to understand spoken Thai. Of course I mean sung Thai. If I see a Malay TV program I am happy to hear a language which has a masculine sound. I could learn it easily. If I turn on to a Thai station I am less happy. I do not understand this sing-song. You can say this is a birth defect in me. Can be. But I am not ashamed of it. I know there are many inpats like me who have problems to understand Thai by hearing and I think there is no reason to feel guilty for this. We have other talents.
The Hour of shame
It was around the turn of the Millenium. I was new in a certain place in P.I. and I had not yet won the acquaintance of local Farangs to talk and drink with. There was a Disco on the seaside, not far from my hotel. Its name was "Blue Mango." In this disco nobody was dancing, but a dozen young women crowded the bar. I thought of retreat but first ordered a beer because I was thirsty. The girl next to me looked me over and then suggested to me that I barfined her. She was of the half Chinese type I fall for, and I said yes. We left before I had downed my beer. Outside, in the warm tropical night she suddenly asked me, if I cold pay her in advance and let her come later to my room. Flabbergasted, I agreed and gave her the money. When her steps disappeared in the darkness, tap, tap, tap – an inner voice said to me: You fool, this is one of the oldest scams in the world. How could you fall for it? Another voice disagreed: I have some knowledge of the human nature or I wouldn't have invited her in the first place. I sat on my balcony and opened a San Miguel. Did you ever notice, that in the P.I. – or at least in a radius of hundred miles around Mount Pinatubo – you never hear a bird singing? It was a very quiet night. An hour later I heard steps on the stair leading up to my apartment: tap, tap tap. It was her. She explained to me, that she had been at the supermarket to buy food for her child. She even showed me the printout from the cash-register of the supermarket. I am sure, this was not a fake. The P.I. are that poor. In this moment both parts of my ego felt deeply ashamed. The one because he had misjudged her, and the other because I lived in a world, where a young mother was willing to sell her body to a complete stranger in order to give her child something to eat. This is a world order hard to digest or accept. It hurt me deeply to be part of it. In this night we sat for a long time on my balcony and looked at the lights of the fisher boats on the South China Sea. I felt very close to her and she probably to me too.
Now every time I read in one of your submissions that Thai bargirls are not forced or coerced to do what they do, I think of this brave Philippina mother and I feel uneasy. I belong to a generation that knows what hunger is. In the years after the Second World War I nearly died of hunger, and I will never forget that gnawing feeling that hunger causes.
Fun stories, a nice compendium.
I feel I have to comment on the Thai language piece. ANYONE can learn Thai. The problem is that most choose to learn it in an unconventional manner. Study it at a language school and anyone can learn it.