Keep It In Perspective
I first experienced Thailand in May of 2006 after a wicked divorce that changed every aspect of my life. After 15 years of marriage I could see where my life was going for the next 20 years and was content. Content with the whole freakin thing – the career, the suburban neighborhood, the stay at home wife, the kids, the annual vacation, the college funds, coaching youth sports, etc… I’m sure you get the picture. Long story short – she hit a midlife crisis and my reality evaporated within a six-month period.
Five months later a co-worker, who had been to Thailand on a more than a few occasions, convinced me I needed a holiday – a good holiday. What I found was nothing like I expected and everything I wanted in my current state.
After about a week of banging around Pattaya I met Soen (yes the name has been changed to protect the innocent, and myself). She seemed different than the other BGs I had met so far; she dressed conservatively, seemed a bit shy about working at the bar and couldn’t play the usual bar games with any skill (my own unsubstantiated litmus test!). She spoke English well enough, which I’m certain helped my attraction along all too quickly, and informed me she was a college student. Her final term was approaching which she was trying desperately to finance. So she decided to work the bars for a short term.
Our first evening together was chaperoned by an older sister (I use the term sister loosely). The evening went well, although at times I felt I was being interviewed as possible boyfriend/sponsor, which I of course had no interest in being and was much too smart to fall victim (yeah, right). Nevertheless Soen had some qualities I hadn’t yet experienced with other BGs. She seemed smart, determined, opinionated and optimistic about her future. I didn’t get any of the typical family crisis stories and she had no kids to support. I was intrigued but still not interested in anything beyond the next morning. A day later and I found myself in a resort on a nearby island with her for the next four days. We had a great time but I really did not want it to go any further as my life was complicated enough back home. In addition, my traveling companion warned me about getting attached and informed me that these relationships rarely work. His words of wisdom rattle in my head to this very day.
I left her in Pattaya and spent the rest of my trip experiencing Bangkok. Once home I found myself thinking about Soen quite a bit, as we farang often do. So I took the next step and made initial contact. She was back at college to finish her final term. We exchanged emails and talked on the phone with relative frequency and I waited to see how long before the money requests started. Two months is what it took. I laughed at myself after the conversation and convinced myself I was too smart, but there was just something that still seemed sincere and honest. So I took that step and helped her out a bit financially.
This went on for a bit and after a while I felt somewhat committed (still too smart!). To be honest I didn’t mind. I enjoyed our conversations and she actually helped me more than I would like to admit. I rationalized that while she was in school I may actually be doing some good. Even if I wasn’t exclusive and it was all just bull I was still getting something from the relationship for the time being. I’d have to be a complete idiot to believe that after four days she would commit herself only to me, but who knows.
I was back in Thailand after nine months and she wanted me to meet the family in some village up in Isaan. I was still not certain about her intensions or my own. Nevertheless, I was looking forward to the adventure. It was a great experience and gave me some perspective on where these girls come from, physically and culturally. In a way it was the typical “a farang is visiting the family” trip, as how I understand it from reading way too many posts. I of course paid for the food, the booze, a day trip for the family, the transportation, everything. I was expecting it and just told myself to enjoy the experience for what it was. What I did not expect was the warmth I received from her family. I didn’t feel taken advantage of; on the contrary I received a great deal of gratitude.
Another surprise was how important it was to Soen that I get the family's approval. The entire affair was a much bigger step for her than I imagined. She worked really hard to make sure I, and her family, was comfortable during the process. I was impressed and felt fortunate that she took such care.
I have known her almost 10 months now and am happy to know her. Even in the limited capacity of a long distance relationship, which I admit does wear on me from time to time and I wonder why I even bother. There have also been a couple of red flags over the months, but I attribute them as only suspicions and she has expressed similar bouts of paranoia on occasion. I would not hesitate to have her checked out if I decide to take the relationship further.
I really don’t know how far the relationship will go or how far I am willing to take it. I am not in a position to live there for some time, too many obligations at home. For her my feeling is that assimilation to Farangland would be tough. If she would even be willing to try is still in question. The fact is that she loves her country as well as her family and it would be difficult for her to leave either of them behind. That doesn’t leave many options for either of us at this point.
She is currently looking for a “good job” now that she has her degree. She of course wants her own business and seems quite determined to make it happen. I have not lied to her and made it clear that I am not interested in building a business in a place I can only visit once or twice a year, as another farang once promised her. That was a previous relationship that didn’t end well for her. The guy was a schmuck and filled her head with elaborate promises, all empty. Sad thing is she still wants to believe what he told her was real, but that’s another story.
I can say with relative certainty that she is not working the bar scene. I would like to think that I helped with that by getting her through the end of school, but who knows. She said once she finds a job she wants to be self-supportive so I “don’t need to worry about her anymore”. I found that comment interesting and I’m quite curious to see if she fades away (I’ll let you all know in a later post).
My point is this – Keep it in perspective.
Reality is a perception and can get twisted to fit a particular situation. People by nature will always look out for their own best interest. Every successful business relationship I’ve ever had was one that was mutually beneficial. It was a sad reality for me when I realized that personal relationships were often built on the same premise.
In any country a long distance relationship is never ideal. If a long distance relationship is too stressful, don’t get involved. These girls have a lot of options and they can’t be blamed for it. Let’s face it, a new planeload of options lands every day.
Never sacrifice what you don’t have or are willing to give. If you can’t afford to send money, don’t. I have come to the realization that it doesn’t matter how much you send. There is no amount of money that can buy someone’s honesty or faithfulness.
Life is a journey and change is inevitable. Take the journey and enjoy the ride.
The bottom line regarding my relationship with Soen. I do genuinely care for her and I believe she does for me as well on some level. Is she keeping her options open, probably. Am I doing the same, absolutely.
PS – Do cellphones work in Koh Samui? (I’ll let you know why I’m asking in my next post!)
That fourth to last paragraph contains some very wise advice.
Yes, Samui has a perfectly adequate mobile phone network. Please don't tell us she was down there on holiday and she got new signal….please!