Readers' Submissions

Just Another Day

  • Written by Anonymous
  • May 28th, 2007
  • 9 min read


Black Pagoda Patpong Bangkok

China Hotel Guide
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I woke up rather late today. Friday afternoon – that is yesterday – I went to the Big C, for baguettes. I prefer to shop elsewhere, the "supermall" concept is not really to my liking. And the baguette bread they offer is not really that good. But it is available. My current location is somewhere in the rice fields south of Chiang Mai, so I cannot reasonably expect Villa Supermarket stuff to be found.

Anyway, I just absolutely totally accidentally happened to pass through the whiskey and wine section on my way to where milk is found. My nine year old daughter had instructed me to get strawberry flavored milk, and I knew I'd better deliver. By complete chance my eyes fell upon one of those "promotion" traps, a wine that was sold at some discount. Wine being expensive here in Thailand and me being relatively poor these days, I had not had any since about Christmas. Short story told, I was up until about 5 in the morning with my wine, re-reading Art Spiegelman's "Maus" I & II, and the wife was less than impressed. "Dink dink dink all the time, velly velly bad".

Hence the delayed awakening Saturday. Late afternoon I was served a macaroni-chicken thingy, but not with much of a smile. Deal at home is, I make the money, she does basically whatever she likes as long as the laundry is done and I do not totally starve. This has worked ok for more than ten years now, but there are the odd bumps in the road. Like if I try to invade her territory. Try the washing machine, for one. When we got it, the good girl wanted a big one that could handle bed blankets and such. Could make some money from the neighbours you see, around here not everyone has a washing machine at all and less has one that can deal with the "big" stuff. Anyway, I read the manual, it came with an English version. It made hints to something about different washing programs for different laundry. Seemed fairly reasonable, except to my wife. She treats the thing as she does the TV. More is good. More sound, more colors, max it up. The Japanese had the good sense to throw in the towel after Hiroshima. Good for them they did not have a Thai women as empress and supreme ruler. The US would have been forced to completely carpet bomb that island with dirty nukes, absolute annihilation, to get the last word. To get through to my wife with anything about washing, me being male, will also require thermonuclear devices (as in more than one). Those I cannot afford, and there may also be legal complications tailed to making use of such, possibly. Second best is to surrender. Or perhaps that should be first. The will of your average Thai female is something akin to what the insurance companies are on about when you get to the "force majore" part of the contract.

I ate my macaroni. Then checked my mail, browsed the headlines of the Nation and the Post. Thai embassies instructed to crack down on visa applications, khun Taksin was on some local radio station which was then shut down, fuel going up, and someone in Nakhon Nowhere did not win the lottery again. SNAFU.

Wife is glued to one of her three TVs, and at the same time doing embroidery work which pays her about 120 THB per day, "velly velly busy daling have much much wolk".

So I say yes, off course.

Then I tell her I am off to get some beers, it is Saturday after all. And I tell her not to worry if I am not back after about five minutes, I might sit down with a few if there is someone I know already sitting there over at pi Noi's shop. Which is pretty much a given, because I am the only farang within shooting distance and with that it follows that I basically know everyone – on some level or another. My lack of language skills has never, even remotely, discouraged my fellow villagers from engaging in conversation. Anecdotes of length are delivered over alcohol, and me not being able to get the point is at best a minor issue. Stick has written, if I remember correct, that being able to understand Thai is a key, a cornerstone, to be able to participate around here. I completely agree. Unless your LOS experience centers on barstools in Pattaya or similar, you are effectively handicapped without being able to sing the local song.

But no rule without exceptions. That is something I remember from school, where teachers came on to me with an enthusiasm comparative to Bangkok drivers. The latter sets sail with extreme optimism, thinking they will able to get anywhere. The former attempted to teach me grammar. I remember one thing from those teachers, and that is that you cannot really rely on the rules. Little else stuck, but if nothing else it was at the least something that, philosophically, assisted me in dealing with driving in The Big Mango.

My Thai is limited to being able to misdirect taxi drivers, more or less. I try to use this to my advantage. I can, often, because where I live everybody knows my Thai family. And they have seen me already, I am no longer a novelty. Few heads turn, hell, I am not even referred to as "farang" most of the time. They use my actual name for reference rather than the "description".

So how can I use my lack of language skills to any advantage? As for example on this Saturday night? First, Stick is right. Me, you and everybody would be better off being able. But I am not. And I may possibly not become able. Perhaps I lack the skill. Now, did you ever read a sentence in your guidebook about Thai males becoming "rowdy" and sometimes "unpleasant" when the bottle has been passed around a few times? This happens. Then, how to deal with it? For that, I use my "mai roo" / "I do not know / understand" and a smile. It works just fine for me. I may have to repeat it, if there is someone unused to me about, but most always it works.

This Saturday late afternoon I went over to pi Noi's shop, thinking it would be nice to sit down there for a while. The wife was bound to the TV by some force field strong beyond whatever Star Wars movies ever suggested possible, khun Noi has a 19 years old daughter that makes our average Spicy or TV Pool magazine (BKK publications) chick look downright plain, and this girls' best friend who tends to be about, same age, has all of her 35 kilos arranged so that the little crocodile logo is only seen properly if you stand by her side. Before tonight, last I saw k. Noi's daughter was one week ago when my kamnan made a big party for his latest house. When it was time for me to leave she was going "stay stay stay dance".

I went over and thought to sit for two or three beers before heading home, but ended up being about a bit longer. A funeral was starting up across the road, and around here that sort of a thing makes for much the opposite of what I am used to from my European background. It is not that everybody is happy about someone being dead. It is the Thai way of dealing with it. When it is my time, I very much want it to be here. No 25 minutes (exactly) for tea and stale sandwiches after the last protestant words on sin and hellfire. Oh no.

And so for the "rowdy" boys, ever present. Observing the starting formalities of the funeral rites I sat with 1.) A local driver of cement trucks known for a violent temper and a tendency to resolve any issues by foot and fist, 2.) A local "gangster", small in size but absolutely lethal in enforcement of whatever, 3). An electrician from down the road who has been able to put up a 2 million THB house even when he is a functioning alcoholic, 4). Pi Noi's daughter came and went at intervals, highlights, 5). A couple of nondescript labour types heavy into the "white whiskey", pure poison, 6). Three specimens from the collection of Mrs. Noi's poodle dogs, of which one wanted to sit on the table, 7). Said poodle accepted until Mrs.. Noi took action, 8). Local policeman present but hesitant about approaching the table [see 2.]), 9). Mrs. Noi's daughters' friend comes tits first to ask about something computer related [I fix things for neighbours and friends when I can], 10). I check "binn" finding that [2).] has paid most of it, including various "kanom".

Could have been worse. Often it is, especially if you are an outsider. Outsider you will always be, with or without the language. Stay for a while and sit down with people, you might get accepted. Buy some beers around, sure. When your local temple has something going you put some cash in an envelope just like everybody else. Go with the flow.

"Rowdy" boys, different customs, lots of shadows, lots of dust. Life in an ordinary Thai village is really not on the schedule when "Thai ways" magazine picks their pictures. But I love it here. It is very far from perfect, I dare say, any standard considered. Still, it is good, for me.

I had a lovely Saturday night tonight. Many will reasonably disagree, like what the "#&^%" am I doing out here in the first place and "&*^^" there is better food, lovely lasses, whatnot, come down to Pattaya and see!

Been there, done that. We are all different (and how boring it would be if it was otherwise) and I have found a place. No temple donations will buy friends. I think that is universal. Generosity is always welcome, but for real friends and effective respect cash is not king. It can be an assistant knight, sure, but never really the foundation proper. Something to consider when you get the sick mommy / buffalo request. Could it possibly be any connection with the Thai use of "kwai" [buffalo] as a title for someone who is less than smart with all those letters and emails requesting cash to heal said creature from a catalogue of ailments?

Naa, sure not. After all, my girl only worked as a cashier, darn tootn', she told me so herself.

I think I had some idea of getting to some point or another when I started this. However, I have slipped beer on my keyboard and most of the buttons around tab, 1 through q, w, a, s, z, x and the caps lock are now stuck. The mouseclickthingkeyboard works but is not really practical, Stick put this raaaaaaaaaaaaaaaambling up if you want…

Stickman's thoughts:

A lot of guys really do go for the countryside life. Hey, if you enjoy it and are generally happy, that's great.