Readers' Submissions

Thai Thoughts and Anecdotes Part 189

  • Written by Dana
  • August 11th, 2007
  • 7 min read



YOU ARE WHAT YOU BUILD

Sometimes symbols help you coalesce your thoughts–they serve as useful shortcuts and meaningful ways to think of something. One of the symbols that comes to mind for me when I think of the Essan culture is the ladders that are in front of the houses. You know the ladders that I mean. The houses are built on stilts to get away from floods and snakes and other natural wonders so to get up to the house there is a sloping ladder in the front. The two long pieces of the ladder invariably are not parallel to one another, or even the same length, or of the same material. That is really all they had to be and it does not require a tape measure to accomplish this. But that is not the real attention getting thing about these ladders. The visual part of these ladders that really grabs your attention is that none of the cross pieces are equidistant from one another, or parallel to one another, or the same length, or even of the same material. Junky materials and junky construction. Junky people?

So the ladder is a construction where not one single thing is correct. The kind of thing a 10 year old would do. But these ladders are not constructed by 10 year olds. They are constructed by adults. Now if I make some remark about the ladders’ design and construction reflecting inferior mental abilities I will be hunted down and pummeled by the politically correct. So we won't go there. I will concede that these people are just as intelligent as any other people. This means the politically correct have me assuming that the people of Essan are just as clever as the Egyptians who built the world’s largest and longest lasting edifices. Additionally the politically correct have me assuming that these architects of Essan house ladders are just as intellectually competent as the Mayans who assembled dry stone walls with blocks so closely measured and closely fitted that you can not insert a knife blade between the joints.

OK, once again I assume the politically correct know what they are talking about and these Essan house ladder builders are just as smart as the Egyptian builders and the Mayan builders. That just leaves attitude. Sorry politically correct bleaters and fools; you did it to yourself. Intelligence without standards is a downward slope that is only for one reason. Attitude. The Essan house ladder builders just don't care. They don't care about what their families think, or about what their neighbors think, or about what their guests might think. The house ladder is the first thing that a family member, or a neighbor, or a guest sees. It is the advertisement for the people who live within. It shouts "We just don't care!" People who don't care scare me. Think I am being too tough on these rural Essan ladder builders?

Hey, I didn't even mention stairs!


WHAT'S THE POINT?

The farang who come to Thailand are what they are. If they are older than younger that is a fact, not a disease. If they are heavier now than when they were younger that is a fact, not a crime. If they are more farang than Thai in their points of view, that is only to be expected; not an example of cultural insensitivity. Honestly, would anyone reasonably expect anything else? Do we expect French tourists touring the temple of Sakkara to be 100% aware of and knowledgeable about and sympathetic to Old Kingdom Egyptian culture? No we do not. The notion is absurd. Do we expect tourists from Iceland visiting the Great Wall of China to be able to read a Chinese menu and give an extemporaneous lecture on Ming Dynasty pottery painting conventions? No we do not. The notion is silly. No one would even think about it. Ok, then why do we expect so much of the visiting farang in Thailand? Why is the Thai experience supposed to be so different from tourist or expat experiences in the other 190 countries? The farang in Thailand does not know anything about Thai culture. He is not supposed to know anything about Thai culture. What else would you expect? To expect more than this and to judge him thusly is unfair.

Because he does not know anything about Thai culture he sometimes makes social errors, or appears foolish. Well of course he sometimes makes social errors, and sometimes appears foolish. What else would anyone reasonably expect? Remember, he is a tourist or an expat which is a fancy way of saying that he is a stranger. He is strange to the natives and the native culture, and the natives and the native culture are strange to him. That is what being a stranger is all about. But to assume that because he is ignorant of the culture he is also somehow of lesser quality as a human being is a logical jump based on emotional need and not on evidence. If you know the local native word for 'hiccup' because you are a native and I don't–those are facts. But they do not yield anything else. They don't speak to character, or class, or breeding, or humanness. There is no evidence that just because the farang is what he is in appearance, or behavior, or ignorance of local nuance; that he is somehow deficient in morals or worth. That is just silly.

So why do farang men pick on each other? Why the name calling? What's the point?


SOPHISTICATED SHE IS NOT

I buy tickets to the tranny show at the Tiffany theatre in Pattaya. When I show up at Da's bar in Soi Diamond off Walking Street and show her the tickets as a surprise; she does not know what they are. She has never seen theatre tickets. My dog has never seen theatre tickets either. I am hoping there is a difference.

The ceiling in the theatre is way, way up there. It is a clear night. Not a cloud in sight. A drop of water from somewhere up near the ceiling falls on me and lands on my crotch. It is a clear night. It is not even raining. What are the odds? Da nearly loses control of her bladder laughing, and holds her Pepsi cup over my private parts. We are hemmed in by Japanese. We can not move. More drops fall. She has lost it. Laughing has turned to snorting and now gasping.

She has never seen Thai vaudeville style humor live and loves it. She is laughing, and holding the Pepsi cup over my pants, and also holding her crotch–she has to pee like a four year old. I have to take her by the hand to the bathroom.

Outside after the show you can have your picture taken with the trannys. It is a fun thing. They all troop out to the parking lot and pick up some cash in tips. You pick the trannys you like (so many trannys–so little time) and then you put your arms around them, and a staff photographer takes your picture. You tip the girls and the picture taker. A fun thing. I have to explain it to Da as if I am Robert Oppenheimer explaining the A bomb to U.S. Senators in the ‘50s. Finally she gets into it, and she is jerking 100 baht notes out of my billfold like crazy.

After the show we decide to walk back down Second Road, and then take a soi down to Beach Road and catch a baht bus back to the hotel. So simple. Within one hundred feet she manages to injure her foot somehow so now she is limping in her high heels. Miss pretend hi-so all fancied up for her farang boyfriend can not even get through one evening of dress up. Finally I get down on my hands and knees in my snakeskin pants and my silk shirt and take off her high heels. Now she is walking barefoot, my Essan princess; and I am carrying her shoes. At the entrance to the parking lot is a long expanse of sharp pea gravel. I wonder about this. Heck, I'm not sure about it for me in my thin soled Italian calfskin slippers. I am without my sedan chair bearers, and I am without my bodyguards, and I am without my butler, and I am without my support staff. Totally on my own. Anyway, my barefoot Da walks across this sharp pea gravel as if it is a sea of velvet. My Essan princess has the thick foot pads of an elephant. She is smiling again.

In the hotel room we are standing at the desk looking at something and I press against her. Me to her: "What's this? No underpants?"

"I leave them in the bathroom at show."

Okay. I love my Essan princess but . . . sophisticated she is not.

Stickman's thoughts:

A nice collection of thoughts and stories. I enjoyed this week’s bulletin. Wow, only 11 to go until you reach 200! (In other words, don't even think about retiring before then!)