Last week I went to Perth for a couple of days on business. I love Perth, the wide-open spaces, the sense that anything is possible. West Australia is booming thanks to its extraordinary mineral wealth and there is a severe skills shortage there. It is
said that provided you still have a pulse, you can get a reasonable job. Having completed what I went there for, I caught a cab to the airport and checked in for the flight back to Canberra. I had 45 minutes before the flight was called and so
I went to the departure lounge to wait. I sat next to a young, average-looking woman of indeterminate origin, probably south Asian. Imagine my surprise, when we got chatting, to find out that she was from Udon Thani in Thailand!
“Where are you going?” I asked.
“I am returning to Sydney,” she told me. She informed me she had just spent 2 weeks in Kalgoorlie, “visiting her aunt”. I was surprised. There cannot be too many Thais in Kalgoorlie, a remote mining town in outback
West Australia. I find out this is her second visit to Kalgoorlie and that she likes it there because it is small, quiet, and peaceful.
I tell her I have been to Thailand many times, and mention where I have been. She is very interested to find out what life is like in the south, as she has never been there. I discover she and her family are actually Laotian, despite having
lived in Thailand all her life, and that Lao is her mother tongue. I tell her I have been there also, and that I really like Luang Prabang. She corrects my pronunciation, pronouncing the name in the sexy sing song way as only a native Lao speaker
can. Warm memories of humid nights sipping Lao beer by the Nam Khan River where it joins the Mekong come flooding back. She tells me Luang Prabang is her favourite town in Laos.
Her English is surprisingly poor for someone this young living here. It is difficult to understand her at times. She has been in Australia for 4 years and really likes it here. She likes the freedom and the lifestyle and is able to get most
of the ingredients to cook Thai food. She looks happy and content.
“I am travelling to Thailand on holiday tomorrow,” she tells me, and her eyes light up at the prospect. Overnight at home in Sydney and then off to her hometown. First, she will spend three days in Bangkok with a friend and
they will hit the town hard. Then to Udon Thani to chill out with family and friends. It is her third trip home in only two years. She really misses Thailand but is happy living in Australia and wouldn’t want to return to Thailand permanently.
I find out that her mother is staying with her in Sydney. She has been visiting for three months and will return to Thailand, with her daughter accompanying her. Her mother speaks no English and has found it difficult looking after her two grandchildren
as they run about everywhere. The poor woman, having to look after two undisciplined kids in a strange country.
“You have children?” I ask in amazement, for she looks about 17. She has two children, a boy of four and a girl of 13 months. “Is the father Thai or farang?”
“”An Aussie man,” she replies. She doesn’t think much of Thai men.
It turns out she is 33 years old. She tells me she spent 15 years as a hairdresser in Bangkok before meeting her Australian man there, and the rest, as they say, is history. However, she never married him; “We are de facto,”
she proudly informs me, pronouncing it “Day facto!” She does not work here as her hairdressing skills are not recognised, but one day she would like to be a hairdresser here as well.
Her partner is 64 years old. “Is the age difference a problem?” I ask.
“Not at all”, she assures me. “He is a good man and is very good with the children”. The whole family is going back to Thailand on holiday, and her partner has already left Sydney for Bangkok.
Just then, her mobile phone rings. She picks it up and I overhear snatches of conversation …
“I am in Perth at the airport waiting for the flight to Sydney.”
“I love you too.”
“I miss you also.”
“I’ll ring you when I get back home”.
All said softly in that special tone of voice lovers use.
The call ends.
“So your partner has arrived in Udon Thani?” I ask.
She looks at me in surprise; “No, not my partner. I was talking to my friend in Kalgoorlie.”
And she laughs as she shares her secret with me.
I really enjoyed this story. Nicely penned – I did not see the twist coming!