I’ve been happily married for 20+ years, but have always been itching for more since I never had an opportunity to “sew my oats” when I was young. Back in 2004, I finally caved in to the temptations of “yellow fever”
during a trip to the PI. I’ve traveled the world quite a bit since then, but found myself having the most fun in Bahrain hanging with the Thai crowd. I considered myself a “butterfly” and took full advantage when in theatre.
Through the years, I’ve cut back on the ladies and passed on my knowledge of prime hangout locations to new co-workers and relegated myself to “designated driver”.
It was during this time I met Ning. She was an attractive 40ish (my age) acquaintance of my co-worker's girlfriend that was tasked with keeping me company while everyone else worked the club. I gave her the patented “Hi, I’m Dave, I’m happily married, have 3 kids, and no money”. Ning was the first one not to run away. Heck, she stayed and talked to me long after everyone else was ready to go. On subsequent visits, she would sit and talk with me every time.
Over the years, we always kept in contact through emails or phone calls. I would announce my return to Bahrain, and she would drop whatever it was she was doing to be with me. We acted more like a couple than anything else, and I was really enjoying her company. I’ve read many stories from the Stickman's website about people getting burned for one thing or another. I’ve always had the attitude that if this thing ends, I would be bummed, but I enjoyed the ride. Besides, she knows I’m married, I love my wife, I’m not leaving my wife, etc, but she doesn’t care. She says she only wants to be near me, or in my life in some form.
I was back in the States when I got the call that Ning was arrested for an expired visa in Bahrain, and that she was being deported to Bangkok where they seized her passport. She was back where she started from, with nothing to show for it. She was staying with her relatives, who do little but put a roof over her head. Ning calls me asking for help. All the bells and whistles go off in my head about the “stupid Farang” supporting families, husbands, kids, etc. I tell her I don’t have the finances to support her, but would be willing to help her in a new career direction. She told me years before that she wanted to go to make-up school. She gave me names of schools while I researched them on the web. Colour and Style checked out, so I wired the money directly to the school, and some money to her for food, transportation, etc.
Work took me to Pattaya for one evening last February, so Ning jumped on a bus to meet me. She brought all the materials from school to show me how well she was doing and that she was upbeat about the new career choice. Soon after I was in Pattaya for 2 more nights, she met me again where I gave her a small laptop and taught her how to use it to keep in touch easier. The three nights we spent were unforgettable, and I was toying with the idea of flying to Bangkok on my own.
I purchased tickets in late March for an early June arrival. Ning was working at the Central World Shopping Mall. She was in a TV commercial for her school, and everything seemed fine. Then I watched in horror as the political turmoil unfolded. The mall was torched, and she was jobless again. I caved and sent her $300 per month just to sustain life until something else opened up for her. It was during this time she entered a Thai book-writing contest. I told her many times before that they could make a movie about her life with everything that she’s been through, but I was concerned that the contest might be a scam, like many things are in the states.
The political turmoil settled just before my scheduled trip to Thailand. When I arrived in Bangkok, some buildings were still smoldering. We spent two days trying to get her passport back, and then toured the country for the rest of the week. She also showed me the pages she hand wrote for the book contest. I again told her to be cautious if they request any money for submitting a story, fearing it was only a ploy to take money and crush dreams. I followed up with another visit to Thailand in October, and then she visited me in Japan last November for a couple weeks with her newly acquired passport. She didn’t want to go back to Thailand, but she was excited to see the results of the contest (down to 3 contestants, she would say). It was tough to not be with her on a daily basis after she left.
On Dec 21, I get the message “Ning #1” on my mobile. I start looking on the net to see if there is any mention of a book contest, and then my heart sank. She had won the top award for the Chommanard Book Prize, apparently a big deal in Thailand. To this day she has been doing interviews for TV and newspapers, (much to her family’s chagrin), meeting with state officials, and speaking with prisoners. Not bad for a high school drop-out, although she is much more wise than what she lets on.
I’ve joked with her in the past about her becoming rich and famous, then leaving me in the dust. Besides, I’m still married and it wouldn’t be fair to her to want to keep her for my mistress. To this day, she still gets upset if I joke about her leaving me. She is still hell bent on coming to the US and staying around me in some form.
Wow! I guess it is the same book that I read about just a few weeks ago. It had received a lot of attention because traditionally Thais from a less sophisticated background don't publish books – and if they do, they are unlikely to appeal to the masses.