Readers' Submissions

The Shining Path – A reply to Sawadee


I have meant to reply to Sawadee's excellent article about Farangs working in Thailand, but life and lethargy have had their way with me. However, the melancholy sounds of karaoke next door have put me in the mood of thinking about working in Thailand.

I have to say that Sawadee had me extremely worried with his story about taking the Teachers Council of Thailand's test in a previous submission. I couldn't sleep for a few days recalling the ADD nightmares of my college tests, which I hoped expensive therapy would eventually resolve.

But then the Shining Path was opened before me, rewarding and fulfilling labor in tropical paradise was mine to be had. I could return those social security checks uncashed because I was off to the fair land. So it was out with the magnifying glass to see where I would fit in.

Unskilled labor, yep, that's me all right. The only thing I found out though, is that I may be as rich (haha) as Bill Gates, but Somchai looks at me and is relieved to know that I am sure not as smart as he is.

Farmers: Nothing like getting those hands dirty to show you are an honest man. When I proposed to my Thai wife, she looked at my hands to see if they had callouses since that meant I was a hard worker. I hated to break the news that probably just meant I was a poor working stiff. The village would come and look at my raised beds, and just shake their heads in sorrow as they repeated that they just didn't do things that way over here, as they were munching away on my veges. Yep, just can't match local talent.

Carpenters/Masons: Looking at those spindly 4 in. cement blocks (OK, I'm cheap) on the house made me wonder if some rebar thrown down the holes, maybe some cement to bed the blocks in, and even fill a few holes here and there might not be a bad idea. Oh no no no, you slow us down, you not know how to build, we are Thai and we know how to build. I just try not to lean against the wall too hard.

When my wife headed back to the US she commissioned me to take our teak boards and make a bathroom floor cabinet with drawers that can open. It has kept me in perpetual discouragement as I spend days and weeks doing what would take a few minutes in my shop back home. I especially love the wooden block planes that are basically non-adjustable, leaving those signature gouges and rips in that precious wood.

Wood Carvers: I have been restoring a big wall carving recently. Unfortunately that seems to mean breaking off little bits and fragile pieces as I wallow about with the bent tang of a fork. I would like to meet the carver so I can assure him I will be no threat to his livelihood.

Vehicle Drivers: We have all been happily driving along, the road clear and all things well with the world, when to our shock the mirror will be filled with a Toyota Commuter tour van that had morphed from out of nowhere, landing inches from our bumpers. This week I tagged along on a tour and found myself right there traveling from bumper to bumper at insane speeds. It became clear that some things should be left to the professionals, and this might just be one of them.

Accountants: My wife took an AA in Accounting in Chiang Mai. Still am wondering what they covered in those classes. Why? It's tax season in the good ol' USA, and I am trying to make sense out of all those pieces of paper she gave me. We'll get there I am sure.

Barbers: It took only one 15 baht haircut to convince me there is a lot of potential work here for the dedicated sissor wielder. To test the equipment I talked a visiting French lady into using the kitchen shears on my admittedly not so hairy head, awesome. Maybe that will be my employment opportunity.

Traditional Thai Instrument Maker: My Thai daughter, a junior in high school, needed a project for her Medevial History class so chose to make a copy of an 9th century Anglo-Saxon Lyre. She dived right in and didn't saw off any vital parts. Resawed a Yew log for the body, carved/bandsawed the tuning pegs out of purple heart, resawed and planed old growth fir for the sounding board, made the bridge and tailstock out of curly maple firewood, made a power point presentation of the process and got her 100% grade. Then she rapidly moved on, back to letting the boys think they are chasing her, and abandonded the instrument, leaving me soulfully plunking away by myself. So I guess my dreams of hiring her out to make Thai instruments have gone up in smoke.

Traditional Thai Toys: There is hope here, make the TTT out of garrish colored bright plastic. Then make a video game using these toys. Next step, hire Somchai to catch all those bahts thrown your way, while you snooze on the hammock sipping a cold one.

Goldsmiths: Many a fine foreigner has found employment, after a fashion, as a goldsmith. When passing the gold shop, the tee rak gives the special "gold look" and the man springs into action, and before you can blink an eye a sturdy chunk of gold is hanging around her delicate and beautiful neck. So don't count the foreigner out of the business

Mattress Makers: I am surprised you gave up on this one. The simple solution is that since we are "rich farangs" we can stuff that pocket you have sewn onto the mattress top with all those baht you have laying around from your Trad Thai Toy venture. All crumpled up they make a nice ambient sound as you toss and turn, and sort of act like a layer of memory foam.

Knife Makers: I have bought some custom made kitchen knives from Japan and love the quality and beauty. Maybe you should investigate a small niche market industry as you put Thailand on the map for good quality knives. And your woman had been calling you a cut up, now you can show her!

Hat Makers: After extensive research, I have determined that the main issue with making hats in rural Thailand is that most men just grab for the nearest and stinkiest T-shirt and flop it over their heads. It's creative because if you want a chin shade, just stick your face through the arm hole or neck hole depending on how big your head is. If you want a top and neck shade, tie the sleaves together under the chin, Be creative. Women being the more sensitive species will forego the dirty T-shirt in leu of an old colored shirt or blouse.

Engineers: My daughter is taking engineering, so when I spotted a man with a "Department of Engineering" jacket from CMU walking out of Big C, I asked him about their engineering department. He said that he felt it was behind what the west was offering for engineering students. So there is your opportunity. Just casually looking around, there seems to be a lot more development happening here than in the US and possibly Europe too.

Well, I am truly excited about all these choices Sawadee has brought our way. The wife would be excited to see me working I can assure you, and the village would be all abuzz as they sense movement here at the end of the road. So thanks Sawadee, I'll let you know how it all turns out.