A Day In The Life...

We spent yesterday with our contractor and his wife. As is our custom on payment day, we make a day of it. We all went to the bank and then went to various suppliers looking for just the right materials for counter tops and bathrooms and the like. We contracted the whole job to them but everything is itemized so we can choose a slightly higher priced material and pay the difference.

We did a pretty good job of negotiating costs in advance so almost everything comes within our estimate. Some things we take notes on for future reference, while other items are ordered on the spot to be delivered when we need them. We also stopped by to see two of their other projects at different stages of completion.

The girls got hungry, as Thai women are wont to do every few hours. Normally you are given little notice and even less time to get something into their mouths, but on this occasion the offer of fresh shrimp from one of the fish-farm restaurants near Thung, was good enough for them to suppress their needs for a little longer than normal. Last time lunch was on them so this time it was our turn, as is the custom. We ended the day at the house site discussing the progress so far and what comes next.

Sometime in the middle of all this my wife got a call. It was the modern village grapevine at work. Cell phone to cell phone, trying to track down everyone to let them no of another death in the village. Her mother’s phone was off as she was knee deep in the neighboring fields trying to catch fish. Not sure if it was the basket or scoop or net or some other fishing technique. Anyway we called one of the bricklayers on site to see if she was in earshot or not.

After finding her we brought her up to speed and thus started the well rehearsed rituals of death in a Thai village. My wife has spent a fair amount of time over there, last night and today, but her mother is the real champ. She lives for these occasions and spends all day and sometimes late into the night doing all the things they do as a matter of course.  To be fair it is almost mandatory that one participate in all communal events in a village.

I took this occasion to try and sort out some of my wife’s extended family. This latest death turns out to be her grandmother’s niece who was around 69. With everyone having at least six or seven kids and all of them having six or seven kids, village families can get so large, that they can’t even keep them all straight. I have a hard enough time with the aunts and uncles.

Apparently my wife’s mother was one of seven kids and her deceased father was one of six. Of the thirteen I think there are ten left. As I mentioned in another posting all the grandparents departed in the last three years. Since I am roughly the same age as her parents that means I am also close in age to all her aunts and uncles. Fortunately most of them have a very hard time with Central Thai so we don’t have to deal with each-other very much. My wife also provides an effective buffer for me.

In the process of explaining who was who my wife got very descriptive of how poor people in the village were back when she was a kid. I had heard it before but I like the story of the one village TV, that was powered by a car battery, as there was no electricity. Twenty or thirty people, children and adults, would crowd into all the available space in a small wooden house leaving some to stand by the door or window to watch a tiny black and white TV. They had heard of color TV but had no concept of what it was, so tried to colorize their screen with see-through color strips. 

Apparently the house suffered greatly from all the stress and strain and needed to be repaired often. Sometimes people didn’t even have enough to eat and the only recourse was to go off into the jungle and find some jungle food or kill something. That lead to the occasional poaching of an animal that belonged to a neighbor who was better off.

My wife and I have previously discussed the particularly pragmatic, Thai view, of ethics and morals and have come to the following conclusion. Need, is usually seen to outweigh the concept of right and wrong. As example “I am not a liar, I only lie when I need to”. Often the Farang view of the world as (black or white, good or bad), is at odds with the Thai view, which to put it kindly, is much more flexible and creative.

That was yesterday, while today I spent exploring new trails on my bike and getting some much needed exercise. No two days are ever alike...