Boredom and Living in a Thai Village...

I’m always a little suspicious of statistics but generally one can say that Thailand’s population is still primarily rural with something like two-thirds being classified that way.  It was more like three-quarters when I first arrived, if I remember correctly.  Many rural people spend a fair amount of time living and working in Bangkok but with one interesting caveat.  Most live in slums near the factories where they work, with others from the same region of the country.  Essentially they never leave the village.  They take it with them.  That no doubt, goes some way to explaining why they never really develop any big city sophistication or broadened world perspective.

Given the percentages, it is no wonder that the majority of farangs end up with village girls, but that is not the topic today, nor are the economic and cultural aspects that factor into that equation.  The topic is the boredom experienced by many a foreign male, upon the obligatory visits to their girlfriend’s home village.  I dare say very few men venture off into the sticks on their own and are usually dragged there, out of obligation.  Even after marriage, this obligation continues and must be dealt with in one way or another.

I believe there is a big difference between visiting a village and living in one, but more about that later.  Even after living in Bangkok for more than twenty years, I was still quite bored when I started visiting my wife’s village for more than a couple of days at a time.  No friends, no squash, no TV, no newspaper, no telephone, no internet, no toys and nothing I could call my own.  Eventually I started taking a Playstation with me and got quite good with Grand Turisimo.  Even though I spoke good Thai, the villagers did not.  They spoke their own dialect and communication was, and still is, difficult.  My wife was great but she was spread pretty thin with all of her family obligations, so I had to fend for myself much of the time.

Boredom as we all know is just one item on that classic list of symptoms of culture shock.  You remember, anxiety, boredom, homesickness, fatigue, depression, illness, impatience, disgust, and excessive eating, drinking and sleeping.  On your first visit, or in very brief doses, these symptoms may not present but many will experience some or all of these, given time.

As an interesting aside, we were doing our Songkran rounds of village elders and relatives the other day, a process that is still ongoing, with our village headman having his party only today.  At one house we spotted a young farang guy, sitting on those steep wooden stairs one must traverse to reach the second floor of a Thai village house.  In my normal, direct fashion, and looking for material for this post, I asked if he was bored being in the village. 

No, he said, refusing to stick to the script, but he had only been there three days and would be leaving the next day for Bangkok where he makes his living as a combatant and proponent of Muay Thai, or Thai Boxing.  He was probably enjoying a much needed break from training and had accompanied a couple of local boys he works, trains and lives with, as well as the young pregnant farang wife of one of these Thai boxers.  With it being all new, and with the goings on of Songkran, they seemed to have had a good time and were anything but bored.  Not sure I would have gotten the same answer from the heavily pregnant wife but I didn’t have the opportunity to ask.

My wife had been baking bread that day and thought they might appreciate a taste of the familiar, being so far from what they know.  So we made an extra trip home to collect the bread and some condiments.  Returning, this time we met the pregnant wife, who expressed her disappointment at having missed us earlier.  Unfortunately we were short on time, as we were late getting to another house where my wife had plans for dinner with her extended family. 

Delving deeper into the lives of these young people, would have been my preference, but my duty and obligation lay elsewhere.  My appearance not withstanding, I was not a pugilist in my early years, but still I could identify with the adventure of being so young and living in Thailand.  Living, training and working out of a boxing school, stable, camp, or whatever the nomenclature might be, really deserved more time to discuss than we had.  Would have been nice to stay around and see if they liked the bread, too, but there wasn’t sufficient time.

Back on topic, given my admission of boredom, one might ask why I chose to move to the village.  There were many factors in our decision, including age, length of our relationship, shared travel experiences overseas, desire for a different lifestyle and a change from city life, my parents moving into a retirement home, and a feeling that I needed to establish a homestead of my own, after a life of living in apartments and condos.  Since we already lived in Thailand there was not the overwhelming financial imperative of retiring to a cheaper local, where a limited pension would stretch that much further.

While everyone’s needs are different, they must nonetheless be addressed before making a move such a we did.  To some extent you are guessing at what you will need, because over time those needs may change.  It is important to get the basics sorted and have a good solid foundation upon which to build this new life.  Surely some can get by with less but let me give you an idea of what I needed, to help fend off boredom.

To start with I already had a strong and well establish relationship, honed by years of living and traveling together.  We both spoke each other’s language and had many shared interests as well as independent interests.  Accommodation, transportation, and communication, for us meant a purpose designed house, phone line and internet, western television and movies, a truck, a mountain bike and a couple of motorcycles.

We both developed or continued hobbies.  In my case there were outdoor activities like hiking, mountain biking, my motor bike, photography, our dogs and this blog.  Even with help, my wife is kept quite busy with village responsibilities, the house, the garden, baking, and cooking for me, four dogs and a cat.  She still finds time for exercise, reading, and keeping up with her friends around the world, through email and Facebook.

Personally I do not like having a schedule.  I may have a vague idea what I might like to do tomorrow, but I much prefer to see how I feel when I get up, and see what the weather looks like.  Having fixed times and places where I must be, feels too much like work to me.  That is exactly the point for others I suppose, who feel lost without the regimented structure of the work place and the tight time constraints dictated by artificial deadlines.  I suspect life in the village is easier for me, with my temperament.  Those who try to replicate the frenetic pace of city life or a high pressure work environment would surely find boredom harder to avoid.

Life in a village for some, is a nightmare of boredom and isolation, while for others it is an idyllic fantasy.  The truth is no doubt to be found somewhere in the middle range of these two extremes.  My belief is that being bored has more to do with the individual than it does the village.  It is often easier to blame the things around us than it is to make the effort to adjust.  I suppose this has been a longwinded VF way of saying, if you are bored it is probably your own doing and you should stop blaming those around you.  Then again what do I know?

Of course if you are not bored, then congratulations are in order, I applaud your accomplishment, and wish you continued happiness in life.