Showing posts with label Reflection. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Reflection. Show all posts

Anonymity and Blogging ...

Replying to a comment about anonymous blogging, I soon realized the subject deserved something more than a throwaway answer in the comments section.  I have been busy and distracted by other things but the idea for this post continued to linger on the periphery of my thoughts until now.

I began this blog five years ago, with a good dose of trepidation.  Who would I be, what would I write about, would I enjoy it, would I be any good at it and how would people respond to what I wrote?  Perhaps there would be lynch mobs sent to track me down or hackers trying to steal my identity.  I struggled with finding a nom de plume that I felt comfortable with, something representative of who I was becoming not who I was.

I began writing under the name Village Farang and eventually registered the .com.  Gradually Village Farang spread across the breadth of social media and I now prefer using VF to my real name. In time I developed a voice and became confident in my own ability to deal with a range of commenters, both supporters and detractors.  Righty or wrongly I surmised that I would be okay as long as I did not include personal and identifying information about myself or others. 

Like others, I had read articles about identity theft and wanted to err on the side of caution.  Then one day it struck me that I have a cousin with the same first and last name, who is a public figure in the form of a regional anchor on a rightwing news station.  It could be argued I suppose, that being on the more pugnacious, authoritarian and mainstream side of our societal divide is safer for him.  Yet his name and face are on the airwaves and the internet without any ill effects for him or his family that I know of.  Perhaps I was just being paranoid.

Slowly people living in Chiang Rai or the surrounding area began to contact me.  Reluctantly at first I began to meet people and let them merge the name with a face.  One colorful character, who was among the first, later enjoyed displaying his breadth of knowledge by outing me at public gatherings where we were both in attendance.  I ended up having mixed emotions about those outbursts.

Over time it became a losing battle, trying to remain anonymous.  People knew my face and formed an opinion of me either through what they read or the person they met.  Which one came first appeared to have some bearing on that opinion, I observed with interest.  In time pictures found their way to the blog.

Now I am quite comfortable with who I am and don’t mind people knowing that I am VF.  It is not like I am ashamed of anything I post.  I fear anonymity often serves no greater purpose than to embolden those who wish to inflict suffering upon others.  I have come to view Village Farang as a nickname or descriptive handle that relates more of who I am than my given name.

One benefit of being recognized as VF is exemplified by a chance encounter the other day.  The wife and I drove into town to run some errands.  Nothing urgent, more like excuses for us to make the drive.  After three stops we ended up at what I call the Mall.  We had a wonderful lunch at Fuji, making a point of trying new things on the menu.  Afterwards we went to Starbucks, me for coffee and my wife for some dessert.  Standing in line a gentleman approached with a warm and generous smile on his face.  He introduced himself with his online name and volunteered positive remarks about my blog.  Of course I knew instantly who he was and remembered past correspondence we had shared on a forum we are both members of.

After exchanging brief pleasantries, I carried my tray out into Starbuck’s mall seating area to find my wife.  As luck would have it the gentleman’s wife was seated at the next table, so when he returned with their drinks we pushed our tables together to facilitate conversation.  A good Thai friend of ours also happened by so we made room for him as well.  It was one of those lovely spontaneous encounters that I enjoy so much and something that would not have happened without VF’s help.

While it is regrettable that some individuals have developed an unfavorable image of VF, I feel it often has more to do with their own demons or a difference of opinion than anything of real substance.  Beside there are very few of them.  So now I find it hard to disguise my joy and satisfaction when I am recognized as VF, facilitating contact with a wider breadth of humanity.  I am glad to be out of the blogger closet of anonymity.

Blogging About Thailand ...

One would assume most first time readers of this blog stumbled upon it while doing a search related to Thailand.  As pictures have grown to be a more significant part of the blog, image searches also bring viewer here.  Whether they read after viewing the image they were looking for, is anyone’s guess.

Now that I have a presence on Google+ my images are more accessible to the 1500+ individuals who have me in their circles.  There, people are not typically searching for anything to do with Thailand but are looking for interesting photographs.

I would guess that many if not most of those first time Thai searches would be focussed on relationship topics, to put it politely, and touristy things like where to go, what to do and see, where to stay or how to get there, and of course how much things cost.  Politicos and news buffs are often intrigued by what plays out in the world and local new of Thailand and search for additional sources.  Buddhism perhaps attracts some though one suspects it is the more worldly and carnal things of Thailand that attract more searches.

Having been bitten by the Thailand bug, the search for many might then trend toward how to live here with your new “true love” or how to get her back to your own country.  Many find Thailand late in life after some life-altering event such as being put out to pasture from their career, divorce or even more tragically the passing of their lifelong partner.  For them, retirement and cost of living, may be forefront in their minds and searches.

Clearly this blog does not deal directly with any of these interest absorbing topics and has me questioning how relevant my blog is in a Thai oriented search.  As much as I might like to appeal to a broader range of readers and not be limited to this small niche market of Thailand, and all the negative imagery that accompanies it, the truth is that I am who I am because of living in Thailand for so many years.  There is no denying the influence Thailand has had on me nor that my daily life is painted on the exotic canvas that is Northern Thailand.

I would find it difficult to blog about most high interest topics about Thailand because I am no longer interested in or current on those subjects.  Dredging up what things were like 20 or 30 years ago and trying to relate them to the up-to-the-minute detail of the modern digital world, holds no practical value for me or the reader I would assume.

I seem to remember a post early on, where a female reader asked me what it was about Thai culture that kept me in Thailand, or something to that effect.  I believe I told her it had little or nothing to do with Thai culture and was all about my lifestyle.  To be fair my early years here in Thailand were spent pealing away the onionskin of Thai culture and insinuating myself into every strata of Thai social class I could.  At some point you simply internalize what you have learned and no longer focus on it so much.  As a child it takes great effort and focus on your feet and the ground below them to keep upright.  Later in life running is effortless and one is able to traverse difficult terrain with little thought.  One does need to go through the learning process but I suppose some move on to other tasks while others get stuck.
I guess this blog ends up being a personal journal written by someone who just happens to reside in Thailand.  The telling of my tale can sometimes draw distant people closer to Thailand and to me as a writer.  I truly relish the many relationships that have developed here over the years.  An interesting flip-side is that my blog can, on occasion, drive a wedge between me and other residents of Chiang Rai or Thailand.  They may see themselves in my words and personalize what is meant to be a generalized discussion of a relevant topic.

An undesired side-effect to be sure, but nothing to bring about a major change in the way I view life in general, the way I live my own life or what I write about.  Its a big world out there and I cannot possibly take into account every possible interpretation of what I write.  I cannot guess at what sensitivities and triggers lurk in the delicate egos of those who struggle with their sometimes difficult relationship with Thailand.  At first reading sometimes my words leave the reader feeling uncomfortable only to realize, much later, they were well intended and could have been beneficial if heeded.

I am no fan of aggression or vulgarity but grudgingly accept there can and will be casualties as a result of brutal honesty.  I can accept that some are put off and no longer seek out my company but I can be but honest and truthful with myself and others.

The Waiting Game ...

Sometimes I find myself waiting.  Take the other day for example, I was wandering around the Chiang Rai Mall as I call it, waiting for my wife who was having a treatment at a popular skin clinic.  I dare say my wife spends far less time waiting on me than I do on her.  That is a good thing I suppose, as I am much better at waiting than she is.

Now we all have our own little ways of coping with the wait.  Some read a book, or a newspaper, listen to music on their iPod, play games, use Facebook or chat on their iPhone.  In Thailand another option comes to mind as one can always find a foot massage or Thai massage, even in a mall.  I prefer to get lost in my own thoughts.  Sure I can’t help but notice what is going on around me and I can read volumes in the faces and interactions that unfold in social settings.  Still the main focus of my attention is inward.

I guess you could say I am no longer at a time in my life where I seek to read, absorb or explore the thoughts of others.  This is a time to form, explore and record my own thoughts and ideas.  For some there is no higher goal than to follow someone else.  Granted there were times in my past when I was taken somewhere I may not have discovered on my own. 

I was shown a door or two I hadn’t previously known existed but I walked through them on my own.  The idea of the modern GPS unit barking out detailed commands that keep me on a narrow path, guiding me to an unwavering destination, I find frightening.  An occasional wrong turn is what keeps life fresh and surprising. 

Some strive to build a life resembling a tower with one brick or accomplishment placed upon another reaching higher and higher.  As long as circumstances don’t cause it to come tumbling down, crushing us and perhaps others in the process, then one can claim to be the proud owner of that towering edifice. 

I imagine my own life to be more like a small stream following the contours of the earth as it meanders from its place of conception to its final resting place.  Will that will be a dry and desolate place or will I add a drop or two indistinguishable from the other drops that make up a more sizable body of water?  Most likely I will leave a faint path that will fade with time and eventually leave no mark at all.

Sometimes I ponder topics to write about and in the process of working through the ideas get to the end and realize I am not really all that interested in writing them down.  Before things would gnaw at me until I put it on the page.  Now it feels as though it is me who is gnawing on an idea trying to make something out of it.

Sometimes I find waiting is just another word for procrastination and putting off things we are afraid to do or just too lazy to do.  I was waiting for our pollution to get to an acceptable level so I could resume outdoor exercise.  At first the waiting was excruciating as my body ached to be outdoors.  After making the adjustment to being indoors and inactive it was hard to get started again when the weather changed.

Sometimes I suppose, waiting is the prudent thing to do.  Waiting for the light to turn green is clearly safer than the alternative.  Waiting for things to be just right, however, often leads to inertia and a wasted life spent dreaming of someday that never arrives.  I started writing this post thinking it was going to be about something different.  As I have waited for the main topic to come up the words have steadily crept down the page leaving me little room to expand on my original idea.

I thought I would be writing today about something more Thai in focus or dealing with my relationship to Thailand but I find that harder to do the longer I live here and the longer I pen this blog.  While other bloggers might focus on the minutia of all things uniquely and strangely Thai, I find that Thailand is simply the backdrop for my life and not the focus of it.

So now I am thinking perhaps I should wait for another day to ponder the Thainess of my blog.  After all I am good at waiting and perhaps by waiting I can find better words with which to express myself on what might be a fuzzy subject.

Moving Targets ...

In a recent email I was reminded of a conversation that took place sometime last year.  A reader sent me an email laced with some very kind comments about my blog and shared with me revelations about his own relationship with Thailand.  In my pursuit of the middle ground I acknowledged the feelings of excitement and anticipation as one enters into a new phase or adventure in ones life. 

As a balance I remembered those who had tried and failed for whatever reason in their Thai adventure.  I noted that Thailand is not for everyone and only time and trying would tell.  As a final thought I suggested that one is always shooting at a moving target.  What you think you want now, what you will want or need at the beginning and what you may want a few years down the road...may end up being very different things.

I was moved he took the time to bring me up to date and acknowledge that I had perhaps been on target with my “moving target” remarks and that after retiring and having time to ponder...the moving target topic often came up.  I find these kinds of exchanges rewarding and sometimes thought provoking.  This time it has led to a post about moving targets.

So there one stands cloaked in the trappings and accomplishments of ones life and for whatever reason Thailand presents itself as a potential target.  There can be a time lag between that first sighting, aiming and finally pulling the trigger.  Often we miss with the first shot but the hunt is on and we are hooked.  Not only is the target moving through space and time but we are moving as well.  In the case where moving to Thailand is the target, it is easy to become overwhelmed by ones focus on the minutiae and logistics of making that move.

Just as the young bride-to-be obsesses over the big day there is often little thought for what comes after.  I have lost count of how many people I have known who thought Thailand was the answer to their prayers, the ultimate target, just to discover their target looked very different in the light of day.  After a brief honeymoon phase, Thailand sometimes loses the charm it once possessed in the eyes of the dreamer.

It is no ones fault that life is fraught with uncertainty and change as it persistently marches toward its undeniable conclusion.  Some will proclaim their circumstances to be different.  Others will do endless research in their pursuit of perfection.  Some will leap blindly into the abyss with insufficient thought or preparation.  Some will be led astray and taken advantage of by unscrupulous individuals.  Some will be lucky for lack of a better word.

Though I am guarded when it comes to giving advice, I will say this.  Take baby steps.  Don’t sell everything and move on a whim.  Don’t commit everything while leaving yourself no exit strategy.  Do expect fluctuations in currencies, health and relationships.  Do embrace uncertainty and be comfortable with the fact that you do not know how things will work out.  Know what your options are if things don’t go as planned.  Endeavor to enjoy the ride while viewing your target as more of a directional beacon to guide you down your path, rather than as a final destination.

There are success stories and train wrecks aplenty.  Just remember, whatever happens you are in for one hell of a ride and you need to write your own story and take responsibility for whatever happens.  Take aim and fire.

Clear Sky In The Rai ...

I awoke yesterday to an unfamiliar view.  Having grown accustomed to seeing little more than haze and a few blurry images, I got my first clear look at the scorched hills in the distance.  When the bad weather started I felt anxious and unsettled being confined to an air conditioned room.  Having found things to do and having adjusted to the new norm, I found it strangely difficult yesterday to get myself into gear and out of doors.

As Cookie and I enjoyed the nontoxic air on our morning walk, I eventually won my battle with inertia choosing the Ninja over the Trek.  I could have used the exercise but the motorcycle had not been started for quite some time and it needed the exercise even more than I did.  My mileage hangs at just over 17,000 kilometers, 13,000 of which were done last year.  At this rate I won’t be ready for the 18,000 checkup until sometime after Songkran in mid April, as I will need another six trips to town before reaching that number.  I can’t help but feel that even with the big drop in mileage I had more fun this year because of the trips I took and the sights I saw.  Quality over quantity one might say.

With little traffic on the road and not much to look at, yesterday was more about the ride and getting out of the house.  I ended up at the Mall reading the paper at Starbucks.  My wife was more adventurous and as planned went to Laos yesterday with her sister and her sister’s boyfriend.  Chiang Khong is only fifty kilometers away but neither of us have been over the boarder before.  I didn’t have the time or the interest to find out what I would need to do about my visa to crossover, so I let the girls have some time together.  It is good to see them on speaking terms and laughing together again after a prolonged estrangement.

We had rain last evening for the third day in a row.  After a beautiful but hot day, the sky went dark in the late afternoon.  We were first assaulted by ferocious winds that broke branches and scattered debris everywhere.  As the winds subsided the much needed rain began.  Unlike the previous two days, this was a proper rain, heavy even torrential but short lived.  Still it brought much needed water to our area and may delay the onset of further burning. 

Unless they were able to gather their cassava before the rain hit I doubt the workers there were appreciative of the rain.  On the first day of storm warnings they had bagged everything and the fields were bare.  Yesterday on the way home I noticed they had once again spread the cassava over the drying beds, taking advantage of the clear sunny day.  If their crop was hit by both the wind and the rain, one wonders what the damage might have been.

Today is a cleanup day.  The plants will recover from their losses over time and we will enjoy breathable air for a bit longer.  Such is life, as it bathes us in its infinite variety and unpredictability.

As an afterthought I wanted to share these images of a couple of friends who joined Cookie and me on our morning walk.



New Year's Eve with 2012 hours away ...

For those of you who have been with me for a while, expectations might be for an agonizing post about where I have been, as I lament a lack of visibility into the coming year.  Where is the blog going, why do I blog and what path might I follow, no doubt would spring to mind.  I am surprised to find that I actually have a vision for 2012.

It is all falling into place and seems to make so much sense.  The first two years were about building the house and the long process of moving in and turning it into a home with a string of projects.  To some extent those projects continue today but at a much more relaxed pace.  Later attention was focused on our social life, primarily exploring the expat community that exists here in the Rai.  This last year has been one of consolidation as we sorted through what was important to us and allotted our time accordingly.

Admittedly I exerted more than my fair share of influence over the navigation process, as I was in the driver’s seat both literally and figuratively.  With my wife finally taking to driving on her own, the impetus coming from my trip to Hawaii, she has gained more independence and confidence to do her own thing.  Her iPhone has freed her from our computer, allowing her to interact in a way that is more natural for her.  Nearly constant interaction with friends on Facebook has expanded her circle of friends, reinforced her Thainess and tickled her creativity bone.

After being joined at the hip for so many years it is with mixed feelings that I watch my wife refine her own style and venture down her own path a little more.  I try to support her while keeping in check any impulses I might have to be excessively protective.  While age has never been an issue with us, it is nevertheless important for me to remember our age difference, when it has a bearing on our growth and development as individuals.  I do ask questions to help gauge my wife’s interest and commitment to projects she is considering but leave the final call to her.

If anything my wife has too many interests and finds it difficult to narrow things down enough to keep life manageable.  Fortunately the days and hours she volunteers at the local school are flexible.  Her expressed desire to further her education and get a teaching degree is admirable and potentially beneficial on many levels.

If it has not become clear yet, 2012 is shaping up to be “the year of my lovely wife” and the continued expansion of our Thai connections here in the Rai.  Having been through what one might call a Farang phase it is now time for a Thai phase.  I have had my turn, so now it is my wife’s turn.  As yet I am not certain how her being busier and away from home more often will affect my schedule.  Perhaps we will need a little more structure to make sure everything gets done.  Then again being spontaneous and going with the flow might continue to work best for us.

Not being burdened with my usual angst over the coming year has put me in a very mellow state of mind, perfect for ushering in the New Year.  Wanting to share some pictures today I finally settled on the Chiang Rai Flower Festival now in progress and a shot of a few of my wife’s students that I snapped during an impromptu visit to her class on the Ninja.

Christmas Day in the Rai ...


Yes, Thailand celebrates Santa in all his commercial glory.  To the point that our favorite lunch venue is sold out and we are forced to staying in on this cold and grey winter day.  So much for our going with the flow and not planning things far enough in advance.  The upside is, my wife is preparing a special meal just for the two of us, though I am sure Cookie will get a bite or two.  So there is time today for thought and reflection.

I am not what you would call driven or goal oriented in my pursuit of happiness and the good life.  I do not traverse life’s highways and byways astride an iron rail with relentless determination that takes me from point A to point B without deviation.  Think of me more as raptor soaring through the sky, searching out updrafts to stay airborne with as little effort as possible.  I am already where I want to be, so there is no need to point myself steadfastly in one particular direction.  Maybe just drift a bit higher to broaden my view and expand my horizon.  My style is to take advantage of opportunities that present, not to cling to the past or fear change but I do keep track of the choices I make and the reasons for making them.

This is the time of year when we think back on what has transpired over the last year and prepare to turn the page and start anew.  I have turned, or had turned for me, many pages during this last year and no doubt will turn many more in the year ahead.  I have turned the page on the hash, the expat club, the potluck, early mornings at the coffee shop, group motorcycle rides and surely a few other things that don’t spring to mind at the moment.  For now we have an ever expanding circle of friends though some have wondered off along the way, perhaps having found more satisfaction elsewhere.  I have focused more on my own fitness, the happiness of my family and doing things I enjoy.

There have been those who found it difficult to understand, that Village Farang for me, was like a character in a play of my own imagining.  He was distinct and different from me in important ways. Over time those differences that existed early on, have all but disappeared as the two melded into one.  Village Farang has taken me on a journey of discovery through writing.  Some may write what they know, paraphrase others, or journal events with facts and figures.  When I write, really write, it becomes a journey of discovery for me.  Occasionally I know exactly what I am going to say before I begin writing and those are often the occasions when I don’t bother.  Really what is the point if it is already clear and I have worked through everything in my head before I start.

I am often surprised by what VF writes and he has taught me a lot about life and about myself.  With wonder I try to imagine where the words come from and how a turn of phrase found its way on to the page.  At times I didn’t know I knew certain things until I read them on the page in front of me, written in a way that is VF’s alone.  At first VF was an alter ego freed by anonymity to express himself with abandon.  As the gap between VF and myself narrowed, I began to guard my own identity less closely.  There was a gradual coming out as it were, to the point that many now know my face, especially here in the Rai.  In the interest of cyber security certain things are never divulged but I am no longer reluctant to be known as Village Farang, online or in person.

My wife and I have had some very productive discussions of late, covering where we have been and some options for where we might be going, both short term and long.  With age this kind of pondering seems to hold more urgency and gravity.  We feel it is important to communicate and not let things drift, especially when you sense a transition is in the offing.  Someone talked my wife into volunteering as an English teacher at a local school and now they are encouraging her to get a teaching degree to backup her already impressive grasp of the English language.  She seems happy and this looks like a path worth exploring.

I am contemplating doing more strenuous things that she might not be interested in and are therefore better done alone.  After the New Year I am considering a multi day motorcycle adventure back in the direction of Pai, for example.  I will try to get my visa taken care of early to allow more time for the many things we still want to do during the remainder of this wonderful season of action and adventure.

It is all I can do to restrain myself when I overhear others ponder how to fill their time when they retire or fantasize about moving to Thailand.  Often for us there just aren’t enough hours in a day, or days in a week.  I guess we all live our lives differently.  For me the main shift has been from focussing on a world distant and vague, to one that is present, immediate and real.  In a way I have turned to the micro setting on the camera.  I read volumes in the faces around me.  The world overflows with sights, sounds, smells, the exhilarating dance of life and what sometimes feels like a headlong rush toward death.  The mind is never idle no matter how relaxed the body may appear.

With that let me recall those famous words, Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night.

My Amazing Thai Wife ...


Fourteen years together and she can still amaze me.  After being reluctant to drive for years she recently stepped up, realizing she would need to drive while I was in Hawaii for a couple of weeks.  Before that there had never been a pressing reason for her to drive so it kind of sat on the back burner.  Now she chauffeurs me about more often than not.

She had never shown any interest in my Ninja 650 and then one day she suggested we ride it to Phu Sang Waterfall, a 142 km trip.  The day after we drove even further, most of the way to Mae Sai.  The plan had been to do the Doi Mae Salong route but we got a late start and had to change plans.
Taking pics
Posing
Chilling

I had no experience riding 2-up but it didn’t take long to adjust.  It felt really good to have her along for the ride.  Then again everything is better when we do it together.  Worried about her reaction I took it easy on the outward leg only to have her ask why I hadn’t passed this one car we followed for a while heading toward Thoeng.  From then on I drove and passed as I usually do.  We didn’t go exceptionally fast, but except for the wind trying to take her helmet off, she said she didn’t mind the speed and really felt safe with me maneuvering the roads in my usual fashion.  That was a relief since I had been concerned about her reaction, sitting helpless on the back of a speeding Ninja.

Being Thai my wife has a few fear issues with things both real and imagined, but every once in a while she just says enough is enough and faces her fears head on.  That is more or less how we ended up going skydiving in Hawaii after her saying she would never do so.  She is still reluctant to do much hiking or any camping in Thailand as she doesn’t feel it is safe here.  It is her own country after all, so who am I to argue with the way she feels about her own countrymen.  Her rationale actually makes a lot of sense.

In the States, however, some of our longer and more difficult hikes were undertaken at her request.  She had seen young women on the trail and marveled at their self-confidence and athletic prowess.  They hiked alone or with a dog on the trails around Bolder Colorado in skimpy outfits that would be frowned upon in Thailand and seemed to have not a care in the world.  We also found people quite friendly and approachable on the trail, wherever we went in the National Parks.
Yellowstone

San Francisco

Mount Rainier

Somewhere in California

Lake Tahoe

Grand Canyon

Crater Lake
Bryce Canyon

Fiery Furnace, Arches 
Multnomah Falls

Sadly my wife was born into an environment where children are controlled by fear, superstition and are held back, instead of being encouraged.  I guess it makes it easier for the parents but it does little to prepare a village child for the bigger world that lurks beyond the boundaries of their village.  Cultural changes do not come easily or quickly, however, no matter where you are from.  Oddly there is no shortage of visitors to this country who are eager to voice their quick fixes for all that they feel ails Thailand.

Most visitors tend to ignore the inherent dangers in attempting to tinker with another’s culture.  I constantly weigh the plusses and minuses of the tinkering I have done with my own wife’s world view.  She obviously pays a price in her own culture for having been modified by me to fit better into my own world.  On balance I think she has gained more than she has lost but I suppose only time will truly tell.  At least I am here everyday to provide support and encouragement when she struggles in her attempt to straddle the divide between her culture and the life we have carved out for ourselves.  In many ways she is probably better suited for life in my country than she is here, but here is where we live.

So life goes on, just as my love and admiration for my wife grows with the years.  From a child of 23 to a woman of 37 she has never ceased to amaze me.

Leaving Thailand and Going Home ...

Have you ever spared a thought for those individuals who try to make a go of it in Thailand and for whatever reason end up returning to whence they came?  We hear a lot from the dreamers and new arrivals but not much from those who gave up and surrendered the dream to go home or continued their search for the dream somewhere else.

I suppose enthusiasm and a desire to share are more forthcoming from the throws of first love and an infatuation with all things Thai.  Lose the rose colored glasses and the world turns bleak and grey, with less desire to share one supposes.  Besides who wants to publicize ones failures or moan about the injustice of it all.  Who would care and who would read about such things?

I for one believe there are many who would benefit from the stories of those who have gone before but then again would they listen or learn?  There is a stubbornness that seems to permeate the very core of the new Thai accolades.  They often think they know more and know better, when the opposite is so apparent.

Never having been able to extricate myself from the hold Thailand has had on me all these many years, I can’t say I have much insight into what it must be like to go home.  That is why I, and others, have been so enthralled by the resent events in the life of Mike over at Thailand Blogs.  A seemingly well adjusted retiree and award winning blogger but recently an ex-expat, a returnee to his homeland. 

He has begun writing an epilogue of his love affair with Thailand and though he has just scratched the surface with his first installment, there is great potential in such postmortems I feel.  If you are interested go to Thailand Blogs and read Mike’s most recent entries. 

I can imagine that Thailand will have left a mark on who we are and how we perceive the world but I would like to hear more of this phenomenon if you would care to share.  If you have personal experience or have witnessed others who have returned home after a stint in Thailand please feel free to share your observations about the ease or difficulty of such a move.  Mike has kindled in me an interest in this under reported life event, so I hope to hear from others as well as read what he has to say in his blog.

Why Chiang Rai and Not Hawaii? ...


Chiang Rai

Hawaii

I was tempted to answer the bigger question of why Thailand but that was not the form the question took and would have required a much longer backstory.  Chiang Rai is easier having lived here for a little over four years.  Still, the backstory goes back fourteen years to when I first met my wife.

Since the question did not include details of how we got together I will skip over that part, to where we had been together for over a year and were starting to get more serious wanting to grow our relationship in new directions.  I had always made myself clear on the subject of marriage and children but as our relationship grew I wanted to be able to share more of my world with her.  To that end it seemed a natural progression to visit my people and where I came from.

After a little research it became clear that as a girlfriend that option was not going to be open to us.  So instead of the traditional route of meeting my family first, we got married first and told people about it later.  That was nearly two years into our relationship.  Marriage is far from being a slam-dunk for entry to the USA so we did an end run and went for the Green Card.  Not having the burden of proving a negative, made obtaining a resident visa much easier than getting a tourist visa, as strange as that might seem.  At that point we had no idea what we wanted to do but the road before us and our potential options had just expanded greatly.

Our trips to Hawaii started off short and got as long as nine months at one point.  That was a major plus of condo life in Bangkok.  We could turn the key in the door and be gone as long as we wished.  Not long after we started traveling and spending extended periods with my parents, my mother began her long slow decline into the dark foreboding realm of dementia.

Travel for us was surprisingly affordable back then.  My parents had a very large, four bedroom condo on the Ala Wai within walking distance of Waikiki, beaches, parks and the zoo.  My mother’s car was seldom used so we ended up with free accommodation, transportation and adequate privacy in our living arrangement.  All of our money went to our pursuit of happiness not to fixed overhead.  The Baht was very weak so for a while I was able to fly us business class for nearly the same price I used to fly economy.

I was torn between wanting to spend time with my aging parents before things got worse, mired as they were in their state of denial, and a need to expand the horizons of my growing relationship with my wife.  Our answer lay in extended breaks of up to a month, on long drives through the scenic back roads and national parks of the Western states.  We fantasized about living in places like Bolder, Portland, Vancouver or Hawaii during this time.

We were living a great life and our options seemed limitless, but of course we all have limits.  There are self-imposed limits, limits based on our potential or lack there of, environmental and economic limits, just to name a few.  A hard look at our situation made it clear that startup costs for a move to my homeland, to be nearer my parents, would leave us with much less disposable income and a subsequent drop in our standard of living.  Besides my parents were not keen on the idea, as they denied there was any need for us to make such a move.

I came to understand that I was drawn to the adventure and romance of traveling with my wife, seeing the world anew through her eyes.  I was not interested, however, in the monotony of day to day life in an environment of growing regulations and the oppressive authoritarian attitude that so permeated every aspect of life and seemed to be growing exponentially.

Things took a dramatic turn when on a visit that was meant to be six weeks, turned into a six month ordeal of moving my parents into a retirement home and preparing the condo they had lived in for more than twenty five years, to be sold.  With hindsight it was clear that we were at least a year behind the curve when it came to the move, making it that much more difficult to accomplish.

Upon returning to Thailand I was struck with the realization that I no longer had a home to go to in Hawaii.  That safety net and sense of security that had always been there, in the form of my parents and our family home, was gone.  Though my parents were still alive, clearly the burden of responsibility and care was shifting and before long I would be the end of my line.

After ten years of condo life in Bangkok the wife and I yearned for something different.  For the first time in my fifty some years I wanted a home of my own.  Land, a big house, pets, toys and all the things that I had as a child but had done without during my bachelor days in Bangkok.  In Chiang Rai we could have it all and much of it could be paid for by the sale of our condo in Bangkok.  If anything, I am practical and calculating in all that I do.  We thought long and hard about it.  We talked endlessly of our options and the pros and cons of each.  The more we deliberated the clearer our path became.

Though my wife had a Green Card, a move to America would have been a move to a foreign land for both of us.  For nearly as long as it had been my wife’s home, Thailand had been my home.  There was nothing to return to in my homeland and the cost of starting over there was just too high.  The truth is, once my parents are gone I can’t imagine any pressing reason to return at all.

Apart from my parents and some financial investments, all that I am and all that I have, resides here in Thailand.  There really is no other place for me to go.  So comparing a few random pictures of Hawaii and Chiang Rai one might ask, why one and not the other.  That would be a very simplistic question based on a very superficial observation, however.  It did give me the opportunity to expand upon my life’s story and path, which I hope you have found entertaining.

Home at Last, Home at Last...

Paraphrasing the closing words of Martin Luther King’s famous speech, which he in turn borrowed from an old Negro spiritual…

Home at last, home at last
Ever so thankful to be home at last

With Cookie in tow on our village walk
Me and my wife will sweetly talk

On my knees I was when time pass’s by
Tho’t my soul would rise and fly

On this morning, so bright and fair
Goin’ wake to see home and breath fresh country air

Home at last, home at last
Thankfully I’m home at last

Arriving in Hawaii, I found myself ensconced in my ridge-line abode high above the pacific ocean, with a beautiful view of Diamond Head and the sunset. This was to be my home for the duration of my stay in Hawaii. Located in a gated community, my accommodation was far from spartan and I had the whole house to myself. The day after I arrived my hosts, family friends, left on an extended trip leaving me in the position of house-sitter, I guess you could say.
Morning View of Diamond Head

Residence
Evening View

This of course is not where the story begins but after moaning about my travel angst and the fatigue of the first few days I thought better of it and spared you that part of the story. After picking up my father’s car, getting a temporary phone sim-card and settling into some semblance of a routine, with daily conversations with my wife back in Chiang Rai, I eventually made myself at home. Making my own bed, feeding myself and doing the laundry took me back to my bachelor days and greatly enhanced my appreciation for all my lovely wife does for me.

Running around Diamond Head on several occasions at sunset also contributed to my remaining sane. Making use of a very fast internet connection, I am returning home with a library of high-definition movies and series that should keep me entertained for a while. Sure hope their internet provider doesn’t impose any download limits, that I may have inadvertently exceeded.
Waikiki
Waikiki Sunset
Kapiolani Park

Pink
Diamond Head Sunset

I was taken aback by my reaction to life in both Bangkok and Honolulu as well as being separated from my wife. Throw in concern over the deteriorating health of my aging parents and the uncertainty of what comes next, and I was a bit of a mess and far from my normally blissful self. I guess my tolerance level for stress and irritation has been eroded by my idyllic life in the village.

With much to do and little time to do it there was nothing for it but to jump right in. There was only one outstanding project as time wound down but I was overly optimistic in thinking I could get that done in the time allotted. So it appears that my trip was a success if measured by things accomplished.

My mother of course did not know who I was and recent attempts to modify her medication left her far from receptive to our visits. While I understood the situation, my father was noticeably distressed that our visits with mother didn’t go better. After all I had flown halfway around the world to see her, in his mind. The truth is I had come for him and to do what I could to bolster his moral.
Everlasting Love

The Despair of Dementia

I am relieved that he seems to have agreed to sell his car and stop driving. That was an issue of concern, often brought up by others and which is a delicate matter signifying a major loss of independence for the elderly.  More tasks were automated and delicate matters discussed.  Clothes were bought, which found me in an unfamiliar position of dresser, down on my hands and knees, helping my father with the laborious task of dressing and undressing.  His reactions were classic and will not be soon forgotten by this son.

I treat each phone call and visit as if it could be the last, trying to move forward with a clear conscience and calm heart, but who knows how I will respond in the end.  For now I am satisfied that I am doing what I can.  I have no read on where the rest of my somewhat formal and distant family stands but that is beyond the scope of my control or influence.

Returning to Bangkok was no less torturous than the trip over, except for the fact that I was looking forward to what awaited me at journeys end.  Even the concrete jungle that is Bangkok was somehow less oppressive walking again hand in hand with my wife.  It wasn’t until the plane neared Chiang Rai and we could see the lush green fields below that I finally took a deep breath and felt that I was nearing home.

The last few weeks are quickly fading to a distant memory so I must post this before the present clouds all recollection of recent events.

Home at last, home at last
Thankfully I’m home at last

Watching Moss Grow ...


I have a feeling that watching my blog this month might be like watching moss grow.  Last month was record setting on pretty much every statistical measure, with jumps of thirty to forty percent from my previous best.  Of course quality is another matter all together.  With my trip to Hawaii approaching later this month my focus will most likely be on other things, though here I am posting today.  With airline tickets, hotel reservations and reentry visa in hand, all the big stuff is done.

Watching Moss Grow
  
It was much easier when we lived in Bangkok.  Now a stopover is necessary in Bangkok in both directions.  In the past we have stayed with a friend but last time we returned to our old stomping grounds, staying in a hotel next to our old condo, where we lived for ten years.  There are of course cheaper options but this is the area of Bangkok where we feel most at home.  The plan is for my wife to come down to meet me and spend a couple of days together if she can find someone to watch Cookie and the house.

With wonderful friends in Hawaii we are spoiled for choice of accommodation.  Traveling alone this time I will be staying in a house high on a ridge, not too far from where my parents live.  We spent a couple of nights there on the last trip and loved it.  If my wife could come we would probably stay with Thai friends but alone this seems the better option.

Other than watching moss grow this month I suppose one could watch flowers grow, rice grow or the ever changing pattern of clouds that keep me entertained.
Watching Flowers Grow

Watching Rice Grow

Learning Thai ...


The topic of learning Thai does not escape VF’s tendency toward canned flippant responses to repetitive or often asked questions.  As for the question of how I learned Thai, “Hormones are a great motivator” was my standard retort.  You have to remember I started learning Thai back in 1975 at the tender age of 21, with pretty much one thing on my mind and language helped me get it.  There really wasn’t much English to be found back then and your apartment was little more than a place to shower and sleep, so you were out and about, surrounded by Thai all the time.  Many nights I didn’t even bother to return home, finding myself caught out by the midnight curfew or sleeping at someone else’s dwelling.  Woke up in some interesting places back then.

Three television channels that went off the air around midnight, no cellphones, no internet, no blogs, no one to hold your hand and tell you what to do every minute of every day.  Other than my nightlife activities I would sometimes wile away an afternoon in one of those seedy, rat and cat infested theaters showing nonstop martial arts movies dubbed in Thai, for some ridiculously low price which I can’t recall.  Animals brushing past your leg in the dark, shoes sticking to the floor, indistinct odors permeating the air, just added to the experience.  Listening to Thai all the time gave me a headache but I would start to hear things repeated and if I couldn’t get the meaning through context then it was time to ask someone or look it up.  A scrap of paper to write on came in handy.

On a more formal level, I did study Thai at university.  Who knows how I would have fulfilled my language requirement for a degree if I hadn’t stumbled upon Thai.  They used pretty much the same material as AUA back then, so upon moving to Thailand after graduation, I continued that course of study.  I also taught English at AUA for a few years.  I was not a great classroom student of the language but did learn the alphabet, tones and unique sounds of Thai.  I have never had much use for the written language other than reading menus and road signs but the process of learning how to read and write was invaluable for understanding the language as a whole.

Along with formal classroom Thai, I picked up a lot of very unsavory words and phrases.  The kind of stuff best not repeated in polite society.  I enjoyed the colorful wordplay and double meanings and in some environments knowing the really bad stuff and being quick with a rejoinder, got a positive response and the right kind of attention from the girls.  You had to be very careful not to let those words slip out at the wrong time or in the wrong place, however.  In the end pronunciation and fluency was my forte as I neglected formal language learning and the development of a more extensive literary vocabulary.

I have long sense lost interest in keeping up with the latest slang.  After years of speaking Thai I started to rediscover my own language after meeting my wife and settling down.  Starting this blog progressed that rediscovery even further.  Now that my wife’s English is so good we have settled into an unusual pattern of communication.  I speak English and she speaks Thai most of the time.  With ones passive language ability always being better than ones active abilities, we find this a very efficient means of communication.  These days I do sometimes struggle with fluency when we get around Bangkok friends, since the farmers around here speak something different and their attempts to speak Thai are heavily accented at best.

Some guys go for learning one of the many regional or local dialects and if your intent is to spend all your time surrounded by people like that, there is some merit to going down that path.  I spent over thirty years in Bangkok and developed my language ability accordingly.  At this point I have no real desire to learn how to speak like an uneducated farmer, though my passive understanding of what they are saying seems to have a life of its own.

I can’t comment on the best schools, online options, phone apps or modern techniques for learning Thai.  I suppose someone somewhere has coined a term for the way I learned Thai, ranking it low on their list of learning strategies, but there were few options back then and you simple had to get on with it.  While I learned Thai in a different time, the language is still the same, as is the history, culture and traditions.  I am not up on the latest, best or cheapest places to stay or eat, public transport, where to pickup girls or get a tattoo but I have lived through many changes in Thailand’s recent history that the new guys can only read about.  My knowledge is about Thai society, how it has evolved since my arrival, where I fit in the mix and how to navigate my own path here.

Depending on your partner to teach you Thai, is fraught with problems.  Often they simply don’t have the skills or patience necessary to teach.  Some will actively block your learning as it is not seen to be in their best interest.  By allowing your partner to speak Thai you relinquish much power and control over the relationship.  My wife would say that learning Thai is a necessity, but many women who actively seek farang husbands, do not share her views.

There is no shortcut in my opinion.  It takes time, effort and some form of formal training.  Practice what you learn with everyone around you, not just your partner.  For the most part Thais are very appreciative of any effort to learn their language or eat their food.  So don’t be shy about using what you’ve got and listen intently to the responses and corrections that might come your way.  Whatever you do though, learn Thai.

Wearing a Smile ...


The temperature hung in the mid twenties this morning.  The clouds hung low and heavy in the sky as etherial wisps hung even lower than seemed possible, like fingers gently caressing the slopes and treetops.  A light rain texturized the surface of the pond as Cookie slipped excitedly into the water sending a torrent of ripples to the far bank.  Adding to the spectacle was a flock of swallows flying low over the water both observing and participating in this dance of life.  The only players I truly missed were the Pied Harriers that I love so much but this is their time of year to be elsewhere.

A freshly brewed cup of coffee in my hand, I settled into a comfortable chair sheltered from the rain in our pond-side sala, while Cookie tried in vain to catch the monstrous fish that swarmed around her.  Our catfish resemble my lower leg in girth and length, and their six inch whiskers and gaping mouths torment our four legged daughter, disappearing just as she lunges at them.  Her antics are something between that of an otter and a bear, swimming, splashing and diving with total abandon.  Her childlike joy is catching and fills the air, warming the heart.

She has grown from a naughty child into a more respectful young woman who loves her mommy and daddy to walk with her and sit with her while she swims.  These days she refuses to wander off and do things on her own when she is off leash.  While she enjoys interacting briefly with other dogs, and her young son the cat, we are clearly the focus of her attention.  As long as she can see us or sense our presence in the room contentment reigns.

This is a lovely time of year.  The weather is always changing.  The fields are greening up nicely.  The trees are lushly decked out in their formal forest colors, dark and rich and varied.  The trails are sometimes a bit muddy but not enough to deter my running.  Thirteen weeks into this new phase of my life and I have settled into a consistent five kilometer run with an occasional seven kilometer run, all the way to the dam and back.  The 5k can be done even when I don’t feel at my best while the 7k leaves me limp and lifeless but awash with endorphins and a sense of accomplishment.

To avoid injury I try to stick to an every other day schedule but recently weather, darkness and illness have added a few extra down days.  Probably not a bad idea to have a little extra recovery time occasionally, considering that I am no longer a youngster.  I have even started to lose a few kilos though building my strength and endurance has been the main focus.

Travel plans are shaping up for next month so I am determined to do as much training as I can before then.  A break of a couple weeks from my routine should not be a problem and may imbue me with renewed determination when I hit the trails again.  I hate being away from my wife for even a day so this separation, however short, will be far from joyous.  The long hours in transit from here to there become more tedious as I grow older.  Filial obligation beckons me away from my home to the far off shores from whence I came, with a call that cannot be ignored.  A time for introspection, and examining the push and pull of different emotions.

Perhaps I have spent enough time with you today and I should return to the real world for the remaining hours.  Now where did I place that smile and inner glow I was wearing this morning?

No Children Please, Pets Welcome ...


Driving to town on a dark rainy day with misty clouds clinging to even the lowest hills, it was enough just to enjoy the company of my wife, who was driving for the first time in the rain, the lovely passing landscape and the relaxing ambience that seemed to envelop the world around us.  Someone had proposed a question just before leaving the house, through the comment page, so instead of enjoying the quiet I thought I would run the query by my wife to get her most recent take on the subject.

Our dialogue on having children has changed over the last fourteen years as one might expect.  After listening, she paused ever so briefly and then began a thoughtful discussion with the acknowledgement that when we first met, if she had met a man who wanted children, she probably would not have even thought about it.  After all that is what couples do, right?  Now at thirty-seven years old, and years of living with me, she has a clearer understanding of the question and her feelings on the subject.  Then again how clear can something be that is mired in biological imperatives, tradition and cultural beliefs?

Over the years she has been witness to the births of many of her friend’s children and continues to follow their progress.  They have pretty much covered the spectrum from easy to difficult and given her a good idea of the sacrifices involved in being a responsible parent, as apposed to just giving birth and passing it on to someone else to take care of.  She seems to like infants in small doses these days and understands that given the choice she would prefer not to surrender her own existence to the sole task of taking care of someone who is totally dependent upon her.  Besides, between Cookie and me, isn’t she already doing that?  Reading this part aloud to her as she worked around us, she moaned audibly, venting that she indeed had enough children to take care of already.

Clearly we have evolved strong biological and hormonal urges, that have served us perhaps too well, in our rush to dominate and over populate this world.  To counteract our more primitive urges, evolution gave us the prefrontal cortex with its executive functions capable of overriding some of our more destructive tendencies.  A quick look around and one would be excused for thinking that most people have never opened that box or read the instructions contained there in.

It took a while but I think my wife now understands, that yes she gets a warm fuzzy feeling around infants, not unlike what she feels when she sees a golden retriever puppy and holds it in her arms.  One can choose, however, to enjoy and embrace that feeling for a moment or two with other people’s children, without surrendering ones entire life to it.  To this end I am more than happy to let her get a regular dose of nurturing by visiting friends with babies.

Culturally things can be made more difficult by the pressure put upon us by friends and relatives to produce cute little clones of ourselves.  I tend to view the sometimes incessant prodding as no more mindful than remarks about the weather or your health, a simple reflex with little or no thought behind the words.  Some people give in way too easily to their urges and the prodding of others, in my opinion.  Just because someone can give birth doesn’t mean they should do so, or that they would be competent parents.

With many foreign men finding Thailand late in life and choosing much younger wives, simply because they can, there is a disproportionate number of very old fathers with very young children, at least in rural areas such as mine.  Spending ones twilight years changing diapers and playing reruns of a life you have already lived is beyond my comprehension.  Playing grandparent from time to time seems more suited to old age.  I do my best to keep those thoughts to myself around others but I’m sure they must sense my misgivings about such things.

In Thailand one hears repeatedly the question, “Who is going to take care of you when you are old?”  Even worse I used to hear, “You need to have children in time to use them.”  As I have gotten older, thankfully I don’t have to listen to that one anymore.  Those questions and comments will in time be relegated to the past where they belong but for now many still cling to them.  Taken to the extreme some seem to ignore the present and the lovely memories they could be creating together, regardless of age, and greedily prepare for their future by producing offspring and milking the ATM.

In contrast to the belief that children will care for you in your old age, these days one sees more and more old people in villages with no one to care for them.  Their children are off working in the cities trying desperately to sink no further into debt and often failing.  There are those who champion the idea of families taking care of aging parents but I have witnessed on too many occasions, families who are simply not equipped to provide the care their aging parents need.  Sometimes we do more harm than good by giving in to emotional and cultural pressure, instead of acting on a clear and rational plan.  Old age and dying are never easy subject to discuss, however.

My wife and some of her single friends half seriously joke about building houses next to each other when they get older.  Who knows, that may turn out to be doable with so many single female friends and with people staying active much later in life.  Alternatively by the time I am gone my wife’s niece and nephew will be parents a few times over and may need help raising their kids.  As the world and our circumstances in it change, we may need to evolve new models of how to deal with those changes.  We desperately seek certainty in an uncertain world but in the end the most we can hope for is that we will have acquired the needed experience and resilience to deal with whatever comes up.

At this point I probably have more confidence in my wife than she has in herself.  She has been taught to worry about things she has no control over but I do what I can to help her, if not embrace change and uncertainty, to at least not fear it quite so much.  No one knows what tomorrow will bring and one day I will not be here to love, protect and care for my wife.  All we can do realistically is make the most of the time we have together and hopefully that will provide a strong foundation upon which to continue her life after I am gone.

No doubt I have readers who would have preferred something more authoritative or instructional on this topic but those who know me better will have expected this style of rambling dissertation.  It is to be hoped, this will lend itself to stimulating ones own thought process on a subject many of us have to deal with.

Why I Married a Thai Village Girl ...


To begin with, I am sure there are those who would dispute my wife being a “village girl” and they would not be wrong on many levels.  She speaks and writes English well, has a modern sense of fashion and design, with a fondness for western food.  Into fitness, self-improvement, travel, hiking in places as diverse as Mt. Rainer, Arches and the Grand Canyon, and even tried skydiving in Hawaii.  The truth is, however, she was born in the village we presently live in making her at least technically a village girl.

She was never a farmer like her parents and was primarily responsible for taking care of her younger brother and sister.  To this day she speaks fondly of other children, now grown, who were under her care at some time in their infancy.  Having that kind of responsibility at such a young age may go some way to explaining how I was not pressed or badgered on the issue of having offspring, something I have never been in favor of.  Though I did change my mind about getting married, I have never wavered on the issue of children and was clear from the beginning.

I can’t see that she learned much from her family with their lives being as different as night and day.  That said perhaps she did learn what she did not want.  Her goal had always been to escape the village, yet here we are, after both of us having lived most of our lives in Bangkok.  I may come back to this later but I have yet to touch on the topic of why I married my wife instead of someone else and should perhaps move in that direction.

With my years in Thailand and experience across social lines, one might ask why I did not marry into an upper crust Chinese-Thai family or one of the old Thai family names.  It is not like I didn’t know people like that or spend time in their homes when I was in my twenties.  I suppose it might have been possible when I was young and full of potential.  Though I did meet a couple of girls who were heartbroken and their dreams shattered by their unrelenting parents who threatened to disown them if they did not break off relations with their farang boyfriends from university in Europe.  Such a threat from powerful and socially influential parents was too much for them to resist.  I doubt I would have faired much better.

There were a few other stumbling blocks that were quite obvious to me, from the very beginning.  First, being from an academic family, I presented well but really had no money and little prospect of making any in Thailand.  That is of course unless I was willing to work for someone’s daddy.  I have known a few guys who integrated fairly well into that kind of situation but it was definitely not an option for me.  Being under the thumb of some Thai man who controlled both my income and my wife was unthinkable.

Secondly I was not really attracted to the girls I met in those families and getting them away from parental supervision to spend time with them was all but impossible, especially in the evenings or on weekends.  Most importantly I was having too much fun as a single guy and had no intention of ever getting married or having children.  With no interest in ruining mine or anyone else's life, it seemed more prudent to play elsewhere, with other less demanding females and those less fraught with the danger of altering my lifestyle.

Among those who knew me well, I was voted most likely to remain a lifelong bachelor.  We all know how that played out.  My youthful appearance played a major part in the early years but that was later supplemented by various jobs and time spent on Thai TV programs.  As I moved into my forties, with my taste in women not having change much in the last twenty years, it became clear that at some point I would become that desperate dirty old man who surrenders his dignity in pursuit of young Thai girls.  Though on some level I may have resigned myself to that inevitability, it was not something I was looking forward to.

This is roughly where my wife entered the picture.  I was forty-three and she was twenty-three.  A bit older than I was accustomed to but within my age tolerance.  Nothing should have ever come of our meeting because we lived in the same apartment complex and that was high on my list of survival rules, or what I sometimes called my rules of engagement, as something one never does.  I had to make a rather quick and life changing decision as to whether I should pursue a relationship with her or not.

I found her interest in me, despite having been witness to my comings and goings over the previous year, to be quite intriguing.  Not like she was stalking me, but she noticed when I was out of the country and wondered where I went.  She claims that if she had known I spoke Thai she may have summoned the courage to introduce herself instead of leaving that up to fate, which took more than a year.  Where most girls would have been turned off by what they saw during that time she spent watching me, she seemed attracted by my bad-boy persona, the parade of women and maybe even welcomed the challenge.  So from the very beginning I was accepted for who I was.

The proximity provided by our living in the same building paired with her family being far away, ended up playing a big part in our relationship progressing soothly and effortlessly from one stage to the next.  So my rule about not getting involved with someone where I lived was broken and I started down the path of breaking many more of my bachelor rules.  I considered for a moment listing some of those rules but thought better of it.  I don’t want to be responsible for tempting anyone down that potentially hazardous moral path.

Others looked at us and saw little potential for a lasting relationship and we were not disinclined to agree with them in the beginning.  Over time we discovered that from past relationships, we both had developed a list of deal breakers in members of the opposite sex.  Our lists were long and it took some time for us to discover how well we fit each other's lists.  With others that list had always been an easy way to avoid commitment with no one ever coming even close to passing the test.  It didn’t quite turnout that way with her.

Whether a list is scribbled on a piece of paper or indelibly etched into your soul from a lifetime of experience, it should be your list and not someone else’s.  You need to know what you can tolerate and what you can’t.  Obviously that can only come from experience and self-knowledge, something sorely lacking in many individuals I fear.  A list won’t necessarily change who you are attracted to but it should have some bearing on who you choose as a lifelong mate.  Love or lust will not overcome all things.

Smoking, drinking, gambling, verbal or physical abuse, dishonesty, disloyalty, lack of compatibility in areas of finance, fitness and entertainment, lack of free time to spend together and putting others before your partner were examples of things neither one of us were willing to deal with.  Since I spoke Thai, English was not high on the list for me but it was great that she had the interest and potential to sail through all fifteen books at AUA and later go on to take their intensive class, just as a refresher course.

We don’t agree on all things family, social, philosophical or religious but it never becomes an issue.  I very much enjoy and benefit from our differences as much as our similarities.  We are both granted a broad freedom of action and we are only constrained by our mutual respect and desire to please and not disappoint each other.

As much as we love our home and our life here in the village, I sometimes think we have been too successful at filling our time.  After fourteen years together she is still my best friend and confidante.  If anything, I wish we had more free time to spend together with no outside distractions.  Our house is perhaps a bit too big and our pet menagerie far too spoiled but both are problems of our own making.  Our communication is good and our love continues undiminished by the years, so we deal with whatever comes along, as a united team.

I’m not sure I have answered the original question as to why I married a village girl.  I’m not sure that term had or has much meaning for me, though I acknowledge it may be more descriptive and important to others.  Even the term married may mean something different to others than it has meant to us.  Was it luck?  Was it fate?  Was it planned?  I like to think we are committed, communicate well, and perhaps my age and experience have helped to smooth over the rough spots.  Thankfully my wife found me, chose me, forgave me and continues to put up with me after all these years.

Unsolicited Advice, Classic VF ...


Lets face it, if your company or religion didn’t send you here or it wasn’t part of a much longer trip of self-discovery, you probably came here for the girls.  Okay, maybe you were dragged here reluctantly by a friend who was tired of you being lonely and crying in your beer.  Face it, the girls were the hook that landed you.

The thing that always gets me though, is how many nesters there are, ready to make the same mistakes and fall back into the same hole they escaped from.  While disparaging the divorcées and blue-hairs back home, they continue to scrape the bottom of the barrel here in Thailand, looking for love in all the wrong places.  Don’t know if it is low testosterone or elevated estrogen levels due to the chemicals we use to raise our food.  Perhaps the guys were more severely emasculated by their previous encounters than they want to admit.  Whatever it is, guys who should know better, jump back on the marriage merry-go-round with the first Thai girl who tells him he is a “handsome man” and lifts her skirt.

If you are getting married for sex, then don’t.  I assure you that per-unit cost, it is much cheaper to rent and the variety will keep your interest up, so to speak.  The whole idea that you need a big house, a truck and a baby before anything else, is a crock.  Do you really want to spend the rest of you days prefacing the introduction of your wife or girlfriend by including some variation of the phrase, “and she was not a hooker.”  A waisted effort by the way, as foreigners will assume you are lying and Thais will know before she opens her mouth.

Do you really want to spend your retirement nest-egg on the establishment of a freedom-sucking, financial sinkhole?  Move around, explore the country, learn the language and learn to read and understand the women and customs.  I assure you there are options to the over-the-hill, tattooed girl, with a couple of kids from deepest darkest Isaan.

As with anything, learn the ropes before taking the plunge.  Stay single and create your own life here in Thailand.  If you are successful, then and only then, invite someone to share your life with you.  Don’t let someone you are unable to communicate with, dictate the path of your life.  Talk about the blind leading the blind.

So you are not ready for retirement and still need to work.  Chances are you won’t be able to find work in Thailand if you aren’t already employed there.  That means moving her to your country and all the hurdles that implies or starting up a long-distance relationship.  The odds of a long-distance relationship working are well documented.

Oddly enough in Thailand, that kind of relationship can be beneficial to both parties over the short term.  The Thai woman is able to remain with family and friends in a familiar environment with financial security and no expectation of catering to the inexplicable demands of the foreigner.  Of course they do end up spending some time together when he is on leave, but for a short time one can put up with almost anything.

The man on the other hand, has someone to write to and dream about while he is stuck making money in some godforsaken hole in Africa, the Middle East or perhaps even back home in is own country of birth.  Often it is that fantasy which allows the man to bear the isolation of his work environment and forgo immediate gratification for some imagined light at the end of the tunnel.  What happens when he retires and goes to live with this woman he has spent so little time with over the years and the children who don’t really know him or listen to him, is anyone’s guess.

Strange rantings coming from someone like me who is so obviously domesticated, you think?  Not really, I assure you.  After all I spent twenty plus years as a single guy in Thailand before settling down in my mid-forties and know of what I speak.  I knew my wife for two years before we got married.  I do mean knew her, as we lived together that whole time with hardly a day apart.  The first eight years of marriage we spent living in a small condo and traveling half the year.  Only after ten years together did we start contemplating our move up here to the Rai.

Though my experience is from a distant era, things between men and women really haven’t changed all that much.  As far back as thirty years ago this game of cat and mouse existed between Thai women and farang men.  I was known to write a letter or two (no email back then) for women who sounded so loving on the page, yet would make a sailor blush with their off color remarks and references to their loved ones.  I often wondered what their men would do if they could eavesdrop on their partner’s conversations and understand how truly crude and calculating they were, under their sweet and ever so thin veneer.  It is that very inability to communicate that lends to the objectification of the other sex, I feel.  If all you know about someone is what you can see or feel in the bedroom, then they are no more than a sexual object.  If a man cannot make himself understood, then can a woman be faulted for seeing him primarily as the preverbal ATM?

Remember what people back home think and say about the foreigners who move there and never learn the language or assimilate.  Then ask yourself if you are any better.  There is a certain kind of expat who complains of the treatment he receives from Thais, when it is merely human nature to objectify and dehumanize those we do not understand.  If you move to Thailand, does the burden not fall upon you to do the adjusting and not the other way around?

I suppose if you really want to make things difficult you could fall for a stateless or illegal alien from the mountains of a neighboring country.  That has always made even less sense to me than a woman with kids who as a last resort decides she has no more shame and is ready to start looking for a farang.  Of course there are plenty of guys out there ready to be a savior of the needy, as long as they find them attractive enough.  It satisfies their needs on multiple levels, I suppose.

So how was that for a taste of classic VF?  Is there anyone I have neglected or failed to include in my little rant?  Don’t you sometimes want to ask, “What in the world were you thinking?” even though you know it will make no difference?  Well I do, so here I have unburdened myself of that need fully aware that no one who needs to listen, will.  Perhaps my next post will return to the lush mountains and valleys of the Rai.