Okay, I’m not exactly new to Thailand. I’ve travelled here more times than I can remember and have seen many parts of the country. However; living here is an entirely different bouilloire de poissons!
Give or take a few days, I’ve survived one whole month. In some ways it’s been tougher than expected, but, when fending for myself, I’ve found it surprisingly easy. You see, I expected to be able to lean on friends Staffan & Anna Ekman – especially Anna, being the Thai half – from the Ekman Garden Resort just ten minutes away. But in the period that I’ve been here they’ve spent four days in Phuket, and the last couple of weeks in Europe.
So, yesterday, I realized it was time to figure things for myself. I think in the whole day, I visited eight places – either to buy stuff, get things repaired, or to pay regular bills like phone, internet and electricity. I was very satisfied with a success rate of seven out of eight.
The one that stumped me, was the electricity bill. I knew it could be paid at 7-11, and that I probably would need to do nothing more than hold out the bill and smile. The lady scanned it, but then passed it back, pointing to something at the bottom which said “18-27”. Clearly this was a problem, but I had no idea what. Well, eventually I figured it. To pay at 7-11, I had to do so between the 18th and 27th of last month! Now I have to find “the purple building” which apparently is the offices of the electricity company. Tomorrow-lah.
The one I thought would be the biggest challenge was trying to explain to the appliance shop, for the second time, that my bathroom water heater was not working. Well, it works, but only if the shower head is about 20 cms off the floor. Not too useful. The first time it stopped working, the installer came, took the shower head off the wall, turned on the tap, and hot water came out. I could see the “stupid farang” look on his face. But stupid farang is not that stupid and quickly realized there was a clue to be found in the fact the shower worked when removed from the wall. Water pressure problem! So on the second visit, I tried to explain this.
The nice smiling lady in the store was very sorry that no one could come the same day. It was already 5pm. I never expected anyone would! So I made some crouching down, monkey-like maneuvers to explain that I could shower while sitting on the floor, which sent everyone into hysterics. No matter. The message was delivered.
Pretty-much everywhere I’ve been, the service has been amazing. Today, the boss and his assistant turned up, to explain that I needed an extra pump somewhere outside to increase the water pressure. The boss speaks reasonable English and he could have called, but he came in person. The pump will be fitted at 8:30pm tomorrow. Yes, “p.m.”
Everywhere I went yesterday I found that a combination of smiles and patience worked wonders. I was under the impression no one spoke any English. It seems many people do, but are as reluctant to try, as I am to try my very limited but improving Thai. Today I learned how to write my own name, in Thai script. That deserves an extra beer tonight! I also learned that “Paul” translates as “Porn”!!!
Where was I?…
So, as I say, yesterday was a success, and for the first time, I realized I could do 95% of what I needed, without any help. And as my Thai improves, that should reach 99%.
Most readers will be aware of the military coup, and might be wondering how that affects daily life. Answer – not one iota. Around here it’s Military? What Military? Curfew? You mean people go out after 10pm? Not around here. Most Thais I speak with say the coup was a GoodThing. I don’t like to get involved, but I can’t disagree. Foreign governments may be blowing off a load of steam about a lack of democracy, but democracy Thai-style often doesn’t work. I predict that in a few months time things will improve, and eventually there will be a new government and the coup will be history. Nuff about that.
A couple of weeks ago, I found myself stuck in a jam about 10kms south of here. Jams are rare. Traffic is normally light, except in the cities, and jams are usually caused by a police road block or an accident. It was the latter. They are all too frequent, and very often involve helmet-less motorcycle riders. Around here, less that one in 100 riders wears a helmet. Some have them strapped to the bike so that if they find themselves hurtling at 100kph in the direction of fully loaded and speeding truck, they can quickly put it on. Hmm.
So, this accident was no different. Dead person in the middle of the road, casually covered in an old tarpaulin, mangled bike 50 meters away, and a truck with a few extra scratches. As always, the truck won the argument.
I’m told that ambulances are not allowed to remove dead people, so the bodies lie there until claimed by a relative or the mortuary. I was not amused to think of someone just lying there, and didn’t like to see an arm and hand sticking out.
As it happens, a friend saw the same accident, so – thinking the body looked small – I asked if it was a child. They seem to ride motorbikes at any age, so I figured it likely. “Oh no” she said “it was the owner of the 7-11, and he was just leaving his store.”
When I commented on the small size of the body, she – all too casually – said (and don’t read this if you’re eating your lunch) “Oh, that’s because they’re still looking for his head.”
Strange how different cultures can think so differently about things… especially death.
Well, it’s time for that extra beer…