Our life is an apprenticeship to the truth, that around every circle another can be drawn; that there is no end in nature, but every end is a beginning.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Love-Love & More Love

This photo was taken on the public courts in Nakhom Phanom. J took me around on Saturday and pointed out both these and the three courts that form a small tennis club near the river. At this point I was still a Thai Tennis Virgin. Five hours later I had played three sets of doubles at the club. With my partner John, a district judge and friend of Judge Bua, mentioned earlier on this blog, I won two sets and tied the third, 6,6. We didn't play a tiebreaker because John was beat. I was too and John carried me because I was definitely rusty. I don't have the adjectives to convey how happy I was there under the lights, trading shots with Nung the university professor, and Oh, the architect, and several other players. The courts are concrete, the paint rough, the nets a bit worn, and the balls are in a state where in the US we send them over the fence for the Labrador Retrievers.
 There was a swarm of flying beetles so thick in the air I swallowed three in the course of charging the net. It was glorious nonetheless. I managed to get my serves in and I returned serve of a local teenager who is probably a 4.0. I ate the seeds of a lotus flower (awesome!) and was given plenty to drink and invited back, not to mention being invited to dinner and to stay whenever I come to town. That is probably the best thing about being in Thailand- the reservoir of generosity and friendliness. I am so used to apologizing for the ignorance and arrogance of Americans and explaining that there are many good individuals there, but here I do not have to do that at all. In no way are they star struck when I say I am from the USA, but neither is there the shaking of the head I experienced in France and Germany and Spain in 1982 (Reagan was president) or in Ireland or in Australia years later (Bush one and Bush two). It is more that the USA is just one of many places not Thailand. And they are quite proud of Thailand and they love their king and their culture and food just fine thank you very much.
 People are incredibly quick to take care of my needs- and in such a simple and unadulterated manner. Saturday evening I was ferried all the way across town on the back of a young woman's moped simply because I was walking. They are not networking, or after anything in return. When someone like a Paaw Aw offers to pay for lunch or anything else, it is actually offensive for one to refuse or to even pull out a wallet as a gesture. It is one of the few times Jes was very emphatic with me when I tried to pay for myself at a lunch. 
 Rambo, my policeman friend was always going, in terms of American generosity, way overboard. Don't worry about it Peter! he always insisted. When the girls talked about wanting ice cream he was gone in a flash to return with a bag full. When I was out walking to buy a beer, he picked me up, took me to the store, and bought the beer. He is highly professional in his country and under its customs, but policemen here function on a vastly different level. Put it this way- I wouldn't give lip to Rambo, because unlike a Maine State Trooper, he would make sure I didn't give him much before the lights went out. Below  is when he took us all out to the Duck Pub.
 Another of my truly best moments since I came here was when Rambo announced at the kareoke dinner party, after he and I sang Unchained Melody together, that he and I were brothers.Another Thai tradition-Once you are very close with someone you ask them to be part of your "family" be it Uncle, Aunt, Little Brother or Sister, etc. I have learned to be careful about saying I admire something a Thai has, because often within seconds they will buy you or give you one. At a nice lunch I mentioned I liked the host's traditional shirt and the next day he delivered handmade shirts to every single volunteer! I think of the descriptions of the early explorers in the South Pacific, who, as Europeans landing on remote islands, could not fathom the lack of greed and cynicism. Partly this wonderful insularity exists because so few farang come to this area. It is far off the tourist map as frankly it is hot and flat and poor, and there is no Angkor Wat to draw the multitudes. We actually met a nice couple from Washington State this weekend, both foresters, who came to Nakhom because it was a place no one would go to. It is creeping in- there is s KFC opening sometime in the next few months next to the Tesco. Ugh. Tesco is the equivalent of a Walmart, with all ensuing corporate blandness and horror, and of course the local place you see the most farangs. The fat 60 year-olds with the young Thai wives and the air conditioned houses with the pools on the river. My Thai friends all think that we must miss our home comforts, and by god if I was Thai and in the States I would miss my food and the geckos chirping in the rafters. What do I miss? I miss the Maine air and the geology- the Maine lakes and trees. I miss the sweet and lovely people I know back home still fighting the good fight, doing their day's work honestly and competently in spite of the assinine and ignorant forces that have been and are increasingly taking charge. I miss cheap, cold Long Trails on tap with Dwight and Steff and Gifford and Deb and Sue. I miss playing on clay with Steve and Eric and Jack and Seth. I miss getting shit from Mike Clarke for forgetting to call him. 
I would miss the seven napkin burgers at the General Store, but truly, with the food here I have no time to miss any American food. Here was my lunch today. Those are kind of a sweet potato they eat as a desert with the purple skin.  I thought I would be sick of rice, but I find now that nothing is better than rice and stir fry and boatloads of hot peppers for breakfast, courtesy of Boom ( I asked her to be my little sister today after tasting her som tam which caused her a real belly laugh)
I don't miss sit down toilets, in fact they feel strange when I do use the occasional one, but I do miss tp. I don't miss washing machines, even though they are darn good in the USA. I know because I just bought one before I left and it was a miracle of engineering. And I say that after spending my Sunday morning washing twelve pairs of underwear in this bucket and sink:
Don't be mistaken. It is the second week, the week when the reality of the school year becomes all too apparent and all those high falutin' ten pin strikes you envisioned making at the end of last semester tumble into the gutter. There is a tale or two to tell about the rural Thai educational system! Readers, thank you for indulging me my verbosity this evening. You are the only English speakers I have encountered all day. To describe eating the lotus flower to my fellow teachers today took me a half an hour and I finally resorted to drawing paper. I consider your time and its preciousness each time I sit here at my melamine desk. I am grateful for your patience and I try not to wander too deeply into my own kvetching or soapboxing. Did you know that while you are reading this someone from France (Vive La France!) and Australia and Thailand the USA and Ireland and Canada and Denmark and UK and Israel and Bahrain and Saudi Arabia!?! might also be reading with you? I am imagining you at your computers and my room suddenly feels very crowded and convivial and international. Can I get you something cold to drink? Bottoms up!


  1. You're a weird one, Pfister. Yes, I would enjoy a cold drink. Perhaps some saltwater?

  2. When I wrote about favorite students, I had you on the list, right up in the top 5. There is more than one Hayli here; maybe one will go to Amherst someday?

  3. the world continues to expand and shrink. enjoying your blog.

  4. Finally found it and will look forward to reading it while perched on my sit down contemplating the squares of which you are currently deprived.

    You are missed.