AN EXPATRIATE LIVING IN THAILAND

KHUN MICHAEL ("MIKEN") REFLECTS

I am still, after two years, adjusting to my new life.  It's like I went to another planet to live, in many ways.  It seems so very weird to me that the apparently indestructible bindings that held my life together disintegrated like so much cotton candy in a hot shower when the heat was turned on them.  Bye-bye "Christian" friends.  Bye-bye my former wife's family.  Bye-bye long-time work friends.  Bye-bye "son" and his family.  Bye-bye first wife of 40 years who wants nothing more than a (sometimes) civil business relationship with me and who would rather die than tell me anything whatsoever about her life. 

BUT two things--one: the "crik" of life flows one way.  No paddles are issued.  There ain't no goin' back up the crik.  Soooooo....there ain't no use worryin' about it.  And, two:  I wish I could have had the life I now have at a lower price, not only to me, but especially to others (notably my ex-wife).  But in no way would I want to go back to the life I had before, even if I could.  Gradually, living in a small Thai town has come to seem less like an extended visit to Mexico and more like "home".  I no longer flinch when motorcycles routinely ride up the shoulder of the highway the wrong way towards me.  I am not even vaguely surprised when a car exercises the "right of eminent domain" and pulls straight out in front of me, figuring, correctly, that I will stop if I can.  My jaw no longer drops when I see people dyeing their hair, brushing their teeth, picking lice out of kids' hair, or doing just about any other damn thing on the sidewalk in front of their house.  I don't expect vehicles to necessarily have their lights on at night (real men don't need headlights and besides, it uses fuel to run the alternator to generate the electricity for the lights---and, to cap it all off---it wears out the light bulb!!!  

Actually, this concern for wasting fuel is also the explanation for the driving on the wrong side of the highway---you have to go to a u-turn break in the median strip to turn around and, since where I'm going is "just down here a little ways", it just wouldn't make sense to waste all that gasoline (or diesel)).    I am trying to get used to the short term plan being lunch and the long term plan being Dinner (in those cases where there is a plan at all, that is).  I can now occasionally discern when the answer to any request (which is inevitably and always, always "yes") means not just not "yes", and not even "no", but "Hell, no!"  And I now work into my plans the fact that the statement "I'll be there to do that work tomorrow" means only "You can take it to the bank that I for damned sure won't be there to do that work today".  I am pretty inured to walking into a shop and being waited on by someone who is evidently about three-fourths asleep and whose experience on the floor has totaled, at least insofar as can be demonstrated by their ability to actually help me, the  4 or 5 minutes prior to my walking in.

 
On the other hand.  I live in a gorgeous, rural area with virtually zero air pollution and very modest water pollution and no traffic congestion.  It's such a small place that still people stop and visit right in the middle of the road, just like they did back home 50 years ago (in Wyoming, that is).  And Thais are, of course, the world's champions at making the best of life's many curve balls.  So, in every and all exigencies, the first strategic move is to laugh at life's absurdity and to try (with truly amazing ingenuity) to make whatever happens be, at least in part, enjoyable and fun.  I have a wife who takes wonderful care of me and worries about me and does everything she can think of to make my life more enjoyable.  And I have a number of ex-pat friends with whom I can trade lies and drink beer.  And, for this year at least, I have a good job teaching English.  And, on a pretty  regular basis, some Thai who owes me nothing and hopes to gain nothing, will show up with one of this country's patented acts of nearly unbelievable graciousness.  Yesterday, for example, two waitresses in the coffee shop I was at risked life and limb running into the middle of traffic to save my errant dog from certain destruction after it panicked, thinking it had been deserted by my wife, and took off for home down the middle of the town's main street.
 
So, all in all, life is good. 

*******************