Tuesday, 19 February 2008

Is It I Who Am The Buffalo?

In my previous post that appears below I told you about my forthcoming book, 'MY THAI GIRL AND I' and pasted in a chapter called 'Things Fall Apart' describing how nothing much ever seems to work properly out here living in the the backwoods of Thailand. I was worried that it came over as being a bit too negative and asked you for your opinion on it.

Many thanks to the ten readers who responded by comment and email direct to me at arhicks56@hotmail.com. Your views were very useful and interesting.

Now for the vote! One commentator, Lloyd said I should not include the chapter in the book. A couple of you were non-committal saying it depends on the context, and the rest pretty much said that it should go in as it reflected their own experience here and I should tell it like it is.

In writing the chapter, I was hoping the irony/humour one of you refers to might justify it and save it from being an unmitigated rant. I'm still not sure.

One of you asked whether what I was saying was intended as a reflection on local people or as providing insight into the western male and his lack of understanding of the predicament he is in. This for me hits the nail on the head as yes, it is mainly intended as the latter. Seen in the context of the rest of the book, it's all about the sometimes difficult though rewarding experience for a farang swimming in a very unfamiliar sea.

You also make the point that one should get recommendations first before buying goods or services. Well, in the case of the five mechanics who cocked up the brakes of the jeep, all were recommended by locals and by a farang friend. The latest mechanic proved to be reasonably okay but basically the standard is very low in a small market town, ranging from rip-off merchants to mere incompetence. (You can't go further afield if the jeep won't get there!)

The marital farce of the story is that I was clearly asking for trouble buying second hand in the face of my wife Cat's view that all car dealers here are crooks selling utter rubbish. My pig headedness with the jeep thus proved me horribly wrong and Cat is now vindicated! The only answer she says is to buy a brand new Toyota, which we have now done. Then you get impeccable service. I'd happily have my appendix taken out in the Toyota workshop in town!

So that's it. I now have to decide whether to leave the chapter in or to take it out.

Despite all the kind comments, I'm still inclined to take Lloyd's advice and not to risk publishing this chapter. The book is intended as a feel-good story and while it has to depict the inevitable farang frustrations learning to live in a new and different place, I'm worried that 'Things Fall Apart' is too much of a rant.

Interestingly one of you said that with time you adjust you expectations living here and learn to adopt a more laid back attitude and this softening process is a major theme of the book. You'll never make a go of it and be happy living here unless you too say 'mai pen rai' and learn to go with the flow!

Thanks again and keep the comments coming.

I must now stop writing this and finish the book. I'm almost there!


Lloyd said...

My comment was based on having read your first book, your writings and having been one of the "stupid farangs" so many thais enjoy referring to with jest.

I thought your friends words were spot on, in your words I read what I also saw was an opinon I felt was "negative and jaundiced towards Thailand" which did not seem to fit in with your own writings. Had you ended your chapter with the story of buying a new Toyota in Thailand, and your comments of the dealership, then I feel it would have been a worthy inclusion, balanced and with an honest outcome where reality was the truth.

You have much in common with my other favorite farang blog... http://villagefarang.blogspot.com/

Jerry the Farang said...


I fear you missed my point. It wasn't just the chapter about the jeep. (In fact, buying a 30-year-old vehicle would've been a mistake in the UK.) It wasn't a matter of balance missing in the one chapter, there was no balance in the book; it's one long complaint. Even when you find something you like---people making financial contributions upon arriving at a party you are hosting, for example---you don't look good, in this instance coming off as a Cheap Charlie.

In his introduction to WANDERLUST, an anthology of stories from salon.com, Pico Iyer writes, "Though it's fashionable nowadays to draw a distinction between the 'tourist' and the 'traveler', perhaps the real distinction lies between those who leave their assumptions at home, and those who don't. Among those who don't, a tourist is just someone who complains. 'Nothing here is the way it is at home,'while a traveler is one who grumbles 'Everything here is the same as it is in Cairo'---or Cuzco or Kathmandu. It's all very much the same."

Your book is well written, you just sound like a tourist. My advice is to leave the manuscript as it is, once you get rid of or fix those repetitious and/or unrealized chapters in the last half.
Nothing seems to please you about Thailand and that's what bothers me. The point of view is valid, it just rubs me the wrong way. This is, after all, what you are: a complainer, along with all the other farangs who write letters to the editor.

Good to see you in Surin. Best, Jerry

Thai Girl said...

Thanks for this one Jerry. I've posted my thoughts in response as a new blog as it's a useful debate.