Wednesday, 20 August 2008

A Noodle In A Rice Sack




People often ask me what I spend my time doing living in a small village out on the vast rice plains of Isaan, the great North East of Thailand and I find this quite a difficult question to answer. If I analyse my time though, the greatest proportion of it is probably spent looking for things I’ve lost.

I confess that a small element of this could be due to my own geriatric decay. I find that my short term recall of where I put my mobile phone, car keys or glasses is slowly deteriorating.

However I also blame other more sinister forces for losing things. Living in a house full of people, everything is always going astray.

One job I always do is burning the household rubbish because otherwise drifts of plastic end up blowing around the garden and that’s horrible. So I look for the lighter which should be on top of the kitchen cabinet. I recently bought five to be sure of having one but they’ve all disappeared.

Now where’s the bottle opener? With all this hunting around, I’m in need of a beer. And the tape measure’s gone too. While building the house I bought at least four of these and all were quickly lost. Not stolen… lost!

I rarely do any work in the garden because the hoe and the rake have all disappeared. Whoever used them last has probably put them down in the long grass and it always takes me half an hour of searching before I can get started. Nobody ever puts things back in the same place and it’s so frustrating! In a big garden it’s like looking for a noodle in a rice sack.

Then there’s the keys to the front gate which always go missing. I must buy a new padlock with ten keys, but as of now there’s only one and it’s not in the drawer. Cat’s at the college and not answering her phone and so I’m a prisoner here as I can’t get the pickup onto the road. Yes, I made a place in the drawer for the key but it isn’t there. Round here, farang systems somehow get subverted every time.

Upstairs is my domain I think, but even there things can be difficult. I’ve bought a cupboard in which to keep my lighter, bottle opener, tape measure, hammer and screw driver and all the things I need and this usually now keeps them safe.

Trouble is, there’s a cultural quirk that destabilizes even my most cunning plan. The DNA of Thai women determines that before putting things away in box, drawer or cupboard they have to put them in plastic bags. And first they always tie the neck of the bag with a double knot so tight that it takes an age to open it to find the contents.

Thus when I want to find that digital optical reader for my camera it could be in any number of bags in any drawer and it takes half an age to find it. I thought of learning the drawer and bag that Cat keeps it in, but that’s a waste of time as she generally moves everything around from bag to bag and drawer to drawer at least every few days.

Cat’s extremely well organized and thoughtful about her domestic systems. Always trying to improve them, she changes them at the drop of a hat. I tell her where I want to keep something and even pre-empt her by putting it away myself, but when I next go to look it’s gone. Now the camera drawer’s full of blankets and receipts for everything she’s bought in the last decade or two but where’s the optical reader thingie gone?

I don’t mind this too much because if I didn’t spend my day looking for things, I wouldn’t have enough do. There’d only be my blog to write and that isn’t enough to fill my time or slow my mental decline.

Today I’m up in the bedroom at the computer and it’s hot. The ceiling fan hasn’t worked for a month and last night the air conditioner failed to work. The fan turns but the compressor doesn’t want to come on. So yes, it’s really hot just under the roof.

When occasionally my satellite internet does work, I’m usually getting a fifth of the speed that I’m paying TOT for and it can rarely open Hotmail. Today it managed to open my inbox but for some reason it won’t open the messages. I’ve got loads of messages to read and reply to but I can’t get into them. And for some reason the font size of the inbox has suddenly become infinitesimally small so I’m crazily peering at the screen through a magnifying glass. I’ve tried all the options to correct it, including ‘Appearance’ on ‘Internet Options’ and just cannot get it right.

An hour ago as I was hoping to attach a letter that I’ve just written to The Bangkok Post (something to do at least!), but the power went off and the internet crashed. So it now makes no difference that the ceiling fan, the aircon and the internet, my principal means to a civilized life don’t work. There’s nothing to power them anyway.

Was George Bush really in Thailand? What Olympics? I missed it all.

When I was writing “MY THAI GIRL AND I”, I gave an early draft to a friend, the venerable author, Jerry Hopkins who went to considerable trouble to read it for me. He made some useful suggestions that made it a much better book, but his principal comment which was debated on my blog several months back, was that the tone of the book was too negative and that I grumbled about Thailand all the time.

I therefore removed a chapter that was a bit too negative, the book’s out and on the best seller list and now I’m back upstairs writing blogs I cannot post.

It’s green and beautiful here in the village, but I can’t find my boots for mowing the lawn and the mower’s buggered anyway. It’s stupidly hot upstairs, it took a month to get The Bangkok Post ordered and my essential link to the world, the internet, though expensive is a dog that’s been hit by a truck. I’m about to drive into Sangkha to read my email at the internet café and to pay 5,000 baht to TOT for their internet that doesn’t work. Cat tells me you’re not allowed to challenge the bill, even though you’re getting nothing like the speed promised in the contract.

Yes, this is Thailand and those are the facts! And I’m not grumbling, Jerry, really I’m not.

Dare I tell you though, I wouldn’t mind a nice comfortable condo like yours in Sukhumvit and to dip my toe in Isaan occasionally… just long enough to get bored before fleeing back to the big city and civilisation. Like you do!

Today I can’t even go out to the internet café to read my email messages. The gate’s locked, the key’s gone awol again and Cat’s not back until nine tonight! Yesterday’s Bangkok Post with my letter in it didn’t come and I couldn’t check their website. As for food, that’s not important.

But no, Jerry, I’m NOT grumbling!! I’m just telling it like it is.


Lloyd said...

Best laugh I have had all week and coming on top of some other post I read this morning it seemed to set the tone for a funny days reading.

As for your ranting, I guess as the "master" of your domain you have the right to control your household and all those within but I guess that just doesn't work out so easy in Isaan culture!

I did wonder tho, is there a "Gerry" and "Jerry"!

Thai Girl said...

I don't want to 'control my household". I just want to be able to find my boots when I want them!

Sorry, it's Jerry!


Fabletoo said...

Andrew, you can actually challenge the bill. I just got a free month on my True cable because the bloody thing wasn't connected for more than 2 minutes a day. They finally fixed it and, after I told them I would be cancelling it if it happened again, miraculously a month free appeared on my bill. THAIS don't challenge bills. If we farangs do, it's surprising how often you can get the problem solved and pay less money for it.