Wednesday, 20 October 2010

Some Sad News to Tell

'Are rural people living in Isaan truly poor' was the theme of a blog article I wrote some months ago. Rather than add more questionable generalisations to the debate, I made it a 'case study' of Cat's old auntie and uncle and I described their hard lives in detail... how that had raised seven children farming rice on a very small holding of land and eking a living digging crabs in the fields and selling noodles. (If you scan down, there are pictures of them and their home and farm.)

Now in their seventies the worst has happened. They are both fragile and as thin as sticks, but to keep body and soul together working life has to go on. They have to fend for themselves as little money seems to come in from their adult children who are far away and have many mouths to feed. The old man has continued to take his three buffaloes out to the fields every day and she to walk miles around the villages carrying heavy baskets over her shoulders with a clay barbecue to cook and sell noodles. That is how they survive from day to day.

Now he has suffered a collapse and is in hospital forty miles away in Surin. He seems to have blackouts and now is partially paralysed down one side. He has been hospitalised for several weeks and it is impossible to guess the outcome. The story that comes back to me is that as he never eats meat he doesn't have enough blood and so is very weak and they seem to be despairing of him.

She too has had a collapse, perhaps exhausted by the responsibility of managing the animals and getting into Surin to look after her husband. Now she is home but she is very much at risk.

While some of the basics of medical care are covered by the state, being ill is very expensive and I just don't know how they'll manage. In the struggle to get by, I'm sure money will be their one consuming worry.

He always has a gentle smile and is the perfect gentleman, the very best of Isaan farmers. She has enormous spirit and is the life and soul of the party but it is now terrible to see her so down.

I don't know what good luck could come their way but I only hope it does as they are among the nicest people I know.


The Thai Girl Blog October 2010


Paul Garrigan said...

Hi Andrew, this is sad. I sometimes watch those Thai TV programmes where they show local people who are down on their luck - usually older people. I think younger people can often do a lot to better their living conditions, but it is harder for the elderly.

Anonymous said...

Useful question

Thai Girl said...

I agree, Paul.

There is absolutely no way that the older generation can adapt to take advantage of new opportunities.

Do a computer course? Learn new agricultural sciences? It's hard enough for the young from this background whose only opportunity usually is going far from home to sell their sweated labour as factory or construction workers for minimal wages.

No wonder little money trickles back to Mama Papa who are left with an absolute terror of the poverty and hunger they have themselves experienced.


Catherine said...

Andrew, I don't often read your blog... so... forgive... but as they are your family (Thai style), aren't these two aging people your responsibility as well?

Thai Girl said...


In both a Christian and a humanist sense you yourself are their neighbour and could easily help them too.

If you scan down the blog you will see that Cat and I set up a project for our village school and by collecting donations through my Pay Pal account we achieved a lot. The children were getting no lunch at school so we established a fund that pays for lunches for all of them. It also paid for an egg raising shed with 100 chickens and frog and fish farms. As the scheme is now self-sufficient, the produce being both used and sold, we are leaving them to be self-sufficient and are not collecting further donations for them.

As to the old couple, it is not easy living in a Thai village on a tiny income as I directly support about five people and am in effect the medical insurer of a huge extended family. Suffice it to say I particulary admire the two of them and have done what I can to help.


Anonymous said...

Yet another example of the monetary system and it's failings. There is no reason for anyone to starve or go without medical care, save for not enough money.

Living in Thailand you see the wide gap of rich and poor, the "rich person" can walk into a store pick up what he or she wants, walk up to the cashier and pay without waiting in line like everyone else. Is this person better in some way than everyone else? No, at the same time you see those that barely have enough to get by on and even need to go through other people's garbage to survive.This is not a system that is for the benifit of humanity or the enviroment, but instead only for a select few.

Change is needed, something like the Venus Project is a possible new beginning.

Barry said...

Great blog, i love the photos. As they say a picture tells a thousand stories.

Greg L said...

I am 2 years late for commenting here but found the writings interesting.

After months of emails, phone calls, Skype, and spending one month with a middle class MBA women in Thailand, the child-like behavior is there, and to some extent in middle class women. But don't confuse child like with their culture and upbringing. I think its 2 parts, (1) Thai women think this is what western men want, (2) and its part of the culture to be jovial, playful, and happy. Also, I found many Thai women to have 2 voices, one higher and the other lower - its funny.

And as for comments of money, as another person said, women anywhere will be pulled to security given their age, financial situation, and family needs (kids, Mom).

Good read - thx, Greg