Saturday, June 23, 2012

Thailand Tales 10

“Thai people are not accustomed to black people,” we were warned.  “They might be standoffish or rude to Steven.”

So we were watchful but not paranoid.


He may have been stared at a bit more than the rest of us, which wasn't much, but otherwise all was well.  And this we now know for sure:  older Thai women have no problem with a young African-American man.

No they do not.


Steven and I went to Mrs. Tiggy-Winkle’s for the last time on Saturday.  I tried to explain on Friday, when we dropped off the clothes, that this was our last visit and we would be leaving for America. When I stuck out my arms and pretended to be an airplane, she understood.

So when we went to pick up the clothes they were all neatly folded and in bags instead of on hangers.  I paid her the last 100 Baht we owed, then she grabbed my hand and patted it, then prayed a prayer of blessing over me in Thai, then gave me a hug.

Steven stood there a bit awkwardly during this exchange.  I wondered if she would say anything to Steven and sure enough, she did the same—grabbed his hand, held it for a prayer, and gave him a hug, smiling happily.

Steven was very gracious about this.
I should add that Mrs. Tiggy-Winkle is a Christian, one of the .5%.

Yesterday we went to “The 10-Baht Place,” also known as “The Hole in the Wall” with Lee the campus pastor, who had been telling us for three weeks that we need to go there and get the kao put guy, which when people say it too fast sounds like “cow pie,” one of about 25 Thai words that are the same as unwholesome English words, such as the Porn-ping Tower that we ate at one evening and it’s actually a tall fancy hotel rather than the sleazy video stand you might assume.

Yes, well.

So we (our family, Lee and Joyce, and an independent young man named Mike who is good at speaking Thai) drove the back way out of the “mooban” or subdivision and around the corner, and there was a little pole building down a little dirt driveway.

An older couple stood behind the little counter and chattered excitedly with Lee and Mike.  We ordered our lunches, all at 10 baht per plate.  I had kao put guy, which is like fried rice with chicken and bits of egg.  Others had pad thai, which is a noodly semi-sweet food with bits of tofu.

[I'm always curious, in other countries, what the work/money/food ratio is, and I calculated that with what Mrs. Tiggy-Winkle charges for washing and drying and ironing just one pair of pants, she could come to this little place and buy an adequate lunch.

So then I didn’t feel so guilty for how little we paid her to do our laundry.]

We sat at a little round table and ate while guys in white Toyota coveralls wandered in and got their food and flipped through a grocery-store flyer.  Meanwhile we asked Mike Thai-culture questions. 

As we got up to leave I started taking a few pictures.  Thankfully Thai people love to take pictures and have them taken, so you don’t feel like you’re being rude.


Mrs. 10 Baht saw me.  In seconds she was right there, grinning and laughing and chattering away.  About something that meant a lot to her.  What in the world?

Suddenly she stood beside Steven.  With a mischievous grin she grabbed his right hand andslung it around her neck.  Then she reached over and snatched his other hand and held tight.  And then with her free hand she gestured at me that she wanted her picture taken.

I was happy to oblige despite the fact that this was slightly disturbing to watch.

She giggled like the girls at the ACE conventions when Steven is around.

If Jenny would try such a stunt Steven would roll his eyes and shake her off with a disgusted, “Gaaah!  Jenny!  Seriously?”

Amazingly, Steven calmly grinned through this cozy encounter.

Mrs. 10 Bhat giggled some more.

We didn’t ask what her patient old husband thought of it, looking on.

Mrs. 10 Baht chattered at Mike.  She wanted a copy of the picture to hang above the counter.  You know, the way places like “Mo’s” display pictures of Johnny Cash eating there in 1976.

We left with promises of a copy of the picture, and with Mrs. Ten Baht still giggling nervously.

I have had plenty of worries in years past about Steven the poor orphan child adjusting to normal life.

I have a feeling I have been worrying about all the wrong things with Steven and there are some other things that I really should be worrying about.

Wow, that guy.  He is something.


  1. Priceless!

  2. wow, didn't know you all were over there! We were there for 8 mon. last year. Hope you all enjoyed your time.

  3. By the looks of things and quotes from Steven, I'd say he appears quite settled into his American family.
    And yes, if little grannies are taken with him, you will have some interesting times ahead.

  4. Dorcas, the question you posed about "what the work/money/food ratio is" in various countries is quite a difficult one for even the most sophisticated investigators in econometrics. Recently, a "tongue in cheek" exercise by The Economist magazine has made it a little more accessible. The McDonalds Big Mac sandwich is almost identical in various countries and is usually made from local products (except in India where it has chicken instead of beef). So by comparing the cost of the sandwich in various countries you can get a measure of purchasing power of various currencies. Now economists have extended this, calculating the food/work ratio in the form of the number of Big Macs that can be purchased by the money earned in one hour working at McDonalds:
    Western Europe - 2.2
    Canada (I think US is about the same) - 2.2
    Russia - 1.2
    Eastern Europe - 0.8
    South Africa - 0.8
    China - 0.6
    Latin America - 0.4
    India - 0.4
    Source: "Comparing Real Wages", by O.C. Ashenfelter and S. Jurajda, April 2012 in The Economist, June 9, 2012

  5. So interesting! Loved the picture!:-) I have the impression you sorta hated to leave---so glad you could go!

  6. You've got a handsome son :) I love this story.

  7. Is Steven that tall, or is the lady that small, or both? Our tallest son is 6"- 4". -PC in VA