This is so strange. I had, as I started writing this, two Thai women in my kitchen. One 60, the other 47. But back to the beginning.
Two days ago, I was sitting innocently on the beach, my rod at half staff in the spike in front of me, and drinking a sunset drink. My bait catching had yielded the expected results, and therefore I had nothing to fish with. So I sat on the sand, listening to my music and having a drink.
And then, this total yahoo from Bangkok shows up. Just kidding. He was anything but that. But he did leave his very striking girlfriend to come over to talk to the old expat sitting on the beach. His name was Joe, I would learn on our goodbye handshake. Joe was just curious, and we had a nice conversation, sort of, as he quizzed me about where I was from, my stay in Thailand, the usual topics.
Joe thought my rod was broken because it was in two pieces, and perhaps thought I was despondent because of it. I explained, no bait, no fishing. Nice young man, who eventually left to return to his girlfriend who was patiently waiting with two of his smiling friends.
Duly reinvigorated to seek bait that is not there, I strapped on my cast net and walked up the beach to begin a waist-deep walk back tossing the net. I still have my music in my ears, of course.
It was then I noticed two women maybe 50 yards away apparently waving at me. I looked behind me, thinking they must be waving at friends. Nope. It was me they wanted. And they definitely wanted me to ditch the earbuds.
We chatted a few minutes and it was obvious I was being set up with the younger of the two, Nan. I played along. Lots of questions back and forth, although Oy spoke only a little English, and Nan almost none at all. Finally, however, the call of my drink on the beach beckoned me and I said goodbye, taking up a sitting position overlooking the very negligent surf.
Within 10 minutes, my new Thai friends were waving at me again. They wanted me to go swimming. Now I have to admit, I haven’t been swimming since I got here. Usually, the water’s a little rough for casual swimming.
I decided to swim the Western way, without a shirt, which surprised my new friends. On my first dive, I finally figured out why the fishing is so poor here. The water is extra salty. I’ve tasted Atlantic, Caribbean, Pacific, Indian and Mediterranean seawater, and this is by far the saltiest.
Anyway, the girls were impressed with my crawl stroke so I tried teaching them how to swim. It didn’t go well, not helped any by the communication problem. But everyone was laughing and having a good time.
It turns out Oy works at one of the guesthouses nearby and has seen me going to the beach. “You go to the beach every day?” she kept asking. And, of course you get the “do you live alone?” “are you married?” “Is anyone here with you? questions.
We said good night but I was sure I hadn’t seen the end of these two. They proved me right the next night, showing up again on the beach. After all, they know I go to the beach every day.
I turned the tables a little on them, though, inviting them to dinner. I told them either my spaghetti or they could cook something Thai with the pork ribs I had defrosted – except I have hardly anything that could be considered Thai spices. Coconut milk, green and red curry pastes, curry powder, tomatoes, greens, a single potato – yes – but.
They decided Nan would cook but curry was out. Apparently I didn’t have the necessary ingredients for her curry. She decided a pork rib soup was better. Nan was anxious to show me her cooking ability so I let her have her way in the kitchen while Oy and I mostly watched.
With translation apps and a great deal of pigeon English, we managed to have a great time. Did I mention that Nan has a motorbike? And the soup was delicious!
To me, the best part of traveling is having these kinds of interactions with the local people. It’s the one part of my life here that has been absent due to the location of my apartment. Trying to communicate in such situations is usually a challenge but such meetings always seem to come out great, with smiles all around. It’s also an important way to help learn the language.
Slowly but surely inserting myself into the community.