Met my German neighbor yesterday. He was out tending to his garden bed that I had tried to use previously. I noticed my cucumber that had grown and died had also deposited seeds and was thriving once again.
I was just finishing my usual late afternoon power walk and thought it was a good opportunity to meet the people who live next door. I have to say that I don’t always find expats here very friendly but I try to overcome that with pure American audacity.
“I like your windmill,” I said, pointing to a new, colorful metal windmill cutout that he had inserted into the garden. The garden itself is a 50-foot long, 2-foot wide feature added to the side of the house, with a brick wall holding the dirt in. The wall was starting to tilt toward disaster, the weight of the soil obviously testing the lack of strength in the construction.
His name is Winnie, “like Winnie the Pooh,” he said to my quizical look. I introduced myself and asked where he was from. Germany. There are a lot of Germans in Hua Hin.
Winnie owns the house next door and at least one other on the street, as well as some real estate in Germany. I gathered he made his money with a van service before turning to real estate, and now travels back and forth on a one-year visa like mine.
“You’re a snowbird,” I told him, a term he didn’t understand. I explained this is what Floridians call the people who live in the north and travel to Florida during the winter to live, like he does between Germany and Thailand.
Winnie’s first question to me was where I was from. He had a second question immediately, one I field constantly from non-Americans out here in the world. “So, is this your escape?”
Seeing the question on my face, he clarified. “From Trump?”
I didn’t really want to discuss the American disaster but he did, at one point signaling someone pushing a button down -the red nuclear button. “Your politics are very funny,” he said, “but also dangerous.”
After explaining I had been traveling for seven years and I was not running away from the disaster, we had a nice conversation, but his nuclear comment stuck with me. This is the subject that most concerns the rest of the world.
And while the thought of nuclear war, or any war, is on the minds of many Americans, I’m not sure that topic is the lead source of concern. Healthcare, the environment, Russia’s interference with our election, conflicts of interest, attempts to control the judiciary by the executive branch, and a myriad of other more domestic concerns top the agenda.
Winnie gave a weak laugh when he mentioned the nuclear button. I’m not so sure he thought it was a joke. But it was clear, once again, that much of the rest of the world thinks U.S. governance is something to laugh at right now.