The other day I went to dinner at Si’s house. My friend Raquel and I were the only Farangs present. Si and her daughter were the only others who spoke English. We sat on the floor and enjoyed our rice and curry, with clementines for dessert. We held the babies and assured the mothers that we would always love their children. We showed them that these two Farangs were not going to abuse them or belittle them because they were born without fathers or educated mothers.
Around 8:30 I said I needed to head home, so Si walked me down the street, across the intersection and made sure I got on the right Seang Thauw. She gave me careful instructions on where to get off and how to catch my two Seang Thauws. At the first turn, I disembarked and waited for the #3 to roll up. Still. Maybe she meant the first turn and half-way down the street. Maybe she didn’t know how long it would take for the next bus to arrive. Maybe it was too late and I had missed the last run.
I walked over to the man selling noodles on the corner, and in broken Thai I asked if the Seang Thauw #3 came this way. He looked confused. I repeated the question. He looked concerned. On my third try, he turned to the stall next to him and asked about the Seang Thauw route.
After discussing it with two different people, the noodle man gestured to me that yes the Seang Thauw came through this way, and I should sit here at the table (versus standing on the curb as I was doing) while I waited. I spent the next 20 minutes sitting there, waiting. Every other minute, I pondered just taking a motor taxi, instead of waiting. Everytime a large vehicle came by, I jumped to attention. Everytime a Seang Thauw drove by, or nearby, I popped up and craned my neck to check the number. A stall owner came to tell me the Seang Thauws stopped their runs at 9:30 pm, I had 35 minutes or no ride home.
The original stall owner came over twice, to reassure me I had less than 10 minutes (then less than 5 minutes) left to wait. He explained how the Seang Thauw came around the corner, I couldn’t miss it, it turned around on this nearby soi, I would have time to hail it.
Finally, perhaps wearying ofseeing me jump like a cat every 3 minutes, the stall owner’s daughter told me not to worry, “The color is white, you can see it.” And they both settled down to rest near the road, keeping a close watch with me.
Eventually the Seang Thauw came. I popped up to wave it down, accompanied by the stall owner who walked me to the back stoop – assuring me this was what I needed, this was my Seang Thauw.
I was safe. This was a darkish street, and I was the only Farang. The people I interacted with wanted only to help, and not once did I feel threatened. That’s more than I can say about 50% of the gas stations I frequented in Indianapolis. That generosity of spirit -that is beauty.
That’s when I remembered there is something magically wonderful I Thai Culture.