Monthly Archives: September 2004

Under magnifying glass (2)

Welcome back to the second installment of my latest blog! If you haven’t read the first one yet, please click on the corresponding link on the left before proceeding any further. However, if you are the type who reads the last pages of a detective story to see who was the murderer, then you are welcome to stay…

Last time we looked at the white male who comes to Thailand with the sole reason to find a subservient Asian wife for himself, after failing miserably with Western women. Now let’s take a look at the other side of the equation: explore the circumstances that prompt a healthy Thai woman to marry the white version of his father/grandfather. As you might imagine, these must be really desperate times for her! I will describe this the same way I did previously.

Hopes fade when flowers wilt

“Thai women form the hind legs of the elephant”, the old saying goes. Despite Western cultural influences increasingly penetrating the fabric of Thai society, the saying still holds true in many aspects of Thai life. The result is an uneven share of burdens, always to the disadvantage of women, placing them in a very vulnerable position. Consider the following:

– there is a strong sense of filial piety in Thailand. Children are expected to take care of their parents and other elder family members as soon as they are capable. To take a chunk of income and give it to the parents is the norm.

– in economically disadvantaged families there are not enough funds to send all the children to school. When the parents are forced to choose, they will usually send the boys to school, keeping the girls at home for a variety of reasons.

– there are considerably less opportunities for uneducated women to get decent jobs than for their male counterparts.

– from these labor-intensive jobs that yield very low wages, Thai women cannot adequately fulfill their duties of helping the family. This will create a sense of urgency to find alternate methods of getting money. Depending on the individual, some might end up being prostitutes, but let’s leave that Pandora’s box for another discussion. Some others (or the same people!) marry Thai men, hoping that this will alleviate their problems.

– in Thailand, marriage is held more stable than it is in the West. Couples don’t divorce on a whim; it takes unusually bad situations to make Thai couples even consider divorce. Now, it is well-known that many Thai men are unusually fond of alcohol, visit brothels, have mia noi [minor wife, mistress] and cause a bunch of other problems. Despite this, Thai women used to be very resilient and willing to hold on to the marriage for the above-mentioned reasons. However, nowadays some are not so lenient anymore; they finally start to realize that they don’t have to put up with all that just because a monk sometime tied a white rope around their hands.

– Divorced women are looked down upon; they are not considered good women. Their chance of marrying another Thai man is practically none, simply because they are not considered reliable marriage partners anymore. Note that divorced Thai men do not have this problem at all. They are “just being men”. Divorce is always a woman’s fault, for not accepting that. (See “hind legs” syndrome, yet again.)

Now you see where these women get their desperation from. Here is where the white prince enters on the white horse: a little balding maybe, but with a fat wallet that is a cure for many of her problems.

The two together: an incorrect solution (0 x 1 = 0)

So, they found each other. What happens now?

-Thai women got their cash cows; they are now able to sustain their families: both that of their parents, and that of their own. The expectations placed upon these women are now fulfilled. They even get national recognition and appreciation, according to the latest news.

-the Farang man made it to seventh heaven now. He got a wife who tolerates all his vices, serves him every way, every time, and obeys his whims. He can live like a king due to the generous exchange rates. Forget Mark Twain’s “Prince and Pauper”. This is the real story of how a wishy-washy nobody gets a king’s ego.

So, why would I not call it a happy ending? Why not the laissez-faire attitude that some others have? Because there is one crucial element is missing. Nowhere in the story do I see the happiness of the Thai woman. Governmental appreciation does not make true happiness. Having a white version of her father/grandfather as husband definitely does not make true happiness. Having a husband whose character lead to failed relationships with several other women does not make true happiness. Having a loving, caring, equal partner who values her as a whole, unique person, sharing her happiness and sorrows, making her feel valued – that’s true happiness.

The man who was unable to give this to women with whom he shares common cultural background will have little chance to form a deep relationship with a person of a very different background. Only men of character with empathy are capable of that. Our hero, the “fisherman” can only give her a secure future in a relationship that lacks any depth.

No critical work can be complete without due disclaimers to douse potential flames, so here it is:

From the above, you may get the impression that I am against international/interracial marriages. On the contrary! I think it benefits everyone. A Western man with no previous failed relationship (okay, maybe one – everyone is entitled to a mistake), marrying an Asian woman after he took the time to know her and her culture – that’s absolutely beautiful! However, it’s only good if said man didn’t come to Thailand for the purpose of finding a wife here (ie. wife-fishing). I can imagine that some forum members have such a successful relationship.

My anger is that of a humanist who believes that everyone deserves to be happy, and those who abuse others deserve to be ostracized and worse. This righteous anger is the result of the line of thinking I sketched above. You may not agree with it; perhaps some points you may find questionable, that’s fine. However, what I wrote is not coming out of thin air: these points are either based on personal experience, observation while here in Thailand, accounts from my Thai family, and reading Thailand-related literature.

I am, as I was in the past, talking always about a selected group of people, not everyone included in a particular group. Not all Thai women, and not all Farang men. Not even all older Farang men. I can’t emphasize enough how important this distinction is. It distinguishes blind stereotyping from clear criticism on a pressing issue.

You may have different experiences, talked to different people and came to a different conclusion regarding this issue. The diversity of opinions is what makes debating so interesting, as long as the opinions of others are treated with respect.

Take care until next time,


Under the magnifying glass (1)

Hi folks! Welcome back to my life! It’s been quite a while since I’ve seen you here. The rainy season doesn’t give much interesting experiences to write about; lots of water, big storms, sleepy weather and a few occasional rays of sunshine peeking through the dense clouds. My Rains Retreat is soon to be over though: tomorrow I will leave Thailand to visit the neighboring Laos where I will spend a few days. I hope to take a few pictures and I’ll also bring my laptop with me to tell you anything interesting that might happen there.

Where there is sun, there is shadow

Most people who talk about Thailand usually do so in a positive manner. That’s perhaps because there are so many good things about this wonderful country, there seem to be little need to complain. However, like every other country, Thailand has her own share of problems to struggle with. Though I don’t like to complain either, the picture we paint here about Thailand would not be complete without its shadows.

This time I would like to talk about some of Thailand’s most annoying, dangerous and occasionally vicious pests. Seasoned visitors might sigh here and think “oh no, he’s gonna talk about cockroaches, fireants and 15-cm millipedes. How boring!”. To the relief of you folks, no, I am going to skip these. I consider them merely annoyances. I will talk about some of Thailand’s bloodsucking leeches and sludgeworms instead.

Meet the species

I’ve visited all regions of Thailand: Central, North, Northeast and South. Wherever I went, I could count on one thing I’d always see. I used to cringe my teeth when my lil’ sis yelled “Farang” somewhere, because of the anticipated sight. Now I just sigh and reply her: “old geezer”. More often than not, she nods. I don’t even need to turn my head in the direction she points at, but I do anyway. What I see is always the same: an older man, 50+, with his “daughter” or “granddaughter” perhaps; a dark-skinned woman, most likely from the Isaan farmlands. The watery, hazy eyes, big red “wine-nose” and beer belly are the usual telltale signs of this fine knight in shining armor. A sorry sight indeed, and like always, a mixture of feelings overcome me. Pity for the woman, and disgust for the man who is a disgrace to all white male expats – including me.

Why are there so many of them? Why in Thailand? What’s in this country that attracts these low-life creatures? We debated this on the Thailand forums before, but didn’t come to clear conclusions. To keep the arguments civilized, one of my debate partners and I took the conversation to PM (personal message). Because of this, I was prompted to think the issue in such depths that I haven’t done before. Let me share the results with you. The clearest way to do this is a simple but effective list of facts and beliefs that will eventually lead to the conclusion. Since this matter involves two distinct groups of people, I will do this on two lines and then join the two to form the conclusion.

Analysis of a sludgeworm

– “It takes two to make a relationship work”, the old Western saying goes, and this must especially be true for marriages.

– Westerners are known to divorce easier.

– a Western man with repeated failures in his relationships might allege that something is wrong with all Western women, quite understandably. From the neutral observer’s point of view however, which one is more likely: that millions of women are not fit to form a healthy relationship, or that the one complaining man has a serious problem handling women who grew up with Western values?

It was a rhetorical question. Of course the man has a problem. Now, what are these Western values I just mentioned?

– – strong sense of self-esteem
– – open nature, outspokenness
– – insistence on equality: a fair share of burdens and privileges

These values are the hallmarks of modern times. Times when it is no longer acceptable to view and treat wives as inferior creatures, slaves, sex-toys and housemaids. They are equal to men in every aspect, except one. They are also the bearers of life, and as such, they still deserve the extra care and attention that every gentleman gives them. Men who accept and live by these rules are capable of forming happy relationships with Western women, and in turn, get the same love, respect and happiness from their wives.

– on the other hand, some men still cling to the old days when cavemen-values were the norm. They wish to have a submissive wife who observes the wishes of her lord ( I mean, husband), never complains and lets him do whatever he wants. Perfect housemaid, action-ready sexpartner, or a silent dummy at times when His Lordship gets home drunk and wishes to beat the **** out of someone.

– the stereotype of submissive Asian women is still very much alive in Western circles, mostly due to the media.

– unable to form a lasting relationship with Western women, these guys turn their eyes to the East. (Those who are not Asiophiles tend to look at Russian mail-order brides, like someone mentioned on the boards).

– Thailand has an international reputation of its women.

– in real life, there are Thai women in vulnerable situation – I will talk about this next. The Farang man comes to Thailand to exploit this vulnerability, and uses the economic disparities to his advantage.

Now, let’s talk about Mia Farang (Thai wife of a Farang man), and what happens when the two come together… in the next blog.

OK I have thought it through

I seen some almost valid points to cnotinue. The fact that I am not in Thailand I feel is very much hurting what I can offer. But the fact that my children as well as myself are learning Thai may help some. More that could be helpful is my wife. Knowing that many Thai people surely use this site to better their English I can relate some of my wife’s learning mile marker’s.

An update as to what all is going on. I have started or am attempting to start an internet radio station. I just basically got bored with all the lame Thai music on the other stations I used to listen to, so I decided to create a station with my own music. Info and updates are posted in the Thai Music forum here.

Just yesterday my wife was tring to read a commercial on the TV, it was about gardening and the text said, without our fertilizer your garden could get pretty ugly. She looked at me sooo perplexed. I asked her what was wrong. She proceeds to ask how flowers can be ugly and pretty at the same time. I explained that it did not mean beautiful and ugly at the same time, but rather pretty is often used as an adjective to mean something (or even exactly) close to the English word very. She was still very thrown by it.

You see that was something I could never really figure out about Thai. If there is a different meaning behind a word it is very distinguishable through the tone marks associated with the word. If it is not distinguishable the two meanings could not be confused by the context. Something English has severe issues with. I mean you look up a word such as home in the dictionary…wait i will..

Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary

42 entries found for home. The first 10 are listed below

42 entries for such a simple term. Now when the word home is used in a sentence, how is my wife to know which of the 42 meanings she should translate it to? TRY has 9 entries, GO has 49, SLEEP has 9, TEST has 55 entries. The wonder game of learning English can be far too much of a :head·ache
Pronunciation: ‘he-“dAk
Function: noun
1 : pain in the head
2 : a vexatious or baffling situation or problem
– head·achy

Cooking Thai Food

At last I was able to spend my first weekend at my house. The electricity was finally upgraded to 30 amps on Thursday enabling for us to turn on the air in more than one room at the same time. The only thing still left to do is connecting the telephone line. Two weeks have already passed and apparently there are still no lines available.

Anyway, it was a great weekend. It is good to have the freedom of my own living room and very large bedroom. Actually the bedroom is so large that the king sized bed is looking a little lost. Only a bed and wardrobe so far. Not sure yet what to do with the rest of the room. Maybe a kitchenette or a sofa. Changing the windows and door to the balcony was a good idea. Despite being so close to Sukhumwit Road I couldn’t really hear the traffic. The old wooden windows had gaps and didn’t block out any of the sound. Money well spent.

Friday to Saturday it was raining quite a bit and so the temperature was 25-32 Celsius. The fan in the living room did a good job of keeping the place cool. It helps if we keep the front door and back door open. Not too many problems with mosquitoes so far. If it does get worse later we can just shut the doors and use the mosquito screens on the windows. On Sunday it didn’t rain and the temperature went up to a more sticky 32-34 Celsius.

What would you say the difference is between a Thai house and a house belonging to a farang? I have already mentioned air-conditioning. The average Thai family manages to survive without any. But, what are the differences between my house and the one next door? For starters, they have a bed in the living room. During the day-time this acts as their couch. At night, one of the extended family members sleeps there. Another difference is that they have a couple of motorbikes parked next to the t.v.!

If you go to one of the local hypermarkets, like Big C or Tesco Lotus, you will start to get a clearer idea of what the popular household items are. I was there the other week trying to buy some of the smaller things for the house. In the cutlery section, there was a large choice of spoons and forks. These are so popular that they are bundled together at reduced prices. There are knives there, but they are tucked away in the corner and almost twice the price. As you may know, Thais use spoons and forks to eat. They don’t usually use knives.

My next problem was trying to find a duvet for the beds. I found the sheets without any problems but not the duvets. All I could find were the thin blankets that a lot of Thai people use on their beds and some comforters that are like duvets but are smaller and thinner. In the end I was told to go to Central department store to buy the duvets. As with anything Western, these cost a lot more.

I suppose, the one thing we have in common is the rice cooker. Essential for living in Thailand. Having my own kitchen is turning out to be one of the highlights so far. I have always liked cooking but whenever I have tried to enter the kitchen at the school the cooks always insist on cooking for me. They won’t let me go anywhere near the gas stove. They seemed to think it was funny that I wanted to cook. As there were always servants around at the school, I haven’t cooked much more than eggs and bacon in the last ten years!

Anyway, now I can at last start experimenting with cooking again. I already have quite a stock of Thai cook books. The first meal I cooked was red curry with pork and stir-fried vegetables. Not too bad if I may say so myself. Actually, to be honest, I cheated a little. I bought a packet of red curry paste at Foodland! All I had to do was put this in my wok after heating some oil. Then I added the pork. After it was well cooked I added two cups of coconut milk. I also sprinkled in some naam blaa (fish sauce) and dropped in some fresh kafir leaves together with basil leaves that I had bought myself. I also popped in some baby tomatoes. The only thing I didn’t put in was the sugar. I think Thai meals have too much sugar. They seem to put it in everything. Even noodle soup.

That was it really. A simple meal but quite delicious. Well, for me anyway. Gor just commented that it was “eatable”. His wife just smiled. Obviously I need more experience to bring it up to Thai standards. There are so many different sauces which are used for the soups and stir-fries. It gets confusing as they look much the same. We have four different bottles in the kitchen cupboard. I will have to do some more reading to see what each one contributes.

Really, you don’t need to cook much in Thailand. There are so many foodstalls along the road that you can easily have a different meal each night. And they are cheap. Not much more than 25-30 baht (60 cents). I will tell you more about these another time.

It’s finished, all learning is complete, and I am gone ;)

I would like to offer some ‘I’m sorry’s’ to those who have following my blogging.

I knew when I began what exactly I was going to do with this blog. It seems to have taken a turn and after putting some thiought into it, I have decided not to continue with it. There are so many methods of learning and not all plans will work the same for all people. Not being in Thailand there is not that much of a glimpse I can offer.

Considering my wife’s background it is not really fair to explain to everyone what I am learning, how I have learned what I do know and so on, because not everyone is in that situation. It really is not a fair way to learn Thai I guess.

I noticed, I have already begun to slip and describe the ways I am going about learning Thai. That in itself is what I find to be unfair. I am just as different as you all are, what I am doing probably will not work for any of you.

The blog’s are supposed to be kept along the subject of Thailand, well I was trying to do that. But considering all I am doing is learning the language, there is not much for me to contribute in this area. I can’t really write daily saying ” Today I read chapter 42 and learned that when you see a รร together it is pronounced as น”.

That is not what I intended when I signed up for this, but I am coming to the point that this is about all I can do. This would not be much of a contribution. It is merely a contribution of my thoughts and learning events/progress. Not truly a glimpse of Thailand. I truly believe with all my heart that the finest way to learn the Thai language is from the LearningThai web forum. There is input from so many people who have experienced so much more than myself, and one can never have too much information or guidance.

So I bid you all farewell, and again I thank those of you who were so regularly reading the blog. Most of you surely know I can always be found on the forum and even in the chatrooms fairly regularly. So if you would like to yell at me about something and complain about my strong opinions and stubborn attitude you know where to find me.