One certainty of being an expat farang in Thailand is that you’re never alone. Loneliness herself walks in your shadow, and sometimes you in hers. Curiously, (and against all principles of logic and science) her shadow is even heavier at night. Loneliness is the most feared of all human states, being the only emotion one grows less immune to with experience.
Folklore tells of King Herrod’s experiment with two infant twins kept locked in a tower. The babies were given food and shelter and warmth, but were never held nor touched. As legend has it, they both simply withered and died. The expat and his penchant for massages, and spending money on girls he hardly knows, can be better understood when viewed through that tower-window.
For the farang, who has most often left family and friends behind to pursue his (for it is usually ‘his’) life-plan of adventure in exotic climes, Loneliness is often a dormitory room with a fridge, a bed, a TV, and if he’s lucky, an Internet connection. These distractions will be enough to keep the farang captive and docile, but will not feed his soul. The fact that psychologists say that most people feel even more lonely after an Internet session, adds to my theory that one should reach out and experience the new-found culture at ground level. This has been my solution, and it has certainly made life more interesting, if not totally banishing Madame Loneliness.
Some weekends, late at night, Madame and I will visit the all-night market in town and purchase, with what remaining sheckles the bars and dancing girls have left us, a few small trays of rice and (what I presume is) chicken, and on our way home will distribute these to the poor sleeping by their handcarts on the footpaths, or to tuk-tuk drivers sprawled uncomfortably in their back seats. This makes us feel all warm and ‘Mother Teresa’ inside, but I doubt if the Holy Mother ever did her good work reeking of Heineken and coyote-dancer. Then again, I’ve never preached the evils of contraception and abortion to a world losing its humanity, hope and dignity due to overpopulation either. To each their own.
Another gateway to the heart of the people is to shop for food at the roadside market stalls. I speak precious little Thai, but my presence there and my grasp of sign language and Survival Thai seems to entertain the locals, and always I am greeted with the most beautiful smiles. Also, the fact that there are usually dozens of lovely Uni girls meandering through the rows of carts, picking up their evening fix of sticky rice, goes a long way towards raising the spirits of the ‘khun diaw farang’. In our isolation Madame Loneliness and I try to imagine what the girls are making of the sight of a tall, guileless Westerner asking whether the strange dish before him is ‘blah’, ‘gai’ or ‘moo’ but their bewitching smiles remain the very essence of the Orient, a face within a face. I alone ponder the mystery. Madame Loneliness buys a tomato.