Friday, April 20, 2007

Fat Foreigner Features, part II

My roommate gets hit up for money a lot- mostly because he's a foreigner and speaks Thai. He hates confrontation and usually gives in. I often give him shit for this because he gives in so easily but comes to me to bitch about it later. It's kind of his deal.
Anyway tonight I got hit up for money by our new laundry lady (yes I have a laundry lady, it's much cheaper than buying a washer and dryer or using one of the few laundromats around) who also managed to insult my physique in the same breath. Here's how it all went down:
She arrived to pick up our laundry Friday night to have it back to us by Sunday. She seemed a bit confused by the fact that we had put hangers in our bags for pressed shirts and slacks. We had a short conversation about that.
In her limited English she told me that she'd lost her wallet. She mimed it falling out of her back pocket while driving her motorbike. A previous conversation with Garrett filled me in on the details.
She then said "Can you help me?" and tried to tell me that Garrett had given her 1000 Baht (about $33) and that she'd pay him back on May 10th.
I am an asshole, and a broke one at that. I pretended not to understand, then I said I don't think I can help you, and proceeded to inquire about the name of her adorable daughter. In a very Thai way I changed the subject by asking a doting compliment and calling her daughter beautiful.
She smiled and answered the question, then continued polite conversation by asking if I'd eaten yet.
Caught off guard, I answered no. My dinner tonight was a splurge on a really dark, really flavourful stout from Australia called Coopers that I'd picked up at the international market on the way home from my last class. It was all I planned on ingesting this evening, aside from the dark chocolate Ritter Sport I'd also picked up on impulse. What can I say? It's Friday night and I just got paid! Short of cheese these are my culinary pleasures in life right now.
So I said no, I haven't eaten, I'm not hungry.
She interpreted this as a joke between the two of us and knowingly said "Ahh, fat!" and pointed at her belly.
Yep. Thanks for that. It was at this point when I said a pointed goodbye and went back inside the house.

Nothin like an ego-boost from the skinny-ass laundry lady who's popped out a few kids and can still call me fat.
And I'd like to defend my stingy attitude, if only for myself. I know many many foreigners who have been caught up in lending money to Thais. Many people see us as an unending supply of wealth and while I acknowledge that I make a ridiculously disproportionate salary to them even in their own country I am by no means wealthy, and I still need to make some money to fly home at some point. My compliance would have only served to perpetuate the cycle of Thai borrowing from farang- something that I'm not altogether comfortable with in the first place, so I pretended to misunderstand and got myself out of it as soon as possible. This woman has known us for less than a week and she's already trying to see how far she can go. Best to stop it before it starts, I say.

Or maybe I'm just bitter about the whole country that seems to be out for my sudden desperate embrace of bulimia...

Despite this escapade I had a lovely day. It began with my daily realization that the mountain does indeed have texture, colour, and even shade now that the pollution is beginning to lift. It's one thing to have a haze that covers the city, but it's another thing entirely to appreciate the beauty of giant fluffy clouds that seem to have been thrown from nowhere onto a starkly blue sky. I imagine I'll experience this again when the world turns green under the rains of August, but we'll deal with that then.

I got to work and had my last lesson with two really fun twins. After 2 weeks of writing and reading work we spent the entire 2 hours telling ghost stories. I shared mine from Mackinac Island and they shared theirs of Thai legend and horror movies. It was highly entertaining. I also got to teach the word exorcism, which I didn't think was possible.

From there I had lunch with a friend, during which we agreed that the world is going to hell in a handbasket for various political reasons. It was uplifting, in a depressing kind of way (what?).

I then moved further out into the city where I met with my favourite Korean family that treat me like a daughter. It's 4 women who live here while the patriarch makes the money back in the motherland. The eldest daughter and I talked about the Virginia Tech event and she said she was shocked when she learned the guy was Korean. I'm tutoring her in TOEFL so she can go to university in an English speaking country in 2 years. She's a smart cookie. Her sister is also great, and I definitely get a middle child vibe from her when we talk about family dynamics.

After that it was off to another Korean household for some younger kids (6 and 10) where I got to read Spiderman comics and play I Spy for 2 hours. Honestly I think I'm more of an English speaking parent on days like this.

I ended my workweek by entertaining thoughts of going out, but then resigning myself to an evening of dark beer, dark chocolate, and the remnants of Bel Canto. If you haven't already I suggest checking this novel out. It makes me wish I was a better writer and has got me thinking about love, language, and tiny sensual details in everyday life that have recently captured my inner narrative.

K, so originally I just wanted to share my laundry lady anecdote, but I've gone way beyond that now. I've been thinking about throwing in my two cents on the Virginia thing, but those are best kept to myself right now, it seems.

Back to the novel, though the beer and the chocolate are gone. It's nice to have a few minutes to sit down with myself and forget about verb conjugations, how to say "I'm not fat, you asshole" in Thai, and the price of cheese.


Lynne said...


I am positive you have not gained enough weight to be considered fat. More likely healthy looking, but Thai standards suck.

I know, where in the heck did I come from? Found your blog thru other MSHP'ers blogs. Sounds like you are doing great!! Congrats, and keep it up! I do not know about you but I am having major Mackinac Island withdrawl right now. I will be there for a week in June and can not wait. By the way I live in Florida now.

Take Care

Anonymous said...

Hi Kris. The last line of your blog found me howling, how funny. My two cents worth on the sadness in Virginia is that this was a very mentally ill young man who fell through many cracks and unfortunatley had acess to guns. I am sad that his life was so tortured but I choose to focus now on the the amazing people that lost their lives that day and the great things they added to this world in the short time they were here.
I think of you all the time and I miss you terribly.
Love mom