who are the people in your neighborhood

the sad truth is, i have no idea who most of the people in my neighborhood are.  i know a few.  a very few.  and most of them are farang (caucasian).  our neighborhood is oozing with thais.  it’s one of the things we found appealing about the neighborhood.  part of the problem has been our limited thai speaking abilities.  i was so afraid that someone would actually speak to me in thai that i worked very hard to not make eye contact.  it’s very possible i gave the impression that i was mute.  and after a while people came to expect me to be the girl who ducks her head and speed walks by.  but now i want to change that – seeing as how my thai speaking has greatly improved.  and several days ago i was totally outed.

i was headed to the coffee shop to meet a friend and a gentleman stopped me and started chatting.  (this little convo happened in front of many, many of the people i regularly, mutely walk by.)  and i started chatting back.  he wanted to talk about rich americans and he wanted to know why we’re here.  and then he grabbed my hand, held it palm facing him, and started palm reading.  he said all kinds of ambiguous things – you’ll have a long life, you’ll be happy, you have 2 kids.  and i stopped him and said, “i have three kids.”  by this time we’d drawn a bit of a crowd and many of them were whispering about how the american lady can speak thai!  and then the palm reader guy goes on with how i only have 2 kids.  and i insist that i have three.  and he starts to say something else when one of the ladies standing by says, “she does have 3 kids.  she walks them to school everyday right this way.”  and he looks shocked, shakes his head, and tells me to be careful.  because he can read in my palm that i’ll have hemorrhoids.  i’m certain he only said that because he was bitter.

i’ve now had a few other occasions to walk past this same spot.  and it’s funny the change in attitude.  on both sides.  i walk by slower and give a greeting and a how are you, or they do the how are you and i answer.  and we talk a bit about where i am going, and they joke about my apparent caffeine addiction.  and three separate times one older gentleman has offered me a bit of whatever happens to be on his fork – he has an apparent food addiction – and one of those times he’d freshly bitten off of it.  and three separate times i’ve assured him i wasn’t hungry, but it looks delicious.  and added that i love thai food – just for good measure.

and tonight i went to the market to get dinner.  i’ve been to this market several times.  and usually i understand what is being said to me, but i’ve lacked the confidence to respond other than an acknowledgment.  but tonight – as i was buying some barbecued chicken the vender right behind me commented to the guy i was buying it from that i sure was buying alot for my dinner.  and when i turned around and commented that it wasn’t so much for a family of five – he laughed along with many of those standing around.

i’m pretty sure i’ve earned myself some street cred now.

8 thoughts on “who are the people in your neighborhood

  1. Well, unfortunately, I don’t know many of the people in our neighborhood either. That’s really sad, seeing as we have no language barrier.

    It’s amazing how assimilated you’re becoming. Good for you. Are the kids learning thai as well?

    • i think we were spoiled in colorado, we knew many of our neighbors and had good relationships with them. but we also were aware that it was not normal – and something that might not be repeated.

      the kids take thai at school, but we’re very disappointed with the program. not a lot of language learning happening. we plan on starting a tutor for them next school year. to reinforce for the younger two and for our oldest it will be all the thai he gets.

  2. That’s so awesome! I would feel very proud and a bit more at home as well. I love how the ladies backed you up. Way to earn your street cred.

    • it does make me feel a bit more part of the neighborhood. and while i’m not totally comfortable with stopping to chat – i’m still very self conscious – i’m sure it will keep getting easier!!

  3. M, that’s so awesome! I remember not wanting to answer my doorbell when we first moved here, because I couldn’t speak to anyone. I signed for a package once and was so worried I wouldn’t be able to explain to the neighbor why I had it. Then it turned out they spoke English, as do most of the neighbors. We still don’t know them very well, but that’s our fault.

    • my favorite language thing is when we have to sink to pantomime and think it’s so obvious what we’re pantomiming and they have no idea. but then they pantomime to us and we don’t get it. but once it’s finally communicated it is so obvious what they were trying to say!!!

  4. that is awesome… very proud of you. I would love to be one of those in your thai neighborhood (fly on the wall) and see you ‘operate’ in thai, since I feel I know you so well here… I’m sure you are representing Americans (and Texans, and probably Coloradoians?!) very well abroad! We need it!

    • i certainly represent… and i can only hope that representation is positive!!

      and you should totally come to chiang mai. we’ve already lived in 3 cities at the same time, why not make it a fourth!!

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