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.