Thursday, February 7, 2013

The Kindness of Neighbors

Two medium-length stories from December in which I look like an asshole and my Thai neighbors save the day.

Story #1

With nothing to eat in my house other than live ants (and though tempting, sitting in the dark and eating live bugs is a little too Renfield for me), I ventured out into the sun light to buy green beans. I was less surprised than you would think to find my bike was missing (The best way I've ever heard this country described: Thailand, always shocking, never surprising). I just assumed well-meaning neighbor decided to store at their house for some unknown reason, the natural consequence for not locking up my bike.

I left for the market assuming the bike would magically be back by the time I got home. Several bags of vegetables and an hour later I returned home and my back was still MIA. In my heart I know the bike will just show up.  I make lunch and take a nap.

...When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter. But I stayed in my bed because I had no interest in what was the matter. But after a few minutes I could no longer ignore all the yelling and banging. At my door I found every Yai, old woman, and in the village. Yais are a lot like Desi Arnez when he's worked up and starts yelling Spanish, the more excited a Yai gets the faster she speaks in Lao.

I tried to sneak back inside but then an ambulance pulls up, which is weird even for Thailand. Everyone is yelling, "bicycle, bicycle!" plus other Laos words, and acting out the act of "thievery." Is my bike in the ambulance? Did the driver steal my bike? Have the neighbors prophesied a nasty spill from my back and subsequent ambulance ride? They gesture for me to get in the ambulance and since I longer try to make sense out of my life, I jumped in.

Everyday I pray I won't need an ambulance in Thailand so it was relief when the ride ended about half a kilometer away at the small police station. There my bike was waiting. It was picked up by the cops from a  ne'er-do-well youth after as many as ten neighbors called in my stolen vehicle. Not a scratch on the bike.

This is why I don't worry when my bike is periodically jacked by a wayward adolescent, thanks to the kindness of neighbors, things in Thailand just kind of work out

Story #2

In Thailand you neighbors also have your back when your problem is your totally your fault...and maybe a little the fault of Thai food.

My gut hates Thai food almost as much as I love Thai food. The local word for this kind of relationship, tong sia, translates to broken stomach. My stomach is pretty much wrecked.

Sometimes my stomach breaks on a bus ride kilometers from the next rest stop. The sweat beads on my forehead and the words of wisdom from a PCV Morocco ring in my ears, "it's not if you shit your pants, it's when." Other times it breaks will I'm blogging at the local internet cafe...

My helpful neighbors had a key to my house. They peer my window when I'm not home to see if my pillow needs rearranging or my floor needs sweeping, then they come in and rearrange my pillows or sweep my floor. Being as asshole,  I changed my padlock. Being an idiot, I forgot to put my new key on my key ring.

One late night at the internet cafe, sometime after I switched out my locks, my stomach started to break. I hopped on my frequently stolen bike and peddled home hoping this wouldn't be the time I shit my pants. When I realize my key won't open my new lock, I'm sure it will be.

I stand outside my house for a while doing a tong sia-dance and fiddling with the lock. I can't decide which is worse: actually pooping in my pants or admitting to the nice ladies next door I changed my lock so they can't clean while I'm on vacation.

I really liked the handicraft-style orange pants I had on so I decided to face my aggressively-helpful Lao-speaking neighbors. But first I needed to use their squat toilet.

When I emerge from the third-world-style bathroom to a chorus of, "Mi tong sia mai?" Is your stomach broken? my door is already open (by this time everyone in the town has gathered to listen to the Farang's bathroom woes).  I expected  a drawn out affair with locksmiths and/or really large scissors when all it took was my landlord and a screwdriver to take the door right off, which was both scary and relief because by this time I needed a toilet again. My neighbors for the second time in a week had come to the rescue. Things is Thailand just kind of work out.

But of course, the moral of both stories is: if you have ten minutes and a Phillip's Head screwdriver, you too and break into my house.