Being here is fun. It’s good. I like it. A week is great; two weeks is good; a month is a bit long but that makes for a real break from the winter back home. I am OK with a month. Two months and I am starting to feel a little homesick. We are coming up on six weeks.
You can guess how I feel.
Admittedly, I am homesick for the ‘Spring, Summer and Fall’ version of home so I am being a bit unrealistic pining for home at this stage. I understand it snowed yesterday.
I am not quite ready for that.
“So, what are you trying to say so poorly, Dave?”
Well, I don’t get it. I just don’t get what makes ex pats live here. Seriously. To me, being an ex-pat is understandable if you lived in Scandinavia, England or Germany because, well, those societies are rule-bound, crowded as hell and winter can be harsh there, too. Plus the cost of living is high. Ya gotta work to live in Europe and the USA. Canada, too. In Thailand, officially the least miserable country in the world*, you can work part time and live well. Better yet, you can retire on a first world pension of even modest means and live well. Economically it makes a lot of sense. But, sheesh……
It is still third world, here. Open sewage, petty and some heavy corruption, madness, semi-lawless, prejudice against farangs. Weird rules and procedures. And VERY MUCH a different culture – so much so that ex-pat old-hands still just throw up their hands and explain a lot away by saying, ‘It’s Thailand and nothing makes sense here!’
The ‘old white-guy’ with the young Thai wife is really quite a victim when you look closely. He’s the fly. She’s the spider. He can’t own anything. He can’t work. Everything belongs to her. He can be booted on a whim by her or by the government. And love does NOT keep ’em together. Business does. And, sometimes, kids.
Thai education and culture does not – it seems – set them up for running a business. Farangs are regarded as essential for running a good business. Farangs of all persuasions are wanted but white ones are preferred because they are old and retired and have money and – guess what! – they treat their wives better than do the the other farangs.
So, we have all these old, fat 60+ year-olds sitting at their bars or cafe tables every day while the wife and family run around doing the work but that is not the real picture. The real picture has them managing everything in the background and financing everything mid, fore and background from their house to the kids education, from the vehicles to the business. They are truly being ‘mined’ by the government and the wife.
“Do you care, Dave?”
No. You make your bed and you lie in it. I get that. But, without the satisfaction of meaningful work, without the satisfaction of a meaningful relationship and all that in a situation where everything is NOT yours and you CANNOT sell it, what is the appeal? Throw in C30+ degree weather even IN THE WINTER (mid 40’s at other times) and I wonder how it is that any old, fat, white guy lasts a year here.
The only answer I have found is that, if they have kids, they love their kids. If they don’t, I don’t get it.
So, I asked Mateo. Mateo is Italian. Been here 20 years! Mateo owns and runs Happy Pizza (well, his wife does) and he sits in the corner of the restaurant every day. I asked him, “So, Mateo? You Happy?”
Bear in mind, my question was just a little playful query based on the name of his restaurant.
“Yeah. But what is happy, eh? I live in Italy and I am not happy so I move and moving makes me happy. But then I am not happy with the new place so I move again. I moved a lot when I was young. Twenty years ago I move here to get happy but, instead, I get a family and a restaurant. So, am I happy? Is anyone every happy? Or do we just look for happiness?”
“Bummer, Mateo. Hey, I was just making small talk…..”
“You find what you find, ya know? Capiche? You see beauty when you come here. You see lovely beaches. I see everyday, ya know? I see the restaurant business, I see the same people, I see the same food and the same weather. What is beautiful to you is boring to me but I am happy, I guess. Are you happy?”
“Pretty much. So, Mateo…on another note…..”
“It is a joke, my friend. Happiness is a joke, no? You live. You work. You die. I no longer look for happiness, you understand? I have found what is happiness and it passes. Like life, ya know?”
“Oh! My pizza is here. Gotta go Mateo. See ya again.”
“Don’t forget to order your chicken for Friday, my friend. Friday chicken is really good.”
“Thanks, Mateo. I am glad you reminded me. That makes me happy. Sorry. Put me down for half a chicken. See you then”.
*Bloomberg puts out a ‘MISERY INDEX’ for various world economies (I think 65 or so). Misery is measured by a a bunch of indicators but the two main variables are unemployment and inflation. By that wretched metric, Thailand has been the world’s least miserable country four years running. Canada, I seem to recall, is around the 12th or so least miserable. The US worse than that. Venezuela is the worst or MOST miserable.