Young Man Drinking In An Old Man Bar Waiting For.His.Time.To.Die Teerak- My Mom Is Sick And I Need Money

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Teerak- My Mom Is Sick And I Need Money

Introduction

“Teerak, my mom is sick and I need money”. For those who don’t know, “teerak” is the Thai equivalent of “kara”, used by “faan”, a gender neutral equivalent of boyfriend and girlfriend. It is no big secret that there is a lot of prostitution in Thailand, although the numbers are greatly exaggerated by sensational media. There are many stories of cunning bar girls who manage five or six boyfriends at once and come up with ever more innovative ways to extract money. “Teerak, my mom is sick and I need money” is a classic line used by farang residents in Thailand to describe such girls.

Perhaps less well known is the culture of family. The Thai family is the centerpiece of society in ways that many people in the West find difficult to understand. Simply put, the family takes care of each other. If you marry into a Thai family, you are expected to support that family. In practice, however, most Thai women will expect their Farang boyfriend to support the family as well. The “wealth” of a man is therefore a very important factor in choosing a partner. To some it seems very cynical, almost similar to prostitution. This is a vast over-simplification. Thai culture is not Western culture: neither necessarily better nor worse, just different.

The Beginning: March 25, 2006

My ex faan (very ex ex) is calling me. As usual I don’t answer. If I answered every phone call I get, I would be on the phone 30 hours a day. Then see that I have an sms from her. “My mom is dying.” Okay, that sounds serious. I call her and 2 hours later I’m at Phatumtani hospital, about an hour from central Bangkok.

It is a government hospital and I have heard bad things about these institutions. But it was clean, the patients were sick but not poorly cared for, the staff seemed professional and the care was pretty good. In that classic Thai way, which I really love and admire, all the families of the patients are on site. Everything is very chaotic but everything in Thailand is chaotic, and it is beautiful.

Opposite us is a very old and very small lady. She must be in her 80s and she is dying. It’s not a big deal. It’s just her time. Her whole family is there, working shifts. Her grandson, who I guess is 35+, is now on his shift. You can see right away that caring is not his thing! Yet he washes her, chases her around, resting her head on the pillow, holding her hand, sleeping on the floor under her bed. All in all he shows his love and respect to his grandmother. It is a sad occasion but also an invigorating one.

I see this with almost every patient and family. A cancer sufferer, close to death, being cared for by her sister. A very, very old lady cared for and fed by her equally old husband. Young children roaming around. Human trafficking in the best way. We farang have a lot to learn from the Thais.

Neung, my ex, cried the whole way in the taxi. We arrive and her mom is not well. It looks like she had an aneurysm. She is unconscious and the nurses said to be ready. Her sister Ying flew in from Chiang Mai and is there. So the girls do their Thai thing and I settle down for a long day. They wash their mom, talk to her, hold her hand and cry a lot (of course!). I grab a little, buy food, buy a drink, etc. And we are waiting for the doctor. He arrives on the floor and begins his rounds but soon disappears. Someone is dying on the floor below. He returned a few hours later. He gets very close to us this time before his phone rings and he leaves again. Another hour passes and then he finally comes to us.

The nurses do some pretty horrible things to Neung’s mom, but for the right reasons of course. The doctor takes his time. He is young but he is thorough. The prognosis is unclear. Basically he says we just have to wait a few days and see what happens.

Neung starts asking me how she can go to be with her mom while she is working, how she can pay the taxi etc. Little by little we reach the point of “teerak, my mom is sick and I need money”. Before I get the chance to make the expected “offer”, her aunt arrives from Chiang Mai, stays for a while, obviously wondering who the hell this farang is, then leaves giving Neung some cash to take care of expenses.

And little by little everyone is encouraged. Neung even has the “balls” to call the insurance agent about the life policy….”teerak, I need to think about funeral expenses….”. Go count!

Neighbors come and neighbors go. Phones are “hot”. It’s good to see people caring. I wish that would be the case when it’s my turn to go.

During the day I wandered up and down the hospital. And it’s interesting. I’m the only farang there. No one speaks a word of English. A little boy of maybe 7 looks at me and says, eyes in fear, “falang” (Taj can’t pronounce the consonant “r”, so “farang” comes out as “falang”). The girls in the 7/11 shop stare at me and laugh… then ask me if I like Pattaya and if they can go with me! I am only an hour from Bangkok, yet it seems as if I am in another world.

I could do without everything. I had to delay a flight back to Switzerland, my home. i am tired I have work to do. And I would obviously prefer Neung’s mother to be well. However, I did not miss the experience. It showed me some good things about this country. It reaffirmed the family ethic. It showed dignity. I’m glad I was there. I don’t think Neung’s mom will recover, but I think her daughter is starting to adjust. We haven’t spoken in many months. Maybe this isn’t the best reason to talk again, but it was good to do it anyway.

Part 2 follows. Original story at [http://www.blog.artthailand.net/?p=14]

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