A Hill-Tribe Visit in Thailand

11 06 2010

With my friend and translator Lek (which means small in Thai) we go on her little Honda 180 to visit some of her friends from several years ago.

 A hot day..Leggy roosters crowing and chicks running between the feet pecking little bits of nothing; occasional motor bikes snarling through the village…smoke drifting through the forested hills turning the sun into a shimmering tomato; dogs,under chairs and tables, sleeping,  dust-deep as lost thoughts,  ….,

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young girls, already part of the cottage industries at nine or ten  , leaning against the cement brick wall embroidering zig-zag patterns on strips of fabric…

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boys barefoot on the sizzling ground, stick-limbed, grubby and dusty as the dogs,  off with swimming helmets and home made bow-spearsto catch fish …

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older women sitting on plastic chairs beneath a bougainvillea’s cerise umbrella and chatting amiably..about the vital work of tending chubby  infants …and the younger daughter 22yrs old and oozing benevolence and vitality with two children already

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and proud of the carry-pack she has woven for her latest…

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no time for weaving during the snot-nosed-vomiting day, says her mother..  and someone finked to the cops who found four da-ba methamphetamine pills in the house and four young men sentenced to five years in prison —five good, hard-working young male workers lost to the rice fields and produce plots with the government-promised tourist industry not happening-the village presenting a dusty scrubby, unattractive vision of rusty corrugated-roofed poverty…..this not your standard tourist brochure village with tamed hill-tribes in full traditionasl uniform posing for tourists cameras for a fee..this is nitty gritty survival

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and who has time to clean the place up…so many hard luck stories—the eldest son of the old lady recounting these woes  has gone to Bangkok to earn some money to send home-probably in construction-now he has disappeared..he sent back two payments  . .no one knows where he is..this is his photo..last we heard from him.. and it wasn’t like this when we lived in the forest before the government called it a park and accused us  of cutting down too many trees  and relocated us here, split in two parts by the highway and the promised housing turning  out to cover just the timber frame and palm-strip roofing that only lasts two years, but some people got the cement block walls…20ftx20ft just like a garage really and no furniture but cooler.. just hammocks to sleep in and shelter for the big  bags  of 46-0-0 fertilizer for the paddy which have to be stored inside too because they melt if it gets too hot or damp. . and always dusty, dusty…and all the washing…all the washing…and the little ones…. shitty pants every day and the food to cook.. just rice and a little vegetables unless the boys catch some fish…

It is a dusty , uninspiring place , bisected by the main road .Its agricultural produce… not enough properly to feed the many many kids…but there is television..everyone has television..and it can keep the kids still and quiet for half an hour or so..while the cooking is done and my

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diminutive Christian friend and translator Citra tells me these things as she talks to one of the village elders and hands around veggie crackers and cream cakes.

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And suddenly I realized that these women’s faces were the happiest I have seen on any other group of women anywhere else in the world -just scroll back and look at them!—free of the lines of tension and anxiety and displeasure that are so frequently the hall marks of city people despite all their wealth and possessions.  And also despite the almost palpable poverty, the infants were chubby and the children were also happy and none of them looked ill fed. But  of course the education here is inferior which locks the community into its poverty. There seem to be lessons for me there in that dusty little village , as so frequently  I find lessons all over Asia ;and almost always my teachers are paupers. Isn’t life strange Dear World! And before we returned home on my friend Citra’s little motorbike she gave the mother whose son is missing, Bt 500 though she herself is not wealthy. And at the last minute the Hmong great grandma came to see us and permitted me to  take her photograph and I could see that she was proud of carrying the traditions of the tribal dresses they all used to weave and wear…traditions of contentment, family cohesion, self-sufficiency and self respect, time, happiness and …yes, yes, and poverty. Once again I am caught on the horns of that  dilemma of New Age simpletons about what constitutes the greatest and most desirable wealth and about how, having gone down a life-road, does one return having discovered that maybe it was a wrong turning. I remember Eartha Kitts delightful aphorism;-‘True, money doesn’t guarantee you happiness, but it sure allows you to choose your own miseries.’Then with my gentle,benevolent guide and translator we get on the little Honda and purr back to town, I to reminiscence and to talk with you .

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So you can see, Dear World I am in good hands  , and I hope you are too.Love and peace to you

laurie Payne

( copyright covering all media March 2010)

 

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One response

12 06 2010
Alex

Hi Laurie, it appears you are still in Thailand, perhaps I was misinformed about this summers event at your place. I was considering hitchhiking out there, I wonder how long it would take.

Do you think we would revert to that natural state of contentment if we were to trash all out stuff and suffer through the ensuing withdrawal? Or are most of us in the West too far deviated from out natural roots.

You might enjoy these little entries about an American who gave up everything to walk penniless around the States for two years.

http://cfu.freehostia.com/Members/jeffreysawyer/livinginquiry/

And let me know where I can get a copy of your book, Ash recommends it highly!

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