I returned to Thailand and my village after being gone a long seven weeks. After being picked up at the airport by a good friend I spent the rest of the evening/early morning hours at his place. I grabbed a shower and shave, and chatted with him about a few things, and then returned to the airport to grab an Air Andaman flight up to Surin to see my wife and family. I arrived once again in my beloved Surin on a beautiful warm sunny Thursday morning, safely, and quickly. I love the fact that Air Andaman has started this four times a week air service to Surin. It costs more than the VIP bus trip, but hell, it’s much quicker, and much easier on the ass and back than the six or seven hour bus trip.
A couple of days later I was polyurethening the wooden stairs, railings, and bannisters that lead upstairs to the bedrooms in the Surin rental house. These are made of a beautiful dark hardwood, which has been much neglected since the house was built around 12 years ago. The house is built in townhouse style and adjoined to five other townhouses. It has three bedrooms and a bathroom on the second floor. (At 2,500 baht <65 US dollars> a month it's a steal too!) The whole of the second floor is floored with a dark parquet wood that, though beautiful, has seen better days. It’s a bit scuffed and scratched through the years of neglect, and lacks the nice shine, depth, and the protection a good coat of shellac/ polyurethene would provide. As I intend on staying here in this house for the next five or six years I want to have it looking nice and in good shape. Easier to clean and maintain, shows the landlord we are excellent tenants she’d want to keep in the property, and, as I said, I want it to look good, as I will be staying there for a long time while my look sow (daughter) goes to the much better schools, compared to the village school at least, here in the 'Big City' of Surin.
So, not being a total lazy bastard, I do some work here and there around the house whenever I’m there. It gets me off my duff and working, and gives me some satisfaction once I finish whatever I’m doing, as I am handy and good at this sort of thing, and improves the quality of life for myself and my family. The place looks great, the neighbors think I’m a good husband and all around guy. I do the work myself, so it’s very inexpensive to do, and done to my own exacting standards to my satisfaction. As it’s my own work any flaws and imperfections are my own, so I have no one to bitch at except myself if the job’s not well done.
As I was doing this chore that morning my wife came to me and told me that the nice old gal from across the street in the village was not doing well, and had been hospitalized here in Surin. The hospital is very near our home here. The old lady was asking for my wife and her sister to visit her, and she was going to go now to see her. I told the wife to say hello to the woman and give her my best wishes, and gave her 300 baht to buy a gift of a nice fruit basket to give the woman, mostly for her visiting family and friends to eat as they stayed in hospital while the old lady recuperated, as her severe condition made it hard for her to eat much herself.
My wife said, 'I think old lady dead soon. Want to see me and sister before she dead. You come too, okay?'
My wife is full of pronouncements of this sort. Sometimes she’s right, other times she’s not. I call her the 'Surin Witch', a form of taking the piss out of her predictions and recounted dreams of a supposed fortune telling nature. It’s one of those insider jokes most married couples share. I told my wife/witch that I couldn’t join her on her visit to the hospital right now, as what I was doing needed to be finished now. I was right in the middle of doing the stairs and wanted to finish them. I told her to forward my well wishes, and that she could tell the old lady I’d come visit her later in the day, after dinner. This seemed to appease her and she and her sister went off to buy the fruit basket, and visit the poor woman in her hospital room.
I continued polyurethening the stairs, high as the proverbial kite from the fumes provided, and a bit nauseous and light headed. My wife can be a bit bossy occassionally, as all women are wont to be sometimes, but I’m not one to succumb to bossy lasses, no matter how much I love them. I wanted to finish the damned stairs so they’d be dry when it was time to climb them to the bedrooms later that evening. I’d had to fix the places where they’d stepped on the wet spots enough times already. Another few hours wouldn’t hurt, and I’d see the friendly sick old lady later that day. No harm done.
My wife and Sis came back a couple hours later. I’d finished the steps and was relaxing my poor back on the nice, new, soft, yet firm, sofa, a Beer Chang in hand, and the Bangkok Post on the coffee table in front of me when they came in. I greeted them with a smile, and asked how the woman was doing and how their visit went.
'Old lady berry sick.' said my wife solemnly, 'Dead soon I think.'
I swallowed more beer with this pronouncement of doom and asked her how the lady had liked her fruit basket.
'Oh, like too mutt! Say thank you too mutt for you.' She chirped, smiling.
'That’s nice. We’ll go back tonight after dinner and see her, okay?' I threw out to her smiling face.
'Okay,' she said, 'No problem.'
I returned to the comforting world and local news in the Post. Slaughter, death, mayhem and destruction comfort me no end. The Post gave me much to comfort me, more than enough. I fell asleep on the couch with the paper as a canopy over my face. I guess I’d gotten too comfortable and comforted. As the paper muted my buffalo-like snoring my wife left me to my nap and went in the kitchen to prepare dinner for later.
I was startled awake, rudely I might add, as I hate the damned music/sound my lady has set on her mobile phone. I woke to my wife answering her phone. I hate that damned trilling, shrieking, sound she has it set for. I got up while she stood speaking Lao into her mobile and headed into the kitchen for a few ice cubes to chill my half finished glass of Beer Chang left sitting on the coffee table. Waste not, want not, as the saying goes. I plopped a couple cubes into my glass and waited for the cooling effect the cubes would have on my beer. My wife finished her quiet conversation and closed her phone.
She turned to me and said, 'That daughter from old lady. Old lady dead now. Wait for my sister and me see her. Now dead.'
Dammit. The witch had been right this time. I mentally kicked myself for not having gone to see this nice lady before she died. I had liked her. It was too bad she had died, but it was probably a blessing and relief for her too. The pain must have been incredible. Cancer sucks. I said as much to my wife. She agreed. I asked her when the funeral would be.
'Tambon in village in three days I think.' She informed me. 'First they burn husband she in two days. Have small tambon for she husband.'
'But, what do you mean? Her husband has been dead a year hasn’t he? How can they burn (cremate) him now? I thought this was already done to him at his own funeral.'
My wife explained something to me I hadn’t known before.
'He dead last year, they put in house for dead. Not burn he. Wait.'
'Why would they do this?' I asked.
'Because family not have money for tambon (funeral) when he dead. Put in house for he dead.'
'Ah, a mausoleum then!'
'Yes. Same.' she said, understanding the English word somehow, or maybe just agreeing with me.
“So how come they will burn him now? They have money now to do this?”
“Yes. Now have money, and do same time do old lady wife he. Have tambon for two now. No problem.”
“Huh. I didn’t know this. So sometimes they put a dead person in an above ground tomb and then have the tambon later on when they’ll burn them and have the tambon? How long can they do this?”
“Oh, do long time sometime. Up to family when have baht (money), can do good big tambon. Up to them. ”
I learn something new here all the time about their customs. Makes life interesting for me. I hadn’t known about this.
Two days later they burned the old man in the village in his own separate tambon. We didn’t attend as the wife said it wasn’t necessary, it’s mainly for his family it was told me. The next day was the tambon for his wife, the recently dead friendly old village lady. This funeral we attended.
(to be continued.)
(The Central Scrutinizer)