Pattaya Daily News

14 July 2007 :: 17:07:52 pm 21154

I Wished i had never left my lillage ?

I remember you. It was in Pattaya in 1977, when you saw me for the first time at the Holiday Inn where you used to work as a manager. Maybe you wouldn‘t recall that it was me whom you stopped in front of the lift one night when you were on duty. You tried to prevent me from going up to the room with a farang, asking him to register me first before he could take me to his room. You tried to explain to him so politely that it was a hotel regulation for the security of guests. And for such a registration, you asked him to pay 350 baht extra.
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I remember also that all that while, you pretended you did not care who I was. You ignored me quite completely, but I could guess what you were thinking: “The farang is taking this whore up to his room. Boy, doesn‘t she look it. When you have seen one, you have seen them all in pattaya. And you can tell that they are whores miles away…”

Now don’t make a face like that. No apologetic gesture, please. The past is the past. Why must you feel sorry for me now? I’ve been used to contempt. In those days, people heaped contempt upon me every day by the ton. I’ve taken the blows. I didn’t even bat an eyelid if pimps raised their hands or feet to strike when I didn’t obey their commands, or showed signs of reluctance to entertain guests. I’ve coughed blood. Bruises and broken bones are nothing. Don’t even think of escape, I was warned. Don’t think you could go to ‘them’ for help. If you escape, they will bring you back to us again. They work for us.

Let me tell you one thing. I have never thought of going to a policeman for help or for justice. Never. Even when I was allowed to go out of the house to walk in the streets. By then they replaced me with a few younger girls from villages, freshly lured into the trap. Years later I was given my freedom. During the height of the Vietnam War, I worked at Taklee, Udorn, Ubol, and finally Utapo, where the mighty American military bases were. When they lost the War and were kicked out of Thailand by our shrewd and famous Prime Minister, I moved to Pattaya, where the scene was changing from military to tourist. I shared a shack with a friend of mine.

But the tourist trade has not been as lucrative as the Americans. There were not enough tourists to go round when women from all over the country, particularly from the deserted American bases, converged on Pattaya. Up and down South Pattaya street we walked, hanging around those open-air bars, or did the beach in the dark for the locals. In hard times, when the beach was empty because tourists were scared away by political up- heavals which happen so very often, you could walk the streets all day and all night without making one baht.

No, I don’t have the knack of making up my life story to please anyone, or to extort money from gullible customers. Not that my English is not good enough, but I just don’t care for that kind of deception. I don’t have sick parents to look after, or children to send to school or want to own a boutique or a bar one day. I was just trying to survive day by day.

You considered yourself lucky if a customer, whether a European or an Arab, kept you a day or two and you had a chance to taste good food in expensive restaurants or the luxuries of a rust class hotel like the one where you worked. And I met my present husband in pattaya. Now that you’ve met him here, in Hamburg, you’ve seen I am quite happy and well-settled. In Pattaya I saw only his holiday face, red from sun tanning, happy looking, spending his money. Now, here in Hamburg, I see another man, a serious hard-working man. In winter, he becomes more difficult to live with. It is still dark when he leaves home for work and it is already dark when he comes back to me, looking miserable and untalkative. I am fortunate, when you think that I hardly knew him in Pattaya. I didn’t know what kind of work he did, or what kind of life he led in Germany when we were married in Bangkok.

Yes, it was a risk I took, or any Thai woman of my type takes when they know next to nothing of their men, their languages and countries. All I could say to myself was that hundreds of other Thai women had gone to Germany and other countries ahead of me, so why should I succumb to doubt and fear. I’m getting older each day, and a future in Germany could not be worse than what I have already been through. What difference would it make if the hands and feet raised to strike me are German when Thai ones came down as hard? At least I could say one thing: I don’t have contempt heaped upon me in Hamburg. On the contrary, there is a chance for me to become a human being. True, I am lucky when you hear of many Thai women who have been misled here, only to be forced to make money for pimps. But I was once a captive too in that sunless concrete block in Bangkok. In Germany, you believe or you trust that you could at least go to the police for help.

I picked up my German as I did with English. I seldom meet another Thai here, and prefer it that way. My husband is a quiet man and we rarely entertain. If you want to meet another Thai, you only have to go to various Thai grocery stores or shops in Hamburg to meet them. But I do my shop- ping near here in a supermarket in Wansbeckmart. German people around here began to recognize me and some became friendly and helpful after a year or so of my being among them. Some neighbours have made it quite plain that they would’t have anything to do with foreigners living in their midst; some show tolerance. My husband sometimes teases me that not long ago millions of Jews were killed and so I’d better be careful, but still I prefer to be here than anywhere else as long as he is with me.

Yes, it was quite difficult to adjust at first. It was not only the climate though. The snow of my first winter was all fun and excitement, but it became miserable in later years. As for food, he is our cook. .He cooks German food and sometimes I cook Thai dishes the way I like it. I knew that I didn’t have to adjust only to Germany and the German way of life, but also to a man whose life and ways of thinking and behaviour were vastly different from ours. He is neat and likes things in the house to be in order, nothing should be out of place. Cleanliness too is as important to him as obeying the law. He won’t walk across the street till the sign says WALK, even if there is hardly any traffic. He will continue to wait there at the intersection till he is told to walk and all the while he teaches me to do the same.

I have a feeling that some Germans would despise you if you as a foreigner don’t respect their code of behaviour, their law and order, not because you have been a whore or you are Asian. That is one reason why I feel quite comfortable here.

I’m amazed that you and I should be from Esarn, from the same province, and here in Hamburg we speak Lao, our language, a familiar echo yet so far from home. My village has about 150 people, and it is about 30 kilometres from a town. I have every reason to be bitter and I still remember my past so vividly as I remember people like you, met briefly once in front of the lift in that Pattaya hotel, where you tried to make my husband register me and pay 350 baht extra to take me to his room. Because I’m not a true Buddhist, I can’t be so for- giving. But with what weapon and law enforcement could I take revenge on those who lured me from my home in the village, chained me and raised their hands and feet to strike me? How could I rebuild my shattered life?

You talked of concerts, opera, museums, a kind of European life. I may not enjoy these, but there is a husband and a home for me in Germany. Bach, Beethoven, Mozart, Uszt, Vivaldi you say, I don’t know them. We hardly go to movies. Watching television at home is quite enough for us. Some fine Sundays we go out for a walk along the Elbe, at Blankenese, or Elbe Chausse. Sometimes, on weekends, he takes me out for a drive to visit his old mother in a small town north of Hamburg. You may not believe that a German male could be so domesticated. He does all our laundry, perhaps because I am always clumsy with machines. They tend to break most of the time when I try to use them. I prefer to do everything by hand, coming from the mud of my village.

I think it has become the fashion in Germany for a German to have a foreign wife. Some of my husband’s friends seriously ask him to bring back Thai girls when, we tell them that we’re going to Thailand for a visit. Is it because Thai women are more gentle and feminine than German women? I don’t know. Maybe. No, I don’t know what he sees in me. In Pattaya, I thought I was really hitting the lowest, a wreck of a person. I couldn’t even feel. I hung around bars, listlessly walked the streets, un- able to think what to do next. All I could see were dimensionless figures of men and women whose voices sounded hungrier than they looked. I was getting old and ugly. And it took people like you to stop me from going up in a hotel lift to have a good night’s sleep in the luxury of a first class hotel, while in your eyes I could read: “Oh, my God, how could he pick up a thing like that!”

Never mind. All that is past. Look at us now, speaking ‘Lao’ together in Hamburg, the proudest of all German cities. And you look like a prince in your suit and tie, a far cry from the mud of your village. Tell me, how did you pull yourself up from the swamp? Have you forgotten the smell of the mud and the stink of the fermented fish and the hot-sour taste of sam tam? I’ll tell you this much, the mud of my village is still so thick on me that all the music and songs of Europe, all the water from the Elbe couldn’t wash it off. But because I’m not a good Buddhist I can’t forget and could hardly forgive. If it wasn’t for the fact that I have a good husband and a comfortable home now, I might have picked up a knife or a gun. I could do it. I would do it. A knife or a gun. To revenge my shattered life.

There were times when I wished I had never left my village. I would rather see myself as an old woman toiling in the paddy fields year in year out than going through the last fifteen years. Ban Noi, Kud Baak, Kud Jik…how nostalgic they sound and now they are so far away. I wonder whether I will ever go back there again. If you go to Pattaya, tell some of my friends that this wreck of a woman is okay now.

Reporter : PDN staff   Photo : Internet   Category : Stories

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