There is an important story I left out of my travelogues from 2006. Some of you might have guessed, some of you know.
April in Thailand is the month of the Songkran Holiday. It's a Thai new year, based on the lunar calendar, and very big holiday. Many festivities are in order. The most famous, and inescapable, is throwing water. In the old days, the custom was to merely sprinkle a few drops of water on passers-by, but it has devolved to groups of people with everything from cups to water cannons thoroughly soaking anyone who comes near. There are parades, music, beauty contests, music, honoring the old people, and general good fun.
I had a special plan for this day. Songkran day will have a full moon that night. I'm quite enthralled by full moons. When I was a kid, I had a bedroom window that was only a few inches above the level of the bed. I could lay there at night and watch the moonrise, and I would stay awake late, until it had risen so high that the moonlight crossed my bed and was replaced by shadow. Perhaps the rays of the moonlight got deep into by psyche, but I have ever felt changed and charged by that time. So full moons especially are notable for me, as it is in much of the world. I feel like there is an additional energy in the air - if I choose to notice it, and it is a good time for me to do things I consider special.
My plan for this full moon was formed in purpose, but lacking in details. I worked it out as the day went on. The first thing I decided I must do is to get a string of words translated into Thai language... I couldn't ask Tok of course, as the words were for her. We had met a Thai women how now lives in Texas at Jamlongs beauty shop the day before. I asked Tok if we might find this woman. She had said she would be at one of the temples in the morning, and I asked Tok to take me there, ostensibly to see the goings on. When we arrived, I didn't see the women, so I had to gently ask Tok to find her. The women was busy somewhere, so I had to stall around till she came back. Then I had to converse with her in private somehow, which was not easy. I asked the women to translate and write in Thai the words I had in mind. She did, but when I looked at the paper, it was (to me) illegible. I can recognize Thai characters, and I have copied them numerous times, but the softened abbreviated handwritten characters I couldn't make out. Tok was getting a little suspicious of why I was trying to do business with this woman, so I had to let it go and hope I had another chance later.
In the afternoon, we followed the parade to the civic grounds in the town of Lomsak. There is big field out front of the police station and civic buildings. The parade cars and trucks formed up there for showing the floats, and there was a big stage for music, announcements and beauty contests. Tok and I tend to stick pretty close together when we are out, so I took a while for me to entertain an excuse to wander off on my own. Tok was doing some of the makeup for the beauty contestants, and while she was busy doing that, I went of to "shoot video" of the floats and the Isan bands.
I was trying to find someone who could translate the words form me, and write them down in legible characters. When I showed the paper the women wrote, there were some big smiles and laughs, and I had to explain that the words were for someone else. My explaining didn't always come across. When I asked some boys who were part of an Isan music band, one of them seemed to understand what I was asking for. He copied the illegible handwriting into clear Thai script that I could read. So far so good.
When we returned to the house later in the day, I had to sneak away quietly and carefully copy the words in my own hand. I wrote on a piece of nice paper I used for drawing. I had a plan to carry out next.
I drink a lot of Kraeting Deang, which is "Red Bull" in Thai. It's somewhat of a 'signature' drink for me. We save the bottles, either to recycle, or for me to make something of them. I took one of the empty bottles, rolled the note up and put it inside and put the cap on. I had saved a few rings of jasmine flowers from the parade during the day. I put all this in a bag, and went looking for a digging tool. Mama uses a short shovel thing to tend the plants. It is a wooden handle about a foot long with a piece of steel on the end to dig with. I quietly put all these things out back of the house and answered the call for dinner.
After dinner, I kind of wandered off into the night, retrieving my bag and digging tool. I went between the houses out to the fields. I walked along the earthen dams between the fields. Old tobacco plants were still standing in rows, looking ghostly and limp. The moon was full and bathed everything in a glorious light. In between Toks two fields there is an earth dam that separates them. I turned right and found a good spot where the earth was wide enough, and there weren't weeds growing. I started digging with my tool. It was tough chopping a hole in the hard clay soil. I was flinging the loose dirt off to the side. Once I flung the tool up to rid the hole of a little dirt and the tool suddenly felt lighter. The metal end had come loose and flown off into the tobacco stalks. Great. I had a little blue LED light with me, but trying to see anything with it was difficult. I was on my hands and knees, rummaging around the roots in the moonlight with a tiny blue light trying to find the metal end of the digging tool. Every bug in the field came over to see what was going on, and was delighted to find me. I almost gave up and was thinking of going back to the house for a proper flashlight, but I didn't want to reappear at the house and raise any questions. Going back into the weeds for one last look, I finally found the metal scoop. Did my best to pound it tightly to the wooden handle and continued my digging - being a little more careful when I went flinging dirt around this time. Finally I had a hole big enough and deep enough to put in the red bull bottle. I sprinkled a few leaves over the hole, and displayed the jasmine flower rings around the opening of the hole. I didn't want it to be too obvious, but then I didn't want it to be easy to pass over, and it had to look just un-natural enough to attract attention. This part of the plan was accomplished.
I went back to the house and innocently hung around for a while. When Tok had a free moment, I asked her if she would go for a walk with me in the moonlight. We took hands and walked out back to the fields. As we were walking along the earth dam, I asked Tok if she ever felt her father's presence in the fields. He died about twelve years ago. Tok inherited these fields from him. She said that she did occasionally sense him. I asked if he would approve of us. She said that he would. The moon had risen a little since I was last in the field, and it was easy to walk in only the moonlight. I lead the way right at the crossing earth dam and approached the spot I had prepared. When I stopped suddenly and turned around, it took Tok only a second to look down and see the ring of flowers. What is this? She asked me. It is for you I told her. She bent down to look closer. The blue top of the red bull bottle was glinting in the night light. Now she knew for sure something was up. I told her to take out the bottle. I was so nervous and excited I could hardly breathe. Tok took the bottle out of the ground and looked at it. There is a paper inside she said. Open it I said. She opened the bottle and shook out the paper. Unrolling it, she peered at the writing in the moonlight. She giggled softly. I asked her to read the note, which she did- in Thai. No, read it in english, she read it again, but silently. Out loud please, in english I asked her. She read the note, it said:
"Will you marry me sir?"
I answered "YES!"
And that is how I 'tricked' Tok into asking ME to marry her.
Of course, after some laughing and joking about it, I turned things around, and formally asked Tok to marry me. She said "yes" warm hugs and kisses in the moonlight followed...
So, as you may or may not have known, Tok and I are getting married. In a way we are already, as common-law marriage is valid in Thailand. We certainly live and love together as spouses. But of course, we would like to have a fun gathering, a Buddhist ceremony and a celebration. The date will be in April or May of next year - 2008. The custom here is to consult with the monks or the shamans or somebody for a proper date and time, and Tok tells me they can't do that until it is next year. We could easily get married much sooner, but I have to work and save up the money for the wedding (food, drink, decorations, music). a few of my family members and friends have indicated that they would like to come to Thailand for the wedding, so we set the time far enough ahead that people can plan, save and arrange time off. Plane tickets to Thailand are $1000 - $1500 return (we'll see about that next year though). In early April is the Songkran New Year festival, which is the Thai New Year. And in the middle of May is Bang Fai, which is the rocket festival. Anyone who comes to the wedding might consider the timing to be here for one or the other. But of course, this is amazing Thailand, and there are wonderful places to visit, food to eat, and people to meet. There were be several choices of accommodation depending in your style- there's a resort up the road, some can sleep at the house, and there's a basic and a classy hotel in Lomsak.
Keep in mind also, that you can get dental work done in Thailand for 20 percent of the cost in the states. Many western trained dentists that speak English and use modern techniques. If you need bridges, crowns, filings, laser whitening, overlays, dentures etc, you can get it done here, and probably pay for the whole trip on the money you save over having it done in the states. Plastic surgery is low cost also. Not that any one needs lipo and such.
It is still common in Thailand for the groom to pay a bride-price to the brides' family. It's much more relaxed nowadays, if the couple doesn't have much, the brides' family can still give blessing. In keeping with the custom, I had Tok ask her mother if my plan to buy or build a house was enough for me to marry her daughter. Mama kind of snorted, mumbled a few words and walked away. I asked Tok what mama said. She said mama said "okay, but he has to take care of me too" very practical.
Billions of words have been written trying to describe how two people meet, love and care for each other. I can only say that I am a lucky man. I've found a woman who is nothing short of honest, loyal and true, and loves me as I am. She asks for very little. Gives very much. There are many beautiful flowers in a garden. I've found one who is simple and un-adorned, but a flower none-the-less. Meeting Tok has been a gateway to a whole new life for me, in a place I love. I sure didn't see it coming. And now I can't see it going either.
When Tok and I were first talking to each other on messenger, our conversations were friendly but not romantic. We talked about the chances of either of us getting married again, but we were not thinking of US marrying each other. I said something to the effect that "I'd have to be lucky like the moon to get married again" she didn't know what that mean's, I didn't either, it just came into my head. But "lucky like the moon" became a euphemism for "getting married". When we would pass by a wedding party on the motorbike, I would say "they are lucky like the moon" and she would laugh. This is why it was important to me to ask Tok to marry me (or get her to ask me) on the night of a full moon. And that is why, on the end crown of the roof on the new house, I had the name of our new house painted above a white disc. The new house is named "Lucky Moon House"
Nu and Tok
I am in southeast asia April 19 - July 20 2007 ::: http://thaikarl.blogspot.com/
Congratulations from me and Nan. Yup, Mana the moon is a good friend to have. Chock dee!ReplyDelete
Rune and Nan
What a great story. Thanks for sharingReplyDelete