Monday, October 22, 2012

Strangers in the Thai Deep South: October 2012

Ok, I'm sorry to get political on this blog which is supposed to be very personal about what I'm up to, but I'm going to. First political question: Why is everyone in the Deep South really nice? The Deep South of Thailand with all the bombings and insurgents and whatnot? I didn't meet any insurgents*, but everyone I did meet I think mistook me a friend. Possibly a learning-disabled friend, given the times I had to theatrically cup my hand to my ear and say "อะไรครับ" (which is Thai for "I don't understand, but maybe it's less embarrassing to act like I'm just hard of hearing?") Really nice. In only thee days, four times I was asking someone for directions when I suddenly found myself being hopped onto their motorbike or their friend's motorbike and delivered there like a lost kid. Three of those times they didn't know where what I needed was, so they just drove me around LOOKING for it and asking for directions until they found it. I'm riding the train home now with an umbrella that was given to me by the owner of an ice-cream parlour who didn't want me getting my guitar wet in the rain so she GAVE ME AN UMBRELLA. In Narathiwat at the bus station I asked the young, friendly, & Muslim** clerk which van left the soonest for the town of Yala, and after making brisk bilingual (Thai/Yawi) inquiries she rushed me out front, yelled for a motorcycle taxi driver, sat me on the back, gave me a slip of paper with a van's license plate number on it, told me the motorcycle was only 30 baht and had him drive me through a shortcut out to the highway where we sped to catch up with the van to Yala that had just left with one empty seat on it.

That woman should definitely be the manager of that bus terminal.

Unfortunately, what made the news that very same day in Narathiwat was this story:
"A spate of bombings and shootings occurred in Narathiwat on Saturday and yesterday, killing at least two soldiers and injuring more than 10 people, including a nine-year-old girl. A suspected insurgent was also killed."--Bangkok Post.***

I'm not saying that "people in the Deep South are unusually nice" is more deserving of the headline than that story. Obviously, it isn't. But that said, if you've ever visited there, "people in the Deep South ARE unusually nice" is still a fact, and worth knowing as you may be reading that headline, because those headlines are things happening TO those same people.
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* I know I didn't meet any of them because the usual meet-a-foreigner conversation always includes the question "What's your job?" and when I said "teacher", no one reciprocated with "armed insurgent".

**I mention she was Muslim not because it's particularly important, but only so you'll be visualising her wearing a headscarf which she, in fact, was.

[WARNING: Downer ahead.]

***I didn't see this happen. It was in nearby towns, not Narathiwat itself. But the attacks were linked to the anniversary of the 2004 Tak Bai incident, which you should know was a massacre perpetrated by the Thai army and the word "incident" does not even begin to hint at how terrible it was. Essentially: soldiers rounded up protesters, bound their hands behind their backs and stacked them, alive, horizontally in trucks. 78 of them suffocated or were crushed to death before they reached a detention centre. Seven others were shot dead, but when I think of those 78 helpless, panicked men and boys gasping for breath under the crush of bodies--I'd much rather be shot.
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Theendsorrytobeadowner!! I'll be back within the week with something cheerier.

1 comment:

.. . said...

You never did come back with something cheerier, it seems.