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Thai Girl Tattle: The Relativity Of Remoteness

...As I sit outside in the new shop across the soi enjoying a beer, all our neighbours pass by. Old granny from next door, looking ferocious as always, old balaclava uncle on his ancient bicycle and later his wife and a lad on a bike far too small for him. Children are coming home from school, a farmer on a motorbike, mothers carrying babies. They all wander in and buy a tiny sweet, a snack, some soap, a tot of rice whisky.

Everyone round here has known each other all their lives and theyíre all related somehow. Itís a real community, cohesive and strong with its colourful Buddhist temple and cosy little school. Itís a world of its own, complete and secure, so how could it ever be remote. Remote from what?...

Andrew Hicks brings us the flavour of life in rural Thailand, far from the tourist glitter.

Do please visit Andrew's Web sites
http://www.thaigirl2004.com/
http://www.thaigirl2004.blogspot.com/

When Cat and I first moved here Tamsyn, in one of her e-mails from England, asked me if the village was very remote.

Remote?

Of course itís not remote. Itís near Sangkha which is the centre of the known world.

Well, okay, I suppose itís relatively remote, depending on what theory of relativity you ascribe to.

In fact itís probably the most remote place Iíve ever lived in, though Zaria in Nigeria where I worked in the early seventies was more cut off from the world. There were no phones that actually functioned and the fastest means of international communication was by things called 'telegrams'. An incoming telegram from the UK usually took about three months to arrive; there was instant transmission to Lagos but then it was handed to a cripple with a cleft stick.

Things have moved on since then and our village in Surin in the North East of Thailand is not so bad as the basic infrastructure of roads and so on is remarkably good. Unfortunately there are no phone lines, even though the cables run down the main road only a few hundred yards awayÖ at least they did until they were stolen some while back.

The village has a hundred and twenty three houses and about 2,000 people registered as living here, though many work far away in the urban centres. Itís on the fast road to Sikoraphum and there are a few expats who live in places that are much more remote. Weíve visited one or two who live off the beaten track down unsealed roads for whom a trip into town takes a lot longer. It doesnít make much difference though. They too can pay for a big TOT IP Star satellite dish for over-priced internet that doesnít work. They too could order a Bangkok Post thatís rarely there when you go into the mini-mart to collect it, so weíre all in pretty much the same boat.

The reality is that each little pond is its own universe around which lives revolve and remoteness is not much of an issue. Most of the young go away to find work but long to gravitate home again. You only accept exile to the city if you have to.

As I sit outside in the new shop across the soi enjoying a beer, all our neighbours pass by. Old granny from next door, looking ferocious as always, old balaclava uncle on his ancient bicycle and later his wife and a lad on a bike far too small for him. Children are coming home from school, a farmer on a motorbike, mothers carrying babies. They all wander in and buy a tiny sweet, a snack, some soap, a tot of rice whisky.

Everyone round here has known each other all their lives and theyíre all related somehow. Itís a real community, cohesive and strong with its colourful Buddhist temple and cosy little school. Itís a world of its own, complete and secure, so how could it ever be remote. Remote from what?

Itís Bangkok thatís remote, thatís alien and dangerous, remote from the place you were born in, where youíre meant to be. The things that happen so far away in Bangkok hardly seem to impact upon us here. Bangkokís truly remote from Ban Sawai.

On my last trip to Bangkok, I brought a pound of cheese back with me. It was a great luxury but now itís all finished. Itíll take me nine hours to go and get some more, though you can buy massive bricks of Cheddar at Makro in Surin in two kilo packs. No, Iíve decided to respect my arteries and eat flaming chilli and fermented fish instead.

And for the last few days my Bangkok Post has actually arrived at the shop so Iíve some idea of the many things that are happening here in Thailand. Itís still turmoil in the capital, though the ripples do not seem to spread as far as us.

Meanwhile, here on another planet, I hear the storm clouds rumbling darkly a few kilometers away and itís painfully hot hitting the keys on my verandah upstairs. I long for the rain to come and cool things off a bit but the blackness seems to be receding and itís sultry and still with not a hint of a breeze.

If Iím going to post this blog today, Iíll have to find the key to our gate and drive into Sangkha to the internet cafť, which may or may not be open. Iíd rather stay here and watch television, if I had one I could understand. Or I could finish the painting I started in the kitchen yesterday, or mow the grassÖ if the mower worked.

Or I could ruminate a bit more upon the relativity of remoteness.

Trouble is my brainís soggy and I have a rare craving for an ice cold beer. There were several bottles left from the party on Friday night but, dammit, theyíve disappeared. I should have put them in my bedroom cupboard under lock and key to make sure they didnít walk.

Yes, an ice cold beer.

Really, really cold! In a glass thatís been put in the ice boxÖ with condensation streaming down its sides and making a pool on the table. With salted cashews and almonds.

And some real Cheddar cheese! On a decent plate thatís not bendy plastic, eaten with butter and Ritz biscuits.

But no, forget all that. Itís just idle fantasy!

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