Nang Rong: Postcards
February 24, 2005
Dear Family and Friends,
Here are some good stories.
An assortment of trivia, fun and ribbald humour.
No second and third drafts on these. Just typing away.
I hope you have a good laugh.
1. Jan The Chef....
I felt a little dizzy one day as I was taking a stroll in Nang Rong, Thailand. Of course it was hot and it didn't occur to me at the time that maybe I just needed to drink some more water. My reaction to my condition was that I thought I needed to eat some more protein. Protein? What could that be? Hey, maybe I needed a good old fashioned American style Hamburger.
I told Phanna, the owner and hostess at the Honey Inn, that I would be cooking that evening. I marched over to the market and found the meat stall. No chopped meat, only large slabs of beef and no machine to grind it. I bought 2 kilos, about 5 pounds...enough for the guests at the Inn. I demonstrated what I needed and the woman at the stall pulled out a cleaver and a wood block and started chopping away.
While she was preparing my chopped meat, I wandered around and bought some lettuce and tomatoes and carrots and onions -red and white, and scallions and I can't remember what else. Hired a motor bike taxi . . . back to the Inn with my shopping bags hanging from the handle bars.
At about 5:00pm I started my preparations for a 6:00pm dinner. I chased Phanna and Moon, her assistant, out of the kitchen.
There was a lovely young man at the Inn. His name is Soo . . . from South Korea. I drafted him to be my assistant. He was happy to help. He started to prepare the salad stuff. ( I can't resist this one. . . Soo was my Sous chef!! )
I added a few eggs to the meat and also found a package of dried breading in the pantry. Some salt and pepper and also some chopped onion. I clapped out some big fat burgers in no time.
How to cook? No griddle in sight. I am in Asia, remember? So, I used a wok! Yes, dear food lovers, I made some brilliant burgers in a wok.
For salad dressing I found some strange tasting vegetable oil and some white vinegar. I added sugar and freshly pressed garlic. DEEEElicious, if I do say so myself.
After everyone was served, I finally sat down, launched into my burger and salad and washed it all down with a "cold one."
2. Jan the Musician . . . .
Here at The Honey Inn, Keaw, Phanna's son, gives music lessons to some of the local boys and a few girls, too. Keaw plays guitar, bass guitar, trombone, keyboards and drums. So during the lesson one day I put on my most courageous smile and asked him to show me a couple of chords on the bass . . . always my dream to play it.
There I was in the midst of a bunch of teenagers, picking I and IV and V chords on the bass. Now here's the deal. When I return I'm forming a band. Larry B. on lead guitar, Jan on bass, Michael D. on keyboards. We need a drummer.
I have a suggestion. A 10 year old boy, a nephew of the owner, plays the drums. His teacher calls him "a genius." I agree. I heard him play.
So, we'll bring him over and start rehearsals. The name of the band? Why, "The Old-Timers, Plus One," of course. Happy Tunes.
3. Jan The Adaptable . . . .
" No good deed goes unpunished" as the saying goes . . . .
I was traveling west by bus from Kantanaralak to Nang Rong and returning "home" to the Honey Inn. On the bus I met two young women who were traveling in the same direction. I persuaded them to come with me to the Inn. I called ahead, using my Motorola Mobile Telephone. Phanna said the Inn was full, but "no problem."
When we arrived, Phanna gave "my room" to the two girls. She pointed to another room where there was a lovely looking wooden platform on legs. Phanna put a couple of blankets on top and smiled. I smiled and said "OK." If I am going to be a "Thai Man" I need to learn to sleep anywhere . . . like a Thai.
That wooden table was hard, my friends. No way. I scrounged around for another blanket or two. No way. Finally I found three sweet chair cushions. YES! Patted on some mosquito repellent . . . the room was sort of open-ended . . . and I slept like a log. So to speak.
The next morning Phanna insisted that the platform was actually a Thai bed. I insisted that it was a table. Actually she was right. But we did have a laugh or two for the next couple of days as I related my story about how "Jan had slept on a table . . . doing his good deed."
4. Jan The Impressed . . . .
At breakfast one morning in Myanmar, I met Joyce, a charming woman from Brighton, England. She has traveled the world. Alone. Trains in India and Bolivia and wherever. Naturally we compared notes and stories.
Cambodia came up, so I re-related my "push the mini-van up the muddy mountain" story. She had one better. Push the mini-van a few kilometers to a little town in the jungle. Something metal had flown off the motor and welding was needed. Somehow, out of the jungle came a rusty canister and some equipment. Welding was completed and journey resumed after a few hours delay in a place that's not on any body's map.
Our conversation ended. Joyce finished her coffee, crushed her cigarette butt, threw on her backpack and was off to her next adventure. Alone. Somewhere in the world.
Did I mention? Joyce has a head of beautiful, totally grey hair.
Did I mention? Joyce is seventy-eight!
5. Jan the Wise . . . .
One Sunday afternoon I was invited to Willie's house for a BBQ, a swim and a football ( soccer ) match.
Willie, a German businessman, lives here with his Thai wife. Willie lives, not in a house, but in a "compound." He built a very large home for himself and his wife. Nearby is another house for her family. To the rear of his house is a large swimming pool, and off to the side of the house is a good size football pitch and goals with nets and floodlights for night matches.
At the scheduled time, a bunch of young Thais showed up for the match. I mean young. Willie is in his mid 40's and overweight. He told me he was 140 kilos at one time. Maybe more. Now 120. His goal is 100 (220 lbs). Did I tell you he manufactures ice cream equipment and ingredients in Europe?
Willie was joined by my other friend, Harald. Harald is 55, smokes a lot and likes his Chang. To be fair, he is thin.
The two of them scampered out on the pitch for the kickoff. In about four minutes Willie was gasping and Harald seemed to be avoiding the ball.
I forget the score of the match. There were other results. Willie came limping off, badly. Harald took a headlong spill at the 85 minute mark and I do believe he may have separated his shoulder just a little bit. I made him a sling and offered some painkillers. And what, sports fans, was Jan doing all this time? Why taking pictures and talking to the women of course. I may be crazy but I'm not nuts.
The first and last time I played football was in Boston, with my colleagues from the rug store, back in 1994. (Remember the World Cup?) I played goal keeper. One ball went right between my legs and into the net. The young Latin and Algerian guys never let me forget that one. Then I got a little brave and thought I would play defense. In about two minutes I twisted my ankle and it took me a couple of months to recover. The orthopedists in Boston, like everywhere else, kept me waiting for hours in their offices. One time I just walked, limped, out, never to return. So with memories like that, like I said, I took a few photos and gossiped with the gals.
So, my old and not so old buddies from PS 73, and Taft and City, and elsewhere. Verbum sapientes . . . a word to the wise. Check your calendar. It's later than you may think.
1. Osama is the host at The Dalia Hotel. I commented to him that he has a "famous" name. He said he was not religious. He is known as a "rock and roll" Muslim. Rarely goes to the Mosque. I taught him the expression "C & E Christian." Then I bit my tongue. I decided against "R & Y Jew."
2. Ploy is the Thai young woman I spent a few days with at Ko Chang. She rents motorbikes there. She liked me well enough to invite me to her home town to meet her family. I thought that I am probably older than her father. I said to her, "What if your Papa no like me?" She said, "You have money? My Papa like you. Guaranteed."
3. Ploy again. I told her I must leave Ko Chang. She was very sad. She said, "Why you go to Myanmar?" I said, "I want to visit Myanmar and see many Wats (temples) there." She was perplexed and asked, "No have Wats in Thailand?"
4. Zwa Zwa, 21, was the breakfast waiter at Aung Min Ga Lar Hotel in Bagan, Myanmar, where I am told, pre-marital relations are very rare indeed. One morning, after we knew each other a few days, he asked me, "You have girl friend?" I said "no." I asked him, "You have girlfriend?" He said, bluntly and bravely, "Me no have girlfriend. Me have hand."
5. "W". With fellow travelers, the talk inevitably turns to American politics.
a. Hearing my English, a German man asked me if I was from England or from America. I said, "America." I added, "As a matter of fact I have a New York accent." He said, "Well, that accent is tolerable."
b. My friend Andrew, from Perth, Australia said about W., "We call him lantern. Not too bright."
c. Another Aussie said, "We call him wanker shrub." ( In mixed company I dare not translate. Just let me say that wanker means the same thing as the complete American expression beginning with the word jerk. )
d. To be fair, I met one Myanmar man who said, "I think B is a very good man for America . . . except for Iraq."
e. To be really fair, I met yet another Myanmar man who said, " I think GWB is a very smart man."
Keep smiling, dear readers, keep smiling. Over here you learn that after "patience," a "sense of humor" is the best personality trait.