I got back home earlier this week after a three-week absence. I made an unusual daytime arrival, while the lobby is staffed with the receptionists. The lady at the desk sees me get out of the airport limousine. As I haul my two roller suitcases, one big tote carry on in addition to a backpack and purse, I find her waiting for me by the elevators, presumably to greet me.
Receptionist: Excuse me, Madam.
Me: Hello. Yes?
Receptionist: You ask about the satellite for your tv.
Receptionist: I try to call you many times but you don’t pick up.
Receptionist: I think maybe you travel?
There are several English words that I hear the Thais use often. Finish is one. Maybe is the other. The Thais’ frequent use of maybe struck me comical that moment as I stood there, laden with luggage. Really? Where did she think I was coming from then?
Seen in the outskirts of Bangkok:
You’ve notice by now my frequent use of the word “farang.” Which generally means foreigner. Or so I thought.
In class today, I was given the vocabulary word dtàang-châat which means foreigner.
So I asked if it was synonymous with farang. Mai chai. Farang refers to Westerners. Europeans, Americans. Dtàang-châat refers to foreigners in general.
I didn’t clarify whether farangs were non-Asians, to include Africans and Latinos. I want to say it does, but I’ve already been proven wrong in my assumption.
It reminds me of the Taiwanese word huan-ah, meaning alien. More often than not, it is also used in a deragatory sense, a usage that has coloured my impression of the word farang. I recall a recent conversation with my mother on this topic when she referred to Thais as huan-ah.
Me: Thai people are considered huan-ah?
Me: What about Japanese?
Me: Why? There are more ethnic Chinese Thais!
Mum: It’s just how it is.
Me: What about Koreans?
Mum: Of course not.
Me: We have more Portuguese and Dutch blood!
Mum: It doesn’t matter.
Me: I give up.
I confess I don’t know my meats very well. Beyond “pork” “chicken” “beef”… Beyond the obvious like “wings” or “knuckle” and the dreaded “liver.” I don’t know exactly what a fillet is. What part the tenderloin is. Or sirloin.
I still found myself a bit overwhelmed.. and very puzzled when shopping for meat at the store last night. Looking in the pork section, I encounter a selection of “pork belly” “pork leg” “pork neck” “pork shoulder” and “pork fillet.” Self-explanatory enough if I had known what I had been eating to begin with. The fillet looked like a tenderloin. Not that that helped me understand it better.
How about the poultry section. “Middle wing.” I thought they had only left and right?
I think this one tops most people’s communication difficulties here in Bangkok.
Back on my first couple of weeks here, after I recovered from my cold well enough to start venturing out, I sought out the spas to try, and eventually pick for my weekly massages.
First one, next door, I dropped by to make an appointment. I should have known that something wasn’t right when the receptionist didn’t know the service menu in English.
Showed up the next day for my back massage. Couldn’t understand why she wanted me on my back first. I figured maybe she was starting with a scalp and neck massage.
After eliciting a big “O” and squeal from me, the masseuse administered a full body massage on me.
Indeed. Theme this week: food. See below. This is only the beginning of a growing list, I’m sure.