Friday, October 28, 2011

Farangs on Parade and Being Adopted

Everything that occurred today I wholeheartedly absolutely planned in advance myself, to make sure my best friend had the most well rounded Thailand experience possible. Of course the preceding line is a bunch of bull.

A couple days back, right before going super hiso at the mega malls, we stopped for lunch at a vegetarian restaurant and cooking school by the name of Mai Kaidee’s. You might have heard of it, Lonely Planet raves about it and it’s been on Thai TV. Heck even Dominic Monaghan from the TV show Lost has studied at Mai Kaidee’s cooking school. We walked into the restaurant, stepping over sandbags and other barricades to ask if it was in fact open. We were immediately roped into a traditional Thai dance with the cooking class that was wrapping up.

We dined, and chatted with Sommay, who goes by May or Mai for short, and she asked us if we were free Friday night. She was planning a fundraiser for flood victims. What was the plan? Get dressed up in traditional Thai dress and hit the campaign trail around Khao Sarn Rd. We’re in.

I’d like to think that I’m a philanthropic person, but I have to admit that I have my limits. So getting all dressed up (which is fun) to collect donations? Yes, I can do that.

We got to the restaurant a bit early, around 3pm, so we could eat before our 3:30pm call time. I’m allowed to use the term call time, there were cameramen filming us adjusting our bras. I hope that part does not air. Several people helped wrap us up in Thai garments, adorned us with Thai jewelry, did my hair and then helped me finish the makeup I started. Oh my goodness, did I have the best hair. Photos and video to come, Patience!

At this point we got paper umbrellas, a few decorated donations boxes, and proceeded to parade down Samsen Rd, around Rambuttri and Khao Sarn collecting change and baht notes. Smiles, Sawadees, Khap Khun Kas, smile, photo, etc, repeat.

I have to say, more Thai people opened their wallets than foreigners. I realize it’s intimidating to be approached by someone collecting money. I realize many foreigners are used to scammers in Thailand. But, I think you can have the decency to be polite about declining. Especially if you can afford to sit on Khao Sarn Rd and drink a 100 baht beer when you’re fussing about a 20 baht note.

One incident in particular I felt I couldn’t keep to myself. A trio of Americans were sitting, a 20 baht note sitting under a beer, arguing over who would donate. One of the men said “Well we live here and have to take the brunt of the flood just like everybody else, you’re just a tourist, so you donate.” I looked him straight in the eye and said “I live here too.” “Oh yeah?” as if they don’t believe me. So then the other guys chimes in “So where is the money going?”
“It’s going towards food and water.”
“No but who is it going to?”
“Mai Kaidee is organizing that.”
I wish I’d had the definite answers to those questions; because I understand being leery of how NGO money or aid is distributed. But it doesn’t excuse the other guys’ attitude.

Thankfully, our stop at the Irish Pub yielded the praise of another fellow American, which brought some levity back to the situation.

We got to the end of the road, counted up the money and did some more posing, smiling and so forth. Oh I’m going to be interviewed? Ok then. Thankfully I did not use what Liz has referred to as my “I’m talking to foreigners voice,” that I’ve apparently cultivated since living in Thailand and have not always truly been cognizant of. There’s a fine line between making sure you’re understood and coming off as slightly condescending, and it’s a line I tread poorly at times it seems.

We raised over 9,000 baht, which is over $300 USD, in an hour. Mai Kaidee’s being a restaurant, of course they’re using that money to supply food and water to flood victims, probably a lot of food they cook themselves.

In any case, we got all dolled up in traditional Thai dress, paraded around one of the most touristy places in Bangkok, raised money for flood victims, and oh yeah, we’re going to be on Thai television.

And that’s the first half of the story…

On our way home, we hit a patch of monsoon that required seeking shelter. A Thai family on one of the sois leading to my apartment motioned us over. We had chosen a skinny awning across the street to stand under. They pulled up stools and let us sit. Then we moved inside to watch Tom and Jerry with the family, as father and son both played on smart phones. Grandfather was the one ushering us in and caring for us silly farangs in the rain. They gave us Whiskey sodas, traditional Thai style, and samples of their home cooking. Turns out, they’ve had a family restaurant business for over 40 years. The home cooked soup hit the spot, definitely family recipe, and I’ll be making a point to get home from work early enough to actually have it once in awhile. The two boys of the household came over and politely gave their wais, as we are older than they are. The whole experience was so welcoming and generous, it reminded me that my initial experiences here were tainted of Khao Sarn jadedness and a general disconnect from both America and Thailand. It reminded me about why I came here, and why I’m not ready to leave. More to come, flood preparations and a few other things have cropped up in place of much of what I’ve been alluding to.


  1. I just read out to my family about the 3 Americans who argued over giving the 20 BHT donation. We still have to get a calculator to work out the conversion as we have not yet moved to BKK yet...but we must have made a comes to only 60 Australian cents! My daughter said that would only buy her a few orange slices at the school shop.

    Surely we worked it out wrong because it would take a pretty stingy low person to argue over 60 freakin cents to help out others at such an awful time!

    Looking forward to seeing the photos of the traditional dress


  2. Oh, I assure you, your calculations are correct. I would not have felt so strongly as to write about it if they were not.

    Give me some time on the photos, but they're coming before Christmas. I have a lot of them.