Wednesday, June 02, 2010

Lonesome tears

Dog, friends, and frisbee on Colorado path

Peter and I spent the last two days staying with friends of his in Colorado, friends who he met at a Thai language program in Madison, Wisconsin, years ago. They’re a half-Thai, half-American couple, and they took immense pleasure in feeding us massive amounts of Thai food for two days solid. I’m so full right now, as we get ready to leave, on red roast duck curry, fried omelet, beef salad, fish sauce, and fried pork ribs right now that I can barely move. I ate as much as I possibly could—it’d be an absolute tragedy to have to waste space on fast food on the drive.

Yesterday we spent all day eating. All day. Just when we finished breakfast, we started lunch, and after lunch, we started on dinner. It was amazing. The funny thing was how much I learned. Peter was craving kai yat sai, a deep-fried Thai omelet, stuffed with minced pork, garlic, and vegetables, and served over rice with fish sauce and hot peppers. I told our friend Bobbi that our maa bahn used to make it with cubed carrots, and Bobbi said that wasn’t authentic, that she made it that way because we were farangs. Hysterical. Then I mentioned that the stuffing was a little bit red and sweet, and Bobbi said that our maa bahn must have added ketchup to the stuffing, again, because we were Americans. So my memory of authentic Thai food was fake.

This stop just made me homesick. Homesick for my true home, Thailand. Being around people who know Thai food, Thai language, Thai culture—it just makes me realize how I always feel a tad off in American culture. Because where I really belong is some place that people here don’t understand. But I don’t belong there, either, of course… How can I belong someplace I haven’t been in ten years?

So maybe all my talk of wandering is really just longing for one single place on God’s green earth. According to Bobbi, 30 acres in Isaan province in Thailand goes for $20,000. Whoa. And an acre, beachfront, in a tourist area is $60,000. That’s just a rough skimming of prices. If I went and did serious research, I’m sure I could find better deals, especially given the political climate. The challenge with buying land in Thailand is that the government forbids land to be sold to foreigners. Only Thais can own pieces of Thailand, a law I heartily endorse. When I saw what selling chunks of their own country did for Bahamians, I understood even more thoroughly Thailand’s law.

I’d have to marry a Thai, or incorporate somehow, or just lease. The one place I want to belong and I can’t really live there. Of course. Still. Maybe a year-long sojourn across Thailand is what I’ve been longing for. Maybe a language course. Maybe a Master’s degree in classical Thai literature!

But these are pipe dreams. In the meantime, I will hold my recipes for somtam (green papaya salad), khao niaw (sticky rice), and khai yat sai (stuffed omelet) close to my heart. If I cook them often enough, maybe I can find home.

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