Following our trail from Bangkok to Tak in the west of north central Thailand to Sukhothai and then east to Lop Buri and further east to Saraburi, Supaporn and I ended up at her home about 50km outside of Korat City (Nakhon Ratchasima) even further east. She lives 300km northeast of Bangkok and 20 Minutes from Phimai to the north. After transferring to a bus headed to Phimai, we got off at the head of a dirt road leading to her small village of about 25 houses 3km from the highway. She lives on a rice farm in Ban Hoatumnop Village. Supaporn called to find two people with motorcycles to come pick us up. And so there I was…in the middle of rice paddies and Jasmine fields and blessed quiet for three days after being on the noisy road for nearly a week.
Supaporn lives next to her sister and her husband and niece who live in Thai-style houses. The nephew lives on the other side of the sister. The nephew grows the rice and the Jasmine which the niece uses to make flower garlands (maa-lie) that she sells to people in the cities who offer them at various shrines and temples. She works about 12 hours a day and gets 10 baht each or about 30 cents U.S. for each one.
Supaporn has lived an interesting life. We are the same age…68. She left home, like I did, at the age of 12 but instead of going to school, she went to Korat City to work in a laundry. The American war with Viet Nam was ratcheting up in the early 60′s and Supaporn then found work in the laundry on the American Air Base just outside Korat…one of the three bases near each other belonging to Thailand, the U.S. and France.
She said that when she laundered the clothing of a platoon of several flying servicemen she would often come to work and find the name of one of them crossed off her list. She said it was very sad because it was like losing a friend. She said she wasn’t really very aware of the war…or how bad it was…until years later.
Then she found better work serving food and finally worked in the bar in the Officer’s Club where she met her first American husband. After 6 months in Japan, where she married her husband, he retired from the military and she lived in California for more than 30 years. She said he was anxious to get her out of SE Asia because he was convinced the war could easily spread to Thailand…as indeed it did later in Lao and Cambodia.
Divorced from her 2nd husband, she moved to Thailand and built a house near her sister and nephew two years ago. She was hesitant to tell me more…saying her past was complicated and difficult to explain. But she has written the first chapter of a book about her life that I encouraged her to finish one day.
Culturally, Supaporn is still very Thai…which surprised me. But I guess I shouldn’t be. I’ve been in Mexico 6 years and I suppose after another 25 years I would still be very American. It’s also an interesting comment on Mexican immigrants to the U.S.
I am very grateful for having Supaporn’s help as we made our way from Tak to Korat and I especially appreciate being in her home with her for the time I was there. At 6 in the morning of my last day with her I rode behind her friend on his motorcycle the 3km out to the highway where I stood by the road and waited for a cranky old bus to stop and pick me up and take me to the bus station in Korat.
I would have stayed longer as she had wanted but the heat was getting to me. The 3 hour bus took me back to Bangkok and my air-con room in my guesthouse just off Sukhumvit 20 and where I am catching up with my blog, listening to music with my tiny wireless speakers and waiting for my next dental appointment. And I am grateful for Couchsurfing.org because that is where I met her…online.
BTW, I’ve decided 3 hours in a bus is my max time. Now if I could just get from the States to SE Asia in 3 hours that would be awesome!
Tags: Bangkok, Korat, Lop Buri, Saraburi, Sukhothai, Tak, Thailand