Wednesday, April 4, 2012


I've been playing a bit of  tennis lately, which is nice, and which is good for me. I've hooked up with a group that meets at the nearby 700 Year Stadium three times a week. I'm playing lousy at the moment but I know from past experience that things will get better as the season wears on and I get my strokes working again. The Chiang Mai group is a mixed bag of farangs, some English folks, an Aussie or two, a few Japanese and Thais and I'm enjoying getting to know them. Dtoi, a Thai man, is one of my favorites -- he's a total joy to play with. He's a good player who laughs constantly even after blowing a shot. I'm trying to be more like him on the courts because I've learned that putting a smile on my face can really make a difference.

Chiang Mai's 700 Year Stadium complex (Google Earth image).
It's about 2 miles north of our place  (N18.841351, E 98.963204)
Here's a link to a Google Map that shows where the stadium is in relation to our apartment.

Dtoi, a man with a great attitude
Gene hits a return
Norm sits one out, Peter is in background left, Steve on right
Oui (left) and Paul
Orange juice "highball" and watermelon
The stadium was built for the 1995 ASEAN Games and named for Chiang Mai's 700th anniversary. (And I used to think of the Union Oyster House in Boston as old -- it dates from about 1820.) The tennis courts we use were renovated a few years ago. It's a fairly nice facility and seldom crowded. You can hire a "knocker" for a few dollars an hour and coaching costs about $6 per hour, a far cry from what you'd pay in the states. A knocker, by the way, is a guy who knocks balls you hit to him back to you, almost like a ball machine but better. I've hired young Nick a few times to hit with me. He's a friendly Thai guy who possesses almost perfect ground strokes. And he gets everything back that I throw at him. Easily.

Summer's coming on fast and after these workouts in the ever increasing heat I'm always powerfully thirsty despite drinking almost 2 liters of water at the courts. I've taken to drinking a mix of orange juice and bitter-lemon soda water over ice. And Nut often has some cut up watermelon ready to go along with it. We play in the morning to beat the heat. And finish much too early for beer.  My little creation is a perfect alternative.

I woke up this morning feeling nervous about what's ahead:  In about a week I'll be leaving Nut. And then there's the traveling, the deadlines, the long hours in airplanes, my return to Alaska. I'm really not much of a traveler. I like staying at home, or at least in a place that feels like home. And for now, this is it. I've a few things to do before packing my bags but they won't take long. I'll need to live out of a suitcase for a while, unless I luck into a living situation in Homer that will allow me to unpack some of my stuff and hang my hat for a spell. The way things have turned out at this point, I could say I'm more or less living in Thailand and visiting the United States, rather than the other way around.

My relationship with Nut has provided me a great deal of satisfaction. She's made my time here both interesting and enjoyable and has been an almost perfect companion. I've joked with friends about the likelihood that the language barrier I sometimes fret about has perhaps made our relationship easier. We never get involved with second guessing one another nor do we have those analytical discussions about what we're doing together. We have no conflicting goals or agenda. It's fairly straightforward, a simple but unspoken contract; if I take care of her she will take care of me. We've become good friends during the past two years and I grow fonder of her every week.

Much has been written about the nature of Thai-farang relationships but what I said above does a fair job of summarizing ours. Naturally, there's more to it than that. Nut hopes to have a small home of her own someday, one with a vegetable garden and a few chickens running in the yard. Although she has never pressed me on that subject, it's something I do think about from time to time. Even if I had someplace in the U.S. other than Alaska where I wanted to live, a guy getting by on retirement income alone cannot easily start over in the states. But he might just pull it off over here. Living in rural Thailand definitely wouldn't work for me but maybe there's an in between place that could meet both our needs?

Anyway, at first our separation will be harder for Nut than for me. I'll be visiting family and friends while she will be alone in a city that's still new and largely unknown to her. Later this month she'll travel to Betong to spend a month or so with her daughter and 2-month old granddaughter. Then too she'll visit her family in Bangkok now and again -- before long it'll be September and I'll be back in Thailand.