22- Lady Bar
A German physicist, a British scaffolder and I seat in an a lady bar. The physicist has just landed in Thailand. He wonders what a lady bar is. “a mix between a bar, a disco and brothel” answers my British friend. “So are all this girls “? ” Apart from that girl, and her mom who owns the bar yes”. That girl is Lolita. She is a girl, she wears a navy blue dress poked with white dots, it is tied on her waste. She smiles in that true discrete, and laughing Thai way. She looks like an Asian doll. She is the daughter of the owner of the bar. She is playing pool, she is amazing at it. Around the bar are mainly older Farang ( literally guava, but it is the word for white foreigner) men. “Are all these women prostitutes?” asks again the German physicist? We nod.
These Thai prostitutes are lovely. They are pure laughter and I just wished I could understand what goes inside their minds. Just as I could never really know what went behind Tibetan monks smily faces, I also do not know what goes behind these girls smiles. And probably to find out you have to ditch a whole bunch of preconceived ideas of what happiness entails.
Nong Khai lies on the border of the Mekong. It is the border town that leads to the “friendship bridge” into Laos. When I few years ago ( that now seem like in another life time) came to Thailand to volunteer I was asked to choose between a city, a town or a rural village. Seating on my very comfortable couch in London I decided for the rural village. I obviously had no idea what the ruralness of the village meant. I somehow thought in my mind that bc I was an anthropologist and came from south america I would cope just fine. As soon as I landed in Bangkok I realised I had been probably quite naive. It took me a while to accept that being in a less than 50 houses spread around village surrounded by rice fields where no farang went, with no running water, sauna like heat, not understanding language or culture was way more challenging that I had previously imagined. My catharsis happened then in a Buddhist funeral. Then things suddenly fell in place and I learned to love the simplicity of it.
It is strange how some knowledge is just embodied. Many times I was asked how was it that I got along in that little village without really knowing the language at all. Actually it took me weeks to find out they spoke Lao and not Thai. Yet all I remember is that we did communicate. Last night, as I sat in between two people on the back of a motorbike all these memories flooded me. I could really remember in my body taking these rides before. As I sat again in a lady bar puzzled by it I remembered the clandestine relationships I had seen taking place here when I first arrived.
I enter the kitchen and the Thai ladies who work here offer me some food. it is Jeh (vegetarian) they say. It is Coconut milk, bananas, sugar and salt. I don’t really want it but how can I refuse such an offering. I seat and we eat. We attempt conversation. they laugh the whole time. Suddenly I remember how it is that you start to understand things. You just have to ditch all that you know, all your preconceptions. Then you can have whole conversations even when you don’t know which language you are speaking.