Kitchen Talk

I love the Thai ladies who work in kitchen. Thailand might be the land of smiles, but Isaan, the poorest province of Thailand, is the land of roaring laughter. Laughter of the kind that makes you feel first embarrassed, then upset, then it makes you simply abandon your ego and accept that yes all you do is plain stupid. You farang ( foreigner) coming from another world definitely have no clue what is going on so you might as well just embrace it. I love the ladies in the kitchen. They laugh without restrain. They never really care what someone else might be thinking of their laughter. They laugh at you, and at each other. They laugh at themselves. If you pay close attention you might realise that in their generosity they are in fact inviting you to laugh with them.

Joy is back. Whatever were the problems she had to set up home, they are now set. And so we are back to lots of hugs till you can no longer breathe. There is also a new lady in the kitchen. Kung who is 32 but like most Thai people in their 30s looks in her 20s. She is pure happiness. She always asks me if I am hungry or happy. How is it that we communicate, I wonder? Broken English, broken Thai, miming and laughter.

Today as I was walking around the garden I saw them all seating under the sun. They always do it when things calm down for some minutes. They sat under the shades of the jackfruit trees. Apart from all the women in the Kitchen there was also Non, the handyman who can do literally everything, and Oy, the massage lady. They were laughing at her. She looked sick and exhausted.

“Are you sick?” I ask.


Then they all start laughing again. I can’t really understand what the heck is going on.

“Massage Man.”

“What? tired of the massage?” I ask.

They signal using their hands to show me the man Oy massaged smelled. Oy is now smelling tiger balm to recover.

“Oh!” I say. “Farang. They don’t shower.”

We all crack up. I can’t believe Oy is smelling tiger balm to recover. It is just too funny.

I tell them in Brazil we shower twice a day. Morning and Evening.

“Same same Thailand. Brasil good. ” exclaims Joy

“I like Ronaldinho” laughs Wii.

I can’t really believe that even the ladies in the kitchen in Nong Khai know Ronaldinho.

Then they laugh about his front teeth. They tell me Thailand is bad in football and they, the ladies, like to play cards for money.

“For MONEY?”

“Little. 1 Baht”

We all laugh.

“JulieTAH ( as they call me) work here when”

I now am an expert in speaking and understanding broken English so I know it means that they are asking me till when I will be staying here. It means more in fact. It means they care.


They look shocked. 1 month ?

“Going to Burma.” I explain.

Lots of shocked faces looked back at me. “Maynamar ? Why?”

“Why not?”

“Not good. Not clean.”

I am curious to discover what are the prejudices these ladies who have never been there have against the Burmese. I, of course, cannot find that out in sign language. I just keep asking the same question.

Why? Why? Why?”

Eventually Pook tells me.

“Joke. Same Same Thailand”

As Roxanna appears later and attempts to speak her Thai, and I try to learn words we cannot stop laughing. People must think we are crazy.

Yes in exact one month I will be flying to finally see Burma. The country I did not see three years ago. When I bought the ticket months ago I imagined that by that time I would have had enough of being in one place. I am starting to think that I might have been wrong.

How could I possibly live without this roaring laughter? Without the Mekong? Without the sunsets? The simplicity of life. Helping people who show up. Hearing the amazing stories.

We, the Nong Khai victims, call jokingly Mut Mee a black whole. Only one month to go and I am already nostalgic. Well, I might do like everyone else. I might just have to come back once again. Well, I am sure I will.

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