But coincidentally, the Thai holiday "Loy Katong" fell on October 31 this year. Historically Loy Katong was about thanking water for all the abuse it takes, pollution, wells, etc... The Thais make elaborate little boats out of a slice of a banana tree trunk and then decorate it with flowers and banana tree leaves.
In the evening, (preferably midnight), you light a candle and incense in the little boat, put in a few coins, say a prayer and then sit it adrift as an offering of thanks.
That's the history, but these days Loy Katong has evolved into Thai Valentine's day. Couples set their boats adrift together. If the boats float away together it means you will be a couple in your next life as well, but if they stray apart the romance probably isn't meant to be.
We had a hard time finding a good launching site and then I had a hard time getting my candle to stay lit, but we eventually got our boats (called katongs) launched. My candle blazed and my katong just managed to clear the tail of a long tail boat. Tuk's katong got caught up in an eddy which brought it closer to the boat where some kids grabbed her katong and pillaged it looking for coins before setting it adrift again. Hmmm.
Here in Krabi Loy Katong is also used as the "official" start of the high tourist season, so there was a massive festival, sort of the western equivalent of a state fair. Dancing, beauty pageants, rides, food, etc... It was fun, not quite Halloween, but fun.
This isn't the right place to say all that much, but basically after two years of sorting through all the language and culture issues, we finally reached the inexorable conclusion that we are both two pretty ok people who just weren't meant to be a couple.
I'll write this up more later.
The downturn in the states has devastated my finances and I'm close to broke, so it's time to rejoin the ranks of the working stiff. Well, sort of...
I've lived the last several months in a lot of uncertainty, not really having any idea what lay ahead more than a day or two. Now I know I'll be here in Ao-Nang for at least another year, and I can settle in a bit.
I get asked a lot if I have any regrets, if I miss work, or the so called "intellectual stimulation" of life in the western world. Umm, nope, not for a minute. I can honestly say in the last three years there has not been a single instant that I wished I was sitting behind a desk somewhere. Occasionally I muse on what might have been, but really, no regrets at all.
I also get asked a lot if this experience has changed me. The answer is obviously yes, but in what way is a much more difficult to say. I certainly feel like my perspectives have been broadened, but that's almost a given. I've become more patient with many things, but then far less so with others. I've learned a language, a feat I never quite managed in the past, but have found that just to be the first step in understanding a culture.
It's a pleasant exercise to muse on how different I might be if I'd taken other paths, but really I'm quite content with where I landed, no matter how I got here.
We speak Thai at home, and under the burden of rising phone bills I finally got serious about learning to read and write Thai so that we could switch to email.
October 2002, we moved together to Patong, Phuket, to give our relationship a real try, and things have been great ever since. We are very happy together.
February 2003, her father was ill, and she returned to her family home in Chonburi (near Bangkok) to help with his care. Her birthday is the day before Valentine's day, and as her father was better and out of the hospital I decided to go up and visit her there.
On her birthday She introduced me to her family and we had a party at their home. Although my Thai vocabulary is reasonably good, my accent is terrible, and it often takes people a while to get used to it. I was very nervous, and worried that I wouldn't be able to talk to them at all, but everything went well. We communicated easily, and they genuinely seemed to like me.
Her family has lived in the same home for 35 years, and it's the sort of neighborhood were the small children have never seen a real live Westerner before, so the random white guy who could eat spicy food was quite a spectacle.
We spent Valentine's day in Pattaya where we first met. In the morning, while walking along the beach where we'd had our first kiss, we had a long talk about our possible futures and the issues involved. Later that afternoon, back in our hotel room, I gave her the engagement ring I'd bought for her and asked her to marry me.
In an astounding display of judgment run amiss, she said yes, and we began planning our future together.
We were married March 30th at her family home in Chonburi Thailand. It was a small wedding, with a traditional Thai ceremony, and the traditional whisky blow out bash that follows.