For my Covid-19 support this month, I included some extra money so the girls could go home and be with their families for New Year’s Day.
I also gave some help to Wan, an acquaintance I have not been in touch with for awhile. In fact, I cannot find her email or phone. But I do have her bank account number (!) and knew the gift would be appreciated by her and her three children.
All of the above was done on the morning of December 25th.
From A Christmas Carol: “We choose this time, because it is a time, of all others, when Want is keenly felt, and Abundance rejoices.”
Last month, my friend Wan confessed that with business so slow because of the lack of tourists, she might have to shut down her laundromat. She had been drawing on her bank account to get by and it was now seriously depleted.
Unlike the other women I have been sustaining, this was a problem that affected me. Wan has been doing my laundry for years and I’ve never had reason to complain. My clothes were always ready the next day, nicely pressed, the socks perfectly matched. The thought of this reliable service having to close was almost too sad to contemplate.
Anyone who has been following this blog can guess what I did next. But not right away; I was fiscally constrained, having had to keep a barn load of money in my bank account for three months from early June in order to renew my Retirement Visa in 2021 (an Immigration requirement — you don’t want to know any more). But with September lurking around the corner some of those funds would soon be freed up, allowing me to be more generous, starting with Wan.
I stopped by the laundromat last week to pass on the good news, that I would be providing special help for my special friend. I was startled by the reaction. Fastening me in a tight embrace, Wan began crying, almost sobbing. It was a sign of how much stress she had been under, struggling every day trying to keep things going. I’d never had a Thai woman break down like this. Not knowing what to say, I simply let her hug me, pinning my arms, until the tears began to subside.
When the day came to perform the good deed, I wasn’t sure how much was needed for Wan to get by for another four or five months. (I doubt the local economy will be any better before then.) I gave it my best guess while impressing upon her the time frame I was trying to cover. We will see if this is enough. She is a good businesswoman, so nothing will be wasted.
A few days ago, I received an interesting email from my masseuse, Porn. She has been giving some serious thought about her future and has come up with a possible new direction. Here’s what she said:
“Yesterday I went to apply for a sewing class and I will start sewing lessons on the 1st of the next month for two months — October and November.
I make the decision learn sewing because it was during the Covid-19 virus outbreak and it is hard to find work. So I decided to go to learn sewing for the future. I will have the knowledge and when I have finish learn and then I hope it will be easier to find a job.
I thank you very much that you have keep sent me money every month. You had help me very much and I hope you will continue to support me the same you help me every month during I have learn sowing please. Thank you very much again.”
In other words, she wants me to keep helping out during the two months she is learning the finer points of embroidering. Not a problem. I admire people who are trying to improve their lives and quickly responded that I would support her for four more months, through the holidays and into January. I even volunteered to pay for the class (which is expensive by Thai standards).
Porn was very appreciative.
Now, maybe this idea will work out, maybe not. There are of course no guarantees, especially in this country. But I’m proud of her regardless.
Since April I have been providing monthly support to various female Thai friends to cushion the hardships brought about by the pandemic. The original plan was to help out for three months, but it doesn’t look like the economy here will be recovering anytime soon. So, I will be extending my little program through the end of the year. Maybe by that time the troubles will have receded.
One of the surprises of the charity work I’m doing has been the reactions. I don’t think any of the women have ever experienced this kind of no-strings-attached generosity and their thanks have been heartfelt, showing me a side of them I would never have encountered otherwise:
“How are you? Do you have anything (for me) to help or do? Call me. I’m always happy.”
“Thank you so much. I will not forget you… You are my good man and are always in my mind.”
“If you sick you call me ok”
“Thank you very much for your help. I’m in trouble for money now you are so kind for me. Hope to see you soon.”
“Thank you about money. You are good friend for me… I wish you good luck in everything. And be healthy.”
I also receive occasional pictures. One of my friends has a fondness for scenes showing a full moon over the ocean, which I enjoy as well.
The bars in my neck of the woods (Soi 4 and Soi 7) are officially back in business. However, with the country still closed due to virus concerns, there are no thirsty tourists around, just the occasional decrepit retiree wanting a couple beers and maybe a few games of pool. Not someone the cash-starved freelancers, most of whom have pawned all their valuables over the past three months, have much use for.
As for the bar employees, in many places they are not yet getting paid, having to instead rely on meager tips from the rare customer. I guess this is better than sitting at home with no money at all coming in, but only barely. One of my barmaid friends hardly comes to work at all, choosing to spend her time looking for a better situation. So far she has not had any luck.
The afternoons are the worst here. I took an extended stroll a few days ago down both of the Sois and saw only a handful of foreigners. At my beloved Beer Garden (which has managed to re-open without my help), I was the only Westerner for most of the two hours I was there. This did make me the center of attention for a half dozen ladies — definitely a buyers market — but I only chatted with a couple friends and then went home. It was all a little sad, and this was one of the better locales; other places I passed by were the bar equivalent of ghost towns.
Looks like it’s going to be a lonely next few months.