Maid in Thailand

A number of people have enquired where I first met my esteemed maid, Ms Yasothon. It was in the mid-Seventies when I was sharing a house with a number of people of vaguely journalistic persuasion — very vague in some cases — on Sukhum-vit Soi 8. We were eventually turfed out when our house was auspiciously chosen as the site of the soi’s first, but no means last, condominium. Hence Crutch’s rabid aversion to such high-rise monstrosities.
Our previous maid had sensibly given up on city life and scurried back to Nakhon Nowhere. Next door’s maid was asked if she had any friends and the following morning three rather nervous, giggling young ladies appeared at the doorstep — Ms Yasothon and her sisters. They looked like they had just stepped out of a paddy field, which in fact they had. When I first asked Ms Yasothon what her name was she jumped back about two yards in fright. It was the first time she had ever been spoken to by one of these alien creatures and understandably the sight of Crutch in the morning was a bit unnerving to say the least.
Times have changed, of course. She now has a thriving barbecued chicken and som tam cart, which she operates in her spare time. I suspect eventually there’s going to be a Yasothon Towers with Crutch as the bellboy wearing a funny hat, while the maid resides in the penthouse on the 36th floor telephoning her stockbroker.
A home away from home
Seeing that most of Ms Yasothon’s village had graced the Crutch residence in some capacity or other over the years, I decided one day to turn the tables and visit them. It was quite an experience.
The village is located about 50 kilometers south of Yaso-thon provincial town and is just about as Nakhon Nowhere as you can get. The visit coincided with the annual Bun Bang Fai festival in which giant home-made rockets are fired, or quite often misfired, at heaven to entice the reluctant rains to come.
Ms Yasothon’s village has its own little festival and it has become her annual merit making excursion, not to mention a good excuse for avoiding work for a week. Predictably there were a lot of familiar faces in the village when I arrived with a colleague. The only disturbing aspect was that people I recall from the time they were kids were now married with kids of their own.
Each house had its own resident buffalo. Observing the commotion upon our arrival, my maid’s beast seemed less than impressed by this invasion of his privacy by two strange white creatures and expressed his feelings about the situation with a timely large brown dollop.
The chickens were equally apprehensive about our presence and not without reason. One was whisked away shortly after our arrival and a few minutes later a loud squawk indicated supper was going to be gy yang (fried chicken). A tough old bird it was, too.
As always the maid had her priorities right and within minutes of our arrival two large beers emerged, quickly followed by two more. It was just like being at home.
Much of the evening was spent trying to avoid consuming assorted lethal concoctions of lao khao and fermented coconut milk, not with much success judging from the wretched state 1 was in later that night.
After the parade, the main entertainment of the evening was the molam, a 20-strong singing and dancing group from Kalasin who performed non-stop from 9 p.m. until dawn. The entire show was carried out in a strong Lao dialect and I could not understand much of what was being sung or spoken. It was just as well because one of the singers apparently made a few colourful references to the farangs’ presence, and judging from the hoots of laughter from the audience, I suspect the comments were of a somewhat dubious nature.
The molam singing was quite brilliant, but I was even more impressed by the bass guitarist, who spent the entire evening dozing on top of a bus, always waking on cue for his frequent contributions.
Quite what happened in the later stages of the night is not entirely clear thanks to the coconut cocktails, but I do seem to recall making a total idiot of myself dancing the ramwong with a local schoolteacher, unfortunately a male, at around 3 a.m. This was only surpassed by my colleague, who was leaping around with the village headman.
As the maid’s house had about 40 people staying there for that night, we were put up in the village school (population 56) and awoke to a very nice touch from Ms Yasothon – bacon and eggs and a large cup of coffee. Not quite what one would expect for breakfast in Mooban Number 3.
And for any disbeliever in festivals, the rockets worked. The following afternoon and evening it piddled down, not before time either judging from the parched northeastern earth.