It’s difficult to convey a nameless feeling that encroaches with time, one that shadows the furthering of one’s understanding of their place in a culture alien to the one they left behind. This difficulty is deeply accentuated when little is written on the subject and the subject itself is taboo to approach.
For those of you who read MBSB regularly, you are keenly aware that for months now, I’ve been discussing my experiences as a Foreign woman in Thailand with tenacity. Today will be no different. Today’s entry is a direct result of my post, Visa Runs In Thailand And Why I Now Fear Them. However, the stories presented on this day have no summary, no effort to explain to you the reader, any great revelation within. Rather, they are presented to relay to you what has become normal. Not in frequency, but in possibility. The drone of the past, the present and the future potential. It is, as life is, as it is. Perhaps that in itself is the conclusion. Beginning with the end.
The day began like any other. It was approximately 3:00 pm and I was returning from purchasing my lunch and some basic groceries. I do this most days now that I’ve taken a hiatus from muay thai. By 3:00 pm the afternoon sun burns softer and so I chose this approximate hour to eat my midday meal and do whatever errands I may have on foot.Most Thais have an aversion to walking, it is viewed as a necessity of the poor, not something leisurely to pursue. I relish it.
My daily walk allowed me to pass a row of old houses, large and small, some standing opposite an open field. The field is mostly green, sometimes long grass is laid out to dry yellow, sometimes squirrely children kick a ball and on some occasions large buffalo will graze. Shortly thereafter, the road veers right, away from the direction I’m going, so I cross another field to one of the city’s main streets. This is the field where some city to city bus drivers park their brightly coloured vehicles. On some days the drivers are present, lounging or washing the vehicles. On some occasions there will be a farmer with his buffalo. The entire walk to the main street takes little more than five minutes.
I wasn’t expecting what was to occur.
Lunch and groceries in hand I walked along the side of the street completely lined with houses. Perhaps it was sensing his eyes on me, or perhaps it was chance, but I defied habit and looked within one of the gated yards I was approaching. By yard, I mean possibly four metres deep from fence to house of laid concrete.
There stood, against a thick barred fence by the furthermost corner of a yard and possibly two metres from me, a stout, shirtless Thai man with his left foot hoisted on a large clay pot. I remember finding this strange.
As I walked closer and passed the house, I noticed the sarong around his waist to be open. It exposed his hardened penis which rested in his left hand.
In order of occurrence: Walk down the street. Look into a yard/into a man’s eyes. His eyes avert to an elderly woman in traditional rural clothing walking towards him in my opposite direction. I notice his stance. Lastly, I realize his endeavour. The whole situation from beginning to end lasted, perhaps a handful of seconds.
When our gazes met, the man’s eyes were emotionless. He could have been watering a plant.
Moments later I wondered three things, had I been the object of his indiscretion, had I caught him during a mid day wank, or perhaps, did he get off on old women? I came back to my room and tried to allow the memory to filter from my mind. I hadn’t felt directly threatened yet I found that I couldn’t let it go. Had a similar situation happened in the West, or even in Thailand a year ago plus, I may not have reacted the same way.
I began to realize the cause of my inability to let the situation pass was due to it being yet another moment in time, different in manifestation but similar in feel to other events of my years here, the affects of which, on my spirit, are cumulative.
Nonetheless, I didn’t allow the situation to effect my habits and I continued along the same path regularly. On one such occasion, weeks after the event and two weeks prior to writing you, I decided to walk along the opposite side of the street, near the field on my way back from errands.
As I approached this man’s home, there he burned, against the gate, both feet planted and fully facing me. Through the bars I could see his exposed penis resting in his left hand. His eyes bore into mine. His body didn’t move.
As I passed, I thought….Really? Is it really about me? For fuck’s sake, REALLY?!!! There was no one else on the street. I turned my head and peered over my shoulder. It was definitely all about me.
Before having spent any length of time in Thailand, my thought would have been to call the police. The situation had escalated and aside from my own personal safety, I worried about others. Would it intensify? Living in Thailand, I suspected no one would recommend issuing a complaint with officials. It’s just not how things seem to go here.
I told the women who work in my building and although empathetic and vocal, they issued the advice I assumed they would, and had been issued countless times regarding other situations. They offered: Just avoid him. Don’t walk there alone again. It’s a dangerous situation.
The man wouldn’t be confronted; the accountability would be placed on me if I ventured down my street alone again.
The situation reminded me of a number of instances I’ve encountered in Thailand, which are similar but different, yet always dealing with sex. For example, two occurrences with Thai massage therapists. I state therapists because neither worked in the sex industry. Both were men and one was blind.
The man with sight concluded my massage by quickly pulling my underwear aside and shoving two of his fingers inside of me without consent. This was on my first trip to Thailand over five years ago. This was also before I realized that most massage therapists give clients a roomy shirt and pants for their session. I was handed a sheet to loosely wrap myself in. A woman was present during most of my session so I assumed this to be common. In addition, I had visited the practitioner on the recommendation of a Foreign female friend. He had never been vaguely unprofessional with her.
In the situation with the blind massage therapist, upon arrival, he asked that I return at the end of his shift. I thought nothing of it. My massage began as many others with him had, I laid on a bed in a room with other people, there were no curtains dividing us. Our massages were public.
On this occasion, all of the practitioners and clients left before my session ended. This had never happened but again, I had never been at his shop this late. I believe it was around 5:00 pm. The curtains facing the street were closed. I thought nothing of it. I have no idea how much time had passed from the moment we were left alone to the moment he decided to grab my breasts. Not a feel, but a full grope, trying to pass it off as part of the massage.
Any time I mentioned either situation to someone in an effort to ensure this wouldn’t happen again, to me or anyone else, the answer was always the same. They offered: Just avoid him. Don’t go there again.
The drone of the past, the present and the future potential.
Thursday, May 3, 2012
For Thailand solo travel and safety tips, in addition to Thailand information you won’t find in traditional tourist guides, please visit my post Tips For Women Traveling To Thailand.