A Deep Conversation

Christmas Day I managed to have a muscle spasm in my lower right back.  I wasn’t lifting, bending, stretching or doing anything at the time.  The muscle just had an unexplained spasm.  The following day I went to the hospital and had an acupuncturist look at it.  Upon review it was decided that physical therapy would be more effective than acupuncture in this case.  So the following two days I came in for physical therapy.

After an ultrasound treatment (it’s a boy!) and twenty minutes of heat pad and traction, I spent an hour working with a physical therapist who stretched, pulled, and massaged my torso and taught me exercises I could do to strengthen my back muscles.

The staff seemed to really like that I spoke Thai.  This therapist in particular, who spoke English quite well, fell into an easy rapport with me and we ended up having a very wide-ranging conversation, mostly in Thai, over the two days he worked on me.

The conversation was, in fact, the longest conversation I’ve had with any Thai whom I did not already know.  We talked about language, life upcountry (where he went to university) versus in the big city (where he was born and raised), how Bangkok has changed in the past thirty years, and we even talked about the political situation in Thailand.  Generally, Thais are very hesitant to discuss politics with strangers, but he was very candid with me, although he spoke in very veiled terms since lèse majesté laws are strictly enforced in Thailand.  The long and the short of it is that he worries about changes that will inevitably come.

I walked away from our conversation with a deep sense of satisfaction.  Although I’ve lived here for more than four years, I rarely have the opportunity to interact in depth with Thais whom I don’t already know, especially on any meaningful level.  At the physical therapy clinic I must have been viewed as a pleasant change from the usual foreigner so was able to chat with the staff a great deal.

Interestingly, upon learning that I was married to a Thai – and being only slightly shocked that that Thai is a man – I was asked what seems to be a litmus test question: “Do you like Pattaya?”  Pattaya, a seaside resort two hours southeast of Bangkok, has a reputation for trashiness particularly with regards to sex for sale and, less so these days, child prostitution.  I answered that I had been to Pattaya only once, for just a few hours on an errand, and had found it very distasteful.  That seemed to be the right answer.