Tuesday, July 30, 2013


Today in Thailand it is Thai Language Day - "วันภาษาไทยแห่งชาติ" - that chicken on the left is Gaw Gai, which is the Thai-language equivalent of "Gee" is for Chicken (Gai is the Thai word for chicken). For anyone who didn't learn to read Thai (or has forgotten) the Chicken and Monkey are there because they are the names for the letters used for "Gee" and "El" as written in Thai. "Gaw-Gai" and "Law-Ling", that is, "G as in Gai / chicken" and "L is in Ling / monkey".

A dear friend from out of the distant past called me - she's in Israel these days, and in passing she said, "Nu." This is something in Hebrew, apparently, means "What?" as in "What is it? Tell me! Tell me! Tell me!".

At first I thought she meant "Noo," which is Thai for mouse, which in turn brought on memories of some time I spent at a buddy's house in Northern Thailand. The place was a traditional Thai home; lots of dark teakwood, Thai silk pillows, open air pavilion-like architecture; like Mel Gibson's place in the film Air America.

My buddy's wife was a beautiful Northern Thai. She was entertaining my buddy and me, bringing us food & drink and tending to things and then she said, "Noo-noo-noo," which means 'Mouse-mouse-mouse." That's the way the Thai say things; they emphasize by repeating themselves. The kid picked up on this and said "Noo 'nai?" which is a contraction for "Noo tee-nai?" which translates literally as: 'Mouse at where?"

I saw the creature out of the corner of my eye and said, "Noo noon!" - 'Mouse there!' The kid picked up on the immediate joke - the Thai love combining words to make amusing plays on words & meanings - he responded, "Noo nee?" - 'Mouse here?" We spent the rest of the evening trying to make sentences - in Thai - that only started with the letter N. "Noo now" - 'The Mouse is cold'. "Noo nan nee" - 'The Mouse lays down here'. "Nee, Nong" - 'Come here, Little Brother'.

I loved my time in Thailand. I was there from 6th grade thru to 12th grade, graduated high school at the International School Bangkok, then went back for multiple tours when I was stationed in Okinawa, 1988-92. I earned my Master Parachutist Wings leading a stick of Royal Thai Border Patrol Policemen on a jump over Haad Yai, Southern Thailand, out of a Royal Thai Air Force DC-3 Dakota - giving the jump commands in Thai. That was not my first jump into Thailand nor my last but it certainly was one of my most memorable. Either that, or the party that followed downtown.

Time in the bush with the Thai soldiers was a trip. Any animal encountered was chopped up and served with chili peppers and rice - cobra, rice rat, monkey, bird, fish - you name it the Thai soldiers can build a trap, snare it and eat it. That is one army that never goes hungry. I remember briefing a patrol before heading out, asking my counterpart the platoon sergeant,

"The soldiers, bullets they have, how many?"

"Yes, Sergeant, each man bullets have, two hundred and ten met."

"The soldiers, food they have?

"Yes, Sergeant, food, have." Lord knows what that meant - probably the minimum rice, fish sauce & chili peppers - meat was on the hoof, waiting them in the woods.

"The soldiers, water bottles, they are full?

My counterpart looked at me like I had a dick growing out the middle of my forehead and started laughing his ass off. I'd used the wrong word for 'full'. I'd used the word "Im" meaning I'm full from eating too much - the second I'd said it I'd realized my mistake - the word for the canteens being full of water was "T'hem"

From that point on for the rest of the patrol, whenever we'd do a tactical halt, my counterpart would come up to me and say, "The water bottles are full," using the word for like they'd eaten too much, and we'd both laugh our asses off. It was stupid, but it was funny as shit.

What can I say? The Thai have a saying - "Farang Ba!" - 'Roundeyes are crazy!'


1 comment:

  1. Crazy farang tell me, at the end of day Thai soldier say "gin khao, chuck wow, set lao." They do like to word play...