About a third of the negative incidents I’ve experienced in five years in the village have involved family and these have usually been land-related. The size of these incidents have been much larger than other incidents that have occurred. Family problems are lots more of a problem than neighbors just stealing your bananas or mangoes.
Thip's father and brothers and cousin, February 2017.
Although Thip and I gave away a couple of acres of very valuable property to our temple (increasing the family boon and improving its karma), helped family members out of financial difficulties, sold land for cheap to family members and let other family members live on our smaller farm rent-free (for over 10 years) -- very little of this is really appreciated; at least not what I would consider appreciation.
Of course, Lungpaw Boon Long is an exception to this. He values the help we gave him with the donation of land for the chedi (stuppa) and has helped us numerous times before and since -- maybe not as payback, but you have to figure het boon, die boon (give good, get good) has a part to play in all this.
However, the rest of our family -- and in particular, the immediate family: Thip’s siblings and father -- really are not happy unless we’re continually giving them something more.
Although I think this is pretty common among humans, I feel it is acute with our Thai family. Part of the problem, of course, is what my wife and I created. For a decade and more, when both Thip and I were working in the United States, thousands of dollars were sent back to family in forms of support (mostly to parents and daughter) and general assistance (to brothers and sister). So, the family got used to that.
I don’t think they ever have fully understood that now that I’m retired and Thip and I are living on one low fixed income, we cannot help them out as much as we used to.
Pretty much, you can figure when a family member is grumpy, there’s a good chance it’s because we haven’t given them something recently. This goes for even the smallest thing. I no longer complain to my wife when she buys food for family members or two of one thing when all she needs is the one. In a way, she is “greasing the wheels” and if that’s going to keep her family happy, so be it.
For bigger things, I’ve learned not to just give what is requested. I think about it and then give with conditions. Also, if it is something like an interest-free loan, I won’t give it unless I personally and privately feel like I don’t need the money if it isn’t paid back.
In writing about the incidents that happen and the problems my wife and I have with just trying to be good village and family members, you might get the impression that Isaan people are not good people. That is not the case. One reason I like being in the Isaan is because I feel I can trust Isaan people and they certainly look after me quite often.
With incidents and why the “honeymoon’s over,” it’s more an issue of being in and amongst simple country people who have obviously not grown up in the Western Tradition. Their way of thinking is far different than my own; and different than Westerners, in general.
In Falang forums, the subject of Thai intelligence is often discussed and I think many expats miss the real issue. It’s not that Thai people are not smart, it’s just that many are not well educated and those that are have not been educated in the Western Tradition.
Famous surfer Tom Blake had an expression that I keep in mind often, not just here in Southeast Asia, but wherever I am:
“They’re doing the best with what they’ve got.”