Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Thai Generosity

Today ended gently enough in comparison to the rest of the day- While likely sweating from the moment I woke and exited bed (and literally being drenched during lunch (eating spicy hot soup) and again while teaching) due to the oppressive heat, I actually finished work about twenty minutes early and decided that a little joy ride was in order to best channel any lingering difficulties and/or frustration that may have occurred during the day.

Wat Dong Khee Lek is a mere three and a half mile jaunt from my host family's house. While us trainees have a six o'clock curfew on workdays, I figured I had enough time to ride an extra eight or nine miles around my sub-district. While I like really hitting the bike ride hard, I find leisure in it and appreciate the opportunity for solitude, as it allows me to reflect and operate at my own pace in my own way- It is my (approximate) hour of freedom daily. I would like to mention that I don't mean to disparage anyone, trainee or Thai, but rather I greatly value this time and love having the ability to report only to myself and not anyone or anything else (e.g.any feelings of obligation to be social).

I'm about four miles into my ride when I notice my bike getting wobbly and losing speed drastically. I know it can mean only one thing, and I pull over. Sure enough, the back tire is completely flat. A flock of apparent avid bikers are approaching quickly, and I make it look as if I'm having issues with the hopes of attracting some attention/help. They all great me with a pleasant, "Hello," but zoom past me. I attempt to air the tire, knowing there's a hole in it, but with the hope of at least riding a mile on it before having to air it up again. Alas, to no avail. Well, shit.

I call my language buddy, Carly, and inform her that my bike has a flat and I'm not entirely sure what to do. Note, last Friday, I actually had two flat tires that a kind, nearby, mechanic fixed for me near Wat Dong Khee Lek. I had a spare tube, which he used to replace in the front tire, and then he patched the rear and I was set. So, while I had the tools necessary, I certainly didn't have the supplies, nor really the know how.

While I'm in the middle of my call, another seemingly avid bicylcist rides by, asking, "Ok?" I shrug and say, "No." He rides beyond me, and it appears as if he was going to continue along his way, to which I figured and understood. However, he loops back and approaches. He examines my bike and immediately gets to work, pulling out his own spare tube and says, "I give." At this point, I'm completely humbled and grateful. I kinda sorta try to help, but feel like I'm just more in the way than not. He fixes everything up in about fifteen minutes.

I offer him a hundred Baht, at least for the tube, but full-well knowing he is going to refuse it. He of course does, and then asks where I'm headed. I tell him Wang Wa, and he responds by saying he would follow along with me. While I'm grateful beyond words, I share with him kop khun maak krap (thank you very very much) over and over, but feel as if it is completely inadequate. We start hustling and ride about another two/two-and-a-half miles, at which point he says he's headed in a different direction, and motions for my turn. I once again thank him, and we part ways.

While riding the last five miles, I reflected considerably on the incredible kindness and generosity of Thais. He helped me out of the goodness of his heart. It felt amazing knowing that regardless of nationality, ethnicity, languages spoken, we both shared a common bond of being human (not to mention being bikers), and due to this one (or two) bond(s), he felt compelled to help and give me everything I needed to ensure my safety.

After informing Host-mom about the situation, she asked what his name was, and I immediately began to regret having not asked it. I thought that since my host family is one of import and influence, it would make cultural sense if they wanted to thank him. I gave a ridiculously vague description of the man (avid biker, red and white bike, a slight goatee), lo and behold, one of the men that was visiting with Host-dad at that moment said he thought he knew who it was. I'm not entirely sure if I will know the end of this story, but I can imagine it will end with him receiving some sort of (very well earned) gracious thanks from my family on my behalf.

Only now that I am writing this, again reflecting and sharing, have I realized just how to thank him. I promise to do the same thing should I ever be on the other end in the same situation. As disparaging as it is to have three flat tires in five days, I know this one happened for an important purpose- to teach me humility and to give anything I can to a person in need. This is just one of many memories I am sure to remember dearly from my time in Thailand. 


  1. This is wonderful and makes my heart happy.

  2. Great story! I would like to think that bikers here would do the same, but I doubt they would follow you to make sure the fix was OK! They must have some bad-ass roads there to flatten tires like that!