Mer

sayarsan's picture

On arrival at the lake side "guet houe" in MaeHongSon perhaps the largest display on the wall concerned the most important event on their Bhuddist calendar, more important it seems than the various hill tribes in the area which are the major drawcard for visitors. The display points out that the Buddhists or the institutional manifestations of them are divided into two streams as are the people themselves and these are the only streams in Thai society at least to the Thai and theTaiYai, to the disadvantage of all the other ethnicities in the country. Yep even the best Buddhists in the world are not immune to social competition. Thailand is home to plenty of discrimination and many people suffer. At least i saw it manifest itself in anything stronger than opinions in my experience only rarely, including in the hospital.
Awaiting the removal of 40+ sutures i was in the bed next to a 14 year old Karen man who had been wounded by a shot to the leg in a hunting accident. From what i could make out the ball from a musket, which is a not uncommon hunting weapon in those parts, had struck his right femur and smashed part of the bone and Mer had been languishing in this charming hospital while his bone reunited the two portions estranged by the impact of the ball a process taking a couple of months after internal fixation had been applied in the form of an alloy nail down the thigh. By the time i arrived he was very tired, a little emaciated perhaps, quite worried, and had acquired a decubitous ulcer or bed sore over his tailbone which was a wound to rival the one on his leg by now. The hospital despite being staffed by excellent doctors, nurses, and auxilliary staff was in dire need of an imaginative physiotherapist. When a hospital is so compromised it doesn't have a single 'monkey bar' affair with which patients can move about in bed it is encumbent on the physio to see that they move about. The bed sore is a damning indictment of any physiotherapist or nurse but the nurses in Srisurriwan (pronounce sisunwan) were over extended and the physio did little for no other reason than he had little which is never a cop out amongst the TaiYai or any of the ethnicities around there. One can ony presume he was Lanna Thai.
After satisfying myself that a monkey bar was not available i decided to try and get Mer on his feet and mobile before things were out of my control. With little or no language i had to rely on his ability to communicate which comes to those who are often enough ignored. The break came when Mer became enamoured of my quartz wrist watch. Since he had no relative with him to take care of his needs which is the way in this part of the world I had been sharing my fresh fruit and meat which I got when I went to the market on the way to Numkat (an enclave of Karen near the airstrip) where MehTep and I would get our daily opium. After awhile Mer became confident enough to stretch sharing food to sharing the wrist watch. It seems the first step to this arrangement was Mer being allowed to wear it until he became bored with it. He was going no further than his bed and the watch cost 60 baht or 15c but I felt better when I could glance at the time on the bedside table between our beds. In Mer's eyes this was a clear misunderstanding of the operation of a wrist watch which is ridiculous without the wrist. Mer had no need for the time and neither did I but Mer was the only one who new this at the time. It hit me that instead of explaining the arrangement as I perceived it I could use it as an incentive for him to get out of bed.
Whether it was the watch or my remonstrations on behalf of his mother and father that he would be buried by them I wonder. Anyway before long MehTep and I had a zimmer frame so Mer could steady himself and we were going for walks each day up and down the verandah. Perhaps my reward was being able to say to the physio who spoke good english "not so lazy!" Which was his excuse for Mer's inability or refusal to get out of bed. It was a relief when a man in his 50's perhaps an uncle or father arrived to sleep on the concrete floor and support Mer until his now more superficial wounds were healed. With the build of an ageing Karen the bare concrete floor was too much for me so I bought a sleeping mat. The others there were generous in a like fashion. Never was i short of company or opium which i ate tho i did have trouble getting ganja which i smoked but it stank terribly and I was forced to go without.
In retrospect I wonder how Mer, or any of the others were impacted by their experience of a farang for a couple of weeks. Assuming Mer is still alive, he does live on the Thai side, I wonder if he still remembers it as vividly as I do. The theme which I am detecting is that wherever I get to I have been preceded by time or at least an acute awareness of it. A proliferation of time pieces and I hope this doesn't prove to be a crack in the edifice. After I left they at least know that not all farang are alike.