The delightful Miss Peung (Agent P) travels with me from time to time, and when I call her my assistant it is not at all with exaggeration. When I have to both interview someone and snap photos along the way, I’d need to be an octopus. (I have held a recorder in my teeth on occasion.) She will either handle digital recording duties or as in the case of my Thai Cooking School experience, she snapped a lot of the photos while I was up to my elbows in curry. She is also an impressive translator when we are in Thailand.
I don’t mean to mock the English skills of others, since I can barely count to ten in Thai, but I must say I get a kick out of listening to two non-native speakers communicate. It is trouble enough when the fluent tries to decipher the not so fluent, but get two non-natives together and the fun begins. It’s like a photocopy of a photocopy: blurry and just a little bit harder to read. And everyone is typically too polite to say they didn’t understand or to ask more than once for repetition. Then everyone becomes a poker player, but you can usually tell who the bluffers are. That mild uncertain smile and the hesitant, “uuunhh, yes.”
Today’s conversation between Peung and our driver.
Driver: “Would you like a rest?”
Peung: “Oh no, thank you, I don’t eat rat.”
He smiled and said, OK, satisfied that his client was not tired. Peung climbed into the van relieved and certain that she had just politely turned down grilled rodent. (Lest I seem smug, I must confess that she often translates English for me as what I can’t makes heads or tails of might be close to what she often hears from fellow Thai!)
Have a refreshing drink at the temples. 2 for $1! You can’t say No. Well, you can try but like the postcard people they are persistent. Not sure what’s more disturbing: a. the size of that coconut or b. the apparent alien tearing out of my torso beneath my shirt. (Peung chooses c. my hat.) Seriously though, that thing is bigger than my head! (The coconut, not the alien.)