The Story Behind Chili, Wasabi, and Ninja Offering Thanks For The Help

11yo Wasabi to the left, 13yo Chili in the middle, and 6yo Ninja to the right

I love these sweet kids. In the over 2 years I’ve known them—and while I was building their house—they have never uttered a cross word or expression to me. Not one.

Reflect on that. One of the problems or issues in Western culture is that when children become adolescents, one of the first things they do is become a bit hostile to any authority, including parents…and even older siblings. Not so popular in Thailand…a country where so many of your political footballs in the Western world are handled socially. You might observe them to be a rather compliant society, and you would be right. It’s because compliance comes from social pressures and not the voting booth, where compliance is sought through politics and legal penalties.

Thais who speak some English can often be heard to say to a farang like me…especially the girls…‘do what you want’ (lou-dair koon), and it’s always some measure of music to my ears.

Almost nothing is a federal case here and I’m not sure why, but maybe it’s because there are 5 branches of governance, not just three. In addition to our three, they have the military and the monarchy. They all basically struggle for power—just as our branches of government do—but there’s two more of them and the king is not just ceremonial, he has power. I think it’s kinda cool. Legal scholars might do well to take a gander.

I adore living here. I wish to make it my chosen home for the remainder of my days, until they burn my cold dead corpse at the local Buddhist temple where—if I’ve still enough alive friends—they’ll tip the monks who’ll set off fireworks as I’m being torched. How much more for classic 70s and 80s Hard Rock played at an un-Buddha-ly volume? And how fucking cool would that be? Contrast it with donning black clothing, adorning dark glasses, and draping coffins with flags…or whatever the fuck. Barf.

…Because I was waiting for Covid to end—and thinking it would, soon—in early 2020 I embarked on the coolest thing I ever did apart from building a business from 200 bucks to 30 employees doing $3 million per year way back.

But I especially love this and I’m pretty proud of it because it raised those two girls and the boy from growing up in squalor of a level that I simply could not tolerate.

I have hundreds more photos. Theses are simply some rather random choices over a couple of days of construction work and a few of the finished product. In all, it took 2 1/2 months and I sourced all materials myself and either delivered them myself or paid for delivery. I had 3-5 workers on site every day, 10-12 hours, 7 days per week. All of them were right there in the village. They walked to work. One lived just next door. The dudes are amazing, as you can see. And not only this, they do agricultural as well. Rice and cassava. And some have livestock. They become masters at everything. It’s what’s needed to survive as a real human being without a social “safety” net.

The going rate of pay was 350 baht per day. About 10 bucks. I paid them 500 per day, about $15. To that, I added a home-cooked, sit-down lunch. Plus, a bottle of Lao Khow Thai rice whiskey at the end of the day, along with some bottles of energy drinks they like to mix it with. A couple of times per week I’d buy a slew of pork and have mæ̀ (mom) cook it up in whatever way, manny different.

Those are the pork short ribs, most already eaten, but gives an idea. My photo collection of mom’s pork offerings is deficient because I was always diving in.

No matter what could befall me physically, emotionally, or financially, it’s something I could never regret. None of it. I played this very well, especially after living isolated for two years in the Sierra mountains. But I can’t control the universe and just as I had everything perfect in January of 2020, the world went to absolute shit and still hasn’t quite let up. You know what I mean. World wars would have been better.

…After living in Chiang Mai from Jan 17, 2020, I met the girl and then the ominous covid. It was about mid-April when the dominoes began tumbling and typical Thai, she went into hiding and hunkered down, in fear. I extended patience. At the same time, I had fucking zero fear and I laughed at the moronic world. I had covid early on and I like to say that I’ve had worse hangovers. Also: if covid can kill you, good.

When things began lightening up after a few thousand cases and a few hundred deaths in that first wave, the girl and I headed off to her rural home in Sisaket. I hired a driver and rented a car. The driver was to bring the car the 1,000 kilometers back to Chiang Mai.

The first night, we arrived late. All 7 of us slept in the same room, a mattress and pads and pillows and blankets strewn all over. It was the one of 2 rooms with an A/C unit. I slept surprisingly soundly. Mom made me coffee in the morning.

…I love to call her mom (or ‘maaa’), even though she’s about 13 years my junior. It’s a curious life. But, as the mother of Yui and her sister Nun—and grandmother to Chili, Wasabi, and Ninja—I pay her the respect due that office, regardless of our age difference. The only time I get irritated with her is when I’m driving the car and she’s constantly chattering in Thai to Yui about how scared she is.

…By the point of July, about 6 months in country, I decided to quit checking up on what’s going on with visas every day. My visa had long expired but we were all under “covid amnesty.” Nobody was sure when that ends, or what conditions will be. So I did a simple thing. I got a “retirement” visa, available for anyone over 50 years old with few hoops. I have to renew it once per year and every 90 days I have to motorbike to the immigration office and say “dudes, still same address.” It’s 2 minutes in and out, and there’s a McDonald’s nearby and so, I have 4 Big Macs per year with fries and Filet-O-Fish side.

It’s at this point that I went all in. I was tired of covid—already in mid-2020 lol—and was beginning to get the sense that this was not a flash in the pan. Duh?

…Up to this point I believed I had made a rationional decision to truly change the lives of a girl and her family I’d chosen to love. They had nothing, but offered me everything when I showed up. Sure, you can be cynical about that—and a lot of scoffing males who’ve never done fuck-all for anyone ever will be the first—but I felt true companionship, love, and community with the family and the villagers.

Never a cross word spoken to me…except for Yui. But that’s just normal and my biggest personal issue is being better at shedding it like watter and the backs of ducks.

…Let me fast forward and bring this to a close. While my intentions and results were stellar and profound, I could not have had any idea in the first 7 months of 2020 that covid would route my income. Without covid, this would be easy peasy. I have very high-end vacation rentals in Cabo San Lucas. I rent them for about $3,000 per week and have been doing so since 2013, about the same time I shut down the financial-services business. Prior to covid, I’d gross about $120k, about $80k pocket money. That’s 4x what you need to live well in Thailand.

Plus, I had a decent nest egg. Everything was perfect.

Not to belabor it but when covid got going my bookings fell to zero and remained there for 18 months. Some months ago I finally began to get them again but it’s at 25% at most. And, vacationers seem to be more picky and have rigid dates, making it substantially more difficult to get a deal done. In the meantime, I burnt through a lot of that nest egg.

On the other hand, all is not for naught. That house up there in the photo gallery is 100% paid in cash, roughly $50,000, I estimate. There are no property taxes. There’s a water bill of about $1.50 per month, and electricity is maybe $30…unless when I’m there and my A/C usage (there are 4 A/C units) runs the bill to $45. High speed fiber internet is $15, and Netflix is now $20 so all the TVs and devices can use it at once if they want to. A bit over $100 per month to maintain essentials, good roof over your head.

But while they have the home base and are safe, they aren’t yet self sustaining, so that was my next project, the GoFundMe to help me get the last bits done so that no matter what happens to me, those loves of this life maybe make it by anyway.

As we’ve been using the $3,750 from 64 donations ($58.60 average) we’ve come to lower the goal because if we can get just $10,000 we think it’s s going to run and pay off. And then car payment, clothing shop lease payment, and the kid’s schooling will be sustained from business revenue.

Teach a family to fish.

I’m appealing to the other 6,336 folks out there to pitch in and be a part of my plan and project, and a savior to me for what I was not able to fully complete on my own. There’s 6,400 out there, 800 of them members. There’s 64 kind-hearted folks who’ve said yea, what the hell.

That leaves 6,336 and at even a 10 buck pop each, we’re way into the black and this gig is done.

Whatever you can do, please. And right away. 5, 10, 15, 20…or whatever your heart confers. The shop is soon to open but we’re in dire need of inventory to sell. Please.

I’ll leave you with 12 seconds of the 2 girls and Ninja. No, don’t get me going on quality. My “screenplay” for this was vastly different. But, I live in Thailand.

This is what my project is all about at root and base. Yes, yes, I love their mom and it’s a kick to have a young and sexy girl less than half my age. But I didn’t build the house for her, her mom, or her sister. I built it for these three kids I love and I’m trying to make it all sustainable with the clothing store.

Please. And now, not later. Help Rural Moms Start a Ladies Clothing Store.

Richard Nikoley

I'm Richard Nikoley. Free The Animal began in 2003 and as of 2021, contains 5,000 posts. I blog what I wish...from health, diet, and food to travel and lifestyle; to politics, social antagonism, expat-living location and time independent—while you sleep—income. I celebrate the audacity and hubris to live by your own exclusive authority and take your own chances. Read More

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