My partner’s name is shrimp. His brothers and sisters are variously named for two kinds of crab and a crayfish. My shrimp insists that he is a tiger shrimp, the biggest variety, and I won’t beg to differ.
In fact the only sibling not named for a crustacean is simply called sister and she married a man called fish, so I guess the saltwater is just destined to flow through the family tree. We live on a small tropical island in the gulf of Thailand, where we have made our home, with our baby girl, Clear Sky and most of my partner’s extended family.
When I first came to Thailand backpacking at the ripe old age of nineteen, I fell in love immediately, with the sparkling ocean, the majestic palms and the spotless white beach and most of all with the spectacularly beautiful people. I had found my idyll, my personal paradise.
Now that the years have rolled by and I have made this place my permanent home the love affair with this beautiful land has continued to bloom, but like any relationship has ripened with age and experience, so my love for it is a little more battle-scarred and my understanding is much deeper, although I will never comprehend the full complexities of this vibrant culture.
I will always be grateful that we start our day with a walk on the beach and a swim in the sparkling ocean, that we have mangoes and rambutans, and mangosteens piled up around us according to season, that my daughter will be raised by a village full of people and learn respect for elders, to share all that she has, and the principles of jai yen (calm heart) as an intrinsic part of her upbringing.
I am less enamoured with the lack of decent healthcare, the chronic pollution problems and widespread use of chemicals that afflict the country, and I will never learn to reconcile the beautiful face of Thailand with the diabolical treatment of Burmese people which is endemic in this culture.
Thailand is a land of many complexities, with two sides: one so beautiful it can take your breath away and the other with a quiet, darkly violent pulse barely visible under the mask of jai yen.