Isan News Update

It has been raining the past week, which is a rather curious development for this area this time of year. In fact, there was a pretty serious storm a couple nights ago and it rained fairly hard last night as well. The huge tract of land (future housing lots) behind our house has been filled in with shallow ponds (kind of returning it to its natural status of swamp, except elevated a couple meters with fill dirt), from which many noisy amphibians have emerged. This sudden spate of precipitation is in stark contrast to the first year I lived here, when I saw no real rain from October 2006 all the way until June or July of last year.
My wife’s aunt and uncle called up yesterday to say they were on a road trip and would like to stay at our house tonight. Family is always welcome, of course (most, anyway). So its fun talking to them in my very basic Thai, but mostly just sitting there absorbing the indecipherable (to my ears, anyway) utterances of their of their specific dialect. I love learning the little nuances and unique characteristics of a new language, but believe me, fart jokes and belching are universal (just thought I’d include that here).
So Nam’s aunt and uncle are well into their 70’s and have been living together so long they communicate in a kind of nonverbal gestalt; they arrived in a Ford Escort he bought new 35 or 40 years ago and it’s currently swapping war stories with my ’71 Toyota Crown out in the driveway. They are both senile as hell and continue to go on road trips every year from their current home around Bangkok up around here to see friends and family in Isan (the Northeast) and back again. When she is freshening up in the other room he tells us in a hushed voice that he’s concerned about her memory since she often repeats herself three or four times in any given conversation, forgetting that he himself has told us the exact same thing just minutes before… They are good people, and I basically trust any couple who, by choice, go on long roadtrips in cars without power steering in this day and age (it’s a salt-of-the-earth kind of thing).
Anyway, the highlight of my day was hearing Nam’s uncle tell us that he much prefers the Japanese system of government over the Thai model since Japanese government officials have to commit suicide if they disgrace their families or office… I didn’t have the heart to tell him any different either, since it would probably be better that way (plus, I think I still have a few years before I need to tell somebody that Santa doesn’t exist).

4 thoughts on “Isan News Update

  1. Do people go out into the mud and gather frogs to eat, as the native people of Saga go out into the flats to catch mudskipper?
    I remember Nam telling me that when she was a little girl, one of her friends brought a bento to class with little frogs, and that they tasted good.
    Since you are back in Isan, I thought maybe you could shed more light onto this particular seasonal food.
    Heck, maybe you could go catch some and do an ethnic food blogging post!

  2. Santa lives. You got air conditioning now, right? That’s proof.
    I also was curious about frogs. Does consuming frogs pass on the same liver flukes that are the number one cause of liver disease in Thailand?….the flukes that are ingested when eating certain infested freshwater crabs? Just wondering.
    Nam’s aunt and uncle sound like a hoot.

  3. As far as I know, both the liver flukes in freshwater crabs and the parasites in frogs can be neutralized by cooking thoroughly. The reason so many Thais get infested with the liver flukes is that the crabs they put in papaya salad are often raw or only partially cooked. This is evident from the dark color of the shells in the salad, as freshwater crabs turn red after cooking just like their saltwater brethren.
    All this interest in frogs is making me want to post my photo set on frog shish kebabs real soon…

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