As you may know, I live in a village. It’s what I would consider a medium sized village, based on knowing the size of other villages in the area. It’s located a mere ten minutes away (driving) from the city of Mae Hong Son, which stands more like a small town than the capital of the province. It’s small, friendly and the only chain stores you’ll find here are 7-11, an Esso and the “Chang” (Elephant) Bookstore. I don’t think this will ever change. People like the quaintness of the town as well as its generally cooler climate and despite its size and somewhat ‘remote’ location, it draws tourists from Thailand as well as abroad. If you come to visit, chances are you’ll love it.
One of the nice things about living in a small town is that you get to know people more easily. I see familiar faces at the market, or in the “grocery store” or at favourite restaurants about town. I’m recognised around town as well – by people who see me frequently I guess. The owner of one of the coffee shops in town waves at me and calls out as she passes by me on her bicycle. The friend who owns a beauty salon calls me in for a visit as I walk by. And finally the post office – a place where I visit several times a week to pick up mail and to buy stamps and send off letters or what not. I recognise most of the workers there and most of them know me. What can I say? I like to send letters and I like receiving them.
I have plenty of random stories from the post office. Some of the guys who work there have seen me running out on the big highway in between my village and the city (where a lot of people exercise in the late afternoons/early evenings) and have told me later that they saw me running. One of them, Mr. Runner, also runs with 3 other guys on that road and they’ve taken to giving me a ‘thumbs up’ when we pass by each other on the road. Some of the guys speak Thai-yai and delight in my ability to speak Thai-yai as well.
About two months ago, I went in to pick up a parcel and spoke with one of the guys who speaks Thai-yai. I got the parcel, signed for it and then – duh, duh, duh – he asked for my phone number.
I didn’t know what to say. I don’t have something rehearsed for a situations like these where I clearly was not going to give him my phone number for a number of reasons. So, shamefully, I lied and said, “I don’t really use my phone.” ??!!?? I’m embarrassed to say that I lied and such a pitiful lie at that. “I don’t really use my phone??” Who would believe that? Afterwards I wished that I had just said something like, “Ji goo waa am paw aap.” Or in English, “I don’t think that’s really appropriate.” It sounds more fitting in Thai-yai than it does in English. Anyhow, I left. Embarrassed about the fact that I lied and over the bad testimony I felt it would give to this man about believers in Jesus. And that I had come up with such an unbelievable reason why not to give him my phone number.
Fast forward to yesterday, when I found myself upstairs in the post office, buying some stamps for letters I was sending off. That same man, Mr. Mobile Number, wasn’t one of the ones selling stamps, but he was doing something behind them and saw me. Shame. Guilt. I said hi or nodded or something and he nodded back or something. Meanwhile, as the man selling me the stamps (let’s call him Mr. Efficient) handed me my change, he reached over in a basket and handed me a small, white box with writing on the outside – some sort of free sample or something.
With my letters stamped and handed in, I went downstairs and pried open that small, white box I’d been given. Inside was a tiny sample stick of antiperspirant! Probably the last thing that I would have ever expected to get from a post office! I looked up and saw that Mr. Mobile Number was there on the far side of the foyer beckoning for me to come over, as he disappeared into the back parcel room. I wasn’t sure if I’d heard correctly, but I went to the doorway of that back room anyway. By that time, he’d walked further into the room and again called me over. What?!? Not sure what to expect, I went in and greeted some other postal workers in the room and out from around a corner comes Mr. Mobile Number… handing to me TWO more of those small, white boxes!!! He smiled.
The irony is that I was actually needing to buy some more antiperspirant.