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There is an important secret within this article for anyone who wishes to understand sex work in Thailand.  As I have said many times there may be many similarities between what you learn here which also apply around the world. 

That is not true about the United States though because the USA is rife with religious beliefs, pride of race, and belief in American superiority, and all this leads to stigma and misunderstanding about a role of sex work in society.  There was a time in American history when prostitution had a positive role in expansion to the west. 

This was followed by a time when gospel tent shows spread around the country, preachers became celebrities on the radio, and the public voted to outlaw sale of alcoholic beverages.  In many ways this aspect of culture in the USA survives to this day.  While some prostitution is not a big deal in many countries around the world, it is treated much differently in the USA.  Saying this is a digression and there is a message coming next. 

Vatican sponsored Brothels
Vatican sponsored Brothels

My first real friend in Thailand was not Ning as the title says.  Almost all Thais I meet have a nick name which is what they go by.  I first came to Thailand in 2008.  I had previous experience and training to teach English and did that in Thailand too.  I picked up Ning as she was standing on the street.  We had sex.  It was okay, but she was nice to me, for me.  She was always very calm and did not ask much from me. 

Ning and I moved into an apartment near the school where I taught for one year.  Frankly, this is what I needed at that time as I realized that I was still struggling with the sudden end of my 32 year-long marriage shortly before I retired from my last job at the US State Department.  Between divorce and retirement, I needed that stable, calm friend in my life.

As I look back, I am surprised at how much Ning and I traveled.  I was still doing triathlons at that time. although with sad lack of training.  We flew to Vietnam for a triathlon (my first and only race in another country).  We visited my favorite place to scuba dive in the Philippines.  We spent a weekend in Phuket.  We visited the one-day annual Songkran parade / party in Ban Pe (50 or so Kms east of Pattaya) and a day/night on Koh Samet island. 

Being new to both Asia and to Thailand, I had that urge to see and do things.  And it was easier because I had a friend to travel with.  But my friend didn’t seem to show any enthusiasm for what I considered exciting trips. 

At some point at home Ning was crying, or at least noticeably she was sad.  I had to know why.  She was no longer doing sex work and spent most of her day watching soap operas on TV or reading pop magazines.  I knew she was bored. 

Here is what she told me: she explained (in tears) that she is darker than other Thai people and she speaks with an Isaan dialect.  She only went to school for four years.  Everyone knows she is a country girl, a hick. 

Wow.  I never knew that.  She is Thai.  All the women I met in Thailand were Thai.  At least they were to me.  I never noticed any difference in her skin tone.  I spoke no Thai s knew there even were dialects of Thai.  She was my friend. 

Shortly after that I ended my tour at the school teaching and had a plan to go downtown in Bangkok to a highly respected teacher training program.  I would stay near that school and come back to the suburb on the weekends where Ning and I lived.  Her English was not strong. and she just assumed she would never see me again.  She got the help of a pickup truck; took several pieces of furniture I had bought for our apartment back to her home which was about 14 hours away by bus.  The furniture may make an appearance again in another article. 

This is the important message to share: those foreign men – men like me – should understand somethings from my experience.  First, the best woman you will meet may not be the most beautiful or jazzy one in a bar.  Second, some of the stigma of her culture around her and around you may not be apparent.  It is a good time to appreciate people for who they are and what they mean to you.  If you have a problem meeting people different than you, maybe just stay home.

This is not a message which only applies to Thailand.  In Dominican Republic I owned a modest house, two bedrooms and two baths.  A truly lovely Haitian girl and her seven-year-old son lived with me for a while.  I paid a bribe to get her son into a local school.  Her father in Haiti died and we took my van to drive to Haiti for the father’s funeral. 

It was an exciting trip because Haiti was having food riots at the time.  My friend handed out $5 bills out that van window to get past roadblocks.  I met her family and was well received.  Some family members were well known musicians.  

But I drove back to the DR alone and never saw her gain.  She was as black as any African and we would have made a stunning couple.  She was smart and cute as a button.  She did sex work in DR until she met me.  Circumstances could have been much different if we were in the USA.  Likely I would never have met her there. 

If you are a man from a prosperous country thinking you will meet interesting women in a poorer country, do your best to understand the people you are meeting.  There are cultures different than yours, and you might find exactly the future you seek without realizing it.