Elwood's Thai Adventures

That's NOT How You Say Beautiful!

That's NOT How You Say Beautiful!

 Being in a new country is exciting and scary. It can also be very confusing, sometimes for all involved when language barriers or misunderstandings pop up.

 Speaking almost no Thai, (although Steve would have you believe he is quite fluent) we have run into a few situations where hand signals are a must if the person we want to communicate with speaks no English. Other times, it is our own lack of language skills, mispronunciation, or using the wrong word entirely that gets us into trouble. The following story is one of those very cringy times.

 We went for lunch today at this great little café/book store called Pakarang Vintage Cafe in Krabi Town. Their food is Aroi, pronounced Aroy (roll the r) which means delicious. If you are kind enough to say that at the end of a meal to the owner or server, they are very happy and wave you off with big smiles, giggles, and Wei’s. 

 Upon leaving and strolling back to our bike after some delicious Pad Thai, we happened to be talking about just that. The owner spoke English so Steve had said lunch was delicious. The other girl who worked there had presumably asked the owner what he had said, and Steve heard the owner use the word Aroi. We were discussing how nice it was to know a few words in Thai and to be able to catch bits and pieces of conversations. It does make it easier and we don’t feel so touristy. I was lost in thought about how nice it would be to one day speak it fluently; to have real conversations and joke with our new friends, and how impressed everyone at home would be with our linguistic skills. We’d be pretty impressive indeed!

 As we walked on, coming toward us was a Thai lady walking her dog. Not just any dog, but a full blooded Bassett hound. There are many, many dogs in Thailand but it’s not often you see a purebred, and this one was a real looker. Gorgeous brown and white markings, spotlessly clean, and with those adorable droopy ears and liquid brown eyes. I had to stop and say hello. As the woman approached, I caught her attention and gestured toward the dog while asking if we could pet him. She was quite happy to oblige and as my eyes met hers, I knew she was a doggy person. You can always tell a similar soul, I would have loved to tell her all about Elwood, but with the language barrier, it would have been hard to do. Instead, we bent down to pat this beautiful specimen of the canine world as his tail wagged happily. As I ran my hand along his glossy coat, I felt I needed to somehow convey to her how absolutely magnificent he was.  I wanted to keep it simple yet understandable, so I thought “Beautiful” yes that’s a word I know. I could practice my Thai, and she will be so happy that people appreciate what a stunning dog she has. After all, don’t all owners love to hear how great their pups are? Win-win.

 I opened my mouth and with great feeling said “Your dog looks Aroi” . . . I swelled with pride, there it was, I had had a conversation in Thai. For a split second I was on top of the world.  That is until Steve whips his head up, eyes bugging out, and says “AROI”??! You said AROI . . . Delicious?!?! . ?"

 Ohhhhh  nooo. I stood there for an instant staring stupidly at him as my euphoria left and my brain processed this new information. Then, my world crashed in, I felt my mouth make an almost perfect O in shock. Trying to make amends, I stammered out apologies, mortified and shocked at how this woman must feel about me telling her how yummy her dog looked. It was a disaster, time slowed down, I couldn't meet her eye now. I tried to recover by laughing it off and saying “Well, I screwed that up” and she smiled, but it was no use, we’d have to make a run for it. All I wanted was to put as much distance between us as possible, I’m sure she wanted that too, in fact, probably more so. Crimson faced I walked quickly away burning with embarrassment, all the while Steve on my heels helpfully laughing hysterically. I didn’t see it, but he said the look on her face was priceless.

I imagine it was.

Today that lovely composed lady gets to go home and tell her family that some crazy farang woman said their dog looked delicious. I hope someday when she recovers she’ll have a good laugh about it.

As for me, I think I’ll practice my Thai just a little bit more.

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