The Upside of Exile

If you know any Thai expats trapped abroad, you might have an idea about the nightmare known as Corona exile. I’m one of those poor unfortunate souls kept out of Eden, with an invalid ticket to Paradise, stuck in the muck and mire of the hellscape of Los Angeles, California, USA—a rapidly declining socialist shithole packed to the rafters with morons, communists, and cunts.

But it’s not all bad. I’ve outlined in previous blogs the precious handful of positive points of Purgatory. In Cali, it boils down to food and wine and…….not much else. And yet, there is one more good thing about being stuck here. It wouldn’t apply to everyone trapped overseas (by the way, if you’re interested in just how horrid our plight is, check out the Facebook group called Thai Expats Stranded Abroad Due to Covid-19), it’s unique to just me. Because it specifically relates to my family.

My mum and brother live in Los Angeles. One of the many reasons I moved half way around the world was to get away from them (as well as every other human being in America). It’s not them, though—it’s me. I relish solitude. I hate having conversations with people. I hate being responsible for other people. So out of the myriad reasons for moving to Thailand, escaping the hell of my family was near the top of the list. And yet, I love them, so I accepted it as part of my Thai escape and blissful existence to have to visit them once a year as penance.

When my 2-week March holiday turned into what is now 4 months and counting, I was overwhelmed with the feeling that I had died and gone to Hades. I tried frantically to get back to my home in Bangkok—tried and failed week after week, time after time. And as the ridiculous set of hoops created by the Thai government got ever more comical and moronic, I became overwhelmed with a sense of despair. And yet, through it all, I was brought back to my senses by my family. These are brittle people. They fall apart at the slightest change to their routine or the smallest problem or inconvenience. So when Coronavirus hit, they were hysterical. Only my passive acceptance and imperturbable response to the pandemic kept them from losing the plot. Then when George Floyd was murdered by a cop and the entire nation caught fire, only my serene disposition and level-headed approach kept them from hanging themselves. Now the nation seems poised on the edge of civil war. The socialists see this moment of chaos and volatility as their chance to take over. A race war seems almost inevitable. The news gaslights viewers and foments hatred for one’s neighbor 24 hours a day. And my family, being brittle, susceptible, gullible people would not survive it if I wasn’t here to quell their irrational fears.

I’m amazed at how easily my family are set off. They fall apart at the seams in the most benign of circumstances. Las week, the air conditioner broke. It was 101 degrees Fahrenheit, and both mother and brother just about had a conniption fit. If not for my “cool” reaction to the crisis, they may well have committed harakiri.

I’m amazed at how something so mundane can make them blow their stacks. They have virtually no self-control and no perspective when it comes to the game of life. They think every little inconvenience is some kind of pestilence visited upon them by an angry deity, and that no one could possible have it worse than them. Of course, they know cognitively that it isn’t true, but the temptation to feel some kind of martyrdom is too seductive a pursuit.  It’s the same for all Americans, I suppose. The nation is full of ego-centrists. And why not? They’re conditioned to be that way. But fuck if it isn’t annoying.

Yet, these aren’t just random Americanos. No, these are my fam. Mi familia. So of course, I’ve gotta cut ‘em some slack. And also allay their fears. And that has been my primary occupation for the last 4 months. That, and scouring the internet for news of how and when and by what means I may return to my home in Thailand. So far, it’s a clusterfuck. The Thai government are supreme retards in this arena, only slightly more so than the governments of the rest of the world. And so I wait, and put out figurative fires here at home. The air-con will be repaired. The trees will be trimmed. The dog will get taken to the vet. It will all be fine. And as much as I loathe every second that I must endure in this hellhole, this shit pile, this God forsaken God dammed dumpster fire of a country, I’m glad of one thing: I’m able to keep my family from losing their minds.

And I’m glad that, when the tables turn—and turn they did—they also help keep me in check. On Friday, at long last, after dozens of emails with Embassies and Consulates, after navigating the mountain of paperwork and over three weeks of nail-biting, I was finally approved to return to Thailand. This kicked off another frustrating frenzy of frivolous fluster. It turns out that getting approved to return is just the first in a long, crazy, ridiculous set of steps that rivals the ridiculousness of the first set of steps. I must now book a repatriation flight, pay for a quarantine hotel, and get another Covid test before I can even apply for the coveted Certificate of Entry. Then it’s up to the Embassy to issue the CoE in time for me to board the plane. After several hours of emailing travel agents and quarantine hotels, my blood was boiling. I was screaming and cursing at my computer screen, the momentary joy at the news of my approval drowning slowly in the bile in my belly, my blood-pressure skyrocketing to new heights.

And who was there to calm my angst but my family. Mum poured me a glass of Pinot Noir. My brother handed me a cigar and a dram of Port. We sat in the dusky coolness of a dwindling California sunset and just…….breathed. My mum assured me that this, too, would pass. As the sun set, the phone rang. It was a travel agent, offering to book me on a repat flight leaving LAX on the 24th. I gratefully accepted. My brother became sullen at the thought of me going back without him. My mum teared up at the thought of not having me around. I nearly wept with joy.

And so, it’s once again my turn to console them. To calm their fears and help them acquiesce. Over the next two weeks, I’ll do my best to hide my excitement and create as many happy moments with them as I can, as anyone can who has felt like a prisoner on house arrest for the last four months. I’ll take my brother wine tasting in Solvang. That should count for something

As for my upcoming journey, I’ll wait to count my chickens until me and my eggs are actually on the plane.

Stay tuned.