I’ve just returned from my second Thai wedding, and this time “Photo Shoot With The Foreigner” lasted about 30 minutes. I think I was in more pictures than the bride and groom, and I only knew about four of the other guests. Parents push their kids into my arms for a snapshot, and others grab me for their own turn. Everybody wants to touch the farang.
I have never dreamt of being a celebrity; I’ve always much preferred to be behind the lens. I often feel bad for famous actors and musicians because they can’t do anything without the paparazzi watching their every move, but now I know how they feel. For many in this rural part of Thailand, I am the first white female they’ve ever seen.
I walk down the street and everybody stares. The more gutsy ones will say “Hello,” proud to have spoken an English word, and the really brave will strike a conversation, hoping to practice what little English they know. Everyone giggles after talking to me, but I know they aren’t laughing at me, they’re laughing because I sound funny; because I’m so different; and because it’s their way of overcoming shyness.
Everybody in Suwannaphum already knows my name. The town is so small that while riding through the back roads on my scooter earlier today, at least four people shouted “Hello, Jess!” as I passed their homes. They can spot me from a kilometer away, though I’m not very discrete in a pink helmet with a camera dangling around my neck, stopping to take photos of the roosters, chickens, turtles and cows crossing my path.
I figure I can’t hide being different, so I might as well smile, pose and soak up all the kind words. Though parts of being in the constant spotlight will definitely take some getting used to, I’ll never get tired of hearing, “farang suay.” Beautiful Foreigner.