You know living in a foreign country, especially perhaps in Asia, one finds themselves unmistakably noticed and even at times gawked at. Thai people, especially those who have little on their work agenda for the day, often observe others around them. Farang (white foreigners) are a prime target for this scrutiny as we are an odd lot indeed. I never really expected different since I am new to their land, I was prepared for the idea that I would be unusual and therefore an attraction for people’s attention.
What I did not expect was that somehow coming to Thailand there is a magnetic pole reversal inserted in the eyes of all people here. Allow me to explain my metaphor. You see, Thai eyes seem drawn to watch me with such gravity that even when they try their best those pupils just track me down through their squinty eyelids as they offer their shy smile. It is endearing really and far from intrusive most of the time. But the Farang have somehow had implanted within their eyes a repulsive opposite magnetism that forces their eyes to look anywhere else but at another white person. It is entertaining to watch two of them pass on the streets of Bangkok or in a mall in Bangkok, because both of them are so determined not to see the other that they come dangerously close to colliding as their wandering vision roams far left and then far right and way past and perhaps even a glance behind for good measure. Some of them nearly snap their necks with all their whiplash glances.
So why don’t Farang want to see each other in the Kingdom of Smiles? Afraid of something maybe? Guilty of something perhaps? Have an ulterior motive for leaving the homeland such as a gambling debt or best friend’s girlfriend you knocked up? I wonder when I see them and especially when they won’t look at me. I have gone on a bit of a campaign to test this oddity and now if I see a Farang on the street while I’m walking about I am not just making eye contact I’m giving them DAPS. If they don’t respond I’m making a mental note, a visual memo, because tipping off the authorities to someone on the FBI’s most wanted list is a lucrative part time job.
“What are DAPS?” my Asian friends will ask.
Daps is something I first observed while hanging out with my good friend Freddy Dee back in my Aurora teaching days. One day Freddy and I went to the Cherry Creek Mall to do a bit of shopping. I don’t like shopping in American malls, but let me stay focused on the lesson here. I’ll complain about the quicksand of American shopping on another day. So Freddy and I were strolling along chatting about sports or girls or something when a young black man walked by us.
Freddy nodded at him and mumbled, “What’s up?” To which the young man answered, “Sup,” and nodded back.
“What was that? Did you know that guy?”
“So why did you talk to him and not the other hundred dudes we’ve walked past?”
Freddy dropped his hand on shoulder. “Look around man. I don’t know him, but I know how he feels.”
“How he feels?”
“Do you see any other African Americans in this mall today?”
I looked around a little. “No.”
“So he and I have that in common. I don’t know what else. I ain’t going to loan him money or anything, but I can give him DAPS.”
So my question Farang is where is my DAPS? This is not our country; we all feel the eyes of the Thais upon us. But why can’t we look each other in the eyes and say, “How you doin’? or What’s up?”
Well all I can say is when someone can’t look me in the eye as they’re walking past, I’ll be watching my back once they are past.