While working and travelling, like we have the past couple of years, it is not always easy to make new friends. Of course, you meet a lot of people you are friendly with. But that is not the same.
Building a new friendship seems to go faster when abroad, but often there is no time or reason to do so. Especially because we are just passing through, and are most likely not coming back, at least not in the near future. And there is no real need for us, we both have very good friends, not far away, just not here in Khanom.
And then sometimes there are exceptions. You meet people with whom you feel a connection from the beginning, and nobody seems to mind that it is temporary. It is enough to enjoy each other’s company, here and now, and spend some time together.
It just never occurred to me that this kind of short-term friendship could also result in seeing the new friend’s life end and attending their funeral.
In a short period of time, both Jim and I came to like David, the owner of the room we rent in Khanom. David had a great sense of humour, good stories to tell and an enormous strength for his age (84) and health.
A few years ago he decided to settle in Thailand, where he felt at home. He built a beautiful and comfortable place to stay, and felt there was no reason to leave. We completely agree and decided from the day we arrived here, we would only leave just before our departure from Thailand. We booked for two weeks and stayed for two months. It suited us perfectly, especially since Gary and Beer, our friends from Hat Yai could visit easily and bring their dog.
From the beginning we spent time with David on a daily basis. We had a chat, a drink or lunch together. And we quickly also became friends with Pili, one of his best friends in town.
Soon, David had to go back to Australia to arrange a passport. While he was away, we watered his plants, and briefly spoke with him when Pili phoned him one day, when he was having a roast lunch with his daughters and grandchildren.
When he returned to Thailand, we joined Pili, to pick him up from the airport, after a great day touring around and hiking to a waterfall. And on our way back to Khanom, we made plans for more trips together.
So a few days later, on Easter Sunday, David and Pili, took us to a restaurant Don Sak, where we enjoyed a delicious meal in an orchid garden. And, as David loved driving, and we hadn’t yet seen much of the surroundings of Khanom, he made a big detour on the way back.
He took us to Pili’s rubber plantation, and showed us parts of Khanom, a widespread town, we had not seen yet, and shared his knowledge. He told us how previously it was thought that Khanom would become a new tourist hot spot because of the pink dolphins you used to be able to see from the beach. While now, through overfishing, the dolphins have mostly disappeared, and there is lot of wasted capital around, such as unfinished hotels and numerous fishing boats rusting in the harbour, all signs that both the fishing and tourist industry have collapsed. It was a great day for us, definitely one to remember.
And then, the following Tuesday, David was suddenly feeling very unwell. We hadn’t heard or seen him the whole day, while normally at least one of us would have a talk with him.
That afternoon, we went into the house to check on him. He’d been sick for a while and couldn’t get out of bed. Pili arrived with her car and he asked us to take him to the doctor. She referred him straight to hospital. There, David, because he hated hospitals so much, managed to convince the doctor to check out the same evening, with the promise to come back the next day.
The next day his friend Sopha asked us to drive David’s car and take him to the hospital again. This time, the doctor in charge was unyielding: David had to stay at least three days, connected to oxygen and several drips to fight the infections that had felled him. David relented, but promised himself he’d be out three days later. Ready to fight for his life, and desperate to go home, he succeeded to get discharged on Saturday morning.
At home he felt more comfortable. Lying in bed with a tank of oxygen next to him, he finally found the quiet environment to sleep and rest. He enjoyed the visits of a few friends.
We laughed with him, discussed future plans and, from his bedroom, watched and wondered about how the gardeners organised their job as they’d come with the wrong tools to cut a tree. David, always a great organiser, laughed and cursed as they went about their work. He then asked us to burn the waste they’d left behind, and so we enjoyed a few nights of bonfires when Gary and Beer arrived.
Some days David looked better, sitting at the table, other days he felt worse. And for a few days his decline was rapid.
Then one morning, it was over. Sopha came crying to our room. And so our second week with Gary and Beer, and our last week in Khanom, turned out different than planned. We attended David’s funeral and met two of his daughters who had rushed over from Australia, and we all took time to mourn and celebrate David’s life.
It was great to have met David. He gave us great gifts through his friendship and trust. It has marked our period here.
For us Khanom will never be the same. Now that it is all over, it is also for us time to leave.
Thanks David and Pili for allowing us to share this time together. For being good friends to us in such a short time. I wish I could say to you both, we will meet again.