Monday, February 18, 2013

Lingua Franca/2 - From Hua Hin to Koh Phayam, Thailand

My friend IZ holding a mini praying mantis on his wrist in Koh Phayam
Besides German speaking Europe Italian can work as a Lingua Franca in S.E. Asia as well. 
We're in Hua Hin, in the Gulf of Siam, two or three hours south of Bangkok. A little restaurant with a terrace on the sea, fish on the dishes in front of us. We're having dinner with a group of Zurichers and, as usual, at least two of them are able to speak almost perfect Italian. Switzerland is funny place: all those official languages and not even one that unifies it, the people sometimes forced to speak English among them. I find them fascinating, but they don't surprise me anymore. 
A few hours later, while we're waiting for the bus to Ranong, a guy asks me if I know something about the bus to Phuket, which is already quite late. He spoke Italian correctly, there is some noise and I haven't been able to focus on his accent. It turns out that he's English, from Cornwall. He lived in Caserta and Ravenna for many months. He remembers that at the beginning he even used to speak with a Neapolitan accent.
On the coach we have a brief conversation with a couple from Ticino, Switzerland. In Italian, of course, but at least these guys are justified. In the morning, when we get to Ranong, we take a songthaew to the pier, where we'll get the boat to Koh Phayam. We've arrived before sunrise and we'll have to wait a few hours. We ask a German lady if we can sit at her table at a cafe, in order to kill some time having breakfast. And, unsurprisingly by now, she starts to talk to us in Italian, a language that she learned when she went on holiday in Tuscany, in Venice and in some other place. Her accent is stronger than the English guy's one but, like him, she is using an excellent vocabulary too. 
Amazing, all this in just a few hours. And it is not over yet. We enter an internet cafe to get some information on the accommodation in the various beaches of the island. We're welcomed by a Thai lady who explains us everything…in Italian! And she's not only using the usual four words that everybody knows: she can put together some sentences whose complexity is definitely above average. Where the hell did she learn it? She confesses that she worked for a few years in an Italian restaurant in Phuket. She used to speak Italian with her boss and some customers. Alright. 
And there couldn't possibly haven't been an Italophile in the island as well. It's a lady from Czech Republic, around forty years old, very beautiful, fake boobs that push outwards from behind a very tropical light and colorful dress. She worked for years with an Italian movie production firm. And she lived for a long time in Milan. She also knows a lot of stuff about the less crowded among Thai islands. She tells us about her travels in the eighties in a very polished Italian. We listen to her in a slightly stunned way, and it's not just that magical pair of…eyes of her. 
When we are walking back to our bungalows we almost feel like speaking English to each other…just for a change, that is.

The head of a giant geko sticking out of the roof of my open air toilet in Koh Phayam
European looking pine forest in the tropics
Sand fortress in Koh Phayam


Carmen said...

And y didn't I get to learn any from you :(

Fabio said...

I remember teaching you some...