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“If we get married in Thailand,” Noy said. “We’ll have to have a big wedding. Every district officer will have to be there. And, of course, you have to have my father’s permission?”
I approached her father the very next Saturday. He told me Noy was free to marry any man she pleased.
The Saturday after that, a powerful communist suppression officer whose title, in English, meant something akin to “Provincial Protector”, sent a marriage delegation to visit with Noy’s parents to negotiate a marriage fee. The week after that, an assistant district officer sent a marriage delegation to negotiate a marriage for himself.
“Why didn’t you tell me about this custom?” I asked Noy. She said she hadn’t known about it herself. She also said she had no feelings for these men and that she hardly even knew them.
I arranged a marriage delegation including six men I’d worked with on a village project. Included were a headman and his assistant, honorable men who could vouch for me and follow Thai protocol. Then I told Noy what I’d done.
“You can’t send a marriage delegation, because my mother hates you, and the visit would cause her great pain,” Noy told me. “She says I can marry anyone I want but that he has to be Thai. You have to move into my parents’ house and work on my father’s garden. You have to prove you respect my parents.”
I could have worked on her father’s garden, but would that have made me Thai? Would that have proved I respected her parents? Before I’d extended for that third Peace Corps year, I’d worked on projects, and, during my down time, I’d had an active social life wlth Thai bargirls. That life was now stripped away. My project areas were now off-limits, designated “red” by the American Consulate and Peace Corps. I no longer had a job, except, of course, the job of marrying Noy.