It is Friday evening, and I was minding my own business in the teacher’s house, when one of the students who is staying here at Legacy over the winter break came to the door and said to me, “Achan [teacher], you need to come quick. There’s police and a farang in the main room.” Thinking the worst, I grabbed my passport and put it in my pocket and walked over to the main room, where we hold services and teach some of our classes and eat. There, sitting in a chair was a barefoot Russian man named Denis Gudkov who lives in Chiang Mai with his Thai girlfriend, has a Russian passport with Thai visa valid until late February, and a hospital card for Chiang Mai Ram Hospital that includes special information about cardiac care.
And why, pray tell, would a probably inebriated and barefoot Russian whom I have never met in my life (and who was a pretty nice fellow, even if he had rather buggy eyes and didn’t smell strongly of alcohol) end up at my school with a policeman? Well, as it happened someone driving a private van (whose business card I ended up with from the Royal Thai Policeman) saw him walking on the 107 highway outside of my village and brought him in, and apparently I was the first farang around, since the man did not speak Thai and the policeman did not speak English. Fortunately I had a couple of translators around to help me out.
Aside from being barefoot, obviously disoriented (he didn’t have a clue where he was, though he did know where he lived, fortunately) and having the habit of swallowing frequently, as he seemed to have throat problems, he was as fairly nice fellow as far as random people are concerned. He explained to me that he either had gotten or was about to get his work visa, and that he was on his second Thai girlfriend (apparently he has been here for a little over a year and was having a bad time after breaking up with his first girlfriend), who has no money and no bike. Since he doesn’t even have shoes, apparently, that’s not too big of a problem, I guess. He knows some English, more Italian, and obviously Russian. Apparently he was a university student in Italy but did not finish his studies (he said it was a “long story” and those are usually bad).
It is quite remarkable how much information you can learn about someone you have never met before and with whom you only slightly have a common language (he was amused by my poor Italian and even worse Russian), though I am still a bit mystified as to how he got from Chiang Mai to Mae Rim by foot anyway. There has to be some story there as to what happened (he might have been walking all day) as he is clearly not all there. At any rate, I now have a truly bizarre story of how I spent my Friday night interviewing/interrogating a barefoot and disoriented Russian before a fellow teacher was able to drive him home safely (after I spotted him a couple hundred baht for gasoline for his bike). No one ever said life in the little village wasn’t exciting sometimes.