I am a nervous host. As our house warming party got underway last weekend and the first guests arrived, I fretted over small details: is there enough alcohol to satisfy, why is the cheese sweating, is the Finnish Evangelical Christian missionary about to throttle my depraved and deserving landlord? Seitan, our landlord invited Ketl, the missionary; they live next door to each other in our neighborhood. The only thing they share is a wall.

"I like Buddha," Seitan said, gesturing his reverence with praying hands. "I pray to Buddha, get house for cheap price."

Ketl looked thoughtfully towards the ceiling and said nothing. Throughout the evening, he demonstrated great restraint, though by three in the morning, I was quite ready to throttle Seitan myself.

Despite his heavy, dented brow and towering stature, Ketl was gentle and unassuming. He explained his missionary presence in Bangkok slums in simple and eloquent terms. "I was called to this place," he said, looking down at his huge hands. "I think you understand."

Ketl and his wife Suita stayed for a short while, drinking lime soda and chatting amiably. When not in direct contact with the morally bankrupt Seitan they seemed to positively enjoy themselves. Ketl told me about his travels preaching in Russia as well as his home recording studio where he makes Finnish inspirational music, which he describes as different from American gospel. He offered great hope for beginning Thai speakers. "After three years, I gave my first sermon in Thai."

The housewarming party wasn't really intended for the neighbors at all. Most of the invitations went out to fellow TEFL grads and our current coworkers, who responded favorably. The book swap table was overflowing with paperbacks by night's end, though most were left behind for us to read. We may even have made a net profit in alcohol, trading some bad whisky for some even worse beer.

As ever, the people make the party. Amongst our strange guests was a teacher named Quinn, a forty year old Australian, and his wife Jody, a 24 year old from Papua New Guinea, who explained her home as, "You can go there and kill anything for free." Jody is an intense young woman who paralyzes you with her stare before launching into monologues about black magic or her hobby of weaving hand bags. She pegged Seitan early, warning us not to trust him. This would seem more shamanistic if he weren't at that moment bragging about how money can indeed buy you love. "Butterfly visit my home, one thousand baht."

Jody was concerned about another guest's bad eye. Richard arrived to work on Friday with a nasty purple welt around his right eye that had no apparent cause. A doctor guessed it was an allergic reaction and gave him a thick pad of cotton gauze to wear, making him look like an ineffective pirate for most of the day. Jody offered no diagnosis, only a cure, which was carried out on my bed without my consent.

To mend the bad eye, a good friend of Richard's needed to pluck an eyelash from the festering eye and eat it. Luckily I barely know Richard, a tightly wound Englishman with loves his Queen. His friend David was willing to pluck and eat the eyelash, served on a wedge of pomelo. Richard suffered no ill effects and was soon up and about accosting the few Americans present with lines like, "What would you say if I told you I was a Grateful Dead fan?" His eye was cured by the time we returned to school on Monday; he attributes this to the antihistamines he was taking at the same time as the eyelash eating incident.

My childhood friend Aric joined the party, fresh from San Francisco where he has just quit his job and sold his house. In Thailand for a diving trip and some clear space for thinking, his visit matched up perfectly with our party, except jet lag rose up and swept him away. He fell asleep upstairs just as the karaoke got rolling downstairs.

Asians love karaoke. A stereo loaned to us for the party doubled as a karaoke machine, though I refused to plug in the TV. Without a video monitor, it's tremendously difficult to read the song lyrics. This thwarted the usual Thai ballads popular at parties. Instead the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Kylie Minogue and the inevitable 'Hotel California' (sung tunelessly by the royalist deadhead) played and a handful of people sang along with the words they knew. It's a karaoke truism that people who ordinarily display the finest mouth manners will make the most unusual whistling, tooting and clicking noises when amplified by a microphone. Between songs it sounded as if a pod of humpback whales was serenading the party guests.

On our porch area, the non-singers drank and smoked, getting delightfully drunk. Our coworkers have an unusual hobby that I have dubbed The Pirate's Growl. It apparently has roots in an after work tradition called "Beer and Meat." At a certain point, meaningful conversation grinds to a halt, drowned out by guttural growls and childish peals of laughter.

"ARRGGHHH!" Quinn might say.

"ARRRRGGGGGHHHHH!!!!" comes the choral reply, followed by fits of giggles.

"AAARRRRGGGGGGGGHHHHHHH!!!!!!!" someone else adds, and so on. This can go on for hours and has in the office between classes.

Seitan, who had lurked on the outskirts of the porch all night, drinking Johnny Walker and soda, decided to assert himself into this.

"I love American!" he cried, to a crowd of Brits, Scots and Aussies.

"AAAAARRRRRGGGGGGGGGHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!" they wailed, en masse.

"I love Marc! I love Kristin!"


Seitan has a point and shoot camera with which he documents every emerging friendship. I have seen dozens of photos of him in Pattaya with uncomfortable looking foreigners and young Thai prostitutes gathered around heavily laden tables. His family owns an over priced hotel there- his own admission- where he helps to 'broker' things: real estate, business arrangements, girls. Throughout our party he tried to pass his niece off on the single male guests. "Thirty-two, never marry. I recommend for you," he offered. Though he is 55 and never married, her remaining single troubles him. She is a very sweet woman who works diligently in the family's camera shop. Even if she is looking for a husband, it's extremely unlikely her Uncle Seitan will find any worthwhile candidates.

"No money, no honey," he proclaims frequently and his Buddhist piety is limited to financial concerns. He is of the segment of Thai society that believes that one can buy merit, the equivalent of celestial favor, for the right price. He gives monks fabulous cash gifts and meals. While he might be a good character in a book, Seitan is a disconcerting presence to have nearby, always ready to drop by and discuss how much money he has and what it might purchase.

Seitan pulled out his camera and arranged photographs of himself surrounded by all the attractive young women in attendance. When he started demanding smooches, his camera magically ran out of film and his supply of whisky suddenly evaporated.

"Come here Mr. Seitan," Quinn shouted, slapping his thigh aggressively. "Have a seat! Right here."

Seitan stood off the edge of the porch, swaying, for once, at a loss for words.

"AAAARRRRRRRGGGGGGGGGHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!" Quinn continued.

I gently encouraged Seitan to take himself home. It was three in the morning.

"More whisky," he demanded.

"We're all out Mr. Seitan," I said sadly. "It's all gone."

"You check again."

I went inside, scanned the whisky bottles, at least one of which had yet to be opened and reported back.

"Sorry, all out."

He grumbled about how Americans ran out of whisky but allowed himself to be led home. He threatened to return the next afternoon with his film developed, but didn't.

The party ended as Seitan left, the others guests carrying themselves and their friends home.

All in all, it was a good party: there was ample alcohol, all the sweaty cheese was eaten and no one throttled Seitan. I had fretted for nothing.

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