When Suchada decides to do something, she always achieves her goal. The 39-year-old divorced mother of two has proved that often enough in the past. When she was just 13 years of age, she left her home town, Khorat, to work as a cleaner and then a sales assistant in Bangkok, 260 km away. She got married at 19, and her daughter was born a year later. Soon after the birth, Suchada decided to go back to school, for her lack of education meant that her wages were poor. That was not something she was prepared to accept for long. She went back to school while working part-time in a factory, and passed her school-leaving exams in just four years.
Suchada met Thomas, her German partner, in December 2010 while she was working as a masseuse in Phuket. She had studied traditional Thai massage in a temple and had found a job in a massage parlour. She got chatting to the visitor from Germany on the street. He’s the same age as her, but he has no hair, so she cheekily addressed him as “Baldy”. They had a brief conversation, and then Thomas went on his way. He reappeared two hours later and invited Suchada out for dinner. They spent the next three weeks together and got engaged soon afterwards. Suchada has already spent three months in Germany and is confident that she’ll be able to integrate. However, learning a new language is a real challenge. Her first foreign language is English, but she learned it by ear, not at school. So before starting the German course, she had to attend a one-month literacy course at the Goethe-Institut in Bangkok. It’s hard, she says, to listen and understand while also having to think how to spell the words you hear.
If she passes the exam, Suchada will join Thomas in Germany in February or March. Hopefully, what started as a fleeting encounter in front of a massage parlour in Phuket will have a happy ending.