Author Bio Bits 1: Kâao-Nǐao (1970-1975)
Nisse and li'l bro
Nisse Visser: 1970 - 1975
I was born in Rotterdam in the early morning of the 19th of January 1970 thereby earning myself a Dutch citizenship. We lived in the city of Utrecht for a couple of years but I don’t recall much from this period apart from a cardboard box with kittens which fascinated me and visiting my mother Marijke in hospital in 1973 after the birth of my younger brother. There are other ‘memories’ but they are implanted ones based on the stories of my parents and grandparents.
My conscious awareness of the world around me kicked off in 1973 when we moved to Thailand. My dad Rob was studying anthropology at the University of Utrecht and as part of the research for his PhD we were to spend a few years living in a small hamlet in Thailand’s central plains about 200 klicks north of Bangkok.
My name was near impossible to pronounce for the Thai so they renamed me Kâao-Nǐao (ข้าวเหนียว) which means 'sticky rice', possibly related to my fondness for egg fried rice and the ease with which I invited myself to our neighbour's mealtimes whenever egg fried rice was on offer - which was more or less always; we ate it for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
We lived in a hut on stilts, I don’t remember if there was electricity but there was no fridge, no bathroom, no toilet (I just wandered out into the trees for the necessities); in other words, we lived much like the locals and were pretty much adopted by the local community. I recall participating in religious (Bhuddist) events, attending a Thai school across the road, a few outings to Bangkok and the northern highlands (whooping with the monkeys: Oeh Oeh Oeh Oeeeeeeh), courting my first girlfriend, going to the market, a fascination with the work in the rice paddies, the forbidden coconut groves (they plummeted down unexpectedly, unerringly setting a course for your skull) and a spiritual world which wasn’t something tucked away in a special building on Sundays but all around us. Folk used to interact with that spiritual world on a daily basis and thought nothing of it. I recall a demon strolling into the village and all the kids running and hiding for it was reputed to roast and eat disrespectful children. To this day I don’t know if it was real or a villager dressed up in an elaborate costume. It certainly seemed real and in Thai thinking the question ‘real or not?’ wasn’t really applicable: The demon was there, run rabbit run.
By the time I was five I could read and speak Dutch, Thai and a bit of English and thought it nothing special: Living in Thailand was the norm for me, not the exception. Other favoured memories include Elephant Football, fried brandy-marinated bananas, a gaggle of aunties forever dragging me off on expeditions into the village and the Loi Krathong (light) festival. There was also a local food caf on a boat where you could eat and see little fish swim about below hoping for scraps as well as the river races which brought the whole village into a frenzy. There wasn’t much traffic (about one car a week) so I learned nothing about traffic rules but was quite an expert at avoiding snakes. I also recall my grandmother Dien’s prolonged visit and taking her around my ‘hometown’. The one sour note I can recall was that most of my mates were terrified of coming home with me; I was just one of them as far as they were concerned but they were scared of the big white folk (my parents) who were considered unpredictable and possibly dangerous by the village youngsters, my friend Tie excepted.
As you might be able to imagine, moving back to the Netherlands at the end of ’75 would provide quite a culture shock, but more on that later in Author Bio Bits 2: 1976-1979