Random Rants and Ramblings....
aka. yet another attempt to avoid sorting out the rest of my stuff...
1. The Advent Calendar
I opened the second door of my advent calendar this morning... A train, and not even a festive looking train at that. Yesterday's picture was a lion. Am now starting to wonder how many days it will be before I open a door and finally find something christmassy hiding behind it.
2. Missing Home
I have a friend, B a Thai guy, who's studying in the States. Sometimes he MSN's, normally when he wants to say hi or is missing home. He's on the East coast, and he tells me that it's really cold there now. The excitement of seeing snow for the first time ever, quickly disappeared once he realised that, for it to snow, it needs to be cold. Very, very, very cold. He should be used to the cold weather. He's from the mountains in the north of the country and it can get really chilly there. But, I guess there;s a big difference between 'a bit chilly' in Thailand and chilly in the US. He hates the cold. He MSNed me earlier this morning, and told me that he really misses Thailand. I asked him what he missed the most. His reply.... 'the beaches.'
The odd thing about this is that, in the year and a bit that I've known him, he's never mentioned wanting to go to, or having been to a beach once. When B (the French one, not the Thai one) lived here, and the 2 of us used to travel around at weekends, we often invited him to tag along. One time we asked him whether he wanted to go to Suan Soan Pradipat, a nice quiet pine tree lined beach just south of Hua Hin. His response 'borrrriiiinnng. I want to go somewhere coooooool.' His idea of cool ? 'Central Pinklao', a soulless Shopping Mall a kilometer or so down the road, a place neither B or I had any affection for. It's true. It is cool. Thai's like their air con, so, everytime I've been there it's been more than cool. It's f*****g freezing. I normally need to take a sweater with me whenever I go to the movies, or shop there.
I should have asked him whether he ever misses sitting in the lobby, or on the concrete patio that passes for a garden outside, moaning about his ex or about not being able to go out, arguing about whether words were real or not whenever we played scrabble and complaining about me making him catch the scary 6 1/2 (though its now gone up to 7) baht green bus over Pinklao Bridge, as these are the things that I remember most about him living here.
When I was in England, a couple of weeks ago, I missed Thailand a lot. The things I missed most were the things I saw everyday. The streetlife. People where I live who cook food or sit near the kerb, selling everything from perfume to second hand backpacks. 24-7 there's something to eat here, or someone wandering up and down the road who recognises me enough to say hello and ask me where I've been. I missed the colours on the street; Monks collecting food every morning, motorbike taxi and tuk-tuk drivers hanging around by the bus stop, waiting for fares, chillis and raw pork and beef left to dry in the sun. I missed taking the boat across the Chaophraya, visiting my old neighbour on Samsen, taking a stroll around the market in Siriraj, or taking my bike down to Talingchan or, up through Baan Grooway to Non.
It was really cold in England too. We had 7 Frosty mornings in a row, and, one night, the temperature dropped to -4. OK, I missed the weather too. Bangkok can be stiflingly hot and sticky, but, this time of year, the temperatures quite mild, and its a nice place to be. But... if I thought about my life here, beaches didn't even enter my head.
For anyone who's travelled, or lived away from home for a while, what do you miss most about home? Why?
3. Name calling...
When I was a kid I had a teddy bear (well it wasn't really a teddy bear, it was more like a deformed rabit with no tail and a teddy bear nose) called flossie bobs. I've no idea why I called him that. I guess I just liked the sound of the name. Children can call their teddies anything they want. Well... anything except Mohammed.
A few days ago there was a story in the Bangkok post about an English teacher in Sudan. As part of a project, she let her children think of a name for the class teddy. They chose Mohammed. The result of this... She was jailed, and is about to appear in court on some kind of religious defamation charge. Some Sudanese people are clamouring for her to recieved 40 lashes. Extremists want her executed. The story made the BKK Post as a couple of prominent Britsh muslims are flying to Sudan, to try and reason with the authorities there, and hopefully, get her home.
She made a mistake, a basic 'cultural misunderstanding' as she described it. Unfortunately, she was working in a country that couldn't see this, and the penalties are scarily harsh.
There's a huge number of cultural do's and dont's in Thailand. If you're a foreign tourist, it's OK if you slip up on a few. You don't know any better, but, live her a while, and Thai people who you hang out with, will expect you to know and respect them. If you don't, and can understand some Thai, you'll often see people smile at you, and then hear them complain out loud about how rude or badly behaved the foreigner is.
Here are a couple of examples. Things that are kind of normal at home, but definitely not good things to do here.
* Elbowing someone in the head when, ten or so people surge into an already crowded tube (sorry subway) train and, you're trying to work out whereabouts to grab the handrail.
* Hugging, holding hands with or (and this one is a definite no-no) snogging someone you like in public. Most times, if you fancy a guy here, you can't even tell him that you like him. Here, he's supposed to have some kind of magic 6th sense and be the one that chases after you.. not the other way around.
* Putting an important book between your knees (hey - if it's not supposed to go on the floor, where else can it go...), whilst you shake hands with someone, or use your hands to pick something else up.
* Standing on a 100 baht bank note to stop it blowing away when you accidently drop it on the floor. Putting lose change between your teeth, whilst you scramble to find or get hold of something else is also out.
You won't find the last 2 in any guidebook or lists about how to behave. I only know they're wrong because I've done them both, and heard, and struggled to understand the bitchy comments afterwards.
But, it's not just English people abroad that make mistakes. Thai people can also be culturally insensitive. Laughing when they find out that someone has just died, for instance, is something westerners, used to hearing phrases like 'I'm so sorry' or kind words of condolence, don't tend to appreaciate.
At my old school's sports day, last year, the foreign teachers turned up to see giant swastikas and 1/4 of the school dressed as Nazi's. Fortunately Brits are quite forgiving. Sure, we were outraged and shocked by what the students (and the staff who had helped and encouraged them) had done, but we could also see that it was an innocent mistake, commited more out of an ignorance of history than an attempt to celebrate and glorify Nazism. When the Thai students and, even worse, the teachers who are teaching them don't know a thing about the second world war ('Its not important' one of them later told me. 'It was not in Thailand...' - yep... Thai teacher's don't even learn about their own countries role in the conflict...) how on earth can you expect them to know a thing about the Nazi's or the atrocities that they committed.
Getting back to the story, I kind of wonder what would happen here, if Thai kids were asked to choose a name for a class teddy. Chances are that the eventual name wouldn't be that contraversial. If the kids I taught last year are anything to go by, they would probably choose something like 'ManU.' But supposing they chose King, or Bhumibol or Buddah ? King would be OK. There are plenty of guys here with the nickname King, but the other two....Would there be the same sense of moral outrage. Would parents campaign to have the teacher sacked, or arrested and kicked out of the country ???
|Create Date : 02 ธันวาคม 2550
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