Monday, November 15, 2010

This Is Thailand

I was discussing this concept recently with one of the teachers that lives in the apartment below us; 'This Is Thailand'.

For those of you who have seen Blood Diamond, you may start to understand more what I'm referring to... in the movie they talk about Africa in a certain way, the way the people act, the way it is living there, the inevitable truths about the continent that you can't really avoid. Leonardo DiCaprio's character and Djimon Hounsou's character (Danny and Solomon) have an acronym they say to each other when they are in one of these situations... TIA - this is Africa. Replace 'Thailand' for 'Africa' - you get TIT, made me giggle when we first said it - but it still holds true. When Danny and Solomon would have something happen to them in the movie that they couldn't really avoid, or that was sort of typical Africa, or just "one of those things", they would say to each other "T.I.A - this is Africa". Something you sort of get when watching the movie, but you don't get as an experience.

The funny acronym aside, the same holds true for Thailand. You don't get exactly what you ordered at a restaurant, and get charged extra; you get hassled like crazy in Bangkok by Tuk Tuk and Taxi drivers, or street vendors; you have to take a 6 hour, 3rd class, open-air train to visit some friends; it's 85 degrees outside and there's no AC in your classes; you ask somebody a question, they start rattling something off in Thai to their friend, and somewhere in the middle you hear 'farung' and you think "hey I heard that, I know you're talking about me"... well, this is Thailand. It's not that any of these things are necessarily good or bad, or that the people have a malicious intent - just the opposite in fact, almost 95 percent across the board, Thai people are the nicest people you will encounter - it's just that if you let these things start to get to you, you'll drive your self crazy. So it's just one of those things you have to tell your self occasionally, and that we say to each other, and sometimes it just helps you calm down and deal with a situation. It's sort of a way of telling yourself that it's no big deal, you're in Thailand, things are different - you have to go number 2 in a squatter and there's no tp, hey, this is Thailand.

Obviously Thailand is nothing like Africa, but it still helps. And it's definitely a lesson in tolerance.

This weekend we hade a "this is Thailand" moment; we went to visit some friends, and we went out to dinner one night (keep in mind this is a locals place, no white people there but us), they messed up the order of a couple of us and we got charged extra, we had suspected in the beginning of the meal but we thought the waitress said "okay" and we started eating the dish, by the time dinner was over and we got the bill we realized what happened. The bill was 1000 baht, wich isn't bad for a dinner for five people with mixers. But the people who got charged extra were trying to discuss the bill with people who didn't speak english (understandable enough though, you don't really want to pay extra for something that you didn't like...). They ended up reducing our bill 20 baht (which in the grand scheme is nothing). So, especially in a situation like this, no malicious intent at all, just miscommunication; and in Thailand, when you get the wrong dish and you eat it, you don't get your money back, just the way it is, this is Thailand.

Now, I really hope if our friend happens to read this, they don't think I'm raggin on them, not at all - cause this is essentially like a journal we're sharing with the world; we are all learning how to deal with the things we encounter here, and if we were in the United States I probably would've done the same thing, but... this is Thailand. Friend, you are awesome. And I think we all just brushed this off our shoulders, and after all is said and done we had an amazing time with our friends; motorbiking around the countryside, temples, and waterfalls.

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