17 Thaikarl - some thought from earlier

pre-wrote this a few days ago... didn't get to send it before coming to cambodia.

Sunday, March 12, 2006


In response to a couple of queries- no, taking a shower with a bowel from a tank is not the universal method.  Seems to depend on how much income you have.  One of the first things Thais will do to improve their houses is to put in tiled walls and floor, maybe a shower hose and sink.  They will also tile and sink the kitchen, and put in a built in stove top.  This costs money.  Toks family has depended only on her income for some time now.  So the money has gone for more important things, like school for Tery, cloths and food.  Tok is very thrifty, and a great bargain-hunter.  I ran out of Kraeting Daeng the other day.  We were in town in the evening and we checked in a store to see if they had a 10 pack.  The price was 5 baht (13 cents) more than the other store.  Which for me, was negligible. Tok said she wouldn't pay that, she would goto the other store.  But then, I'll go and pay 50 baht (1.25) for a cup of espresso, which to her is quite extravagant. But she never gives me a hard time about it.  As long as there is money for the family and everything, what I do with my money is fine.


Everyday I spend hours just absorbing what I see and hear here.  I am fascinated by the differences and similarities.  When you spend your life in your native country, you learn, without really realizing it, that "this is the way things are done".  Living in thailand, or most any other outside your native country, "the way things exist" can be quite different.  Similar, but different.  Here in Thailand you will often hear the phrase "Same Same, but different"  A delightful way to say it I think.


Take something simple like writing paper.  Thai's (and most of the rest of the world) use a standard paper size called A4.  this paper is 8.27 inches wide and 11.69 inches long.  A little narrower and a little longer than American paper.  But it's office paper, just like we use.  Same Same, but different.  We used this paper in school in Bangkok.  I didn't realize the difference for a week or so, until I was looking in page set-up in a document I was working on. I like it. The proportions seemed better to me.  A small thing I know, but it serves to illustrate the concept.  Expand this to millions of other things – housing construction, vehicles, roads, writing, speech, clothing, habits, morals, plants, politics… can you see why I am never board? Even when I'm just hanging out somewhere, be it a sidewalk in Bangkok or at a house in the mountains waiting for Tok and Jamlong to do hair and make-up for a wedding party?


I am surround by an environment rich in differences in "the way things exist"  I am constantly stimulated – should I care to look.  I have met people here on holiday, who think Thailand is quaint, interesting, and exotic – but only for two weeks.  When they go back home, they go all the way back.  Thailand was a "nice vacation, but the food was too spicy and there was no hot water at the guest house we stayed at on the beach!"  I understand this, but the experience of being here runs hundreds layers deeper than that for me.  I really couldn't tell you why either.  I've thought about it a lot, but haven't reached a conclusion.  Maybe some past-life thing. Maybe I'm just "ready".   I have a friend who lived here for 5 years.  When I came last year, and he read my comments in my emails, he would reply with notices like "that's one of the signs man", or "you're in deep now"  having lived here himself, and seen a lot of vacationers and internationals come and go, he knew the indicators – the ones that tell the difference between the two sets of people.  Seems I've got the set that says: "you're gotta live there".


i am in thailand at the moment. to be added or deleted from my travelogue, send request to this address. view previous posts at:  http://thaikarl.blogspot.com/

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