The pain, the pain

Trip Start May 01, 2002
Trip End May 01, 2009

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Flag of Thailand  ,
Wednesday, February 14, 2007

while at sawang the other day, i tried to jump down a hillside like a spring chicken and learned that i was no longer a spring chicken but a stupid old fart with a pulled or, god forbid, ripped calf muscle. it could have been worse i suppose but i am not very ambulatory in my current condition. i went to palm hills anyway because the weather was right. i played holes 1 through 9 and scored bogie, par, birdie followed by bogie par bogie, and finally, par, par, bogie for a raw score of 39. thailand girls really knock me out, they leave the west behind.

speaking of that, i must say that during your acclimitization process here, one of the things you have to get used to is the ease with which thais lie. they lie through their teeth and they don't care one whit. it's a culture thing. the truth for truth's sake just does not have the value here in thai culture. inter-personal and societal harmony and peace are more important. the usual learning curve for falang expats goes through three phases. they are anger, followed by resigned acceptance, and then, finally, actually seeing the societal merit of not mindlessly clinging to truth. if you know i am lying and if you know that i know that you know i am lying and if you further know and appreciate that it is a fine lie and just right for this situation, then what does it matter? asia is so much more complex than the west. it takes time and patience to see it their way and to appreciate their way.

there are actually a few other cultural things that take some time to absorb. first, there is this loan thing. it always comes from left field. you are never ever prepared to be hit. and then, boom, just like that there is an odd request for a loan, usually of astronomic proportions. it is not a good idea to ask how much because that is a tacit agreement to lend. so here is where you have to use thai culture to fight thai culture. you have to lie. i am sorry, but i am all out of money and my pension check is held up in the mail and my mother is in the hospital and so on and so forth. whatever you do, please do not actually give out a loan amount that is more than what you could comfortably lose. you will never get it back. an old thailand hand once told me that the best defence against the loan offence is to be the one that asks for the loan first. as soon as you get to know a new thai friend, male or female, go ahead and ask for a loan. they will lie through their teeth to tell you why they cannot make the loan, but after that exchange they will not ask you, the loser, for a loan. so far i am down only about 10,000 baht in loans but my french friend alain got hit big time before he finally learned. he is down 500,000 baht and then, to add insult to injury, a further 100,000 baht in legal fees and bribes in a futile attempt to recover his loss. bottom line: stay out of the loan business. when asked for a loan, however small, run as fast as you can.

yet a third cultural oddity over here, and this may have something to do with the first, is the overwhelming importance of image over substance. let me explain with an example. when farmers protested falling pork prices by publicly beating 1500 piglets to death, the only reaction to this gruesome spectacle from the Thais came after the foreign media had expressed its horror. Thailand's agriculture ministry then issued a statement of condemnation saying that the incident had tarnished thailand's image in the eyes of foreigners. see? this is how they think over here. they don't really care about the piglets but want only to portray the image that they do. weird, no? this philosophical underpinning permeates the whole of their society, their government, their laws, their politics, their economic policy, their religion, everything. you'll find it everywhere you look.
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