Saturday, April 08, 2006

Through Thai Eyes - III

Dear Teacher,

I've finally found a library providing free internet for the people already. Thank you for your advice on this matter. By the way, it' takes about five minutes by bike to get there. It's a very good one, named Rappahannock County Library. Do you think "Rappahannock" sounds strange? I feel like it's not English word. Do you?

It now keeps raining every day here. Actaully I love rain, but the rain here always gets the weather even colder. Somestimes, this atmosphere makes me don't even want to leave my bed for work earlier like always. Oh!, god, I'd be fired soon !!!

However, I'd like to tell you what I've seen THROUGH MY OWN EYES (as you said) to you during I'm staying here. These are some what I experienced:

>> Do you think that the greeting sentence like "How are you" is dying
out? Because the people here greet like
  • "How are you doing?"
  • "How's going on?"
  • "What's going on?"
  • "What's news?"
  • "What's up!"
  • "Zup man!"
...or something like that. Then I think you'd feel boring since we just greet you like "How are you" !!!

>> I saw many American put their names on the car plates. And they said it's legal to do so. Therefore I think you must have put "D___" on each car plate of your family's, don't you? Sounds COOL!

>> I noticed that the light of each American's house is orange, you know what I mean? It's different from our home's (in Thailand). I don't know why don't they use the white light like we do for our home, because I consider our light is clearer and brighter than theirs. Or,maybe, this light looks light the color of fire that make them feel warm, I suppose.

But anyway, I prefer

the white one.

>> I saw the wild animals--rabbits and squirrels are often seen--appearing indepently in the backyard, on the road side or in the forest next to the house, without being harmed by the people even in daytime! If they were in Thailand (and even in my hometown), they should have been killed and become the food for our meals! I absolutely love the way the foriegners treat those wild animals.

These are some new experience I gain. And sure, with the culture, tradition, geography, thoughts, lifestyle etc. that differ from mine, I think I'll have a lot of things to discuss with you more on, my teacher.

Thank you so much for welcoming my mails and not getting annoyed (or not?!?) by them.

Your student.

p.s. Do you really understand what I said? Coz I've noticed that if I read English mails of my friends, I 100% understand. But when I read yours, my perception is just 85-90 %. And to make it worst, I don't understand what they say in many magazines by American at all!


My Dear Student,

Hey, I LOVE getting your emails! I am sharing them with my friends and family, and they love them too. In fact, your wonderful insights "Through Thai Eyes" are being read by my friends in over 20 foreign countries (including the USA). I'll explain when you get back. Keep it up.

You're right, the name of that county is not English. Probably not even Isan-Lao! I would say American Indian. So, if you can learn to pronounce some of those county and river names in Virginia, we'll call you "quadrilingual," ok?

Greetings: I think most Americans like to be a little bit unique in their greetings, and they hope it reflects their personalities. So a banker probably would not say "Zup man!" and a skateboarder probably would not say, "Good morning, isnt' the weather today indeed delightful?"

Names on license plates: Yes, it's very much enjoyed by Americans who have an extra $35 to $50 to spend for the higher fee! When I was home, I didn't have my name on my plate so that in case I accidentally did something rude in my driving, they could not identify me!

House lights: Hmmm. If it's the outside porch light you are looking at, it is probably a light that does not attract insects. You know how flying insects like to swarm around the bright fluorescent (some call "neon" or "tube") lights at restaurants and vendor carts in Isan? Last night, I had three flying termites land in my Tom Yum Goong at the local restaurant. They were going for the bright lights, but missed. I think you'll notice they don't go after the orange lights.

However, you bring up something else that I also notice--the big cultural difference about lights in homes. We Americans generally think of bright fluorescent lights as too bright and harsh on our eyes in certain living spaces in a home. Therefore, we will only use fluorescent lights in places like the kitchen or utility rooms which need a bright light for work-related activities (washing, cooking, cleaning, ironing clothes, etc.). Generally, we don't like to use them in our bedrooms, living rooms or other more relaxed rooms in the house.

It was so hard for me to get used to fluorescent lights inside homes and apartments when I came to Thailand. When I first moved into my new apartment, I bought all table lamps with soft-colored incandescent light bulbs. When my Thai friends came to visit, they immediately turned on the glaring overhead lights with the comment, "Ugh! Why is it SO DARK in here?!!" As I turned them back off, I would reply, "It's NOT dark--it's soft and warm!" The battle went on--off on off on off--accompanied by much joking.

Wild animals. I always laughed at my Thai-Isan friends. Whenever we were in the jungle or a park and they saw a wild animal, their first comment was always about whether it tasted good or not. "See that lizard over there? Ah, 'arroy mak!' " (very delicious). See those big insects? Very tasty when roasted over a fire!" "See that big frog? Worthless! You can't eat that kind." Now I find myself always asking my friends: "What is that animal over there? Do you eat it too? Is it delicious?" I'm afraid that if I came back to America and started asking those questions, they would immediately take me to a big buffet-style restaurant, thinking I was starving to death!

I look forward to your next "chapter," seeing my home country through your eyes. When you come back to Isan, I will share with you a place where you can read about your home country through MY eyes. You have a real surprise waiting for you.

Your Teacher

P.S. By the way, I am glad you are at an 85-90% understanding of my emails--that means I am challenging you!. And yes, I understand yours, 98-100%. Excellent writing. (You must have had a wonderful, talented instructor for "Basic Composition and Writing!" Didn't you get a B+ in that course?).


Chaichakri said...

It is also WHITE LIGHTS at my home, though I have the OPTION of having ORANGE lights too....

Somehow, the WHITE LIGHTS reign supreme! This is despite IKEA rules in my heart. I guess, it is more practical to have WHITE LIGHTS ha ha he hee

In Malaysia, I notice that WHITE LIGHTS are usually found in Chinese new villages (san chuen. New Villagers were founded by the British in the 1950s to eradicate communism in British Malaya, it brings together all the Chinese families from rural areas into a central area....

Oh yeah, ORANGE lights are for the RICH people who stay in Kenny Hills, Federal Hills, Bangsar and Pantai Hills...hee hee

witheringintuition said...

Thanks for another installment JD. I love reading these letters and seeing my home from another perspective. Your student mentions things that I overlook out of habit. We do tend to have “soft lighting” in our homes. I went out to lunch the other day, with this is mind, and noticed how dark it was in the restaurant. I have never really thought about this before. It seems that the more expensive the restaurant is the darker the lighting is. The really expensive ones even have candles to set the romantic mood. I am used to this and prefer softer lighting in my home as well. When I go to building with florescent lighting I often find it painful. Sometimes it even gives me headaches. So I will need to adjust to these lighting differences when I come to Thailand. Without this entry I would never have considered this. Thanks again to you and your student for sharing. The bright lighting would actually be more practical.