September 9, 2005
If narcissism is an American trait, then humility is a Thai virtue. According to Robert and Nanthapa Cooper in "Culture Shock! Thailand", "Jai yen ['Cool heart'] keeps Bangkok from blowing apart." It's that sentence on page 114 that provides me with insight and subsequently justifies the purchase of a book I merely browsed.
In some ways it feels like I've merely browsed Thai culture. Because if I did more than that, more of it would make sense. While some of it does, I still wonder: How does a man sleeping under a staircase, proximal to the light and light noise of neverending traffic, continue to sleep there, even lightly, with evident jai yen?
Weeks ago I was eating packets of fried seaweed and drinking cans of grass jelly juice like there was no tomorrow, but there were so many tomorrows that I got sick of them both and left a healthy collection of each in my Bangkok apartment fridge.
But tomorrow, the fridge will be devoid of that incongruous culinary combination.
Tomorrow I fly to Sydney, Australia. Greater than jai yen, tomorrow will offer nothing less than another experience that will help me better understand: How did 7-11 keep up with this onetime seaweed aficionado?