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?
September 13, 2005
Chocolate and the Charlie Factory
Is it still culture shock if the culture I'm shocked by is the one that more closely resembles my own? Because I don't see four people riding one motorcycle in Sydney. And I was getting used to that.
Milk chocolate in Bangkok and squirt it deep into a Charlie Factory and Charlie is on his way. Do the same in Sydney and Charlie will be an imminent presence. But the Bangkok Charlie and the Sydney Charlie, even if made from the same chocolate in the same plant, will not taste the same.
No need to take my word for it. Take this opportunity to shamelessly coax Mysha, as I have, into making you truffles.
I stood out in Bangkok simply because I didn't look Thai. I stand out in Sydney simply because I trip on uneven pavement. But when I'm not tripping on uneven pavement, I'm tripping on the fundamental advantages that the luck of Charlie's being raised in a First World city like Sydney affords him: potable water, invisible air, relative quiet, ethnic diversity, and, of course, a wide selection of chocolate.
September 24, 2005
An Amoebic Epicenter
I glanced at it curiously the first few times I passed it. How poetic, I thought. Travellers travelling to piece the puzzle together piece an actual 750-piece puzzle together. Previous YHA Christchurch backpackers got the blue sky up top and the evergreen bushes at the bottom of Mount Rushmore, but the faces of our leaders remain in shambles. The levees in Louisiana.
It gets warmer as you drive south on I-10 from San Francsico to San Diego. Downright hot if your friend gets pulled over for weaving while smoking a bowl. Cooler when the cops let you both go. No coke in Malibu.
Had I done my Earth Science homework in high school, the snow pelting our plane as we descended in New Zealand last Monday might have come as less of a surprise. That same surprise later became pleasant when I could put fabric on my head to cover my late reaction to an apparent miscommunication with a barber downtown on Manchester Street. A range of shorter.
Equipped with a beanie and long underwear, I successfully attached a fragment of Theodore Roosevelt's forehead last night. I knew the missing piece was on the table, but I could only find it after I decided to look for it. Infinity can feel manageable. Illusion or not, future travellers do have one more piece of the puzzle connected. Washington to the left.