don’t say anything at all. We’ve all heard this.
In my case, though, it runs more like this: “If you can’t say anything nice, mean, or really anything at all because you don’t speak Thai, say it in English to yourself and stew over it for a while until you get angry enough to write it in a blog.”
I usually try to keep things positive here–no one wants to read a miserable, complaining rant about another person’s problems. But, having difficulties and frustrations is inherent in living in a foreign country, and I think it’s important to write about them a little bit.
So. Here are 6 things I wish I could say in Thai, but know it’s probably better I’ve got a language barrier to keep me from saying them and getting into trouble.
6. To the man who crashed his motorcycle into a pole this evening, and blamed me: “It is my understanding, though I might be wrong, that sidewalks are for people. Motorcycles, as motorized vehicles, usually drive on the road. It is not my fault that tonight you chose to speed down a pitch black sidewalk without watching where your were going, or watching for people using the sidewalk for its designated purpose, and it is not my fault you failed to see me until you had no choice but to either 1) hit me, or 2) hit a cement pole. Thank you for choosing the latter, but you can keep your shouting and curses for yourself because I’m not interested in taking the blame here.”
5. To the motorcycle drivers at the station across the street: “Okay. Boys. I walk by you every single morning, and I have walked past you every single morning for months. Every day, I face your laughter, joking, and clapping, as if it is the first time you’ve ever seen a foreigner in your life. And every morning, for the past 9 months, I have smiled and nodded to all of you, pretending to appreciate the compliments for the 261st time. Don’t you think it’s time we stopped this little ritual? I am really not a morning person, and I think we all get the point by now.”
4. To whoever should be handling the stray dog problem: “I understand many Thai’s think stray dogs are people who did bad things in a previous life, I know that Buddhism teaches not to kill living things, and I understand why you don’t want to euthanize them. But let’s face reality here: This country is overflowing with starving, diseased, crippled, and suffering animals. They are a nuisance, they are dangerous, and they have absolutely miserable lives. Is letting them continue to live really the “compassionate” choice?”
3. To the Thai defense minister, who said this after the US embassy recently issued an urgent terror warning for American citizens in Bangkok: “There is no need to announce any warning because it will cause panic and will affect our tourism.” And, later: ”I can guarantee no terrorist attacks will be allowed to take place.” I would like to say: “Dear sir: I am fascinated you think it more important to protect tourism than to inform your citizens and visitors to your country that terrorists are planning an immenent attack in your country’s capital. And, just an observation, despite your ‘guarantee’, yesterday an Iranian man set off three explosives in downtown Bangkok, and a warehouse was recently discovered in another part of the city with several tons of explosive materials. I think honesty and safety is more important than promoting tourism, and frankly this inept way of dealing with serious issues is only hurting your country’s image.”
2. To the shop keepers, fruit vendors, and tuk tuk drivers who continually seek to cheat me: “I have gone from patience and generosity to anger and indignation at you and those like you during the past year. I have been here long enough to know that the price you just quoted me is absurdly high and unfair, and I understand enough Thai to know that the person who just bought this (mango, pineapple, dress, etc) paid half as much as you are asking me for. Why is it that you see a foreigner and immediately calculate how much you can take advantage of them? I am not wealthy. I live here, make a Thai salary, and teach the children of your country how to speak a valuable foreign language. I don’t understand why you are trying to cheat me right now, with a smile on your face, and I refuse to pay anything other than a fair price.”
1. To the teachers who hit and humiliate 3 & 4 year-olds on a daily basis: “These students are babies. They should never, ever, be hit by a teacher or embarrassed in front of their classmates for any reason, let alone simply for not understanding or giving a wrong answer. Punishment should only be used for disobedience, not honest mistakes or simply not knowing an answer, and that punishment should never be getting struck by a ruler, shouted at until tears come, or being smacked so hard that a student falls off her chair. These little children should not be told on a daily basis they are fat, stupid, crybabies, or the like. It is infinitely more important for these kids to learn to like school, get along with their classmates, not develop psychological issues, and feel encouraged at this age then to achieve high “test scores” and create work that will impress parents. They are four years old. What are these kids learning by your example? ‘Don’t open your mouth in school, tell on your friend so you don’t get in trouble yourself, the best way to deal with a problem is violence, teachers are intimidating and not someone you can go to for help, and always be sure to cover your tracks when you do something wrong.’ Or, to quote Marmee from Little Women (sorry, had to do it), “If you hit and humiliate a child, the only lesson she will learn is to hit and humiliate.”
It’s probably best I keep these things to myself, though to be honest the last one I struggle with the most.
Anyways. Insert awkward transition here.
Valentines day was Tuesday. Some photos from the day: