I was feeling pretty melancholy today. Most likely because Jill left, I know I’m leaving Thailand a week from today, and I spent most of Saturday working on my taxes. I suppose that with all three of those stars aligning at the same time, on a full moon, I should have been closer to suicidal rather than melancholy. Maybe it’s an indication that I’m finally getting my medication dosage figured out.
But Jill and I ran pretty hard for a week so I just stayed in today which made me think of what it must be like to live in Thailand. I realize that what I’m experiencing is nothing like the average Thai lives every day. I mean really, do they have three people salute them as they leave their buildings? I think not (I hope not, it’s starting to get under my skin a little). But I thought I would take this opportunity to fill you in on what I’ve observed about Thai culture so far.
First of all, the streets are filthy. Not with litter, but with the residue of heavy use and of being the primary place where commerce is conducted. They are a mine field of cauldrons bubbling with mysterious soups, frying pork bellies, flower offerings for the Buddha, and bras. The streets (and more so the sois…little “sub” streets) are an extension of where people live.
But, if you walk into most any building it is immaculate. Maybe it’s Zen or fung shei, whatever it is, I like it.
Did you realize that the Thai people always remove their shoes before going indoors? This is absolutely sacred at homes and temples but is even practiced at many businesses that are frequented mostly by Thai people. It is not unusual to see a pile of shoes in front of a shop. The flooring in my apartment is mostly wood and marble. The maids mop them every day even though no one EVER wears their shoes in here…not even them. I had a maintenance guy come to change a light bulb and he removed his shoes before he came inside.
Regarding food: It appears that most of it is prepared and consumed on the same filthy sidewalks I mentioned above. At least the good stuff is. But what will surprise most is that the Thais don’t use chop sticks. They eat with a spoon and a “fork helper.” If you’re right-handed, you use the spoon in your right hand to bring the food to your mouth. The fork is simply a convenience to push stuff onto your spoon. If you want to impress the help at a Thai restaurant in the States, try this…they’ll swoon.
Oh my goodness, the flavors! Thais believe that any good meal must be made up of a combination of sweet, salty, bitter, and sour. Meals are served family-style with several dishes making up the flavors mentioned. No one would ever consider ordering their “own” dish. It would totally screw everything up. Also, dishes are brought to the table as they are finished in the kitchen so there is this procession of delivery.
This all works fine and dandy when you’re with a group of friends or family. But, when you’re alone it presents a major problem that is usually manifested in over ordering. Also, I’ve been told that Thai people really feel sorry for those eating alone since mealtime is a family/friend kind of thing to do. I must have jerked their hearts out.
I know they have mine.