Readers' Submissions

People Are Like Christmas Presents




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Life is like a box of chocolates, you never….

Sorry, wrong story.

I have three observations on life that I would like to make.

1. We are all captives of our childhood.

2. Thailand is like every other place I have lived or visited. It is exactly like a mirrored ball at the old disco from the 70’s. Every one looks and sees a different reflection, but no one gets to see the complete picture.

3. People, all people, are like Christmas presents. There is the wrapping paper and the real contents. You have to bring your own batteries.

If you are bored already, go have another beer.

Point 1.

We all start to form a mental model of the world from the day we are born. Over time this model can change, but it is reasonably fixed by the time we enter puberty. The way we think, the things we see as important, the roles of people and how they should behave are all taught during the first few years.

I have read reports that up until about 5 years of age, children can make all of the sounds of all languages. After this age we start to lose the ability to make the sounds we do not use. This makes sense, as we only need the sounds necessary to allow us to communicate within our community. That is why it is so much harder (for most of us) to learn a new language as an adult if the new language has very different sounds from our native language.

Australians of a certain age (mid 40’s) who went to a public school in New South Wales know very little about grammar. We know a noun and a verb and maybe an adverb but not much else. A particle or a gerund is beyond us. This is because the school system at that time emphasized English as a communication tool, rather than a set of rules to be followed. End result is we can speak and write but make hopeless English teachers because we do not know the rules. We are limited by our early years.

My father grew up in the 1920’s and I grew up in the 1960’s. His views of the world and the roles of men and women are very different to mine. I do not think that one is right and one wrong, just different. My Thai girlfriend has still a different view based on growing up in Thailand in the 1970’s.

Point 2.

Our early conditioning is strengthened by our life experiences.

The end result is that we see the world through the lens of our early upbringing and life experience. THAT is why 2 (or 5 or 100) people can see the same thing and have wildly different reactions. It is why we could all stand on Sukhumvit Road and some would be overwhelmed at the amount of traffic, some would be disgusted at the dirt and some are busy eyeing the girls. It is all about where you come from and where you are on the journey of life. A young man at 20 has only mild curiosity about Viagra where for a man of 65 it may have a much more practical implication.

People create and use maps to simplify reality. The landscape is too unwieldy to describe, so we draw maps. These maps do not show everything, as they would have to be life sized to do that.

So we can see part of the reality that is Thailand (or any other place), but it is still only a map. You can not be everywhere or experience everything there is in this or any other country.

The bits you see you will interpret differently to other people who see the same bit and there will always be bits you do not see/understand.

Point 3.

People have an outside that we can see and an inside of feelings and desires that we can not see.

It seems that many of the visitors to Thailand focus on the packaging and then get upset because the present inside is not to their liking. Packaging is great if you are only interested in 1 night or a week at the beach. If you are after forever, then you better like the present because you will be playing with it for a long time after the paper gets all wrinkled.

I prefer the perspective that it is the inside that is important. A plain wrapper with a great heart will always beat 4 aces. Take it slow and make sure the inside is what you want. You can work around problems with the packaging, polish it a bit if you want (there are lots of hospitals and clinics here that can provide good service). Lighter/darker skin, add/remove tattoos, bigger/smaller boob (just who would want smaller?), thinner/fatter, shorter/taller (hard but doable), change teeth etc. They even make women out of men, so nothing is really too hard to change on the outside. I hear you can get coloured contact lenses, but not sure how they work on dark brown eyes.

Note: It is impossible for you to change the inside. Nothing short of a brain transplant would work.

My ideal packaging would be 5’4” or taller, slim (not skinny) with an athletic build and a well developed chest (C+). Reality is 5’0”, slim with a Thai girl chest (A-). The end result is Khun Lek always wears high heels and has offered to have a boob job if I want (No, she does not want it for herself and YES, of course I get to pay, but they are for me after all).

The batteries are about what you put into the relationship. Again, short timers can afford to be stingy, but if it is intended to be long term then you need to put in the work. It does not matter where you or your significant other are from, it still takes effort to make it work.

Conclusion.

There is no conclusion. You are the person you choose to be. If you are obnoxious then it is because you choose to be this way, you could just as easily choose to be polite and a good listener. I am happy and so is Khun Lek. We have known each other for 3 years, only 40 more to go.

P.S. I forgot the bit at the beginning about me. I’m 45, Australian, I live/work in Bangkok and have been here for 3 years (in Asia since 1990 and never going back to 50% income tax). I do not read Thai yet but am studying.

Stickman's thoughts:

Nice analogy.