As I sit here watching our Burmese cleaner sweep up the leaves outside our office I'm reminded of an old Jim Morrison poem, part of it reads like this: A man rakes leaves into a heap in his yard, a pile, and leans on his rake and burns them utterly.
The fragrance fills the forest, children pause and heed the smell, which will become nostalgia in several years.
Today I have received a few emails from back home enquiring about the current situation affecting Burma (Mynamar) from the devastating cyclone that just tore into the country. Typical good hearted questions were asked, like what Thailand is doing about it? What is happening in Thailand because of it etc. The answers drew a bit of a blank. Yesterday, I mentioned the crisis to a good Thai friend of mine. She knew nothing about it. When I informed her of the goings on, she simply looked at me with that ever so cheeky Thai smile and replied 'good'. Nice one love, nice one.
Yes, I live in Thailand. I've lived here for quite some time and I'm married to a lovely Thai girl. I'm also in the education industry in Thailand. Today, I must say I'm a little bothered, as we all get bothered from time to time. That's okay but this issue has gotten under my skin. I deal with the daily frustrations of being a foreigner. I deal with all the crap fairly well I think, just like I deal with all the crap when I'm back home. But I must say, when I hear somebody who is apparently of sound mind and has a great education utter the word 'GOOD' after hearing about 15,000+ poor people being ripped to bloody threads from a cyclone…well excuse me, I'm feeling a little sickly. How dare they I think. Well hang on a minute, I think again, is it their education system that has let these Thai folks down? Is it their religion that has let them down (at last count Buddhism wasn't too bad a religion), or was it the mythical spin doctor out there (somewhere) in Thailand who has let these people behave like the insensitive spoilt brats that they often appear (?) to be? Bugger me, I guess I'll never know.
A while back when 54 Burmese people died after being smuggled into to Phuket from their Home Country, I had the pleasure of discussing the events with some like-minded Thais. The conversation (if you will) went a bit like this:
Thai – "Burma have problem Phuket na?"
Me – "Yes, no good, mi dee muk muk."
Thai – "Chi, Burma no good, no good."
Actually, I had thought that when they first mentioned the topic perhaps they were expecting / wanting me to display one of those 'cheeky smiles' and say "Yes, Burma no good jing jing". I didn't, the topic changed quickly.
Getting back to one of our staff members, our Burmese 'do it all for almost nothing' cleaning lady, she's finished raking the leaves up and is pottering around the garden now. I asked her if her husband and children are okay back home in Burma and she said yes but she is praying so much for everybody else. God (if there is one out there) bless her soul and all the souls that have suffered and are suffering in places like Burma.
Perhaps folks my point is this. When we give something back to Thailand, and give we shall, give a little bit of information / education, seeds of thought if you will. Give the Thais a little bit of your knowledge, a little bit of what you and me have learnt. That regardless of where people come from, the colour of our skin etc, we all deserve respect. We do all have the same blood running through our veins after all. Let them know that it is not the people of Burma that they should dislike, it is the government. That after all, history has given Thailand luck and luck alone to not end up like its raped neighbours.
Don't get me wrong readers, I love this country and its people, but black hearts make my skin crawl. I know that we can't make much of a difference, but a little we can. Next time I prepare a lesson on the 'past perfect'…. I just might change it to 'today'.
On a final note, of all the hours I've spent in the land of smiles and all the hours I've spent thinking about the migrant workers they have here doing all the shitty jobs for next to nothing, I consider this — us and them have something in common, we are all outsiders and everyone deserves respect. And on Jim's poem, I'll remember the smell of today. From Phuket, Love and light to all.
The ignorance meter sometimes goes off the scale here. The Thais can be very friendly and gracious, but they also have a very mean streak and what you talk about here is an example of it.