Sunday, August 20, 2006
shadrach, meshach, and...dao?
every morning just before class starts, the students gather in front of the flag and line up in their classroom groups. they sing the national anthem together, and then recite prayers to buddha. those stalwart figures you see with their hands to their sides or behind their backs are our boys. they are exempt from praying to the buddha by virtue of their status as Christians, but i often wonder what their classmates think of this, and how they respond when questioned. this is yet another one of those things i'll never know, because i don't speak thai.
the national anthem, besides being sung before class, is also played over the loudspeaker at 8:00. this is not just a school function; everywhere in thailand, loudspeakers on trucks or posted on streets, radio stations and television, all play thailand's national anthem at precisely 8:00 am and 6:00 pm. wherever one happens to be at that moment, one is expected to drop everything and stand at attention. traffic will sometimes even come to a halt, as people pay homage to their country and king.
other things you might not know about thailand:
before a movie is played in the theaters, a special video honoring the king is run. once again, everyone stands at attention.
when you fold money, you fold it with the king's face on the outside. if you drop money, stepping on it is a jailable offence (you're putting your foot on the likeness of the king's head).
it is considered rude to pick your teeth in public. picking your nose is perfectly acceptable.
every road worth mentioning has a meridian, because there are no functioning crosswalks. one only has to dodge traffic coming from one direction at a time, resting on the meridian in the middle. you are permitted to cross if you probably won't get hit.
the reigning rule of the road is 'don't get hit.' slightly less prominant is 'try not to hit anyone else.'
people drive on the left-hand side.
many driver's licenses are purchased, not earned.
people swim in the ocean fully-clothed, and usually only in the evening. when they sit on the beach, they do so under a host of umbrellas, and they sit facing inwards towards each other, not towards the sea.
you eat with a fork and spoon, using the fork to push the food onto your spoon. you can use your spoon to cut things, if strictly necessary. my house has one butterknife, which i use when no one is around. i call it 'going savage.'
eggs and milk can be left out on the counter, no problem. cereal, however...THAT goes in the fridge.
thai people were voted the 'best-smelling people group' in the world. they shower several times daily.
no one kisses in public. if you must show affection, you put your face close to someone else's face, and sniff them.
friends of the same gender group can and will walk down the street hand-in-hand.
you never touch someone else's head.
that concludes our lesson in thai culture, 101. class dismissed.