Monday, September 26, 2016

Vincent Vega Was Right: "It's the little differences"

In one of my all-time-favorite movies, Pulp Fiction, one of the main characters, Vincent Vega, delivers a classic dialogue with another main character, Jules Winnfield.  Having just returned from an extended stay in Europe, Vincent is explaining to Jules the various differences in law, specifically pertaining to hash, between Amsterdam and in the U.S.  And as Vincent reflects, he breaks it down to this conclusion, "But you know what the funniest thing about Europe is?  It's the little differences.  I mean they got the same shit over there that they got here, but it's just there, there it's a little different."

Well I think that perfectly summarizes how I've been feeling about Thailand, and I mean this in a positive way, as Vincent Vega does.  Here, it's just a little different.  "Example?" as Jules would say.
Well, take water for instance.  We have water that comes out of our taps and shower heads, but no one drinks it.  It would most likely make you sick very quickly.  Instead, everyone drinks drinking water that they get delivered to their house, either in a large 5 gallon-sized bottle, or, as we do, in crates of 1 liter bottles, 20 to a crate.  In our neighborhood, the water guys come by on Thursday morning.  We simply leave our empty crates and bottles on the porch with payment in a small plastic bag, and the guys replace them with full bottles.  How much does it cost for a week's worth of drinking water?  About 90 baht for 3 crates, or a little less that $2.50.

Similarly, we don't have gas pipes supplying natural gas to our stoves, so everyone here has a propane bottle under their kitchen counter, much like a barbecue back home in the States.  When the gas runs out, you call the delivery guy in your area and he's there in 10 minutes.  Ours ran out about 3 weeks ago, so our beautiful neighbor called for us.  The delivery guy came in on a motorbike with this extremely heavy gas tank bungee strapped to the back.  He brought it in, hooked it up, and charged us about 300 baht, or about $8.20.  This should last a couple of months.

But for us, "the funniest thing" about Thailand is the little differences....between the people.  People here, as an entire culture, are a lot more accepting of other people.  Whatever makes you different, be it your physical appearance, your voice, your lifestyle, your religion, your country of origin, is OK here.  It's OK.  In Thai, they say, "mai pen rai." which means several things, but at its core is the idea of "it isn't a big deal."  Therefore, it's OK.  This attitude (or is it a lack of attitude?) is impossible to miss for an outsider.  I have never once seen a Thai person lose his/her cool at another person, though I'm told it does happen occasionally, of course.  And when you leave your house, you see it everywhere.  Buddhists and Muslims shopping at the market. mai pen rai.  A small group of "lady boys" applying makeup as they drink their beers next to a group of straight young men at the bar.  mai pen rai.  A goofy-assed white American (me) absolutely butchering the Thai language as he tries to buy a watermelon smoothie (delicious!) for his two Thai kids who don't speak Thai.  mai pen rai.  And yes, driving your motorbike sans helmet and holding an umbrella with one hand as your two kids sit behind you, also sans helmet.  mai pen rai.  

Perhaps this approach to living is also more obvious to us now because of this year's election in the U.S.  It's an historical time.  Historical in the sense that the xenophobia bubbling to the surface has fouled the air in our country many times throughout history: It was once the Irish, the Italians, the Germans, the Chinese, the Mexicans... the list goes on and on but the pattern stays the same.  We are looking for a scapegoat to sacrifice.  Doing so will solve all our problems, except that it won't.
I wonder if everyone could see and experience the beauty, benefit and practicality of mai pen rai, what would happen?  Could we adopt this attitude just a little?  Could we just ignore the things that make us appear different, knowing that it's not a big deal?

Alas, the little differences are calling me away now.  I have to move the clothes off the clothes line before the last of the monsoon rains come and soak them again.  There's also the issue of cleaning off the gecko poop from the window ledges.  mai pen rai, mai pen rai, mai pen rai, mai pen rai........

The Ice Cream Man!  Only here he comes up on a motorbike with a Nestle side car.  mai pen rai


  1. Mai pen rai.... It warms my heart

  2. So great! We all love picturing you guys figuring it all out! We're all wondering how the Lacrosse team is coming! Wanted to share an article the other day that totally reminded us of your endeavor: Enjoy!