Everything here is fun. At any business meeting that I have attended, the snacks were the most important thing, lunch was provided if the time was anywhere near, and anyone who got a cell phone call just took it, stood up and walked out of the room laughing and talking. This lack of discipline extends to academics too. For certain majors the required thesis must be in English, and I see stuff that includes paragraphs of perfect English mixed in with paragraphs of mangled English, it’s obviously been cut-and-pasted off the internet, probably Wikipedia, but you’d never know because no sites are provided.
Every teacher here is a government official and has a military style uniform. The elaborate accoutrement tell the experienced viewer what degree the person has, what grade level they are at, and what honors they have received. They also have row after row of “battle ribbons,” the small multicolored bars of which there are tiers and tiers on any general’s chest, they get medals for any old thing at all, but that’s a complaint for another day. American enlisted men get them for things that are either bloody hard or bloody dangerous. What did the teacher do to get all those medals? Four tiers was not uncommon, each tier has three or four. Heroes or what? All police have them too, and many workers on the railroad, I kid you not. I asked around.
The ribbons have no independent meaning at all. After four years as a teacher, or whatever, you get to wear one tier, one row. Every four years thereafter you can add one. They have no other significance. They can be in any colors or combinations.
This place is the triumph of form over function; form is extremely important and function is an afterthought. They don’t care if you sign a years worth of time sheets at once, as long as at the end of the year there’s a years worth of signed time sheets in the file, a big book, that no one will ever look at, but which will take it’s place upon a shelf in numerical order and will stay there forever.
So it’s all like a game, really. Buy a cell phone so you can take pictures of yourself and send them to friends; buy a lap-top so you can play games while you pretend to study; spend all your time in English class drawing pictures of oranges that are labeled, “Oranqe,” wear a cool watch but when teacher asks you what time it is, just tell him, “I don’t know, it doesn’t work.”
But everyone seems to be working; everyone seems to eat well; all of the cars and trucks and motorcycles are running fine, Thai mechanics are excellent; most people seem to be happy most of the time, whether they’re at work or at a party, sometimes it’s hard to tell the difference; Thai roofs do not leak, and that’s asking quite a bit in the tropics; Thai buildings don’t collapse; the food here is as safe as the U.S. or Europe; and if anybody gives you water to drink, you can be sure that it’s drinking water, they wouldn’t want to make you sick, they don’t drink the tap water either probably.
The world could learn a lot from Thai people. I know I have.