Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Little Things You Should Know About Thailand

Thai people are generally very modest and graceful, but there are exceptions. For instance, they cannot seem to do anything with their respiratory or gastro-intestinal tracts without dramatic vocalization.

Burping is not merely the release of air trapped in the stomach; it is an opportunity to block the diaphragm and project an operatic tone into the proceedings. A simple cough is amplified with as much enthusiasm from the voice box as can be mustered. Someone hawking and spitting into a sink is quite an elaborate song and dance. All of this is merely quaint, the real show is presented upon puking.

Our home in our Peace Corps days was in a thinly housed neighborhood of a small city. There was an egalitarian mix of very nice homes of prosperous people and lots of Tobacco Road shacks housing families who were very, very poor. In the mix was a condo block populated mostly by young Thais with good jobs and cars, the burgeoning middle-class. Only the condos had air-conditioning; the rest of us slept as though together, hearing every sound together, not only bird sound, bug sound, frogs, and lizards, but also lovers’ quarrels, impromptu midnight karaoke parties, drinking bouts, and fights. Some shooting of guns was involved, also a bit of puking.

The vomiting was theatrical in the extreme. Never just the rushing fluid sound, but always accompanied by screaming. Vomit, as you know, is a caustic fluid, bearing as it does a large amount of stomach acid. Good judgment dictates that one should allow the flow to be accomplished with as much speed as possible. Screaming is exactly the wrong idea. I constricts the throat and impedes the flow, the result is painful. This is obvious, because the vomit-screaming is always followed immediately by a pained cry, further constricting the throat and causing further pain.

It is always my wish in these scribblings to offer a reasoned explanation, or at least to speculate on some plausible explanation. Alas, here I have nothing to offer. Like so many other things, this vocalizing is a mystery to me.


Rory Cripps said...

Very interesting observation Fred. I know a little about the differences between the American/European mind-set and the Asian mind-set. However, as an American, I know an awful lot about vomiting and I've learned to puke, in a discreet manner, all over the country. So I'll make a feeble attempt, here, "to speculate on some plausible explanation." I'll draw upon my traditional Japanese martial arts training and the difference between my very good friend, Corwyn Wong (a person of Chinese ancestry that grew up in your hometown)and those of American/Europen ancestry that made the mistake of "picking on him", because he was a slant-eye as it were. The Katas that I learned while studying Shotokan karate were derived from make-believe dances. The true intent of the Katas was to provide training in the martial-arts, because the authorities, in Japan at the time that the katas were developed, restricted all martial training to that of the samurai class and higher. The people, as mere subjects, had very little means to defend themselves against the excesses, whims, murders, rapes and abortions of the "higher classes". Indeed, the only weapons that the people had, at there disposal, were common/everyday farm implements. However, dancing was not outlawed; so the people, cleverly, engaged in martial-arts training under the guise of innocent dancing. Every farm implement was incorporated into their dances and the "authorities" didn't seem to catch on. And at certain points during the dances, when emotions and thoughts of killing the oppressors ran high, a strong kiai was sounded out in unison. Kiai is the sound (not the word) that we often hear when a martial artist cleanly chops through concrete blocks with his bare hand. My friend, Corwyn Wong, would not hesitate to chop through anyone with his bare hand. And if the offender immediately died, so be it . . .that's life. That is, indeed, a major difference between an Asian mind-set and an American/European mind-set. Perhaps the screams that you hear, as Thailand citizens are vomiting, is nothing more than a pent-up/centuries-old kiai. And the reason why you now hear them scream is, simply, because they can . . . .

fred c said...

Don't wish to be thought to be hiding something from their fellows?

Wish to communicate the experience so that it may be shared?

It's something like that, because it is universal.

Anonymous said...

Talk about a verbal explosion of vomit! Well done, Dr. Cripp! As usual. :)

Rory Cripps said...

Dear anonymous of Sept. 30, 2008: What does :) mean?