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kandahar

Time Travel

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When I was young, in my original home country, things were good. I didn’t know how good then. I just thought that life was that way everywhere and always would be. I saw films in school that tried to introduce me to life in other cultures and other countries. The films were quaint in retrospect. They left me thinking that folks in other places dressed differently, spoke differently, ate different foods and perhaps, enjoyed or suffered some weather that was quite different from my own. But overall, life would be the same if I later chose to relocate to one of those places.

Family and social values in those cultures on the films surely matched my own. The films stressed the tangible differences in societies but the non-tangible aspects of those societies weren’t visited in those films. Those non-tangible particles of society were a given. If they weren’t, then the film would have pointed them out; a distinction would have been made. So, while food, weather, clothing and the jobs that were offered in those cultures were different, there was an assumption on my part that their core social values were on par with mine; a never changing foundation for living life.

Aspects of life such as parents devotion to their children, neighbors keeping a watchful eye on those children and even the children knowing that miss-deeds would be noticed and reported, were unquestioned. Fathers working, mothers keeping the house and the children in order and children playing only after their school-work was finished was the status-quo. Strangers were quickly summed up and afforded treatment accordingly, but always given the benefit of doubt until they proved otherwise.

In my young life and in those films, no child stood on a street corner shouting disparaging phrases at passing strangers. Children were home before dark. Shopkeepers made sure that their shops were staffed with enough helpful persons to accommodate a normal day of foot-traffic. They also made sure that the staff knew what and where the inventory was. Service-oriented businesses made sure that their staff was at least as service-oriented as the name of the business implied. Government workers were respected; they were never surly, nor would a surly demeanor have been tolerated. Many jobs were considered important enough that the holders of those positions were held in held esteem and a person working at ANY job was afforded the respect due a productive member of society. The few adults who were not working had a darned good reason- usually, a debilitating ailment that prevented them from working and even then, you could sense a quiet shame on their part, for not being a more productive member of society. Teachers were tops, in those days, their word unquestioned by students in the classroom and their word unquestioned by administrators and parents in after-school meetings concerning any infractions committed by a student adventurous enough to test the boundaries. And a policeman; well, in the matters of respect and trust, there wasn’t anyone higher.

I don’t live in that country these days. I live in Chiang Rai (CR). Different clothing often greets my eye, just as different spices greet my taste-buds. The weather is different; a welcome improvement over the cold weather that played havoc with the different bodily injuries that I have acquired. The architecture of homes and businesses is different. The helter-skelter layout of the streets is confusing and seemingly without forethought or planning of any consequence. The concept of the policeman’s role here is foreign and nonsensical to me.

Fortunately, many aspects of the CR society are distantly familiar and reassuringly welcome. My encounters with shopkeepers and their staff brings back a youthful experience and I feel at home, comfortable even. There seems always to be enough staff on hand to accommodate customers. These days, in my former home country, a surly or lazy staff member is inevitable, if I could find one at all, and the quest for the product or service is likely to end in an unpleasant exchange.

The teachers here appear to be held in high regard. Smiles and light, animated conversation permeates meetings between locals, even if they have previously never met. My dealings with most government workers have been positive, with most of the staff taking the time to explain the scenario that I am inquiring about.

Many of the ground-rules of my past are in place here; most importantly, the family rules. In the rules that govern family life here, I find myself living comfortably in the long-gone era of my youth. Those rules are gone , for the most part, in my old home country. From what I read about Thailand, they are even disappearing in some parts of this country. But in CR, those concepts are alive, as is the concept of how to treat a stranger or outsider. In CR, you’re only an unwelcome stranger or outsider if you choose to go out of your way to define yourself as such to the locals. To find out just how welcoming this town is to newcomers, one only has to properly answer the question ,“Where do you live?”. With a smile and “I live in Chiang Rai”, the slight apprehension that accompanied the conversation thus far is deflated and you are instantly made aware that you are “one of us”, even though you are “different“.

When I look at the family and social values of the residents of this town, I am transported back in time to a quality of life that I have been missing. Sure, I can see major negative differences in how these people live compared to how life goes in my old country. I see things here that alarm me and things that I know are done differently and more efficiently in other places. Initially, I wondered why these people don’t do things “my way”. “My way” works so much better in my old country than “this way”. But with the help of friends, family and Expat strangers enlightening me, I quickly learned that to change just ONE thing about this society would have ramifications that would negatively effect the rest of the society. It isn’t worth the risk.

So far, they have retained those family values here and because of that, so many other values that I am comfortable with are extended outside the home, to most other aspects of day to day life. To me at least, those values that I appreciate far outweigh the things that I don’t understand here. So, I don’t bitch about those things. Usually, those things are no bother at all. I don’t rock the boat or try to bring a style of living that they don’t already have. If this place does not have what I have to have, then I need to go to the place that has those things. I won’t leave. For me, all I need is offered here. I don’t need much.

An aside: I find it curious that so many people want this place to be more like other places they know of. They settle in and start looking around and deciding just what it is that this place is missing. Those other places have what those people want. This place has what it has and that is why it is this place and not another. Who would want this place to become a carbon copy of another, lesser place and why? If the other place already has what is needed, then why do they come here and complain? Is it not obvious that the charm, the quiet, the politeness that drew them here is lost if the place adds all that they want? Aside finished.

Things are changing in parts of Thailand and as family life in those areas becomes more like what I knew in my recent old life, it seems that every aspect of Thai life changes too. Not for the better. I read often of how the children in some Thai cities are becoming more adventurous in testing the boundaries in society. My Thai friends tell me that some of these things were unheard of just a few years ago and they are alarmed that it is happening now. I fear those disobedient children will grow to be adults and become tolerant parents, tolerant teachers, selfish shop staff and self-righteous government workers. And then, their children will have children, each generation more determined to get “theirs” than the last generation. The concepts of “I“ “mine” and “me” develop into an impenetrable cloak around “we”, “us” “them” and “theirs” to the point that the concerns, needs or rights of others are nonexistent to the majority of individuals.

That hasn’t happened here yet but CR will surely change. The future will overcome the past. I stay here because I am allowed to live in the past for now. While unthinkable in my old life, because the time machine has not yet been invented, somehow I found this place that has yet to speed forward to catch up with the rest of the modern world. Time is moving more slowly here in the ways that count. Some parts of society and life in CR are hurtling ahead, without a clear understanding of just exactly what it means to be “More like the rest of the modern world“. One day, CR will arrive. But for now, within the family, the brakes are on in this city and people are clinging to what they know has worked for them for so long. So much of that is the same as what worked for my parents in better times.

I think I will have left this world before the inevitable comes to pass. I hope so. I think I can beat the clock of progress. I’m 52, I smoke a lot and I still take a few chances now and then that might prematurely end my ride.

Without the benefit of an early exit, I’ll be surrounded by family that does share those values that I have spoken of. I know I can count on those people. They won’t change. Our core values don’t really change, as individuals; only how well we pass those values on to our children changes. I’ll stick it out here with the older crowd of Thais and Expats that I currently share my life with each day.

I feel bad for those Farang that will come twenty years later. They won’t find what I found, just as I didn‘t find what those that came twenty years ago found. CR is just far enough into the future to make me comfortable and just far enough into the past to keep me from being afraid of the future. I know their future but I won’t have to live it. I’m a lucky man to be living in the past. The only reason I can appreciate the past, as I find it here, is because I have lived in the future too, not so long ago.

Edited by kandahar

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Needs to be pinned!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Nah. It is just my thoughts and the sooner it drops off of the Nation home-page, the better. I'm just sharing my thoughts with those of us that are here. I really would hate to see the place over-run.

But truly, I do so much appreciate the Farang folks I meet here that are living here. Most are like-minded and don't want to see the changes that are sure to come.

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I am also happy I found northern Thailand and CR.

But I still miss some good CHEESE!

:D:):D

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Good Posting:I agree with Scorpio 1945 & Sveivan

That is why we value Chaing Rai

Well done kandahar

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Only 52 ! ..... I thought you were going to say 80 or something. I'm 44 and can only recall my original home country being like what you mentioned on old Movies and the like. It must have all gone to sh%t around the early sixties I guess.

Glad to be living in CR also, thoughts of returning to my original home country make me shudder.

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Kandahar I commend your efforts to expand the scope of this forum. Your forgiving nature, generosity, compassion and willingness to lead by example are commendable. That said, I worry that your literary efforts are waisted on this bunch.

Such a thoughtful, personal and thought provoking essay has been met by no more imaginative a response than, well done.

I'm tired of waiting for someone to step to the plate so let me take a stab at this. I'm one of those you mentioned, who came before. Having called Thailand home since the mid seventies, I have seen more that a few changes in the physical, and social environment in that time.

I wouldn't worry too much about those who come twenty years from now. You came much later and older than I, yet your relationship is no less relevant or diminished in any way by your arrival date. I'm sure there will remain a relative difference between our respective cultures. For me, each age has had its own charm, in its own time. As you say, things do change and we must adapt to those changes. I guess I have learned over time to live in the present and I am not particularly nostalgic.

Keep up the good work. Perhaps you will rub off on a some of our less civil brethren.

(Sorry Jubby, you slipped in there while I was writing.)

Edited by villagefarang

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Kandahar I commend your efforts to expand the scope of this forum. Your forgiving nature, generosity, compassion and willingness to lead by example are commendable. That said, I worry that your literary efforts are waisted on this bunch.

Such a thoughtful, personal and thought provoking essay has been met by no more imaginative a response than, well done.

I'm tired of waiting for someone to step to the plate so let me take a stab at this. I'm one of those you mentioned, who came before. Having called Thailand home since the mid seventies, I have seen more that a few changes in the physical, and social environment in that time.

I wouldn't worry too much about those who come twenty years from now. You came much later and older than I, yet your relationship is no less relevant or diminished in any way by your arrival date. I'm sure there will remain a relative difference between our respective cultures. For me, each age has had its own charm, in its own time. As you say, things do change and we must adapt to those changes. I guess I have learned over time to live in the present and I am not particularly nostalgic.

Keep up the good work. Perhaps you will rub off on a some of our less civil brethren.

(Sorry Jubby, you slipped in there while I was writing.)

Hey VF. Good to see you here.

Fella, they aren't a wordy bunch. But they read and they relate. Really, I didn't leave much room for discussion with this one. I guess it was meant to be a "nail on the head" thing that at most would lead to a silent nod of agreement. And that's enough. I don't write for the responses. Maybe, my highest hope is just that there is a renewed appreciation for what we have and that would only come from the ones that have tended to overlook it for a few days longer than they should. Most of us get reminded every day, in one way or another, of what we have here.

The whole thing is at the forefront of my mind most days and today, it was there a little stronger and I wanted to express it. This borrowed dog of mine doesn't understand English; only Thai, so no use telling him the story. So, you got it here instead. I think the dog is relieved, actually.

Edited by kandahar

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That has to be one of the best posts i have ever read,just hope there isnt a keyboard warrior diverting this thread.

I could never put into words how i feel,that well,but i can certainly think about your post and feel blessed with my early retirement to Thailand.

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Only 52 ! ..... I thought you were going to say 80 or something. I'm 44 and can only recall my original home country being like what you mentioned on old Movies and the like. It must have all gone to sh%t around the early sixties I guess.

Glad to be living in CR also, thoughts of returning to my original home country make me shudder.

Wow! 80! Thanks for the faith, Jubby. Do you really think I could last that long? I don't think I have it in me.

My history comes from a more innocent part of my country. It, like CR, was behind the times, compared to more progressive areas. So, those good days lasted a lot longer and still, that part of the country holds those values a little more dearly than other parts. In 1971 I moved to a more "advanced" part of the country and found my values to be severely at odds with my new friends, even though their parents knew the values that I knew. So, depending on what part of my original country we talk about, the actual time of meltdown changes.

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Must be Dorset or something . What a pleasant part of my home country :)

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Fella, they aren't a wordy bunch. But they read and they relate. Really, I didn't leave much room for discussion with this one. I guess it was meant to be a "nail on the head" thing that at most would lead to a silent nod of agreement. And that's enough. I don't write for the responses. Maybe, my highest hope is just that there is a renewed appreciation for what we have and that would only come from the ones that have tended to overlook it for a few days longer than they should. Most of us get reminded every day, in one way or another, of what we have here.

The whole thing is at the forefront of my mind most days and today, it was there a little stronger and I wanted to express it. This borrowed dog of mine doesn't understand English; only Thai, so no use telling him the story. So, you got it here instead. I think the dog is relieved, actually.

Perhaps it is my contrarian nature, but I always see plenty of room for discussion. For example I think you have painted an overly romanticized view of the past and at the same time imply that change is a bad thing.

For me the past is only important in that it contributed to who I am today. Change is something to be embraced. As living beings the only changeless state that we are likely to know is death.

Life is a balance of good and bad, likes and dislikes. We can sit and reminisce about what we have lost or rejoice in what we have gained. It is the age-old water glass analogy, of half empty or half full.

The Thailand I knew in my youth has little relevance to my life today. That time has long past. It was no better or worse than now, just different.

It seems to be human nature to romanticize the past on the one hand, and on the other extreme, to become evangelical over some new discovery. Recent converts or recent arrivals always view things differently and with greater enthusiasm.

So while you enjoy the comfortable feeling of being transported back in time, I enjoy the present and look forward to what tomorrow may bring. For me you were expressing a valid but personal point of view and not a universal truth for which there could be no debate. Obviously some are silently nodding in agreement but I can always see multiple points of view.

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'waisted on this bunch'???!!! VF certainly has a way with words! So far it's had 238 views and 12 replies but I'm sure it wasn't 'wasited' on the other 226 members who read it but didn't reply. Kandahar, I enjoy reading your posts and glad you don't write for a response.

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'wasted on this bunch'???!!! VF certainly has a way with words! So far it's had 238 views and 12 replies but I'm sure it wasn't 'wasted' on the other 226 members who read it but didn't reply. Kandahar, I enjoy reading your posts and glad you don't write for a response.

Clearly this post has not been read by 247 different members. That is only a count of page views and refreshes. If you enjoy reading someone's post, then you should make that clear, as you have done here.

Just because ones motivation to write may be personal, doesn't mean it doesn't deserve a thoughtful response. This is after all a public forum for exchanging information and ideas. If we do not participate, then it ceases to function. We need more interaction not less.

We need to motivate and reward those who make an effort. How else will they know their efforts are appreciated. Reinforcement. :)

Edited by villagefarang

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