I always felt a little like a celebrity in Thungsong, because I was one of the only white people there, and people were always yelling “hello!” or “you!” or smiling at me. People in Thailand, who seem to have no problem telling you you look fatter, are also quick to give compliments. I hear the word suai, or beautiful, at least once a day (usually it comes in the form of a student shyly saying, “Teacher beautiful”). Which is nice. Really nice. I feel like we don’t get that enough in America: we don’t hear “beautiful” as an everyday term, we don’t know how lucky we are. Rather, the media is telling us that our image is all wrong, there’s something that we have to fix, we need more to reach the level of “beautiful” that models and celebrities have reached. But then again, maybe Thai people are quick to call foreigners beautiful because somehow our standards have become intertwined – maybe it’s the grass is greener on the other side syndrome – maybe their media is telling them that white is right.
Something else that I’ve come to appreciate about America is the heterogeneity of our culture; we truly are the clichéd melting pot that everyone talks about. Thailand is very homogeneous. Many people are Chinese-Thai, but they identify more as Thai than Chinese:
Thailand is home to the largest, oldest, and most prominent overseas Chinese community in the world of approximately 9.5 million people. Most of Thai Chinese are fifth or more generation Chinese and are deeply ingrained in all element of Thai society for the past 400 years. (via wikipedia)
In America, if someone says they’re from another country or is of mixed heritage, I feel like they get a shoulder-shrug response, it’s like “join the club,” it’s like you and everyone else we know. But here being foreign is something really foreign. And traveling elsewhere alone is also really bizarre (more on the overprotectiveness of Thai society later).
So this post turned into a random tangent instead of the pictures of Sport’s Day last year, but you’ve made it this far so here they are as promised: