Tuesday, January 09, 2007
The ex-pat community
Keeping grip on reality - the expat community
Have you seen the movie: "The Quiet American" featuring Michael Caine? If not, I recommend it. If you have, you'll have some idea of the reality withdrawal expats can face: many a truth is told in fiction.
Thailand's ex-pats are a mixed bunch. I've met some unbelievable characters over here, many behave in a way that would get them killed or arrested back home. I've touched many times on the fact that Thailand invites delusion. With so many pretty girls looking for the right foreign guy to take care of them, the sun, the cheap booze and the beautiful ladies are always going to bring certain types of guys over. It's no coincidence that the vast majority of ex-pats are males. Most of them walking with a female far prettier and more pleasant than they could find in their own country. Nothing is wrong with that of course, but the problem is that many of these males - often the fattest and most obnoxious ones - believe their own illusions and convince themselves they have become super studs by crossing a time zone.
Many a time I've shamefully buried my face in my hands as a fat, middle aged teacher announces his sexual exploits in front of all male and female teachers in the classroom. I often wonder what locals make of such decorum. On occasion, I have known foreign teachers actually get assaulted by local guys for their behaviour.
Like I said, delusion runs rampant. Some characters seem to dislike labelling themselves as a teacher, they always want to be something so much more. In the last two years I've met a bandana wearing American "lawyer" who got sacked from three schools in two months, I've met a Nazi who greets everyone with a "zeig hail" (sacked from a certain school) and ....wait.........a member of the Black Panthers! I kid you not.
For me, I'm happy to be a humble teacher. I have no insecurities.
Still, look around more and you'll find a good bunch around. I'm grateful to Dan, Karl, Brian and my other buddies out in Asia. Even on adventures, you need your friends to keep you sane. Larger schools especially have a large group of happy workers. Thailand is attracting more and more young teachers with a positive outlook and sensible older guys. With increasing demand for English , the teacher community is building a semi respectable base.
A Mekong jewel
It might not be the biggest or most obvious benefit to living out here but make no mistake: Thai markets - and Asian markets in general are fantastic. All towns and villages have something to offer. Most markets will feature the standards fare such as Thai food, cheap clothes and fresh produce. Most markets will also have something extra, that could be anything from weapons to kid's toys.
Thai markets are a fantastic place to get a true, untouristed clip of local culture. Sit at one of the many makeshift road restaurants and watch. Watch the locals - usually a family unit - working hard to keep their stall. Listen to the buyer and seller haggling over price. watch the delivery guys come and deliver the livestock. These are priceless insights into daily life that you won't get from a guided tour (the floating market is now so touristed it really isn't a true market). Finally, get up and try a little Thai yourself as you haggle for what you want. You'll still pay more than a Thai, but getting a discount will make you feel good :-)