As you all know, I am quite the critical person. I am a tough judge when it comes to people, food, places—almost anything. But man, I have nothing on the people of Thailand: The Land of Smiles. During my many weeks there, especially those spent living in the secluded northern mountains with fellow teachers and Sanit’s family, was tough. Even though most knew no English, they still managed to memorize phrases or actions to notify me of my (multiple) wrongdoings. They railed on me no matter what I was doing, and the very second I did something correctly, I was ridiculed (with smiles, of course) for doing two more things wrong.
I put my spoon in my bowl wrong and offended people.
The sticky rice balls I rolled were not of the proper shape.
I wrung out my laundry wrong.
The rice I planted was not of the right depth.
I apparently offended someone because my buttocks was too high up in the air and pointed in her general direction while I was planting rice. Now I need to have policy-checking eyes on the back of my heinies, too? I can’t even farm right.
I made a mistake while hoeing the rubber saplings and left a ½”-wide, ¼”-deep cut. They somehow immediately found it and chastised me.
I ate things in the wrong order. Wait, how was I supposed to know that a bowl of a cut-up vegetable is dessert?
If I sat on the floor with my legs to the side, it was a time when I was supposed to sit cross-legged. When I sat with my legs crossed, I was scolded for not sitting with my legs to the side.
I put my boots in the wrong place and made a whole army of farmers shake their heads in disapproval.
I took the wriggling maggots out of the eggplant wrong.
I washed the edible thorn plant wrong. Though even when washed correctly, those thorns still hurt an awful lot while being swallowed.
I hit the kids wrong with my stick. No, I’m kidding on that one.
I know what you’re going to say: This is all they’ve ever done, so they’re good at it, and they’re not used to foreigners, so they’re not sure how to deal with me, and that this is my first time doing all these things, so of course I won’t be good at it. This is all true, but it sure doesn’t make me feel any better. In fact, in a really vindictive way, I almost wish some of these people could come to America just to realize how it feels to be corrected all the time. Wow, I’m a mean person. But that’s how you’d feel if you were here, too.
Then, as I’m sitting and trying not to express my true feelings, auntie comes walking in and starts pawing through my belongings. She finds everything endlessly fascinating. She unfolds almost every article of clothing to look at it, so once again I have to fold it back up and re-pack. Thanks, auntie. Oh well. I guess it uses up more time, time that would be spent with me getting criticized for washing mushrooms wrong, mopping wrong, or just, you know, living wrong.
It takes a lot to offend me and even more to make me feel dejected, but when you’re being criticized, talked about, and judged18 hours every day (even the method with which I entered and exited the mosquito net, for example, was wrong), it gets to you. They break you down. There’s no one to listen to you vent. You can’t explain the situation to anyone. Even now, you have no idea what it was like. Well, I asked for it, and they’re all good people—they’re not TRYING to break me down, after all. And really, the experience, scenery, wildlife, and everything else outweighed the fact that I cried myself to sleep every night. No, I didn’t do that.
Despite my massive sarcasm, honest feelings, and downright evil personality, I still can be counted on to write the truth. And Thailand is, honestly, still my favorite foreign country. Nepal is a close second, though. Aside from my near-vomituitous experiences with most of the food here, and the constant criticism, I really just absolutely love the countryside. I’ve been exploring backyard caves, slipping down muddy roads, hanging out in awkward situations, walking down random paths, and just loving what I get to see every day. The mountains here may be my favorite place I’ll ever go, and I’m pretty sure I’ll keep coming back for the rest of my life. With MREs, of course.
Above: Mountain time
Below: Town time