IS TOILET PAPER BETTER THAN WATER?
In the 18 years I've lived hear, I've seen and experienced just about everything. Once in a while, I'll get a surprise but for the most part, what was racy in the past is today's norm. In the two years since I started this blog and making YouTube videos, I've heard things I thought I'd never hear.
Of course, I've heard the usual my girlfriend is a ho, will it work questions too many times to count, but when Daniel wrote me in, I was admittedly a little shocked. It's not ever day that someone writes me in asking questions about how Thais (and Cambodians) properly clean their nether regions. Is this what I've become? An amalgamation of Jerry Springer, Morton Downey, Dr. Phil of Thailand? Thinking about this makes me feel like some Spanish chick from West Side Story crying out, "Please no let it be so, please no let it be so!"
Really? Is this what I've evolved into? A guy telling people how to clean their ass properly so they're left with a squeaky clean bung hole?
Toilet paper is disgusting. Seriously. Clean your ass with water for a week and you'll never want to reach for the Charmin again. If water is soothing, paper is inflammatory.
What made me do a video debating the merits of toilet paper and the bum gun? Once this guy mentioned he was worried his girl have a funky rear exit, I started thinking. Doesn't he know? How can he not know?
It turns out the guy had a bad experience with a vagina and his face no longer gets anywhere ever near the Hershey Highway. Comedian Redd Foxx used to remind his audience that the nose is just an inch away. In Daniel's case, his nose is about three feet away meaning he has yet to perform the sniff test. Most Asian women tend to be extremely clean down there, so he probably need not worry, but...if it were me, I'd certainly want to be certain nothing was going on at the back entrance before I called her my girlfriend.
Oh, did I mention I'll take washing it over wiping it ANY DAY?
100 things I don't like about Thailand. But Thailand is like a beautiful woman. Sure, she is beautiful, even sexy, but she is human and once in a while her face will break out and she'll reveal her flaws. She is still beautiful though.
1. The treatment of wildlife (and domestic animals). The overall consensus, at least from a scientific standpoint, is the treatment of captive wildlife leaves much to be desired. There are people working hard to bolster wildlife populations in the national park but nowhere near enough.
If you think I'm overreacting, take a walk into Chinatown. Elephant, hippo, and boar ivory are sold at several shop houses, shark fin soup is openly sold in restaurants, as well as tiger claws and a mishmash of other animals of the day. Yet, nothing is done and business continues as usual. Someone's palms are being greased and it's a damn shame.
2. Reluctance to speak English in a business setting - sure, in the beginning it's cute. An attractive young lady smiling as you walk by, only to turn and walk away once you change direction and walk towards her. Why? Is she scared of me? Maybe, but the reason he or turns around is their inability to speak English or fathom the idea that the foreigner might even speak their language.
3. Bilingual schools with admin workers who do not speak a word of English - years ago, as a test when my children first started school, I walked in to the office and asked a couple questions - in English. Guess what, no one spoke a word of English. I know, we're in Thailand, but this is a bilingual school. They wanted to call a foreign teacher to speak with me until I finally admitted I spoke Thai. Once in a while I need to visit the office, and just to double check, I'll try speaking English instead of Thai. Guess what, nothing has changed. If you want to call yourself a bilingual school, make sure at least some of the Thai staff speaks English! What about the new foreigners who come to the country with kids? In order to give the school their money are they required to speak Thai? Because if not, why should they part with their children's tuition when not one of the staff speaks English?
4. Sorry seems to be the easiest word - Sorry if I'm wrong about this one but when someone apologizes, aren't they apologizing for doing something wrong? Or are they apologizing because someone doesn't like what they did or are doing?
Example: If a woman sleep with her boyfriend's best friend and her boyfriend finds out, she will apologize. However, she's not apologizing for sleeping with the best friend, she's apologizing because he boyfriend found out and was angry. She apologized for making her boyfriend angry, not for having sex with the best friend. It might seem trivial, but it's not, believe me. Fortunately I don't have any problem with the word "sorry" with my wife because she rarely ever apologizes!
5. Lady boys - to my surprise, more than a handful of people seemed upset because I have ladyboys on this list. To the dummies out there who have a comprehension problem let me make something perfectly clear; I have nothing against the fact that a lady boy has chosen to be what it chooses. On the contrary, I think it takes great strength to be different. However, it doesn't make me any less comfortable being around them. I have met lady boys who are famous, who work in bars, and if I leave my home, I am almost certain to see at least one.
Again, I could care less about their sex, their sexual practices, how they look, whatever. This is there choice. But I personally would rather spend my time with a man who was born a man and a woman who was born a woman. Still pissed off? Get over it.
6. The constant political problems - every couple of years there are protests and while the majority of them are non-violent, it can be frustrating rerouting where you want to go, always wondering if matters will get worse, and worrying about being blown up. If this happened once or twice in the past 20 years, I might be more tolerant but I would prefer the political knuckleheads work things out for the good of the country. Not for the good of their pockets. Politics is a subject I generally avoid like a dirty diaper but lately it's been hard to avoid the stench.
7. Money number one - I know Thais who could care less about my money, getting my money, or having anything to do with my money (or lack of it). But...there are two sayings prevalent among long-term expats; they want your money but they don't want you, and if Thais had it their way, foreigners would fly over the country, dump their bag of cash, and fly back to their country. Let's not forget the phrase "walking ATM." After awhile, their hunger for money gets irritating. I'm no ATM, I give tips when I want, and this is one aspect of Thai culture that could use some toning down.
8. Racism is everywhere, even in Thailand - The racist mentality of many Thais rounds out my list. If you think American Caucasians are racist towards blacks or Latinos, come to Thailand. Not all Thais are racist but the prevailing attitude towards foreigner sure makes it seem this way.
When I first came here, I asked one of my American friends why he didn't have a cute, educated, white-skinned Thai-Chinese girlfriend. "Because to them, I'm the devil. I'm white and that's all they need to know to judge me." At first I thought this harsh but after a few years I noticed there are indeed some people here who at the very sight of a foreigner automatically sneer at them. You either deal with it the best you can or you go home. Because at least for now, they're not changing.
On any given morning, I am making videos, editing photos, reading the news, cleaning my photo equipment and/or the house, and running errands. Dropping off my kids and picking them up throws a small monkey wrench into my plans, but this is part of being a father, I guess. My patience has worn thin with their school though and I will get deeper into this in an upcoming video. The school system here SUCKS. Add one more thing to the to do list.
Now, problems are like assholes, we all have them. My problems, comparatively speaking, are generally minor. Stack a few minor problems on top of each other though and they can weigh you down. That's where I am, at least, temporarily. Once my mind catches up with my emotions, the mind usually wins out. My mind is strong but a little slow to catch up with reality sometimes.
About a month ago, I returned from a journey to Mrauk Oo, Myanmar. In hindsight, aside from being told to leave a village by police and wondering if I would be killed in a Muslim village, the trip was a piece of cake. I shot nearly 1500 photos and over 100 video clips — but no one shot at me. The last month has been spent looking through the photos, trying to sell them, working on a new website, and producing what I deem "crappy little YouTube videos." They're nowhere near as good as I want them to be or how I want them. I'm no Rick Steeves or Dr. Phil and if I were to categorize what I'm looking to make in terms of a video, it would be more like the videos put out by Vice Magazine.
Every so often I am overwhelmed with things to do. I'm the sort of person who has a list of my lists. I have 20 things on my to do list and I'm lucky if I get 3 or 4 finished. As the number of viewers on my YouTube channel and readers of this website and my Facebook page increase, so do the number of emails, comments, and messages. I get approximately 200 emails per day so if I haven't got back to you, bear with me. I try to answer every email I get...but it's getting harder to do so.
In the beginning I wanted to write a blog post every day. Not possible in my world. I've been working on two books for three years. Is it a lack of discipline? No, it's a lack of time. If I had two or three things to do per day, then it would be a lack of discipline. But in my world, I'm up at 4 or 5AM and asleep anytime from midnight to 2Am, usually where I drop. I have to force myself to go upstairs and sleep with the wife. She's used to my sleeping wherever I fall but I'd hate for her to forget what it feels like to have me sleeping beside her so I push myself to walk upstairs.
Aside from getting irritated once in a while buy the usual idiot who fails to see that his girl isn't his girl at all, she's his turn, I still love making videos, working on this site and my photo site, and traveling around with my camera looking for the sort of shots I can take and look back on with pride. Life could be much, much worse. I know this because I've been in places and seen people who would die to have a life half as good as mine. Yes, I feel guilty about griping.
As I said in a prior post, I believe my photos lack the angst I am looking for. If lieu of angst, emotional extremes will do. At 51, I'm no spring chicken and with any luck I have another 25 years of work in me. I went to Myanmar to photograph Muslims. In some ways I succeeded, in others, I failed. I'm okay with this but I know what I'm attempting to preserve in my photos and while I have managed to capture a portion of what I'm after, I have never taken a photo I look at and say, That's it! I got it!
When some people get overwhelmed or burnt out, they take a nap, call in sick, or go on vacation. Others sleep for days. I may take a day or two off and then I am re-energized and ready to go. When I was in college, I took great pleasure in waiting until three days before a 5o00-word essay was due before starting on it. This was my way of testing myself. What would happen? Would I fall on my ass? Would I flunk? No, I would stay awake all night, get an hour or two of sleep for the next three days, and somehow pull the rabbit out the hat. As it turned out, I always got A's. I don't know how I did it but after the first few essays I decided that starting over three days prior to the due date would be bad luck.
Recently, on Facebook I wrote the following:
"The more money I earn, save, finagle and scrimp together, the closer I am to getting my head shot off."
If I decide to photograph a conflict zone in Africa, a war in the Ukraine, Afghanistan, or elsewhere, it isn't an essay. It's life or death and it's something I have very, very little experience with. Some feel the need to remind me of the danger involved but I know there can be no mistakes. It is the ultimate test but for some unknown reason, I feel the need to test myself. Sometimes I think, "What is driving me? What is pushing me to do something I know is extremely dangerous?" I don't know.
As humans we always love to know the answers. In this case, I don't. I could photograph every inch of Thailand and lead a good life...but this would leave me longing for more. My kids think I am a father worth of their admiration and my wife believes I am a good husband, I am after something more than this. I am looking for a legacy I can leave behind. The way I look at it, the clock is ticking. When the going gets tough, the tough get going. When I feel overwhelmed, I take a deep breath and push harder. Like my mother used to say, "No one said life was easy."
This post is my deep breath. I'll be pushing harder in the coming months. Hang on for the ride.
Thank you to the following people helping fund my trip to Myanmar:
A huge thank you goes out to Chris T!
Thank you all for your support. I appreciate your help more than you know!