Friday, January 16, 2009

A Little Thai

Sah-wut-dee-ka! This is hello in Thai. The 'ka' at the end denotes a female speaker. You say this with your hands together, as if in prayer, and in front of your mouth.
Prajaw s'ong rak khun! God loves you! (Dennis if you are reading this, I thought you could add it to your repertoire!) Regarding that last word, I was having a mental block and had to ask Beth, my Philippino, Thai speaking friend how to spell it!!
Remember the Tuk-tuk, I mentioned previously? Well, their t's are a cross between a 'd' and a 't', so it sounds most like 'duke-duke'.
Onto foods! Fruits, fruits, fruits!! There is tamerine, papaya, mango, rose-apple, mandarin orange, pomelo and the little banana to mention a few. Anything we might have in the states does not compare at all! My favorite is the little banana and the tamerine. The tamarine looks similar to a line of peanuts in their shells that are attached. You crack open the shell and find this sticky fruit covered seed. It is delicious!
Besides traditional Thai I have experienced Esarn, which is the Northeastern area of Thailand. They have a distinct culture of their own. They are known for their sticky-rice, which is a harder rice. The Thai overall tend to eat with their hands; just rip a little fish meat off those bones and then scoop some rice up into your mouth! If the food needs more than fingers, they use a fork and tablespoon. You use the fork to guide the food onto the spoon and then eat with the spoon. It is actually a very sensible way to eat!
Little did I know that I would come to Thailand and not only experience their culture, but also that of the Philippinos. I have had quite a bit of their food, since I am surrounded with these lovely people who work here!
Yesterday I had the experience of eating at a Vietnamese restaurant. We had noodle soup. It had vegetables, some not known to me, and pork. It appears that the Asian cultures that I have encountered on this trip believe in using every part of whatever food is available. That means the soup had quite a bit of fat and grizzle. They also served spring rolls, which were very good and a rice crepe of sorts that was stuffed with meat and vegetables. Yummy!! Lettuce and other raw vegetables were served, but this traveler passed them up, along with the ice cubes!
As I have said before, this is a very generous culture, yet, I am learning that part of it is because of the importance of appearances. They do not want to offend, nor lose face. This is essential. That means that you must read body language quite well!
They are also easily offended. With age and position comes respect. You dare not address someone incorrectly. My friend, Janice, offended someone in her first term because she did not recognize her position, but saw her as equal because of similar age.
This thinking causes many a young graduate starting in ministry to be discouraged, as they are not encouraged or given support until they have proven themselves for many years.
Body language is very important to the Thai also. You never show the bottom of your feet to anyone. It would tell them that you consider them lower than your feet and worthy of being stepped upon!
Years ago a young missionary came to this country and was moving into his home. His hands were full and one of the Thai helpers asked him where he wanted a box that he was carrying. The missionary gestured with his foot, pointing to where he could place it. The Thai man carried great animosity toward him for years!!
When a person enters a new culture they have to leave theirs behind in many ways. It is essential to learn to think like the people if you want to have a positive impact at all. What a disaster when anyone enters a culture like this expecting the people to adapt to them!
I have to say, that I have loved my time here and all the lessons along the way and I could even see myself being comfortable right here for a long period. Yet - ah yes there is a 'yet'! I would need so many of you here with me!!

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