Monday, January 16, 2012

Never A Dull Moment

Friday afternoon, we received a very unexpected text from the Embassy with a warning about a possible terrorist attack in Bangkok.  Terrorists in Thailand?!? The Land of Smiles?!? Then I remembered the horrible bombings in Bali (a "peaceful" resort island) and got a little more concerned.  However, it was Friday evening of a long holiday weekend, Kevin was already home and, really, why worry about the "what ifs"? 

Saturday morning, I was greatly relieved to read an announcement from the Thai Government that the terrorist attacks had been cancelled, much like school on a snow day.  The announcement also said, "the public should not worry and to leave the rest to the Thai Government which would take care of security".  Now, remember, this is the same Thai Government that had the flood "under control" in early October and was confident that Bangkok would not be affected.  That would be the same flood that devastated Bangkok until the beginning of December.  So, yeah, not too confident in this Thai Government and what it has to say.  

Currently, the Thai Government continues to downplay the threat of terrorism and, in fact, gave an "all clear" this afternoon AFTER the security levels at the airports were increased, wireless communications continue to be scrambled and a huge cache of explosives was found in a warehouse close to Bangkok.  The Thai Government is also upset with the Embassy for releasing the terrorism warning and claims the warning could have created panic and negatively impacted the tourist industry.  As if a terrorist attack wouldn't... Today there was a demonstration outside the Embassy to protest the release of the warning; however, it was poor planning as the Embassy was closed for MLK Day so there probably wasn't much of an audience.  

This situation illustrates one of the aspects of Thai culture that I find very frustrating. Thais never want to tell you something that you don't want to hear or that will make you unhappy.  It doesn't matter how significant or insignificant the matter is, Thais will never say anything negative.  If you ask a Thai a question that can be answered "yes" or "no", he/she will always answer "yes", even if "no" is the very obvious answer.  For example, I wanted to get a haircut this morning.  I walked into the salon (which was packed) at about 11 am and asked the receptionist if she could fit me in for a trim.  She said "yes".  I sat down to wait (RIGHT IN FRONT OF HER DESK).  After about 10 minutes of waiting, something made me ask her, "right now?".  Only then did she tell me to come back at 2 pm.  In her mind, she could upset me by telling me an appointment wasn't available until 2 pm - or, she could make me happy and tell me there was an appointment (and then make me sit there for three hours and wait for it!).  As if I had nothing better to do.  

I don't know if I will ever get used to asking all of the follow up and probing questions necessary to get the "right" and "honest" answer.  Sometimes I feel like I am nagging or that it looks like I don't believe what I am told.  However, in the end, I have found there is always is something more to the initial "yes".  Last week, I went downtown with a friend so she could buy three bar stools.  After 45 minutes of her completing the ordering/payment process (with no less than four Thai salesclerks waiting on her), I told her that I wanted to be at her home when the stools are delivered.  There were too many "yeses" and too much head nodding & smiling going on during the checkout for her to indeed get the three black bar stools that she ordered and paid for.  Ah, such is life here in the Land of Smiles!

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