Tuesday, January 12, 2010

They're People Too

...so I have no idea how to start this entry off. No clue. Normally I have some sort of opening sentence, and that focuses me for a while, and then I lose track of what I'm saying.

Too much happened today. And it's not like I did a lot, because I didn't really (I'll be upfront with you right here, right now, I went to see Avatar again. I couldn't stop thinking about it. Still good. But that was the focal point of my day – and yet, I had lots of time to just sit right back and, well, think – unfortunately. And it hit me, Thai's are people too. This sounds obvious, but I don't mean that the average citizen wasn't always thought of as a person in my mind. But, everyone – they're all people.

The implications of this are far reaching, because it means everyone in every country all over the world is a person. A real person, just like you and I. And – again – you think it's obvious. But they're all people, they all had childhoods, for the most part they have dreams, ambitions – they're not just backdrops to our most important lives, and they're not just tools to be used and then forgotten.

Never mind that that's how we classify most people – but right now, I'm quite aware of the fact that everyone around me is a real live human being. Don't worry by tomorrow, or in a few hours even, I'll have forgotten and I will go back to simply seeing them – or not seeing them, more properly, and moving on with my life.

So what oh what do I mean?

Tuk-Tuk Drivers
You never know where you're going to end up when you jump in the back of a tuk-tuk. Maybe you'll end up where you asked to go? Maybe you'll end up at the location you pointed to at the map, to which they nodded “ok, ok,” or maybe – you'll end up at buddy's uncles gold store, or just maybe you'll end up where the drive honestly thought he was supposed to go, which is in the middle of china town, and on the right road, but at a very different intersection.

I started thinking about it today. Having taken Tuk-Tuks four times, I am now an expert you see. Each time I took them I asked to go to the same place, and each time we took different routes. Were they trying to screw me over? No, because they took me to where I was going, without changing their price, or kicking me off. Taking more time loses them money, and prevents them from getting more fares. They would not, intentionally, take me to the wrong place.

They just have no idea where they're going.

Why? Because they, like us, are people too. I started growing wise to this when plotting the courses they took me. Basically to get me from where I am, to where I want to go, you just need to drive west for four kilometers. When I notices the vehicle going south, and then east I started to worry. But it righted out again, and went west. Now, however, we were quite south of where I wanted to go. Had he just kept west, all would have been fine.

And, sitting in the back, I started to feel bad for this drive. I should never research these jobs, but I did. And it sucks to be a tuk-tuk driver. The first guy who I haggled for a price with got busted by the cops, and had to pay them off. He was no longer willing to take me anywhere, which sucked for him and me – cause out of the blue he offered me a good price. Which took me quite by surprise.

It took four drivers after him to get that price again. Some blew me off, not even listening, and others quoted a bit more – I just didn't have the patience to argue down with them, as the night was warm, and not that humid. I would have been content to walk my way home.

But here was my guy, in the middle of nowhere, losing fares, not to screw me over, but because he was lost. He pulled over and asked for directions. Apparently he didn't believe me when I said it was just three streets ahead – but after a local told him, he became alright with it.

Again though, why trust a stupid tourist? I imagine if the drivers listened to them they'd end up completely lost. And yes, these guys can get lost – because China Town, while awesome, was nowhere near where I wanted to get out.

So here's the deal – this is just a poor guy who rents the tuk-tuk every day and has to deal with jerks like me trying to weasel out prices because every guide book tells them that the drivers are the enemy and trying to screw them over. Fun fact: They're not. Some drivers are terrible, but not all of them. Some are just people trying to make a living in this city. And that's all anyone is really trying to do. Sure everything is cheap to us, but not to them. A coke is 10B not 30B because to them, well – prices don't equate.

So if you're ever with a tuk-tuk driver and you need to pay 30B more? Just do it, yeah? It makes no difference to you. But to them? That matters.

Those Thai Women

You know the ones. The ones wth all the foreigners that are old enough to be their fathers, and ugly enough to frighten even the most fearless child. These women, you don't really judge them as much as you do the men with them, but you think about what's going on. And it's really quite a thing. And I'm still not sure how I feel about it.

From what I've figured out, these guys “buy” the women for a week or two, and they go everywhere. It's been said that prostitutes can trick you into believing they're enjoying sex, but Thai women can trick you into believing they love you. Now I'm not sure what goes on between these two people – the guy and the young attractive girl – but, it's interesting that the more you think about it, the more you realize she has the power – albeit a less than ideal circumstance.

Yet how did she end up this way? And what led her to this end? Because they're not of the same breed as a North American prostitute. Maybe a bit closer to an Amsterdam Red Light worker – but still... When she was young was this her dream job? And for all the young girls in Thailand, how many of them honestly believe that the best they can do is hook up with some foreigner? Look – if ping pong show workers do their job for such a low wage, things here can't be all that great.

And you start to think – well, just what is going on here? And clearly I don't know enough.

Those Aforementioned Foreign Guys

They're people as well. Sure they're the type of guy who rents women by the week – but what led them to this? What has brought them to this level? I mean it's easy enough, on the surface, to understand why someone would want to rent a beautiful Asian girl. But this is not about sex. It's not.

The girls go to the mall with the guy, eat with them, watch movies with them. You're not paying for sex, you're paying for the illusion of a girlfriend. Which is so much sadder. And not sad in a pathetic way, but sad in a – that's really upsetting – way.

What led them here? And then you see the couples and you wonder is this working out? One's getting support – and the other is getting love. Like an old person who just got a puppy from the pound (I'm not sure who plays which role.) And it's just, I don't know... But this guy is a real person, and who are we to judge?

And what about the guy with the pretty Thai lady that is in a real relationship because they both care about each other, and met through some non-nefarious means? Does he ever become free of the accusing eyes?

And how do the Thai men feel about this all?

There are so many more people from the police who make sure the roads are flowing (never mind that people follow the laws – the police are just here to make sure traffic doesn't stop, and if that means encouraging people to drive through red lights, so be it.

And the girls taking part in dance competitions.

And the guys protesting I don't know what in pink tutus.

And the people who work at the hostel front desk.

It's already starting to fade. Soon enough they'll just become accessories to my story again – but right now, and for the next few minutes at least, before I throw in a terrible 80s DVD and veg out, they all matter just as much as I do.

What a terrifying way to see the world.

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