Friday, November 15, 2013

Living in Thailand is like Living on Mars

Living in Thailand is kinda like living on Mars. When one reads that, one thing that might run through the minds of my sophisticated readers might be: “Which Mars?”. Yeah, no one has ever lived on Mars, so I must be referring to the fictionalized accounts of life on the Red Planet.

Kim Stanley Robertson's Red-Green-Blue Mars series? As a reader, this has been my favorite Mars series of SF books. The Mars of KSR is a planet of intrigue, complex relationships between the colonists and a dynamic environment.  When it comes to Thailand, the first two are somewhat true, and although there is dynamism here, I haven't been able to perceive it like I might. It's out there. I just don't know the place well enough to see it. Thailand is changing; I just don't know where it started from.

Maybe the Mars of Percival Lowell. He was a really rich American guy.
Educated, successful, but known more as a man who lived a fantasy life speculating about Mars. He saw 'canals' based upon a mis-interpretation of the Italian word for 'channels'. There sure are plenty of canals here in Bangkok, and there's lots of old, white, rich guys who are living a fantasy life.

For me and my Martian Thai experience, I'm living in Ray Bradbury's Martian Chronicles. Environmentally, I can live outside my climate-controlled personal habitat, but the tropics are a constantly hostile force beating down the sliding glass door of my condo.

The battle with the heat makes the nice moments all that much better. At 7 AM, when I'm riding my motorcycle to my teaching job, before I hit the carbon monoxide laden rush hour of the main road, zipping down my back street, it feels great. There's nothing better than feeling naturally cool when the sun is rising.

Also in Bradbury's Mars were Martians. One of that things that made his stories so great were how he took an alien species, made them mysteriously alien enough to be believable, but also endowed them with universal, human emotions.

Thais are Martians to me. I'm on an upsurge right now in my desire to learn the language, but still, I am surrounded by aliens. I've got maybe 2 or 4 Thai acquaintances who I might call friends. I might be able to double that number if I could befriend my students, but that's not really allowed.

Rock Hudson with a Martian
One theme of Ray's books was how the Earthers eventually wiped out and replaced the Martians. Whether or not he intended to imply the impact on western culture on the cultures of developing nations, I dunno. Point being, I don't know how long I'll be here (meaning I am not committed to being here long-term), so I doubt I'll ever reach that final scene from the TV version of the Martian Chronicles where the Earthling announces he is Martian... 



  1. Not being born and raised in a culture would definitely make it a challenge at trying to understand them. When I first moved to Washington DC, I went through culture shock. Coming from a small town in Montana to a big city with people of different races - what a learning experience. I felt like I was on Mars and I was still in the good ole USA.

  2. Very well written! I know you must feel alone, but you can feel alone anywhere. It has always been difficult to make friends as an adult. Everyone has their own life, and I'm sure not eing able to communicate makes thing even more difficult.

    I am so looking forward to Skype tomorrow. I think the time is right, 16 hour difference with you ahead.

  3. Oops I was wrong. I was looking at the Bejing clock not the Bangkok clock. The Bangkok clock say 15 Hours ahead. So 9am there would be 6pm here. We are on standard time now, not daylight savings time. Mom


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