A Little More Conversation Vol 2. – Making Sense

People drive on the left side of the road in Thailand. Or the right side. Whichever’s easier.

Basically, the rule is don’t drive like an idiot. If you need to get somewhere and it’s faster for you to drive towards oncoming traffic, go for it.

When you get street food, sometimes the food will be crazy hot (soup or meat, most often). You know whose fault it is if you get burned? The seller’s.

…Just kidding. It’s yours. How did you not know soup would be hot?

It even has those swirly heat markers coming out of it, you dummy.

It even has those swirly heat markers coming out of it, you dummy.

What I’m saying is that Thailand is a country that runs largely on common sense and it is reflected in the behavior of the people. Thai people are, by and large, very sensible. They put ice in all their drinks because it’s hot, they know traffic is insane, so they make public transportation convenient and affordable, etc. The students are given an enormous amount of autonomy, to the extent that they’ll come get us when it’s time for class to begin. This teaches them at a young age that education is their responsibility. If they don’t want to learn, they don’t have to. Very sensible.

In Thai, they spell phonetically, so many words have several spellings. The result is that you just figure it out. My coordinator asked me how to spell my middle name (no easy task), then when I was done, she just kinda wrote what it sounded like. I wanted to be like, “Oh, no, there’s an ‘h’ there” then I realized that it doesn’t even matter even the tiniest bit. Anyone who needed to read it could read it and it would sound close enough. Isn’t that the whole point of writing anyway? To make it readable?

This all comes to mind because I’ve been studying a form of Muay Thai out here and my instructor repeatedly has to tell me that there are no set forms or set positions such as in other martial arts. Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is all about knowing what to do from a variety of standardized positions. Karate students learn katas all day. When I ask my instructor “So where does this hand go from here?” he always says “…it depends”. Basically, he just tells me to do whatever makes sense. Any position is usable. If I I’m punching and have no way of protecting myself, then I need to protect myself. If I’ve just parried a jab to the outside and want to counter, it doesn’t matter if I go with a lead counter or back hand counter. Whatever feels right at the time. It’s all very hippy.

Short bit from one of my training sessions

Short bit from one of my training sessions

The difference between Thai common sense and, perhaps, “American” common sense is that in Thailand it seems to be institutionalized and pervasive in all parts of their society. In Thailand, it seems that common sense is expected and that the answer to most questions is pretty intuitive. Note that I don’t mean this disparagingly towards Americans. I don’t consider myself a person with an abundance of common sense. While I’m capable of doing things that make people say, “Oh, that’s cool, I never would have thought of that,” I’m never the person that will make you say, “Oh, duh, that’s so obvious. Why didn’t I think of that?” because I’m just not intelligent in that way. I also do a lot of things that don’t stand up to even to most miniscule amount of rational scrutiny, so I admire people that are good at the basic, supposedly obvious things.

There are pros and cons to this, of course. The main con is that common sense doesn’t always work and is largely based on life experience. Traffic in this country is indeed a mess and if you’re tired or not paying attention for a bit, you can pretty easily kill yourself. Real talk. Things just aren’t as regulated and so those “dumb mistakes” that we all make can be pretty costly here. I’ve run into a staggering amount of people that are missing digits or limbs, are deaf in an ear, have burns on their bodies, etc, due to accidents of various kinds.

This is how a Thai highway sees humans.

This is how a Thai highway sees humans.

In America, we make it easy to get by without common sense, because everything is regulated and labeled and has fail-safes. We also have a society that is concerned with liability, so in the work place and in our daily lives, we tend to always defer to an expert or somehow who is “allowed” to make a decision, as if our own brains are defective.

As a person with dangerously low intuition, American society is geared towards my strengths and I look forward to getting back to the states and letting the world share some of my thinking load. However, it is nice to go to a bank with a request and not have to talk to a supervisor.


1 comment
  1. joy said:

    very interesting and introspective stream of consciousness. but don’t short change yourself, you have a lot more awareness and sense that you give yourself credit for. memory though? not so much…

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