Water buffalo are filing two-by-two along the country two-lane road. A small woman with a stick is beckoning them. Trees sway gently in the warm breeze under a cloudy sky.
A family of four rides by on a motorcycle. In the distance, a man is in a one-acre rice field planting seed. Egrets fly by after sampling some seeds.
This is everyday life in rural Thailand, a nation poor by U.S. standards. One wouldn’t know it, though. I had the opportunity to spend several weeks in Thailand as I welcomed in the New Year with family. It wasn’t my first trip to this popular Southeastern Asia nation.
But it gave me pause about the differences between the two countries. This could have been Midwestern USA 50 years ago other than the predominance of motorcycles rather than rickety pickup trucks.
This wasn’t bustling Bangkok with smog and traffic issues that could be Los Angeles other than the heat and humidity. It wasn’t Phuket or Pattaya, tourist meccas with more “falong” (foreigners) than natives.
Observing life as it moved slowly made me appreciate a culture that seems to take its time. It’s just a guess, but I am thinking there is less heart disease than in the U.S. because of this slower pace and the healthy diet. It is amazing that Thais do not show their age other than the farmers with weather-beaten skin who are out in the sun daily.
I spent a day in a Surin province rural high school in the English classroom of a 31-year-old Thai teacher. With her petite stature, she didn’t look much older than her students. She was able to command attention as students are taught respect from an early age – all wear uniforms and greet teachers as they enter the classroom.
Dorothy told Toto in the Wizard of Oz, “This is not Kansas.” Certainly, this was not the United States. There is good and bad in every culture – I prefer to see the good.
But for those who see Thailand as a “Third World country,” I beg to differ. Third world is in the eye of the beholder.