Argentina, Paraguay, Thailand


Characteristics of the Inhabitants of Argentina, Paraguay and Thailand

In the United States, a fast food manager is a team leader, working faster and harder than the less experienced employees. The managers at Argentine McDonalds act like supervisors in the Argentine government. They assiduously avoid work, and instead gaze with dispassionate amusement at the long lines of clients waiting for service. Their attitude conveys “I have a job and you have a problem.”

If two managers meet, they make great displays of kissing each other and if it were still permitted, they would light each other’s cigarettes and sip little cups of espresso. They positively glow with satisfaction in groups of two, for then they can do even a better job of ignoring the customers.

Argentines worship dogs. An argentine without a dog is nobody at all, and he proudly walks the dog as if the dog were walking him. The sidewalks are littered with dog poop, but the citizenry feel this is a small price to pay for hosting such royal creatures.

In Thailand, there are hundreds of very dirty stray dogs, some of which are suffering from accidents with cars or fights with other dogs.  In Vietnam there are no dogs on the streets. They eat them.

In Paraguay, people are relatively soft spoken.  Argentines, on the other hand, often seem to be screaming so that someone far away or deaf can hear them. Sometimes you will hear someone down the block shouting and then when he walks past, you’ll see he’s merely talking into a cell phone.

Paraguayan men shake hands with any men they meet, even if the group is large. They also kiss all women on both cheeks.  In Argentina, people make a symbolic cheek peck upon being introduced. Compared to Paraguayans, Argentines all have loads of personality, and often seem to be auditioning for a role in a television commercial.

In Thailand, being soft-spoken is a sign of high rank. The most educated people almost whisper when speaking. You’ll almost never hear a horn honked even though the traffic is horrible, because to do so would indicate that you were not in control of your emotions, and hence low-class.

When Thais get drunk, they change completely, some becoming aggressive and mean.  The “land of smiles” act vanishes completely. I once had a drunk Thai policeman ask me to drink with him.  When I declined, he became furious and showed me his pistol, threatening to kill me.  I told him I was a Mormon and could not drink, and that satisfied him, for he had heard of the Mormons.

For some reason, no matter what country I’m in, local people ask me for directions.  Not a day goes by when I’m not stopped on the street two or three times and asked where something might be found. Since I am only ever half able to communicate, I point to myself and say  “tourist!”

When I was younger and used to travel in Mexico, rural people would assume I was a priest.  In cities, I’ve been mistaken for a psychiatrist. Now, I probably just look like a retired college professor.  At any rate, people still assume I have answers to their travel queries, even though I rarely understand the questions.Image

 

here is a link to the author reading this piece

Sanity as a Choice


ACCENTUATE THE POSITIVE

 

A popular song with that lyric and title was written by Johnny Mercer, a troubled alcoholic who fortunately was buddies with Bing Crosby, the singer every song-writer wanted to pitch a song to. But he was right, happiness is a choice, and what you focus on will grow right in front of your eyes. If you find yourself staring in fascinated horror at something ugly, pretty soon the whole world will seem just as ugly.

 

If you are extremely jet-lagged, as I am at this moment, and you can’t sleep because the middle of the night is the middle of the afternoon where you just came from, you have a choice. You can toss and turn in bed, or get up and watch dawn brighten the skies and listen to the birds wake up. Every day offers a hundred chances to make similar decisions, and how you choose will determine your emotional reaction to that day. In fact, no matter what happens or doesn’t happen, just making a decision to accentuate the positive will make you feel happy.

I know this, but knowing it doesn’t help.  What about when I feel bored, or sad, or anxious?  Should I take action? If so, what?

 

There must be something that I can do to make my life more enjoyable and meaningful, but there are many things I can do nothing about, and I must merely accept as they are if I want to have a chance at peace of mind. Yes, Pakistan and India may be on the brink of nuclear war, yes boats loaded with unwelcome immigrants frequently sink, drowning all aboard. If you watch a lot of news broadcasts, it always seems like the world is in a terrible state, that turmoil is normal, and that peace of mind or satisfaction are only possible for the especially lucky or super-rich. This lie is quite seductive, and the persistence of its telling only amplifies its negative power.

 

There must be a way to find what is real, and thereby determine what is individually important. What do I really want to do? I can only answer that by first letting go of what I think somebody else thinks I should be doing.  Following somebody else’s guidance isn’t going to get me anywhere.  I won’t, however, be able to accurately guide myself if my thinking is clouded because I’ve been accentuating the negative and I feel like I’m marooned in a sea of problems.

 

Back when navigation was more difficult, people somehow managed to steer boats across vast distances and arrive at their intended locations. On a journey that took weeks, they did this by taking many measurements and making many small corrections.  It’s not fast, it’s not simple, but it works.  Today, GPS can tell you where you are within a margin of error of two centimeters, anywhere n the planet.  Still, there are many lost souls wandering the globe, waiting for something to happen that will give them a sense of destiny and a feeling of being at home.

 

                                                                       

I know, I’m one of them. But I don’t read maps so much as make decisions based on intuition. That valley over there looks interesting. Wonder what’s just beyond that next rise?

 

I find that maps are a tease.  They give you a false sense of security, of knowing a place when you don’t really know it at all.  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve looked at a map and determined it will take me two hours to travel from one point to another, only to find it took twelve hours, because the road that seemed only inches long ended up as a twisting lane through spectacular scenery. Other times, I’ve endured the most uninspired landscapes merely because a map suggested it would be the best way to get where I was going.  No, I try not to pay any attention to maps, because map makers and I aren’t interested in the same things.

 

My traveling decisions are made on a gut level, bypassing my brain completely.  I’ve enjoyed some pretty dumpy places, and been bored silly in some pretty nice ones. I surely wouldn’t want to be in the business of recommending travel sites and accommodations to others, because I don’t think most people are delighted by the same things I am. That’s my beef with travel writing. It assumes a lot, and it pretends that recreational travel is more exotic and transformational than it can ever hope to be.  It’s promotional writing not just for the places it mentions, but for the whole concept of travel as a drug, a remedy for an empty life.