where there is no christmas

IMG_0164POSTCARD #34: Bangkok: No snow here, of course, winter is just a slight coolness that happens once a year. It lasts about a week. There’s no Christmas either because it’s a Buddhist country. I am the only thing resembling a real christmasee here. Christians in Thailand amount to 0.7% of the population. Yet there are Christmas carols playing in all the malls, and also in the supermarket where I was this morning: ‘… the ho-lee bible says, mary’s boy-child, jee-sus christ, was born on christ-mas daaay…’ twirling around the fruit and vegetables and frozen food section. Gift-giving as purchasing incentive, the season of goodwill has a place here even though the population are 95% Buddhist, 4% Moslem. Thai society is joyful, they like to share everything. They like playfulness – the word in Thai is sanuk (fun), everything has to be sanuk and if it’s not, it’s mai sanuk (seriously boring) and that’s bad style. I was downtown yesterday, saw the yellow duck wearing sunglasses stuck on the red taxi, took the photo. The Thais recognise the 25th December as a happy event but it’s also an ordinary day. People go to work, government offices are open, mail gets delivered, transport systems are normal, it’s all open for business, same as usual.

Heavy rain last night woke me up, and the room is cold this morning. Don’t need any fans, no air conditioning and without the slightly deafening sound of these machines it’s strangely quiet in the house. I’m noticing noises coming from the neighbours; a clatter of sounds enters through the open windows. Screen door opens, and there’s an interval of time to allow someone to enter, then screen door closes again. I get up to see who came in… but there’s nobody there, it’s not this house – it must be the house next door. Somebody else’s cutlery; plates go clink, voices echoing off the tiled floor and cement plaster walls… in which house? A dog barks, a child cries; it feels like everybody out there is in here.

I can feel chilled air in my ears; in the tiny inner surface of the eardrum. There’s a coolness in nasal passageways, emptiness of mouth cavity, tongue stuck in the wetness of the upper palate. The surface of the eye is cold. The body is a sensory organism in the environment of this room; four walls, the ceiling. The smooth wall surfaces holding the enclosed space like a 3 dimensional photographic negative of the room. The shape of motionless space within which things exists. Open the door and the volume of the room escapes. This is how it was when the sound of the rain woke me up this morning in the darkness. I went to sit on the cushion and the whole thing suddenly came crashing into consciousness as if it had been waiting all night for me to wake up.

‘… have patience with everything unresolved in your heart and to try to love the questions themselves as if they were locked rooms or books written in a very foreign language. Don’t search for the answers, which could not be given to you now, because you would not be able to live them.’ [Rainer Maria Rilke, Letters to a Young Poet #4]


12 thoughts on “where there is no christmas

  1. I am also finding this ‘Christmas’ thing strange in Borneo! There is a massive Christmas tree in the ‘Mega Mall’ with a Santa in front strumming a guitar. Everyone (including those who appear Muslim) line up to have their photo taken with him. And there are other decorations around the town, as well as incessant Christmas carols…I like the strangeness and absurdity of it! 🙂

    • This is it exactly! Santa playing guitar; it’s not Christmas day, it’s Santa Claus Day… and the incessant Christmas carols? Same here, Jingle Bells at high volume, just the one track repeated without end, in a kind of mad frenzy of orchestrated sound. Thank you for letting me know it’s the same in Borneo as it is here. Best wishes and I hope you have a peaceful Christmas 🙂

  2. Those statistics are interesting indeed. I love their playfulness. Of course, my son & me only visited Thailand 10 days in July, but they were so peaceful, so happy, so just fine with it all.

    I love your description of winter. Ha ha light coolness for about a week 🙂

    • Thanks and good to hear from you again. Yes, not much of a winter here. And what I like about the Thais is they don’t take things too seriously. If there’s a crisis, they get over it quickly. I’m still learning how to do that 🙂

      • I saw in the news some corporation was calling copyright on – oh yes it was KFS (Kentucky Fried Chicken). A stall seller had a similar image design. I remember the stall seller saying he’ll fight it, with a smile on his face, saying it was as is etc. Yes – they’ll get over their crises! 🙂

      • I think it’s something like what’s so special about these huge corporations? Why the necessity of all the legal backup? The ordinary Thai can see the truth of it, a little chuckle, don’t take it seriously, there are better things to be doing with one’s life…

      • Exactly. That’s what was so delightful. They’re unforgettable, these people. I had the sense I’d like to live there, yet was torn – what role could I play to make the rent? I thought English teacher and looked into it. Then I went bankrupt when we returned (I was much in debt but wanted SO much my son and me to have a holiday, my God, a break after so much endurance, and did it on credit – but when I came back I realised I would be “working forever” to make up the debt and went bankrupt. It wasn’t premeditated – truly – but I realise the banks must hate me for it. But anyhow, can’t travel overseas for 2 years now…

        The people were unforgettable, and LOVE the warm weather.

      • What you hear often is: “Mai mi panha” (I don’t have a problem). That’s not to say there aren’t any problems, it’s like, I don’t have a problem with that… you know? So I find there’s something to be learned from this – it’s about attitude. You and your son will have an opportunity later, they always need English teachers. All kinds of ways to do it, can be done on low budget too.

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