Uncomfortable first impressions

I’ve recently arrived in Chiang Mai, Thailand. It’s a friendly and vibrant city and everybody is in love with it. I am not, yet.
When I arrive in a new place where I’ll be staying for a while I’m always very skeptical in the beginning. I usually spend the first days in the backstage like a silent observer without really interacting with the new place. I need to discover things slowly and on my own, I need to make my mistakes and to feel a little bit of nostalgia for the habits and the places it took me a while to fall in love with on previous experiences.
In this adventure there’s a high obstacle to overstep represented by the language. This barrier causes me a deep feeling of impotence also because I’m a linguist and I believe the tongue is the core of a nation. I bought a mini phrase book to stifle a little bit this powerlessness but it still represents an irreplaceable lacuna. The positive side of this situation is that I have to turn to some childish and elemental gestures that remind me I can also speak the human beings language.
However, I feel a lack of passion, I haven’t found something that moves me upside down yet, something that thrills me or infuriates me. There are things I like and some others I like less: coffee is really good and the therapeutic principle of the massage captured my interest, on the contrary I think the food in the Thai-westernalized restaurants is too fried and the flavours are too neutralized. I loved a photographic exhibition by Martin Reeves whereas I thought the local historic museum could be structured better.
What I miss here is getting close to actual social issues such as important civil conquests or injustices. Probably one of the main reason is the distance from the country’s language and religion. But there’s something else.
I’ve just arrived to Thailand and my knowledge about this country is very limited to some information given by my friend from Bangkok, to some written information and to first perceptions. However, I couldn’t help but notice that many foreigners who have settled down here in Chiang Mai seem to be at peace with everything around them. I started to ask myself a range of questions: are these foreigners-owned businesses helping the local economy or taking away opportunities to the natives? Is the Western-Thai integration real and harmonious or are there hidden opposing feelings about the situation?
In the old city of Chiang Mai a sense of order predominates. Not once have I sensed danger in terms of crimes or robberies. I cannot stop thinking if it’s real or of it’s just a facade. And if it’s real, as it seems, do the people who choose to come and live here escape from the brutality of the real world?
I also wonder if Chiang Mai is an exception because as far as I know the people living in the neighboring areas are facing problematic situations such as human trafficking. The other night I met a boy who could have answered this doubt. I was having a drink with other travelers and there was this guy from the North-east of Thailand but his English was really limited and I didn’t feel to drag him into an unpleasant and interrogative conversation among a group of people who were having a chill out time. I hope I will meet him again.
While waiting to stumble across the answers to my questions I will continue to observe, trying to interpret the gaze of Thai people and remaining available to lose my heart to anything or cry for people’s stories. And I will try to make the most of this surrounding peace by enjoying my morning walks to the local library when the light is soft, the temperature is not so hot  and the flavour of coffee is exquisite.

Three Kings Monuments, Chaing Mai.

Three Kings Monuments, Chiang Mai.

Advertisements

One thought on “Uncomfortable first impressions

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s