Wednesday, 21 January 2015

Back in Chiang Mai with Feeling and Contrast

   I am back in Chiang Mai and so an arrival blog is in order. Flying nine hours is like the tipping point for the definition of a long flight. I think what adds to that definition are transfers and contrast. We had to transfer in Bangkok, but what makes this trip long is the contrast between Russia and Thailand. The transition between the two cultures is something we haven’t yet got used to. We still catch ourselves saying, “Da” instead of “Yes” and comparing prices to the ruble. Luckily “Da” sounds like “Ka”, the Thai short form of “Yes”. The flight itself was pleasant and the seats on the 777 style aircraft were comfortable. Aeroflot service was typical, and by that I mean good. However, the two weeks in Moscow had my lower back pretty trashed. To be honest it was probably tweaked when I twisted my ankle in Anapa and then the cold weather, and slippery streets completed the job. Luckily massage is inexpensive in Chiang Mai.

The weather itself is a significant change. We left a ‘warm’ Moscow at –8 and landed in +30 metric. The language barrier I experienced in Russia, shifted to Inga. She speaks perfect English, but eight months in Russia has her syntax structure messed up speaking English and then there is her accent. We were looking for a market locals go to in order to buy fresh groceries and Inga asked a traffic cop where the market was once we got in the general area. He blinked and furrowed his brow as he attempted to understand what she had asked. I repeated the question and he smiled in understanding, relief relaxing his brow he nodded and pointed down a side street. What is odd is, to me, Inga’s question sounded exactly like my question sounded. But to the cop it was the difference between understanding and not.

Home in Chiang Mai is one of Richard Katze’s properties and one I have stayed in before. Richard is a real gentleman and an invaluable resource for anyone wishing for an easy transition to Chiang Mai. The condo was again stocked with water and snacks and Richard welcomed us personally after his lovely wife and son welcomed us at the airport. This level of service is beyond cost, when you arrive tired and sore, even in a place you know. A drink and toast on the balcony had me wishing for a cigar as we watched planes stack up in the dark night sky for their own final approach to the “Land of Smiles.”

The contrast between the ever busy Moscow and the chaotically busy Chiang Mai was funny. People made way and smiled at us on the sidewalk as the scooters, motorbikes, tuk tuks, and cars threatened us with death on the roadways. I am taking creative license a little bit here but truthfully only a little. Crossing streets is probably one of the most dangerous things one does in this city. The people are kind and helpful, and the feel of the city is one of safety. Basic strategy for roadways is insuring the driver sees you, made difficult with tinted windows and left and right-hand drive cars, and then trust that once seen they won't hit you. It is hard but like Moscow drivers that somehow have a collective understanding of what each is trying to do, it comes with time. I doubt Inga will ever get comfortable with a scooter passing inches from her side, but then she does tend to surprise me at times.

I spent the morning watching President Obama give his state of the Union address while Inga cooked some of the fresh delicacies she had found in the market. Contrast again came to the forefront of my mind as I watched. Russians really don’t like propaganda, as it dictated much of their old Soviet life  and are very sensitive to it now in the new Russia. Putin gives his year-end address as the year closes and Obama gives his as the New Year begins. If you have been following this blog you, will understand the cultural reasons for this. Each is saying how they see what has happened in the year past and what the outlook is for the future. Let’s extend to them the courtesy that each is telling the truth, honestly, as THEY see it. What I see as a dramatic difference is the American President talks to you and the Russian President answers to you. The contrast is incredible. Obama has the floor and a prepared speech that clearly outlines his vision both of past achievements and future directions. Putin has the floor and takes questions from the floor and talks on those points put forward. Now it is without a doubt that some of those asking questions are prepped and scripted but it is also without doubt that many are not. Obama’s address was an hour and Putin’s is usually over two hours. One has the feel of propaganda and the other does not.  After the address in America, the press asks pundits and Senators in various states what they thought and in Russia the press ask the people and Captains of Industry.  I think that there is a great deal to be learned from the Russian Bear in this regard. If a speech and campaign advertisement are going to be aired for an hour, then the party should pay for the airtime. I did not learn anything new in that hour long speech and so it wasn’t in the traditional sense NEWS. It was short on facts and long on promises without any roadmap of sorts to show how these great ideas were going to come to fruition! So it was to use the old CCCP term state sponsored propaganda. So why do Americans accept this? Russians certainly would not. Alas, Canadians probably wouldn’t notice. Apathy toward our government is at an all-time high, and this is  much worse than debating starry ideas and  political propaganda.

Just some of my thoughts and ideas sitting poolside in a country currently under military law and wondering at the rest of the world.

1 comment:

  1. Re: Back Massage--Now, be aware of your surroundings. Make sure you don't go to the wrong kind of massage parlour. It might make for a good story, but my passport has expired and I won't be bailing you out.