I’ve been lucky and have lived in some remarkable, some beautiful, some amazing, some interesting countries. Rarely do you get the chance, on this global merry-go-round called expatriation, do we get to live in a country that encompasses all those adjectives.
Thailand, the Land of Smiles, was for me, one such country. And I got to live there twice. Like I said, lucky.
But even those countries that might not have been everything you could wish for, still have a place in my heart, and evoke memories when I see their name splashed across the news. I continue to follow their politics. I support them in their sports endeavours as long as they are not playing England, Australia or America. (I am after all an Anglo-Australian with American citizenship and should any of these three be playing each other, I have a complicated points system that allows me leeway in my decision.) I cry for those countries lived in when terrible things happen, and I wish nothing but the best for the people of those countries regardless of their government’s behaviour.
Which is why I am so sad for, and upset by the unpleasant things continuing to happen in Thailand. A politically tumultuous time in 2010, which saw images flashed across our screens and in our morning papers of the normally peaceable Thais rioting in Bangkok, has fortunately for the moment eased. Only to be followed by horrendous flooding at the end of last year. Flooding that killed at least 800 people, destroyed thousands of homes, not to mention factories and farmlands. Lloyds of London are expected to pay out $2.2 billion for insurance, a mere drop in the estimated $15 – $20 billion’s worth of damage. One positive note on the back of those floods are ideas mooted, since 2006 by an enterprising young Thai architect, Chuta Sinthuphan, for floating homes are finally being taken seriously.
Then yesterday three separate bombs supposedly detonated by the same three people, all believed to be Iranian, went off in a residential area of Bangkok. There were no deaths, but five people have been injured, including one of the bombers. One other was arrested at Suvarnabhumi Airport, about to hop on a plane to Malaysia, and the other is still loose.
Added to these issues is the ongoing health concerns over their revered monarch, King Bhumibol Adulyadej. Crowned King of Siam in 1946, a royally staggering 66 years ago, which makes him the world’s longest reigning monarch, six years ahead of Queen Elizabeth II. For the second son of the royal family and therefore never meant to be king the nature of his ascension, the murder of his older brother Ananda Mahidol, maybe portrays a hint at underlying violence in this predominantly Buddhist country.
For all these events, historical and recent, four years in Thailand have provided some of my very best memories. The birth of my son being high on the list, along with friendships made and retained over many years and through many other countries.
Also high on the memory register is the unfailing kindness, and generosity of spirit, of Thais on the street, met at parties, worked with, and who worked for us.
It is without doubt the people in any of the countries we call home, even for a short while, that make our time as a guest memorable. It is because of the people met that I continue to follow their country’s ups and downs, to never stop hoping for their well-being, to smile when I overhear a phrase on a crowded bus or the Tube, that tells me instantly where someone is from. Such are the benefits of our global life.
And it is because of them those days in the Land of Smiles will always remain remarkable, amazing, beautiful and interesting.