15 September 2006

True Cultural Pride (taught by the Thai people)

Being welcomed into a new culture leaves me with some guilt.

The Thais are known for their smiles, their helpfulness, and their patience. "Mai pen rai," they say whenever we make a mistake--"it doesn't matter"--and dismiss any offense or inconvenience. We are farangs--foreigners--yet find it so easy to make friends and get around in Bangkok.

However, we as Westerners do not extend the same hospitality to immigrants.

I cannot speak accurately for the American mainland, but my own Hawaiian childhood was filled with smiles that were sometimes tinged with prejudice, hiding condescension in nonchalant racial nicknames and comments on tourists' tans and tendencies. We, as children, would laugh at their sunburns, their cameras, their socks with sandals, their accents . . .

The only place in which a person fits perfectly is his hometown. If we do not venture from it, what right do we have to insult those who have braved the journey from theirs?

The Thai people have taught me what true pride is. They love their country genuinely; they share their country generously.

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