Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Thai Time

 Towards the beginning of the trip, the discussion of Myers-Briggs personality types came up. I’m not totally sure why or how, but it just did. For those of us who have taken the test, we shared our results, and for those who hadn’t, they took a short one online. If you have never heard of it, or would like to read more, I suggest checking this out. Personally I am an ENFJ, and I think it describes me pretty well! The last letter in there, “J”, is for Judging. This aligns with my schedule-oriented nature, timeliness, and organization.

The “J part” of me has really been tested for most of this trip because we are operating on Thai Time. Other students have commented on the laid back nature of Thai people, and this directly connects with it—schedules are often just a suggestion. It’s not that Thai people are disrespectful, because they are in fact the opposite. “Mai pen rai” loosely translates to “no worries”. This phrase supports that nature and “go with it” attitude. But it’s a conflict with the way I operate and a change from the typical American way. At times this has been a great frustration (often when I’m sleep deprived…), but I have also been able to laugh it off and accept it (especially later on in the trip).

Especially during our clinical experiences at the beginning, Thai Time was a shock to the system. I love arriving ten minutes early to everything and allowing for enough travel time between places, and then sticking to a schedule. If we say we’re leaving at 8:00am, then we leave at 8:00am. If the session is supposed to start at 10:00am, then the session starts at 10:00am. And if it’s supposed to be an hour session, the session will end at 11:00am. Not a lot of wiggle room. This was also stressed during my previous year of clinicals—make the most of the time you are given, but don’t take any more time than you are given. However, many times while here we have left late, started sessions early, started sessions late and DEFINITELY ran over the time originally planned! This last one was the most surprising to me. My time is important to me, and I don’t want anyone to take time that I had reserved for something else. I operate under the assumption that other people would like me to honor their time as well, even here. But it was always worth it because there were many beautiful musical moments and wonderful interactions. Thai Time, you win. It’s okay to be laid back sometimes and let things happen—even if it means deviating from the original plan.

Towards the end of this trip, my view had transformed. A few days ago, we went to a Buddhist temple close to Mahidol. We finished class at noon and were planning on leaving the university at 2:00pm to meet with someone at the temple. Off we all went to lunch and then to take a little nap in the clinical room before we left. At 2:00pm, our instructors were not back yet and a few people said, “Aren’t we supposed to leave now?” At this point Thai Time has set in pretty well, so my response was “We’re on Thai Time. That means we’ll leave sometime after 2:00pm.” And it was true. But in the midst of waiting that extra twenty minutes, I had a beautiful conversation with another student. I learned more about them, listened to their passions, and connected on a new level.

Thai Time in itself has been adventure in this trip, but like most other things, it has also been a learning experience because different isn’t always bad. While it was frustrating at times, the frustration came from the contrast with past experiences, not the experiences created because of Thai Time.

Dr. Register gave us all an article to read and discuss a few weeks ago about transcultural journeys with many wonderful points and lessons, but one quote in particular stuck out to me: “[A transcultural journey] requires, first of all, a readiness to recognize the true, the good, and the beautiful wherever it is found.”

That is Thailand. It is different from my own experiences, it is different from America, but it is not bad. It is beautiful. Even Thai Time has its moments of beauty. But if you’re not paying attention, you may miss it—we have to be ready.

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