Better living through anthropomorphism

When I was hanging out at a little bar in the Chiang Mai Night Bazaar with my fellow cohorts and new Thai friend, Kim, I noticed an intersection of various peoples. Little kids and their mothers, possibly from the nearby ethnic Hill Tribe minority, trying to sell necklaces with tiny white flowers to tourists. Ladyboys (or “kathoeys”) and Thai women playing pool with European/white men, wagering liters of Singha beer. I see a blind man, led by his son who is holding the former’s open, outstretched hand, beckoning for a few Baht, which is equivalent to a few U.S. pennies. It’s a new experience to be in such a junction of different populations.

While I was eating at an outdoor table at a Burmese restaurant another day, I was approached for food – not by a human, but by a golden retriever! He – I’m assuming it’s a “he” – was sitting obediently, waiting for some of my chicken curry. I politely said to this soi (street) dog, as if he linguistically understood, “I’m really sorry.” He was chased off by one of the workers, whose shirt read on the back, “Free all political prisoners/Free Aung San Suu Kyi/ Free Burma.” Interesting juxtaposition, eh?

So I wondered: Does that mean we need to be more compassionate in a developing country, in comparison to the States? How is a Thai child asking you for money different than a homeless person on a San Francisco street asking for money? How do we make decisions as to whom to give – whether it is money or food leftovers?

Despite seeing the literal display of class difference at the Night Bazaar, that dog had the most profound effect on me – it made me further contemplate if I’m being apathetic, even though I’m simultaneously trying to pursue a field about social change. How does one navigate this? I don’t know. But I do know this: it’s a different type of pull on your heartstrings over here.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Image:Hachiko.JPG

Japan's famous Hachiko

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~ by wannabejochen on 16/09/2008.

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