Cross-cultural Samaritanism

Getting a flat tire sucks. Getting a flat tire while driving your Yamaha motorbike on the Superhighway in Chiang Mai, Thailand, where you’ve only been living for a little over a month, sucks even more.

Fortunately, there are some hella friendly people out here. That morning of the flat tire, this random guy on another motorbike said something to me, while I passed him by. It was in Thai, but he was motioning toward my tire. Or my jacked-up dress shoes. When I got to work and much to my chagrin, my back tire looked like it was starting to deflate.

After incessantly worrying all day, I got out of work, and the fun started. The THIRD gas station I visited finally had a working pump, but the tire wouldn’t inflate. Drenched in sweat and confused, I started to feel that crappy feeling known as helplessness. Fortunately, a kind Thai woman waiting to use the pump after me tried to fill up the tire, and soon, another dude came out of nowhere and started checking out my tire. The woman spoke English proficiently and after conferring with the other kind gentleman, she informed me that there was something wrong with the tire itself. She pointed to a nearby street where I could get it fixed.

I soon found a small open shack with tires and with my limited common sense, figured that this had to be it. With my (even more) limited Thai and copious amounts of hand motions toward the tire, I explained to the mechanic what was going on. Although young-looking, this tan-complexioned guy seemed real experienced, like he knew how to work with bikes since he was a kid. I make that assumption because he propped up my bike, took out the tire, and the inner tube, which had a hole in it and must have been the cause of the problem. (Did you know that there’s even an inner tube?) He then replaced the tire, and I was good to go. The mechanic did this whole thing in minutes without even removing the cigarette from his mouth, real Landlady-style from “Kung Fu Hustle.” I’m not a smoker myself, and I don’t really condone it (nor judge if you are a smoker), but I have to admit, homeboy looked real bad-ass in the process.

Or maybe I just was impressed that I received the skilled help that I needed. It’s interesting… those moments when you have to admit that you need help. Whether it’s asking mom for some money to make it until next month’s paycheck… finding out your roommates got you chicken soup so you wouldn’t need to get your sick self out of bed… or bargaining with your boss/teacher to give you a break/extension because you and your partner of a year-and-a-half just broke up last week. You know what I mean.

The thing is, over here in Thailand and more so than the States (including Cali!), I feel that people sincerely, genuinely go out of their way to give you a hand up, rather than a hand out. (I took that last line from an orphanage worker whom I met.)  It’s like what those good ole’ Wildcats say, “we’re all in this together.” Something like that.

"Just wanted to let you know I got a flat and can't make it to the movies. I know! I was really looking forward to watching 'Eagle Eye' with you!"

Good Samaritan painting by Asian artist He Qi

Straight up bad b***h!

Straight up bad b***h!


~ by wannabejochen on 12/10/2008.

2 Responses to “Cross-cultural Samaritanism”

  1. Haha…Oh, Eugene. What a mess, huh? 😉 Sorry to hear about your tire!! But it sounds like you were in the good hands of several people! I wish people around here were actually concerned with the well being of people outside of their immediate family. I was at lunch with my grandma today, and she told me her friend had fallen off his scooter (in Castro Valley/Hayward). He laid in the street for minutes before anyone even bothered to stop and help! So I am glad people in Thailand still know what it’s like to help out another person in need. I can imagine you pushing the scooter all the way home, sweaty, frustrated. AND FYI – I love Kung Fu Hustle!! You remind me of one of them…hmm…I wonder which one….

  2. […] taken care of by their peers. I know that in the States people can be good Samaritans as well, but it’s different compared to Chiang Mai. There’s something about living in a certain space and social context that promotes this sort […]

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