Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Welcome to the Future!

In Thailand it is currently the year 2552. The western calendar is based on the life of Jesus Christ, but the Thai calendar is based on the life of Buddha. Ben asked Ajaan Danai whether that makes farang centenarians in Thai years, at which there was laughter. Age is super important in Thai social hierarchy, and it is acceptable to refer to people simply as Pi (older) or Nong (younger) rather than by their name. In this culture, a person's relationship to you is more important than an individual name. If we were over 500 years old in Thai years, would that imply that we could technically refer to Ajaan Danai as Nong?

When speaking Thai language, ending consonants are not stressed. Today while learning the Thai pronunciation of "Bangkok," I had this feeling that the ending was melting on my tongue as if I were eating a wafer with an initial strong flavor and then a sudden evaporation. Pronounced in Thai, the name of the country's capital sounds more like behn kah. It turns out that Bangkok is really the name of the district, and the short name of the capital city is Grung Teb (the long name is ridiculously long... it may one of the longest place names in the world), which means City of Angels. Bangkok is still considered the mecca of ethnic Thai culture, though cities like Chiang Mai are rapidly growing and building cultural reputations of their own.

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