Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Just playing with some toys - Bangkok, Thailand

I watch them exercising on the lawn of the small park. The tasteless standardization of their dress code, never affected by updates and seasons. I look at them while they throw clubs, diabolos and rubber balls in the air, two, three, even four at times. They swing poles, hula hoops, chains with wicks linked to the ends - unlighted of course because changing them is expensive and they are on a tight budget - or just colored rags to simulate the flames.
Their serious expressions are what amaze me most. I'm not blaming them for playing of course. I remember the mellow days of my youth at the beach, in parks or even residential streets, sweating with friends or by myself after any sort of ball. The hours spent frying my brains over a meaningless chess movement disguised as life turning point. Even computer games have taken precious shares of my teenager years. I'm aware of the importance of recreational activities for the mental balance of human beings, maybe even too aware of that sometimes. The only university exam I ever thought had a name worth of a branch of human knowledge is called "Game Theory": I decided not to take it only after finding out that it was not exactly about games, not as I could conceive them at least. It was just another engineer deceiving trick.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

The earth shakes - Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

I was about to tell one of my students to fuck off, thinking that he was having some fun shaking my desk, when I noticed my expression - and my same intention - mirrored on his face. Then we both looked at the water dispenser and noted that the liquid surface was obviously swaying. So we calmly stood up and, elegantly and with style, keeping a cool head, without using the lift but gracefully flying over the stairs instead, we made a bolt for the exit.
By the way, while with self-assurance I was getting out of the building, fearing losses of memory due to belated panic attacks, remembering the precious lesson of Tom Thumb I decided to leave a trail of shit crumbs behind me. The following day I was still able to find my classroom without having to follow it but, as they say, one can never be too prudent.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Sad sculpture - Bangkok, Thailand

The sculpture stretches along a good share of an edge of the park. It's made of a series of stone slabs decorated with bas-reliefs depicting various scenes of traditional Thai life: families of farmers, fishermen, nobles or tradespeople. Different clothes, tools and appearances. Only one thing in common: they are all serious. A stiflingly sad atmosphere. Here in Thailand, a place whose nickname in the web is LOS, Land of Smiles. 
All right, those Siamese smiles are not always sincere. Most of the time they are, but they can also be a sign of embarrassment, hypocrisy, malice or even wickedness. However, people who make a living out of tourism and superficial commentators, especially the foreign ones, find the stereotype of a country with a smile permanently stamped on its face fancy and useful. Very much so. I guess it would be the same to them even if it were just a misleading grimace, caused by a facial palsy.
Maybe this sculpture, although not exactly a masterpiece, is a real work of art after all. The expression of a true artist, that is an intellectually honest individual who is not afraid to go against the tide, exposing the hypocrisy of business and commonplaces to tell us that breaking one's back on a field under the sun or waking up at 4 to go fishing can spoil one's mood here too. That toil, poverty or even the loneliness of the rich are things that hardly make one smile.
Even if you are Thai.