When we opened an office in Thailand I started learning the local language, as I always do when new to a country. Because Thai sounds like voice-over on a Donald Duck movie, I hired a teacher for one-on-one lessons.
As most “small” language Thai is not well documented and any word will have various translations depending on which book you open.
Thai doesn’t have many words, hardly any grammar; it has no articles, no inflection of noun, and no declension of objectives, no variation of verbs in regard to gender, number, tenses or cases and many other simplifying no-rules. A sentence like “If I would have known, I would have had the chance to use past perfect.” does defy translation.
Furthermore Thai belongs to the group of tonal languages. Tonal languages, as opposed to the non-tonal Indo-Germanic languages, root meaning in tone, not in grammar. Hence the same word may have a myriad of meanings depending on how you pronounce it while the written form remains identical.
“Leo” for example means “beer”, “right”, “quickly”, “come” and “here” and some unidentified food. Imagine you want to say: “Quickly, come here with the beer.”
My teacher described this tactfully as a three-dimensional language concept but I smelled the competitive disadvantage of a nation, especially when one realizes that the locals do not understand each other very well.
In my lessons, I focused on simple sentences of importance (like the one mentioned). After four weeks of study my teacher deemed me ready to order my favorite dish “Fried rice” which is “Khao pad” plus “Nung, krap” which is “One please”.
Confidently I walked up to a fried rice vendor and said “Khao pad, nung krap”. He looked irritated and called his wife.
By the time I had said “Khao pad” about eight times, the fried rice vendor and a group of spectators had organized someone who supposedly spoke English. He didn’t understand me neither.
Exhausted I pointed at the fried rice, said not a word and gestured “one”. That went through like a revelation. “Oooh, he wants fried rice! Man, why doesn’t he say so? God dammed foreigner.”
The bi-lingual Thai laughed, padded my shoulder and called out: “Yuu wiht eiis on.” and meant “You fried rice, one.”
I took another 6 months of private lessons, and then I gave up. Now, when in Bangkok I never say a word in Thai except a Buddhist “Mai pen rai.” which means “Never mind”, I hope.
How flat is that Mr. Friedman?
Olympia. Thank God. It is over. Finally! And well over too.
Congrats to the Chinese people. No major loss of face. Some expropriated and arrested grandmas, some faked children, some underage athletes, yes, yes, but nobody is perfect, especially not a big country.
What remains? For me as a gem trader one thing stands out: 50.000.000 carat of Andesine.
It turns out Andesine has won gold in scamming this year, even in the highly competitive field of gem traders.
For those who are not informed: Some, probably Chinese, mastermind bought 50 tons of pretty worthless Mexican feldspar years ago, artificially colored it red and created a new brand called “Natural Tibet Andesine”. Great name. Great origin. Especially for making it the Olympic gemstone and sell it to unsuspecting tourists at $500 per carat instead of $5, which is what it is actually worth.
Well, well, in the gem trade such a plot is no novelty; it has been done many time and it will be done in the future. What makes this case so refreshing is the scale of publicity. While Omega and GE have paid millions to be associated with Olympia 2008, Andesine’s mastermind just spread rumors and engraved the five rings into the gem.
So, we have a fake gemstone sold in millions as fake Olympic gem. That is gold in all scamming disciplines.
China, we forgive you. Nobody is perfect.
Why is stealing a mortal sin? I wasn’t really sure, besides a vague moral feeling, until I was mugged, last week.
Now I realize: stealing reduces the value of goods for a society.
From an evolutionary point of view it is as easy as that. After the Vikings visited a French village there was not much left except what little the Vikings couldn’t carry away. The rest was broken, spilled, burned, dead or traumatized. BUT, for humanity, the village, as a value producing entity, was worth far more than the sad plunder the Vikings dragged away.
However the French had little choice, until somebody came up with the idea of rather giving away the whole village and renaming it Normandy. Thus the Vikings didn’t destroy it all but sat back and enjoyed the fruits of their former victim’s labor. Not all ideal for the French, but it sure beats getting raped and plundered annually.
On my smaller scale some Sri Lankans climbed over the roof and into my unprotected office. They emptied a tray of gems and ran. Nobody got hurt, no window was broken, and yet the loss for Sri Lanka as a whole was much greater than the value of the stolen goods.
Without certificates, without grading reports and international sales channel those gems are now worth only a fraction of what they were with us. Sri Lanka as an exporting country has suffered a loss. Police, the avenging angels of mortal sin, should have protected their society from that loss. Forget that.
I think our bible-writing forefathers knew that for society as a whole stealing is a bad deal.
There hidden may also be the reason why international white-color crime is less dangerous than stealing somebody’s workshop tools in a small village. While the latter directly damages a small society seeking revenge, the former causes far more damage but ‘only’ to a remote and powerless entity, taxpayers or banks seeking only refunds, while the village hacks off the thieve’s hands, we read the newspaper with a shrugging sigh, hoping that a lengthy law suits ends at worst with five years of sabbatical in a comfortable one bed room, with all limbs attached.
Though you will find many Ferraris and Bentleys in Bangkok, nobody seems to pay taxes to build the roads with, or to organize law enforcement to keep people from driving like mad hogs. Traffic police here drive motorbikes that should go directly to scrap metal and earn a living by coercion of other, equally poor, motorcycle drivers.
Sure, it is abominable if a super rich politician evades taxes in a country with daily power cuts and a sewer system that makes its capital smell like wet dog or worse. But it is even more abominable how the Bangkok elite use the bad-business-men narrative to oust a legally voted Politician who doesn’t fit in their inherit-never-work power structure of last century. No good.
BTW: Did you know that in Thai jails the inmates get no food? You need friends on the outside to bring you food or you go hungry. Not that Mr. Thaksin will ever suffer this fate but if you buy some weed on a fullmoon party in Phuket you might get yourself a free diet with it.
Yesterday I watched a report about Sri Lanka on discovery channel: The usual images of beaches, temples and smiling people.
It has bad teeth and dies early.”