The Westerner Suffering from Mental and Sanitation Travel Sickness
Basically, if you’re a Westerner visiting Thailand and can’t laugh and smile while your vegetables are cut on a fly-infested cutting board, then you’re mentally going to have a hard time.
Sure, we would like to drive 30 minutes to the nearest city and dine at a clean outdoor patio with misters or large fans. We would like to be waited on by an attractive server who keeps the soda water, ice cubes, and Johnny Walker flowing, while we eat an omelet with proper utensils and have the option to wash our hands with running water and soap instead of wiping them on our trousers and pretending their clean. Right now, time and money are working against us. We rely on Aidan and Robert to play the role of the attractive server.
Despite our time and money limitations, we can afford some cheap beer, a cheap omelet and good conversation somewhere in the countryside near Warinchamrap. We get two out of three at this rural Thai restaurant, and to our surprise, we get more than good conversation and cheap beer.
We got a four star omelet. I now know how dirty Cinderella felt when she put her warty, corned, fungus-filled peasant foot into the clean slipper. The omelet was my slipper. My dirty hands were like Cinderella’s feet. The moment when my fingers brought the omelet up to my lips and my tongue reached out and tasted the bursting flavor of peppers and egg, I felt like a princess.
The other day, I was reading Ancient Wisdom, Modern World by the Dalai Lama. Here I summarize the Dalai Lama’s words about health:
Sickness is a product of the environment. If you come from the West, the sickness tends to be mental and stress related. If you come from the East, the sickness tends to be water-borne and sanitation related.
I imagine a journal entry from a Westerner suffering from mental and sanitation sickness:
After eating the disease-riddled omelet, I got diarrhea. I attribute my discomfort to poor sanitation practices used at the restaurant. Squatting over a hole in the ground has made my thighs sore. I have come to agree that Western toilets are for out of shape, lazy people. Now I wish I was in better shape and hadn’t spent so much time at the beginning of the vacation sitting by the pool looking at the ocean.
I’m still sick; I get depressed looking at my dirty self in the mirror. I came to Ubon to volunteer at a school. I teach kids about Christ through English Camps. When I look at myself, I no longer see Jesus in my face. I resemble the heathens he was trying to save. In all the pictures of Jesus I’ve never seen him dirty. (Maybe bloody, but that can’t be attributed to his personal hygiene). The only thing whiter than Jesus’s face is his robe. I’m no longer Christ-like. I’m dirty like the devil……..Save me, Jesus!!!!
Suffering Sam, the dirty sinner
The journal ends, but Sam’s story is only beginning. Like the diners who must drive to the café instead of taking a ten-minute Saturday morning walk, Sam is in too big of a hurry. Like the omelet eaters who cannot wait for their tomatoes to ripen in season, Sam can’t wait for Jesus to impress upon him that everything will be all right.
His fast-paced heart lets the anxiety of dirtiness grow big and tall in his life. The grim reaper waltzes Sam’s depressed thoughts over to a gun. His dirty fingers smudge the white ivory grip. He can’t put the barrel in his mouth because he’s afraid of catching a cold from the last person who might have blown his or her head off. His Western mental sickness of being afraid of objects that don’t smell lemon fresh saved his life.
The gun fires but only takes off his ear. Friends find him passed out from shock, lying on the ground, with one hole still suffering from sanitation sickness and a new hole suffering from mental sickness.