Different Realities

 Reading about Obama’s young mother in the New York Times, I am reminded about a discussion Alex and I had the other day on how we live in a world of different realities.  What sparked the conversation was his conversation with a random stranger at a government office while waiting for some documents.  It’s not at all related to Obama or his Mom, but it is about how we all have different lives growing up.  One cannot just assume everyone’s childhood was just as pleasant as ours even though we’d like to believe it.  His reality is not my reality and vice versa.

What really hit us was how this stranger, this pleasant happy chit chatting man, was talking about his family.  How he had a hard life growing up and how education for him ended at fourth grade primary.   He talked about his daughter and how he was so proud of her to have finished 9th grade.  It was like a dream had come true for his children to accomplish such a high level of education.  A high school diploma would be out of this world.

Now when we hear things like this, it brings us down hard about how different his and our lives are.  I know not everyone is as fortunate to have the life I have, but it’s not the same as when you hear it said.   In my family and in my circle of aquaintances and friends, we somehow never even thought about the possibility of not finishing college at the graduate level, let alone highschool.   A masters was now the new minimum.  Bachelors was not enough.  It would be difficult to imagine finding a job without a masters degree in this day and age.   The new trend seems to be even going for a second masters degree.

It’s like we live in different worlds, yet here we are at the same government office waiting in line.  A momentary crisscrossing of paths before we diverge and go on with our lives.  An event that though lasting only a few minutes can make an impression  that will last for years.  It teaches us not to take things for granted. 

Amongst many other things, we take education for granted.  We expect our cousins, nephews, neices to at least achieve a masters, but living on the same earth, the same country are those who would be more than happy with a 9th grade education.  That is their reality.  Food on the table must be worked for each day, whereas I assume I have food in the fridge and if I’m hungry, I’ll just go buy something.  I eat more than I should while out there are mothers skipping meals so that their children can eat. 

 It’s a world of different realities, but lets dream one day it’d be less of a contrast. Look around you and be grateful for what you have.  Be happy with what you have, waste little, donate lots.  It’s food for the soul.

Shop at the BIG (Gift) and BIH (Houseware) Fair

This morning was the first public day for Bangkok’s International Gift and Bangkok International Houseware Fair (BIG and BIH).  If you don’t know what it is, it is a trade fair organized by Thailand’s Department of Export Promotion.  It’s held twice a year, once in April and another in October.  At each event,  those wishing to see what products Thailand has to offer can attend the event and talk to vendors.  The last two days, usually a Saturday and Sunday, are days for the public to shop their heart out.    It becomes a mad shopping rush that makes you wonder if everything was being handed out free.

The event starts at 10.00am and knowing that there’d be a million people there, I decided to go early.  I get somewhat crowd dizzy.  I arrived at around 9.30am and to my surprise the parking lot was already filling up quite fast.  I was even more surprised when I went upstairs to the lobby and saw the amount of people getting ready for the event.  Some sat and waited at the coffee shops,  others waited to withdraw cash from the ATM machines, while keen shoppers rented out carts to fill their goods.  The doors, still closed, were being blocked by those waiting to get in.   You can feel the energy vibrate through the air.  It’s as if there was some quiet force propelling everyone to buzz around like bees.  Everyone was getting ready for the big BIG open. Bathrooms witnessed people going in and out.

Everyone was getting ready to go have some fun, spend some money. 

If you’re wondering if it’s just for Thais,  I have to say the crowd was quite international.  I heard French, Japanese, Korean, American English and some other languages I couldn’t recognize.  This was a change from a few years ago.  I remember the first few times I came, I did not see that many foreigners.  At the bag deposit area, I saw some people with their suitcases and carry ons. I wonder if they came straight from the airport to buy all these goods.

Whatever the nationality, everyone was ready with a large shopping bag or a large cart.  No highheels were spotted. Everyone was in comfortable flats.  This shopping spree would involve at least two hours of shopping. More if you want.  I spent quite a few more, but then I stopped to have lunch at the food court which was very convenient and put my things away in the car before going back in.

It’s something I go to almost annually even if it’s just to walk around and look at the products they have on display.  I like to look at the design of the products and marvel at how creative one can be.  I remember the first few times I went there,  my bags would bulge with little knick knacks that were simply irresistable.  At this fair were such beautiful objects ranging from meticulously designed jewelry, leather goods, furniture, lamps, stationary to children’s toys and plastic goods.  Thailand exports a lot and this fair is a heaven for ladies and men who love anything cute, colourful, and have a preference for quality products. 

Everything is on wholesale price so if you need to buy things to organize or decorate the house, this is the place to be.  If you like cooking utensils, ceramics, cake stands, you got it.  If you need plastic boxes in various colours and designs to organize your goods or your foods, they have it. If you want handbags, cushions, bed sheets, spa products, potpurri, or even handmade lamps and candles, they have it.  If you want notebooks, folders, photo frames, paintings then buy it here.  Crystals and glassware were also there.  Beautiful pieces.  Everything that is “excess” is here.  So many things to tempt you.  From the northern parts of Thailand down to the South, they all came to this fair.

This year, being tired from all my accumulated junk I was a bit more focused on my shopping. I bought things I know I’d use and my splurge this year was on a box and magazine stand handmade from bamboo.  The bamboo was lime yellow and handwoven and had a shocking pink interior.  I love contrasting colours and these two go together just perfectly, I love it.  Am tempted to buy a whole set, but thank goodness I manage to stop myself.  There’s always another event in October.

I grab my bamboo box and dash for the exit.  The longer I stay, the more I keep buying.  The crowds start getting bigger.  I can’t walk without bumping into people anymore and most of the booths are completely blocked by the mad shoppers. If you like something, hold on to it. If not, the person behind you might just grab and buy it.   It becomes a mad scene of shoppers.  People dizzy, I take on last look and say my farewell.  Well, at least until October.  🙂