Sunday, November 28, 2010

Use 'em or Lose 'em

More and more American companies have been restricting their vacation days to a "use them or lose them" policy.  So we're using up Dan's in Thailand.

This was my third trip this year through Israeli security.  They ask profiling questions that would never fly in the U.S.  When we flew in Sept. they asked me if I belong to any communities, and not knowing what this meant, I just said no, figuring I didn't, if I didn't know what they were asking about.  (Dan told me after that they meant Jewish organizations).  This time they just asked me if I have any family in Israel besides those by marriage.  It was pretty quick, likely because I don't fit any questionable profiles.  Two of Dan's work colleagues were questioned for nearly an hour each though, when they flew out in October after several days of business meetings in Isreal, even with letters in hand from the Israeli businesses to vouch for them.

We flew 10 hours to Bangkok and another hour up to Chiang Mai, the capital city in the north.  We spent the first day walking around the markets and wats (temples), pictured here.  From the moment we got off the plane, I was reminded of one of the aspects of Thai culture that I am certain attracts so many tourists - they are so sincerely friendly and welcoming.  I knew this from previous visits, but the stark contrast after being with Israeli's has enhanced my appreciation of these people - people, who in most cases live a much lower standard of living.  They are genuinely happy people.  They too have a cultural coming of age process, but instead of the army like in Israel, most Thai boys become monks for a few years of civic/cultural service from age 18-20. 

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