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15 Days

15 days. That is how long they let you stay in Thailand. If you ask them why you can only stay 15 days, they will say "That is the law." I have learned there is no point in asking them why there is a law that says you can only stay 15 days. I have learned I am probably not going to get what I would call an "intelligent answer."

This is just another example of how "governments" work. How they control people - people they don't even know. And how they don't care about individual people.

Neither the people who made the laws, nor those officers with guns at the border know me. They didn't think of me and my needs when they made the law. Nor would they think of my feelings or my needs if they were to take me away by force and lock me up if I over-stayed the 15 days.

In Europe, you used to be able to stay in France for 90 days, Germany 90 days, Belgium 90 days, etc. Now you can only stay 90 days in all of Europe - or at least all the countries which are part of some new group of imaginary lines in the world called the "Schengen zone".

This reminds me that when you are born into a country, anywhere on earth, immediately you become something like the property of a group of people there who make the laws.

You are not even the property of your biological parents - social workers can take you away from your parents if they believe your parents are unfit to raise you. I am not saying that the social workers should never take a child away from his or her biological parents, I am just making the point that before you are 18 you really are something like the government's property, normally being held in the custody of your biological parents under usual circumstances.

This is really an incredible amount of power which governments have now. I am not sure but going back to the days of slavery in the USA, for example, I don't even think the slaves could be taken away from their owners or "masters" by anything like social workers. I don't think any such laws existed back then, for better or worse.

What I do know is that when I was young I never got enough freedom. I was forced or coerced to go to school for years and years. I will never know how much damage that did to me. Besides the law that compelled my parents to send me to school, I think I relatively free.

School, though, was always something I hated, yet I was forced to go. Why? Because it was the law. A law created by people who didn't know me so they could not possibly have had my individual feelings or needs in mind -- just like the law that says I can only stay in Thailand 15 days.

This law, by the way, puts pressure on my partner and I. We are having many conflicts nearly each day from the constant traveling. We stay in a hotel one or two or three days, but then feel pressured to leave and keep moving towards Bangkok and Cambodia so we can leave the country by the 25th.

I would have stayed longer in some of the cities, for example, Trang or Thung Song, but we felt pressured to keep moving north. So now we are in a city called Surat Thanni and tomorrow we will get back on the train and go about 4 more hours north.

Even though I know it would be frustrating and even painful to ask people why there is this 15 day law, I do wonder.... Why are the people in power so afraid of having foreigners, who spend a lot of money here, stay in this little part of the world which the people in power control with their weapons and government employees who will use force and those weapons to make sure travelers like my partner and I don't stay longer than this seemingly arbitrary 15 days?

One question I really do want to ask though, is why is the English so bad here? I want to ask some English teachers - but again I feel pressured to keep moving north...

Yet if I get the opportunity I will ask people. I am nearly sure all young people are forced to attend English lessons, for several years, yet most of them can't understand even very simple things, such as apple or train station.

Yesterday, for example, a man working in the train station, selling tickets, did not know what the word "arrive" meant. I pointed to a time on his computer screen and said "Arrive?" And the look on his face told me he didn't understand. A supervisor had to come to his rescue and confirm that, yes, it was the arrival time. That is just one example. There are so many more.

Actually, I think I have a pretty good idea of why the students don't really learn English. The classes are too boring and too painful. And focused on passing meaningless tests, not on practical , useful conversation.

I feel sad for the young people here who are being isolated from the rest of the world. In some ways, though, I think that is a good thing for them, so they might be a bit less corrupted by "western" values and beliefs.

There is more I want to say about the Thai culture, but I will do that in other articles.

April 18, 2012
Surat Thanni,

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