If you haven’t tried the new caramel M&Ms, go and buy a packet. They’re as tasty as Rolos, but with a tastier crunchy, chocolate shell.

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Car recalls

I don’t have a lot of experience of car ownership. In fact, in sixteen years I have owned four cars, including the one my wife and I bought in January here in the USA.

So I know my experience of car recalls is going to be limited: None of the three cars I owned in the UK experienced a recall.

But we have owned a car in the USA for under four months, and have experienced a recall. The car in question is five years old, and it’s its first recall, so there’s an element of luck here, but I wonder whether car recalls are more common in the US? And if they are, is it because of better safety requirements or because of poorer quality checking at construction, or some combination of the two?

Part of the explanation is this, from the Boston Globe:

Safety runs the gamut. In Europe and Japan, cars are rigorously tested before they go on sale. In the U.S., automakers self-certify and cars are tested only after they go on sale. (Source)

This makes sense, but it also disappoints. That same article talks about the relative safety of the same car in different countries. The bare statistics aren’t the full story, because regulations differ by nation (e.g. the US requirement instructions to be in English, which would only result in a recall in the US and, perhaps, the UK).

I’ll leave the stats as the final thought:

In 2013, there were 714 vehicle recalls issued in the US, where 28 million cars, trucks and motorcycles were called back due to safety issues. That outpaced the rest of the world. In Europe, which has around the same number of cars on the road as the US, there were 110 recalls. In Japan there were 303. China had 130, Brazil had 74. India had no numbers available.

In America

I am writing this in America. In New Hampshire to be precise. And being more precise than America is very important – this country is huge.

Last month my wife and I drove for what felt like an age, driving on reasonably good roads westwards towards and into Vermont. And despite driving for ages, Google Maps only welcomed us to one new State. And the state we went into, and the state we left, are both among the tiniest.

Two years ago, we drove a similar route all the way to western New York state, and to Niagara Falls (on a separate day) and again, we drove past hill, after hill of tree-covered hills. I have never seen so many trees at once.

Different

America is also very different to Thailand and England. In England, the weather moves between -5 degrees centigrade (at the extreme) and about 28 (at the other) but hovers mostly around 10-15 degrees.

Thailand’s heat is more consistent: About 50 weeks of temperatures around 29C, one week at around 40C and one week around 18C.

In New Hampshire, as I write, it is 13, but most of the time I have been here, since just before Christmas, it has been below 0.

But weather is not everything. I read the NH state laws on jaywalking and driving the other day, because they are so different to England (where pedestrians are not breaking the law if they cross where they like). In Thailand, the law is moot, unless it’s one the government has recently decided needs enforcing.

I don’t really have anything to share, but felt like sharing anyway. I hope you can forgive me!

Quick update

Neither of us have written here in a while, so I thought it was important to pen a quick update so that you know we’re still here. We’ve left Thailand, but I still have thoughts about our time there that I want to share.

In the meantime, we have been enjoying some family time in the USA and been enjoying some cold weather for a change!

Living in a world without ‘do unto others’

I think it’s important that I preface this post with a note: I have made some observations while living abroad and they have highlighted some interesting cultural differences to me. I wanted to share this but want to clarify that it is about learning and some sadness but no bitterness.

 

One year of living in a foreign country does not make me expert, nor does it ensure that I can understand the full culture or build a profile of what a person of this country should or would be like. However after many interactions with people in a focused city area (Bangkok) I experienced a particular anomaly, previously unknown to me . I have watched and experienced a style of interaction that is “foreign” to me. And I would sum it up by saying, that “do unto others, as you would have them do to you” is not a familiar concept in Bangkok. Of course people will comment on the high level of expats living here and how that changes things, or how it’s a city and cities are not always a true representation of the general population. This may be true. I can only speak from my experiences and observations, which to make this point have been exclusively taken from interacting with locals in the city where I live.

As many people I know from home, I was raised to follow the simple rule “do unto others…” and in my travels to different parts of the world I have seen the same philosophy practiced. It is certainly not exclusively American or Christian.

Here, however, I have found the exception and I have battled through this experience trying to come to grips with what this means. What does this say about me, my culture, my experiences, my perceptions of the world, Bangkok, Thai people, right and wrong…etc??

I have concluded this: having considered the alternative, I think that living according to “do until others…” is right and in some ways is above and separate from cultural rules and norms. We, humans, have made it part of who we are and who we expect other people to be. It has become an almost unspoken international code of behaviour. When “bad” behaviour is challenged often people (even in Bangkok) will apologize, identifying to me that there is an underlying awareness of expected social behaviour and interactions. The difference here is that there is no forethought, no effort to avoid harm to others and little to no effort to understand another’s experience. This has been an incredible mental exercise for me –  to learn love someone (many someones) who may not consider me, may not treat me the way I want to be treated and thus how I will treat them.

Living in a place that does not openly abide by this rule has challenged my humanity and my belief that I deeply love humans, experience true empathy for others and have an internal drive to do good. However now coming out of the other side of this experience, I believe that I am still this person but now with a better understanding of what it means to care, empathize, love and serve without expectations and possibly without reciprocation.

Last day…

Much to the annoyance of all around me, I have been making mental (and verbal) lists of all the things that we’re doing for the last time. For example on Sunday we made our last trip on Thai public transport, last night was our last night spent in this apartment and this blog post is likely to be the last one written in Thailand.

As I am writing this, I am looking around our bare apartment which we have cleaned from bottom to top. I can even hear a slight echo from my key presses in this room with next-to-no decor. I can hear the buzz of an air conditioning unit and it sounds so normal (in late November).

I don’t feel sad. We’ve had more than a year of adventure here in Thailand (a year to the day since we came to Bangkok) and we’ve seen and experienced things I would never have otherwise experienced. Another reason not to be sad, though, is that we are going on to new adventures. This evening we stay in a hotel near the airport, from there we fly to visit family and friends and then, when that’s all over, we work out what’s next. That’s a freeing thing to be able to do, and we’re very excited about it.

What follows is a very select few pictures from our last year:

 

It’s moving day!

Months of excitement, stress, challenges and the fun of living in a foreign country behind us, we have decided to leave Bangkok and see what the world has in store for us.

Today is moving day! We aren’t sure what’s next for us so our belongings are on their way to my storage unit in NH and we’re heading to England and the USA for Christmas with family!

The movers are amazingly efficient! We’re sitting in the living room now surrounded by fast packing movers, impressed by their speed and gentleness. Loving this!whatsapp-image-2016-11-19-at-09-20-58 whatsapp-image-2016-11-19-at-09-21-05

 

 

On to our next adventure…

Beauty from ashes

This year has been an exercise in finding beauty and joy in unlikely places. The red light district is not a place of happiness. It is not clean. It is not real. It is not beautiful. It is a place of facades, pain, mistreatment…ashes. It is a place where you can see people who have abandoned their dreams or been dragged from them into darkness where they now serve as an indulgence for other’s pain or greed.

It is possible to lose perspective and even hope when working with women from/in this environment. Sometimes you see only the pain. But that helps no one.

While I worked with women leaving prostitution to return to their home country, I found out that they are amazing. This experience has not destroyed them. Each has found a way to hold onto hope, even if it’s just a glimmer. They sing and dance. They cook to share their culture and abilities with others. They watch out for each other. They laugh. They LAUGH! Can you believe it? The first week I spent at the shelter with women who had left prostitution (previously tricked and trafficked, taken from their home country and now trying to get home) we danced, sang, laughed, cooked and ate together. It was joy. It was beauty. It was life-giving.

In the darkness, in the pain, there is always some hope, some light. God can turn any pile of ashes into something beautiful (Isaiah 61:3)

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