24 January 2013


Have I passed the medical? Lord knows. Will I ever get to see the results? I doubt it. What I do know is that they took my blood pressure twice and in broken English I believe the doctor said I had slight hypertension - whatever that might mean. Like Shooting Parrots's father, I have always tried to stay clear of hospitals and doctors' surgeries even though Shirley is of course a nurse.

So there I was at the Vipavadi Hospital filling in forms with the help of Mr Somsak from the school's Human Resources Department. The Thais love forms and bureaucracy. I guess it keeps many people in work.  I was led from reception to the medical check-up section which must be a virtual piggy bank for the hospital authorities. There was a small army of nurses there all in pale lilac uniforms with nurses' paper hats decorated with different bands of purple which no doubt indicated their different ranks.

Blood sample, urine sample, blood pressure, weight, height, X-ray, cardiogram printout, reflexes, stomach pummelled, intimate inspection, second blood pressure test and the ancient Thai doctor with liver spots asking me if I took illegal drugs. I feel as fit as a fiddle but I will wait with bated breath to see if they have failed me. It's all about the big insurance company that owns the school and the limiting of their liabilities.
Koren woman from northern hilltribe
But that wasn't what I wanted to write about. What I wanted to reflect upon was Thailand's tourism strapline - "The Land of Smiles". Is it deserved? In the Vipavadi Hospital I observed a lot of smiling at reception, at the nurses' stations, in the X Ray room and from the ancient doctor himself. The senior nurse was a radiantly smiling supervisor and she attracted many smiles in return from her staff.

A lovely feature of teaching here is the smiles that can often fill your classroom with warmth. When I greet children they almost universally smile at me and on my walk to work I smile at the streetcleaner and the motorcycle taxi men in their orange jerkins and little Cheera my cleaner and Koy and Nem (I think that's her name) - the receptionists. The lowly paid school cleaners and the catering staff smile at me but what I mostly notice is how readily Thai people smile at each other. In general, there seems to be a lot of human warmth around - though of course I will admit that when you breeze in to an unfamiliar culture, you might not always read the signals correctly - missing subtle undercurrents.

Though there are smiles and the pervasive influence of the Buddhist faith is ever present, there's also great poverty here and for some people survival cannot be easy. There are also drug cartels, a rich overclass of tax dodgers, corrupt police officers, prostitution, occasional murders and political unrest but in spite of all of that I hope I'll remember the smiles. For me the strapline is entirely apposite. Mind you, for my part, I might not be smiling if they say I have failed this afternoon's medical because that would mean I'd soon be flying homewards.


  1. You'll pass easily! Dammit man, you survive on a diet of Real Yorkshire Pudding and Tetley's (tea and beer) and walk miles over harsh, unforgiving terrain lugging your bolt action digital camera and ammunition do you can shoot everything in sight. No damn grinning native would dare to fail you.

  2. I'm guessing that smiling is a cultural thing that we seem to have forgotten in the UK, unless you're visit McDonalds of course where I'm assured the smiles are genuine.

  3. What a beautiful face! Thanks for sharing.

  4. Just think how much easier it is to breeze through our days if everyone simply smiled at everyone they saw. I think I could certainly get used to that. I smile at people that I don't know in public, most smile back, but a good share of them simply look away. I have no idea why they do that.

  5. Well, all the best dear Pud.
    I'm off to the supermarket to smile at everyone.
    An uplifting post.

    I have a teaser script: (To be read in a deep voice with an American accent)

    "One Yorkshireman Meets His Unexpected Challenge in a Strange City - You'll Laugh at His Jungle Encounters, Sweat WIth Him when He Cycles Around the Park, Gasp as he is Given his Medical Test Results, But Above All... You Will Smile. Deepak Chopra is The Doctor, Ramona Marquez is the Student, and Yorkshire Pudding is The Teacher in 'The Best Smiling Frangipani School'. Coming Soon To A Cinema Near You."

  6. I have several theories about the smiling woman in the photograph. Please check all that apply, in your opinion.

    ___A. She has just received an intimate inspection.
    ___B. She is about to receive an intimate inspection.
    ___C. She has just conducted an intimate inspection.
    ___D. She is about to conduct an initimate inspection.
    ___E. She is strongly attracted to visiting English schoolteachers whose intimate parts she would like to get to know better.
    ___F. She is completely bonkers.

    (Note. E and F are basically identical.)

  7. Smiling is infectious,
    you catch it like the flu.
    When someone smiled at me today
    I started smiling too.

    I passed around the corner,
    and someone saw my grin.
    When he smiled I realized,
    I'd passed it on to him.

    I thought about that smile,
    then I realized its worth.
    A single smile just like mine,
    could travel round the earth.

    So, if you feel a smile begin,
    don't leave it undetected.
    Let's start an epidemic quick,
    and get the world infected!

  8. HIPPO I wil see what Monday brings. Quite likely Thai admin staff will be thumbng through the results of my medical while I learn nothing.
    SHOOTING PARROTS If you eat too often in McDonalds you wil become an obese parrot! This will atract not just smiles but howls of laughter from your neighbours!
    MARY Z Thanks. I have got a beautiful face haven't I?
    KELLY The purpose of life is to be happy and smiles demonstrate that we're getting there. Perhaps your smile targets think you are mentaly deranged. But of course you are not...are you?
    KATHERINE Don't you mean "in"?
    RHYMES WITH INTIMATE INSPECTION Actually I had just shown that old lady your blog on my laptop. I nver expected her to react that way.
    HELEN Some might say that poem is trite and trashy but I don't think so. The world needs more smiles.

  9. The ordinary people sound great, with all of those smiles. I liked the poem Helsie put on above for her comment - Dave.

  10. I didn't think Helen's poem was trite and trashy. I think suitably illustrated, with a few more poems of a similar vein (sharing, being nice, being polite etc.), it would make a fantastic children's book teaching English as well as providing the bonding experience of parents reading to children.

    I think Helen should go for it. I reckon on the blogosphere we could find a suitable artist and then maybe even someone who knows a publisher.

    I have printed her poem out and am teaching it to my kids.

  11. Many thanks for your kind word dear Hippo but I have to confess the poem is not my work. I don't know who wrote it but I used to teach it to my students in the old days.

  12. Smile and the world will smile with you, apparently.

    Hope you pass your medical - I also have to have one every year, but with amazing Mediterranean bureaucratic speed, i still haven't got the results back - two months later. I could be dead for all I know.


Mr Pudding welcomes all genuine comments - even those with which he disagrees. However, puerile or abusive comments from anonymous contributors will continue to be given the short shrift they deserve. Any spam comments that get through Google/Blogger defences will also be quickly deleted.

Most Visits