Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Bangkok Strays

Stray Dogs are a constant presence in the city of Bangkok. They not only exist within their own reality – an undisturbed continuation in which they saunter along, sleep, or simply sit in domicile somnolence, but for me they represent an idyllic symbol for the city and it’s unique culture.

“What is going on with all the dogs? The stray dogs?” my new friend from China asked me. She was visiting on a break-neck trip in which she got to see Bangkok for a couple days and the beach for 4 days. "We don't have stray anything in China."

It really was something that struck me as well when I first arrived, but over time you become acclimated to their presence and forgetful about them. Thai strays are much like Thai people, they almost never confront anyone. To confront is to create a problem and for a stray dog this could mean serious trouble as they have no power or economic purpose. Thai people also try to stay low key most of the time. It is not their way to draw a lot of attention to themselves, even good attention can make them feel uncomfortable because they are trained as very young children that getting along, the middle path, and being equal to but not better than their peers is a preferred way to live. After all, the only way for someone who is on top of the world to go is down. Pride can only bring other people’s scrutiny and this can, without a doubt, bring about critical judgment.

The stray dogs have a place here as all of us strays do. This is a city of wayward souls. So many tourists, Xpat workers like me, migrant workers, and immigrants come to the Kingdom of Thailand in search of a new life or a better chance to make something happen. But these dogs are not foreign, well their roots go way back – Africa I was told once, but they have been here so long that they are as Thai as any temple or canal. They are nearly always peaceful, but when starving they will fight. They stare out at the world with curious eyes searching for nothing – something – unknown. They are as ever-present here as the generations of people who lived here before – ghosts traveling among us and for the most part unseen. But their eyes never leave us.