The biggest thing I’m being forced to cultivate here in Thailand is patience. I never fully understand any situation, and nothing is ever as simple as it appears once I believe I understand the situation.
For example – this week my computer adapter blew. The details of that situation include me crying like a baby in my room, utterly homesick and isolated for the first time in three weeks.
Anyway, the adapter (‘power cable’ to us laymen) needed replacement and the concensus was that I should go to the IT mall, just one stop short of my typical subway route home. Easy peasy, and it’s in Bangkok – I can always find someone who speaks English in downtown Bangkok.
After being in the 6 story IT mall for 45 minutes, I gave up and went home empty-handed. I’d been quoted 3 different prices, and wasn’t convinced a single one of them wasn’t trying to swindle me. Anywhere from $23 to $75 for the same product. Eesh. “Hello, I’m white, confused and can’t speak the language. If you’d like to take advantage of the situation, please line up.”
I called two friends, neither one could tell me what was a good price, so I left. The next day I told my manager about it, she told the handyman about the situation and 2 hours later he walked in with the exact adapter I needed for $30.
Patience, my friends.
Another situation…on Wednesday I asked my boss if the new computer I was using had AutoCAD installed, or if i should use my previous computer for that program. She in turn spoke to the IT expert, Jae-ed (a junior architect on staff who has his own heavy workload). In all honesty, I’d just wanted to know what the situation was at that moment, and hadn’t meant to cause extra work for Jae-ed. Instead, Jae-ed’s workday was disrupted as he installed various programs onto my computer and I used the conference table as my workspace for the rest of the day.
It’s like being a bull in a china shop some days, I cause ripples just by asking simple questions.
On Monday I apologized to my boss for being so slow because my computer was taking forever to save a large graphic file. I also mentioned to a coworker that my neck was stiff, and I was using an herbal Icy-Hot to help it relax. On Tuesday, they gave me a different computer and found a new chair for me to sit in, going so far as to help me adjust it to the appropriate height.
On Thursday I mentioned that I wanted to get a snack from the store before going back to work from lunch. My boss said she’d walk with me. Casually, she asked if I could really walk to the store in the heels I was wearing that day. “Oh, of course!” Ha. The store I had in mind was 1.5 blocks away. The store we went to was 3x the size, and 8 blocks away, along narrow roads without sidewalks and broken pavement. My feet may never recover.
None of these situations were caused by the people around me, just cross-cultural miscommunication or plain old….Megan miscommunication. More often than not the patience I need is with myself. No one else is forcing me to assume we’re talking about the same store, computer, or discomfort. I do that all on my own. And i do it well.