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Water From the Heart

The Thai Spirit of Generosity Prevails After Tsunami

by Seth Leighton

While no country can claim to have been anything close to expecting the disastrous tsunami of December 26, Thailand was especially unprepared. A traditional Thai saying has it that "there are fish in the sea and rice in the fields"—a refusal to worry about the future born from a land where natural resources are plentiful. Even the seaside resort towns of Phuket and others demonstrate this idyllic way of thinking, with construction going right up to the water.

However, dwelling on the negative is not part of the Thai culture. The Thai concept of nam jai (literally water from the heart) was expressed by hundreds of villages sending citizens to help in relief efforts. Doctors and nurses paid their own way to Phuket and elsewhere, and donation drives have been prevalent throughout the country.

I came to Thailand last year as a member of the LanguageCorps teacher-support program. On several occasions I have attended funerals and come to understand the Thai approach to death as a natural part of life. Thais largely seem to have accepted this disaster as a sadness, but one that can be overcome. Processing the tsunami with a "jai yen," or cool heart, the Thai have banded together to recover and display their own unique openness and generosity of spirit.

Given the high amount of foreigner casualties in Thailand, there is a shortage of more common foreigner blood types. It is important for foreigners living in Thailand to go to their nearest hospital to donate blood. Outside of Thailand, please contact your nearest Red Cross Center for information on making a donation. If you can make it to the Phuket area, and have a place to stay, volunteer at the hospital (without formal training, there won't be much you can do to aid the relief or reconstruction workers elsewhere). More information about relief efforts is available on the Language Corps web site:

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