Sunday, October 10, 2004

This is undoubtedly the oddest thing I have ever seen once arriving in southern Thailand.

Kids, teens and adults alike....all adorned with a facefull of white powder. The boy pictured here is only minimally covered. I've seen some of my kids come into my class (especially after lunch, when they have had a chance to shower and put on some fresh powder) looking like mimes. It really sets you back on your heels if you've never seen it before.

Naturally, I had to ask about it and was told that Thai's strive to be "White, white, white," because in Thai culture...

"White is right and Brown is wrong."

I notice it mostly in the early morning while walking to school, right after lunch and in the late evening. It's comical to me, but perfectly natural to the Thai people. You even see Thai's on local T.V. program's adorned with powdered faces. Really odd!

But, not so odd when you think about travels to the Philippines, although not as strange as the white powdered face thing, saw many of the middle and upper class Filipino women walking about in the bright sunny day with an umbrella. My old flame Celerina (or Cely to her friends) told me once, "It is important to us not to become too dark skinned as dark skinned people are associated with the labor class and islanders."

So too is the reason here in Thailand, or so it seems. The funny thing is being a Westerner and coming from a land that "promotes" darker skin to look beautiful....Products on the shelves like "Quick Tan" and other commercial skin darkening products....whereas here in Thailand, you see just the opposite on T.V., commercials promoting skin whitening products and underlying themes that the girl with the whiter skin seems to get the guys.

I never saw this when I was in Bangkok, but then Bangkok is a bit more upscale and westernized than southern Thailand. But, I'm assured by my friends here in the south who have more Thailand travel time under their belts, that the white powdery faces are everywhere in Thailand and certainly not restricted to the less civilized south.

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