Mai pen rai. It is probably the most common phrase used in Thailand. It roughly translates to “Don’t worry” or “It’s ok” or “Just accept it and move on.” Thais have a way of prioritizing problems and not dwelling on little things in life. This is a very hard concept for many Americans to get, but once you have it figured out you are able to live a much more peaceful life and realize what is truly important. I had my first true experience with it last night.
Last night I had my first real frustration of living in a completely foreign country. I had a simple task to accomplish. Do my laundry. I have done my laundry twice before and each time I go I pay 20 baht per load and an extra 5 baht for the detergent. Now 5 baht is really only 15 cents, but fiscally responsibly Tracy realized that in a couple more loads I would be paying more than the cost of me just buying my own laundry detergent. I am always looking for a way to save a baht or two! So, I went to the local Tesco and found the laundry aisle. Naturally everything is written in Thai, so I did the same thing I have been doing all along, look at pictures. I found a nice light pink bottle with a picture of a clean shirt on it and on the back there was a picture of a laundry machine and a sink. It looked legit! I paid my 27 baht and left the store. I was so proud that I had done something right in a completely foreign country! I went to a laundry machine, inserted my 20 baht, opened the bottle and poured in some detergent. To my surprise it was NOT laundry detergent, I had actually just purchased bleach. My clothes were ruined! My new pants had yellow spots on it and my black work skirt and only black shirt were tie-dyed just to name a few casualties. I was pissed. I don’t know what I was most upset about the ruined clothing or one of the first things I tried to do on my own in Thailand was a complete and utter failure. I took out my ruined clothing and sulked back to my apartment. I came up to my room and felt completely defeated.
Surprisingly though it only took me about 30 minutes to snap out of it. Back at home I would have been dwelling about this for days. Mai pen rai was all I was thinking here. So, a couple pairs of pants got ruined, I can go back to the market on Saturday and find some replacements. A work skirt got ruined, I have 3 more. Two tank tops were ruined, I now have tie-dyed pajama tops! My black shirt…I can wait until my mom visits in March and she can bring me the black shirt I did not end up packing.
Nobody died, nothing irreplaceable was destroyed, my family is healthy, I am in Thailand living my dream.
Mai Pen Rai. Accept it and move on.