Wednesday, August 13, 2008

The Travel Agent

Yesterday, I made my reservations and paid for my tickets (almost) for a scheduled home visit in February 2009. The process was not exactly problem free though as one would expect in Thailand.

Several months ago while were were riding around checkout the various businesses in our new home town we spotted a travel agency on one of the back streets. We elected to keep our business at home and gave them a shot at making a few baht.

Our first visit to their office was on Monday morning. I had written down everything that I wanted to do, you know, preferred times, airlines and dates. I even included all the airport codes thinking that he would at least be familiarly with these if not the American cities. First off he could not read English. Words like departure and return threw him along with the words February and March. So with the note of little use, Mee had to explain everything to him, line by line several times.

After about an hour he provides me with a schedule on which I only noted one problem. On the return portion he had me arriving in Dallas, Texas with only 45 minutes to changes planes at a different terminal and then a 6 hour wait in Los Angeles for my flight back to Bangkok. Forty Five minutes is probably enough time for me to change flights if all goes according to Hoyle but I have no faith what so ever of the airline to transfer baggage in that time frame. So I asked for a change to a later flight out of Dallas. This would give me a chance to change terminals without a rush, eat breakfast and besides I would rather wait several hours in Dallas rather than Los Angles. After an extensive look again he informs me that that's not possible. There were no other flights.

Taking his word I agree to the provided schedule and ask how much which is the typical next question. Again after much waiting he lets us know that the reservations are made but he will have to call us back with the fare. So off to the house we go to wait. Guess he needed time to figure how much to stick it to the farang.

When I arrive at home I decided to look up the American Airlines website and see for myself the flights leaving Dallas for Los Angles as things just didn't seem right to me. There it was plain as day a flight leaving Dallas two hour after my arrival rather than the one he scheduled for 45 minutes later.

Of course he was closed on Tuesday for Mothers day, so on Wednesday, armed with the different flight information that I desired, the cash money to pay for the ticket (he did finally call with the fare) we headed back of the travel agency.

After waiting an hour for him to make reservations for some lady to travel to Japan and selling one round trip ticket to Bangkok it was my turn.

Again had written down the change that I wanted to make which included the new flight number and the departure and arrivals times. Well he gets on his little computer and screws around for a good 15 minutes and finally just showing me the schedule and I already had and wants to know if that OK. Again we point out that I want to cancel flight 7 on the current itinerary (which was circled) and reschedule with the information I have written down. This my wife has to explain to him about 3 times as he just kept saying he didn't understand and then that there was no such flight.

Low and behold he finally catches on as to how to change a flight number and a new itinerary emerges. He then has to get back on the phone and gets the fare information. It came to 52,000 baht the same as the old schedule. We then paid and were told to wait for the tickets.

At this point we moved away from the counter to another sitting area so that other customers could be served. After about 30 minutes of waiting he ask my wife do we want to go shopping or something and come back later for the tickets. No, we are comfortable and will wait right here.

During this time I am starting to walk around the office and look things over. No where do I see a printer which I think capable of printing multiple part airline tickets. But what do I know.

Again 30 minutes later he now informs us that the ticket must be sent up from Bangkok and will not be here until Monday. WTF. I have been watching him, he has not spoken to anyone on the phone so how did he just out of the blue discover that the ticket would not arrive until Monday and why does the ticket have to come to Bangkok? This is all a mystery to me. I got my payment back, reminded him of our phone number and said call when the tickets arrive. I wonder if he will or is he still confused.

Side Note: During the several hours that we were to spend with this gentlemen he must have asked us four time why did I want to make my reservations six months in advance. Well, my number one reply is that it's really not any business of his but his demonstrated performance is the major reason why. Also, because airline tickets will only continue to rise, the cheap seats will be sold up and most importantly I don't like leaving anything the chance. I believe his opinion is why am I doing work today that can be done later.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Mother's Day


Today is a National Holiday. Mother's Day which is also the Queen's Birthday. That makes it easy to remember when it's a holiday sponsored by the government.

At least the Thai's get a day off work here and not just a Sunday to take mother her card, flowers and possibly a dinner at Denney's as is the practice in the west. If her birthday falls on Saturday or Sunday, they then celebrate on the following Monday.

They do, do a lot of the going to dinner bit but again nothing like in the west. There is also not much taking place regarding the presentation of cards and flowers. If that ever catches on over here there will be a fortune to be made. They do go so see mother though and spend the day with her and give her a gift or at least my Thai family does it that way.

Last night the Queen have her annual birthday address during the prime time television viewing part of the evening. By my estimate it lasted a good two hours or so after all the ceremonies associated with it were completed. Not a soul complain except a few of us farang's who missed out on some of the coverage of the Olympics. There were even more ceremonies this morning between nine and eleven which also cut into the Olympic viewing time. Oh, well. They will show highlights later this evening.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Down and Out

For the first time in a long time I have been down and out for over a week. When I lived in Bangkok it was referred to as "Bangkok Belly". Now that I have moved up country I guess the name should be changed to "Thailand Tummy". In any case, it has kicked my ass and left me as weak as a kitten. I have not fully recovered but did manage to pull my sorry ass out the door today and take my morning walk, th0ugh at a somewhat slower pace.

The Olympics start tomorrow and that is somewhat exciting except for the fact that it is only offered on Thai T.V. and as I understand it they will rotate the daily coverage from channel to channel so that all stations get a shot. I sure hope they do a better job that their 2004 coverage which was somewhat limited. My first complaint is that even though all stations have dual language capabilities that feature wasn't used 4 years ago. The regularly broadcast were talked over in Thai thus not understandable for us Farang's. The second big problems was the event coverage. Naturally, they covered the sports of interest to Thai's like table tennis, tennis, badminton, ladies weight lifting and of course the ever popular football. Not much aired in the way of athletics, basketball or gymnastics which I enjoy. They did get in a good bit of swimming if I recall correctly.

During my down period I did manage to read one book. Farang written by Dr. Iain Corness which is advertised as "Thailand through the eyes of an ex-pat". On a scale of 1 through 10 I rate it at about a 4 in my humble opinion but remember that is a review by an ex-pat that has been here for sometime. Someone new in country or with no prior experience may find it more revealing. I will get around to doing a full book review in the future.

Yesterday was another birthday, 64 of those suckers so far. Cake with the family last night and their good wished for a healthy future. Also, received a phone call from Pia the teacher that I worked with for so many years during my school teaching gig. Was nice to be remembered. Thanks Pia.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Why Thailand. Part I

This is where I should have been spending
most of my time.
I don’t know why exactly as there were many contributing factors, but mainly it just happened.

I made my first visit here in late 1968 when I was a young sailor 24 years of age. At the time I was stationed with River Assault Flotilla One at Dong Tam, Vietnam. So when I became eligible for my period of R and R (Rest and Relaxation) I chose Bangkok, as it was only an hour away by air. This way I could start enjoying myself much faster than the other destinations that were being offered like Sidney, Tokyo, Hong Kong, Hawaii, Manila and several others, which I can’t remember now.

During the remainder of my Navy career I had the pleasure to visit Thailand numerous time and I always enjoyed myself. I found it exotic in a wild west sort of way. For the most part the people were friendly, the women beautiful, the weather great, the beer cold, and most importantly it was very very easy on the old wallet. There are also beautiful temples, palaces, beaches and lots of green scenery to be seen and enjoyed. However, to be truthful, during these early years and while a single man, I didn’t see much more that the inside of bars and massage parlors (as indicated in the below photograph) with maybe an occasional visit to the picture show. But, those are stories for another day.

After getting married, I didn’t visit for many years except for a brief working visit in the mid 80’s. The purpose of that visit was to talk directly to The United Nations Committee On Refugees and the Vietnamese Embassy. This was for the purpose of trying to get my wife’s family relocated from Vietnam to the United Stated. By the way it was a successful visit. Which is also another story for another day perhaps.

After my second marriage ended I decided I owed myself a vacation so again headed for Thailand. On this trip I actually did a lot of the normal tourist activities and really got to see the country for the first time. I also spend my evenings in two well established expatriate hangouts meeting many westerners that live here. After, many conversations with them, I decided that I would give it a try for a year or so. I had a little money saved (and I stress a little), but thought I would be able to live on what was left of my navy retirement check, after my first wife was given her share monthly.

So after going back home, resigning from my job, putting my personal affairs in order I bought a open return ticket and set out for a new adventure in my life.

Continued.

Where I actually use to spend the majority
of my time and money.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Tax Break


Today the Thai government gave many of its citizens a tax break by reducing the excise tax of diesel fuel by about 4 baht per liter. The results is a gallon of diesel now roughly sells for about $4.55 per gallon rather than $5.02. That’s a pretty good deal for me.

The amazing part of this change in price is the way they went about implementing the new price.

At midnight on Thursday every fuel station in Thailand, all 15,000 of them, plus 100 oil depots closed. They reopen five hours later at 5:00 A.M. on Friday morning. During this time 2000 agents checked the diesel fuel levels in the tanks of all these stations. This was accomplished so that stations could receive a tax refund for the excise tax they had previously paid on the fuel in their stocks.

This may not have been the most cost effective way to accomplish this, but labor is cheap and at least the government did something to ease the fuel price burden upon is citizens. Not like many western countries that talk things to death but do nothing. I for one appreciate the government’s action and even though I am not a citizen I can reap the benefits.

Thai Fact: The average salary for those employed in the field of agriculture is only 3,420 baht per month or about $102.00 per month. These are the good folks who normally work 7 day a week, which works out to something like $3.40 per day. I’m not a religious person, but God bless these folks.




Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Warning Label

The above devices must immediately have warning labels firmly attached. Not only will they cause a seriously sore back for a 6-foot farang they also can be damaging to ones self-esteem should you be observed using one.

In case you have no idea what you are looking at they are the standard Mod 1; government approved Thai floor sweeping apparatus. There are two models. Model 1 is all natural. It is comprised of a bamboo handle with all natural grass fibers all sewed together by a little old lady with betel nut stained teeth. Model 2 is made of all synthetic materials. The handle is PVC piping and the sweeping fibers are made of some unpronounceable poly like material. There is no sewing on this model as the fibers are held in place by pressure molded plastic. It will last in the landfill for decades.

The disavanages of Model 1 is that it continually sheds is bristles while sweeping so you have to repeat the job several times to finally get all the material from the floor. It must also be replaces at some point in time. Model 2 is none stop sweeping with no bristle loss. Model 1 sells for 20 baht or about 60 cents. Model 2 runs about 35 baht or about $1.05. Model 1 has a limited life span; Model 2 is virtually indestructible, unless of course you finally use it as a paintbrush to white wash your fence or smooth wet cement. .

Anyway back to the warning label business. As you can see these brooms are very short, and in no way built for a taller person. Should a tall person use one, they have to bend over at a somewhat awkward angle to do a proper job. After several minutes your back begins to hurt and continual use may result in permanent damage, so avoid these devices at all cost. (That the story I’ve told my wife and I’m sticking to it.)

SIDE BAR: Should you be caught with one these devices in your hand outside, say sweeping the front porch a funny thing occurs. The minute you walk out all the Thai construction workers in the area stop what every they are doing and observe the farang in action. I don’t know if they are just amazed that I know what the device is for or that farangs are actually capable of manual labor. This event occurs daily and is no joke. I just wave nod and grin.




Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Kathy from Canada

Kathy or Katie (I can't recall which) was another of the backpacker types who come to Thailand on an adventure, enjoy themselves and want to say here a little longer. To meet this goal they often seek short-term employment as English Teachers to tide them over. Like myself Katie didn’t possess all of the Ministry of Education qualification for a proper teacher licenses but she performed her job admirably.


Katie was from Canada and at this late date I no longer remember what providence. I do remember her speaking about of one of her prior occupations prior to her Thai adventure and that was as cashier for a supermarket. Prior to this position I believe she had also worked as a stock clerk in the same facility. This may be faulty memory though.


As I said she performed he job very well. She took her work seriously, unlike many of the other teachers that pass through the portals of the Thai school system in the capacity of English Teachers. She came to work daily, prepared her lessons, got along extremely well with the students and was an asset to the school. She was a well rounded and competent teachers.


She lived alone in a condominium without roommates. Completely on her own and at her own expense as far as I am aware. I though that rather brave for a single young lady in a foreign country.



She only encountered two problems that I can remember.



One of her co-workers, one which I previously wrote about had a habit of showed up at her front door drunk as Hogan’s goat when he had problems with his wife which were often. This worried her as she felt he was up to no good. She could just tell he was looking for more that a friendly shoulder to cry on. I believe the head teachers had a talk with this individual and the problems solved. Now that I think about it, that may be why she later went to work at one of the other schools in our bosses empire.


There was also an occasion when she was walking home and two Thai men on a motorcycle approached and snatched her purse from her shoulder and took off. Luckily, she had no important papers in her purse at the time and very little cash. The experience did frighten her though. After that she was leery to walk alone down the street.



Thai Fact: According to the Mid-Year 2008 Economic Review the adverage wage in the field of Education is 16,767 baht per month or about $500.00 per month. At the school where I worked the average I'm sure was much less. Most teacher I knew made about 10,000 per month. For this they were at school from 7:00 to 17:00 Monday through Friday and one Saturday per month with very few benefits.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Grand Ole Opry

For those who are not familiar with American Country Music the Mecca of all Country Music Fans is the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville, Tennessee. In fact it is the oldest continuous radio program in the United States. It has been broadcasting live on WSM Radio since October 5th, 1925.

I use to be a big country music fan. The radios in my cars were always tuned to country station with several more on standby with each selection button. The only music I very bought was country. I knew all the songs and artist and could sing along with them all, though no one would want to hear that.

In my very early youth, around the age of 5 or 6, I can still remember sitting on the front porch on hot summer evenings with my father on a Saturday night tuning in the Grand Ole Opry Show. We had an old radio, which had to be turned in just the right direction to get a good signal.

Mother would join us and I remember that she always brought work for us. She had us shelling peas, husking corn or maybe folding clothes, always something while we were listening.

However, in the nine years that I have lived in Thailand I have slowly let the simple pleasure of listening to country music fade away. In fact I rarely listen to any music. I don’t know why, it just happened. It just wasn’t readily accessible and I didn’t pursue it. Other things occupied my mind.

Well, this week I discovered that all major radio stations in the United States are now accessible via the Internet. The first station I looked up was WSM and sure as shit, there it was. Live from Nashville all the way here in Thailand. Talk amount modern miracles.

So after all these years, I can tune into the Grand Ole Opry several times a week. And there they are, many of the same artists that I listened to as a kid. Little Jimmy Dickens, Whispering Bill Anderson, and Jimmy C. Newman are still going strong. It was a real treat and I now have WSM Radio firmly set as one of my favorite sites on the old computer. Who would have every thought and someone living in Thailand would be able to listen to a live radio show from Nashville, Tennessee with prefect reception. It’s a great world in many aspects isn’t it?

I have never been to the Grand Ole Opry to see a live performance so I’m now planning a road trip for my next home visit in February. Just hope I can get my rock and roll loving sons interested enough to join me.

If you would like to tune in for a little review, you may do so at: http://www.wsmonline.com/. Twenty-four hours a day country music with live performances of the Grand Ole Opry on Tuesday, Friday, and Saturday. Times are listed on the web site. Enjoy.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Hamburger Run

I have not had a proper hamburger in a really long time and I have been thinking about it daily for some time now, so last Tuesday was the day.

Now the best hamburger in my opinion is one you build yourself and burn in your own skillet, but with a lack of good beef a road trip was necessary. Also because I have given up driving and Mee did want to tackle at 185-kilometer trip motorcycles, buses, and tuk-tuks were involved.

We left home at 8:45 via motorcycle, rode to the local bus station and purchases tickets to Khorat. The tickets were purchases at a price of 104 baht each or a total of $6.25 for the both of us and we were underway at 9:00.

It was not a pleasant trip. They billed the bus as being air-conditioned but that remains to be determined. On top of that the seats were small, hard with little legroom for my tall lanky frame. As is typical on most Thai buses there was also the mandatory DVD blaring music at a decibel level, which is not fit for human consumption. We also must have stopped a dozen times to pick up passengers along the road. I believe the driver must get a bonus based on how many people he can pack in. By the time we arrived in Khorat at 11:00 we were backed to the gills with the lovely aroma of sweat and garlic breath filling the hot stifling air. Luckily there were no pigs or chickens allowed on board.

From the bus station we elect a Tuk-Tuk as our mode of transportation to The Mall rather that a metered taxi. The cost of the short trip was 50 baht or about $1.50.

Upon arrival at The Mall we had to do the obligatory walk through from one end to the other on all three floors while Mee looked at all the ladies apparel. I really didn’t mind it very much as it was near lunchtime and there were many students from the local university out and about and as in Bangkok they also love to wear their little uniforms as tight and as short as is humanly possible. Lots of eye candy for this old codger.

Lunch was as the Sizzler Steak House. I ordered the BBQ, Bacon with Cheddar Cheeseburger with French fries and ice tea. The above picture does not depict the actual burger, but it was close. The one I had was actually larger, better dressed and juicer. Mee ordered a chopped beef steak with French fries and Pepsi. She also lit into the salad bar but I did not partake, as I wanted to save myself for the hamburger which I am glad that I did because it was large and filled me up. With a little fruit from the salad bar our lunch was most enjoyable. Cost of the lunch was 633 baht or about $19.00. I know, a little steep, but what want you pay if you want western food, service and cleanliness.

Following our meal, we wandered down to the grocery store and they were having a sale on American/western products so we were obliged to purchase a few things to haul back home. Our purchases included several cans of Spam, Tobasco Sauce, Pickles, Olives (green and ripe), Raisins, and a few other hard to find treat items, which I now can’t recall. They also had some good-looking beef, but I didn’t buy any, as I was worried that it would spoil before we got home. This little excursion put me back another 1200 baht or about $36.00.

It was then back to the bus station via tuk-tuk (another 50 baht) and return bus tickets for the same price of 208 baht.

The bus trip was a bit more enjoyable, but not much. The air-conditioning worked a little better and we did not stop and pick up passenger along the way. Funny though, even with all the stops going and none coming back, it was still a two-hour trip. We were back home by 4:00 P.M.

So in conclusion for a cost of only 8 hours of my time and about $70.00 bucks I was able enjoy a hamburger. Heck of a deal huh?

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Thai Holidays



Today and tomorrow to two big holidays in the Buddhist religion. Government offices and schools are closed as are many businesses. I do note though that the constructions workers in my neighborhood are hard a work this morning though. Then need their daily salary.


Today is Asanha Bhucha Day: This marks the occasion on which Buddha delivered his first Dharmma talk to his five disciples, as a result all of them attained enlightenment and were ordained by the Buddha as the first ever Buddhist monks. This was some 2,500 years ago.


Tomorrow is Khoa Phansa Day: Khao Phansa Day (or Wan Khao Punsa) is the beginning of the Buddhist Lent.


During this time monks stay within the confines of the Wat grounds, a practise that goes back to ancient times that was intended to keep monks from trampling crops as they travelled about the country.


Khao Phansa Day comes one day after Asanha Bucha Day. The season of Buddhist Lent will last three lunar months, concluding on Awk Pansa Day.


In similarity to the Christian Lent, and Muslim Ramadan, many Buddhist practitioners treat this as a time of austerity and spiritual reawakening.
Because of the above Mee will be heading out to her village to celebrate with her family. They will be making Thai sweets and other foods which they will then deliver to their village temple and present to the monks. They will also provide the monks with can goods, toothpaste, soap and other sundry items as they are not to leave the temple (but many do) for the next three months
.
Thai fact: Approximately 95% of the Thai citizenry are Theravada Buddhists, 4 % are followers of Islam. The remaining 1% are divided among Christians, Confucianisms, Taoists, Mahayana Buddhist and Hindus.


Guess Who?

You have to guess who this is. Think real hard and it will come to you.

When I first started I only worked only for a maximum of nine months a year. I have now reduced that too much less with my last visit lasting only a few months. I have never worked a full year.

I need almost as much time off to tend to my personal business as I do time on the job.

I spend most of my day staring at the computer screen in the teacher’s lounge, talking on the phone in administration, bent over the administrators desk talking or checking my e-mail or stock listings in the computer room. If I put in two hours per day it’s a miracle and I’m doing something wrong. Heck the boss loves me, so I don’t have to worry about being productive. Besides it pay back time for driving him around the States and sheltering his family. Twice now.

I never teach a class and if a teacher is absent I never step up and fill in which should be my responsibility. Rather, I suddenly have important business to take care off campus. Consequently, some unsuspecting teacher has to take the place of the absentee. This is not fun for them but I really don’t care or understand, as I’m not a teacher. It’s funny how they let me get away with this isn’t it. Neat huh.

I never miss a meal. When I eat, I fill my plate with everything available, mix it all together and then saturate it with soy sauce. I then hold my spoon in a death grip and dig in. When I’m done rice litters my dining area and often my face. I am noted for finishing the food left on the table without asking my tablemates if they want any more. My utensils are left haphazardly around my plate and my chair is never pushed back under the table when I’m finished. Some have commented that I am a slob and that they have difficulty watching me eat as it makes them physically ill.

I wear my trousers high about my waist and I have been known to have pee stains in the area of my crouch, especially on my gray trousers of which I am so fond and ware all the time. Several teachers have also remarked among themselves that I sometime smell like stale urine. My shoes are never shined any most of my ties come from my 60’s collection unless someone should give me one as a gift. I can never be referred to as being sharp in appearance.

Somehow my investments in Thailand never pay off and I always end up spending more trying to recoup my losses. I just don’t know when to give up.

I proclaim my love for my wife at every opportunity, but the entire staff (Administration, Thai teachers, Non-native and native speaking teachers) know that I have a mia noi (minor wife) who is at my beckon call when I am in Thailand. I am fooling no one except myself.

I have even been known to buy a fake Rolex and when it stops working several days later, spend even more money to have it repaired.

I am convinced that all the teachers love me. Especially the Filipino teachers who never give me any grief. However, the truth is that because of my relationship with the owner, people are afraid to confront me because they value their jobs.

My nickname could be “Mr. Memorandum”.

I am not a yes man; I am the yes man.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Dingleberry

I was reading something the other day and ran into this word which I had not heard since my retirement from the Navy. It reminded me of…….

I joined the Navy right out of high school in 1962 and was sent to Recruit Training (Boot Camp) at the Naval Recruit Training Center, San Diego, California.

Other than gaining the experience of my first flight on an airplane I was also about to be exposed to a completely new vocabulary. Of course there were all the normally ones you learn when you go from being a landlubber to a sailor like head, bulkhead, port and starboard, but the first one that really threw me was dingleberry.

I first hear this word as we were lined up at the swimming pool for one of the various classes we had in water safety. We were instructed to disrobe, shower well with soap, dry ourselves but not put our swimsuits on until we presented ourselves to some unlucky slob where we were to bend over, spread our cheeks and be checked for dingleberries. What the f……

Was there really a problem with people having dried feces entwined with their anus hair. Hell, I was just 17 and barely had pubic hair so what did I know.

I also learned another new word that day “humility” or lack there of, I’m not sure.

Further along in my Navy career, I often used the word dingleberry to refer to sailors who were dumber than rocks and a waste of human skin of which there were a few. Not many, but a few.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

A Bull Story

Mr. Money Maker and Brother-In-Law


Getting Ready For Action

A grave injustice has been committed and as a result my father-in-law recently spend two days at my house ranting and raving to his middle daughter, my wife. He had things he just had to get off his chest.

About a year ago, my brother-in-law (my wife’s older sister’s husband) bought a prime stock breeding bull as in investment tool. Along with the bull he built a very nice pen at my in laws home in which to house the animal, along with all the special feeds to make it grow healthy and strong. All this was done, with an eye on making a profit in the future.

As my brother-in-law works for an international company and travels all over Thailand with his company he is seldom home so my father in laws responsibility with this business venture was to tend to the bull. Clean his pen, feed him, exercise him and what every else needed to be taken care of. It was also his responsibility to line up the breeding partners, ensure the act is consummated and collect the money, which by the way is 300 baht per poke so to speak. Quickly a strong bond was formed between animal and caretaker.
I can understand this, If someone was going out and bringing girls home for me on a regular basis back in my yourger day, I would also think they were special.

Well, things haven’t worked out as brother-in-law had anticipated. The village is just too small and there is not much traffic by the house thus the customer base was not broad enough. Thus, on his last trip home, he made the decision to move the bull to his father’s village, which is larger, with a good deal of traffic going through the village. Hopefully, this will generate more business.

Well, father-in-law was beside himself. It’s like his best friend had been taken away. He went on and on as to how he has cared for the bull since birth, that no one else understands the bull and can not provide care for him the way he has done. He feels that no one has considered his or the bulls happiness. Face has been lost.

This went on for the two night that he stayed with us for hour upon hour. Of course he came to our house to spew his wrath as he can’t do so at his home as his daughter (the wife of the brother-in-law lives there) and the Thai way is never to directly confront the problem with the parties involved. Thus, my wife became the conduit.

No the ranting and raving did not bother me. It was carried out in Thai. I just remained in my lazyboy, watched TV and smiled to myself.

The above events took place about one month ago.

Today, my wife informs me that Papa has rented a truck and is going to get the bull and bring it home. Seems as the bull is not happy in its new surroundings, not eating properly and has become ornery. Additionally, there are no more customers at the new location that at the has house. Also, the brothers in laws aged parents are tired to having to deal with the bull, in more ways that one.

Papa is happy again.






Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Lee-Kelly

This is another of the infamous teachers that graced my former place of employment. I promise I am going to finish up with this soon as I have become tired of the subject.



I never was sure what to call him. Half the teachers called him Kelly the other half Lee. In fact I had forgotten about him until recently when I asked my sister-in-law when she came home from school the name of her English Teacher and she said his name was Kelly. He was then recalled to memory.


Kelly was from Arkansas and had a pronounced southern accent, just like me. That was good in my opinion as students need to be exposed to all manners of accents. He also had a military affiliation having spent twelve years in the United States Air Force (according to him), but for some reason elected to be discharged at some point rather than remaining to qualify for retirement benefits. This I though was very strange. In retrospect it may not have been of his choosing in view of his demonstrated drinking record.


Though not a qualified teacher according to the Thai Ministry of Education (who change the rules weekly) he was a more that adequately equipped with education and experience to perform his assigned duties at our school. To the best of my memory he did well in the classroom. He was also married, but not to a Thai as are most native speakers, but rather to a lady from the Philippines. They were expecting their first child together.


All the time that he was working full time with us, he was also employed part time with a language school at the Central Rama III Mall.


As soon as he was hired after making a good showing at an interview, personal problem started to come into play. Something perhaps to do with wine, women and song which is the downfall of many a good man in Thailand.


On one occasion, on a Friday evening he ended up in Patpong, a notorious adult entertainment area and using less that good sense became involved in an alteration with a Thai Policeman. Talk about stupid. Of course he had no passport on him as he has used in as security on an advance in pay which he had received from the school. Consequently, he was immediately locked up in the immigration hold cells. There he sat until Monday when contact could be made with someone from the school.


Not sure what became of the charges of fighting with a policeman if that part of the story was even true in the first place as he has a notable habit of embellishing this stories.


On another occasion, he had to go to the American Embassy for some matter of business. (Memory is a bit shaky on this event). Anyway, according to his account of events they held his passport as his wife had reported him as being behind on his child support in the United States and there were warrants or some such for his arrest. Again this was according to him as it seemed strange to me. Anyway the story went on that he had to send some money or make certain financial arrangements before they would release his passport. Apparently, he was hiding out in Thailand to avoid paying these monies, and his former wife became aware of his location through his parents. Only a dirt ball does not provide support for his children in the first place and anyone that runs away to Thailand thinking they can support children back the the USA on a English Teachers salary are really living in a dream world.


Shortly after this event, he elected to send his wife back to the Philippines to have their child and it is my guess it will probably be another one that he will end up not supporting. Prior to this he compained often of the problems he was having with his marriage. He then really went nuts with no wife to somewhat keep in under control. Missed the van many mornings, showed up for school late and looked like death warmed over when he did manage to crawl in. Within weeks he finally stopped coming entirely. He was very friendly with the Filipinos at our school but as is their tradition they kept quite denying any knowledge of his whereabouts not that it really mattered, as no one was overly concerned about his loss.


In conclusion he was a better that average teacher, but a disgrace as a responsible adult. I’m told he is still in Thailand and still working.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Thai Construction Site Neatness

This view is looking down the front of several homes in various stages of construction. I see one of the workers left his steel toe safety shoes on the job last night.


Just leave it where it falls.

This is a view down the back of some houses under construction. Note the plastic bag hanging from the palm tree branch.

This is the back yard that I spoke about in the snake story. Note the collection of plastic bags. These things litter all of Thailand. You buy a pack a gum, it come in a plastic bag which is quickly disposed of, often in a most inappropriate manner.

These are some flowers that I planted from seeds when we first move here. I uploaded them in error and had to include them as I didn't know how to delete them from the blog.
This is the future home of a policeman and his family. They come by weekly to check on the progress. The other day we spoke and asked what was their expected completion date. They replied that they did not have one as they wanted the construction workers to take their time and do a good job. We did not have the heart of tell them that nothing has been done in over a month now. When they finally ask when their home will be completed the workers will then rush to finish thus not taking their time and doing a good job

This is a slum area right in the middle on
our subdivision. Home for some of the
construction workers. Source of loud music and
the normal after work drinking that construction
workers are noted for.
Just throw it down and let it land where it may. Though this stack of used scaffolding material is fairly neat.






As you can see electrical safety is paramount.

While a house is under construction, there is very little in the way of keeping the job site neat. Things remain where they fall for months. As each trade come as goes, more trash is added starting with the foundation men to finally the window installers. All of them, roofers, masons, tile setters, electricians, plumbers just leave their trash behind. You name it they just let it fall. When a house is finally completed and sold do then they start any clean up. Then most is just buried in the yard as they even out the lot. Each time I dig in my yard I up turn up shards of tile, pieces of cardboard and lots of concrete stones.












Monday, July 7, 2008

Another Snake Story

The new house next to us has now sat empty for about four month. Many people have looked at the home, loan applications submitted according to our source in the office, but none yet approved. So the house sits empty with grass which badly needs cutting. It is now over a foot in height. God forbid that management would do any thing to clean up the area.

This morning the wife fried up some hamburger meat to make a batch of chili. After she drained off the fat she had about half a cup full of grease and instead of disposing of it correctly she goes to the brick fence separating our homes and pours in into the adjoining lot right on the back of a large black snake laying in the tall grass. She notices the shake slither away and call me out to have a look.

When I first arrive on the scene I have a difficult time seeing the snake as it is deeply buried in the tall grass so I get a long stick and poke around where the wife said it was in hiding.

Immediately the snake takes off at full speed, maintaining a route parallel to the fence. The snake is close to two meters in length by my estimations. At this point all you can see in the grass parting and parts of the snake showing from time to time as it makes its escape. All of a sudden its head becomes entangled in a derelict blue plastic bag which has blown into the yard. Now all you can see is this blue plastic bag weaving back and forth through the grass at high speed as if magic.

It was actually a pretty funny sight to see, but I guess you really had to be there to see for yourself. That’s about as exciting as it gets around here these days, so though I would share.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Railroad Crossings

The following is taken from todays issued of The Bangkok Post.

Music can kill. But by the time Narongrit Nuring learned his lesson it was to late.

Seems as if Mr. Norongrit was driving his pick-up truck with the stereo turned up full volume, didn’t hear a train coming and was killed on the spot. A construction worker who witnessed the accident determined this fact. He said he saw the car and heard very loud music playing before it tried to cross the railroad tracks and was hit by the oncoming train. I am sure he is an expert witness on such events.

Well, I’m not buying it. In a country with possibly the worse drivers in the world I believe simply that lack of concentration and awareness to what is going on around him was the major cause of his demise. The loud music may have been a distraction but I contended a minor one. Odds are he would have still crossed the tracks without looking and been killed regardless of how loud his music was playing because he simply was not paying attention or aware of his surroundings. It’s just not in his normal thought pattern to do so. It’s a cultural thing.

I further bolster my claim by comments made later in the article and I quote “It was the fourth accident this year at the same crossing with Narongrit becoming the fifth victim so far”. Were they all listening to loud music?

Hell, it’s only July. We can possibly get this up to 10 by year’s end, just turn up the stereo boys.

The article also gave other relative statistics. Accidents at railway crossings have increased over the past two years from 185 in 206 to 327 last year. This sure seems a lot to me in a country with less that 65 million souls.

At then the article concludes with sage advice from State Railroad of Thailand governor Chitsanti Dhanasobhon who offered this most valuable tip to motorists: “Don’t underestimate the speed of our trains”.

How about the advice of slow down, watch where you are going, stay in your lane and in general get your head out of your ass.

By that’s just my opinion.

My sympathies to the family and friends of Mr. Norongrit.

Friday, July 4, 2008

New Neighbors

On the street just over from ours, in a house modeled after ours, our new neighbors have move in with a big bang.

On the day that they moved in, guest for their house warming party started arriving at about 3:00 P.M. The partygoers arrived almost inclusively in new pick up trucks, with a sprinkling of cars and of course the ever present motorcycles. Soon they had all the streets in the subdivision blocked with a narrow one way path in the middle of the street. Except….on their street which they had completely blocked off with a tent. There in they had set up a complete field kitchen.

I have witnessed this street blocking on many occasions though through out Thailand. They think nothing of it. All those living on the other side of them are denied entrance to their homes with their vehicles, but according to my wife no one ever complains about it. That’s just the way things are done.

For some reason most of the guest have to walk around the block after they arrive and peer into the other houses. It was funny when they walked by my place, and would catch a glimpse of me. Without failure, the first one that spots me would poke the others in the group and proclaim loudly “farang”, repeating it several times. It’s sort of like being on display at a zoo. What is really funny though is when I acknowledged their presence. They had no idea how to respond. Most often they would just grin real big which is the normal Thai response in any situation in which they feel awkward. I often have fun with this in many other situations.

Back to the party. All is fairly quite until just about dusk. Then the music started. It is loud, non-ear pleasing in tone and goes on and on and on and on. Shortly there after they apparently had an open microphone completion of some sorts in which the other neighbors and I had to endure all the guest giving their rendition of their favorite song. It was not pretty. At about 10:30 I finally retired to my bedroom turned on the air-conditioning placed the television volume on high, making an attempt to drown out the residual noise.

So what do I find when I leave for my walk at 5:50 AM the next morning. The street is littered with beer bottles, all sorts of plastic bags and four drunken men sitting at a concrete table that they dragged up from somewhere. They still have full water size glasses full of amber liquid and are talking loud to each other in slurred voices. When I return an hour later they are still going at it. Guess they were going to make a day of it.

Can’t wait until they sell all the other vacant homes in the neighborhood and we can do it again and again and again and……

Thai fact: In 2007 the average salary in Thailand was 8,368 baht per month or about $250.00 per month at the current exchange rate. Lots of poor people.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Welcome Back

Well the 1st of July finally arrived several days ago and to be honest I didn’t even notice. If my wife would not have reminded me today to check my bank account to see if my retired check had arrived I would still not be aware of what day it is. Losing track of time I guess is one of the benefits of retirement. Though it may also be the onset of Alzheimer’s.

For what it’s worth, I’m back for another try and this blogging thing. I made the decision to try blogging before I retired, but I was not prepared for the job at hand. At the time I though it would be a great retirement hobby, and it is. However, I soon became overwhelmed and was placing a lot of pressure on myself to put out a product daily that was read by few.

So on this second attempt, I will not pressure myself to turn out something each day or worry too much about the quality or quality. Though I do hope that they may be enjoyable to someone, but if not I just can’t worry about it. Life is too short for that.

So what has be going on since the last blog? Not much! Except eat, do my morning walks, read, work in the yard/garden a bit and get in Mee’s way, which I am becoming very good at. She is now making more and more mid week visits to her village to get away from my pathetic ass for a few hours.

Since retirement from the daily grind, I have managed to increase my weight by 4 full kilos taking me up to 88 kilos. This is too much for my tall lanky frame, resulting in a huge potbelly. I sort of look like a pregnant old man well not sort of, I do look like a pregnant old man. I must work on this but will sure miss my dose of butter popcorn in mid evening, omelets each morning for breakfast and sandwiches galore. To add to this problem I have recently taken up baking cookies, which are delicious and must be consumed in one sittings. I always have good intentions of giving the cookies to neighborhood kids when they come home from school, but for some reason they are gone by then.

Well that’s all for today, but hope to see you again soon on a somewhat regular basis.

Thailand Fact: Population 65,493,298.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Temporary Closure

CLOSED

UNTIL

1 JULY 2008



Still to come: Kathy from Canada. Arora from Australia. Lee-Kelly. Steve. Keith. Ben the preachers son. Richard. Peter. Megan. Mr. Memo. Dennis and other. And of course lets not forget current crew.


Later.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Corn


Vegetable or dessert?

My wife goes to the market and returns home with nice big plumb ears of corn still piping hot. I take my ration and slather them in butter, and sprinkle it liberally with salt and black pepper. The wife takes hers and adds a little sugar, if anything.

Last weekend we made a visit to the big city of Khon Kaen and dropped by Swensen’s Ice Cream Parlor for a treat. I order a hot fudge sundae; the wife orders two scoops of vanilla ice cream with corn sprinkled on top. Just the way the local street vendor presents his.

Yesterday on the way back from the market, she picks up a treat of waffles from a street vendor. I bit into mine and find it loaded with little crunchy tidbits. What is it? A bit of pineapple, mango, perhaps papaya. Nope, wrong again. They are loaded with nice plumb kernels of golden corn.

That said don’t get me started on an Ice Cream Sandwich which here is a hot dog bun with three scoops of ice cream smashed between them. Sprinkled with guess what? Corn.

Oh, don’t forget popcorn that we add salt and butter to for seasoning. Not here, sugar is the preferred condiment.

I guess a lot in life depends on what you are use to and exposed to as a child.

Also, don't forget about ketchup on pizza which is another Thai treat.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

John M.

Now this was a strange dude in my opinion. I would guess that he was in his mid thirties and was very tall, probably well over 6 feet, 6 inches. I never saw his employment application but he was well spoken and probably well educated. He was from England. His duties were grade three teachers, which I assume he performed adequately as I recall no complaints in that area.

First of all he had a great dislike for one of our Filipino teachers for some reason. This resulted in him assaulting this teacher two times that I am aware of on school property. Once was a somewhat serious shove and the next time was a brutal head butt. On the second occasion he was counseled by the head teacher regarding his actions. However, nothing became of it, in fact I am not ever sure if it was brought to the attention of administration. I believe that he should have been dismissed then and there, but my opinion was disregarded. In hindsight, I guess I should have brought the matter to the attention of administration, but I failed to do so. Guess I was just trying to get along. By the way when asked why he assaulted the other teacher his reply was “I don’t like him”. No rhyme or reason, just I don’t like him. That’s always a good reason to assault someone.

John lived less that 100 meters in an apartment building on a Soi (side street) off Pracha Utit Road. Thus, to catch the school van, which has a set route, he had to walk out to the main street. This was not good enough for John, he was insistent on door to door service. None of the other teachers had this except those living at the origination point. All others would meet at a central collection points along the vans route. This was not good enough for John, as he wanted to be picked up at his apartment. I swear to God, he complained about this almost daily for an entire semester. It got quite old. He complained to the teachers individually, to the head teacher, to administration, to the owner, to anyone who would listen. I am not joking, DAILY, for months.

The school never relented so daily he would walk out to the main street. As the van approached the area where he was to wait, you would see John's head bobbing out from behind a utility pole looking for the van. He kept his body well hidden with only his head taking a peak now and then. In conclusion, I believe he had some sort of fear of standing out on the street.

John was married and had a daughter and he used his married status to maintain his visa status. However, I don’t believe that he any longer had a relationship with the wife other than the mutual care of their daughter. He live alone and he dated. On several occasion he brought his daughter to work with him. The first time we didn’t know who she was and he explained that he was taking care of a friends daughter. It was later revealed that it was his daughter. Why the initial lie? As I said, strange man.

One day, John no longer came to work. No one had any idea why he stopped coming. Finally, weeks later, Mark who was somewhat friendly with John revealed that all the time that John was working with us, he was in the process of obtaining a visa for his daughter for immigration to the United Kingdom. Once, he had that visa he secretly took his daughter and fled back home, supposedly without the consent or knowledge of his daughters mother.

I can’t confirm any of that, but it is possible. Anyway, he is another one, in a list of many, that I was glad to see leave. Mostly I was happy to see them go because they don’t contribute, but in his case, I just didn’t like him.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Mark

Mark came to us via Pukett where he had been employed in the dive industry becoming unemployed after the tsunami of 2004. He was not a teacher by any means, but he was white and we had a vacancy. This was good enough for the powers to so they gave him a shot. He arrived with one pair of trousers, one shirt and a Thai lady friend in hand ready to begin his new profession.

Mark was barely 20 years of age and had no idea what he was doing in the classroom though he did relate well to the students because of his young age.

I really don’t remember what grade he taught but I think it was grade two between the tenure of Mr. Gordon and Teacher Ben. I may be wrong about that. I do remember that he could eat. When we sat down for lunch you could be assured there would be no left overs. He had no money when he first started so this was his only meal of the day.

I also remember giving him some of my old shirts and neckties to supplement his meager wardrobe as did another employee.

His relationship with his Thai lady friend was over in short order after starting with us. I don’t know the particulars but there were incidents where the police had to be call to their room to settle things down. They would get angry with each other and then lock the other out of their room. Mature thinks like that.

After he received his first pay it was apparent that he was more interested in hitting the bars on the weekends and drinking than figuring out this teaching deal. He always had a hang over on Monday. This progressed to week days.

He also had a trait that I noticed which is apparent with many young men from England that I have met. He bragged about trying to drink as much as possible in as short a time possible with only the goal of getting as drunk as possible. Apparently from all the hangovers, he was good at it.

Soon he was coming to work with his shoes untied, trousers not ironed, his shirt tail hanging out and his necktie in disarray. Work was becoming a chore as it interfered with his drinking. Soon he started missing a day here and there and finally at the end of some month after receiving his pay he just stopped coming to school. He did inform some of his fellow teachers of his where abouts, but they kept mum on this situation, for whatever reason.

I have no idea where he went or what became of him and I really don’t care. He contributed nothing and was with us only for show. He was just one more of the many that pasted through our portals.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Tall Nick

Nick was probably in his late 28’s, was very tall and hailed from England. He was not a qualified teacher per say, but did a good job teaching grade three. He came to work on time, did not miss time from work and performed all of his duties. He followed the curriculum and his kids learned English. He was married to a Thai lady. I do not recall if he had a child or not though for some reason I think that he did.

Nick did a runner on us though. He drew his paycheck on a Friday, which was the last working day of the month. He was even paid in advance for extra work he had agreed to for the next day, which was Saturday. By alas, he didn’t show up on Saturday or the following Monday. He flew the coop and went back to the UK without any word to management. I do suspect that some of his fellow teacher knew of his departure though.

Several months after he left us, the mother of one of his students contacted our head teacher and wanted to know if the school would rehire Nick should he return to Thailand. She even went to the head teacher’s home and pleaded with him to rehire Nick. They made phone calls to Nick (the mother had his number) asking him to come back. He sure seemed to have formed quite a relationship with this mother who was a professional woman and whose husband was a doctor.These conversations with the head teach went on for some time, but finally it was apparent that Nick was not interested in returning to our school or Thailand at the time and things finally died down. Or if he was interested in returned he wasn't interested in renewing the relationship with the mother as the mother was become rather bold about the whole thing.

The last I heard Nick was working in the maintenance department of a large shopping mall type place in English. I also heard rumors that he turned to Thailand but I cannot confirm that, though some of the other teacher’s may be able to do so.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Who Was That Man?


I just recalled a teacher that was with us for some period of time, but for the life of me I cannot remember his name. I also can’t remember what time frame he worked with us, how long he was with us, or what grade he taught. Was he a good teacher? I don’t remember. Also what was the real story of where he was from? Most of my memories of him come from the lunch table. Just one more that pass trough on their way to God knows where.

He was well past middle age and rode a motorcycle to work each day. He lived far down Pracha Utit Road well into the Soi’s in the 100’s. Each morning as we went to work in the van, you could find him having coffee, reading the paper and eating breakfast at a small restaurant on Prach Utit with his motorcycle parked outside. There is now a small branch bank in that location.

I an almost sure he had a United Kingdom Passport, but believe he was originally from The Netherlands. How did that happen? He had lived all over. He had worked on a kibbutz in Israel for room and board, a fast food joint in Miami, Florida and many other places, which don’t come to memory at the time. I do member that if you mentioned any place, that he always had an experience there and from the way he told his stories he did not seem to be making things up. He had also lived in Pattaya for several years.

I also recall that he had been married three times with his first two wives dying of various illnesses.

Why he left us I don’t remember, where he went I don’t know.

I guess I will just have to call him the mystery man for now. Do you remember his name?

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Yoga


Yoga in India





Yoga in Louisiana, USA


My oldest and longest friend Marion sent me these pictures and I though they were funnly. Hope you do as well.




















Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Teacher Gordon


This may be another of my more boring postings, as Mr. Gordon is another one of the good guys that passed through my former place of employment. Not much controversy with him. Most people like to read about other people’s ugly dark secrets, odd behavior and things of that nature. He had none of these that I was aware of. No dirt to shovel here.

Other than myself, I believe he is the second longest employed native speaking teacher that this particular school has had. (Oops, there is one other that has long time sporadic employment, but this individual is not a teacher.)

When I think of Gordon, I think of a proper English Gentleman for some reason. Mr. Gordon is from London and if I understood correctly was retired from the British Telephone Service. That’s may not the proper name, but something similar to that. Like most of us he was previously married and has adult children, also several grandchildren if I recall correctly.

He came to Thailand as an experienced ESL Teacher, gaining that experience teaching in Turkey. Shortly after his arrival in Thailand he ventured down to the southern part of the country and spent several years teaching there before relocating to the Bangkok area. He had many interesting stories about his time in Turkey and south Thailand. It was also though him that I began to gain an understanding as to how agents and language schools work in Thailand.

Gordon was rarely if ever late for work and he had a heck of a commute daily required two buses and a motorcycle taxi. When construction started on the Rama III road, he had to get up and leave his apartment extra early as traffic often came to a complete stand still at commute time. The already jam packed Rama III, three lane road went down to one lanes. He endured though all of that without a complaint though it was very frustrating.

At work he always went to class with a prepared lesson plan ready to teach. His tests were prepared on time and his records duly recorded. He went up to his classroom ahead of the appointed times, which many teachers find hard to accomplish and started his classes on time. He never took time off for personal business except on the very rare occasion. A true professional teacher.

When Mr. Gordon left Thailand he had plans to remain in the ESL teaching field. His mother was getting up in age and Thailand was so far away. After a home visit it was his intention to seek employment in Spain, Portugal or some other country nearer to the UK so that he could get home without a lot of travel time should he need to do so. For personal reason, which need not be discussed here, that didn’t work out the way it was planned and he remains in London.

Mr. Gordon visited the school not so long ago. It was strange to see him out of his traditional long sleeved shirt and necktie. He had gained a bit of weight from his teaching days; his hair was no longer long and red, but short and white. We had a nice chat and he said he was feeling well and enjoying himself.

Good luck Mr. Gordon and I hope to see you again sometime.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Daily Observations

Each Sunday The Bangkok Post features a column entitled PostScript which is written by Roger Crutchley a post employee with considerable time in “The Land of Smiles”. I read his column weekly and find it amusing most of the time.

This week he wrote about some of the signs that define when someone has been here for a considerable amount of time. Below are a few, which I particularly liked. I hope you will as well.

You look four ways before crossing a one way street.

You use a whistle while parking your car.

You stop thinking a girl riding on the back of a motorcycle, side-saddle, wearing a mini-skirt, with one toe pointing towards the ground, while putting on make-up, is anything out of the ordinary.

You think white wine goes well with som tam.

You begin to enjoy Thai TV programs.

You can put your bus fare in your ears.

Anyone whose name is Steve you call Sa-teve.

You make the peace sign whenever you have your picture taken.

When a visitor asks how can you stand the noise in Thailand, you answer “What Noise?”

Your mobile phone ring tone is incredibly irritating.

You find that everything you own is counterfeit.

If you don’t understand these you haven’t been here very long, you aren’t very observant or maybe you have never been here. If you don't understand, ask.

Thanks Roger.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

The Other Thai Teachers

I recently posed on two of the exceptional Thai Teachers it was my pleasure to be associated with. Regrettably, only a few of the Thai Teachers are of this caliber.

In most of the Private Schools in Thailand in Grades 1 through 6 there is a Thai Classroom Teacher for each grade and they teach all the main core subjects like math, science, Thai Language (reading, writing and grammar), and social studies.

Other teachers then come to the classroom or the students go to other classroom throughout the week for subjects like art, computer, Thai Culture, music, physical education and English.

At this particular school the students who are enrolled in the Special English Program also receive twelve hours of English weekly, as well as two hours each of math, science, and health in the English Language. This makes a busy week for these young learners.

When the Special English Program teachers are in the classroom the Thai Classroom Teacher is suppose to remain in the classroom to assist the foreign teachers. Her number one responsibility is to maintain good order and discipline. But she is also to be up and about doing things like making sure the students have their books open to the right page and that they understand the instructions give by the foreign teachers as the classes are held entirely in English. In general they are to be of assistance as may be needed.

Unfortunately, many do not perform their duties as directed by administration. Rather as soon as the foreign teacher enters the room they have a million places they must go or people they must see. Even if they do remain in the room they are often engaged in their own distractions doing things like checking homework, talking on the phone, eating, painting their nails, looking through Avon type catalogues, day dreaming and even on occasion sleeping. Some just sit and grin and think they are helping. They also have visitor’s drop by to chat from time to time. I have seen it all.

Why do they so blatantly shun their responsibilities? There are various reasons I guess. Some are resentful of having to helping a foreign teacher that makes at a minimum four times their salary. Some are jealous of the benefits that the foreign teachers enjoy such as vacation time (which they do not get), lunch provided daily, no weekend work (they are required to do so once a month) and numerous other benefits. Some or just plain old lazy. There are also no consequences to this behavior as in this particular school the number one Thai Teachers Supervisor (Tim) is anti foreigner and makes no bones about it. She covers for any teachers, which follows her lead.

So don’t get me wrong, they are all not this way. There are very good teachers, good teachers, okay teachers and bad teachers. It just seems to me that the majority that I was associated with over the years fall into the latter category.

Friday, May 9, 2008

Two Thai Teachers

The above teachers sitting with me are two of the best Thai Teachers that it was my pleasure to work with over the years. This picture was taken on a field trip to the Children's Discovery Museum.

On my right is Pia. She and I worked together for over seven years. We really became a good team during that time and she was a tremendous asset to me. She is a strict disciplinarian and the kids in her class don’t get away with anything. You mess us and she is on you like white on rice. Consequently the students in her class sit up straight, pay attention, and obeyed all the classroom rules, much better than would expect for a bunch of 6-7 years old. Pia is married, hails from Ubon Ratchathani and had one child named Kim who is 4.

On my left is Ying. She and I only worked together for one year. She was right out of university at the time and only 21 years of age. Even though it was her first teaching job she was very good. She was up and about in the classroom always being of assistance. She always has a smile on her face, was in a good mood and in general was just fun to be around.

My best of luck to these two outstanding teachers.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Thai Immigration



Tuesday I had to accomplish two items of business at Thai Immigration. First I had to have my Retirement Visa transferred over to my new passport and secondly I had to complete my 90 day check in with immigration with all foreigners are required to do every 90 days.


Upon arrival in the building you must line up in the information line and inform the clerk what business you have to complete today. They then give you the forms necessary to request that service if you don’t all ready have them. If you have the form and it is completed, they give you a queue number and direction to the appropriate area.


The request for new visa stamps in a new passport is a one-page document but requires 6 attachments, which are: 1. Copy of the picture page of your old passport. 2. Copy of the picture page of your new passport. 3. Copy of the passport page containing your current visa. 4. Copy of the passport page containing your last extension of that visa. 5. Copy of the passport page showing the last date of your arrive in Thailand. 6. Copy of the Departure Card which is stapled in your passport. The applicant must duly sign all these.


Now for the really asinine part. All of the information contained on these documents is the exact same information, which you enter on the application, which could easily be checked by the immigration official against the passports, but no, they must have a copy as they are anal for paper work.


So you have to leave immigration, go across the street, and pay to have copies made. You then go back to immigration, fill in the form and again get in the information line. The forms are then looked over. They then took me to a desk just inside the door where you go for visa non-O and B extension. There a young lady, much to young to be a immigration official took my document, stapled them all together, gave me a number and had me sit down.


From there I waited and waited and waited. My number was 70 but there is no way of telling what number there are servicing, but that would not have matter as I found out later that the number we not given out is subsequent order. After about an hour, I stood up and joined the crown gather around the desk of the lady working on the applications to see why it was taking so long. She would work in about one minute spurts and then be interrupted by a customer or one of the other employees asking her a question. What shiould take a minute or so, took well over six or seven.


When she finally completed the application she placed it on the desk next to hers for final signature, but there was no one at this desk and they were stacked all over. After about 15 more minutes the signing person shows up, she recheck everything the person before he has just check and signs her name. She did one full application and her phone rings, she get up, leaves her desk and goes behind an office divider to complete her phone call. She returns to her desk a full 30 minutes later.


Finally mine is the next one. She picks it up, check the pages the other clerk had dog eared in my old passport and recorded in the new passport. She then signs each of the entries. Then again her phone rings, she answers and leave to take her phone call. In departing she throws my passport in the out box. Without any instructions I picked it up and as it appeared to be signed in all the correct places I put it in my pocket and departed that area.


Upon close review after I got home, I noted that they had entered to wrong date of my last arrival in Thailand even though the copy I provided had the correct date. They didn’t even look at the copy that they just had to have. They looked in the passport for the information and I’ll be damn, they got it wrong.


Next I had to do my 90-day check in which all us foreigners must do. This time I had the form so headed back to the information line to get my number. My number this time was 391 and they were on 330 so I sat down and got ready for a long wait.


There is one problem with this numbering system and that is when they reach 399 they start back over with 300. So what happens is this. They call number 350 but the customer with 310 who has just arrived and thinking they had previously called their number goes to the counter to be waited on. He is ordered back to his seat but it slows the process, and I mean it slows it a lot because about half the people approach the desk before it is their time. Very few take the time to sit back, review the situation and see what is going on. It’s always me first.


Anyway about two hours later, my number is called, the process then took two minutes and I was on my way.


All in all I spend over five hours in Thai Immigration for two things that should have only taken minutes and no more that an hour at the longest.


All in all not a good day at Thai Immigration. Also please be forewarned; never go the day after a public holiday if you have a choice.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

The American Embassy


I spend the day Tuesday dealing with two large government organizations and that’s usually not much fun.

My first stop in the morning was the American Embassy to pick up my new passport. I arrived at just before eight o’clock in the morning and when I stepped out of the taxi, I was greeted with a line that fell out of the entrance door and made it’s way down the sidewalk on Wireless Road. Luckily there was a sign up saying those who had business with American Citizen Services could proceed to the head of the line. This I did, but was still several persons from the head of the line.

The long line was comprised of those non-Americans seeking visas for visiting the United States. Also, the lines were particularly long today, as Monday had been a Thai holiday and the Embassy had been closed.

Upon reaching the head of the line you are required to turn off your mobile phone and deliver it and a pictured ID to the security guard. He returns to you a claim check number so you may reclaim your phone upon departure. You next proceed through a metal detector while being scrutinized by a Thai Policeman and some sort of an American security agent. Once this is completed your are on your own to seek of the office to which you have business.

Once inside you take a number, sit down and wait your turn. Things would go a lot faster, but I observed while waiting many of those entering ignore the number and walk straight to the window for service. This slows down the workers, as they then have to stop what they are doing and ask the person standing at the window to take a number and have a seat. Even after these instructions a full third of them say, “I only have one question”, taking up more time, and again being told to have a seat a wait their turn and then they can ask their one question. My number yesterday was 72 and they were waiting on number 63 upon my arrival.

I was called to the window within 20 minutes and out of there in 22 minutes with my new passport and an apology from the young lady working that I had to wait.

Good job ladies.

Next stop Thai Immigration. Will I be so luck?

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Hanging Steel

Click to englarge.





Yesterday I had the pleasure of watching three men and one lady construct the above steel roofing supports on the house across the street from me.


They did is in the rain, with plenty of lightning in the area. This didn’t slow them down a bit.


While they were working I did not observe any of the following:


The use of any hard hats.


Steel-toed boots. In fact they all wore flip-flops.


No safety harness in use as they walked from beam to beam.


No tape measure.


No level.


No square.


No welding goggles or eye shields of any sort.


At the end of the day they loaded their welding machine on their motorcycle and left. They area back on the job today finishing up.

Off to Bangkok for three days back on line May 4th.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

The Cost of Electricity

The Electric Bill Box


On of the reasons that I have decided to make my home in Thailand is the cost of living. Most things are much less expensive that back home; some are about the same and a few a much more.


But today I will write about the electricity bill, which arrived on Sunday. They have a neat system here. A guy drives up to your house on his motorcycle and never dismounts. Using some sort of hand held computer he enters the meter number, the current reading pushes enter and out pops the bill. This he places in a little plastic box, which is placed in the vicinity of the meter. Then off he drives. A much better system that taking the data back to some office, reentering in into some other system, printing and then mailing a bill. Especially with Thai mail, which sometime does not reach, it’s destination.


This month’s bill came to a total of 2007 baht or about $63.92 at the current exchange rate for 562 units. Which I assume are kilowatt-hours. That total also includes 518 baht ($16.50) of various taxes or fees.


I do try and conserve on energy use but I am far from a miser. There is usually a television and several fan going continually. As well as two refrigerators, an electric hob for cooking, hot water heater, lights and the big draw air conditioning. This I run for about three hours daily from 12:00-15:00 which is the hottest part of the day and nightly from 22:00 until 5:30 in the morning.


A funny things, after you live here awhile, things seem expensive when you think of the cost in baht, but not so expensive when you think in dollars.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Helmet Law


A sight seen daily.

In most places the government enacts traffic and vehicle laws for the sole purpose of protecting the traveling public. Not so here in forward thinking Thailand. Here, traffic laws are enacted for the sole purpose of extracting money from the traveling public. An example in the recently enacted motorcycle helmet law for Ban Phai.

I make this statement as all fines (if you are smart) are paid to the police office at the point of infraction. This fine does not go into the city coffers but rather the officer’s pocket. Though I am sure he has to share a portion with others in positions of authority to show his gratitude for allowing him to have such a fine job.

One month before the law went into effect the police were out and about reminding the good citizens of the necessity to purchasing a helmet and that the law would be stringently enforced on the given day. Who do you imagine has an investment in the store providing helmets? I don't know, just thinking.

Now please be reminded that only the operator of the motorcycle must be adorned with a helmet. No protective devices are required for any of the passengers. Consequent, it is not a rare sight to see a family of five on their 125cc Honda. Papa is in full compliance of the law with his $1.98 plastic helmet while an infant child hangs from mom’s hip, a toddler holds onto the handlebars with a death grip and the rest of the family ride behind in heavenly bliss.

The most comical sight that I have seen since the new law began has been an aged grandmother of well over 70 going to market on her motorcycle. Her helmet of choices was the popular German SS model with skull and cross bones, which appears to be right out of the toy section of Tesso Lotus.

I guess in the future we can look forward to child restraint devices in cars, no passengers in the back of trucks, or possibly something as simply as requiring vehicles to remain in their designated lane. Where there is a will there is a way to turn a buck without working.

Coming soon: Mr. Gordon

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Good Deal?


Shortly after we moved into our new home, I noted on a Monday morning a garbage truck picking up the trash in our neighborhood. Of course we rushed and put our garbage curbside and it was picked up. We continued to do this each Monday for several months. Suddenly, the truck stopped coming.

Inquires at the subdivision office by my wife revealed that the garbage service was provided by some government agency and that she needed to go to that office and pay the fees. In exchange for the payment we would be provided a container to place on the street and the resumption of service.

So off she goes and signs up for trash pick up at the whopping cost of 120 baht per year, or $3.82. That comes out to 10 baht per month. I questioned this, as it just didn't seem right but she provied a receipt indicating paid in full for one year.

Well since the first month we went and paid this fee, service is no longer as previously scheduled. You never know when they are going to show up. Sometimes on a Wednesday, sometimes Tuesday, this week not at all as of yet. And guess what, the receptacle was never provided and the trash we place out on the street was ravished by dogs so I’m out on the street picking up stinking wet trash. Not a pleasant task.

So, back to the government office Mee goes. Her first inquiry was regarding the covered trash receptacle they were going to provide. To this she is informed at they are not presently giving out any new ones, as the supervisor wants to first go out on the route and see just how many are now in service. What? The answer makes no sense, but hay this is Thailand and many things don’t. And of course Miss Mee will not question the answer because that would be unpleasant and make her and the clerk feel uncomfortable. Never mind that I feel uncomfortable with trash up to my elbows.

Then the second question is asked regarding what day is our garbage pickup. She then gets this long story as to how they once had two garbage trucks, but one is now broken so one trucks has to do the work of two thus there can be no longer be a schedule, yada, yada, yada. Basically the answer was they will get here when they get here.

So, what do you get for 10 baht per month? Apparently not much. Guess I can do like the people in the country do. Dump the wet garbage in a near by rice field and burn the rest.

Will keep you posted.