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.


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: 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


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


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.