Monday, March 30, 2009

The Weather

Remember if you click on pictures

they become larger.

When I was back on my recent visit to American one of my most prized purchases was an in/out door thermometer system. With it I could sit back in my chair and complain about the weather with a real sense of authority. Don’t you just love being right.

Anyway, since being back home, I have sat here daily and watched it slowly climb from a normal morning low of about 27 to a high so far of 36. For the Celsius challenged 36 is hot. 36 X 1.8 = 64.8 + 32 = 96.8 Fahrenheit and that my friends is getting on the warm side for only March.

So yesterday, I finally broke down, opened the old wallet and had air conditioning installed in the living room. In the past, only the master bedroom had air conditioning and I didn’t want a repeat of the last hot season, which I spend for the most part in my bedroom. The only thing accomplished by this was that I learned to love five-hour naps, but then up all night.

With the air running for the first time yesterday evening I was in for a real treat. There I sat in the Lazyboy and watched as the digital numerals on my handy dandy thermometer went from 35 degrees Celsius to 26 degrees Celsius in about 30 minutes time. In fact after an hour I turned off one of the units (a later blog to explain) as I had become chilled. Believe me when I say this is pure luxury living in Thailand.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

School Uniforms

Student during recess at a Thai School.
During my recent visit back to Louisiana on one or two occasions I had the opportunity of pass near a public school as school was being dismissing for the day. Students were out and about and what I witness regarding school uniforms was a joke. Students with different colored trousers, shorts/blouses abounded. On top of that if any two had belts, shoes or socks matched I’ll eat my hat.

Come on. If you are going to have a uniform policy, then have a uniform policy. Your current half ass attempt to dress up the student body is nothing more that a joke. Either get the parents on board with the project or forget it. When you half of the students wearing one thing and the other half something else that is not a uniform.

Thai teachers also have uniforms. One for normal
daily wear while teaching and the above
for school functions.
In Thailand, uniforms are the norm and not the exception all the way from kindergarten through university. Even technical school students wear a uniform depending on the trades taught at a particular school. The most impressive are the university uniforms that the ladies wear. Yes, it is a simple white blouse and black skirt, but they have free rein on the length of the skirt (ultra minis) and tightness. Often very stunning. In fact I thought I did a previous blog on this with photos but can’t locate it at the moment.

Each student in grades 1-12 have three uniforms. First is the daily uniform. On this uniform their name is embroidered over their left breast pocket. On the right pocket is their school number. That’s right a school number. When you enter a Thai school you are give a student number and that number remains with you during your duration at that school. All your records are maintained not just by name but by student number.

Then there is the scout uniform. Scouting is a mandatory class in grades 1-12 through out the country with one period per week at a minimum. In grades 1-3 the scout uniform is achieved by wearing the daily uniform and simply adding a neckerchief and hat on scout day.

Sports uniforms are also worn once a week for physical education classes. Each school selects their own color scheme and style for this uniform. These are sold by the school and are a school moneymaker. This uniform is also often used for field trips where group identification is helpful.

University Student

University Student waiting for the
Sky Train in Bangkok.

Yet another University Student.
Note big bags for books. Few backpacks
at the university level.

Sport's Day Uniforms. Another school
money maker.

Sister in law Nattapon (3rd from left). On cold days non-uniform sweaters
can be worn. Pink is not a feminine color in
Thailand though he is.

Technical School Students. Seems a bit
short even to me. Type school unknown.
Possibly something to do with spa

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Cost of Living Data

For those who may be interested the cost of my Hospital Outpatient Clinic visit yesterday was about $214.51 at today’s dollar to baht exchange rate.

The most expensive items were the two months of pharmacy items, which was about $198.40. Remember this was five prescriptions for a variety of old man afflictions or should I say senior citizen to make us all feel better.

The next most expensive items were for the laboratory. This came to about $30.57. This was for a PSA, urinalysis and blood work.

There were also two charges for $1.32 each. Nursing and Midwifery Charge and Other Medical Service Charge. I really don’t know what this is. It must be the fee for the nurse to take vital signs and for the urine bottle or possibly the needle used to extract the blood. Never cared enough to ask.

The final charge of about $5.88 is the only you will really have problems believing. This is the doctors fee. By the way, all the doctors on staff at this Private Hospital are teaching doctors from Khon Kaen University Hospital, which is just around the corner. Most attended medical schools in the west or have had extensive training there.

These cost are one of the factors that I live where I do.

Monday, March 23, 2009


Well I almost managed to step on it again this morning. Quite by accident though, but who knew. Well truth be know, I knew but wasn’t thinking.

During my absence to American my wife did an outstanding job tending to our lawn and had it perfectly cut just days before my return. Due to the ending of our winter in which the temperature got down to about 55 on several occasions this was the first time we have had to cut the lawn in about five months or so.

During this dormant phase some sort of grass which shoots up in long sprouts above the wanted grass has taken hold. It is unsightly and distracts from the appearance of the lawn.

To solve this problem, at least temporarily, I though I would solicit the employee of a neighbors son. With about an hour’s work, he could get down on hands and knees, which I am unable to do and pull up by the roots this renegade grass that has developed. I was going to offer the pricey sum of 100 baht (about $2.86). I though this was more that a fair price as day laborers that toil in the sun all day earn less than 200 baht per day.

When I mentioned this plan to Mee she informed me in no uncertain terms that "I had lost my rabbit ass mind." or words very close to that. I think the actual words "dumb s*it" may have been uttered.

Seems as if I had neglected to consider Thai Culture in my little plan.

The prospective employee is about 11 years old and is an only child. So there was violation number one. Boys are at the head of the food chain, only sons twice that. Manual labor should never be considered. They play with their friends while the girls haul the water so to speak.

Mother is a teacher; father is a police officer. Both of which are highly respected professions in Thailand. Being in these two professions brings great respect from the general public. Thus, ethic violation number two. Offering manual labor to someone to which such a chore would be below their dignity level. And though not mentioned by Mee there was probably a culture violation in that an underling (me the farang) was about to offering physical labor type employment to my upper.

Good thing I have Mee to keep me straight and keep me from falling into these cultural pits.

Khan Kaen Ram Hospital

Yesterday was Sunday, the day of my every other month visit to check on the vital signs of my various medical conditions and reload my medicine cabinet. As always in these visits there was some confusion on my part, which is typical in my everyday life.

My appointments on this day were with in the Internal Medicine and Urology Departments.

We arrived five minutes before 8 AM, checked in with reception and were direction to the Emergency Room waiting area. Believing that we had heard wrong or the receptionist was wrong we proceeded to the Outpatients Clinic where we normally go and had a seat. Within minutes I heard my name being called from around the corner from where I sat, which was in the direction of the Emergency Room.

It seems that in the name of customer service and to keep patients from prolong waits; this hospital has initialed a policy that if a patient arrived before 8 AM the opening time of the Outpatient Clinic they are directed to the Emergency Room. They then start the process of collecting the necessary samples for any lab work.

Seem sort of awkward for me to be back with all the really sick people and there were lots of them, with each bed occupied that I could see, but it gave them a morning treat of feasting eyes on a real life farang because I got all the customary stares.

After the samples were gathered I then proceeded to the outpatient seating area for the customary wait. After about ten minutes I was called forward to take the remainder of my vitals. It was then off for some morning coffee and something to eat as I had been fasting since the previous evening. There is always about an hour wait for laboratory results.

When I return to the waiting area from my snack I was informed by the nurse that my regular doctor would not be here today but that the Urologist would also do his thing and also act in for the Interest.

All went well except for two things. My weight and pharmacy items. On the positive side all the numbers on the various urine and blood test were within range. Blood pressure was a bit high, but I had just walked up two flights of stairs (for the exercise) just before it was taken.

I still don’t know how much weight I may have lost or if my exercise and dieting obtained any results. When I last weighed on a reliable pair of scales was in Randy’s garage and they put me at 210 pounds or 96.36 kilos. When weighted in Internal Medicine the scales read 93.85 kilos or 206 pounds. But while sitting in the Urology Clinic I jumped on their scales and they read 96 kilos so back to about 210 pounds. I’m going to go with the one’s in Internal Medicine for motivational purposes.

Did have a few problems when we picked up the prescribed medicines from the pharmacy. Seems is though the Urologist could not read the handwriting of the Internist (imagine that, a doctor unable to read a fellow doctors handwriting). Had the wrong dosages on some and the wrong frequency on others. Good thing Mee as with me and checked as I have no idea. I just take what is put before me at the various times of the day.

By the way my PSA test is now at 1.6. It was .06 in May 2006 and .07 in Oct 2007. The Urologist informed me that the limit is 4.0. At that time testing begins but really no danger is suspected until it is in the 10.00 range or higher. Good to know!

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Stephen Grant Dowden

This is a picture of my grandparents Stephen Grant Dowden and Eliza Jane Rhodes Dowden. He was born on Feb 6, 1846 and died Mar 8, 1929 at age 83. She was born on Jan 10, 1873 and died Sep 1, 1934 at age 61. She was 27 years younger and his second wife.

His first wife was Rosana L. Adle who bore him 11 children. With the marriage to my grandmother 8 additional children were born. In total I had 18 aunts and uncles from these two unions.

He served during the Civil War with the 11th Louisiana Regiment, which eventually consolidated with the Crescent Regiment of New Orleans. He was wounded in the battle of Mansfield and sent to a military hospital and then removed to a private residence, where he completed his convalescence and was able to go back to his regiment. He obtained the rank of sergeant.

After the war he returned to Kisatchie, Louisiana and engaged in farming until 1892 when he moved to Natchitoches to become a deputy sheriff. In 1882 he was elected a member of the police jury and later elected as the Tax Assessor for Natchitoches Parish in 1905.

They are buried together in the American Cemetery in Natchitoches, LA.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Traditional Thai Massage

Since returning from my trip to the States I have been suffering with severe leg cramps in my calves. I believe this is the result of sitting for such a long period of time in very cramped conditions.

So yesterday Mee summonsed from a neighboring village a fully trained and licensed masseuse to work the kinks out of me. By the way, she looked nothing like the example depicted in the photograph. Mine looked life a fullback from the NFL with the accompanying missing front tooth. I would also be remiss if I failed to mention that her hands were about the size of catcher’s mitts.

After well over an hour of grinding aches, pains and yes sometimes-sheer terror it was over and as I lay there regaining my strength calmness came over me which is hard to describe. All my muscles were fully relaxed and I seem to have gained a new energy level, at least for awhile.

So, I now have a standing order for these services twice a week. They also tell me after the first few times of bending my legs almost completely backwards that it no longer hurts as much. Time will tell.

Cost you ask. Gas to pick her up and return her home minimal. Direct payment to her 150 baht or about $4.20 at today’s conversion rate. Then of course Mee gave her a snack before she started and breakfast after. Mee lets no one walk away without being fed.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Paternal Grandparents

These are my paternal grandparents Thomas Marion Collier, Born: December 2, 1958, Died February 13, 1907 and Alice Caroline Berley Collier, Born: September 14, 1862, Died June 21, 1933. She out lived him by some 26 years. They lived out in the country near Campti, Louisiana so that must have been rough going for grandma. Hauling water, chopping wood, working in the garden, milking cows, cleaning house, cooking, etc. are no easy chores.

He sort of looks like one of those riverboat gambler dudes doesn’t he?

On an average, the children of this couple didn’t live long lives. My father only 47 years, Uncle Leonard 63 years, Uncle Simmons 30 years and Aunt Perle died relative young. However, for some strange reason her maker does not show adate of birth or death. Two exceptions were my Uncle Harold and Aunt Nita.

Because I was born many years after their deaths, I know very little about them. Also, my father died when I was only 7 so we did not share enough time together to discuss family history. My oldest sister Shirley had a few memories of grandmother. Said he was a good cook and great seamstress. Believe the family originally came to Louisiana from Georgia but I cannot confirm this.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

The Narrator

A year ago, shortly after moving into our new home I was awaken from a nap one Sunday afternoon with a knock on the door by a local Elementary School English Teacher. The purpose of this surprise visit was to solicit my assistance in helping her with her Summer Continuing Education Program. She wanted me to check the grammar and narrate several children books, which she had written. A fee for services was offered, but I declined payment in hope of fostering good relations with my new neighbors.

After the initial visits to do the recordings I never saw Ms Rawiwan again until about December when she again appeared on my front porch, this time bearing a huge highly frosted cake which she presented in appreciation of my earlier efforts. This I accepted and enjoyed.

It just so happens that my next door neighbor is also a teacher and had noted the visit of Ms Rawiwan so she soon came over to nose about as to why this visit from Ms. Rawiwan. It seems as that just the day before, our neighbor had attended some sort of school conference and had been introduced to Ms Rawiwan who had just won an award and a pay raise in the government school system for her work on the books which I has assisted with.

Fast forward to last Saturday, the day after my return from vacation. Mr. Rawiwan again appears at our door with a basket of fresh fruit and again wants my assistance in editing and narrating several books for her new project. Again a fee was offered and declined. I believe in karma so will get my reward later.

Other than the title shown above the other titles are The Hospital. My Hometown. Our Towns. The Police Station and The Railway Station.

During these events I keep chuckling to myself thinking that Miss Cohen and Miss Robinston my high school English Teachers must be turning in their graves knowing that their number one class clown and total screw up is editing the grammar in children’s books.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Who Knew
For all of my life I have been exposed to photographs of the Rymen Auditorium in Nashville,Tennessee home of the Grand Ole Opry.

Having never visited before but knowing the address was 116 5th Avenue N, I always assumed that these doors seen in the above photograph are the entrances, and that the stage would be on the other end of the building.

Dead wrong as I found out when I finally made a call to Mecca on February 28th 2009. After trudging up the hill from Broadway, and climbing the steps shown in the photograph we were greeted with a small sign that said that we should walk around the corner and enter from the other end of the building. Right away my mind then reasoned that the stage area much be behind the shuttered doors.

Wrong again. Entering the auditorium area I was surprised to find the stage area to my left. This now made it clearer to me how the artist in the past could go from the back of the stage area to bars located in the alleyway as you hear about in many stories.

Had a great time with my friend Randy and sons Stephen and Reuben. Saw many of the artists that I listened to on the radio as a young man who are still singing the same songs of yesterday. In fact if you tune into WSM Radio on the Internet and catch a live performances of the Grand Ole Opry you will soon realize that they play the same songs, tell the same jokes and perform basically the same act week after week, year after year. Good for them, at least they are working and apparently having a good time at it and we enjoyed their performances.