081223 Thaikarl - beneath the snows of seattle


i'm still in seattle. the past two weeks we've had snow, cold, more snow, cold, more snow, and now they are saying, even more snow.  my thought on the subject can be summed up in the famous words:  "bah, humbug!"  I won't bore you with complaints.  i did make a vow to myself, as i was trudging thru the snow coming back from parking my car, that i will not spend another winter in a cold place.

on the other side of the world, thailand, and Tok, mama and tere and every thing i love there is still moving right along.  i feel like a goalie on the wrong hockey team, madly fighting of swarms of players on this side of the ice, but the net i'd rather be standing in front of is way across the blue line of the pacific.  wow, i just used a sports metaphor.  i rarely do that.

i've had a couple of good runs of good work the last few months.  earned enough to get caught up on my expenses, and send enough overseas to finally get sealer on our bedroom house, have a reserve in the bank for payments on the house in Ban Chang, and provide for the family comfortably.  Now i'm able to actually consider a trip back home.

Tok's 44th birthday was november 21.  she never asks for anything, i had to ask several times for ideas.  she finally said she'd like a new motorbike.  the one she has now is 15 years old.  still works, but it's showing it's age, and if it breaks seriously, she's going have a big problem, as it's the major transportation to the market and everywhere else.  so with a generous matching gift from my dad and his wife, i sent her enough to purchase a nearly new motorbike- perhaps a year old, with warranty.  then mama started showing some health problems.  mama is about 75, and i didn't know it, but she has only one kidney.  they removed the other one because of kidney stones some time ago, and it appears that her remaining kidney is acting up.  we're not certain what the situation is, there are further diagnostic appointments coming up in the next few months, but Tok decided to put the motorbike money aside, in case mama has to have special tests and treatments in the near future.  they don't have anything like health insurance.  the government subsidies the health care, and compared to here, even major treatments for illness cost very little, but it is still an expense we have to account for.  mama is doing okay at the moment, they have her on some medications that are helping the symptoms, so it's a 'wait and see' thing.

Tok seemed pretty worried at first, but then she perked up, saying "I am Iron Woman"  which is a little joke we had going a while ago.  then she said "but sometimes i am Paper Women."  so, she is pretty self-aware of handling the situation.  Mama's medical issues presented me with an interesting ethical question.  given this very simplified sequence of events:  say that mama's kidney is failing.  she will need dialysis or a transplant.  transplant is not an option.  dialysis costs $150.00 per visit.  say she needs it once a month to start, but over time, the frequency of need increases, twice a month, every week etc.  since i am pretty much the sole support of the family, and mama is under my care, i will be covering the costs.  so i'm thinking, an extra $150 a month i can handle pretty easy, $300 a month is stretching it, $600 a month is beyond my present means.  so, at some point i have to in effect say "sorry, we can't pay for anymore treatments".  and she'll die.  note that this is a simplified scenario, we don't know if her kidney is truly failing, and that the treatment will escalate as i laid it out, but bear with me.  in the west we have the "keep people alive at any cost" ethic, bankrupt the family, burn up every ones insurance dollars, do absolutely everything you can to keep a person living as long as possible, while you still can.  but i wondered what the thai ethic about this was.  i asked tok.  first she asked if i meant what would rich thai people do? i said no, i mean us.  she said that basically, you do what you can, and that's it.  she told me the thai word for it. it sounds like you do what is practical, spend what money you can afford without depleting the lives of others, and let it go from there.  which makes sense, since they generally see death as a transition from this life to the next, it's not THE END.  Tok told me she discussed what to do with mama, and mama said that we shouldn't spend all our money on treatments, because we wouldn't have anything left for a funeral - which costs about $2000.  the funeral is important, because it prepares the stage for meeting your ancestors, and it celebrates your life this time around.  at least that is my best interpretation of the event.

so we'll continue, see what happens, and deal with it when it comes up.

meanwhile, it's snowing. again.  oh yeah, and it'll be Xmas next tomorrow.  hope it's a good one for ya.

onward!  Nu


080902 Thaikarl - the bogs of seattle


still bogged down in seattle.  i've had work and income over the last few months, but it seems to go right out the door as fast as it comes in.  Tok and i have decided that were going to have to postpone the buddist wedding (again).  we had it scheduled for november 11, 2008, but it's evident that i'm just not going to have the resources to pull it off.  so, it will be... later.  you marry three times in thailand- if you go the whole route.  1st is common-law:  if you live with a person of opposite sex, and are known in the community as being married- you are.  2nd is buddist ceremony:  you have the monks come and do the what-ever-they-do and have a wedding party.  3rd is to register civil union with the government: goto the local amphor (government district office) fill out the papers, pay $5.00 or so and get the papers and stamps.  we've done 1st and 3rd, so we're good on 2 out of three.  we decided that it was more useful at the moment to spend our money to the the bedroom house painted (stained) and send in the application for toks immigration.  staining the house is about $500, and filing the immigration papers is $600 plus plus plus.  THEN i can put the cash together for a plane ticket and life expenses to go home for a few months.  whew!

at the moment, tok is at our house in rayong.  she located a norwegian man online for her friend mot, acted as the go-between online, and now he has come to thailand for holiday and to meet mot.  they spend nearly a week in bangkok, and are now in rayong.  some friends of mine from seattle were in thailand the last three weeks of august on their honey moon.  they came back to bangkok last week after going to phuket, and met up with tok.  tok took them out for food and the market.  if any of you readers come to thailand, we're glad to be helpful.  just let us know.  our house in rayong is available for supporting donation or whatever.  and tok is only a phone call away.

there's all sorts of social/political trouble and noise going on in bangkok now (SNAFU). several people have asked if tok and the family are anywhere near it.  no they aren't. tok has the sense to NOT go anywhere near protests and unrest.  outside of a few specific areas of bangkok, it's not a problem.

we miss each other very much.  this long distance thing is getting to be a drag, but, it is the best we can do at the moment.  we've been using Skype for video, voice and chat, which is nice.  works quite well actually.  tok has to sit up in the bedroom house where the computer is though, and it gets warm (hot) up there in the day time. but i's free to use.

a friend of many years lives done in the san-francisco area. he's working on a computer related business, that has a good business model.  he's asked me if i want to be part of the company, which i am excited about, but the company is in california, and i'm here.  so i'm planning on going down there when work slows down here.  i'm going to get my van running properly, put a penthouse on the roof and go down with all my tools.  check out the business and see if i can help it become a revenue generator for me.  if i can get handy-man work going, i'll stay down there for a while.  stay tuned for that one.

we had a couple of weeks of nice weather in seattle, and then a little preview of it's like the rest of the year- grey, cold, and wet.  since i've been converted to a tropical weather lover, i'm not digging it.  california offers a bit of relief, so i'm working on getting there before the dread falls. 

onward!  NU


080602 Thaikarl - where is he now? why so quiet?


yes, i'm back in the USA.  the transition is dreary, but i can't complain.  well, actually i could, but it's the same old complaint so why bother?  i've been fortunate to have been quite busy with jobs since i returned, and i have other things lined up for the next couple of weeks.  got caught up on some "past due" notices, sent money to the family in thailand so they aren't living on fumes.  and i'm looking forward to returning home, probably in october as our wedding is November 11th.

speaking of wedding stuff.  a number of people have expressed interest in coming to thailand for our wedding, and to have a little vacation there.  this is wonderful!  november is a good time of year for thailand- the weather is cooler, and the rainy season is finishing.  if you are considering coming to thailand, please email me, i will make a separate email list for possible wedding guests.  if you turns out that you can't actually come for the wedding, that's okay.  we realize it can be difficult to get the money together and get time off work for those of you who have, like regular jobs.  i can answer questions, offer travel and hotel tips etc.  we are planning to be as helpful as possible- we can come to bangkok to retrieve visitors, set up accommodations in the area according to your tastes, suggest things to do and places to go whilst you are in country.  so email me back and i'll get the list started and i'll post a info page on my website.

i miss tok, and thailand very much.  we've been using Skype lately, because it has audio AND video - and it's free.  works pretty well actually, just like the video-phones we were promised in the future.  our DSL connection in the village is a bit flakey, and i suspect the ISP throttles down the bandwith, so tok has to reconnect with me fairly often but it's not that much of an interrruption.  we are used to it from all our daily phone calls.   i use a calling card from nobelcom.com, when i call her the call is routed thru local phone systems, and all sorts of computer systems, into the cloud and back down to her mobile phone, so we get garbled signals, bad sound, wrong numbers, failure to connect issues all the time.  but the calls are cheap - about 20 hours talk time for 20 dollars for the USA to thailand mobile phone cards.  but Skype is free.

i'm presently staying at my sisters in north seattle.  but i'm looking to get more self-contained and mobile.  gasoline is getting to be a big issue.  i'm looking for the right van, camper, or small mobile home so i can have a place to live, be near where i'm working, and spend as little as possible to live here.  after all, i am only here to make money to go back home to live in thailand!  so every dollar i save here, is another dollar for thai country life!



080415 Thaikarl - the "world traveler" screws up.

friends.  yall are going to laugh at me.  my ticket with korean air was for departing april 15th.  it said "depart 01:30 local time"
so tok and i got the van to the airport this morning, and arrived at 10:30.  very early.  there's not much traffic on the roads because today is songkran day.  my flight wasn't listed on the departure board.  the Korean Air counter was silent.  ???? i told tok we were just too early, they haven't posted the flight yet.  we hung around a while.  still no listing.  it began to dawn on me that something was wrong.

a helpful "airport helper" asked where i was going. i told him, and he said the counter opened at 8 o'clock tonight.  huh?  he looked at my ticket, and pointed out, that "01:30" is One Thirty A.M- you know, at night, in the morning. Not 1:30 PM- in the afternoon.  that would be 13:30 on the ticket.

oh, yeah.  that's true isn't it.

i missed the flight by 9 1/2 hours.  the "airport helper" said his company can sort it out for me for 1,000 baht. (30$)  i actually thought he said 10,000 bath ($300.00)  but i didn't bother to sort that one out.  fortunately there was a local phone number on a placard at the Korean Air counter.  after spelling out my last name with the NOT military word spelling "that is B as in Bangkok, E as in Europe, T as in Thailand .... etc the Korean air ladie told me i was lucky, i have a confirmed flight out at 01:30 on april 17th.  she reminded me that i needed to check in at 11pm, tomarrow night, as tomorrow is the 16th, and to not miss this flight, as my ticket expires and i will have no ticket out if i miss the plane.  that would be bad. 

and, in the fortunate category, my visa extension is good thru midnight of the 17th.  Whew!  don't want to overstay your visa.  not good karma, and there is the 500 baht per day over-stay fine- which i don't have.

Tok came back from the ATM, and i had to tell her my screw-up.  she DID say she wanted more time in bangkok.  she took it well.  teased me about my saying the flight wasn't listed on the departure board because we  there so early.  so we took the bus back to bangkok, which incidentally cost 1.10$, went back to the hotel 99 and got the same room as last night, #259.  they didn't even have to fill out a registration card, cause we were just there a couple of hours ago.

i check the ticket 10 times in the last few days.  and got floozed because america doesn't use 24 hour time.  this is what, the second or third time i have missed the plane leaving bangkok.  evidently something in my brain gets all clouded over when it comes to leaving here.

so we took a nap and took the bus to pratunam market.  most of the shops were closed for sonkran day (which is today) but there were some cloths vendors open on the small soi's in the area.  Tok was looking for bargins for cloths, and found a few things for 2 and three dollars each.  shirts and tops and things.  we took the bus over to MBK shopping mall, and walked over to Siam Paragon Mall.  We watched the last half hour of the movie "Apocalypto" in a big screen plasma monitor in the window at the Sony shop.  There's an apple computer store in the mall there, i went in to see the new MacBook Air - the worlds thinnest notebook computer.  too cool for words.

so here we are.  i used the ATM to take out $30.00 from my bank, now the balance is LESS than that, to pay for the extra night in the hotel and food.  it was pretty warm today.  95 degrees F and 45% humidity at 9:30 this morning when we went for breakfast, and that was in the shaded front of the shop.  there are still groups of people ready to assault you with water.  you have to get around them, or get wet.  songkran would be a good time for a car-wash business!  they douse cars, and buses and people with this oily water with what appears to be talcum powder in it.  washes off easily, but every vehicle has splatters all over it.

and due to pressing obligations, like getting back to work, my "recovery time" is going to like 1/2 a day.   we are pretty much going to lay around the hotel tomorrow i guess  so i'll have to get "un jetlagged" before i leave even.

but i get to hand out with Tok in Bangkok for more than a whole extra day! so it's not all bad.

Onward.  (again!)  see ya on the 17th!
Nu and Tok

Read my Thailand adventure ::: http://www.thaicountrylife.com


080414 Thaikarl - departure time, for now anyway.

i'ts that time.  i dread these days.  departure days.  tok has been quiet the last couple of days.  i always think she is annoyed with me, but now i'm knowing that she is feeling the pre-seperation also.  we take the early bus to bangkok tomorrow morning, do a few   last minute things, night over at our favorite bangkok hotel 99 and i fly out middle of the next day.  due to flying east, crossing the dateline and all that, i arrive in seattle the same day i left, at nearly the same time, but some 22 hours will  have past.

thanks to everyone who replied to my long essay about home.  i didn't realize it was that long until i printed it  out for tok to read on the bus tommarow.

i sure made a mis-calculation on the departure time.  because i had some jobs to finish, i delayed my original travel dates by one week.  not an issue on the going away time, but i am leaving right at the Sonkran holiday.  Songkran is the thai new year, and a time when traditionally they honored the old people, and sprinkled water on each other to celebrate the new year and coming rains.  now it's turned into the biggest water fight in the world.  still great fun, but getting doused with water all day gets wearysome.  we don't have the energy  to do much with it this year.  the butterfly gang- what i call the kids from the neighboorhood set up beside the road and were dousing passing cars and motorbikes with bowels of water.  they waved me over, but, i had to collect my things, and wasn't up for it.  oh well, next year!  i should have setback the trip by two weeks, or even just 10 days.  duh.

there was a significant event last night, the death of a neighbor.  it was  so intense, i don't want to compose the story in a hurry- we have to go get the car to the bus station - so i'll write it up and send it later.  actually, i have plenty of  material for more posts.  we had  some adventures that i didn't write about yet- our first trip  to rayong, going to the budda footprint mountain, going to tak bun, where some boys  entered the monastery, the water blessing by the Lang chong.  and i  took some 2500 photos, only a  few of which i posted.  so i'll keep posting over time.  until i can return here.

i will have a little time to check in before i leave tomorrow.

Nu and Tok
Read my Thailand adventure ::: http://www.thaicountrylife.com


080412 Thaikarl - Where's home, anyway?

a while ago, someone left the following comment to my blog:

you are a man with two countries. when you refer to Thai as home you abandon all this country does for you.  may I suggest you refer to your home as something else. your family still lives in this home. homey....however you are free to say what you want in this country so home away if you like....

I've thought about this comment for some time.  and I do have a response. a long version and a short one.  if you don't want to read thru the long version, scroll down to the bottom of this post and you'll find the short version.

The LONG response.

yes, I am a man of two countries.  I hold an american passport, I am still an american citizen, and will continue to be.  my future wife, is Thai, and she lives in Thailand.  I have chosen to be responsible for her care, and for her mother and daughter.  so I am very much connected to Thailand also.
even if I lived here for many years, it is  unlikely that I would qualify  for Thai citizenship, since good command of the thai language is one of the requirements.  so I couldn't change citizenship, even if I wanted to.  even if I did, I would NEVER BE Thai.  I will always be american.  no matter what passport I carry.  just like in america.  even if you, your father, his father and his father and his father have lived in america since their births, if the most distant father came from asia, or africa, or the middle east, you will be labeled asian, african, middle eastern.  we simply tack the word 'american' behind it.  unlike europeans.  only several generations ago my ancestors came from germany  and italy.  but I am not called german-american, or itialian-american.  there was a time and place, where these delineations were in common use, but today, and all of my life, I have been simply "american".  I will always look different that Thai people.  such is as it  is.

so where is "home"? we all know the saying "home is where the heart is"  is this true? or is home the birthplace, the growing up place, the place you "settle down"? the place you retire? the place you die?  I had the fortune to be born into a military family.  I was born in Massachusetts, live in colorado, california (where my earliest memories are) then france, several places in germany, dayton ohio - longest we ever stayed in one place, 6 years- the netherlands.  I left home at 18, lived in ohio, florida, louisiana, colorado, ohio again, colorado again until finally moving to seattle washington.  my birth family moved to the seattle area when my father retired.  but only my father had ever been there.  he chose to retire in seattle because he liked the area and had friends from the air force there. his birth family lived in new jersey.  my brothers and sisters, who spent the larger part of their growing up years in seattle, consider seattle as "home" now.  so where's my "home"?  I have lived in seattle area since 1979, some 25 years.  my birth family all live there now.  which is a bit extraordinary since there are 7 children in the family, and in the mobile life of america, where people go where they need to for education, jobs, climate, the fact that we all live in the same 30 mile radius is notable. but it is the result of everyone choosing to be there.  one of mybrothers went to california after college, because that's where the opportunities were for him.  after many years there, and numerous forced changes of company, he finally moved back to the seattle area.

my time living in europe did change me.  it gave me a much different perspective, much different experiences than stateside kids. I don't presume to say my international childhood was better, but it was different.  even then, we lived within the world of the  military, were they bring as much of america to you as they can.  we shopped at the Base exchange where we could buy american food and goods.  we lived in  base housing with other americans.  except in the netherlands, because my father was attached to a NATO base, the high school I graduated from was an international school.  the kids were from USA, canada, england, germany.  and I had friends in all those classes.  we lived in a house on what we used to call "the economy", which meant that we lived in a normal dutch house, that was leased for us by the military. so  our neighbors and the town we lived in was all dutch people.  and you know something?  I liked it.  there was something about being in places,  having friends, that were just DIFFERENT than me. of course, there were similarities common to all people, we like to have fun, liked the opposite sex, went to school, had families and hopes and dreams, just like anyone in world.

so, that was then. I had the "want to travel" idea, like many people.  but I didn't  know how to do that.  finally I had the chance in 2002, when I had a job that was paying me way more  money than I  was used to.  I had two weeks vacation, so I decided to go around the world.  1 day in amsterdam, a week in india, 3 days in bangkok. the rest of the time was travel time. and I  loved it. especially india, and my 3 days in bangkok were magical.  so when the big pay job ended, I had some thousands in the bank, and my first thought after reading the lay-off letter was: "I'm free!" and I went around the world again- this time 2 weeks in europe, where my sister and I visited all the places we lived as kids, more than two months in india, and three weeks in Thailand.  when you go somewhere for a weeks vacation, or even two weeks, you have hardly even landed in a place before it's time to go back.  when you have two months to explore a smidgen of india, you land, and start to actually BE there after a month. and after nearly three months circumnavigating the globe, I came back to america, and for months and months all I could think about was "I want to see more-  I want to know more"

I went back to Thailand a couple more times.  the forth landing, as I was walking thru  the airport, smelling the air, feeling the warmth, seeing the workers in the airport- filled with you, excitement, anticipation, adventure- I decided.  I want to live here.  that is what I want. that  is what I'm going to do.  somehow, someway. I  was kind of startled to have even had these thoughts.  but I distinctly remember how  I felt the last time I got off the plane in seattle returning from Thailand.  I felt like: "okay,  I'm back in seattle.  it's kinda cold here.  um, have to get some work going." that was it. I still like seattle, I like being near my family, I like the familiarity, the country, the social contacts and the history I have there.  I can talk with strangers, read the  signs, high-speed internet, intelligible TV.  it's all there.  and it is lovely. but again when I am there in seattle, all I could think about is going back. what about cambodia? what about vietnam? what about northern india, egypt, turkey... what about those places, those people, that life there?

I went to cambodia, loved it. I went to vietnam. loved it there too.  but as fate would have it, I met a Thai women. before I took my forth trip, I got online and tried to make friends in Thailand, cambodia and vietnam.  I wanted to meet native people there, visit them, see their homes and how they lived. I was successful.  I met a young guy in  cambodia, and another young man in vietnam. they took me around, introduced me to their friends, took me out to see things, eat the food, exchange ideas and information about our countries.  the Thai women, once I actually met her was just a really nice person.  I discovered, I really really liked her. after our visit, she want back to the city where her teaching job was, and i went off elsewhere.  I missed her, and called her to see if she could take some time off from her teaching job and hang out with me.  and I began to fall in like, and then in love with  her.  oh, I asked myself all the usual questions: What's going on here? Do I really want this? Can this work? etc etc.  I even did the very american thing, and came here and spent months together with her. you know "getting to know her" and as they say, everyday, in every way, it just got better and better.  I wanted to marry her after a week.  but I did the "proper" american thing, and waited three months to ask her.

three months in a place is enough time for the "I'm on holiday" fog to thin out.  it's  enough time, for me anyway, to get a  sense of "this is what it's like to live day-to-day ordinary life here".  I loved it. and more importantly, I liked it.  you can love someone, or something  and not like them or it.  when you have both, you have something special going on.

when I returned to seattle after my sixth trip, I gave my apartment over to my room mate, I'd already sold my major assets- even my  beloved triumph  motorcycles - and had a house built for  us next to her house.  I lived at my sisters and brothers while working to save the money to come back here for this trip.

so, my house is here in Thailand. the women I am married to is here in Thailand.  I don't even have a residence in america, but I have a residence book here. I love the food here, the climate (especially), the culture- what I can understand of it, and even what I don't understand-  the fauna and flora, I feel happy, content, energized, and calm here.  so you tell me... where is my "home"?

the dictionary entry  in Answers.com defines "Home" as:  http://www.answers.com/main/ntquery?s=home&gwp=13

1.  A place where one lives; a residence.
2.  The physical structure within which one lives, such as a house or apartment.
3. A dwelling place together with the family or social unit that occupies it; a household.
4. 1. An environment offering security and happiness.
    2. A valued place regarded as a (a)refuge or (b)place of origin.
5. The place, such as a country or town, where one was born or has lived for a long period.

Note that "place of origin" doesn't appear until 4.2(b), and home as a birthplace or place you have lived a long time doesn't appear until 5.
Definitions 1, 2, and 3, are each portable- a residence, physical structure and a dwelling can refer to where you are at any time.  So by definition, if I am at our house in Thailand, or sleeping in my sisters den, or in my van, that is home.  The key definitions are "an environment offering security and happiness", and "...a refuge..."  If you ask me where in the world those definitions are satisfied for me, I have to answer "Thailand".  There is a problem here of course. I  have had residences, physical structures and dwelling places with social units, that have, at times, NOT offered security and happiness or refuge.  In my philosophy of life (sic), those attributes come from within my own self.  It is up to me to decide if those attributes exist in any given location.  I think it goes back to the saying, "...where the heart is."  I believe that is independent of the dictionary definitions.

Have I "abandoned"  america and "all it does for me"???  as I have stated, I am still an american citizen.  my passport allows me free entry back to the USA anytime I  like.  and like it or not, I will be returning to america often, because I can make more money faster there.  that is one thing america does for me, and I am not so wealthy that  I can escape that.  of course this means long separations from my  wife and her family, and my home here.  but, that is what we choose to do.  I could take a job here  teaching english, but all the english teachers I know here can't save enough money to buy a ticket back to  their original county.  and I need to build up some kind of future support for myself and my wife.  so everything 'america does for me' is still right there, and still important in my life.  and if I were to get into some kind of trouble here or other places, it would be the american embassy who I would turn to for assistance.

Have I "abandoned" anything?  it is a matter of perspective.  true, the last thing you will see of  me will be my back as I  get on a plane to leave for Thailand.  I  do go away from  america.  put simplistically, there are two reasons for making a move - to get away from something, or to GO TO something else.  simplistically, either you are running away, or running towards.  which reason you are using as motivation for movement is up to you.   you cannot goto another place, with out leaving the place you are now!  I have a nephew who was born and raised in north seattle, washington state.  he now  lives in arizona.  he has friends there, a place to live, and will be going to school for two years.  he says he loves it there.  his mother and father, and his siblings live in seattle.  did he "abandon" everything he has in seattle to live in arizona?  Did he "abandon" everything the  state of washington, his  family and city does for him?  it's interesting that we don't think of moving to another state as abandoning.  but,  moving to another country, and calling it "home" is perceived by some as an abandonment.  but you cannot go anywhere, without leaving some place behind.

Thailand, is my home.

The SHORT response.

Home, as they say,  is where the heart is.  My heart is in Thailand.  So, this IS my home.

Read my Thailand adventure ::: http://www.thaicountrylife.com


080408 Thaikarl - Bob Bumble Bee

scroll down an view the pictures first, then read.
The yellow and black creature is Bob.  Bob Bumble Bee.  I  asked Bob what his name is. He said "Bob".  "And DON'T call me Buzz. I hate that." he added. Bob has decided to live in our bedroom house.  Notice i didn't say he has decided to live WITH us, no, he has actually decided he wants to live IN our house. Literally.  He's gnawing a hole underneath one of the rafters on the porch.  you  can see in the third photo, that like house building contractors everywhere, Bob leaves his wood dust on the  ground.  Doesn't bother too sweep up.  I asked Bob about this, he said "I'm a house builder, not  a janitor".

I said to Bob ""Of all the wood joints in all the towns in all the world, you walk into mine."  He said, "That sounds familiar, where did you get that from?"  I said i got it from a bumble bee named Bogart.  "Oh, Bogart's a bad bumble bee, buddy, better be booking a bus ticket and bailing out on Bogart Bee."  Bob said "Why not build here? Wood is easy  to nibble off, it's under a roof and i like it here."

Of course my wife wasn't to happy to see Bob.  First thing she does is takes a broom and wacks at him.  "He's makeing a hole in the house!"  The locals see bugs like Bob as a nuisance when they decide to live IN your house.  I tried to get her to promise that she wouldn't kill Bob or scare him off.  "What for?" she says.  "Why you need a hole in the wood? I will be not  strong!" much to practical she is.  She sorta promised.  But i  have a feeling that when i go back to the states next week, Bob's lease will be terminated.  I'll have to work on her some more.

Meanwhile, as i'm working on sanding the porch rails to prep for a little stain, i have too mind that i don't bug Bob.  He gets alarmed when i bang around and get too close.  He'll drop off the rafter and buzz around - oh  sorry, i promised him i  wouldn't use that word - he'll fly around assessing the threat level.  i  stand very still.  My wife tells me that if Bob were to bite me that would be very bad.  my hand would swell  up big as a bell, and become inflamed and burden me with pain.   So i'm careful to appear to provide no threat.

He has some advanced GPS in his brain to find his hole.  He swoops one way, hovers in the air, rotates, swoops another direction, hovers, rotates  and swoops again.  eventually, he locks on to the coordinates, establishes a pattern recognition profile of the exact location of his labors and using an amazing thrust vectoring system, flips inverted and "lands" upside down right at the door to his new home.  Bob proceeds to stick his head into the hole and using jaws that i would NOT like to have clamped on my skin, starts making more wood chips, that fall to the floor beneath him.

I just went outside and checked.  Bob is busy busting out the bits.  He's head and thorax deep into his hole now.  I'm curious as to how deep he's going to go, and what he's going to do when he decides it's deep enough.  crawl in backwards and sip nectarade?  Extrude eggs and make more Bobs?  But wait, if he does that, the my assumption that Bob is male is backwards.  Bob must be female to bust out eggs.  So  why did he/she tell me a masculine name like Bob?  Maybe Bob is a lady-boy? Or a Tom?  I forget which is which.  Maybe Bob  has a Betty out there in the wilds who's busy brooding baby Bobs, and demanded that Bob build a bungalow for her babies, and Bob took the job because Bob is a Best Boy and believes in being the best bee he can for his baby('s)

better bee stopping me now, because i  have been to the behemoth box of "b" words and i can't be bludgeoned into stopping.  it's beedicting.

Read my Thailand adventure ::: http://www.thaicountrylife.com


080329 Thaikarl Thai massage, dentist and whups


lots of new photos in the Picassa gallery for you to see. http://picasaweb.google.com/thaikarl/ThailandJanApr2008

for many years i was a very solid sleeper.  didn't know what a nightmare was, never woke up in the night.  my partners used to tell me i would mumble in my sleep sometimes, but otherwise, i was "dead to the world".  changed somewhat in the last few years.  don't know  why.  i'm much more active in my sleep, occasional nightmares, always  different things.  i talk and even shout in my sleep, and apparently thrash about and sleep in weird positions.  and i will wake up for no apparent reason and lie awake for a while before going back to sleep.  one thing that is very annoying is that i must be doing something in my sleep that throws my spine out of wack.   i'll wake up with very low, middle, or upper back pain and that "out of place" feeling, with the associated muscle tension and cramping.  i don't know what i'm doing to cause it.  Tok said i was sleeping on my  back with my knees  up, and my legs would  fall to the sides, sometimes knocking her and waking her up.  then i'd put my knees together again,  then fall to the sides.  i've been pulling a loop of tied bandanna up over my theighs to keep  my knees together at night to prevent that. what ever i'm  doing, i woke up  the other day with sharp pain and spasms in my lower left back and butt muscles.  if i was sitting down or standing it was okay, but if i moved, walked or when i tried to roll over or skootch over in bed, i couldn't do it.  sharp "poked my funny bone" nerve pains.  made it difficult to climb down the  ladder, or start the  motorbike.  got a little better as the day went on, but only if  i was sitting up or standing.

Tok did some massage for me,  which helped,  but when it was going  for the third  day, she took me to the hospital massage clinic to have a real workup done.  i was in there for 2 hours.  one of  the experienced ladies took over the job because i kept yelping.  thai massage is like acupressure and yoga and torture all in one.  they press with thumbs, elbows, knees, hands and feet.  push your limbs into all sorts of stretching poses and lean on you  some more.  walk on you.  push and pull. just when you think there can't possibly be any other way they can stretch, fold and spindle you, they will come up with another application.  sometimes it's gentle, sometimes it's very hard, sometimes really hard - like when they stand on the back of your thighs and put the other foot on your back.  50kgs of thai women on your back makes an impression.  when she was done, i still couldn't get off the table without wincing, so she went back at it, AND  got hot towels to press on my  spine and tail.   i could get up  without too much aggravation after that.

Tok came back from her massage and going to visit at a school and we went into the Hot Room.  it's a sudatorium (steam room), with herbs in the mix so it smells like it's supposed to be good for you.  i love steam rooms.  40 minutes in there and i was happy as cooked shrimp.  then a shower and we left, feeling like a freshly cooked glass noodle.  and the next morning when i woke up, lo and behold, i  could roll over in bed and get up- carefully mind  you, as i was still sensitive, as it were- but i got up and could walk right away.  amazing.  i have experienced more outright relief from pain, and disjointedness having had good thai massage than any of the standard swedish massage and physical therapy i've had before.  it cost 200 baht for all.  that's $6.50 folks.  for all.

got my all fired up to build a combo shower and steam room behind the house, next to the jars where i shower.  i'm thinking of a stucco'd and tiled walled enclosure, but only 5 feet high, with an insulated foam lid- like a hot tub cover- that hinges off the back.  so when you  want to shower you have am partially  enclosed shower stall, lower than my shoulders and open to the sky.  you still have the outdoor shower feeling.  then for a steam, flip down the lid, drap a rubber curtain over the doorway and fire up  the steamer.  you can sit in the now enclosed steam room.  when finished- fllip the lid back, and shower off.  don't know how i'll make the steam yet.  don't think i want to  spend a bunch of money to buy a commercial steam generator.  but i'll figure something out.

of course, i had to tell tok that the steam room would be AFTER staining the full moon house, and after making a stairs up to the house  to replace the ladder we climb now, and after making the new roof and porch on the back of the  existing house, and after we furbish the new house down in Rayong by the ocean, and after...... you get the idea.

i don't remember if i mentioned that i  went to the dentist the last week.  walked in, no appointment, no waiting, straight to the chair.  she checked my teeth- no cavities (yah!) did a through cleaning job, and told me she could fix the diastema (space between my two front teeth) with overlays, caps, or braces.  I'll wait on that one.  kind of  like my gap.  i can whistle thru it.  had it filled with porcelin overlays once.  looked different for sure, but it messed with my speaking, i couldn't whistle, and i couldn't squirt water between my teeth.  one of the overlays broke off when i bit to hard on a sharpie cap, which restored the proper function.  oh, the checkup and cleaning cost 500 baht.  $15.00

and, the previous email was a  reply to an email i  got from my friend pattie. after i told the story about the tea kettle and such i thought it would be good to post the message, but i was too quick to hit send and forgot to change the subject line to "thaikarl" and didn't explain that it was a reply that i made into a thaikarll post.  solly bout that.  cause a bit of  confusion for a few folks, but i had 10 replies to that message.  a record i think.  i answer every reply to any of my messages.

and, and and.  i have a line on an available used car i can acquire on the "not-so-easy-but-still-a-payment-plan" option.  so wonders abound.

did you know that Buddhism is an atheist religion? and it's not really a religion? It's more of a  practice?  they don't "worship" the Budda, they HONOR him for being the one who showed the way.  but they won't allow women to be monks, and they have some other practices that i i'm not so enamored of, so  i'm a leaner, not a joiner.

tomorrow we are going to take some bedding and other stuff to the new house in Rayong,  and see what's happening with the electric and water hookups.  we're going down in Mots truck.  and i can go by a bookstore in Pattaya on the way  back, because i am on my last book.  the horror!

Today is a good day.... to be HAPPY!
Nu and Tok

Read my Thailand adventure ::: http://www.thaicountrylife.com


Re: return trip

Oh dear Karl

I hate to even mention the subject but when indeed are you planning to return ? sorry I am sure you don not want your Thai mindframe being polluted with such thoughts but there we are I have said it ..............

PS I hope you have enjoyed cups of tea from your new kettle !

oh yes

the prospect of return is always lingering.  of course, it's easier to dismiss it when there are 90, or 60 days before it has to happen.  when it gets down to the last lunar month before i fly out, it starts looming, where before it was a "yeah later" concept.  i note the lunar month, because you can actually see the moon here every night it is up, and when the time gets short, i think "oh, i won't see that moon phase here next time it comes around"  don't mind a whole lot, but i do have my druthers, and they are here, not there of course.

i do look forward to the day i actually buy a one-way ticket home, have a decent length visa arrangement, and really don't know when i have to buy a ticket back.  but that is not today, so i return to seattle:


probably take a couple of days relax, then i have to hustle.  my van is in sad shape running wise, and i have to sort that out or find another vehicle too use, because i do have work waiting for me, but i have to be able to get there,  and all that jazz.

{ed. note:  pattie gave me a very nice stainless, ceramic coated, whistling tea kettle as a wedding present to bring with me this trip}

I presented the kettle to tok and mama.  made some tea and was joyous.  then i noticed it had been put in the cabinet, and they were using the same old aluminum pot to boil water in.m  so i put the kettle back out near the stove.  and it went into the closet again.  i told them that it was okay to use it, that was what the present from you was for.  they had put it away because it was a "nice thing".  you put the nice things in the cabinet to use god knows when, and use the ordinary stuff, that they have been using everyday forever, to do well, ordinary things, like boil water.  so i told them, naw naw, the kettle was a present so you  don't have to use the aluminum pot to boil in, because the aluminum is not so good for your health.  and now they use it all the time.  but they still cook stuff in aluminum.  i got them a stainless steel wok last year, which they do use, as i 'confiscated' the old aluminum one and used it to mix up  some paint, so it's no good for cooking-  ever.

this is a long answer to a short question i know. but here it  is.


080318 Thaikarl - monday, tuesday? what day is this?

now that we have broadband, it's easier to post pictures.  have a look in the picassa gallery.

i'm reminded of the FUGS song Nothing.  not that dreary, mind you, but the days are kind of blurred together.  have no idea what day of the week it is most of the time.  i get up after Tok does, have coffee and breakfast, read my book, check email, surf internet, take a shower and dress.  might be 11am, might be 1 pm by then.  in the afternoons, maybe i'll fix something - like the bedroom door that won't close, or a broken light, or mess with my shower thang - i did install a circuit breaker switch  up  underneath the roof.  i went to pull apart the plugs one day and got a little zap.  i don't like those 220 volt zaps.  I couldn't find a double pole double throw switch except for a circuit breaker switch, so i used one.  now there is for sure no electricity going to the plugs for the shower pump when the switch is off.- or maybe i'll take a nap or read some more. then it's lunch, then dinner, then night time again, shower and bed.  some days we goto to town to buy food and things. some days we goto the open market in the village. and that's pretty much it....

we are waiting for word from this housing area that the water and electric have been turned on. then we will make a trip down there to check on it, do the house inspection to see if they need to fix anything.  Tok has ambition to bring down some bedding and a few things to make the place start to be live able, kitchen stuff and the like.  THEN there will be something to do.  There are a zillion projects i could be working on around the house here, but they all pretty  much require buying materials and or tools, which has to wait till next time.

we're sliding into the hot part of the year. april is the hottest month in thailand, and there is little rain yet to bring relief.  dust and smoke inhabits the air.  at night,  when the cars go by on the big road, you can see the air in the headlight beams, like a thin fog.  the tobacco harvest and processing is pretty much finished.  they are going to grow corn in the  fields out back now.  and later, when the rains come, rice.  when it gets this warm in the afternoons, i'll start sweating.  the ceiling fan up here in the bedroom doesn't help much.  it just blows the hot air from beneath the roof down up you.  i find if i stay still, then that's what i'm going to continue to do-  languish.  the trick is to get up and get moving, then the tupor falls away and energy  for motion appears.  but first,  you  have to get over that hump, that hot gravity  that  makes you want to be just a lump in the hammock.  beats being cold, damp and wet anyday.  at least for me.

the late afternoons are delicious.  the big heat wafts away, the sun is softened by the haze it is falling into, and the light relaxes and becomes golden and coppery.  i love the tropics.

gorgeous the life!
Nu and Tok
Read my Thailand adventure ::: http://www.thaicountrylife.com


08031 Thaikarl - meeting market, water and house pics and DSL!

several people asked for more pictures of the house.  i uploaded to the Picassa Gallery.  The name of the new  house is unsettled as of yet.  we have to go down there next week to get the inspection done, and make sure there water and electric are all hooked up.

monday night is the meeting marked in lomsak.  meeting markets are ad hoc markets that appear in towns and villages on a regular schedule.  the one in lonsak is in a big empty field next to the HomePro store.  the pickups full of merchandise show  up in the morning, set up tables, racks and covers, unpack all their stuff - cloths, glasess, household stuff, tools, jewlery, food.. everything.  the prices are usually a little lower than they are in town for pretty much the same stuff.  i talked Tok into going monday.  i've not gone  since i've been home, as it's easy to start spending money there.  but i had a plan for tok.  i  knew if i took her there she would see a shirt or dress that she really liked and i could get it for her.  if i told her "lets goto the  meeting market so i can buy you a dress" she wouldn't go, saying she didn't need anything.  so i said i wanted to get a cloth to wipe off my guitar strings - which i did need btw.

there was a bloom of ants that night.  zillions of flying ants swarming around the compact florescent lites they string up over the merchandise.  i mean hundreds of winged things shucking and fluttering around every  lamp.  gets in your face and hair.  we were looking at a new clock for downstairs and the lady nicely turned off the  lamp in front of us.  500 flying ants immediately swarmed 5 feet over to the next lamp.  some guys were standing in their booth with  electric fans, blowing the critters away with fan wind.  other nights, there are no bugs.  just depends on what's popping out to spawn that particular night.

tok did find a cute blouse, with color threads over white and sparkly things.  a whole $5.00 and i picked up a couple of other little things.  i told tok my trick for getting her there to buy something for  her.  she thought that was pretty silly.  but she wore the blouse the next day,and looked mighty cute in it.

warm today.  well, okay, it was kinda hot.  i was sweating even.  so what did i  do? go  out digging in the ditch of course.  had to move some of the muck out  of the channel, as our grey water from the sink and shower and all that drains out to the ditch - where the pond used to be.  but the slope wasn't right, and the water was backing  up some and getting a bit rotton.  so i dug out the slope in the little ditch to get the water down to the main ditch.

we went into tow later.  follow up appointment with the doctor at the clinic.  lots of people there ahead of us, so we did some 7-11 shopping for green bun and yogurt, and i walked  back to the clinic to wait while tok did the food shopping in the market.  when i finallay  saw the doctor, he listened to my breathing and told me he didn't hear any more wheezing, so i'm back on top again.  and he said, that because i was well now,  and he didn't have to prescribe any more medications that there was no charge for the visit.  imagine that.

it hasn't rained since i've been here.  one rain when we were in bangkok.  a big rain, killed some of the tobacco in the fields where the ground was low. but otherwise, dry here.  and with all the work on the road, grading, dirt dumping, cars and trucks diverted to the packed dirt sides of the road there is vast clouds of dust that rise in the air, and coat everything.  we don't usually open the windows of the house, because the dust gets in so much.  tok has to dust and mop every single day to try to keep up with it.  not good for her because she'll get hives and feel lousy if she gets to much dust.

and wonders of wonders! we got DSL broadband internet installed today! wooo hoo!  but it gets really warm up here in our bedroom house where the computer is, so you can't sit up here for  that long.  it's just nice to check mail and a bit of news and information without waiting and waiting for dial up or packet data connections.  and another monthly bill.
gorgeous the life!
Nu and Tok


080309 Thaikarl - Got my shower thang working

american that i am, i'm used to taking a shower where the water comes out of a pipe over head.  scooping up a bowl of water from a vat and splashing it on my body is alright, that's the way most thai's and a few billion other  people in the world get washed. i'm also used to hot water.  we don't have running water, and of course, we don't have hot water.  so i decided to work something out.

i  prefer to shower outside behind the  house in the open air.  at night,  under the stars it's just wonderful.  in the morning, showering in the sun is a delight. there are a couple of big water jars back there.  we keep them filled for backup water in case the well pump fails, and i use the water in the jars to wash.

we bought a submersible pump for the  waterfall.  it will lift water in  a hose above my head.  but we used that for the water fall.  i bought another pump last visit, but it was smaller, and wouldn't lift the water above my  waist.  so we put that one in one of the big lotus flower and fish tanks in front of the house as a fountain.

we i landed in Bangkok, we went to  jatucheck market, and i bought a submersible  pump that was even bigger than the first one.  my first installation was simply a length of plastic hose connected to the pump and strung up on some ropes over head.  it worked, but it was a little sloppy.  so i rebuilt it the other day.

i made an extension cord that runs from inside the house out to the jars, and hooked it over a piece of bamboo i tied to the pipe that has the TV antenna on top.  then i tied some PVC pipe to the antenna pipe, with a couple of fittings.  when i want to use the shower, i take the lid off the jar, pull out the short piece of hose with a stub of PVC stuck on the end, and plug it into the PVC elbow at the bottom.  the water runs up thru  a section of pipe, to another elbow, that extends over the jar. a piece of clear tubing hangs down from there.  plug in the plump, i have running water.  so i don't waste water down the train when i'm not rinsing or wetting, i move the pipe over so that the stream falls  back into the jar.  when i want water for wetting me,  i pull on the end and direct the stream my way.  works great!  a bit of noise from  the  pump, but it works.

i even figured out how to get some hot water.  so easy.  totally solar.  there is a long transparent 2 inch hose that runs from the pump to the back of the  house.  when we need water to fill the  jars, we turn on the pump and drag the hose around.  when the coils of the hose sit on the ground in the morning, the standing water in the hose sit in the sun, and the water  heats up.  if i wait until later, like around 11am, the hose has been in the sun for a few hours.  i put the end of the hose in a No. 16 blue bucket and turn on the pump.  when the bucket is full, that is just about the all the water that has been in the sun, what follows has been underground and is cool.  so i stop the pump when the bucket is full, and i  have a bucket of hot  water.  some days's it's so hot, i have to add cold water to it before i use it.  after i've got myself all wet bowling out the hot water, the cooler water from the jar is refreshing, and not nearly as shocking to the system as using only  the jar water.  of course,  when i shower at night, no hot water.  sometimes Tok will heat up a pot of water for me on the propane stove if it's a cold night.  but most nights, i just deal with it.

i have an idea to just get a bunch of 2 inch PVC pipe and string it together so it goes back and forth back and forth, and put it on top of the tin roof behind the house.  if i fill it at night, it will get nice and toasty hot in the morning.  might even retain some heat into  the evening.  but cheap as PVC pipe is, it's an extravagance that the budget doesn't permit this time.  but NEXT trip, for sure.

of course, everybody  else showers from the big jar in the bathroom like normal people.  they wouldn't mind running water, but then we'd have to buy an automatic pump, and pay more electricity, and string pipes and all that.  why spend  the money?  a bowl and a jar full of well water does the job.

when it rains, i prefer to channel the run-off from the roof to fill my jars with.  the water from the  well is very hard water.  when it dries on the tiles in the bathroom there is a classic hard water scale that builds up.  but it's only rained once since i've been here.  there  was a big rain when we were in Bangkok last month,  but we missed it.  dry season it  is.

Improvise and rule your world!  as my dad taught me.

Read my Thailand adventure ::: http://www.thaicountrylife.com


080308 Thaikarl - a new house!

we have bought a house in south east thailand!  it's nothing fancy, or even that cool actually - but it's ours!
we had gone down to sattahip to visit some friends of Tok last month, and they told us about these houses.  they are a housing authority of  thailand project.  i didn't have the cash for the down payment and to hook up the utilities, but thanks to a generous wedding present from my dad and his wife, we closed the deal.

as you can see from the pictures, our house is one of several hundred, all alike: two bedrooms upstairs, bathroom, front room, porch, a little bit of dirt around the house, and a fence all round.  made of stucco, with jalousy windows.  does have running water tho.  some of  the residents have started fixing up their houses, putting in plants, grass, tile, walling in the porch to make another room, extending the porch with a roof to enlarge and shade the out door area.  all possibilities in the future.  i still have to finish fixing up our house her in lomsak.  still needs staining, we still have to climb a latter to get to our room etc....   all in good time.

one of the features of the house, well not the house exactly, but the location, is that the ocean is about 2km away!  and there is substantial town nearby, and a lot of other cool things to see and do in the area also.  for us it will be kind of a vacation/alternate house for us.  we can go down there to relax and goto the ocean.  tok has several friends in the greater area she can visit with.  we are not far from islands that promise some good places for scuba diving.

primary reason is it will be  a  disposable asset for  tok and i.  should anything happen to me, this house can be rented out or sold to provide tok and family some support.  for 12,000 dollars i couldn't buy an outhouse in the states.  secondary reason is it's close to the ocean.  did i mention it's close to the  ocean?  reason enough!  and should any of my friends and family like to adventure over here, they have a house to at little or no expense.

hmmm, so now i have to get back to the states to earn up the return travel expenses, the wedding next november, house payments, remodeling, minor furnishings for the new house and not to mention replacing my tired old van and and and.... no boredom in my future that's for sure!

Nu and Tok
Read my Thailand adventure ::: http://www.thaicountrylife.com


080229 Thaikarl - happy leap day to yall!

leap day was yesterday here, but it's today for yall.  warm and sunny today.  that means i get to take a warm shower.  the 2 inch plastic hose that comes from the pump is transparent.  if it sits full of water in the sun  for a couple  of hours, it will get warm - even hot.  so i turn the pump on into a  bucket, then turn it off when the bucket is full, which just empties the standing water in the pump hose line.  i've rigged up a shower pump in the  back of the  house.  i bought a larger submersible water pump in bangkok.  like you would use in a fountain pool.  i ran some hose up and tied it to a line i strung between the shed and the betal nut palm.  when i plug in the  pump, the water comes out the end of the hose so that it goes back into the big jar i'm using for shower water.  when i want to be in the water, i reach up  and divert the stream to me, so i can wet and wash.  when i'm not getting wet myself, the  stream flows back into the jar,  so the water isn't wasted.  pretty basic, and doesn't do much  at night of course, but it's a bit of a  luxury, none the  less. i like to shower behind the house  anyway.  under the stars at night.  wonderful.

we are planing to go to rayong in south thailand tommarow after tok votes.  we are on a special mission, which i'll tell you about after it is accomplished.  i asked tok what the  voting was for, and she said she didn't know.  she's a rather apathetic voter.  you are required by  law to vote in thailand, imagine that, so she has to go.  but she said that all the political candidates are all warm and greeting and promising before the election, and then they all disappear and try to get themselves money. so she says it doesn't matter if she votes or not.  in fact, she marks her ballot wrong, so that it would be counted anyway.  this is  not that uncommon i understand.  sort of a protest vote.  but she says she believes that she  is the  only one to have a defective vote every single time there has been a vote.  i just asked her if she  can remember ever making a qualified vote.  she  can't remember ever having done so.  and she has been voting since she  was 17, and she's 44 now. vote buying and other schemes come  up after every election.  i think the usa has a better system, even with all it's faults, but the US is a different country, and had different reasons for setting things up the way we do it.

thai politics are pretty wacky.  i can't claim to understand it very well at all.

we did a budget this morning.  i hate doing budgets.  on paper, it always says "you can't  get there from here".  but, i may  have to change my ticket and come back a little earlier.  whull see...

cares! Onward!  Nu and Tok

Read my Thailand adventure ::: http://www.thaicountrylife.com


080226 Thaikarl , my address, little crash, and a nice day here


several people have asked for my address here in thailand

Mr. Karl
167 moo 11
Namchun Lomsak
Phetchaboon 67110

my mobile:    011 66 83 161 7558
toks mobile     011 66 85 050 7044
things sent by "Global Priority Mail" at the post office get here pretty quick.  Things sent by airmail get here in a couple of weeks or less, things sent by ordinary  mail take more than a month to get here.  boats are slow you know, for ordinary mail.


had a fun little mishap the other day.  we were dashing off to the village market to buy food.  the road grader made a big swipe down the middle of the packed dirt on the new road, and i elected to try to get by on the side berm. whups.  rear tire wiped out on the loose rocks, and we kind of fell over.  onto the nice rocks.  picked up the bike, which was still running.  brake lever bent all outa shape, foot peg all whacked  out and my lower right leg got the worst of it.  fortunately tok had only a few scratches on her knee.  very embarrassing.  of course tok was nervous about  me driving after that, but  i  made let me drive, else she won't trust me and will  always be more afraid than normal.  she's had some pretty  big crashes - she hit a water buffalo once, so she's a little more apprehensive than i am.

theres a few new bugs in the thai bugs gallery, scroll down to the bottom, and a couple in the current thai gallery.

today is one of my favorite kind of days here.  there is a thin, high hazy  cloud cover way up there.  the sun shines thru  it, but the light is attenuated, doesn't glare so harshly.  i'ts still quite warm, and will be warmer later, as the haze keeps the heat in.  i think i'll go siphon the dust out of the waterfall pond and refresh  the water.

Nu  and TOk

Read my Thailand adventure ::: http://www.thaicountrylife.com

080226 Thaikarl - one view of the US from across the world


you know i seldom make political comments, or social comparisons etc.  but this  article in The  Nation i found interesting.  not just because of it's point of view, but because the sentiments are an echo of what i have heard other Internationals saying.  by Internationals, i  mean  people from any  country, who have lived - not just touristed - on other countries, and have more of a world-view, rather than a national-view, based on their home country. 

taken from The Nation: opion

America: the land of hype and corny?

As long as you can get past their adherence to political correctness and their irritating habit of megaphoning private conversations, Americans are - mostly - very nice people. Surely we can all agree on that.

Published on February 26, 2008

But a few things recently have reminded me what really ticks me off about them. It is their propensity for beating their chests and proclaiming themselves to be the best in the world at everything.

Take, for example, the game that stops the nation. It's not good enough that they call it the "Super Bowl". Oh no, the commentators and hype merchants then have to refer to it as the "world championship".

My advice to Americans: stop claiming to be the best at everything. If you win a world title, against other teams from around the globe, then good on you. Otherwise, isn't it enough just to be America's best?

In the political arena, presidential candidates drum home the tired old message that the US is not just the world's only superpower, but also the "greatest country on Earth". One of the aspiring candidates recently called the United States the greatest country in the history of the Earth. Next it will be the universe.

What is "great" exactly? My pocket Oxford defines it as "of a size or amount or extent or intensity much above the normal or average". Collins Thesaurus says it is "big, bulky, colossal, elephantine, enormous, extensive and gigantic".

I think of the elephant when I think of the US. Large, mostly benign and well-meaning, generously philanthropic, but oh so clumsy in situations that call for delicate footwork and a certain sensitivity.

At home, the huge number of Americans who don't own a passport and have little knowledge of the world are always being told they are the biggest and the best and the brightest. No wonder they believe it. They also have this strange idea that if the rest of the world's populace had its way, it would be clamouring to live in the US.

Asians and the Europeans don't like American food all that much. Sure we may have been seduced by Americana, but let's face it: Hollywood and fast food pale alongside the rich and ancient cultures found around the rest of the globe.

We have all been watching the presidential campaign with a certain horrid fascination. While they may be a necessary part of the political theatre, those rallies where the candidate is "just so happy to be back in south Texas" just seem so contrived.

Does anyone actually believe rhetoric so lacking in substance? It is only now that commentators are waking up to the fact that as charismatic as he is, Democrat Barack Obama does little more than mouth generalities and platitudes.

A young voter told CNN recently that Obama "will make us look good in the eyes of the world". I'm not so sure about that. Isn't he the same man who said that if the circumstances warranted it, he would order the US military into Pakistan - with or without Islamabad's permission?

And that other boast: America, The Great Democracy. Is it really? Not only hasn't it had a female president yet, but Hillary Clinton happily reminds her supporters that women's suffrage came about only in her own mother's lifetime.

Then take a look at the US voter turnout, which has dropped from a high of 65 per cent in 1960 to barely 50 per cent today. In many parts of Asia - Thailand's Northeast for one - the turnout rarely drops below 80 per cent.

India could easily lay claim to being the world's great democracy. It certainly has a bigger voting population. Also, more importantly, it has to work so much harder, and overcome so many more obstacles, to maintain that status.

I have always believed that the September 11 attacks had such a devastating impact on the psyche of many Americans because it was the first time outsiders had intruded on their comfortable, closeted world. For the many Americans - and there are many - who rarely venture beyond their home county, let alone home state, it was a terrifying realisation that the world could reach out and touch them in a way they did not believe possible.

Almost to a man, their reaction was to retreat into the safe cocoon of patriotism, fly the Stars and Stripes from their pickup trucks - and vote for George W Bush, who vowed to protect them.

The US media could help remove this Us versus Them mentality by improving its coverage of a world its country has so much influence over, instead of continuing its ever-growing fascination with misbehaving "celebrities".

Finding out about the rest of the world might also help Mr Middle America get over his fear of all Muslims, his unease with a rapidly growing China and his strange hatred of the United Nations.

We would like America better if its citizens recognised our existence sometimes - even our sporting achievements - instead of just pining for our unconditional love and acceptance. Who knows, we might even begin to believe it is the greatest.

The Straits Times is a member of the Asia News Network.

guest columnist

John McBeth/The Straits Times

The Nation

Read my Thailand adventure ::: http://www.thaicountrylife.com


080223 Thaikarl - not a lot happening over here


since i've been sick with infection and bronchitis the last 12 days, there hasn't been much going on here.  the antibiotics and broncho dilators the doctor have been giving me leave me pretty weak.  if we goto to town, tok gets to drive he motorbike, and after walking around buying foodstuffs i'm pooped out.  it's a  real drag,  and i have to say i'm actually a little bored.  because i am boring like this.  i spend the day pretty much just hanging around.  reading a lot, which is good but not good.  i only had room in my bags for about 10,000 pages of reading, and i've read 9,000 of them already.  i'll have to start re-reading some of  my books from last trip.  but since i ran out last time also, some of my books are going for a third read.

i brought a set of Ryobe cordless tools with me- drill, circular saw etc. found a 300 watt step-down transformer in town for 350 baht (10.00!) which was a good deal.  these transformers were 5 times that price in the states.  but so far,  my tools are unused.  i have a notion to build a passive solar water heater using the principle of thermosiphon, out of PVC pipe, but don't have the energy to do all the shopping and cutting.  oh well, soon now.  feeling better everyday.

thursday was a buddist holyday.  i couldn't get up to go with tok to the temple at Oh-Dark-Hundred.  later in the day, a group of four monks came walking along the road.  they were carrying more than the usual gear, food bowels and what look like the monk equivalent of a back pack.  they came down to the house and  sat around the table.  tok and mama went to talk with them, squatting low beside the table.  tok came out with  rice and food in bags for them.  the monks accepted them and they did some praying.  the monks went away.  i asked tok about them, she said they were forest monks, traveling from Loi to somewhere down south.  a long journey to walk.  forest monks are monks who have eschewed the modernization of the temples in the towns and cities.  they live a simpler life, away from all the distractions of towns and cities.  i asked her where they sleep. she said they sleep in the fields and the forests.  they have mosquito net tents that put over them and a mat for the ground.  monks are required to respect all life - which includes NOT killing mosquitoes.  i think they have some polite meditation way of  asking the mosquitoes to go somewhere else, if they have been at their disciplines for a while.

i sit up on my porch, book in my lap, krating daeng (redbull) on the table.  the motorbikes and trucks and cars buzz by on the big road, the road-grader, tooth roller, flat rollers and the water trucks diesel on my relentlessly.  the tobacco is rising in the fields, the sun shines down on the palm trees.  kids and neighbors wander by, the chickens trespass into our yard.  the dogs come round to drink from the lotus and fish tanks beside the house.  as i wipe  a little drop of sweat from my temple, i think "life, here, now, IS."  most pleasant, indeed.

cares to you all,
Nu and Tok
Read my Thailand adventure ::: http://www.thaicountrylife.com


080208 Thaikarl The wedding date is set! w00t w00t!


the day  has been fortold.  the time is set. the wedding of tok and i will be on november 11, 2008.  which just happens to be 11/11, so obviously the time for the ceremony  will be 11am.  unless that conflicts with some other rule i don't know about yet.

how did we arrive at the day?  we went to see a monk. that's the customary way to decide.  i asked tok if  we could go  to the temple after she returned from  town. we got on the motorbike and headed out towards lomsak.  we turned on the road to pitsanolok, and after a while turned off to a country road.  off the  main roads, there are roads that go all over the area, no signage of course.  the roads are sometimes paved with concrete, especially in some villages, but otherwise they are red dirt.  this time of year, the dirt roads are hard packed, but i can imagine that in the rainy  season they are a slippery sludge of mud.  i enjoy it when we veer off the main roads like that.  so many interesting things to see in he little clusters of houses and the spread fields.

eventually we came to a village where the temple was located. why we went to this temple, instead one of the two or three in our village, i don't know.  inside the grounds we parked the motorbike.  the monks were out teaching somewhere, but they would be back in an hour.  some workmen were spreading stucco cement up on a scaffolding surrounding a very  tall tower.  come kind of stupa/like building.  the scaffolding was of constructed of bamboo.  each of the joints is held together by a loop of rope tied to a stick.  the loop is wrapped around the joint, the stick is twisted to tighten the rope, and secured from unwinding by a piece of wire.  the whole structure looks spindly and un-safe to western eyes, but they have no problem clambering all over the thing.  there was yet another building under construction nearby, and a couple of budda-halls, and in the back houses for the monks to live in.

i roamed around taking pictures, and looking at the wonderful thai style art work in paint and concrete that  adorns the temple buildings.  i really am fascinated by the thai style of traditional art.  i work at copying it in my drawing books, but i'm still pretty crude at it.

the monks arrived in a pickup after about an hour.  tok talked the  monk for a while, and he lead us into the main meeting room of the temple.  this is a large open room, with a row of shrines in the middle, budda images in the corner, and a raised level in the south wall where the  monks sit during services.  the walls are painted with scenes from the life of budda.  in this place, there were two rows of paneled scenes.  twice around the room told the whole story.  some 74 panels in all i believe.

we sat in the tiled floor before the monk. he and tok were talking for a long time.  i listen and try to pick out words.  one in a hundred i recognize.  the monk opened a daily calendar and started flipping thru the pages, occasionally asking a question.  he also had another book that he consulted that had all kinds of charts and tables, pictograph and diagrams.  there was counting on fingers, page flipping, back and forth chatter.  meanwhile i'm just trying to keep my legs from going numbing sitting cross legged in the tile floor, and trying to keep my back straight so it doesn't start cramping up on me.

eventually the monk settled on two dates:  November 11th, or November 15th, our choice.  i liked the 11th, tok thought that was fine and we confirmed with the monk.  there was more page turning, chart consulting etc.  tok gave me 100 baht (3.00) to give to the monk, which i dropped into  a basket he pushed towards me, and we were done.  monks are not permitted to take anything directly from a women.

so now we have our wedding day.  yall are invited of course!

i had some questions about some of the story panels on the walls, as i hadn't seen this part of the story before.  they seemed to predate the birth of the  budda and had something to do with a story about an old man.  i asked tok what the story was behing these pictures.  she was explaining the story to me when the  monk returned to the hall.  seeing our interest int the story, the  monk started explaining the story  in each panel, all in thai of course. i listen politely, and tok did also.  somewhere around panel 15 i whispered to tok that it's going to take us till tomorrow to get too panel 78.  she found a way to politely break of the lessons, and we went back out to  the  bike, and motored off back home.

11/11... sounds like a good day for a wedding eh?  that is just after the rainy season in thailand, it's turning dry and cooler.  a nice time to visit thailand if it's your first time.

now i just have to save up for  the wedding party. thai weddings are fun.  there is the ceremony  with the monks in the morning, then that afternoon and evening the hosts feed everybody who comes.  there's drinks and dancing.  usually  there is at least a D.J. spinning CD's.  bigger weddings will have all the way  from a couple of stage dancers up to giant elaborate stage shows that go on all night, and everybody  from villages all around show up.   ours will be rather laid back, tok is guessing 50 to  150 guests, depending on how  many passersby stop  in for food and drinks, how many people invited, and how many falangs (that's all of  you reading this) actually appear.

im actually looking forward to it.

more to be revealed...
Nu and Tok

more photos at:  Thaikarl Picassa Gallery
Read my Thailand adventure ::: http://www.thaicountrylife.com


080213 Thaikarl - i annoyed the ghosts.


i'm laid low by somekind of bacteria bug. sore throat, nose, lungs etc.  Tok tells me that i may  have angered the ghosts and they made me sick.  Or i picked up a bug somewhere.  she took me to the clinic.  nice doctor, checked me over, prescribed meds and off we go.  total cost:  $6.00, and that was mostly for the meds.  so i'm fever/on, fever/off, feeling okay, to back in bed again.  sooner or later my body will have been exposed to all the strange bugs that we don't have  in the states, and i wont get sick from these things.   Tok takes very good care of me.

we had a visitor the other day:  a Coelognathus radiatus (Copperhead Rat Snake).  we didn't know if it was dangerous or not (it's not poisonous) so we were a little delicate handling it.  well i was trying to  be, but Tok was a little more nervous about it,  and kept warning me to get away, which spooked the snake even more, so it would go hide in even a  more difficult place.  finally flushed it out with the hose, and it hi-tailed it along the back fence and slithered into  the neighbors yard.

Nu and Tok

Read my Thailand adventure ::: http://www.thaicountrylife.com


0802006 Thaikarl Free Rocks


finally did some work today. not a lot but some. it's been pretty much relax and read time since i've been home. busy enough in bangkok, but life in ban dong khwang has been books, coffee and naps. till today.

they dumped some truckloads of crushed rock up on the big road. everyone up and down the road has been going to these piles and collecting the biggest rocks to line the walls of their new driveways. each plot of land had to buy big cement pipes for the deep drainage ditch that runs beside the road. they piled dirt on top of the pipes and leveled it somewhat crudely to make driveways to each plot of land. the dirt walls of these driveways will erode in the rainy season, so with all the "free" rocks in the piles and along the graded edge of the road building, people are taking advantage to gather the rocks to wall up the sides of the dirt.

it's been like COLD the last few days. the sun came out today and it got warm, so i was let off during the heat of the day. but come sundown, when it was cooler, tok gets me away from my book to load the big rocks in the cart and haul them to our drive, and toss them down the slope. after 3 loads i was ready to quit. but she said we needed more. not to be wimpy, i helped make two more loads, and thankfully it was too dark to see the rocks by then.

but my next job will be to move all the dirt that has already slide down the slope, break up the giant clods of earth sticking out the sides, then stack/place the rocks from the bottom up to make a proper erosion barrier.

at least the rocks are free.

Tok went to the market for a little while.  when she came walking back, there were lots of people out grabbing rocks.  I had the hoe out and was hucking the big rocks out of the pile with mama.  Tok told me that the people were very impressed that i was out working on the road.  and they said it was very nice of me to come round to greet them when i arrived.  That was because the day or so after i arrived home, i walked by myself thru the back yards and said Sawatdee Kap (HI!) to the neighbors, and relatives and kids.  if you act like a neighbor, instead of an aloof outsider, they think you are a neighbor.  doesn't seem to matter that you can't say anything more than Hi.

Gorgeous the life!

Nu and Tok