091204 Thaikarl - homesick indeed


winter is pooling around my feet here in seattle. i'm still wearing my flip-flops, going to have to find my shoes soon, i think. i came across an article by another man who lives in thailand: http://www.escapefromamerica.com/2009/11/homesick-expat/ echos how i feel. everyday.

Tok and i had a discussion about my going home time. looks like i won't go home until.... shudder... april. if i wait until then, i hope i can save enough money to go home for three or four months, and there are festivals in thailand in aprill (Songkran, Pee ta Khon) and in may (Bang Fai rocket festival) and in july is Kao Pansa which is a festival that tok has never been to, but every year she says she'd like to go. me too! so we'll do our traveling IN thailand this time. we've been to cambodia, vietnam and taiwan and we want to go to korea sometime. but this time we'll get around the home country some. i've been there for Songkran, Pee ta Khon and Bang Fai, and will enjoy them again.

as ever i'm looking, feeling, investigating, thinking, asking, wishing, searching for that person, business, job that will enable me to live at home all the time. just have not found it... yet. i get some good suggestions from people: teach english (not enough income for a man with a family to take care of) import/export (but what product??????) tour guide (dis-allowed by the thai government) internet-based business (yes, but what????). something will click into place. some of the good ideas that might work, aren't ideas that i could get passionate about. i don't mind working (the money's kind of nice) but i'm not one to do some job or business that i am not somewhat excited to be in. something that i like to say "would get me out of bed in the morning" meanwhile, i'm busy keeping the cash flow going day to day. living cheap, sending money home and saving some to go back. if you have any ideas/opportunities, email them to me, or comment on the blog.

meanwhile, back home... we have new next door neighboors. Tai and Sai had a big area in front of their house that is part of the family land. sai's relative is building a house there.... just off our porch.

this is how it looked a couple months ago. it's much further along now. ah progress. Tok says they are good people. but they can see right into our bedroom windows. so i'll have to stay dressed if the curtains are open :-D which i didn't have to do before.... the kids used to play on this area. wonder if they still are?

Gorgeous the life! karl


091121 Thaikarl - i'm a reverse immigrant


i'm still here in seattle.  would much rather be home in thailand, but that's normal.  i've realized that i have a lot in common with many immigrants to the states.  people who's home is mexico, south america, asia, india can't find good paying work there, so they come here.  they work, send money home to the family, and when they have enough saved up, go back to the home country till the money runs out, then come back to the states to work again.  which is exactly what i do.  i live as cheaply as possible when i'm here, send enough home to thailand to take care of Tok, mama and teri, and when i save up enough, i'll go home for two three months.  the income stops when i get on the plane.  i need roughly one thousand dollars per month that i'm home, plus plane ticket- which could be anywhere from $850 - $1200.  a thousand a  month when i'm home is more than i send over each month, but when i'm home we do more things, and i spend money that tok wouldn't- on tools, books, red-bull etc.

needless to say, this remote life is getting old. but somewhere out there, is the right contact, the right product, the right idea that will somehow, someway enable me to earn our living and (more) from within thailand.  just don't know who or what that is.  yet.

a number of my readers have told me that they miss my entries.  i feel a little odd makiing entries in "thai country life" when i'm not in the thai country actually, so i don't update much when i'm in the states.  but nearly everything i do here is for and by my life there, so why not tell you about it?

it's getting darker earlier here in seattle, and the rains and cold are approaching for real.  meh.  hoping i can get ahead to be home late december- but it's probably going to be january or february.  so i'll still skip a good part of the winter.  this is good.



090802 Thaikarl - just like home!

friends,  we've been having a "heat wave" here in seattle.  July was the hottest month in seattle recorded history.  upper 90's  for days at a time.  of course, seattlites are complaining.  their wails and moans and screams hang over the city.  but for me, it feels like home in thailand.  and i'm quite happy.  hot is hot- don't get me wrong.  when it gets into the upper 90's it feels hot for me too, but it's not that uncomfortable.  80's feels warm to me. 70's are cool, 60's are cold, 50's are damn cold, 40's and below.  i don't even want to think about it.  strange (even to me) is how i became 'tropicalized'.  i don't remember being so heat tolerant when i was younger.  i guess when "home" becomes the tropics, then things like weather and food become the preferred state of being.


051709 Thaikarl - working in seattle, dreaming of

after a month and a half in seattle, i'm sorta adjusted.  the weather is improving here, which is comforting, but Tok tells me everyday that it's hot in thailand, and i miss that.  i have been most fortunate to have a good run of work since i've been back. i was hoping to return to thailand in august, as i've never been in there in august or september.  but... my van has a blown head gasket.  so i have to get that solved.  repairing the engine is very expensive, 1500-2000$.  i can get another whole van for that much, but a friend suggested replacing the engine, which would be less.  whatever... means i won't be going back in august tho.  and since i'm living in my van, i have to have that taken care of.

yep, living in my van.  it's rather nice actually.  i'm only here to earn money to support the family in thailand, and get enough to go home again, so i don't need to be paying rent anywhere.  i have two house's to take care of in thailand already.  i'm comfortable.  i have a folding mattress on top of some plywood, resting on plastic tote boxes.  the totes hold my tools and supplies for working.  i find various places to park in the vicinity of whatever job i'm working the next day, so i don't have to commute to work at all.  but i can STILL manage to show up later than planned.  i have a membership at 24hour fitness, where i can take showers and go for a steam room.  i eat at all different places- the deli at safeway is generous.  since i'm driving around, i get my food at the store daily, don't need a refrigerator.  i have a little home made alchohol stove and stovetop espresso maker, so i make coffee right there between the seats. a microwave would be nice, but no way to power that.  i have an aircard for my my old notebook computer, so i have internet anywhere.

things back home in thailand are just fine.  the parakeets Tok has in a cage outside are breeding- there were 4, now there's 8 of them.  the cats are good, Teri (her daughter) did well in summer school and started a new term (i have to buy new uniforms for her as the school is different).  Mama is on medication that keeps her heart and kidney problems in check for now.  a neighbor died, so Tok helped with the cooking and preparations.  we talk on the phone everyday, and when we can we get on skype and do video and voice chats.  i ask her what her plans are for the day, most days it's a "normal" day.  a normal day is cleaning the house, washing cloths, going to market for food, cooking, eating, taking care of business.  the lack of crisis and drama is refreshing.  

the politics and demonstrations in thailand seem to have settled down, at least for now, air fares are a little more expensive than a few months ago, but much lower than they were last year.  i can't wait to go home again.  well, actually i can, as, that's the way it is for us now.

gorgeous the life!

Read my Thailand adventure ::: http://www.thaicountrylife.com
It takes 10,000 hours to be an expert. Only 9,999 to go...


090410 Thaikarl - landed but not here.

arrggh. back in the USA.  what a weird place.  downtown seoul to downtown seattle- what a difference.  took the bus downtown.  had a piece of (bad) pizza, 5.34$!  190 baht.  i was suffering the usual re-entry traumas.  reading signs i don't care about. not used to people talking to me, so i'm not paying attention to the pizza guy and don't understand what he said.  cold.  driving on right.  young kids shouting and wilding in the mall. homeless guys shouting and digging through trash cans.  got on the number 11 bus.  the driver told us all to get off, there was a handicapped guy in a wheelchair slumped over not moving.  so the aid car was coming.  took me 4 hours to get to my brothers apartment from the airport.

but i didn't have any hassle with immigration and customs this time.  i got diverted thru a second x-ray machine, and asked some survey questions - "have you been on a farm?" because i put on my card that i visited vietnam.  that was it.

now i'm all confused about days and nights, traveling east is worst for "jet lag", getting my phone turned back on and paying for my storage room so i could get to my cloths and stuff drained the last of my bank account.

but here i am, and ready to hustle, work work work- that's my ticket home again.


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


090409 Thaikarl - a free day in Seoul, korea

since i had so much time on my layover, i decided to go exploring.  it seems you get a visa-on-entry (being american) so i went out thru immigration - got an entrance stamp for korea and went downstairs.  the nice lady at the information desk gave me a map of Seoul, and directed me to the right bus into town.  rode in and got off at the Namdaemun market in downtown area.  pretty cool!  i wandered around all day, figured out how to get the bus back, cleared immigration- now i have both stamps in my passport!  woo hoo.

korea is quite interesting.  seems to be rather wealthy.  lottsa cars, nice well regulated roads, huge towering blocks of apartments.  everyone is dressed nice- no raggedy folk that i could see.  there was all this interesting food, but i wasn't the least bit hungry.  i ate something-on-a-stick, had a couple of espresso's and that's all i had room foor.  tons of stuff at the market, rows and alleys and streets filled with little stalls selling all the usual mega variety of trinkets, cloths, do-dads, finery's, watches, jewelery, kitchen gear.  the korean people sure look different thant he thai's and vietnamese.  paler skin, rougher features, not as many cute girls.  some interesting style choices.  plenty of businessmen in suits.  smokers everywhere.  mobile phones stuck to everyone ears.  no pick-up trucks in korea either, only cars.  the merchant trucks have pickup beds, but they look and are merchant and delivery vehicles.  most of the motorcycles have racks on the back for deliveries of goods.  the personal motorbikes were mostly big scooter style things.  nearly every car has a 6inch LCD screen sitting on the dash- GPS systems???  the land seems to be totally manicured and terra-formed.  except for the steep hills, every inch seems like it was gone over in the past, or is being gone over in the present, lots of road and building construction going on.  really nice airport.

things to seem TOO expensive, jeans and shirts for 10 to 15 dollars in the stalls, espresso was 1.20$ a shot.  and good coffee it was too.  i think tok and i are going to have to figure out a trip here.  i think she would like the food- which is a critical criteria for her.  i didn't spend hardly any money, got a little mobile phone fob with the Korean flag on it, and had my thai name engraved  on a stick as a signature stamp, like the ones they use in japan.

what a deal twelve hour layovers are eh?  i'm all check thru here at the airport, and i still have two hours to wait.  feeling really confused about what time of day it's supposed to be.  i'ts 4 in the afternoon here.  it was cool this morning, but the sun came out and it warmed up.  the whole area is covered with haze- smog maybe?  but my eyes don't burn, so maybe it's just "marine air".  yet another country where i can't read the signs and understand a single word that's being said.  at least now in thailand i can understand a few things.  i pick up a couple of words each time, but it's back to null here. 

the Koreans hardly give me a second look, none of that "hey, it's a foreigner, would ya look at that" like other places.  except for my purple hair, got a few smiles and thumbs up on that.  guess i'll have to come back.
Onward!!!!  Nu
Read my Thailand adventure ::: http://www.thaicountrylife.com

090409 Thaikarl - camped out at the airport in korea

free internet for 30 minutes at the airport in inchon korea.  i have like a 12 hour layover here.  jeez.  but it's a nice airport, and i have some korean money from a previous trip.  so i'll just have to hang out.
i wonder if i can go outside?  hmmm, i'll let you know!

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

090408 Thaikarl - bouncing back across the world

back in bangkok yesterday, i was considering how many times i've been here- 9 times.  i'm must be devoted to this place.  most people only get to thailand once, if ever, and for most it's a one or two week "holiday" place.  and as usual, i become obsessed with figuring out how to get back.  the lang song (medium) says two years till i'm living here.  hope so.  make it so!

new video on youtube:   http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fRw7322EAr8
thai's celebrate a death quite differently than we do in the west, at least from what i've seen.  when i get back to my macintosh computer, it will be much easier to edit and upload videos.  i have a bunch more.  hope i can bring a better camera next time.

i'll keep posting.  there are stories and events i haven't posted yet.  to my surprise, there's people all over the world who are reading these messages on the blogsite.  check out:  http://feedjit.com/stats/thaikarl.blogspot.com/map/?x=94&y=50&w=160&h=94 you have to click on the map and drag it around to expose the USA and europe to see some of the flags... those are people who have been to the blogsite.  imagine that.

see yall soon,  Nu and Tok

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


090401 Thaikarl - I have a new friend

last month, when Tok and i went to the local waterfall, i met a Dutchman named Hank and his wife.  they were leaving the area as we were going in.  i talked with him a few minutes, seemed like a good guy.  His wife is thai, she talked with Tok a bit also.  Tok  said she knew the name of the village where they lived.  hank said they had a small gas station, on a corner,  in Lom Kow.

we went off to vietnam, and have been back, and i've asked tok a couple of times about going to see them.  then she told me she couldn't remember the name of the village.  well, i decided it was worth going out there, how many falangs would be running at gas station in the area?  surely someone could tell us where to go.

so we  got on the motorbike and headed north and west.  out in the countryside, passing fields of tobacco, corn, chillies and peas.  all the tobacco near our house has wilted and turned yellow from the big rain a few days ago, but a few kilometers away, the tobacco was just fine.  no big rain out there.  the day was warm, riding the bike is like having the oven door opened into your face, blasts of warm air, then a little cooling, then hot again.

we got to lom kow town, made a couple of stops to ask around, went back and forth a few times, and finally came around a corner and there was an intersection, with a two pump gas station on the corner.  we pulled up, i recognized hanks wife Sala, and she called to him, he came running out, thinking something was wrong with the pump.  it was just us.

we spent a couple of hours there, sitting around, drinking cold water.  hank lives here permanently now.  he has a cute story about meeting his wife.  she lived in holland, right next door to him.  she was divorced, and hanks wife took off for another man.  hank would babysit her young daughter, as he was left with two small children of his own when his wife took off.  before long, sala's  daughter spent more time at hanks house than at hers.  he said they were just friends and mutual babysitters for three years, but then, because of the conjoined kids, it got a little friendlier, then romantic.  hank said he used to come to thailand for a month two times a year for thirteen years.  when holland became part of the European union, and the borders effectively went down, many polish workers came to holland and the jobs dried up.  the poles would work harder for less money. (sound familiar?), so hank and his wife decided to pack it up, sold everything in  holland and moved here.

hank had a lot of knowledge about various businesses- chicken farming, pig farming,  insect farming (for eating).  either he's looked into it for himself, or knows other falangs who tried it.  he said the gas station was good business for thailand.  they were doing okay.  one of the most interesting things he told me about was a  thai friend of his who flies paragliders and paramotor!  hank says he's been up to the mountains with this guy, he'd drive the truck back down the mountain after the guys had launched and flown down to the valley.  i thought this was pretty interesting, as i still have my wing, harness and gear.  i'd thought about bring it to thailand, but the flying sites i've found online are all far away, but here's a connection right in this area.  so we'll see what happens next time.  i return to the US next week.  i need to get out to tiger mountain and get my wings on again, it's been a few years.  then maybe when i come home again.....????

Hank showed us his new jeep, and introduced us to his pet porcupine in a big cage, and a beautiful owl with one wing he rescued from the temple and cares for.

i've been told that one of the ways to keep your sanity and not feel so isolated is 1) learn the language and 2) make friends with other falangs in the area.  well, number one is ongoing, but will take me forever, but it seems i may have a start on number two.

have to finish up my jobs list in the next few days- painting under the house, putting up some rain-stopping tin, a little cement work off the porch etc.  then, the sadness of departure, and the culture shock of "the good ole USA", where i see on my yahoo weather, the temperature is near freezing and there is still snow!!!  %@$%(_Q&#(*^@*Q^%&&*@  whats up with dat???

moving right along..

Nu and Tok

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

090401 Thaikarl - never coming back.

considering the date today, i have great news!  we won the thai lotto, so i'm never have to come back to the united states.
woo hooooooo!!!!!

see ya!  NOT!


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


090327 Thaikarl - it's been raining, big time, pix and tweets

we've had rain the last few days. yesterday was a big one, with high winds.  we had to run around and secure all the windows and shades, even still, water got into the house, flooded the porches and generally made a mess of things.  all the tobacco crops will die from so much water, and lots of the tall corn in the fields got blown over.  i have a lot of work around the house to finish, but that was rained out.

finally got my gallery of photos from our trip to Vietnam up and ready for your perusal.

our internet connection has been pretty flakey last few days.  i changes DNS servers and that helped, but it's still not great.

if you use twitter, i've been sending tweets from my phone.  follow me!

Tok made one of my favorite dishes today, one of many actually, but this stuff is GOOD!  it's called Yam Pra Duk Toe (or something like that) first time i had it, i swore it had vinegar in it, but it doesn't.  that flavor comes from fish sauce and lemon.  it has fish in it, but doesn't taste fishy, peanuts and green mango slivers. plus secret ingredients i can't identify.  man, its tasty, kind of salad like.

onward!  Nu

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


090319 Thaikarl - Getting accepted by the Ghosts

a few weeks ago, after the medium was here for mama, tok told me that the Ghosts wanted me to bring them a chicken and some alcohol, so that i would be accepted within their protection.  this morning we carried out that task.

tok bought a whole chicken yesterday at the market.  looked like a small turkey.  this morning we got up early.  well early for me: 6:30, showered and had a quick bite to eat.  we took the motorbike the small shop up the road and tok bought a small bottle of thai whiskey to add to the basket with the chicken and a woven sticky-rice box.  we went to her aunts house- sister of her mothers.  auntie wasn't home, so we went to the thursday meeting market in the village to kill some time.  when we returned, auntie came back.  her aunt sat on the floor and tore a banana leaf into equal strips, ten folded the strips into little cones.  tok added some leaves of some sort to each one, and some small yellow candles.  we went into her aunts bedroom.  there was an alter of sorts in the corner, with bottles of lotion, dried flowers, candles, incense and various other things.  auntie poured out a glass of cold water and put it up on the table, they opened the bottle of whiskey.  she lit some candles knelt at the alter.  auntie quietly appeared to "pray" and bowed and touched the floor several times.  after a few minutes, they searched around the house and found the ball of white string.  auntie cut some equal lengths of strings, and carefully tied three knots in each one.  then she tied a string to toks, mine and the young boys wrist (video).  when she ties a string, you hold our arm out, palm up.  she drags the stretched string quickly up your wrist, flips the string up under your wrist and over, makes the first over hand of the knot and makes the loop of the send part of the overhand.  she contemplated the loose knot before pulling it tight.  then she rubs your wrist.

that was it.  tok gave the chicken to her niece who took it downstairs and chopped it in half.  we got half a chicken to go with us, and brought back the rice.  we went home, tok started the cloths washing, i re-arranged the big jars behind the house and filled them with well water.  i'd bought another ball valve to put in line with the village water pipe that goes to the sink, because the water pressure is so high, when you turn on the sink tap it blasts out.  the extra ball valve would allow throttling down the flow.

while i was cutting the pipe and gluing in the new valve, i asked tok what had happened this morning.  she said it was difficult to explain, so i asked a bunch of questions and go something of an explanation of  what it was about.  I'll tell you best i can, as it's still a little unclear.  Tok uses the word "Ghost" to refer to whatever entities we were appealing to.  it is unclear if she means "ghost" - as a dis-embodied earth-bound spirit, or simply a non-physical being.  i asked her if the Ghosts used to be people,  but she didn't quite understand what i was getting at. she said she didn't know about that.  but she said they "have a boss, and soldiers, and workers".  The Ghosts wanted an offering for me, because i'm part of the family now, and if they are to include me in their protection, i must bring them a chicken and alcohol.  i asked tok what if i didn't believe in such things and didn't want to go "feed the Ghosts" myself.  she said they would just do it themselves.  what happens if you don't make the offering? then the Ghosts would be angry, and you will have some problem, a sickness, bad feeling, accidents, you, or others in the family will feel the problem of the Angry Ghosts.  She said the Ghosts will now protect and help me, as part of the family.  I asked her if they would help when i was in america.  she said i have to think to the Ghosts before i get on the plane, or they won't know where to find me.  i joked with her and said, what if i forgot? when i got to america would i have to shout really loudly "Hey! I'm over here! catch the next plane!"

so now it seems, i have been accepted into the circle of protection of the Ghosts that takes care of Toks whole family.  I won't tell you if i believe or dis-believe this.  it's something that is part of thai country life.  something that i have the privilege of experiencing, even if i don't understand what's going on.  that's part of the allure, part of the Quality of being here.

later, we had the chicken and rice as part of lunch.  i couldn't tell how the chicken was cooked, since they don't bake anything, and it wasn't fried.  tok said she cooked it by steaming.  i've never heard of that.  good lunch tho.

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


090317 Thaikarl - Ho Chi Min City redux

friends,  8 hours on the bus back to saigon was a bit grueling.  this bus was older and not as comfortable, and had a very LOUD horn, which the driver had to use a couple of thousand times.  similar to india, they honk when over taking someone, approaching a blind curve, or to get someone to move over.  you hardly ever hear a horn in thailand.  in india however, they honk their horns at any and all other times, just to make sure it is in  good working order.  we stopped at a bus rest for lunch.  i picked up a few large dead beetles for my friend don in the states.  a young Vietnamese man came over to our table to talk to us.  he was very nice.  wanted to practice his english.  the people in vietnam are all quite friendly to us.  if you want to set yourself apart from the average tourist, and evoke smiles, thumbs ups, and compliments of "oh modern", "very nice", and "beautiful"; dye your hair purple.  i'm the only person i've seen here with such hair color.  goes over good in thailand also.

when i was trolling the chat rooms for friends 4 years ago (which is how i met Tok initially) i also made friends with a vietnamese man named Luan.  I phoned to him last night, and after a couple of hours he and his friend arrived on motorbikes.  it was really good to see him and visit.  he has been working in japan for the last three years, so he said his japanese was much better than his english now.  he's doing well for himself.  when i knew him before he was living in the attic of a house, going to school, and living on a quick noodles.  now, after working in japan, he has a motorbike, an iPhone (!!!!!) and is ready to take the entrance exam to enter university.  he's really funny when he gets all shy about not knowing the english words for what he wants to say.  big smiles and laughs.

one of my other friends here is a young girl named BeHai.  she is a street vendor how just charms money out of you.  she's one of those who always has some soft-sell way to extract a few dollars from you.  i used to buy cigarettes from her, but now she is selling books.  i learned from an expat last time, that she takes care of her grandmother and a few random kids with what she earns.  one of her spiels is to say "i want to ask you a question"  and i always tease her and say, "Behai, i can't marry you, you are too young!" - and now i can add "i'm already married".  she laughs and says that's not what she wanted to ask me.  what she does want to ask is if i will buy a book or some smokes later, or can she have some money for new jeans, or it was her birthday a few days ago, can she have something for her birthday.  i always just give her a few dollars for her.  if you buy a book, the boss gets most of the cash.  we friended another bookseller this time also.  her name is How.  i did buy a couple of books the first night, but since then i just give her a couple of dollars when i see her and tell he it's for her.

the kids who sell gum and kleenex are are funny.  8 or 9 years old, and out working the streets with their mom.  they are easily distracted with the "watch me pull off my thumb" trick or other diversions, before they remember they are supposed to be selling you and go back to "buy gum???"

there is just so much of interest and mystery here, as there is in all of this part of the world.  but, we have a  plane to catch back home.  i'll be able to post pictures and video from there.

Onward!  Nu and Tok.

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


090315 Thaikarl- a delightful day in Da Lat Vietnam

friends, we had a delightful day. rented a motorbike from our hotel, and motored off out of town to see the Prenn waterfall. up here in the highlands, pine trees dominate the hills.  very lovely to drive thru.  with mostly motorbikes on the roads, you aren't constantly squeezed off on the right side of the road to avoid cars and trucks. since they drive on the right in vietnam, it's like driving in the states, but it's all confusing, cause i'm used to driving on the Left in thailand, so i have to double think my intersections, and the round-abouts are crazy. the water fall was nice.  nothing to spectacular, as it is dry season so not much water was coming over the falls.  the area is well developed, with paved pathways, places to sit, restaurant at the bottom.  they even had a small cable car that went from the top of the falls down below.  the cool thing was a giant concrete elephant that you go inside, up some stairs and emerge from the upraised 'mouth' of the elephant, to walk across a cable suspension bridge over the stream.  very safe and not to high, but wobbly fun.  further down there was a place to ride elephants and ostriches.  we just looked.

on the way back up the hill, i noticed a much bigger higher cable car up through the trees.  when we got back into town, i found the upper terminus of the cable car, we parked the bike and went up.  the cable car cost $4.00, and went above the pine trees, down the hill and up onto another hill.  perhaps a km long.  great view of the surrounding hills and mountains, and the town in the background. at the far end, we got out and walked up the hill. there was a Chinese Buddhist temple and meditation center there.  much more subdued architecture than thai temples.  where the thai temples and grounds are decorated with filigree and sculpted surfaces of ornamentation and gold and mirror glass mosaics, these buildings were rather plain, painted a cream color with tile roofs.  the grounds were very pleasant, with grace and flower gardens.  riding the cable car back, the wind blew up threw the trees and reminded me of skimming the trees paragliding.  gave me the itch to get up in the air again, as i haven't been flying for a few years.

we motored back down into town and went to the market.  quite a big and busy market.  we had some food and wandered around a bit.  like most markets, there were many stalls crammed full of merchandise.  so much STUFF!  i bought a cute Led bedside lamp.  it's a neon green elephant, with a bendable stalk coming out it's head with a pod on the end that has white Led's.  the three way switch goes from low to hi white light, and the click turns on a color changing Led in the elephant body.  you flip a lever, and prongs pop out so you can plug the thing into the wall to recharge the battery.  cool huh? about $3.00.  there were lots of sweaters and jackets- cool weather gear for this climate.  tok really liked some of the sweaters, but they were all to small.  Vietnamese people are pretty small.  most are only as tall as my shoulder.  and they are thin also.  haven't seen any fat people here- none.  the girls are very cute. very. :-)

we had a nap for a little while at the hotel, and after dark went our for a little ride around town.  drove around the lake that is in the center of the town, the lights shining across the calm water were beautiful.  when we came to the market area, we were surprised to see that they had blocked off the roads leading into the market.  people that had motorbikes inside were walking them out.  it seems that this evening the whole area becomes walking streets only. don't know if it's every night, or just sundays.  vendors spread out on the sidewalks selling cloths and food.  we had some dinner and walked over by some steps that went up the hill.  nearby were sidewalk food vendors, with bots of noodles and vegetables, those little plastic tables and tiny stools.  as we were standing there, there was a shout from down the road, and instantly, people sprang into action, stacking up the tables and stools, and dashing off with the food pots.  these places completely disappeared in 30 seconds.  a girl told us it was because the police were coming.  after a few minutes, the police truck passed by, and customers holding bowls of noodles, kids with stacks of tables and stools re-appeared and reset everything, and they were back in business in 2 minutes.  we went up the stairs to some upper streets and the same thing happened with the clothing sellers.  they had all their cloths on big tarps, and they suddenly dragged them off the street back to the fences, a police truck drove buy, and they dragged them all back again. amazing. it was really nice to walk around in the streets and look at things.  there were lots of people out, lots of kids running round, riding bicycles, young kids and teenagers walking in groups, families.  wonderful to be here.

it's 15 degrees Centigrade right now (60 F) but it feels much colder.  brrrrrr!

tomorrow we bus back to saigon. i finally got an email from my young friend Luan, so we will get to see him when we get back.
Gorgeous the life!!!!!

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090314 Thaikarl - Up in the highlands, it's like- COLD!

friends, we caught an early bus from Na Trang up here to Da Lat in the highlands.  the bus finally got away from the coast, and traveled across a big valley full of rice fields and up to the mountains.  the road was a rather beat-up two lane, and we were going only 40km/hr most of the time.  about as fast as we go on Toks old motor-bike.  when it got to the mountains, we went up a little switchback road that climbed and climbed.  the view out to the valley and the surrounding hills was beautiful.  when we topped out, we're in a highland area, hilly, with flat valley's in between.

we arrive in Da Lat, which is a highland resort town for the Vietnamese.  it's actually cold here. we're about 1500M above sea level (rond 3000 feet)  i'm freezing!  people are wearing puffy jackets and hats. we accepted an invitation to see the hotel of a pleasant young guy who walked us up the road.  nice big room for the usual 10 dollars a night.  no aircon... cause we don't need it! brrrrrrrrr.  we'll spend today and tomorrow night here and head back to saigon.

we went out for dinner after a little nap.  found a Vietnamese place and had vegetarian with rice.  didn't know it was vegetarian, it just worked out that way.  there are a lot of people out walking the streets, going every which way, and it's after dark already.  we walked up the hill to see where everyone was going/coming from.  there were cloths sellers on the sidewalks a the top of the hill, but mostly people just seemed to be out and about.  the vietnamese, like thais and Khmer live outside their houses and shops much more than other places.  you can go through a neighborhood in seattle and see one or two people, maybe.  not so here.  people sit out side their houses, congregate on the sidewalks, eating, drinking coffee and tea, hanging out talking, selling fruits and things. 

last night we ate at a sidewalk place.  just a few little plastic tables, with these little stools about a foot high to sit on.  one propane burner over next to the wall, and a charcoal brazier next to the tree.  barbecue pork, with egg, a few tomato, cucumber and carrot slices on a pile of rice.  wonderful.  $1.50 for two people.

there appears to be quite a few attractions around here, maybe we'll rent a motorbike and look around tomorrow.
Tok says she likes vietnam and we can come back again.  mostly because the food is "just okay".  unlike cambodia. there were a lot of dive shops in Na Trang, and the prices where much cheaper than thailand.  i'd really like to come back and do some scuba.  and see even more of the country.

ah yes.
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090312 Thaikarl - where are we now? oh yeah, Na Trang

friends, another bus ride, another place.  of course the bus lets us off in the  middle of the city somewhere, no obvious places to go from the booking office, but there is the  usual  hoard of motorbike taxi  guys waving brochures  for best hotel- near the beach, cheap rooms  yes  yes.  sometimes it's just easier to go with them, even though you have no idea where they are taking you, and you know they are getting a commission to take you to THAT hotel.

but, it appears to be near the ocean, and for 10 dollars we got an aircon room with two beds, tv and free internet downstairs.  so whatever.  we'll go get some dinner somewheres and figure out where we are.  i've long since given up  using Lonely Planet guide books like the rest of the backpackers.  if you use them, when you get there, you find more backpackers with guidebooks. to me, just being HERE is amazing. 

we walked for blocks looking for a vietnamese noodle stand on the road, or something like it.  no luck.  all the restaruants, and there are plenty of them, are tourist eateries, menu's in three languages, with italian, french and english foods, and a page of vietnamese.  oh well. 

vietnam is lacking in the quick-mart department.  not a 7-11 or Family Mart to be found (so far).  the little mini-shops sell mostly drinks and soaps.  so we wonder where to get snacks and things.

i've been trying to send this email for two days.  the internet at the hotel sucks, keeps going offline.  couldn't even stay logged in long enough to get into their router and straighten things out.  so we found and internet cafe.

we went out to the beach this morning after breakfast.  nice long, clean beach, with a walking park between the beach and the road, with the hotels and such behind that.  very nice.  in the distance, you can see some islands.  one has a huge sign that says VTNPEARL, like the famous hollywood sign.  it lights up at night in big white letters.  the hillsides below are scarred cuts.  there's a over head gondola line that runs from the mainland all the way out to this place.  we asked a fellow at a windsurfing booth what it was about.  he said it was a bunch of rich russians who put it in, laundering their money and putting a blight on the view.  the only good thing about it was that now that government party has seen what this is like, they aren't allowing another one to go in a little ways on.

tok had a dream about mama last night, and wanted to call home and see what was happening.  the sailboarding guy told us that the only place to make an international phone call was at the post office.  the hotels don't do it, and there are no phone booths on the street.   so we taxi'd down there.  tok made the call... everything at home is okay, but her aunts daughters husband died a few days ago.  went to sleep, and didn't wake up. (nice way to die i think)  turns out that the market was near the post office, so we walked there.  quite a market.  a big building was in the middle, and the market lanes were in concentric circles around that.  housewares on the inner circle, cloths on the next circle out, foods on the circle out from that, and on the outside, drinks places, fruit stands and souvenirs.  i like the markets, it's where the interesting stuff is.  lots of strange foods- dried sea horses and needle fish, fruits that tok hasn't ever seen, gadgets and tools.  the people are always talking to Tok in vietnamese, now i tell them she is from thailand.  usually they get it, others think she is just being coy.

the cruise ships dock here someplace.  busloads of um, older folks, okay old folks come off the Cunard Shuttle buses and wander the market and shops.  Na Trang is all ready to receive them.  so we're thinking of getting on tomorrow, taking a bus to Da Lat for a night, and maybe taking the train back to saigon, as we fly back to thailand tuesday.

on friday we get on the bus again in thailand for an 11 hour bus ride down south to go to the 'footprint of the budda' mountain pilgrimage.

photos and video will be coming!  i promise!  
Gorgeous the Life!   Nu and Tok

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090311 Thaikarl - Mui Ne, Vietnam

friends,  we got out of the city.  checked out and took the bus north.  it took nearly two hours on the road before we got out of populated, mercantile, industrial roadsides to where there was greenery beside the road.  and that was rows and rows of rubber trees.  it's interesting how similar, but different it is here, compared to thailand and cambodia.  we havn't seen a single pickup truck.  there's not that many cars even, most of the ones you see are taxis.  the conical hat that they wear in vietnam doesn't show in thailand.  we passed an area where there were shop yards full of industrial equipment- cranes, tractors, bulldozers, front loaders, back loaders, trucks, pumpers.  i mean this went on for miles.  tok noticed that all of the buildings and houses are made of concrete and bricks, there are no wooden houses.  and where are the temples?  every village in thailand has a temple, or two or three or for.  here in Vietnam we saw a couple of buildings that appear to be spiritual in nature, but not so identifiable.  strange in a strange land.

even just riding along in the bus, looking out the window is like being on a mystery trip.  what's that? why is that? where are the _____?  the bus drivers helper, sat up front and talked the whole time.  the whole 4 hours time.  practically non-stop.

we arrived at Mui Ne, which is on the coast, on the ocean.  theres a road along the water with strings of resorts, guest houses, restaurants, shops.  we got out when the bus stopped at the company travel shop. as we were getting our bags out, the bus driver said he had a resort 5 km up the road, on the water, rooms for 10 and 15 dollars.  so we went, declined the aircon room for 15 dollars and took the fan room for 10.  doesn't appear to be any other guests.  but it is on the water.  500 meters down the road we rented a motor bike for 50,000 dong and went riding up and down the road the rest of the afternoon.  i saw a side road and turned up. it went up above the beach road thru the red sand dunes and crossed a huge fourlane divided road under construction.  strange thing was , they had paved 'sidewalks' on either side of the asphalt and curbs.  not just a few feet wide, but two carl lanes wide paved sidewalks.  and there was nothing out there.  no houses, no resorts, just sand dunes and scrub.  we went up the road a few km, but could discern no real reason for this road to be here.  maybe they are planning some big resort or something in the future, but for now it's just a big road with a couple of motorbikes using it.  huh????  coming back, i notice a house beside the 4 lane.  they had literally chopped of a big corner of the house, taking out on a diagonal what used to be the front and side rooms, and the people were still living it what was left.  there was a triangle left of what used to be a room on one side, with broken off walls on the outside corners.  go figure.

we're off to find dinner somewhere now.  we're thinking we'll keep moving and take the bus to Na Trang tomorrow.  the adventure continues.

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090310 Thaikarl - walking around in saigon

friends,  we breakfasted at a restarouant t his morning and started walking. and walking and walking.  we went thru the market building.  stalls and stalls of STUFF for sale, mostly tourist appealing stuff.  the vietnamese sales  girls are much more aggressive than they are in thailand.  we blundered through the shirts for sale area.  the girls would actually grab my hand and pull me towards their booth, aking me what i want to buy- nice shirts, t-shirts, polo-shirts.  they love my purple hair.  a bit difficult to pull away from them.  and if you stop to ask prices, and then don't buy, some of them will play 'angry' with you-  "why you ask me how much if you not buy anything?!" "go away"!  most of them aren't so intense, but they are more active about trying to get you to stop, and buy if you do stop.  things are a bit more expensive her than thailand.  bottle of water that is 25 cents in thailand is 75 cents here etc.  food on the street is about a dollar fifty for noodles, where i's less than a dollar in thailand.

we finally got to the zoo.  rather a minor zoo actually, a few bored animals, some big trees, walkways.  the orangutan in a big cage was a hoot.  if you thru something to him, like a banana or a leaf, he'd reach thru the bars and throw it back at you.  sometimes after he slobbered all over it.  we wandered around in an anticquities museum for a while- you know, old busted pots and bits of wood and such.

we took a couple of motorbike taxie's back... quite a thrilling ride.  it's kind of like those microsopic movies of blood cells flowing thru capularies, all rushing along nearly bumping into each other, but no body does.  there are millions of motorbikes in vietnam.  and no pick-up trucks, unlike thailand, where the small pickup is the normal "car".  when we got off the bikes and were walking back to our hotel, we passed a girl whom i bought a couple of books from the first night.  i'd told her to let me know if she ran across one of my favoirte street sellers i met last time- a gir named Behai.  when How saw us, she waved and Behai came across the street.  it was nice to see her.  she's as charming as ever, and still the sweet coniver.  i gave her a couple of dollars for dinner and promised to see her again.

we had a nap for a couple hours, got some noodles on the street and went walking again.  there is a long park in between two big streets near here.  lots of young couples hang our on the sidewalks next to the road.  seems a big date in saigon is to goto the park with your girl and sit on your motorbike, watching people going by.  there were a couple of pavillioins in the middle, people were learning to ballroom dance.  fun to watch.

the night market wasn't much different than the day market, it's just dark above us, and a bit cooler.  we walked some more.  semi-wandered into a travel booking shop, one of a hundred around here, and ended up buying two tickets to Me Mui  and Na Trang, so we're getting out of the city tommorow.  figure it out from there.  $5.00 for a 4 hour bus ride.

onward!!!    Nu

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090309 Thaikarl - Greetings from Vietnam!

friends,  we got up early, took the 6 hour bus ride to mochit in bangkok, hour by taxi to the airport, and flew to vietnam.  as per my usual, we didn't have a plan, or pre-booking.  we just showed up at the airport. 

and figured it out.

taxi took us to, were weren't sure where for how much- 120,000 vietnamese Dong.  what is that in dollars now? oh about 8... to... to... as it turns out, right to the area where i was the last time i was here.  which was good, cause i vaquely know my way around.  we walked down a narrow alley filled with restaruants and mini-hotels, and just because, we took a room on the fifth floor for $13.00/night.  a bit fancier than i like- it has aircon, tv and fridge, so we'll wall around and downgrade tommarrow.  got some food, water, and we're walking around. 

i like vietnam.  it's very busy, zillions of motorbikes and things going on.  it just feels good here.  Tok hasn't decided yet.  be we did have some noddles and pork which was to her liking so we're off to a good start.  things are a little more expensive than 4 years ago- jeez, it's been that long.

tommorow we figure out what to do next.  i want to get out of saigon this time. plenty of booking shops for tours, travel, buses, etc.  whull find something interesting i'm sure.


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090308 Thaikarl - FANG LUUK NIMIT

friends, today we got up early and went to a FANG LUUK NIMIT, which is the dedication ceremony for the most beautiful building in a thai temple area.  the building is called a Bot (sounds like 'boat') and is the most sacred part of a temple.

they have these large round stones called Sima that they drop into holes around the Bot to mark the boundaries.  the stones get gold leaf touched to them before they are dropped in the holes.  later they build these structures over the boundry stones.

i'll have to go over the details in a later post, as we have to get our stuff together to goto vietnam tomorrow.  leaving at 6am.

there were some hundreds of people there.  they had a new monks ceremony afterwards where young guys enter the monastery.  we were with some friends/relatives of Toks.  we rode out there in a pickup truck.

i met a Norwegian guy named harold who has been living here ten years.  im going to try to find his house and visit when i come home next time.

one of the women in our group told us there was a big old tree nearby.  we walked down the road and visited the thing- it was huge.  hollow inside.  very cool!  and of course, there was lots of food!

varnished two more rows under the house today.  i'll have it done in another week at this rate- when we come back.

i've created a YouTube video channel for Thai Country Life where i'll post just videos from here.  the address is:

http://www.youtube.com/thaicountrylife   there's only two vids there now, but more to come. 

talk to you from vietnam next!  


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Some changes around the house

while i've been away in america, tok has made some nice improvements to the house and grounds.
it's quite fun to come home and see all this.  i couldn't have done it myself.  my ideas run more towards things like solar water heating and steam rooms, not broken asphalt paving, parakeets and flower pots.  but tok has a good eye for those things.  here's a few things that are new- to me:

this is Agust, the little cat.  tok said he just wandered in one day.  he's still a bit of a kitten, lively, playfull and he'll follow me around to see what i'm doing.  

they've nearly finished the new BIG road in front of the house.
  divided four lane highway.


090302 Thaikarl - a pleasant sunday

i have a project i'm wanting to work on in our back yard. i want to build a shower/steam room. just a walled space, about 4 feet high, open top, with a small doorway and a a drained floor. i can shower outside, and if i have a steam generator or some sort, i can pull a cover over the space and have a steam room. but how to make a steam generator? commercial ones cost mega-bux, i don't need anything high tech: fire; water; steam.

tok said she knew a temple down the road where she could take me that has a steam room and we could go look at how they made it. cool! so i dressed up a little and we took the motorbike about 5km south to a temple i had not been to before. the monks at this temple specialize in making herbs and barks for vitalizing teas. behind the herb house was a bamboo mat hut, and their steam generator. simple. i can do that! except i'll likely use propane instead of wood.

i looked around the temple grounds. a monk was opening the doors to the main building and invited me inside. beautiful paintings cover the walls, telling the story of the budda. i always have lots of questions - whats this? what is that? why do they do that? what does this say? Tok is pretty good about answering me, except when the concepts involved stretch her language skill. some of the things, and the reasons behind them are rather esoteric, and to a native buddist, they have seen this stuff all their life. the why's and wherefore's and how come's are lost back in the school days, now it is IS.

we went up the road a little ways to the Kao Kho park, and went up to the Than Thrip water falls. a pleasant place. not a lot of water coming over the falls, as it is the dry season. i'ts only rained once in several months. I'd love to come back here in the rainy season july-august when there's tons of water and everything is green and lush. going into the path to the falls, a falang was coming out. i stopped to talk with him. his name is hank, he's from netherlands. he used to live in sitard, which is 20 km north of where we used to live in holland. he and his wife have a gas station in a village about 20 km north of us. very nice guy. we'll go up and visit sometime. on the way back, we had lunch are a roadside place, sitting in a sala beside a big fish pond.

when we got home, i opted for the hammock, and my book. but eventually, it cooled off enough that i went out back to work on my shower stall area. i had to remove an old stump, at least low enough to be below the concrete floor. took me an hour and a half wacking at it with and hatchet to whittle it down. HARD wood. really pissed off the little termites that (used) to live inside.

next monday we goto vietnam! onward!!!!



090226 Thaikarl - visited by the shaman

the "longsan" or spirit women (i probably have the word unclear) came this morning. it is so interesting to watch the ceremony. the women has a whole ritual she does to get ready, then appears to go into 'trance' or open state, and can answer questions, help with illness diagnosis and treatment and i'm not sure what else. i video'd about 15 minutes on my casio camera, but the quality is pretty low, i'll post it later non-the-less. to be present at such things is a treat, a joy, a rarity, and one of the marvelous things i have access to being married to a thai women from the country. i'm going to figure out a better video camera for the next time i come home so i can get these things recorded properly. i still have my mini-dv video camera, but video tapes are so.... so... analog, and requires too much stuff to lug around. casio is coming out with a new model of camera that takes HD video, so when i upgrade to that camera, i may have a solution. my single battery died after 15 minutes of video. casio batteries last for hundreds of photos, but video sucks electrons highly.

the couple of bits i gleaned - meaning they were translated to me -were that i will be living in thailand in a couple of years, in bangkok, working there. and that Tok and i are indeed, soul mates. imagine that!

it's a bit warm up here in the bedroom house where the computer is, so i'm going outside to varnish the underside of this house. more...
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090224 Thaikarl - where am i? it rained today.

it is so wonderful to be home.  sitting at the keyboard and typing just hasn't been one my my things to do so far.

we  had a good few days in bangkok.  i had composed a long post relating the details, then i crashed firefox and lost it.  oh well.  most important task after shopping was to get my visa for vietnam.  had to leave my passport at the consulate over the weekend, but it was all ready to go on monday.  i brought my steinberger guitar with me in my carry-on.  it had an electrical problem when i bought it off ebay, so i got it for a good price.  took it to a shop in ratcatewei and the fixed it and set up the strings for 15.00.  would have cost me a hundred dollars or more in the states.  no luck finding strings for it tho, went to 6 different shops.  almost no luck finding a 7.5 volt power supply for the clock/radio i brought.  some things in thailand are just impossible to find.  in the states i'd just goto radio shack.  finally found an adapter that would work at a street vendor in china town, for 1.25 USD.  after all that, it was off to the Mo chit bus station to go home.

wonderful doesn't cover the feeling to come down our driveway...  been some improvements around the place.  more will be revealed...

cares, NU

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090214 Thaikarl Happy Valentines Day from Bangkok!


arrived.  re-assimilation takes a couple of days. recalling all the little and not so that being home is about... foot high curbs, sidewalks and ways with holes and chunks in them, look right when crossing the street, roaches the size of your thumb dashing for cover in the alleys at night, thai women of impossible cuteness, the musical language, the fresh exhaust air of Bangkok, foods of all kinds available everywhere at all hours, automatically spicy food, sticky rice, hard beds, incomprehensible television, the difficulty of finding a specific item- like a 7.5 volt, 1800 mA powersupply, or double ball strings for a steinberger guitar,-  the sun shine, the temperature reversal- it's cool INSIDE buildings, warm when you step outside, kids fill the internet shops playing fantasy role games... so so many things that get refreshed and familiar and loved and grokked.

tok was waiting for me at the airport, i was so happy to see her, she is just as beautiful to me as ever, more so.  this valentines day is the one year anniversary of our civil union, so we slept in late this morning, had breakfast from room service, something we've never done before, and only left the hotel because the staff really wanted to get in to clean the room.  and of course, we went shopping.  er, well, Tok went shopping, i pretty much just follow her around the pratunam clothing market and occasionally give my opinion on which color or style is nicer.  and i carry the bags.  like her 'body guard' she just said.  tee hee.

i tell her:  "there's no place else i'd rather be, than here with you, and you with me."

onward!   NU
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090210 Thaikarl - Fixing to go home.


this time tomorrow i'll be way out over the pacific in a cozy sleep inside a giant aluminum tube.  and as you might imagine, i'm very happy about that.  it's been snowing the last two days in seattle.  not much, but it's sticking on the grass.  it's in the hight 80's in thailand.  and sunny.

it always seems like such a long journey just to get to the fly-away point.  fixing stuff, painting, drywall, repairs, digging holes, patching, drilling, building stuff for my clients... pays the few bills i have, takes care of the family back home, and when some consistant jobs show up i suddenly have enough for a plane ticket and life away from the state.  i want to thank those clients who keep me busy, it's your contribution that makes it possible.  you know who you are!  THANKS!!!

i actually got everything put away, bags packed and i'm nearly ready to go.  somehow i had it in my head that i was flying out on TUESDAY.  but tuesday was the 10th, my ticket is for the 11th.  so i was like nearly a day ahead of myself!

i'll keep the emails/blogposts coming.  

cares, NU


090107 Finally! Flight plan is filed


i this this song "I'm going Home" going thru my head.  why?  because i am!  thanks to a intense run of work, i had enough to buy a ticket home.  leaving february 11th.  woo hooooooo!!!  my return is scheduled for only 6 weeks later, but if i win the lotto (and yes, i buy tickets) or have some good work happening in the next month, i can extend my stay.  i have to have about a thousand dollars in my pocket for every month i am overseas, to take care of the family, daily life, and to pay for my expenses back in the USA.  so, six weeks is all i can count on, and i'll be coming back broke at that, but oh well, what the hell!  things always work out.

round trip ticket on asiana airlines was only 860$ USD.  quite a deal, last trip the airfare was 1200$ USD.  getting a good price on an airline ticket is a hit and miss voodoo art.  it's such a weird system.  you can go online the next day, and the same airline, for a similar trip will show 2500$

Tok took mama to the hospital in phetchaboon yesterday to have her blood and kidney checked out.  they will know more in a month, but it appears she's okay for now, they've given her medications, and they want to wait to see how that goes.

i'm quite thrilled to be going back, as you might imagine.  it will be soooo good to get home to tok and everybody, not to mention the warmth, the food and the utter strangeness that is thailand.  we are hoping i can cash up and have a small trip out of thailand.  i'd like to take tok to vietnam.  i was there just before i met her four years ago, and i have wanted to go back ever since.  i have a young friend there, and i'd like to see him again, and get out of Ho Chi Min City... beaches perhaps???  it's only 300$ to fly there from bangkok for two, and a couple of hundred bucks to have a time for a week.  overland would be much cheaper, but takes a couple of days on buses, and i don't think we can afford the extra days away from mama and teri.  whullll seeeee.  even if we don't get to go, it will just be nice to hang out at our house in lomsak, and go down to our house in ban chang for a few days.

good new year to yall!