100528 Thaikarl - a shower with a view

one on my friends said i must have a great view from my shower.  i'm sure there are much better ones, but my view is mine and i enjoy it everytime.  especially in the moonlight.

left to right:  corn in the fields, tamarind tree, neighbors house, our kitchen and back of the house


100526 Thaikarl - american ingenuity. loses again.


i use my outdoor shower behind the house.  i like it out there.  we didn't have village water when i built it last year.  i put a piece of cement board on the corner of the shower and put my shower stuff on that.  my organizational wife got me a basket for my things.  but when the wind comes, my razor, toothbrush and such gets blown off behind the wall and i have to go retrieve the stuff.

so i got all fired up when i found three and four-way PVC fittings at the shed market.  bought a bagful of parts, and a long piece of 1/2 inch PVC, found another basket in the shed, and built myself a stand to hold the basket and my shower things.  quite please with my ingenuity, i showed my wife.

her comment?  "why you not get two nails and nail the basket to the wall. not spend all that money on pipe?"

FAIL.  i had no answer for that one.

  (but it is cool eh?)


100524 Thaikarl - new ceiling in the bedroom house


at long last we have a new ceiling in the bedroom house.  the ceiling before wasn't a ceiling at all, it was the bottom of the roof tiles.  a common trait of many thai country houses.  problem is, the sun bakes the roof, the tiles get hot, and the heat radiates from the bottom of the tiles into the room.  and because the there is an open space between the top of the walls and the ceiling tiles, the dust gets into the room much easier.  Tok is sensitive to dust, so it's not a good thing for her.

we'd already spent our "home improvement" funds on other things, but tok decided that she would use the savings she has and get it done, since the weather has been so hot.  and i promised i send her extra money to replenish her savings over time.  we had do do a little shopping for the wood, insulation and nails.  then a friend of hers who is a builder came over with a few guys and they did the job in two days. 

looks nice eh?  and it is cooler up here in the daytime.  10mm hardwood sheets of plywood were 850 baht each (26$ USD), we used 11 sheets.  plust labor 4000 baht (123$ USD) and incidentals, the whole job came out to 19,000 baht (585$ USD)


100521 Thaikarl - Snake - Toad - Termites - Cat

friends, what do all those words have in common?  they are all in the video i just posted to youtube:

the other day i saw the snake three different times on the same day.  each time on a different side of the house.  when it slide into the woodpile on the east side, i hope to get a better look at it.  i poked a long piece of pvc into the pile lengthwise.  heard it move a couple of times.  he even stuck his head up and gave me a threatening gaping mouth glare, like i was really annoying him. which i was. so i stopped.  if the neighboors see it they'll kill it, so if it shows up again, i'll try to suggest to it that it goes out to the fields to live.  it'll be safer out there... till they start harvesting the corn.  but it can run away.  i hope.

didn't see any fangs, but still couldn't get a good enough look to take a photo and identify it.

the toads and the gekkos have a feast on the bug blooms, which usually happen after some rain.

yesterday, the Tokay gekko suddenly appeared out the the corner of the ceiling and ran along the top of the door over toks head.  it stopped on the wall beside the cabinet.  i ran and got my camera, but it took off as i brought the camera up to take a picture.  beautiful animals!  this one is about 14 inches long.  tok is annoyed with him because he drops his crap on the floor in the bathroom and she has to clean it up.  i was wondering what those were.  kind of looked like little slugs.  tokay turds. hmm.

amazing thailand!


100517 Thaikarl - the dentist is in - and a ghost story - tok got a job!


went to see my dentist today.  he replaced a crown that had fallen off.  it fell off months ago, but i waited until i got here to have it stuck back on.  in that time, my teeth moved around, so it didn't fit.  my dentist took an impression and had a new one made.  he put it in for me today, and fixed a stain in the veneer in one of my front teeth.  total cost:  42 USD.  the crown was on a back molar. dentists usually charge more for work on back teech.  you know that have to reach alll that way back there and all.  he had it made from a high-level alloy of some sort.  gold would have cost way more because of the ridiculous gold bubble we're in. seriously, you can come to thailand, have all your teeth fixed, have a vacation, and return to the states for LESS than it would have cost you to have your teeth fixed in the states.  i'm going to be organizing dental trips to thailand next year.  so if you are facing a huge dental bill, need things like bridges, crowns, veneers, implants and your dental insurance won't cover it - you have dental insurance don't you? all american enjoy such wonderful comprehensive healthcare don't they? - keep in touch with me.  even if you're travel shy, i'll get the details set up for you- hotels, transport, a choice of dentists, and some sightseeing if you like.  stay tuned!

tok and mama and i were sitting around the table eating dinner last night.  i got tok to ask mama a few questions about her life.  i was wondering what mama wanted to be when she was a little girl.  answer: farmer.  she doesn't read or write, so she knew that farming, or selling food was the only future for her, so she never thought about anything else. i asked her to find out why she had only one child - tok, my wife.  she said that it was difficult for her to have children.  this was pre-pill days, so there was nothing inhibiting the process.  tok said that her mother had been married ten years before she had her.  mama went to some special place and asked the ghosts to help her get pregnant.  mama had a dear friend who was pregnant at the time.  her friend promised, that if she had twins, that she would give one of the babies to mama to raise.  the friend had her babies but one of them died.  soon after, mama became pregnant.  they believed that the ghosts caused one of the babies to die, so that the spirit of the dead baby could enter mama.  that baby was tok.  so tok is indeed a special, and very much wanted child.

tok got a job!  the school called her and asked her if she would teach thai dancing at the school in village.  we talked about it a month or two ago when it first came up.  she went to see the director today, and got the job.  starts tomorrow.  three days a week, 7 hours of teaching.  but in the strange thai fashion, she is supposed to be at the school all day, even if she is only actually teaching 2 or 3 hours per day.  she has to be there at 8, and can leave at 4.  un-defined what she will do with the other 5 hours of the day.  i've heard this from the english teachers also.  if you are teaching english, you have to be at the school 8-4 every day.  40 hours a week, even if you are only teaching 17 class hours.  some of the non-class hours you will spend making teaching plans, but from what i understand, after you teach a few round, you can re-use the lesson plans you made last term, so you are sitting around, looking busy.  she will earn 27,000 baht for a 5 month term.  that's 834 USD.  she's somewhat excited about it, cause she can save the money. she really really wants to have a car.  nothing fancy, just a car.  with air-con. and dry when it rains.  used cars in thailand are not that common.  i don't know where they go, but you just don't see old cars around here.  and the used ones they do sell, go for big money.  i'm looking for another van (had my friend sell mine after i left) so i'm checking craigslist from here.  she is amazed that you can get a used car for 1000 USD.

but what this means, in the short term, is that i get to be on my own three days a week.  have to get my own lunch (awwww, i can hear yall moaning for me from here) and keep myself amused.  she'll be taking the motorbike to school, so i won't have transport either.  wah.  yeah right.  i'm over the half way mark of this visit.  so i'll just have to make due.  muawwwwww!  it does mean that the couple little tips we were thinking about might not happen.  we were thinking of going to chang mai and chang rai up in the north west part of thailand.  there's a temple up there i really want to see, and they are supposed to be a nice cities.  up in the mountains.  whull see.  phi ta khon is in the end of june, just before i depart, but it's only a few hours by bus from here. so we'll make that.  if tok skips out of school early on friday :-D

gorgeous the life!

neighbors hanging out at sunset.  everybody here is related.



100514 "Lawn" the word of the day is "Lawn"


there's a word i hear frequently these days - especially today. it sounds like the english word "Lawn".
it means "Hot" as in "it's hot now" what ever the rest of the phrase is people might say to me, but when i hear "Lawn" in there, i know they are talking about the weather. i usually reply "nit noi" which means "little bit" it was 110F up here in the computer spot yesterday afternoon, probably get there again today.

my frustration with trying to learn thai comes and goes. i'm not saying i can't learn, i am saying it's going very very slowly. i've worked on a number of "learn to speak thai" programs - including rosetta stone. unfortunately, they teach phrases that i don't use like "he is riding a bicycle" and thus, i don't remember them.

not remembering, that's the problem. for some reason, my brain just isn't tuned to recalling the sounds of thai language. i ask tok for a word, perhaps for something i like like a food. she'll tell me, i'll write it down, transliterate it, say it over and over, make associations and mnemonics. practice it for a couple of days. a week later, i look at the food and say "_____"? gone. not there. hello, brain. what is the word for that. no answer. come on brain, you filed this away somewhere. brain finally answers with "you know, you have never seen anyone water skiing in thailand. thanks brain. thanks alot.

not hearing the tones is a big problem. listen here to someone saying the word "mai"
doesn't sound to hard does it? except each of those sounds is a very different word

* ใหม่ or "MAI" is new ( low tone )
* ไม้ or "MAI" is wood ( high tone )
* ไม่ or "MAI" is not ( falling tone )
* ไหม or "MAI" is silk ( rising tone )
* ไม - this word does not exist ( mid tone )

(taken from: http://www.thaiworldview.com/langue.htm )

so depending on how you sound the sylable, you are saying new, wood, not, silk or a nonsense sound. so if you don't sound it correctly, thai's generally don't understand you.

if i pointed to a pond, and said "beautiful buck" you would wonder what i was talking about. because i said "Buck" instead of "Duck". buck and duck are two different things, two different words. if your native language doesn't have a "B" or "D" sound, they will sound the same to you, and you might not learn the difference.

super simple example.
Lawn means "hot" if you want to make a question you add MAI (falling tone) to the end - you say "Lawn Mai" meaning "hot ???" except in english, we inflect questions with a RISING tone at the end, so if i say "Lawn Mai (rising at the end)", to a thai person i have just said "Hot silk". no wonder they look at me with blank looks when i say things like that.

and as you can see from the thai up above, the different meaning of Mai are SPELLED differently in thai language, but then you have to learn to read thai, which is another whole box of "huh?????

even still, i'm picking up words here and there. some stick, most don't. one way to live in thailand for up to a year on a clear visa is to get an educational visa - you have to goto school, but i could take thai lessons. but oh, wait. you can't work on that visa and have to have a way to live...

more circular problems. i think i'll go have an iced red bull and take a shower now. it's just now noon. and not the hottest part of the day yet.



100513 Thaikarl - home to languid heat and soft days


it was good to get home again, tho i did enjoy our little holiday.  back home to our full moon house, hot days, light winds and occasional relief from a little rain.  after a few days of laying about, i'm back on beam to get a few things done.  i have to wire up an outlet up in mama's room, another switched light in our bedroom, make a stand for the fan we bought that will set on the headboard inside the mosquito net.  and work on the website for products, and and and.  i have a bunch of photos to sort thru for posting from bang chang, chantaburi and bang fai.  when it's 40 degrees tho, you tend to move at a slow pace dripping in sweat.

tok really really wants to put a ceiling in our bedroom house.  it's just exposed rafters and roof tiles now, and when the sun heats the tiles, it radiates into the room below.  the fan just stirs the hot air around.  but, the building fund was depleted paying off the phone company.  so it has to wait.  owning a house and all the attendant repairs, improvements and projects is something new to me.  the land isn't going to do it.  we are the landlords!  i used to be the guy they hire to do this stuff, now i'm the one to spend the money, and do the work. or at least order it up, as the locals can do the job so much cheaper than i can even doing it myself.

i chatted with a friend of mine i met in india a few years ago. he lives in england now, has a rather important job there, british counsil or something lkike that.  when i met him he wa a young guy running his fathers paan shop in maduri india.  he's come a long way, but in spite of that, he rues the loss of time, family and dreams that the dedication to work has taken from him.  i understand.  i've taken the opposite track in my life- time, family and dreams came first, materials and assets were acquired as necessary, and just as easily disposed of or taken away.  such is life.



100509 Thaikarl - Bang Fai was a blast!


woke up this morning to what sounded like jets flying over. it was Bang Fai launching - a few km away at the park site.  woo hoo!!!! we got ready, took a pedal-cab out there.  same scene as last year, zillions of people, umbrellas held right at my eye level watching the rockets roar into the air.  the big rockets are made from 10 foot sections of 150mm PVC pipe with a long long bamboo or spliced banana tree tail.  packed with black powder rocket fuel, they haul them up one of the three launch towers, rope them in, light smoke, and run away.  tok just told me that the announcers would tell everyone to "go away go away" and all the thai people would leave the launch area, but there would still be a falang in the trees, taking pictures.  when they launch, they ROAR!!! smoke pours out, and they take off into the sky trailing white smoke, up, up , up!  the big ones were piercing the clouds later in the day.  awesome!  the champion rocket stayed airborne for more than 300 seconds... 5 minutes of airtime. This year there was a group of rocketeers from japan. they had these fabulous complex rockets. after they launched, they shot colored stars from the stems as they went up, ejected  parachutes and colored cloth and at the apex, they blew apart into color stars, parachutes and smoke streamers.  tok said that a delegation of thai rocket men will go to japan for their rocket festival to exchange experiences and enjoyments.

it was very hot today, sunny and dry.  there are speakers shouting everywhere - from the launch announcers, from the snake tents, from the vendors, from music stages- over load.  even for me.  we watched 15 or so launches, went to the tents where they  prepare the rockets.  drank a couple of liters of water.  i knew tok was having a difficult time in the sun- but she didn't complain and when i asked her if she wanted to go back she says "up to you"  what a sweetheart. so we came back mid afternoon and took shower and napped.  we upgraded to an air-con room yesterday. noisy thing, but tok likes the coolness. and we could actually snuggle when we slept - something we rarely get to do except in the winter season.

tomorrow we bus back to home.  i can upload pictures and video then.

Upwards on a tail of fire and smoke!
Nu and Tok

(p.s.  my blogsite http://www.thaicountrylife.com is still being hijacked by some nefarious Chinese code breakers.  they get in thru some weakness in the blogger code, or in the "gadgets" that are on the side of the page.  i'm having to delete things, change the layout etc to try to eliminate hole they are using.  VERY annoying.  those of you who get these postings from my email list, but readers on the blogsite only will get the crap - redirecting to some money-making internet scheme crap-ola.  if you read online, try subscribing to the RSS feed. that may avoid the hi-jack code entries.)


100504 Thaikarl - Bang Fai - first day

we got here early! sorta.  there wasn't much going on today (friday) except for setting up of the stages and more food and vendor booths. so we lounged around the hotel room and i napped some.  i twisted my lower hip somehow, so i'ts painful to get up and down, which is a real drag. slows me down alot. we walked the main road after dinner.  the rocket crews each have their own stage set up.  big concert size stages.  with sound systems that could fill an arena with sound.  tok even bought ear plugs.  your guts jump around when you walk in front of the stages.  jeez. but there are lots of dancing girls, singers, and just crowds of people on stage dancing.  the bang fai floats are at the far end of the road, ready for the parade in the morning. they are enormous, covered in gold painted thai traditional designs on layers of skrim.  very beautiful.

the keyboards in this cafe are awful, i can't stand to type on them more than a few minutes, cause you have to bang the keys. and too slow to upload pictures.

tok just told me there are 5 bang fai (rockets) from japan here for the launch day tomorrow.  wait.  i got that wrong. tomorrow - saturday - is just parades and dancing.  launch day is sunday, the day after.  that happens alot. i only *think* i know what's going on.  what's 'really' going on and when is usually different than what i think it is.  thus i get the joy of surprise all the time.  actually it is part of what i enjoy about being here.  things aren't always  'normal', 'usual', 'regular'... as soon as i think i have it figured out, i find out it's different than i thought to a greater or lesser degree.  amazing thailand.

gorgeous the life!


100507 Thaikarl - Bang Fai time in Yasothorn


we got up at 5:00am  yesterday - even before the 'crack of dawn', got stuff together, motorbike taxi to the bus store.
14 hours on the bus later - with one 20 min lunch stop, we arrived in Yasothorn, in the Issan area of thailand.  it's flat, dry and hot here.  Bang Fai started as a way to request good rains in the coming rainy season, by shooting giant bamboo rockets into the sky.  the higher the better.  and of course it's evolved into a big event.  and the big rockets are made with blue plastic PVC pipe not bamboo anymore.

i'm looking forward to the launches tommarrow.  tonight it's one big giant dancing contest, with one whole street lined with big stages, HUGE sound systems trying to over-power each other and tons of dancing girls and singers. lottsa food, games and booths.  cool!!!!!

onward! to the sky!

100429 Thaikarl - roadtrip time!


we're going on a little get-away.  taking the bus down to Ban Chang to visit our other house, picking up the motorbike from the post office, going to chantiburi for the weekend, and next weekend is Bang Fai up in yasathorn!  Rocket Festival!  woo hoo!  then back home to dong khwang.

i'll be stuck with internet cafes along the way.


100505 Thaikarl - Active day wot?


yesterday went like this: we got up and ate, went to town to buy fruit, witness the remains of a motorbike/truck accident (dead people), set out fruit for the ghosts, took a nap, took a song toews to sattahip, took another one to pattaya, took another one into town. walked, walked walked.  bookstore was gone. internet cafe to find another.  another song toew, to bookstore, eat food, two more song toews to sukumvit (the main road) song toew to sattahip, song toew to ban chang. got the bike, went shopping at the meeting market and tesco lotus.  bike had a flat. got air. flat again. got a new rear tire and tube (15 USD including labor), went home, then went to the beach and i went swimming in the ocean in the dark  under the stars.  home to snack shower and sleep.

whew.  but it was fun, except for the accident.  just to clarify, the drive made a u-turn at the light, didn't see the truck and pulled right in front of the truck and was literally run-over.  sad thing is, the truck just kept going. and disappeared.  i understand that happens frequently if there's an accident.  people don't stick around to get in trouble over it.  motorbikes, cars, flying, climbing ladders... all dangerous and always the potential for death and injury.  i know this.  but i like riding a motorcycle, drive a car, fly in planes, climb ladders.  i'm careful, but feces occurs you know.  i'm just as eligible as the next guy to not see the on-coming agent of my death and drive out onto the road in it's path.  but i dearly try to avoid that.  i didn't want to go into the gory details, but i've recieved a few very concerned and caring emails and i do acknowledge them.

besides that, late night swims in the ocean are great! especially when the water is warm, the air is warm, the sky is clear...

onward!  by bus to Yasatorn tomarrow for Bang Fai rocket festival


100504 Thaikarl - Back to Ban Chang and off to Pattaya


the trip back to Ban Chang on the motorbike was exciting as usual.  big buses and trucks in the lane to your right will just start to ease over to the left, squeezing you out because they want to pull over to the left side of the road.  you have to brake, brake  BRAKE! so you don't get squished.  maybe they will have blinkers on you can see, maybe not.  you can't just whip off to the right either, because faster traveling motorbikes and cars behind you will be whizzing by right where you want to go.  you have to stay on your line!  people will pass you on the right and left, so you can't be wobbling around.  exciting.  tok is very nervous about such things and never fails to start telling me to look out look out.  i finally snapped back at her "i could just close my eyes and you will tell me where to go"  and i immediately felt very bad about it.  there was silence from the back of the bike for the last 20km.  i apologized to her, but i still feel bad.  our relationship doesn't run on small annoyances and aggravations, and i do understand she is just more concerned about traffic than i am.  we had a little notice about that this morning.  we went to the market early to buy fruit for the ghosts at our house.  as we were preparing to leave there was a loud CRASH behind us.  a big truck had creamed a women and baby on her motorbike.  we went over to look.  i wish we hadn't. it was pretty bad.  i was surprised how squeamish i felt, i started feeling dizzy and weak.  feeling that now just remembering it.  next time i hear that sound, i'll not go over there, unless it's obvious that i'm the only one around to help.  such is life.
we're going to take the song thow - pick-up taxi car - to pattaya today to goto the bookstore, so i can turn in a bunch of books i've read, and get a few more.  we'll probably go down to the ocean near our house when we get back.  go swimming.  yeah.  that will be nice.  we cruised around the area a little bit yesterday. so nice to have the motorbike to get around on.  i like it here.  nice little village of Phlay next to the ocean from us.
our neighbor hood has developed some in the last year.  many of the houses have trees and plants growing up, banana trees 15 feet tall.  people have built out their porches and made shade roofs, tiled floors, extensions behind the houses.  we we bought here, it was rows and rows of houses all exactly alike and no greenery.  there's an internet//game shop a few houses over (where i am now, along with 15 kids playing online games), there's laundry, food shops, beauty hair shops, sewing shops. all built into peoples houses or porches.  you can stay right here in the housing area and get everything you need. mostly.


1000501 Thaikarl - Mayday at the Durian festival

only just noticed that it is mayday.  this morning we walked up to the gem trading street.  many little shops along the road and side streets, all devoted to selling gemstones.  they have an odd system here.  if you want to buy gems, there are tables in the shops where you can sit, put up a sign for what you are looking for, and the sellers come to you.  the sellers are walking all over the area with shoulder bags of gems, looking for buyers seated at the tables.  opposite of the way business is usually done.  interesting.  and of course there are shops selling cut gems, jewlery, gem cutting and polishing tools, scales and everything associated with the business.  lots of pretty rocks there, and i havn't a clue what is what, or what is worth anything.  so i just took pictures.  i did buy some rough stones at a shop we passed by.  apparently, the stone comes from mozambique.  they put the raw stone in kilns here, and "burn them" which changes the raw stone into gemlike material, from which they can polish the 'burned' stones and make beautiful cut gems.  my daughter is into rocks, she's taking the jewlery design program at north seattle community college, so i thought she might like these.  i bought a raw stone, a burned stone, and a polished stone.  the dealer threw in a few small cut stones to go with the deal.  all for 31.00 USD.  i have no idea if i got a good deal, no deal, or a bad deal, but it was fun.  man did they start bringing out the trays when we were there longer than a couple of minutes. tough business these days tok told me.
we spent the rest of day at the durian festival, set up all around the lake at the King Taksin monument, in the center of chanthaburi.   there is of course, many food stands and rows of stuff for sale, but the highlight are the floats on the lake, covered in fruit, depicting thai scenes - mountains, waterfalls, the budda mountain, fishing.  you know how the rose parade in the states has floats made out of flowers? same idea, except they use fruit and rice.  the big activites are tomorrow, but we walked around the lake.  it started raining, so we took refuge at the massage tent!  toks cousin was working there.  we got foot massage (60 baht for 1/2 hour - 1.90 USD) and i went for whole body massage (120 baht for an hour - <3.00 USD)  ahhhhhhh.  we had food, particular foods that you can only find in chanthaburi provice, some shopping and looking around. 
tok lived here for 14 years.  she was a school teacher, her daughter was born here.  she took me to see the school where she worked. as we were driving by the back, a women by the road called out Toks name.  it was a friend who recognized her.  the women and tok chatted for a while.  there was a regular swimming pool right there, with a few people swimming.  tok told me that her friend taught her to swim in the other pool at the school. she said when she was learning to freestyle swim, if she stuck her head out the the water, her friend would hit her on the head with a long piece of plastic pipe she carried as she walked along side the pool coaching the swimmers.  from there we went to out to what used to be very countryside, tok showed me the house she used to live in, set back behind some newer houses.  we came upon some people sitting beside the road and stopped.  the olderwomen recognized tok after a moment and was so happy to see her.  her male friend was drunk, and very happy to see me (that happens alot.  i'm very attractive to drunks for some reason)  the women was toks old neighboor. she was very excited to see us, and very please to see me with her, she wished up long and happy life.  this happens frequently.  whenever i'm introduced, or more precisely, when ever i'm encounted by friends, relatives or accouaintences of tok, they are very pleased to see me with her, and have kind things to say to me.  i understand this just from the way they look to me, and i catch a few words here and there.  i'm a lucky man.
this internet cafe computer keeps crashing when i try to get to my photos, so yall will just have to wait on them.
we're off to see the "beautiful women" contest. the Durian Qween?????
onward!  NU