121110 Thaikarl - Mexico!08 Rocks and hard places


Dan and i a making our way up the outside of the Baja Peninsula.  we've stopped in a few small bays, with only a small fishing village onshore.

yesterday we pulled into Bahia Torgugas, which was the first stop on the way down on the Baja Ha-Ha.  when i was here last, the bay was filled with a hundred and twenty boats.  this time, there are only a few other boats at anchor.  we went ashore, and had a great meal in a family restaruant.  but, it was sunday, so all the tienda (stores) were closed.  we had internet in the cafe.  looking at the weather, it appeared that this coming wednesday was going to be blowing 20-30 knots up north.  dan decided we should book out of here in the early nighttime and make a 60 hour run for Ensenada.  we got a little sleep, got up at 9pm and made ready to depart.

Dan lays out our routes on his laptop, then transfers them to his two Garmin GPS navigation units, so we had a course laid out to navigate our way out of the bay.

Bahia Tortuga, Baja BCS, Mx

i cranked in the hundred feet of anchor chain with the electric windlass, shouted to dan "anchor up!" and came back to the cockpit.  he said that the GPS went blank when i was winding in the chain - the electrical drain from the windlass must have dropped the voltage enough to blurp the GPS, so he had to reboot it.  the screen was up, and indicating our planned course out of the bay, so Dan turned the boat onto the course and proceeded to follow it.  it was very dark.  the moon wouldn't be up for hours yet.  we identified the two light houses marking the reefs at the entrance of the bay.  but it was a bit confusing, as there were lights onshore from cars, houses, and another powerboat anchored nearby.

we were anchored near the camera icon, just to the right of the red triangle

with the boat underway, and my tasks complete for the moment i went below to fire up my Navionics navigation on my iPhone.  the program started, i clicked the disclaimer button, and pressed the "Track" button to turn on tracking our path.  a couple more clicks to center the map and zoom into our location, i saw that we were right in a shoal area, with numerous red-stars that mean ROCKS right where were were traveling.  i just thought "woha, i better show this to dan" and BANG! there was a very loud crash and i was instantly thrown to the floor of the cabin.  Dan yells "WHAT THE FUCK WAS THAT!" and my brain answered "a rock, or a hard place."  i picked my self up of the deck, ran up to the cockpit.  we'd hit a rock going about three knots.  the engine was running, Dan took it out of gear.  in the shine of my headlamp i could see an orange float and line feet off the stern of the boat and warned Dan.  he put it in gear and powered forward to avoid getting tangled up in the line.  we still had propulsion.  which is good.  it was a bit confusing, dark, lights, wind.  i told dan we were right in a shoal area, we should head "that away" to get out of the rocks.  Dan gave me the helm and ran downstairs, threw off the deck covers and checked the bilge for incoming water.  there was none.  dry, and no visible seepage.  okay, we're not sinking.  that's good.

we carefully motored a hundred yards away from our position, and dropped the anchor again.  Whew.  that was exciting.  Dan was very perplexed that we were so far off from where our routeing said we should be.  when dan said again that the GPS had turned off and had to be rebooted, i realized that what likely happened.  GPS units will give you a positioin as soon as it locks into a couple of satellites, but the accuracy is quite approximate.  it takes some minutes for the GPS to acquire more satellites and refine the accuracy of your true position.  so we were in a track, that was apparently many feet in error, which put us into the rocks.

you can see our track in this screen shot.  we started from the anchor point where the pushpin is.  the yellow track that starts just below it, is how far we traveled while i was getting zoomed into our position and centering the screen.  the pointy tip at the bottom of the track is where we slammed into the rock, and backed out, then veered off and re-anchored.

Dan and i spent some time reviewing the event.  there was a lot of cursing and consternation's.  eventually Dan went to bed.  i was like WIDE awake.  so i watched a couple of episodes of  the TV show "Threshold" i had save on my netbook.  read my Nook for a while and finally got sleepy around three am.

you know what they say about "long periods of boredom punctuated by moments of terror"?  yeah, that's a good way to describe it.  This morning Dan got out his hooka air compressor, wet suit, mask and fins and dove beside the boat to check.  he discovered a couple of big dings in the nose of the fin keel about half way up, but no cracks.  the bilge is still dry.  so we're good. took the dingy into the village for breakfast and some provisions.  we met some other cruizers in the cafe, also heading back to San Diego.  i got a card from one of them, who will pass me on to a delivery captain in San Diego who is always busy and uses crew.  so i'm getting some lines in the water in San Diego.  nibble nibble  woo hoo!

the adventure continues!  onward!


121130 Thaikarl - Mexico!07


the adventure continues!  i moved off the Emerald Lady a few days ago, and onto my new ride s/v Trilogy, owned and skippered by Dan.  Trilogy is an Islander 36, not as well appointed as the Emerald Lady, but dan's been cruizing mexico for a number of years, and he has all the right stuff, and all the support gear and systems tuned to a fine pitch.

John and Kelly took me out for a nice dinner the night before i left.  i was quite sad to be leaving them.  they have been very generous and gracious to me, and i so appreciated the time i was able to spend with them, and i hope my support was adequate.  i gained 47 days of off-shore seatime to add towards a captains license  and that in itself is valuable compensation.

we left La Paz on Trilogy at 04:00 (!!!!!) a couple of days ago.  motoring south alongside the beautiful sunrise.  i don't see many sunrises, they are as beautiful as sunsets, except rather than settling into the calm sweet dark of night, it justs builds into blazing daylight.  exactly the opposite. i guess which one i preferr.  i tried to stay awake, but i went down for a "nap" around 08:00 and didn't wake up til noon.  dan had his fishing rod out, in the late afternoon we had "fish on!"  hauled in a three food dorado.  we had a magnificent lunch from that fish!

we anchored up in Bahia  De Los Muertos (Bay of the Dead) in the afternoon.  not much there, a fishing camp, and a restaruant up on the hil.  we got the dingy out and got it inflated, went into the beach and walked up tot he restarurant.  there were a couple of ladies from canada i knew from the Ha-Ha having dinner.  we had some pleasant conversation about cruizing, places to go, things to see.  Enchalada verde was tasty, but american style - way to much on the plate.  Dan is covering all expenses for me, which is very generous. the dinner was pretty expensive for mexico.  mine was 145 pesos - 13$ USD.

the next day we motor/sailed to Bahia Frailes (Bay of Friars), which has even less land features.  just a few fishing shacks.  the moon was full, the sky traces with high clouds.  light surf humming onto the long beach a few hundred yards away.  i sat up in the cockpit in a t-shirt and worked on my moontan.  hughe moths would flutter by in the night.  you can hear their wings buzzing and they clumsily wander the air.  very nice, very nice indeed.

dan tied a flashlight on the rail shining down into the water.  soon attracted tens of fish, circling around the boat in the light.  we'd saved a few  scraps from the dorado and tossed little bits into the water, where the quick ones snapped them up.  we were in 30 feet of water and you could see the anchor chain on the bottom.  still amazing to me, as i'm used to the cold grey opaque waters of puget sound.

we came into Cabo San Lucas the next day.  the cruisers hate this place, with all the jet-ski's running around, pangas, "Animators" yelling games and encouragement into huge Speakers at the clubs on the beach, para-sailing  cruise ships, the general Party-On atmosphere and the high prices and huckstering everywhere.  but that's Cabo.  but i know from my bus ride exploration, that just a few miles away, people live in very basic block houses, with dirt streets and dust.  the shoreline east of the marina, past the giant hotels is lined with grossly huge and extravagant houses.  glad it's all here tho, else they'd be gloaming onto the peaceful places.

we leave Cabo at Oh-Dark-Hundred again tomorrow for a 36 hour run to Mag bay tomorrow.  might be my last internet connection for a while.




121124 Thaikarl - Mexico!06 Night wander in La Paz


i borrowed one of the boat bikes to go into town last night.  amazing how much more ground you can cover on two wheels.  sure wish i had a motorcycle, that would really be the way to get around.  but the bike was nice.  

i cruised down the Mercado - beachfront drive.  nice wide tiled promenade the whole way along.. there were searchlights in the sky. discoverd a portion of the street blocked off, with a stage and sound system set up, lights, rows of chairs in the middle and booths along the sides.  seemed to be some kind of ocean conservation event, as the boths had dead baby sharks and rays that you could handle.  some artists, sculptures for sale. a band finally set up, playing some kind of "latin" music.  not terribly interesting, so i pedal up into the shopping district.  looking for a grocery store i was at a few days ago.  there were vendor booths set up on the sidewalks, selling cloths and jewlery, but most of them were packing up already.  it was just after dark.  seems they don't stay out late like they do home in thailand.

i found a few shops of interest, a dolor store, a leather shop.  the grocery store was closed at 6pm.  havn't had a peanut butter and jelly sandwich since the san diego bread went moldy a few weeks ago, and i was looking to buy bread.

there were lots of people out on the streets tho, looking in the shops and headed to the water-front.  the bus station was real busy, buses going everywhere lined both sides of the street.  i ended up back on the water front where i was maybe to meet the crew later.  the commercial district petered out, and i biked up into the neighborhoods   roused the dogs to barking all along the streets.  i heard a tuba and trumpet that sounded like live music and found my way there.  out in front of a house were some people on the sidewalk playing music and singing.  tuba, trombone, trumpets and voices.  little kids, just singing and playing out front of their house.  great fun!  all the live music i've been hearing so far on this trip has been bands playing oldies cover songs in english, and i'm wrung out on that sound.  

back on the waterfront, i passed a bar/disco that had a real mexican band.  i don't know what you call the style of music, but it's mexican, and it rocks!  drums, bass, guitar, conga and accordion   cost 50 peso's to get in, they kept my backpack at the door and did a pat down search on all the men that came in.  the band was playing up on a balcony, where it was a bit difficult to watch.  they played two songs and took a break, and they played dance/pop music very loud in the house.  it was about 10 pm, and there were only a few people there, but more began to arrive.  i was way underdressed in a t-shirt.  most of the guys were wearing long sleeve snap-button shirts and cowboy boots.  the girls were poured into tight skirts.  i was the only gringo in there.  but the band came back after a while, and played these amazing, long songs, with blazing accordion riffs between each phrase.  they had color-changing LED house lights everywhere, large LCD screens showing rock videos the whole time.  i left after a couple of hours.  there were crowds of young(er) nightclubers out on the sidewalk.

halfway back to the marina, there was another group of people beside the road, playing horns and singing songs.  they must be popular songs, becuase everybody knew the words.  passers by like myself would stop and listen.

there is so much to see in the world.  i'm realizing that places that are familiar and pre-explored, comfortable and stable as they may be, stifle my brain and being.  you know how if you have a nice, familiar living space, and you get up and do your morning thing and get all cozy it feels content and warm.  then you step outside and get smacked with sunlight, plants, clouds, air, breeze... wholy bovine! there's this whole other world out here.safe in the nest, there's not much movement.  only the movement you create yourself.  when you go out in the strange world, you are in the broad flow, the movement of nature, man and animal.  not sure i'm describing this very well.  one of my favorite things to do is to take something really simple, make it as complicated as possible, then occupy myself trying to make it back into something simple again.

note the bottom line here

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i need to get the fuck out of seattle.


121121 Thaikarl Mexico!05


i'm sitting in the CinnaRolls Cafe on the beachfront road in La Paz, Baja, Mexico.  enjoying an espresso and a cinnabun.


today was the first day i've had to "free range" in La Paz.  john went off early on roller blades, kelly and the other crew went off on the bicycles, and i hung out on the boat for a while then took the marina shuttle the 2 nm to downtown.  i've been wandering around for a few hours, looking in the shops, watching the people taking pictures.  i sat for a long time at a bus termial and just looked at everything, and everyone.  when i'm wandering by myself, which i prefer, i stop for not much reason, turn up streets just cause i feel like it, back-track, fore-track, and sometimes just stop and stay in one place, just to watch the life and land around me.  walking around with companions tends to be more directed, like we are going someplace.  by myself, i am going thoughtfully random places.

i'm really liking mexico, the little i've seen of it.  not quite as exotic and strange as thailand, cambodia, vietnam or india, but it abounds in mysteries and discoveries non-the-less.  i'm even picking up a few words, not useful ones, but i have learned them..  like "Empuje" = "Push", cause it's on the doors of the shops.  Or "Bassura" = "Trash" cause i'ts on the trash barrels.  having an online powered english-spanish translator on my iPhone helps for more complex things like ?donde es un taller de soldaura? ?para el acero inoxidable?" = "where is a welding shop? for stainless steel"  everybody shrugs and says basically "i don't know, not here" (just like they do in thailand!)

on the way up here, we anchored up and overnight-ed in Bahia (bay) Frailes.  we dingied to the beach, and struck out across the land, intercepeted the dirt road and walked. and walked. and walked.  two miles the guide book said.  it was more like five miles, after i stuck my thumb out and got a ride in the back of a pick-up for us all.  there was a huge red fish back there, and bricks and tires.   off shore from the village lies the largest coral reef in north america.  we went snorkeling.  it was wonderful!
it was like swimming in one of those giant salt aquariums you see in hotels, except the fish were right there below me.  i counted 23 different kinds of fish.  all colors.  no wet suit required.  i was out for an hour, and not even chilled.  two tank scuba dive was 45$ USD.... someday.

i have the approaching weight of  "gotta get back and get to work - take care of family" rattling round in my head.  don't want to leave to soon tho, so i've been asking around to get on another boat going north.  have a good prospect get get on a sailboat bashing back up to san diego in a couple of days.  everybody says its a hell of a trip, up-wind and against the waves and swell all the way, rock-and-roll city.  a lot of cruisers down here don't want to make that trip, and will sail down, holiday, and then pay someone to take their boat back up for them.  simply going to the airport in Cabo San Lucas and flying back to seattle would be too, too.... ordinary.

cup of street food:  layers of corn, shreded cheese, and picante, topped with mayo.   5 peso (about thirty eight cents USD)

onward! sun is setting and i have a long walk back to the boat.

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121115 Thaikarl Mexico!04 the plan that wasn't a plan


 when i'm in seattle, he days just kind of roll by, streets, people, food, and activities are familiar, similar and rather ordinary.  not so when traveling, especially in new territory, and triple especially when traveling by sailboat.  everyday we make plans, that aren't plans, that never work out anyway.  you've heard "go with the flow"?  yeah.  something like that.  this morning Gina said, "making plans here is like the ocean, it's always changing"

yesterday we moved the boat down the anchorage a half a mile, offshore of Hotel RIU.  plan was for all of us to dingy into the beach, then i'd take the dingy back to the boat.  they were going to go inland and meet up with some friends from here, and retrieve Gina's left-behind hat.  the beach landing in the surf went all wonky, safe but dramatic.  i managed to get back out and went back to the boat.  resting or sleep was impossible, because one radio or another keep going off, and i was on alert to listen for our shore party.  John came on the VHF, but his hand-held kept cutting out and i could only get two words at a time.  eventually we got across that i should take a panga (water-taxi) into the beach in front of the hotel.

that landing was much less exciting - meaning the panga touched the beach and i got off, barely got wet.  eventually found john.  he'd said "we're hanging around the pool" but i didn't ask which pool.  there were like five of them.  all together again, we walked out to the frontage road, ran into Roy and Mary, who were closing their furniture store.  we all went up the road to eat dinner, and Carlos joined us after his work.  Carlos took us to Costco, but they were closing, so Carlos took us back to the marina.  we walked way up the beach to the Mango Deck, but guess what? no water-taxi's after dark.  walked back to town, walked the entire marina walk, maybe a mile to the end and back, looking for a boat, any boat that could take us back out.  nothing.  everything locked up.  John decided to quit taking wrong turns and they went in a booked a room in the Windum hotel.  room for two people.  when the four of us went to the elevator, the security guard questioned us.  "only two people in that room"  Gina managed to go up the elevator, but the stand-out purple hair guy had to wait.  eventually john came down, gave me some money, and i struck out on my own.  we'd been told of an inexpensive hotel a taxi ride away, but after a long language fail in the phone, i decided i could just figure it out on my own.

i just kept walking past the bars, asking door guys where there was a cheap hotel.  "three blocks that way", "four blocks that way" the other way ??  finally found hotel Melida.  400 peso's (about 30$ USD), double beds, cable TV, aircon (which i didn't turn on) and beds only slightly softer than the tile floor.  but i slept.  the "hot" water was the same temperature as the "cold" water.

so today we're on plan 36, we're run out of letters to designate the plans.  i walked/bussed to walmart, and after i post this im walking to the RIU hotel, taking a panga to the boat, getting the dingy and bringing it back to the marina dingy dock.  and then...???

post script:  i walked to the hotel RIU, but the gate guys wouldn't let me in, cause i couldn't tell them a room number.  "i just need to get to the beach to get a panga."  no.  so i walked off down the dirt road, well, actually a sand road, trying to find my way around the huge hotel complex to the beach.  side road headed towards the beach, so i followed that, came upon a swamp which i tried to tip-toe through and got all muddy sunk anyway.  finally got to the beach, and behold!  there was a hundred yards of fence between the hotels.  gates locked.  it was a wimpy 10 foot fence with no barb-wire.  so i climbed over and fell on my ass on the other side, eliciting giggles from the people on the beach.  "I meant to do that"!  no pangas at the beach.  waited more than a half hour before i could flag one down.  finally got to the Emerald Lady, got the dingy loose and got set up to go.  the thing kept going under the stern and banging my head while i was trying to pump the air up.  i'd had the security cable still clipped to the boat.  got all that sorted out, and motored back to the harbor, which took over a half an hour we are anchored so far out now.  nearly got swamped because i was distracted watching the frigate birds soaring overhead.  but finally did make it in, tied up and went into town and enjoyed a street stall taco with egg and rice and HOT sauce.

i went looking for an electronics store to buy a plug-in for the router.  i drew a picture of what i wanted to show people.  everyone i asked said "go two blocks that way"  i'd get there, see nothing ask someone else, and they'd say "go two blocks"  if i followed everyone's instructions i would have walked twelve blocks.  the electronics store was 6 blocks away.  didn't have the plug.

the adventure continues


121012 Thaikarl - Mexico!03 walking and bus in cabo san lucas


hanging out in Cabo San Lucas.  we went into town yesterday.  i went off on my own wander-about.  walking up the streets away from the marina/tourist area, there were a lot of buses going by.  i asked a few questions and board the first bus that came along.  9.5 pesos (less than a dollar.  bouncy bouncy bus, going i've no idea where.  just away from the tourista zone.

very different out there than in the marina area.  everybody got off the bus, and the bus driver said i had to leave.  oh oh.  he pointed to another bus.  i got on that, and it wandered a bit, and took me back right into the marina area.  nice.

reminded me a lot of home, out in the vilillages in thailand.  very basic construction, cinder-blocks and haphazard architecture.  but very dusty.  many of the people on the bus going out were wearing hotel branded shirts.

i'm digging this tiny little view of mexico i've seen so far.  john and kelly are having family come join the boat, and i'll be needing to get back to work for the family in thailand, so i'm looking at having to head back to cold, dark, wet, seattle.  The Horror!  trying to see if i can crew on a boat going back to san diego - they call it the Baja Bash, cause it's upwind and up wave all the way.  stay tuned.


Cabo walking and bus stats -

Start Time: 11/11/12, 15:25
End Time: 11/11/12, 20:51

Active track info:

Distance: 12.8 NM
Total time: 5h 23'
Average Speed: 2.4 kts
Max Speed: 29.7 kts

i couldn't figure out how to link to the Google Earth site or post the .kmz file, but here's an image of the trip:


121108 Thaikarl - Mexico!02 some photos

we (well, the hood on the end of the dragline actually)
caught a 52 inch Dorado.  Beautiful fish.

arrived cabo san lucas!  woo hoo!  tourista town, but it is a real town.  got a SIM card for my iphone, so my phone works now, with data, getting my lost filing replaced tomorrow, met marvelous people, it's 80 plus degrees and sunny, beaches, boats, and even a costco!  laying over here for a few days till the winds settle down on the sea of cortez, working on the boat and provisioning etc.


father and daughter in Turtle Bay, Baja



121102 Thaikarl - Mexico!01 not thailand, but there is sun and palm trees


a slightly different adventure.  i am crewing on a 47 foot sailboat - the Emerald Lady.  i was

on the San Francisco to San Diego leg, then flew back to seattle to work work work, then flew

back to join the boat in San Diego.  we've joined the Baja Ha-Ha rally to Cabo San Lucas on the

very southern tip of the Baja peninsula.

after a 65 hour run on the open ocean, out of sight of land most of the time, we've arrived at

the first stop over, the Bay of Turtles.

awesomeness max max max!

dry dusty country.  basic life here, but lobster fishermen drive around in 30,000$ pickup

tried to buy a SIM card for my iPhone.  Language fail. forgot to download spanish/english

dictionary for my phone.  it would shure help

more adventure to be had, we're just getting started.  Today is supposed to be day of the Dead

here.  The Baja Ha-Ha group had a big potluck on a nice beach mile south of the town.  tons of

food, beer tent and festivities.

i wandered off into the hills behind the beach.  very dry, powdery ground full of sharp rocks. 

i like the desert. lived there when i was a little kid.  my earliest memories are being in the

desert and going out with my friends to play.  way off the reservation, by ourselves.  i was in

first grade, so i was what, six years old?  we were free-range kids back then.

tommorrow we leave in the morning for Santa Maria, 240 nautical miles south.


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120314 Thaikarl - Laundry man, me?


since my wife is out working very hard to buy and sell tamarind i'm left at home most of the day.   i try to do a few things to lighten the load on her.  she usually takes care of all the household stuff, cooking, cleaning, plants, shopping, laundry.  well, i can't cook, i can clean some, mama usually handles the plants, i don't know what to shop for.. that leaves laundry.

of course, when i'm in the states i do laundry in the classic masculine fashion.  automatic machine, but in detergent (what ever is near the machine), dump in ALL the dirty cloths in, none of this sorting out light/dark stuff i've heard about, set temp to hot and warm (i still don't believe that cloths can get clean in cold water.  how is that supposed to work? detergent is detergent, how did they magically make it work in cold water?  my mom never washed in cold water.) set on regular cycle- don't know about all this 'permanent press' and 'delicates' stuff, let it run, put everything in dryer, them dryer sheets etc smell weird, don't need them either. power up the machine.  at the ding! take it all out jam into a sack.  done.

its a little bit different here.  Tok ran me thru the procedure, and after the first go, she never asked me to wash cloths again.  it's not like patching drywall or putting in an electrical outlet, which i totally can do, so i must used the wrong method.  somewhere. 

today i was out working on my underground wiring for the front gate lites and it started raining.  had to stop that job and do something else.  the cloths basket was overflowing so i did the wash.   we have this ancient washing machine.  the machines they use here have an agitator side, and a spin-dry side.  the spin dry is busted (i guess, cause she never uses it.)  so you tun on the tap to fill with water, and turn off tap when the level is right.  put in the detergent, cloths and spin the dial to 8 minutes.  there is a plate in the bottom of the washing well that spins one way, stops, and spins the other way.  your cloths swoosh around, stop and swoosh the other way.  machine dings.  take out, hand wring, drop in bucket and take outside, put in another load.

The National "Super Jumbo Deluxe" washing machine

outside i'd prepared the three rinsing basins on the sidewalk.  you fill them with well water.  you have to plug in the pump, wait for it to flow, and filter the water thru a little aquarium fishnet, cause green flakes of whatever come out in the stream.  the basins are usually upside down on the walkway when they aren't in use.  today when i flipped them over a billion tiny black ants freaked out and ran around in full tilt panic.  when their scouts thought under the bins was a good place to set up a nest, they got some bad  intel.  in seconds there was hundreds of them running up my legs and all over my arms.  fortunately, they aren't the stinging/biting variety of tiny black ant, they just tickle a lot.  i gave them a few minutes to grab as many larvae as they could and head for safer ground.  the pump started getting a head of pressure going, so i had to get the hose.  washed thousands of them off the walkway, off the bins and off my arms and legs.  sorry about that, little guys.

the freshly washed cloths need to be rinsed in each of the basins, theoretically getting most of the detergent rinsed out.  the last basin gets some blue stuff poured in- fabric softner i think (?). you have to ring them out some by hand between each basin.  after the last rinse they go in the basket.

bucket, rinse1, rinse2, rinse3, basket...

then you take the basket to the other side of the house, under the extended roof of the shed, and hand the cloths on hangers, bamboo rods and lines between the posts.  then go back to the washing machine, which should be done with 2nd load, and carry on.  did three loads today.

hang 'em high, hang 'em low, don't let 'em touch the ground

of course, when Tok or Terry do the wash, they can squat down flatfooted to rinse and wring the cloths thru the line.  white men like me can't squat, so i have to teeter on the balls of my feet, or just bend over.  i'm feeling those muscles now, hours later.  when Tok does the wash, and brings the dry cloths up to our bedroom to put away, they are always inside out.  i never knew why. a bit annoying to reverse anything you want to put on, but i have other issues that are really more annoying then that, so i save my energy for the really annoying stuff. (like electrical cords that automagically tangle themselves up for no damn reason and will NEVER just let you drag one out... etc) I finally asked Tok the other night why the cloths were inside out.  "so when they dry in the sun, they won't get lighter color on outside" she says.  duh.  that totally makes sense eh?

i hope the suns back out tomorrow, i want to get on with electrical work, PVC piping, cement... things that make sense to me.  she did smile when i told her i did the wash and told me "Good Job!"

ain't love grand?


120308 Thaikarl - before, after, or in-between


these are some rolling days, one flows into the next and the next and the next.  far to quickly i'm afraid.  really begining to feel the tension of departure.  sux.
Toks tamarind business is keeping her quite busy.  she drives off early in the morning, usually by 9:30 am, and might not come back until dark, around 6:30pm.  she goes out looking for and buying processed tamarind, and takes it to the various buyers.  some nights when she gets back, she has a whole truck full - one metric ton or more (2,204 lbs) in 10 kilo bags.  some nights we have to repack everything, especially when the workers used odd or whatever bags, and didn't put them in exactly 10 kg packages.

i spend my day while she is gone hanging around the house, running errands, shopping, internet, playing guitar and working on my projects.  today i took the motorbike into town, paid the land-line bill, went to try to straighten out a bank problem, moved cash around, bought more 16x26 bags for the business, went to the post office and bought some food.  when i was motoring back, something beside the road caught my attention, i saw a boy running quickly in the opposite direction beneath a walking overpass, just a flash, and i saw a motorbike on its side on the ground, and another bike parked next to it.  i was moving right along at 70 kph or so and quickly was far past the scene.  something about it didn't seem right, maybe there had been an accident, or maybe something fell off the kids bike and he was running to retrieve it?  i stopped beside the road and looked back, but it was hundreds of meters away by then and i couldn't see anything out of place or notice any activity back by the flyover bridge.  i would have had to turn around and drive the wrong way on the road for that distance to go and check, that didn't seem prudent.  but it still had me puzzled 'cause i felt something was wrong with the picture.  so i carried on, dropped off my shopping stuff at the house, and rode to the other side of the village to take some photos.  i'd burned up the remaining gas in the motorbike on my travels, so i decided to head back north, past our house to the gas station and fill the tank. the gas station is right across the road from the flyover bridge. this is what i saw there:

lottsa people, police, emergency truck.. There had been an accident, likely moments before i passed the place and saw the boy running.  i felt pretty bad, i was right there, but it was not obvious at the time that an accident had occurred, it was just a flash of activity that seemed peculiar.  i saw the results of a traffic accident last trip, and it was really traumatic for me.  i'm not interested in repeating that vision.  if i was first on the scene, and people needed any kind of help, i'd be right there, but if it's afterwards, and there are already people responding and taking care, i don't need to "just have a look" Tok and i were sitting on the porch a couple months ago, she was applying some stuff to her face and we heard people hollering up on the big road.  we went down to the gate, a ways down the road to the north i could see a dark shape - a body, and nearer to me, a bicycle on it's side in the far lane.  that's all i needed to see. there were 10 people up there already, and more coming, so i knew there was nothing i could do, and i started to have that whirlpool feeling in my belly again, like last year.  Tok went up to see what was going on, i stayed back in the yard.  when she came back, she said the man was dead, hit by a car as he was riding his bicycle home.  the man rode 7 km into town and back every morning, to have breakfast at a restaurant in lom sak.  the car vanished, as they usually do.  the next morning, Tok told me that at that same spot, a pickup truck ran into the median late in the night and flipped over... fatality.  I asked her if it bothered her to see the bicycle man, she said no, she'd seen such things many times, and it doesn't bother her.

accidents and death aren't all hidden away here.  accident scenes aren't all taped off so you don't see anything, there's not usually police directing traffic away.  when someone dies, they keep the body at the house (in a refrigerated casket) and everyone comes to the house for days.  funeral processions aren't lead by a smoke glass limousine at the front and a line of cars with their headlights on, the body is in a colorful casket, on an ornately decorated platform in the back of a pickup truck, music plays over loudspeakers as they drive to the temple, and the body car is followed by more pickups, cars, motorbikes and even farm trucks.  i'm sure it's different in the metropolitan areas, where people live in apartments and condo's, but we live in the country, and the process is very visible.

so many times in my life i've left situations just before something bad happened, or i arrive after it's all over.  today it was in-between.


Footnote added 120312:  one of my readers replied and had this to say:

The other sane reason, though far from a human one, yet a very practical point as life as a gaijin or farang in a far off land, is not to further involve yourself in something where you are not already. If I was there and at that moment could do something significant to aid or help out, then by all means I'd be the first to jump in and sacrifice to help out without any concern for my own well-being. But after the fact, with others and local competent people around, nothing to be gained from that kind of samaritanism than to further" implicate" yourself as the foreigner or outsider or different or "other." We have to be constantly vigilant of that fact, as much as I enjoy a laid-back lifestyle it's a somewhat necessary reality of life abroad. All it takes is a moment failing to concentrate, not paying attention, or brief lapse of judgement for the system to come crashing down and attack and eat one of its contributing members. Not to sound overly negative but I've read enough about horrible things happening to otherwise good-intentioned, forthright people. Particularly in asia. This world is still very much Darwinism in action and the powers that be will tear you to shreds for practicing your humanity. I'll still be the kindest person I can be, but I'm always cognizant of this perceived reality.

Something to keep in mind when your better angels are tugging at your heart-strings.
I was very glad to get his message.  and i do agree with him.  i am usually quite aware that i am a guest in this country and it's only a stamp in my passport that permits me to be here at all.  i can't risk having that stamp revoked by my not paying attention to this fact.


120306 Thaikarl - video of lom sak market street

friends, we were getting our hair done at the beautyshop in the late afternoon.  while i was waiting for Tok to get finished up, i stepped outside.  this kind of public activity and commerce just isn't seen in the parts of america i have lived in.  it is endlessly interesting to me, even though by now, i've seen it many times.  there is always something new to notice.



120225 Thaikarl - New video - ThaiCountrylife YouTube

more shower machinations: 
(click this link http://youtu.be/XshDIcyCamA to view in better size on YouTube)

120225 Thaikarl - bangkok bound, and up


winter season seems to be on the decline here, the days are getting hotter, and the nights warmer.  we've been all busy, Tok is going gang-busters with her tamarind business.  some days, she leaves early in the morning and i don't see her until evening.  i try to help out, mostly loading and unloading 10kg backs off and onto the pick-up.  while she's out in the field, my job is to buy tamarind from people who bring it to the house.  i can usually figure it out, what type it is, what grade and what the price is, get it weighed out and pay people, but sometimes i'm grateful mama is here to talk with the people, as i can't.

i'm really excited to be going to bangkok tomorrow.  one of my favorite guitar players, Sungha Jung from korea is going to be playing in a ukelele festival in Siam Paragon tomorrow.  I was planning on taking the bus down and back in one day all by myself, but it turns out that Teri has to go do some applications for university on monday, so we three are going down.  we'll spend the night at Hotel 99, even though he'll be playing Ukelele instead of guitar, i am still jazzed to see him play in person.  and they are having a "meet and greet" session afterward, so you know i'll be in that line. visit his youtube channel and be amazed at his work:  http://www.youtube.com/user/jwcfree?feature=watch

we went to pitsanulok to get my visa extended the other day.  drove up over the mountains, took some photos of Tok wearing mountain people cloths, (4$ rental)

and finally finding the immigration office about 1:00 pm.  an extended string of problems arose.  i had overstayed by one day.  doh!  i had the 22nd FIXED in my brain as the day to go renew, but my passport stamp said good until feb 21.  whups.  that cost an extra 500 baht (15$).  then we didn't have the right papers, they wanted Toks house book with her address.  she forgot her National I.D., so we were stalled.  there was a lot of discussion i didn't understand, and we went off to find some government buildings to try to get the papers we needed.  Tok was worried about where her I.D. was and forgot the directions, but we eventually found a government complex.  they were able to use her drivers license to look up her residence on the computer, and gave her an official paper document of same.  and we had to make copies of everything, that required going to yet another building.  then back to immigration.  lots of paper shuffling, filling out forms, oodles of rubber stamping and signing and notating and paying a total of 2400 baht (72$) i was all stamped in and ready to go.  we'd planned on doing some sight-seeing and shopping, but this whole thing took all day, so we visited and important temple,

and headed back to Lom Sak.  Didn't get home until after dark.  next time, i'll know what to bring!



120123 Thaikarl - Gallery of photos Phitsanulok trip

forgot to mention in my post that there is a gallery of photos of the trip in picassa:


120123 Thaikarl - a trip to Pitsanulok


we made a day trip to Pitsanulok a little while ago.  My mother-in-law has had some health issues for a while now, so we went to the BIG hospital in Pitsanulok to have some scans read.  we took the roof of the cargo rack to a man in the village, to get some aluminum skin applied to the top, and tied on some netting to the sides to cut down the wind in the back.  Mama and two of her sisters, my wifes aunts, piled in the back with mats and food and drink.  i got to drive.

Pitsanulok is a fairly large city up in a broad valley in the mountains west of where we live.  the road would thru the mountain area, and came down to a flat plain, covered in farm fields.  we've had a little rain in the past weeks, so the mountains were sprouting some fresh green color, where there had been only dry brown grass and brush before.

the hospital was a busy busy place. there were people everywhere, it was like an active station.  there were people camping out in their pickups in the parking lots, and visitors napping on mats in the grassy areas.  hospital staff came out the doors to greet us, and brought out a wheel chair for mama to get around in.  there was lots of running around, getting papers stamped, copied, signed and noted, then upstairs to wait with the hundreds of other people there.  i went out to the pickup in the parking garage (30 baht/hr - 1$ for parking) and read my nook book and had a little nap even though it was pretty warm.  i didn't want to take a seat inside the hospital since there were many people standing, waiting to get seen.  after a few hours everybody came back out to the car, we went around the front and collected Mama, and started back for Lom Sak.

we stopped to visit a couple of chinese temples on the side of a mountain on the way out.  very beautiful, with lots of statuary and decorations.  i wanted to get a photo of a giant jelly fish constructed out of PET water bottles i saw on the way up.  it was outside of a resort restaurant.  i went inside to have a look around - there were tables right in the jungle trees out back.  my friend Mr. Bo from denmark would love it, as he and I would go in search of "Jungle Bars" when i was hanging out with him in Phuket some years ago.

i'm still getting the hang of driving in thailand, and there would be a chorus of screams from the back of the truck whenever i did anything wonky - like back-up into the roadway with trucks on-coming.  nerve-wracking at times.

we have to go back to Pitsanulok in a few days to get my visa extended.  i hope we have time to look around some.

i've posted a few videos on my thaicountrylife Youtube channel
and created a thaicountrylife.tumblr.com  blog for quick posts and pictures  subscribe-rate-comment if you like please!  you can add the tumblr posts to an RSS feed and keep up to date on them.

there is a gallery of photos from the trip on picassa

later i learned the verdict of the doctors who read the scans of mama's lung.  the lump in there is probably cancer.

Onward!  Nu


The Golden Hours

For the past few days, there has been more haze in the air. the late afternoon "Golden Hour" before sunset has been running for much longer than an hour. I went into town by myself to buy some guitar strings and a few other things. coming back on the motorbike i was riding almost directly into the sun. beautiful orange ball hanging on the horizon. the HDR (High Dynamic Range) photograpy app on my iPhone takes two photos and blends them together. they guys on the motorbike weren't in the frame for the first picture, and in frame for the second, which is why you can see thru them. it's about 85 degrees F at this moment. Not bad for february eh?
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120126 Thaikarl - 10 Shots

We popped into the shooting range at the Sweet Tamarind Fair and took some shots

that was fun!


120117 Thaikarl - days rolling by like summer


when i was a kid in grade school, the beginning of june was an exciting time.  school would let out for summer!  we had three months of freedom.  it felt like i had forever to be out playing in the sun, staying up late, hanging with my friends.  right about the beginning of august, the stores would start putting out "back to school" displays. oh no!  it didn't make sense.  summer still had a whole month to go, and the best weather yet.  but the shades of impending return to structure, rules, disipline and teachers telling us what to do had started to fall on me. as those last weeks sped by, i felt an anxiety for fun-not-had, explorations-not-done, and then it was "back to the real world".

i have a similar feeling now.  nearly half way to running out of visa time.  we've been busy.  i've been more interested in doing life here than writing about it.  we've had some fun adventures, went to our house in Ban Chang, went scuba diving with a friend from seattle, saw a lot of cool temples.  i've been helping tok around the house, fixing things i can, cleaning up the yard.  her tamarind business is starting to happen, the sour tamarind is just getting ripe, and i get to be the one to buy the fruit from people when the come to the house and tok is gone to the factory or seeing her processing workers.  Mama got a flu, and they put her in the hospital for a week to mind her care, so Tok spent most days and nights at the hospital.  we do errands, go shopping, take care of business.  normal things of life.  but this is life unlike any other i have know before i started coming here.

i have the kind of mind that likes to compare and contrast, i notice differences, similarities, what works here vrs what works there, how it's done here, how it's done over there.  living in thailand after living most of my life in america provides a rich environment for my comparative mind.  since i'm abysmally slow at learning even the simplest thai language, i can't ask about things, i have to observe, and guess.  often the only thing i can say is "amazing thailand"  to my wife, everything is "normal life", so she's not up for answering a thousand questions about such ordinary things.  when we go to the temple for Tam Bun (make merit) she sometimes has me repeat the words after her.  which i try to do, mangling the pronunciation pretty badly.  i asked her what we were saying.  she said she doesn't know.  the words it turns out, are in Pali language, which is the language that buddist canonical texts were written in.  similar to the way the old catholic church used to say mass in latin, like they did when i was a kid.  i'm almost certain that they teach the meaning of the words in schools and such, but like the meaning of the latin i learned as an alterboy, it's just words you say when you are devoting.

i drive her to distraction sometimes with my fascinations.  she's up in the tree whacking away at the diseased branches with a big knife, and i'm taking pictures of the hoards of ants we've disturbed, instead of pulling away the cut branches.  meanwhile, those same ants (red weaver ants)  i'm so fascinated with are biting her ankles, arms and neck, crawling up underneath her cloths before they open their jaws an bite down on her flesh.  she's totally focused on getting the job done and getting out of the tree, i'm wondering where the ants are going to live now.  btw, they harvest the larvae from these ants nests and sell them at the market.  very tasty!

i brought a Nook e-book reader with me this time.  an entire library of reading in one device. so i'm reading jack london's "The Sea Devil" now.  i'm an evangelist for these devices.  since i've had a nasty cold the past few day's i haven't been doing much besides reading.  and web-surfing.  mama isn't feeling too good. tok took her to the hospital today but they don't have any blood to tranfuse for her.  she started coughing up blood, so tok took her back this evening. so it's just me and you tonight folks. hope yall in seattle are enjoying the snow.

cares to you all


120101 Thaikarl - New Years Day visit to a beautiful temple


we visit a lot of temples.  they are everywhere in thailand.  even the smallest village will have at least one.  some are more magnificent than others.  on new years day, Tok says "we're going to the beautiful temple in the mountains"  cool!

we took the motorbike, because Tok said there would be a lot of cars on the road, which turned out to be very true.  many cars from bangkok (the origin of the car is named on the license plates.)  of course it was a pleasant day, warm and sunny.  i miss riding the motorbike.  since Tok got her pick-up truck, we take the car more often. the road up the mountain isn't too steep, but our little motorbike burned nearly a tank of gas getting up there - which is a couple of liters.  it hasn't rained since i've been here, so the forests are turning brown, and very dry.  but still beautiful on the drive up.

the temple was extraordinary.  the entire thing was covered in mosaic.  tiles, broken dishes, glass, jewels, ornate plates; and the top was mirror glazed gold tiles.  and they are far from finished.  the upper floors were still cement walls inside.  and they are building another temple near by that will be covered in cut-glass diamonds.  millions of them.  there is a hospital at the bottom of the hill, for people who come to tam bun (make merit) at the temple and need medical care.  in the surrounding hills were resort buildings where you can spend the night.  Tok said they were in Burmese style.

we had visited this site a couple of years ago, when just the concrete shell was under construction.  amazing what they have accomplished since then.  we both wondered how they designed all the elements- was it all planned out as to color, shape and style before hand, or was a rough drawing made and the individual artists allowed to fill the space to in their own design?  however it was done, it took a lot of careful though and devotion to harmony, color and detail to accomplish.  just gathering the materials was a huge job in itself.  someone had to buy the pottery and dishes and tile, and someone had to break things into little pieces to mosaic with.  we recognized bits that were parts from  colonnades, pots, floor tiles, and cups and dishes commonly sold in the markets in thailand.


there were many people there due to the holiday.  we'll go back again another day when it's not so crowded and look at the details a little more.  Tok told me there had been some local resistance to building a temple there, but the Kings daughter interceded and requested it be constructed.

when my sister and i went to Europe some years ago, we went to major cathedrals in every town we went to.  there were some very impressive ones, especially the one in Koln Germany.  European cathedrals were of course, built for a different purpose, and in a different time.  i find the Thai temples much more resonant with my own spirit.  the cathedrals just felt like interesting old buildings.  Temples feel like devotion and self directed calm, and the artwork is much more impressive to me.  but i am obviously biased.

onward!  Nu