Sunday, March 30, 2008

She Paw

I’m not exactly sure if I have spelled her name correctly, but I hope so. This was another one of the many teachers that passed through our school during my tenure there. One big difference though separates her from most of the rest. This was a very good teacher.

Being the gentleman that I am, I would not venture to guess her age, only to say that she was somewhat younger that me. She was very easy on the eyes, had a most charming personality, and was a heck of a good teacher especially with the very young children. During her time with this school she did it all though, teaching several grade levels, and filled in anywhere she was needed. She needed to work and was not going to jeopardize her job by not doing all she could.

She was from Burma and as I have found with most Burmese’s very hard working, dedicated to their professions and never one to complaint much in the public arena.

Though from Burma she has lived in Thailand for many years now along with her husband and two children. She was well educated and her father was a pastor of the Seven Day Adventist Faith if I recall correctly. She had very little if any accent in her spoken English and could carry on a conversation about almost anything. She was a smart girl.

During her last year with us, she was put in charge of the Intensive English Program for Kindergarten Students and did an outstanding job. In this program, the students were exposed to English only during their entire day at school. Though not a full immersion program because they went home in the evenings to their Thai families it was the next best thing. These kids completed kindergarten with a first hand knowledge of the English Language.

The program however was not well thought out by the powers to be. If was the goal of many parents for their children to be in an Intensive English Program or at least a Bilingual Program but the school made no plan to extend the program into grade one. This left parents with two choices. To either dump their child into a class with the beginning English students and receive only two hours of English per day or to seek a school that provided the curriculum that they desired. Many left that year.

She Paw realized how valuable her services had been to the school for she received adulation’s from the parents as well as The Director quite frequently. Therefore she did the prudent thing, she asked for a raise. She really didn’t ask for much, just a small pay raise and a housing allowance. It was approved, with the stipulation that she had to move closer to the school. Why? She was never tardy, she never asked for time off because of the distance, she never complained about the commute. So why this stipulation? She had a home, it was near where her husband worked, and it was near where she had childcare arranged. Why? Control. It’s all about control.

Needless to say, the terms were not acceptable and she found new employment, which ended up having better benefits and more pay. We lost out, and someone gained from our bad judgment.

Good luck my friend and the best of wishes to you.

Friday, March 28, 2008


Dining Room Sofitel

I dreaded today long before it arrived, for today I had to deal with a government agency and you know how that normally goes in Thailand. There is always something additional required, the picture is a fourth of a millimeter to long, you need form xyz not xyzz, you used black ink instead of blue, you know the drill. Let’s find something wrong so we don’t have to deal with this “Dude” today and send him packing or at least to the back of the line.

Well I arrive early and sign in, resolving myself to a long wait while some official has to do a million other tasks until he finally gets to my documents and then combs through them item by item with a fine tooth comb.

Surprise, within minutes my names is called. I hand over supporting documents for my request, the official thumbs through my passport. He only makes two remarks the first being that my passport is getting ragged (it is). Then it came, he found a mistake. It seems as if I had listed my year of birth as 2008. Wait, what does he do? He simply crosses through the error, writes the correct date and places his initials on the mistake. I pay my fee and I am finished within minutes.

Oh, now I see what good customer service is about, for today I was dealing with the United States Embassy not some anal retentive Thai bureaucrat. People who are looking for a way to get things done rather than someone looking for a way to not do anything. It was a pleasure.

The displeasure’s of the day follow soon thereafter though.

This service provided by the Embassy was held in the lobby of the Sofitel Raja Orchid Hotel in Khon Kaen and is a very swank place. Four or five stars. As we had not had breakfast we though we would partake of the advertised International Breakfast Buffet.
For a four or five star hotel, options were somewhat limited in my opinion, with little western fare available. There was plenty of rice gruel; Thai breakfast soups, and half-cooked eggs, if you go for that sort of thing. There were omelets to order which were not bad but the rest was mediocre. The bacon was not crisp, the sausages little more that hot dogs, no dry cereal, juice glasses holding the liquid volume of teacups and miniature pastries. We found enough for a meal though, but nothing luxurious.

Then the next surprise arrives in the form of the check. Breakfast for two 680 baht for not much of anything other than ambiance. I guess I really should have enjoyed using the real linen napkins and actual silverware more. But, just how many omelets can I eat at home for 680 baht? I don’t know, but a hell of a lot and prepared to perfection by Ms Mee.

The next displeasure for the day was a visit to the dentist, which I hate with a passion. But when you gotta go, you gotta go. I had an upper molar, which had been giving me a fit for weeks, so today was the day to extract it. After a short wait in the clinic I was introduced to my dentist who was no bigger that a fart, a tiny things she was. She may have also been cute but she never removed her mask, she spoke English very well with a slight accent, but great vocabulary. She told me her stepfather is an American formerly from the state of Maine. She gave me to quick injections, yanked that bad boy right out, stuffed the resulting hole with cotton and sent me on my way. Total cost of the extraction 300 baht or about $9.55. That made the 680 baht breakfast really seem overpriced and in stark contrast to the realities of Thailand.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Two Strange Americans

ONE: No one can seem to remember this girl’s name as she was only with us for a few days. I seem to recall she had all the teaching credentials. After she was hired she was assigned to three days of indoctrination. This consisted of observing one classroom period in each of the 6 grade levels and two days observing and working with the teacher in the classroom that she was to assume the responsibility of.

During this indoctrination period she didn’t get involved in the teaching process, was not helping the teachers, was not asking question, nor was she becoming involved, as one would expect a new teacher to do. She just sort of sat there.

Well, Friday rolls around, and she goes up to the classroom with the training teacher. The training teacher then asked her if she’s ready. She does not say a word, she leaves the classroom, goes to the teachers lounge, picks up her purse and is never seen or heard from again.

I guess she wasn’t ready. Again we were short a teacher and back to looking through the resumes’.

TWO: Morgan was a retired United States Army Sergeant. He had not completed his degree but did have prior instructor experience. However, this was with adults and not young children. Morgan was about 45-50, bald, short and had a nice personality. He owned a condominium near the school and just waked in one day for an interview.

As with the girl above he was given the then standard three days orientation. He complete this well. Until…

On his first day of teaching he did not hesitate to take over the class and was left on his own to do his thing. However, when the second class period came around, no one could find Morgan. A search of the teacher’s lounge found only his teachers book and other classroom materials neatly stacked on a desk. No Morgan. Finally, hours later, he calls and said he had a panic attack and just couldn’t do this teaching stuff. End of Morgan.

Morgan came back by the school one time to visit after that. He had enrolled in college to complete this studies and was handing our information sheets about his condominium which he was trying to sell.

Just two more of the many that have come and gone. I guess it’s better to walk off the job rather to stick around and possibly go postal on us. Going Postal (American slang): Do a Google search for the meaning.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Tony of California

The School
(Click to enlarge)
Tony originally taught grade one, and when I returned from one of my visits to the States, I was given my class back and he was moved to another one. I believe he was with us for just over a year.

He was from southern California, was married to a Thai lady and had one child I believe. My best guess is that he was about 30 years old. He was also very scruffy in appearance. He had a beard that didn’t fill in completely and his trousers and shirts were always in need of ironing. He was also a bit on the obese side, but not sloppily so. Tony was a talker who spent all his out of class time in the teacher’s lounge talking. He had something to say about everything. I labeled him a “know it all”. I always left the lounge when he arrived, as I didn’t want to listen to his continual rants and raves.

In is also my opinion that he had a care less attitude about teaching and considered his job as only a means to obtain funds. He did not hold the school, students, or his fellow teachers in any high regard. He had nothing good to say as I recall about anyone or anything.

I do recall that at some point, he had to be reprimanded for something and I really don’t remember what it was now but what ever it was resulted in a tiff between him and the head teacher. Some heated words were exchanged; there may have even been a threat or two.

At some point, he completed all the visa requirement for his wife and child to immigrate to the USA so he left so seek his fame and fortune. I believe is goal was to open a used comic book or sports cards shop, I can’t remember now which one it was.

Anyway, in my opinion he was just another in a long list of losers which have crossed through the threshold of this school.

Note: From my blog counter service, I know that several teachers from my old school are reading this blog. If you do not agree with my comments about these former teachers please feel free to add yours. My memory is not perfect and events may not always be as I have recalled them all these years. Some of these fools may have redeeming social values of which I may have been unaware. If so let’s hear them.

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Monday, March 24, 2008

The Best of Plans

When we first started looking at house plans, I noted that most houses in our price range had this very little room in the back of the house, which they called a kitchen. There was no room for counters, sinks, refrigerators, or cooking ranges.

So, after we selected our house plan, I added to the building expense by modifying the plans and adding room for a proper kitchen. I wanted a kitchen counter that was 36” in height, not the standard Thai 30 inches and large enough to prepare food on. I wanted a sink, upper and lower cabinets, a tiled counter top, additional electrical outlets, and room for a proper size refrigerator plus a cooking range. Thus, a larger room.

The first odd thing I noted when construction started was that the bottom of the back window, which I wanted to be center on the kitchen sink was not centered and was only 30 inches from the floor. I pointed this out and stated that I did not want a 6” recess behind my sink, as that would be an area that would only gather dirt. They looked at me like I was a crazy man from Mars. After drawing pictures, they finally got the idea. Seems as if they forgot about the counter height or centering the window. Bricks were added to raise the window level and to center it, but resulted in a small window that I had wanted. So be it.

Shortly thereafter I noted there were no drain lines, or water lines entering the house in the area of the kitchen. I would ask Mee about this, she would ask the contractor and we would be assured that all was well. This question repeated it’s self each and every months for several months as no lines were being installed. Finally, the light went on, and they realized that I wanted running water in the kitchen and a drain for the sink. I guess they though I would bring buckets of water to the kitchen as a water supply and keep a dish pan or some such object under the sink to catch the water.

What now? Knock holds in the wall, add plumbing, also as I had the rear of the house cemented with walkways, trenches had to be jack hammered in the walkway for the drain pipe. Plaster and paint covers the holes in the house well, but the walkways are now started to crack where they were filled in.

After all this the kitchen is completed, so what now takes place:

Other that the odd coffee cup or glass that I wash the sink gets not much use. Thai's prefer to wash dishes outside so Mee has set up an area for this.

Dishes are not stored in the cabinets I had installed except the ones that I eat out of. All the rest are placed on an outdoor rack and covered with towels.

The expensive range that I bought has at this point in time cooked nothing more than one cheese toast sandwich. The burners have never been turned on. She prefers the old hob.

The microwave and the over part of the range are now used to store Thai food leftovers rather than the large refrigerator I just had to have.

A grass mat is put down and food preparation is done in the middle of the kitchen floor or often times in the back yard if family is visiting. They make a party out of it. Therefore, the counter top is not used for food prep. That spaced is taken up with an old hob we had, and various other items.

Oh well, so much for the best laid plans. Perhaps a small room on the back of the house would have been sufficient.

I have walked around the neighbor hood and have noted that they all have a outdoor dish washing area, a food preparation area and normally a gas cooker in their back yards. I believe this is a left over custom when the area under most houses were devoted to these activities, as well as being the animal (cows, chickens, pigs) pens.
I also have to admit, it's much cooler most days in the covered area of the back yard than in the house.

Thursday, March 20, 2008


He was this big to Mee.
My mother-in-law spent a few days with us this week. It’s always good to have her around for a few days. She keeps the house and yard tidy, as she must be doing something all the time to keep herself busy. This is really helpful with all the dust we are experiencing.

This morning when she was straightening up the shoe rack by the back door, she discovered a snake coiled up in one of Mee’s shoes. She got a stick and poked at it and it slithered off in the direction of the truck not to be seen again. She assumed it went down into one of the drains.

On the way to drive Mom home, the snake poked up its head from the recess in which the windshield wipers are recessed. Mee sees it first and lets out a scream and starts moving around in her seat. The snake then comes all the way out and starts slithering from one side of the windshield to the other his little tongue daring in and out. He remained this way for about ten minutes until I made a sharp left turn; there he lost his grip and fell off the side of the truck.

When we got to Mom’s house, Mee was afraid to get out of the truck as she though he may have fallen to the running board. I had to go check before she would exit the truck.

After I got back home I checkout out the Internet for Snakes of Thailand but did not see one that looked like this one. He was not very big, about half a meter and he was two shades of green with horizontal strips. One shade was dark green and the other was almost a golden green. Really, sort of pretty.

I suspect he had moved up from were they are filling in the rice paddies to build more homes.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Alan from Sacramento

Almost this big. Imagine the Motorcycle.

Allen originally came to Thailand on a big contract to do computer work for some large international company. He was making the big bucks and living the life of Riley with a fat expense account. He was probably in his late thirties or early forties and he was extremely obese.

I think that for the first time in his life ladies paid attention to him, which I have heard is possible even if you are extremely fat, especially if you have a pocket full of cash to disburse among the local coquette’s. Nightly, weekly, monthly rental fee for the pleasure of someone’s company were all within his budget.

Well as often happens, good things come to an end. The contract was over, yet he wanted to stay in Thailand and enjoy his newfound popularity. But he was not prepared, as there was no money set-aside for a rainy day, and it was now pouring.

Bingo. You’ve got it. Teach English. A real big step down in the old salary department but something to do until something better comes along.

I must say I hired this clown, so the mistake was all my doing. When I first read his resume, I noted that he had worked at several schools, but he had remained at each for only a short time. In fact the one that he was coming to us from he had not even began teaching yet, had not yet found an apartment, and his personal effects were still in transit. But he knew he needed to get to Bangkok and we needed a white face to please the parents.

Right off the bat, Alan though that he should be in charge and started using little tricks to undermined the authority of the head teacher or to make his fellow teachers look bad. Things said in private or confidentially were taken straight to The Director. He was not a good teacher, the students didn’t like him that much, but somehow he did gain the ear of The Director.

In the mean time, he had moved into the living quarters provide by the school with this Thai wife. In no time he was having trouble with the other residence saying they did not help clean up the common area, they took his food from the refrigerator; they made to much noise at night. Anything and everything displeased him with his Filipino housemates. I now seem to recall that he was previously married to a Filipino who if I remember correctly divorced him back in the States and reduced his wealth by some large amount. I believe that may have been a contributing factor in his dislike of Filipinos.

He then rented a condominium near where I lived. Of course he did not have the money for deposits and asked if I would loan him some, which like a fool I did. This was to be paid back on the next payday but of course it wasn’t. I finally, got my money after several months. In the mean time he did some work on my computer and got that completely screwed up.

As I mention he was extremely large, but he or rather his wife had a motorcycle, which they traveled about town on. It was a very funny sight as he looked like a big bullfrog perched up on this small Thai motorcycle.

At some point he wanted to be transferred to one of our schools and this request was approved. I really don’t remember the reasoning behind this now. But he didn’t last long and he soon resigned. While there he set the computer for foreign teaches with some security code that only he knew, so after he was gone, no one had access to this computer.

About six months after he left our school his wife knocked on our door out of the blue one-day. She informed the wife that since leaving our school Alan had worked at several other school but was never happy and moved on, She then ask my wife for a loan as they didn’t have money to eat. The wife informed her that she didn’t have any money and was sorry that she couldn’t help.

About a year after that, Alan’s wife calls again. This time she informs that Alan and she are no longer husband and wife because he could not keep a job. She had no idea where he was. She was now married to a Thai man from back in her village. Truth be know, he was probably her husband, all the time and Alan was the rice bowl. She wanted to come over a visit, but Mee told her she was going out and didn’t know when she would be back. That’s the last we heard from Anna or anything about Alan.

Living in a Dust Bowl

I’m living in a dust bowl. On my street there are currently six or seven houses under construction. Workers all day digging holes for foundations, trucks delivering materials, loads of dirt being dumped for filing in the foundations.

The owner of the property is also hauling in truckload after truckload of dirt filling in 10 rai of rice paddies to our east for more houses. Two tractors shoving the heaps of dirt around. This is going on twenty four hours a day, seven days a week. Dust is everywhere. You mop and within minutes the floors are like walking on fine talcum powder. Fans need to be cleaned every other day and the window screens the same.

There is a dust cloud over the entire area.

Even keeping the windows closed does not help, it somehow still seeps in. The front porch is becoming a garden spot along with the bed of the truck. Guess it will be this way until the rains come. At least I don’t have to dust, sweep or mop. I will have to pay to have sofa’s, chairs and drapes cleaned though.

And then there is the pile driver. Bang. Bang. Bang. Bang. From dusk to dawn. But there are promises of a swimming pool to come and a workout facility in the future. I’ve told Mee though, that’s just a big wig Thai talking and reality may never be reached.

It’s just like the school I worked at. They change the course books, and The Director is all excited. Nothing is too good for my teachers and the students as he holds up the Grade 3 book (the only one he as looked at). He holds a meeting to ask our opinion, but has all ready made up his. All is well until it’s time to buy the related course material. All of a sudden this stuff is expensive so let’s cut back. Let's make our own workbooks, lets don't buy this or that. Let's use the student books over again next year, so don't let them do the exercises contained therein. Whatever, you know the deal. Oops, sorry I’m getting off on another subject.

Anyway the owner or our subdivision I’m sure will be the same way when the cost of such things face him unless he can figure a way for future revenue.
Does he put in a swimming pool or forget purchasing a new Mercedes this year, and put off the trip to Paris that he promised the wife. Or perhaps his wife needs to support two Rolex watches, after all she has two wrist. It's a lot on his plate to think about and I am sure the swimming pool will lose out.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Nervous Driver

On Monday morning Mee and I drove into town, which is approximately 2 kilometer away, not far at all. I needed to get a haircut and some pictures made for a new passport.

I drove up and we parked in a big field in front of the Ampur. This is good off the street parking and within walking distance of the places we needed to go.

On the way back, I asked Mee if she wanted to drive home and of course she did. Here is where the white knuckle tale begins and I will try and list the things in order as I remember them.

1. We are parked with a large truck on our left side. Mee gets in, adjusts her mirrors, fixes her seat, puts on her seat belt, starts the engine, releases the emergency brake, engages the gears and backs out of the space. Good right, well not exactly. She does not look left or right. She does not go slowly because the truck is blocking her vision on the left. Instead she uses her mirrors only and backs out with speed. This was my first use of an expletive. (When we lived in Bangkok I would walk around the streets in our condominium area, and I don't know how many times I was almost run over by people exiting their parking spots in exactly the same manner.) It must be ingrained or the way they are taught.

2. When we get to the exit of the parking area to where you enter the street she does not stop at the exit, which by the way is a blind corner, but rather pulls several feet past the exit then stops. Luckily, nothing is coming. However, we are now blocking traffic. Well not really for in Thailand if you are in someones way, they don't stop and let you go. No, they just swerve over in the other lane and go around you. Now we sit while she makes a decision as to what she should do next. She made this exact same maneuver at the next stop sign we encountered. She has not figured out how to stop behind a stop sign or to ease out at a corner looking carefully for on coming traffic.

3. Next we come to a red light where we have to make a right turn. It is a short timed light and there are about ten cars in front of us. When the light turns green, Mee proceeds, but after about six cars the light turns red again. As is common in Thailand everyone keeps going including Mee. I then in a raised tone, make a request that in the future please stop for red lights. At this point I see nothing but cars and motorcycles out of the the right and left side windows. She replies that she wasn't looking at the light but rather watching the cars in front of her go. I guess here it is okay to proceed as long as the car in front of you does so.

For the remainder of the ride home we had a discussion as to how I am too emotional and make her extremely nervous when she is driving. However, I made no mention of the coronary that I almost suffered as that would only further fan the flames.

I guess I shouldn't be too shocked, she drives just like everyone else here with the ME first mentality. But the driving sessions will continue and I will continue to brace my legs and hold on tightly to the sides of my seats. I just hope I can control my tongue but if you hear a scream in the distance, it may have been me.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Lady Boy Update

As you can see not all Lady Boys

are beauties as previously


Sometimes my memory fails me. As I’ve said in the past, it’s the second thing to go.

In my Lady Boy Blog of several days ago, I mentioned that my former school had two such individuals. I was wrong, there were at the time three though I only became aware of number three about a year ago though I did have my suspicions. It really came to my attention when we started wearing the King’s T-shirts on Monday’s. It was then apparent that the little bugger was growing breast.

Reliable sources now report that there is possibly another at the school.

Anyway, back to number three. He is a young Thai man on the Administration Staff. He is really polite, was always most helpful to me and I am sorry that I neglected to mention him in my first posting. I am also sorry that I don’t have a picture before and after the transformation. His name is Neung and he is The Directors’ nephew. Though he hangs out in the office most of the time his number one responsibility it to care for the money collected from the students from snack/lunch sales. He also does a lot of the purchasing of supplies for the school. He just loves to shop.

Yes nepotism is alive and well but that’s another story for another day.

He is also the official school baker and the school even sent him off to school to prefect this talent. He has aspirations of using this talent some day to immigrate to Australia. However, I haven’t seen him doing much baking or cake decorating recently. Maybe he can travel using other talents.

Neung loves to dress up in his off time and enter contest. The latest pictures, which I viewed, he was dressed up to enter a contest as Miss U.S.A. His costume was full of Stars and Stripes and he wore a cowboy hat. He may have even had little six shooters. He likes to bring the pictures to the school and show them about. He is very proud.

I must add that, Neung is a better than average looking man, but his does not cross over well to his female side. Something gets lost in the transformation, but that’s just my opinion. All I can say is good luck Neung in your future endeavors.

I have very little information on number four so will be a bit vague. He is a new native speaker on the staff and though he doesn’t dress up at school, it is my understanding that he prances about a good deal and loves to talk about his “husband”.

I guess these traits just didn’t show up in the interview. Either that or picking are very slim on teachers for young children and they really needed a white face. However, you would think with all the bad press recently of western deviates working in school’s more care would be given.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Truck Tags Arrive

Early Friday morning the salesman from the Toyota Dealership called with the good news that our new truck tags had arrived and that he was sending a man over right away to install them for us, retrieve the red temporary tags and return to us the red tag deposit.

Now I though to myself, this is outstanding service. In my lifetime I have bought ten new vehicles and never once has the dealership send someone to my house to put them on the vehicle for me. Good deal, right?

As the misses had made plans for the day, and thinking that I could tend to this simple chore she took the motorcycle and left, leaving me to deal with Somchai (read Dilbert) the tag installer.

Upon his arrive, the first thing he needed to do was borrow a screwdriver. This request was accomplished by sign language as he spoke little English and I less Thai. For the world of me it continues to amazes me that Thai’s don’t plan things in advance, even though I should know better by now.

Anyway, luckily, I had one, and I say luckily, because after living in a condominium for nine years with a maintenance staff, I am tool poor. Two screwdrivers and a pair of pliers fill my toolbox (plastic bag).

After the red tags are removed, he reinstalled the tag frames and at this point I suspect something is amiss. He then gives me the deposit and starts walking towards his truck to leave. Whoa…pointing and say si khao (the Thai word for white, one of the few that I know) he finally gets the idea that I have realized he has not installed the new white tags.

This is then followed by the look and the grin. If you have never been to Thailand this cannot be explained, but for those that have you have all seen it and know it. It means, I have screwed up, he has noticed, I don’t know what to do next but a lie will make things better.

He finally manages to come up with the English word “forgot” and in Thai repeats one hour over and over until I nod my head that I understand. I'm also not sure, but I think he mentioned that he now had to go eat. That's always a good excuse. He then departs.

Well you guess it, the day passes by, I am stuck at home with no truck tags and I cannot call the dealership due to my limited Thai.

About 6:00 P.M. the wife returns. After I related the above to her she calls the salesman and of course he has no idea what we are talking about. You see it’s a Thai custom to avoid any thing that may cause you discomfort. So Somchai tells no one of his misadventure when he returns to the dealership. If he does, someone may holler at him and he will be in trouble. He knows they are going to find out at some point, but why take a reprimand now, later is always better, and there is the outside chance, that no one will notice. Yeah…right.

Happy ending. Saturday morning, the salesman arrives, with Somchai in tow, the new plates are installed with their screwdriver, the salesman apologizes, Somchai grins a lot, wai’s and they depart.

Free again to travels the roads of Thailand with legal vehicle tags that don’t involve a scam by the police, unless of course they can see my white face shining through the window tinting. Then they will think of something.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008


About forty-five days ago my wife bought her new truck and I enjoyed watching the process. There was no wheeling and dealing over the price of the vehicle as we do back home. When I asked for a discount they looked at me as if I were from another planet. Here, the sticker price is the price, plain and simple. This is really strange for almost anything else for sale in this country can be had for a lesser price. I like this arrangement though, a lot.

But there is room for negotiations though and this is done through the form of what accessories will they throw in if you buy today. In our case the wife negotiated for the following extras. An up graded rear bumper, a bed liner, extra turn signals which are mounted on the front of the two side view mirrors, a fancy thing that covers the rear lighting assembly, rain guards over the window that keeps water from dripping down, tinted windows and get this, one years insurance.

Yes, one years insurance. The stranger part is that for this years insurance they asked my wife not one question. No one wanted to know how long she had been driving, had she ever had an accident or speeding ticket, does she take drugs, beat her husband or drink and surely not if she had completed Drivers Education. Nothing, nada, not one question. I guess in Thailand one size fits all.

So now the question is, how good is this insurance? No one can seem to tell us. After all this time no policy as been received like we would expect back home. All we have is a little piece of paper that says we have insurance and some maximum payouts are listed, but for what I really have no idea as it’s all in Thai. I know what I’m told, but….. What about theft of the truck? Don’t know. What about medical payments? Don’t know. What about deductibles? Reply, what are deductibles? It goes on and on. Anyway, you get the idea. Nobody knows anything. I bet should we have an accident they would then know.

The strangest part is they think that it's strange that I ask questions. And my wife hates it when I ask her to do so. Asking questions is akin to questioning peoples authority and their integrity. A very questionable practice in this culture. Though there is example after example where peoples authority and intrgrity was doggy. It's in the paper daily.

Note: Did you know that the turn signals in almost the entire world are amber in color rather than red as in North America.

Lady Boy

The above person my friends is a young man. Here they are called Kathoey's and they are not a rare sight, though I must admit that few possess the attributes as the above example displays.

During the time I was at my school we had two. The first was the band teacher and the second was the Thai Traditional Dance Teacher. Both loved to strut their stuff and would dress up and put their wigs on at a drop of the hat. The dance teacher was finally terminated after several spats with his "husband" took place on school property.

Gay's here, as far as I can tell, make no great attempt to hide their sexuality. Even though it may have an effect on their job opportunities. Their opinion is "I am what I am". So there is no coming out of the closet, as they were never in the closet.

My wife has an uncle who is a kathoey. When I asked her what she and her family though about him her reply was. "We all wish he was not that way, but he is and we can't change that. He is family and that comes first so we have to overlook everything else". Family rules.

So be it.

Monday, March 10, 2008

A Tribute to Lee

Lee Collier

I spend this morning ironing. That’s right, you read correctly ironing and all the time I was ironing I was thinking of my sister-in-law Lee. You see Lee taught me how to iron and do all sorts of domestic things that helped me take care of myself throughout my adult life. I have even passed some of this knowledge down to a couple of wives.

Lee was my brother Tom’s wife and Tom, my only brother, was 17 years older than I was. When my father died I was just seven and Tom was twenty-four. He then became not only my brother but also my father figure as well, with Lee right there beside him.

Every summer until I graduated high school would be spent with Tom and Lee. I got to know Beaumont, Port Arthur, and Groves, Texas just as well as I did my hometown of Natchitoches, Louisiana.

During these long hot Texas summers I spent my time riding my bike all over. Checking out every street and alley way in the neighborhood, playing baseball, cutting grass to make a few dollars, even shagging (not the British meaning of shagging) golf balls at the golf course before there were machines to pick up the balls. Had a great time doing all the things kids and teens did in those days.

However, the rule was that I always had to be home at noon for lunch to eat and take a rest period before hitting the streets again. For much of this time period in my life there was a disease called Polio and it was believe that we had to say cool in the heat of the day to help avoid getting it. It was really the scare in those years. If I recall correctly, I was not allowed back out until four or so.

Anyway, it was during these afternoon rest time that Lee taught me all sorts of stuff like ironing, sewing buttons on, mending a tear with needle and thread, how to defrost a refrigerator and scour a bath tub. She also taught me all sorts of cooking and canning tips, how to watch and care for children (as she had three young ones), how to take a list to the grocery store and stick to the list when making groceries. You name it we did it

Lee died last year and we all miss her. She was a great southern cook and could create magic with little of nothing. My favorite was a macaroni and cheese dish that was out of this world. The best I ever had and a meal in it’s self.

In closing I just want to say, I sure wish I had a before picture as well because Lee as also a “HOT” chick in her day.

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Cultural Issues

Almost daily a cultural difference between what I would expect and what happens in Thailand is brought to my attention. I always have good intention of writing about them. However, when I try and recall the incident that I though strange I can’t remember it. Oh, well they say memory is the second thing that goes for us old men.

Anyway, I’m going to attempt to sit down and write them as they occur, posting when I can.

Yesterday the subdivision in which we live had an open house. Their model home was open; there was food, drink, live music, speeches, the works. Really, the owners pulled out all the stops. He even had cute girls in mini-skirts carting visitors back and forth in golf carts showing the property. This event was open to the public and there were banners all over town. It was probably even advertised on the local radio station.

Anyway, the current residents received engraved invitations, very expensive paper, hand delivered and sealed nicely in a scented envelope. First Class.

Now in my culture if you attend such events you do so for the exclusive purpose of partaking of the food and drink, possibly meeting some of your neighbors, enjoying the music, and if the opportunity presents it’s self maybe a casual verbal thank you to the host.

Not so here my dear friends. The host (who wants to use you as a selling tool) has taken the time to give you an invention, even had it hand delivered to you. Therefore, it is culturally correct to give him a small gift in return for his efforts and thinking of you. This gift could be in the form of perhaps a flower arrangement. Thai’s love to give flowers.

When my wife brought this to my attention I could not believe it. When I finally calmed down after my ranting and raving I relented and told her to do whatever was culturally correct in her country. As, it turned out she didn’t do so, as the activities were about over by the time she finally got herself together and went up to the pavilion where it was all going on. There was no time for shopping. Ha ha.

The good news is she did get there in time to enter the drawing and she won a refrigerator (which we have no place to put). Sure wish it had been the large flat screen TV that they also gave way. However, the question now is, are we now in further debt to the owner of our subdivision because we won one of the door prizes?

David of Portsmouth

David was about thirty years of age and had spent a good deal of time in Thailand. He could speak Thai reasonable well and was a pretty good teacher. One of his biggest teaching assets was his artistic ability. He would go into the classroom, spend the first few minutes drawing a mural that covered the entire white board and with the remainder of the class conduct a discussion based on what the student could see in the picture, what they though was going on, etc. It was a very good way to get the students to speak and practice their English.

David actually worked for use on two different occasions. The first time he left us to move to a school in Nakhon Ratchisima. However, he later left that job and came back to us. Some situation in which a girl, a nurse I believe, wanted to knife him. If memory serves me correct this was over his disloyalty to her or some such non-sense. Can you imagine a jealous girl friend in Thailand?

After he came back to our school he started dating one of our Thai Teachers by the nickname of O. O was a friendly likable teacher but not all that in the looks department, in my opinion, though not ugly. I believe David’s attraction to her was the fact that she had a car because it wasn’t long into the relationship that he was seen sporting about driving her vehicle.

At first she only spend a few hours visiting in the teacher’s quarters in the evenings cooking for David, doing his laundry and cleaning his room. This soon extended into overnight sleepovers. However, as we were not legally allowed to have overnight guest in the teachers quarters or have romantic relationships with Thai Teachers from our school, the seriousness of their affaire soon necessitated in them making alternate living arrangements i.e. renting their own apartment.

About this time, I departed the school for one of my visits back to the U.S. However, I have been told by a reliable source, Mr. John P. (who is still with the school) that the following events took place during my absence.

Soon after they moved in together, the relationship turned abusive. The first time he assaulted her she called the police and he was arrested. However, as in most domestic cases she dropped the charges, forgave him, went back to him and all was well. At least for several weeks. Then it happened again. This time charges were not dropped, Immigration became involved, he was deported and black balled thus unable to ever return to Thailand. At least that’s the story as relayed to me and I have no reason not believe it.

Several years later, we received a letter from some agency in London wanting a reference on David. The position to which he was applying had something to do with transporting prisoners from jail to court and back. I believe the head teacher sent the request back reporting that David was an outstanding citizen. No need to be held accountable for what happens in Thailand.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Automobile Licenses Plates

Note the Red Tag

I have noted, that there are various colored licenses plates used here in Thailand. The most common is white. This you normally see on most passenger trucks, cars and vans. Then there is yellow, which you see on taxis, buses, school vans, etc things dealing with passenger transportation. There are also green which are on rental cars like you get from a rental agency. And then there are red plates which you see on all new vehicles. This you normally display for about 45 days until you permanent tags arrive.

When this red tag is issued, there is also a little book (all in Thai) that goes along with it. I assumed it was sort of like a temporary title/registration certificate as we were told to keep in the the glove box. Wrong.

Yesterday, I loaded up the family in our new truck with my brother-in-law driving and we drove 150 kilometers for the purpose of having a steak dinner and loading up on some western food items. The town we were going to visit was Nakhon Ratchasima which is two Providences away.

As soon as we left our home providence we were stopped at a police check point and they wanted to see our little book. All discussions were in Thai and I had no idea as to what was going on, but I noted that the policeman was given a 100 baht note and we drove on. As soon as we entered the next Provence, we were again pulled over at a police check point. Again we paid 100 baht to the policeman and were again on our way.

I now started asking questions. It seems that when you have a new vehicle, you can drive it around your providence with no questions asked. However, if you are going to leave your providence you must go to the local Motor Vehicle Office. You write in your little book that goes with the red plates all sorts of information about your vehicle, where you are going, what time you are going, when you are coming back. Anyway, lots of stuff. The people at the DMV must approve you trip and sign your little book.

Of course we didn't do any of this, the dealer didn't explain any of this and of course we didn't read the instructions contained in the front of the book which the policeman was kind enough to point out. Neither does anyone else as only cars with red tags were being pulled over. Our salemans only instructions were to keep it in the glove compartment.

So the scam runs like this. You enter a new providence and are pulled over as they see the red tags. He notes that your book is not signed. The fine is 400 baht but you have to turn back and go to the police station, wait sdveral hours, then pay you fine. However, for a mere 100 baht the policeman will not write a paper ticket and you can be on your merry way. No wonder policemen who's salary is relatively low have big cars, own businesses, send their kids to the better schools and live in nice homes.

Live and learn. No more out of providence trips for a while. I'm sure I'll run into some more scams though which I will duly report.

Thai Gold

Thai Gold is sold everywhere in Thailand in Gold Shops in the form of jewelry. There are thousands of these shops throughout the country and for the most part they are all identical in physical appearance. They are red inside and out, with large glass windows so you can see in, a counter that runs the lenght of the shop, very bright lights and mirrors that help reflect the glitter of the gold. The price is normally posted on the door as you enter. Also the wares contained therein are almost the same throughout the country.

The prices are standardized throughout the country with everyone have the same price. These prices are based on the gold market and not the artistic work that goes into the piece. Frankly, I can't figure out how they compete for customers, as everything is identical even though there are several brand names. Is there someone who controls it all? I don't know, I'm not in that loop. Maybe people just grow up using their neighborhood shop and stick with them through their lives. I asked my wife about this, but she had no idea as she never had any gold before I came along so didn't worry about such things.

These shops also buy gold. Several days ago as I drafted this, one baht weight of gold sold for 14,550 baht, and could be sold back to the shop for 14, 450 baht. Gold sold in these shops are 96.5% pure gold or about 23 karats. One baht weight of gold is 15.2 grams or just a hair over half an ounce. If I did my math correctly.

Gold jewelry is used as a means of savings/investment and in certain parts of the country to display ones wealth. People buy gold, normally only wearing it on rare occasions then selling it in a time of need or when the price is higher than when they bought.

Also, In Thailand the ancient dowry system is alive and well. Only reversed, from the way I had always imagined it to be. I always read in books, about the girl having a dowry in place to help the future husband. No so in Thailand, here the future husband pays the dowry to the bride's family. A portion of this is normally paid in the form of gold jewelery. Not only does the groom present gold to the mother and father, but to the bride was well. Before a wedding, normally the parents of the bride and groom have a meeting and negotiate this. As with all negotiations, one party starts high, the other low and everyone hopes to settle somewhere in the middle.

I was lucky when I married as the gold price was about 7,500 per baht. My friend Dennis who is to be married on Monday has to content with today's prices. Gold is high but he's getting a lovely wife. It's all worth it.

Note: The word baht has two meanings, in Thailand. It is a weight measure and the value of their money which is currently about 31.5 baht per U. S. Dollar. Nine years go when I decided to livee in Thailand it was 40+ per dollar. Where has the dollar gone George ?

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Ashley the Welshman

This was a another never do well, who could not make a go of it back in his own country, or anywhere else of the truth be know. However, that's just my opinion. He was probably is his early thirties, and he came from a family of coal miners in Cardiff. I don’t remember how long he lived in Thailand but we were not his first place of employment here.

To school he wore the prescribed uniform for teachers, creased trousers, a shirt with a collar and a tie. He always wore long sleeved shirts which at first I though strange in view of the oppressive heat, until the first time I saw him away from the school. There was no more room on his arms for any tattoos and he wore heavy Doc Martin boots, with black jeans. He had the real look of what I associated with a gang member or what we use to call a hood.

Ashley was not with us but a short time, maybe less that two months. He only averaged about a three-day workweek, sometime only one or two. He just loved to call in sick when he could manage to do that much. But, that’s what happens when you go out and get drunk each and every day. He was a full-fledged alcoholic. Again this is just my opinion.

One night he went drinking at a local Thai only adult entertainment facility near where he lived. At the end of the evening when it was time to settle his tab, it wasn’t to his drunken calculations. An argument followed and to make a long story short, about four Thai men ended up jumping him and beating him severely. At least that was his story, which we had no way of confirming. However, when he finally made it back to school several days later he was still covered in cuts, scrapes, bumps and bruises so something serious happened to him.

Not long after that, Ashley was fired after numerous counseling sessions by our esteem head teacher failed to produce any change. This head teacher then for some reason kept in contact with him via e-mail and reported to us that Ashley finally died several years later of Aids in Vietnam. This cannot be confirmed, but that the legendary tale of Ashley.

Sunday, March 2, 2008


This was a young lady who I would guess to be in her late twenties. She was from Germany but had almost no accent and what little she had was head and shoulders above that of the other non-native speakers which came later. She was average in appearance with a good personality. I know that she had a Masters Degree in Education and I believe she had one in English as well. I have thought about his a lot, but I can’t remember what grade she taught. I want to say third but I’m not sure.

She lived in the teachers quarters with us and made no waves. She cooked, cleaned and was a good housemate. No quirks or strange habits that I can recall.

However, she was not with us for a long time for it didn’t take long for her to get over the breakers with The Director.

At the time we had meetings at least once a month between The Director and the foreign teachers. At these meetings we discussed problems we were having, ways to improve the English Program and in general had discussions about teaching English as a foreign language. Or at least that was the pretext of these meetings.

At each of the meetings The Director always repeated his philosophy, and it never changed, about teaching which she said was somewhat dated and not necessary the latest and greatest way to go about teaching a foreign language to children. When he would start expounding his extensive knowledge about teaching, Sabine would always call him on what he was saying. She would cite recent studies and the possible benefits of doing things another way. She paid attention in her Masters Course and appeared to know her stuff at least to this layman.

Sidebar: In most of Thailand and at this school in particular, The Director is all-powerful with a true autocratic management style. He makes all the decisions. No authority is delegated, NONE, NEVER. The buck starts and stops with him, and no one, I repeat no one questions The Director. There is no tolerance in this area and no one is empowered to do anything other and sit and listen to him.

Anyway at these meetings, The Directors displeasure with this young upstart teacher was always evidence. You could tell by the scowl on his brow that appeared each time she spoke. Finally, he lost it and informed her in front of all those in attendance, in a loud and quivering voice, that he made the decisions at this school and if she didn’t like that, she should just move on.

She did. We continued with rote learning and picked up our pay envelope at the end of each month.. End of story.

Saturday, March 1, 2008

Things I miss about the USA

Some of the things That I miss about not living in America are as follows. These are not necessarily in any order, or have any priority assigned and there are others, they just didn't come to memory as I was writing this.

Family and friends.

People normally forming and orderly line to receive service without everyone clamoring to be first.

A wait staff that more often than not gets your order right, brings hot food to your table then provides a check with only the items you ordered.

More that just a few weeks of cool weather annually.

Country and western music on the radio.

Libraries, where you can sit, browse and read. Maybe even fall asleep for a few minutes.

Driving on roads relatively free of motorcycles, bicycles, carts, cows, water buffalo's and other obstacles.

People who don't get off escalators, sky-trains, or subways, then stop dead in their tracks and plan their day's activities. Or make abrupt direction changes as you are walking past them. (People here just don't look where they are going, walking or driving.)

To walk into the appliance or electronics section of a store without being ambushed by a herd of sales people eager for commission.

Grayson's BBQ in Clarence, Louisiana.

Frito's/Necco Wafers

Dr. Pepper